Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bad web strategies: A short problem set

Question 1. Consider this tweet:

What is the target of the link?

a) The ComSoc blog.

b) A link to a screenshot of the ComSoc home page, highlighting the "Blog" button in the link bar.  The screenshot is part of a Facebook album, and clicking on the screenshot only navigates to the next picture in the album.  Being an image, text in the screenshot (including the blog URL) is not selectable for copy/paste.  From the link, there are no obvious ways to get to either the ComSoc home page or blog.  

Question 2. What is ComSoc's slogan?

a) "The world's leading membership organization for communications professionals"

b) "We have never heard of the internet before today"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's a PhD worth at the finish line? On hiring committees

The blogosphere is roiling over the worth of a PhD.  Should PhD programs take all qualified students? Is the academic "meritocracy" a myth, i.e., are some PhDs more equal than others? Even an outlet as erudite as The Economist suggests doing a PhD might be a waste of time (the always-nameless correspondent calling her ecology PhD "pointless").

In all of these pieces, the worth of a PhD is measured by its convertibility into a tenure-track position. There's lots of ink to be spilled on this topic, and I don't have a grand, philosophical point to add about the worth of the PhD.  However, I'd like to talk about the "finish line" viewed by many PhD students: the hiring committee.

Monday, January 10, 2011

No, I don't want to "talk about" your exam

The college where I did my undergrad had the habit of printing your rank in your class along with your yearly grade report; the top student in each class got a small prize, usually a book. At the end of my third year, I was happy to read on my report that I ranked first out of thirty-something electrical engineers (it was a small college).

I left for the summer and returned for my senior year, but hadn't received my prize.  When I asked around, it turned out that the second-place finisher had complained to all our profs about his exam grades, and managed to get enough extra marks to take first place -- my book became his.

I realize it's a small, petty thing to remember after all these years.  But I think about it every time a student comes to my office wanting to "talk about" their mark on the final exam.