Networking on the Network
October 7, 2005 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Networking on the Network Started over 10 years ago, long before social web apps became ubiquitous, Phil Agre's Networking on the Network was an introduction to professional networking, using the internet, for graduate students.
The document has grown and evolved to encompass 90 pages of widely applicable advice on building professional relationships and helping others do the same. Much of what he writes is applicable to surviving in any institution.
Reading it feels like being taken aside by an expert practitioner who tells you, "Pssst....hey buddy, here's how things really work."
posted by mecran01 (12 comments total)
One tidbit:

"Once you get a job, and probably long before, your status in the community will quietly shift: you'll no longer be the disoriented student at the bottom of the totem pole, and others will be coming to you for advice. That's particularly true if you've been building a network, organizing professional activities, and projecting a sense of purpose in your career. Perhaps you are not yet anyone's official dissertation advisor, but you are an advisor in an informal sense, with a chance to do good and a risk of doing harm. You need to see the situation coming, because being in a position to give advice can evoke strange reactions. If you have any latent tendencies to be an empire-builder, power freak, meddler, or know-it-all, now is when they will come out. It will take a little time before you get comfortable with the role, so in the meantime here are some concepts and rules."

posted by mecran01 at 8:47 AM on October 7, 2005

Ihave failed at conveying how awesome this document is. [sob]
posted by mecran01 at 10:03 AM on October 7, 2005

thanks, this is really nice and I'd not come across it before.
posted by advil at 10:22 AM on October 7, 2005

I'm not in an academic setting, but I can see how a lot of it can apply to my - or any - workplace. I'm just starting out & wanting to establish myself in a positive way. Thank you for this.
posted by raedyn at 11:30 AM on October 7, 2005

Phil Agre is one of the net's uncelebrated pioneers. His Red Rock Eater list was one of the earliest proto-blogs I ever read (back when blogs were called "mailing lists"). It started in around 1994, along with such other luminaries as NetSurfer Digest. Both managed to be fairly substantive and interesting back in the days when "Cool Website of the Day" seemed like a good idea.
posted by whir at 12:42 PM on October 7, 2005

Actually, pretty decent.
posted by nervousfritz at 8:26 PM on October 7, 2005

this is great. awesome. words fail. thanks.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:01 PM on October 7, 2005

I liked the parts on dealing with pathological people:

Of course, all of this talk about learning arguments requires people to fight fair. But many people, as we all know, do not fight fair. To deal with these pathological people, you need six ideas:

First, you should distinguish between people who are irrational in a general way and people who are irrational on specific topics. When people are irrational on specific topics, it means that they have been hurt in the past and are afraid that they are going to be hurt the same way again. Oftentimes, you will do something reasonable that superficially resembles a bad thing that some other crazy person did in some other situation. For example, you might propose a new course that falls somewhat outside the usual framework of the curriculum, not knowing that your department went through years of warfare over the framework of the curriculum before you got there. The extreme response you receive from otherwise rational people will be out of proportion to anything you actually did. When you do something reasonable and encounter an irrational response, therefore, one approach is to stop and figure out what bad experience the other person has had. Then you can assure them that you aren't going to do the same bad thing that the crazy person did earlier.

Second, you should never try to change or fix pathological people, and you should certainly never persuade yourself that your personal happiness or success depends on changing or fixing them. Fixing pathological people doesn't work in personal relationships, and it certainly doesn't work in professional relationships. Release the miserable people to their misery, refuse to let them into your space beyond the nice clean boundary that you establish by (only) articulating commonalities, and carry on with your life.

posted by mecran01 at 9:52 PM on October 7, 2005

Gee, how isolated.
posted by squirrel at 10:36 AM on October 8, 2005

You've obviously never worked in an academic department...
posted by mecran01 at 7:08 AM on October 9, 2005

That's a pretty nice article. Of course, as a former PhD student and current postdoc who hates giving even an informal talk to a small room of people and dreads conferences, it seems like some kind of masterclass in social kung fu. I wish this kind of social maneuvering was not so crucial, but it seems to be a crucial element in any large human enterprise. Is there room any more for people like the great mathematician Berhard Riemann, who was so painfully shy he could not speak without having prepared every word beforehand? I went into academia hoping to be able to leave behind all the petty stuff, but it seems to be at least 50 percent of the real picture.
posted by snoktruix at 6:04 AM on October 10, 2005

You've obviously never worked in an academic department...

Look beyond the seemingly obvious; I have worked in several academic departments. You think it's worse there than any other workplace? I suggest travel.
posted by squirrel at 8:42 PM on October 10, 2005

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