Rumor Mill Blogs

The Chron highlights a new trend in academic appointments: “rumor mills” that track “short lists” and offers (including the Political Theory and Public Law blog). Rumors are all the rage, and the indefatigable Dave Lat has some thoughts on parallel trends in law.

I’m torn about the rumor craze. One guy in the Chron notes they

[S]ometimes gave him information faster than [potential employers] did. “The greatest help these sites provide people is in giving bad news,” he says. “You find out a university’s made a shortlist and you don’t seem to be on it, or they’ve made an offer and you don’t have it. Institutions tend to give you that information very slowly.”

I can also see the rumor blogs “levelling the playing field,” giving the wide world the type of insider perspective once only afforded to a lucky few.

But I can also see the classic Solovean point about the “virtues of knowing less.” While initially an egalitarian force, the rumor blogs may entrench the “start system” they seek to expose:

“This unfairly magnifies the five to 10 people who are on all the shortlists because it’s known to everyone,” says Jason Tumlinson a doctoral student in Yale’s physics department. “This has only contributed to the great stress of the whole process.”

Well, at least there isn’t betting on who’s going to win, ala Tradesports…though I imagine a prediction market may pop up any day now.