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A Mouse

Incidentally, on the cat video and cat picture thing ... I recall the CIA discovered that even ISIS was watching cat videos when they were not murdering people ruthlessly.
So I would watch what you infer about the character of one who posts cat pictures and cat videos. Even if your inferences are made under the influence of a sub-conscious bias

Marcus Arvan

A Mouse: ha, well I definitely wouldn't infer anything from a cat video alone, you know? One kind of needs to evaluate everything in full context! ;)

Prof L

Like 'designer', overly personalized websites can rub me the wrong way—it's certainly a defeasible impression, and I would try not to hold it against someone, but there is that initial negative reaction. I suppose it's because I think the candidate is trying to look 'cool' and this is a job application, not a popularity contest. Why put that stuff on there? On the other hand, I also think no web-presence at all is some defeasible indication that this person is a bit clueless, not professionalized enough. So I think there is a strong medium ground here: a simple, professional website with just the basics, which should take about 2 hours and $0 to construct out of a template on wix or weebly or something similar. Or, make sure your philpeople profile or academia.edu page is up to date, with an uploaded CV. Of course, you may annoy some people merely by having a web presence, or some may look at your website and think "where are the cat pictures? BORING" but generally, I don't think doing the above will hurt you in the eyes of most search committees.


"One of the more common job-market strategies (or so I've gathered over the years) is to 'play it conservative', trying to avoid doing anything that could look remotely 'less than professional.' But I think there are real risks to such a strategy: playing things conservatively runs a risk of making you look anodyne, that is, it runs the risk of you failing to stand out in any way whatsoever. There's another risk, too: you could end up hired by a department of stodgy people who expect you to repress everything personal about yourself in the workplace--which can really stink if you're the kind of person who doesn't like to repress those features of yourself. The more ideal thing, if you're this kind of person, is to find yourself hired by a department that welcomes people like you. So, since you can't please everyone, what should you do? I don't think there's a simple answer."

I agree, but here's what I think is the positive alternative: Don't play it conservative, play to your strengths. You want to put the best version of yourself out there. That may turn off some people, but it's much more likely to stand out and grab the attention of those with whom you're a better fit.

Trevor Hedberg

It's certainly true that some academic websites are not well-designed, but as Prof L alludes to, it's now very easy to make a site with Wordpress, Weebly, Google sites, etc., without any knowledge of html code that looks reasonably presentable and modern, and it can be done with only a few hours of work. These sites do tend to appear formulaic -- it is often obvious that the person who designed it used a generic template -- but that's far better than having a crude html site that looks like it was made in 1998 or having no website at all. The important thing is to have relevant professional information on your site in a format that's presentable and easy-to-navigate so that people interested in you and your work can learn more about those subjects.

As for the more specific issue of personal touches like pictures of pets, I think there will be a lot of person-to-person variance on whether that creates a positive impression or a negative one, but I'd generally lean toward the objective of doing things that make your work stand out rather than making your website stand out for other reasons. The ideal scenario would be that a person got interested in your website because they thought you had a cool research project you were working on or a unique approach to pedagogy rather than a nice picture of your dog.

Assistant Professor

This is an interesting thread because I think these same questions/choices re: website content will come up again if/when you do interviews, at least in the pre-pandemic on-campus interview method. Do you talk about your hobbies? Do you talk about your pets? Do you talk about who you do (or don't) share your household with? Do you wear that outfit that shows more personal style? These questions plague the job process, not just one's website presentation. (And I don't have social media accounts but I bet those who are on social media have to think about this too, if you don't make those accounts private.)

I think it is okay to decide to remain more reserved: stick to the basics, be polished and engaging without giving away too much of yourself, if that is your comfort level. Some people may perceive different risks in sharing certain personal information that others in the profession have no problem publicizing (i.e. male-identifying philosophers might not feel the same concerns about mentioning they like to hike with their kids as female-identifying philosophers would in a breezy bio; pre-tenure vs. post-tenure probably changes things too).

It is also okay to decide to share some personal details about hobbies, or pets, or activism, or family, if those things are important to you. In my mind the most compelling reasons for doing those things would be either it is important to you to make a statement that one can be a professional philosopher and X, and/or because you want to make sure you work in a setting that will support you as a professional philosopher and X. Merely having a quirky or idiosyncratic gimmick doesn't seem to be a good reason for inclusion on a professional website.

But like I said at the outset: whether or not you are asking these questions about your website, it is worth thinking about how you want to handle them in interviews, especially during extended processes that involve more informal time when non-work stuff inevitably enters the conversation.

David Thorstad

I have to say I agree with Marcus. The only reason my website doesn't have pictures of my dog is that I haven't managed to stay in one place long enough to get a dog. I understand the need to avoid bad design and sappy over-personalization, but I'd like to think that I can be a professional and a person who likes dogs at the same time.

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