Be anonymous?

Back in the dark ages there was a debate about whether or not aspiring academics should blog pseudonymously before tenure. There was some speculation that Dan Drezner lost tenure at Chicago because of his blog and I remember, but can’t find, a good discussion at Crooked Timber on the subject.

Via email, a fellow grad student pointed me to Economics Job Market Rumors where Anonymous is having a discussion with herself about my fate as an “out” grad student blogger:

Blog is pretty opinionated. Is the guy as full of himself as he seems? Will the blog hurt him when he’s on the market?

help him. a) he doesn’t do personal attacks, but b) sticks his neck out there and says what he thinks. Gotta have some guts in this Econ academic-status game.

It won’t hurt him. Anyone who wouldn’t interview/hire someone because of that (well-written, intelligent, and respectful) blog is a buffoon, and he’d be better off elsewhere.

Revealed preferences exposes my favored hypothesis. It seems many “aspiring academics” forget they have a very nice outside option or two. In any case, let’s just say the experiment is still running and we won’t have preliminary results for at least several more months.

7 thoughts on “Be anonymous?”

  1. This is hard one… on the pro side you need to control your name online, it’s a matter of SEO in a sense. If someone “Googles you” the top 10 hits or so be favorable. Also, blogging is, in itself, mad fun and awesome as a way of discussing BIG ideas and the BIG issues. — It’s not a good medium for discussing finer points or technical details, but for those you’re fine with regular department life and the literature.

    I do agree that it’s most likely to hurt you for institutions that you might not like ex-post anyway, so… not an issue?

    Finally, you need to tell how to handle your stuff. The internet is, as a first approximation, forever! So you don’t want to go back a few years later and realize how much you sucked and how little you knew.

    My unconditional prior is 10% help, 50% won’t matter, 20% employer won’t find out about it, 20% it will hurt in a significant way.

    Overall I see anonymity as a good default option or if in doubt. It does have a few great advantages.

  2. “It won’t hurt him. Anyone who wouldn’t interview/hire someone because of that (well-written, intelligent, and respectful) blog is a buffoon, and he’d be better off elsewhere.”

    Reminds me of arguments against worry ing about sexual, racial or sexual orientation discrimination. OTOH, I guess a lot of these aspiring Beckers and Summers have got to practice their denialism.

  3. For the record, I’m the person who wrote the third quote from the job rumors website. I wouldn’t say I’m a “denialist” about discrimination, although I’m not entirely sure I follow what Barry means.

    That said, I think there’s something different about sexual/racial/orientation discrimination vs. “viewpoint” or “style” discrimination, which is what we’re talking about here. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that, for example, an avowed Marxist would be unhappy at the Cato Institute. Similarly, based on the fact that you write this blog, you seem to be interested in disseminating macro research to a broader audience. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that someone who would hold that against you would be, most likely, a worse person to work for.

    In other words, I wouldn’t conflate worries about demographic discrimination with self-selection in preferred work environment. Wanting to write a blog about economics is not incidental to your work as a scholar.

    Or maybe I just want you to keep writing.

  4. Thanks. I took Barry to be talking about a Beckerian analysis of discrimination. Normal humans reject it out of hand (I know my students do, at least the normative implications). My counter is that the economists that will be interviewing me aren’t normal humans…. they’re very abnormal :-) … so it doesn’t much matter.

    Why wouldn’t Becker’s analysis apply to viewpoint discrimination? In particular, why wouldn’t marxist-hating CATO be run out of business?

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