Math Job Rumors

I noticed yesterday a website named Math Job Rumors that has been operating for a couple months. No idea what the story behind it is other than that it’s clearly a descendant of Economics Job Market Rumors, which had some small participation by mathematicians, but is somewhat of a dumpster fire of misinformation, trolling, misogyny and various sorts of juvenile behavior. It looks like someone is trying to provide something similar aimed specifically at mathematicians, with some improvement over the EJMR environment.

One aspect of the site are threads devoted to rumors about tenure track and postdoc hiring in pure math, I don’t know if there has been something like this before. In theoretical physics there’s the venerable Theoretical Particle Physics Jobs Rumor Mill and the HEP Theory Postdoc Rumor Mill, but these are run in a very different way, with all information posted coming from one or more people who run the site, based on information sent to him/her/them.

The problem with the EJMR or Math Job Rumors model is that anonymity is needed for the whole thing to work, but once you start allowing people to post things anonymously, if you don’t moderate what is posted, you’ll quickly get overrun by idiots, trolls and other sorts of bad actors. Some kind of moderation is going on at the new site, but it’s unclear who is doing it or on what basis.

After starting with the Official Peter Woit blog hate thread, I moved on to reading a few other threads. Lots of dumb stuff, lots of inside jokes, lots and lots of trolling. I confess though that in one case the trolling was clever enough to make me laugh out loud, but it’s aimed at a really small audience. I did learn one piece of information that appears to be true, that prominent string theorist Shamit Kachru has gone on leave from his position at Stanford to work as a consultant in the finance industry.

In summary, for those mathematicians who read this blog and feel that they are not wasting enough time on mostly dumb internet stuff, you might want to take a look…

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10 Responses to Math Job Rumors

  1. David Appell says:

    Congratulations on having a hate thread. You have arrived.

  2. Jackson Jules says:

    I checked out your hate thread out of morbid curiosity, and overall it seeemed…weirdly supportive?

    Like don’t get me wrong: there are a couple people throwing unwarranted potshots at you. But overall, the vibe was that people are quietly thankful for your willingness to talk about thorny topics like the ABC conjecture and string theory. Which surprised me somehow.

  3. lowly graduate student says:

    As grad student on the job market, as much as I find certain posts there to have kind of a toxic vibe, the discussion there does serve a purpose. How do mathematicians evaluate/rank one another? What/who is considered good/not good and why? These are the kind of conversations that people don’t make face to face (at least when you’re a graduate student) due to politeness, but somehow you really need to get a sense of this going forward in your career. And when there is a demand and a vacuum /lack of discussions in our everyday life, its gets filled by anonymous threads like mathjobrumors. I hope after much effort in sifting through the trolling, what I find will at least be somewhat resemblant of the truth – which is what people are too polite to say to my face.

  4. Peter Woit says:

    First a general comment: looking more at the math job rumors site and especially at recent threads, the extreme level of unfunny trolling and low quality of most of the supposedly serious comments doesn’t bode well. Whoever is responsible for this needs to figure out a better solution to their moderation problem than whatever they’re doing.

    lowly graduate student,
    You need to be very careful about taking seriously anything you read there, unless it’s something factual you can check elsewhere. Besides the large amount of intentionally incorrect material (trolling trying to be funny and fool people), there’s also a lot of just dumb stuff coming from people who don’t know much about what they’re talking about.

    This is the big problem with anonymity: if people don’t put their name and reputation behind their words, this encourages all sorts of bad behavior. On the other hand, on certain topics (from hot button political issues to negative evaluations of certain fields or people), no one who sensibly wants to avoid making enemies is going to publicly say exactly what they think.

    Probably the best advice at the moment about an anonymous site like math job rumors is to (putting aside the trolling if you can recognize that) take whatever you read there about as seriously as you would take something another graduate student tells you when they’re drunk late night at a bar. Actually, a lot of the comments on that site probably are posted by your fellow graduate students, drunk late at night, even if not actually at a bar…

  5. anon says:

    It almost looks like many people posting there want it to fail. The ratio of obvious troll posts to even semi-serious ones is probably five to one if not more. Looking at the earlier threads, it doesn’t look like it was that bad in the beginning.

  6. Probabilist_omni says:

    This really got a laugh out of me for some reason:

    *”Starting fall of 2021, I will be taking an extended sabbatical/leave. Much of my effort during this period will be spent developing my skills in rapidly developing areas like machine learning, with a view towards the science emerging from analysis of large datasets” . Nothing wrong with that of course and you never stop learning new stuff that you might find interesting etc etc, but still hilarious for “some” reason. I think every student that might still consider at this point going into string theory should be directed to that page; just food for thought.

    *Section of Kachru’s profile in the Research and Scholarship section

  7. Peter Woit says:

    Probabilist_omni,

    Somehow his fall 2021 goal of working on “the science emerging from analysis of large datasets” turned into a 2022-23 job “as a consultant in quantitative research for a company which is active in a number of global financial markets.”

  8. I says:

    “In summary, for those mathematicians who read this blog and feel that they are not wasting enough time on mostly dumb internet stuff, you might want to take a look…”

    Oh no, Peter! Why did you push your readership into the quicksand? Some of them will be stuck in that pit for life.

    Jokes aside, there’s clearly some demand for something like this. Even if it degenerates into a cesspool of trolls and string theorists, well, the people on there are adults. If they’re using it and having fun, isn’t that a good thing? Plus, maybe they’ll be more inclined to troll people there than on a blog’s comments.

    If you view the site as providing rumours worth checking out, then it does seem like you could still get valuable information from it. Though the signal to noise ratio would be quite low, maybe with good enough search tools that wouldn’t be a problem.

  9. Peter Woit says:

    I,
    They seem to be struggling with trying to find a workable moderation system that can deal with not just the kind of grotesque stuff that afflicts EJMR, but also a flood of garden-variety stupidity. I’m skeptical that there’s any way to run a completely anonymous site that people with something well-informed and intelligent to say will want to use unless one can figure out how to keep the idiots under control. We’ll see…

  10. Daniel Litt says:

    Ugh, really horrible stuff. Ruined my day, honestly.

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