Saturday, May 18, 2024

A very brief interview with organizer Anonymous Potato

EcologyA very brief interview with organizer Anonymous Potato is the crowdsourced jobs board for faculty positions (and some other positions, such as postdocs) in ecology and evolution. It’s a Google Sheet with various tabs. It’s nearly comprehensive in its coverage of EEB faculty job listings in the US and Canada, and has many listings in other countries too. It’s also a popular forum for anonymous discussion of topics related to the EEB faculty job market. It’s a tremendously useful resource for EEB faculty job seekers, although you’d surely get different answers from different people as to how useful some bits of it are.* It’s also a useful resource for others to build on. Without, I wouldn’t have been able to compile all the data I’ve compiled on the ecology faculty job market.

The organizer of is the pseudonymous Anonymous Potato (“AP”). AP sets up a new Google Sheet every year, sets up the form by which users can add new job listings to the sheet, troubleshoots the sheet (e.g., when material accidentally gets erased), moderates the comment threads, implements new features (often at the suggestion of users), and more. This is even more work than it probably sounds like. is underpinned by a lot of complex spreadsheet functions, that push Google Sheets coding about as far as it’ll go.

I know who AP is.** For a little while now I’ve been trying to get AP to do an email interview. I’m guessing I’m far from the only one who is curious about the history of and AP’s involvement in it, AP’s motivations, AP’s workflow, and more. AP is amenable to an interview, but also busy. So far I’ve only received brief answers to a few questions. They’re questions that AP suggested, although they’re questions I would’ve asked anyway. Here they are. My hope is that posting this brief interview, and then getting some comments from y’all, might prompt AP to say a bit more in future.

The questions are in bold, AP’s answers are italicized. Both the questions and answers have been slightly edited for clarity.

Why use a pseudonym? Why use Anonymous Potato as your pseudonym?

origin of pseudonym: it’s a reference to an infamous ULethbridge potato ad that ran on years ago

why a pseudonym: don’t want to be harassed

When did you get involved in

took over in 201X when the sheet was getting messed up too much

Why do you do it?

uniquely fits my skills and interests (always on the internet, little bit of google sheets hacking)

What’s your workflow like?

wake up, filter items flagged for moderation, filter by latest update…then check throughout the day

What’s your moderation philosophy?

light touch, except personal callouts and anti-LGBTQ job ads

What are the biggest or most challenging issues with from your perspective?

borderline ecoevojobs…could someone please set up

*Looking at you, “Venting” tab…

**I’m sure I’m not the only person who knows, but I have no idea how many people know. Please don’t ask me how I know, or for how long I’ve known, or to give any hints as to who AP is, or etc., because I won’t answer. And take my word for it, the mere fact that I know who AP is is not a useful clue to AP’s identity.

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