Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Define the Relationship, Smoker Edition

A reader on Mr. Zero's post below on Boxill writes in:
We haven't had a DTR in a while. What is the aim of this blog? I feel like it no longer fills a need and is just a less-trafficked version of other blogs, e.g. DN, PMB, NA. It needs a niche again, in my opinion.
Google tells me that 'a DTR' is short-hand for 'Define the Relationship.' Urban Dictionary tells me, that's: "When two people discuss their mutual understanding of a romantic relationship."

But, I guess I could've gotten to the heart of the reader's question by reading the next sentence: "What is the aim of this blog?" And the last sentence: "It needs a niche again."

I know that I sometimes use it when things get my perpetual rage machine ramped up and when I feel like drawing silly comics. But certainly I can start utilizing it better when I have the time. (Mr. Zero and Zombie, IMHO, do a damn fine job weighing in on current controversies and starting threads and weighing in on comments, respectively.)

What's the consensus? Have at it, y'all!

--Jaded, Ph.D. 


Anonymous said...

I like the blog mostly because of the news and gripes about the job market

Anonymous said...

OP here. I agree with 10:14. The Smoker has traditionally handled job market issues quite well. I often enjoy reading old threads, even as far back as the PJMB days. The Cocoon covers similar issues, but I think it is a forum for more general early career issues, but not the job market specifically.

It's not that I don't sometimes enjoy rants and commentary on other things. I just think they're secondary and tend to make the blog a tad redundant.

Thanks for the years of hard work, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous posters. I was drawn to this blog a couple years ago because of all the discussion about early career issues and, especially, the job market. I would very much like to see that become a greater focus again.

Nick said...

Early career, job market and applications advice definitely makes this a worthwile place. I also happened to like your stance in the LeiterGate: it was thoughtful, sincere, compassionate and, to some extent, quite moving and unexpected.

I also like the fun and cynism.

Anonymous said...

I come for the free food and hot chicks!

Anonymous said...

I come here hoping to see that you are prodding people to update the job wiki so I can check it like a maniac 20-200 times a day from Thanksgiving til June.

docfreeride said...

I appreciate both the job market/job seeking strategy focused posts and the state-of-the discipline rants. But given that I'm not early career, I don't think my needs or wants ought to be the driver for this blogs mission.

Anonymous said...

For me, the job market stuff is what is most valuable. Plus threads like, "How do you get a paper published?" The blog seems to appeal to ABDs and early-career philosophers, and I think it's a good place for addressing those sorts of basic questions which a lot of us have.

We do not need another blog consisting of aggrandizing bullshit: "Philosopher X is thinking about moving from NYU to Rutgers next year; potential grad students beware!"

We do not need another blog for self-righteous feminists.

My recommendation is to focus on professional issues where we can actually help each other and not just talk about how great we all are.

Anonymous said...

"We do not need another blog for self-righteous feminists."

Not to mention the self-righteous anti-feminists (although, fortunately, they seem to have congregated out of sight on MPB).

Jon Cogburn said...

TPS does a few things better than DN, NA, etc. The paradigm cases are job market stuff, stuff relevant to graduate students and early academics. But the various posters are pretty entertaining writers, so I enjoy reading just about anything over here.

I think one thing TPS does vastly better than any other blog is thread the Scylla and Charibdis presented by comments. If you allow all comments, everything gets derailed. But once you start to moderate there's a sorties series between libelous posts, trolling, genuinely meant but offensive posts, and posts you just strongly disagree. And this series leads most moderated blogs to end up driving away commentators, leading to really boring discussions where various members of the choir preach at each other.

Somehow the people running this place have avoided either fate. It's the only widely trafficked blog I can think of that has.

Also, the layout is nice, unlike Leiter's horribly distracting moving adds and the horrible hot mess that Daily Nous has become. I think only newapps (imho, the visual design was mostly mine, with help from Protevi and Dennis Des Chene) and Prosblogian are better among widely trafficked blogs.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that I went out on the job market before there were blogs like this. This blog would have made such a difference to the job market process for me -- just having a place to ask questions about this very difficult time is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Bring back PGS and PGOAT!

Anonymous said...

Jon Cogburn has obviously not been participating in this blog for longer than the past two years. There used to be a *A LOT* of prior restraint censorship of blog posts by the blog moderators. Though the moderators would like to rewrite history, it is all there in the archives. Many posters wanted to either take over this blog or start a new blog because the heavy moderating/censoring of posts had become too much. Things have admittedly improved in the past two years. Though I have noticed that there are far fewer posts on some controversial subjects in recent years. A great alternative to the Smoker is the Philosophers Cocoon. There the rules are clear. It is a more supportive community of early career philosophers engaging in dialogue, less of a free-for-all. What always cracked me up about this blog is the blatantly sexist language in the blog's title. So much for supporting the early career feminists.

Anonymous said...

the heavy moderating/censoring of posts had become too much

this is BS. a few weirdos thought they were being censored. they weren't. this blog has been well managed for years.

Anonymous said...

Would love an update on PGs and PGOAT -- what are they doing now???

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

8:09: I have the feeling you're not being completely ingenuous with your comment (esp. given the reference to some fabled uprising), but, still, I had thought about the subheading recently (a few months ago). I worried about potential offense since, honestly, I hadn't thought very hard about it when I first chose the subtitle over 5 or 6 years ago (I didn't really think too hard about some of the things I think about these days; I'm sure we all didn't).

Anyway, a bit of Googling at the time and discussion with others assuaged my worries (as did the fact no one has complained to us before about it), but I took the opportunity to change it, just now.

Anonymous said...

"Not to mention the self-righteous anti-feminists (although, fortunately, they seem to have congregated out of sight on MPB)."

I assume you meant PMB, which routinely has posts with 200+ comments. I wouldn't exactly call that "out of sight". Seems far more trafficked than the other blogs. You might not like that, but no need to just make stuff up.

Anyway, I agree that the less PS becomes yet another soundboard for the sanctimonious, the better. We have far too many of those already.

Persephone said...

"Out of sight" can be used indexically, so I assume 6:34 meant the commenters on PMB are out of his or her sight.

(But my first thought was the same as 3:29's, that it was just wishful thinking.)

Anonymous said...

200+ comments of trolling, griping, name-calling, speculating, and other bullshit, probably mostly written by a small handful people who used to waste their time cluttering this and other useful blogs.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of job market issues, how is it that there are still schools/departments insisting on having official transcripts sent directly from the degree-granting institutions in order for an application to be considered? I'm looking at you, Saint Leo University! It's ridiculous, and I refuse to apply to those places. Better odds for those who apply, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

"I assume you meant PMB, which routinely has posts with 200+ comments. I wouldn't exactly call that "out of sight". Seems far more trafficked than the other blogs."

You are conflating comments with traffic.

Anonymous said...

... What's pmb?

Anonymous said...

... What's pmb?

oh you so don't want to know.

Anonymous said...

$4 per letter for InterFolio (when doing via one of those online application systems).

Let's say you got 5 letters, that's $20 pop.

So you apply to 5 jobs, that's $100 gone.

Fucking hell.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, 2:56! It's fucking obscene. Nothing could be easier for a department than setting up an email account where applicants can have letters sent (as some departments do).

Now, some departments are going to say that these procedures are put in place by the administration who requires that applicants use the university webpage to submit applications. This is not an adequate response.

First, even if that's true, the departments can still set up their own email accounts. That way applicants could enter the Interfolio email addresses when completing the application on the university's webpage but then just never approve the pending requests in one's Interfolio account; choosing instead to submit the letters all together to the department's email account for the position. That way the university's online application system will still count the application as complete, but the applicant won't have to pay to actually have Interfolio upload each of the letters to the online system (at $4 per letter).

Second, the faculty should put pressure on the administration to update the application procedures and requirements! It is well documented just how much administrative bloat there has been in recent years. What the hell are they being paid for if not to *competently facilitate* practical matters such as this!? I'm skeptical that most of these departments have put much effort into having these policies changed. Assuming that's right, I wish that all of their own grad students would adopt a policy of refraining from using Interfolio and just entering their professors' email addresses so that they know what it's like to be asked to upload letters to online application systems 100-200 times in a given job market season.

Anonymous said...

10:40 PM,

No, I'm not. I'm taking number of comments as *defeasible evidence for* levels of traffic, which is completely reasonable and can be done without conflating the two.

But whatever. Believe whatever makes you feel happy.

Anonymous said...

... What's pmb?

oh you so don't want to know.


But I do!

Anonymous said...

hi everyone--

i have a dumb question. it's my first time on the job market. i come from a low-ranked program without much placement assistance. i have a fairly competitive application package, i think.

how many jobs should i be applying for? is 40 too many? typical?

and how competitive is this process? how many applications will a typical position receive?

ejrd said...

Hi 9:07

My advice: don't think about "how many" jobs to apply for. Instead, apply to ALL the jobs that are asking for your AOS.

Applying to jobs outside of your AOS is almost definitely just throwing you money away. It's tempting to think that the committee will see past their department needs or bureaucratic requirements and pick you even though are you outside the AOS but this is an illusion. In my department, for example, we MUST rank each application solely in terms of how well it matches the job we advertised. We cannot go outside of the parameters of the ad. I know we're not unusual in this respect.

If you're AOS is Nietzsche, for example, then this is kind of a bad year. Applying to a bunch of Philosophy of Mind or Language jobs won't really change that.

Anonymous said...

And what if you have two AOSs? IE have done published research in two distinct fields, even if one is your primary area? Apply to jobs in both?


Anonymous said...

And what about these open AOS and/or open-rank jobs at top schools? Is applying for those just throwing your money away?

Anonymous said...

Would you buy a $20 lottery ticket with a 1-in-10,000 shot at a career in philosophy?

If so (and it doesn't seem crazy to me to do so), consider applying for jobs outside of your AOS.

Anonymous said...

11: 03

I would not apply to those jobs unless two conditions are satisfied:

(1) you come from a top 10 (letter) program)

(2) you work on Lemming stuff.

Anonymous said...

But I do!

Philosophy Metablog. Philosophy's version of the #gamergate crowd.

Anonymous said...

9:07 AM,

A search committee will typically receive anywhere from 200 to 600 applications, depending on where the placement is and on the number and kind of AOSs they're interested in.

And it's hard to say how competitive your application will be without some detail about what's in it. You say it's "competitive", but (no offense intended) I've found that applicants tend to be quite deluded about this.

Derek Bowman said...


The process is insanely competitive. It is not unusual for positions to attract 200 or more applicants, a large number of whom are extremely well-qualified.

So much so that you simply have to apply for as many jobs as you can among those your qualifications match - even those that might seem like a stretch.

40 applications is not at all unusual, and depending on your specializations (and ability to afford the associated costs) you might apply for much more. I expect to apply for at least that many this year, and last year I applied for over 70 (counting post-docs, VAPs, and counting multiple positions at the same institution).

Really, it's a shame that your department doesn't offer better placement assistance. All departments should, at a minimum, have a placement-director and offer a dossier service for handling confidential letters of recommendation. If your department cannot afford this, then it can no longer afford to have a PhD program.

Anonymous said...

"i come from a low-ranked program without much placement assistance. i have a fairly competitive application package, i think."

No, you really don't. I hate to say it, but a key component in "a fairly competitive application package" is coming from a top-ranked program.

It is possible to make up for this, but only with multiple publications in top journals (not near the top, but absolutely top) and letters from recommendation from top scholars in your field (who likely don't teach in your program, if it's low-ranked).

Keep this in mind: people from top-ranked programs in your AOS will not get jobs this year. They will have the proper pedigree, letters from top programs, and publications in the proper journals. Honestly ask yourself: what makes your application package competitive?

zombie said...

6:42, you've obviously never had a full-time faculty job where you're required to teach, do research, do administrative work, and attend several meetings every week. So, let me break it down for you:

"the departments can still set up their own email accounts."

Yes indeed. I happen to have several email accounts already, and I average about 300 emails per day. What'a a few more? Would you like your fate as a job candidate to rest in the organizational hands of someone like me? I'm sure I can manage all the reference emails and make sure they get matched up with the appropriate dossier. No problem. I mean, that system works like gangbusters, right? All these fancy-schmancy online application systems that automatically put everything together are pointless, especially in this day and age when a SC can expect a paltry 200-500 applications, with 3-7 letters each. That's a mere 600-3500 letters. Piece of cake. I'll get right on that.

"the faculty should put pressure on the administration to update the application procedures and requirements!"

Good point. I, as a TT assistant professor, have TREMENDOUS untapped power and influence with the administration. That's why I ENCOURAGED them to raise my healthcare premium this year. Because they LISTEN to me. My next move will be to organize the entire faculty of this university to march upon the president's house and DEMAND that he listen to reason. Because, after a department has to scrape and beg to get the TT line for a job approved, it's pretty clear that the administration cares deeply about them. And cares even more about all those applicants they have never met, and will never meet. You know who cares even more? The people working in HR. Also, those lazy bums on the SCs -- the ones who have 200-700 applications to get through -- they've got lots of extra time for protestin' 'n shit.

I suggest that you make note of your concerns and suggestions for improvement in your application cover letters. SCs are eager for constructive criticism and feedback from candidates.

Look, I'm on an SC. I made my best case to the rest of the committee for using an application system that would be completely free for applicants. The chair looked into it. The administration proceeded to tell us what system we had to use. End of story. Or would you like me to now go on strike until your demands are met?

"I wish that all of their own grad students would adopt a policy of refraining from using Interfolio and just entering their professors' email addresses so that they know what it's like to be asked to upload letters to online application systems 100-200 times in a given job market season."

That's an excellent suggestion. You should get the ball rolling there and do that yourself. Pretty sure ALL of your letters will be delivered on time, because your professors have nothing better to do. After all, we're philosophers, and mostly we just sit in our armchairs and stare into space all day, right?

I'm sure you're aware that not every possible philosophy department has a grad program. That's the only flaw I see in this plan. Those lazy bums at the SLACs and BA-granting departments will never personally suffer because of their outrageous disregard for applicants. Luckily, they all have high teaching loads, so they'll get theirs in the end.

I agree the current system stinks. I agree that job applicants shouldn't have to pay so much (anything) to apply for jobs. I would like Interfolio to adjust their pricing scheme for letters, and I'd like to see universities adopt online systems that cost applicants nothing. I don't represent all SCs and SC members, but you can be sure that at least some of them are sensitive to this issue. But you're blaming departments and SCs for something that is really, truly beyond their control.

Anonymous said...

My feeling is that sometimes it's not a waste of time and money to apply for something completely outside your AOS. (Maybe you're top ten or you have some scuttlebutt that there was some debate about the AOS or your adviser or letter writers have some sway there) But generally I think it is. What I'm wondering about is applying for a job where they advertise for an AOS that you quite reasonably claim as an AOC. So for instance I've taught scads of applied ethics and bioethics classes but never published in it and honestly as far as research goes it's pretty far down on my interests (though I am legitimately interested in it). What do y'all think is applying in those cases a waste of time or not? I know people who've done this and had some luck, but maybe that's just winning the lottery.

Anonymous said...

"But I do!

Philosophy Metablog. Philosophy's version of the #gamergate crowd.

November 1, 2014 at 5:07 PM"

Cheers butt! I couldn't shake the association with PJMB. I will view it with trepidation...

Derek Bowman said...

@5:37 - That really depends on where the job is. There clearly seem to be some positions in which prestige hurts, e.g. because the committee thinks you may not be serious about teaching, or they think you'll just jump ship if a better opportunity comes along. And, although the preliminary placement rankings by Caroline Jennings are too incomplete to be relied on for judging specific programs, they provide good evidence that many programs that are not 'well-ranked' have good placement rates.

You're right that things are tough for everyone, but no reason to go overboard in deflating people's confidence at precisely the moment they'll need it most.

Anonymous said...

"So for instance I've taught scads of applied ethics and bioethics classes but never published in it and honestly as far as research goes it's pretty far down on my interests (though I am legitimately interested in it). What do y'all think is applying in those cases a waste of time or not?"

Depends on the department. Major research university? Don't bother; they want someone teaching that, and probably only that. Small department where everyone pitches in? Apply.

zombie said...

Re: Applying within/without ASO/AOC:

If you have reason to believe that there's a legitimate possibility that you are qualified for the position, and you can afford to lose the money/time invested, apply. Apply widely.

My last couple times on the job market, I got first-round interviews for about 10% of the jobs I applied for. My last time out, I had campus interviews for about 66% of those I had first-rounds with. Which means I invested a whole lof of money applying for jobs I never got anywhere with. But there are MANY reasons candidates don't make it to the interview stage, and AOS/AOC incompatibility is but one of them. AOS/AOC incompatibility is likely to get you eliminated pretty early in the process, unless there is something really special about you and your dossier, because a LOT of people who are a closer match to the AOS/AOC will also be applying.

Anonymous said...

Derek Bowman,

You are right; I was hasty. I assumed I knew what kind of job 9:07 is looking for.

I'll revise my comments. If 9:07 is applying to "teaching colleges," then coming from a low-ranked program could indeed help (precisely because some such schools won't hire applicants who are a risk to leave). Such programs, however, will want applicants who have a pretty strong teaching application: ideally multiple sections of multiple courses.

What will likely help 9:07 in this regard is that, while many adjuncts will have much better teaching credentials, many programs stupidly believe in "stale" PhDs, so many of those applicants will be cut for being too far out of their PhD programs.


Anonymous said...

Hi, about applying outside your AOS/AOC:
I was on the market last year and landed a TT position that is strictly speaking outside of my AOS (although I have my main AOS is in a closely related field). I've received my PhD in 2011, so this was my 3rd year.
In my experience, jobs that were "perfect fits" rarely worked out. I applied widely, but for some reason jobs that I thought were a very good match rarely called me for interviews, whereas jobs where I was more of a stretch for, or where I could imagine more fitting candidates, I got callbacks for. I don't know the explanation for this. Undoubtedly, job candidates don't know all what goes on inside a SC that doesn't make its way in the official add. Also, perhaps we don't know ourselves that well. So I would recommend, even if your fit is remote, apply widely.
Given all the money I invested in getting this far (including relocating twice for temporary positions), it seems not rational not to throw a bit of extra money into the applications for jobs one is qualified for, even if they seem like a bit of a stretch.

Anonymous said...

5:35's anecdote is interesting. FWIW, my experience is the complete opposite.

I was on the market several years ago. There were lots of jobs I could apply to that were a bit of stretch. Including open positions, VAPs, TT, PD, and others, my initial list had nearly 100 positions on it. I applied to most of them and got less than half a dozen first-round interviews. The only jobs that wound up bringing me to campus were those whose ads had basically perfectly described me. The other, 'stretch' jobs didn't seem to take my candidacy seriously at all.

Fortunately, I landed one of the jobs and have been happy here ever since.

And, for the record, I am not from a very highly-regarded department.

Anonymous said...

Wooster's philjobs ad lists a deadline of Dec. 31st and a review-of-applications date of Oct. 15th. So I go to submit my application and the interfolio application is closed because *its* deadline is Oct. 28th. I always thought this was an obvious inside hire, but still. Fun stuff.

Anonymous said...

when do interview requests begin coming in?

Anonymous said...

One thing to keep in mind related to 5;35 and 8:31: there is so consistency on the job market. Anecdotal evidence is worthless because each SC is unique. What one SC wants, another abhors; and you will never be able to tell. You might guess, based on who gets hired and what your application was, but you will never know. Watch the market long enough and you may spot some trends. But you will also spot glaring exceptions to those trends, likely enough of them to challenge the idea of a trend.

It sucks, but it's al a crap shoot. You are going to roll the dice, but never be shown what you rolled, told by someone else whether you won or lost, and never know who else is playing or what they roll. It's going to Vegas blindfolded, asking someone else to place your bets, and trusting them to work on your behalf.

zombie said...

10:08: mid December, typically. The suspense....

Anonymous said...

Old hat, but since I'm about to hit 'purchase' on a roughly $800 plane ticket, I just want to re-express that it is unconscionable that someone who might have 0 interviews really must plan for a trip now-ish. At least SW has a great cancellation policy... but still $800 made non-disposable.

Porphyry said...

I have not been out of the job market that long, and my overall experience was similar to what a lot of people (not necessarily in this thread) have said, namely that applying for positions for which you do not clearly match the AOS is a waste of time and money. That's what I would tell anyone looking for general advice.

However, there is one circumstance in which I would give a different answer. This is when the AOS in question is so rare or unusual that there are unlikely to be that many philosophers who do match it. One ad I saw was for a job in a philosophy department, but had a hyper-specialized and unusual AOS that focused on areas of inquiry more common in health-related disciplines, which I've never elsewhere seen in a philosophy ad. When I saw it I thought I would have no chance, but my spouse encouraged me to apply and I wound up being offered the job, in part because there were no philosophers who fully matched the AOS, but I came closest.

If I was on the market again I would apply to an AOS like that. But that's obviously different from applying to some normal AOS you don't match, but which will have a standing army of other applicants who do.

zombie said...

12:42: don't buy a plane ticket. Many more departments are doing online interviews for first-rounds. And some will let you choose APA or Skype.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to this game, but fwiw..

the role philosophy smoker plays for me is: loads of valuable advice, interwoven with some some less valuable (for me) expressions of bitterness in comment threads. not saying this bitterness isn't *warranted*, but I don't think that for someone who is already on the market, that it's particularly psychologically helpful (maybe for someone deciding whether to go on the market, it would be).

seriously, there are some VERY angry and bitter people here (not this thread in particular, across threads). I'm guessing they all are entirely justified in that bitterness, but it is not what someone on the market needs. (again, might be exactly what someone deciding whether to pursue the market needs).

What's noticeably absent from most comments is newish PhDs who have TT jobs and are satisfied in them to the extent that they are no longer pursuing other TT jobs. I get it -- such people would have little reason to post to this kind of blog. But it gives a slightly skewed impression, I think. I know many, many such people IRL, and after reading this blog, I sometimes feel so discouraged, that I have to remind myself that some people *do* get jobs and are quite happy in them.