PhilPeople Launches (guest post by David Bourget & David Chalmers)


The following is a guest post* by David Bourget (Western) and David Chalmers (NYU), the co-directors of the PhilPapers Foundation, which has brought you the bibliographic database PhilPapers, the online philosophical archive PhilArchive, the philosophy events calendar PhilEvents, and now, the professional networking tool PhilPeople (previously).

PhilPeople Launches
by David Bourget and David Chalmers

We’re pleased to announce the public beta testing launch of PhilPeople, a directory and social network for philosophers developed by the PhilPapers Foundation with support from the American Philosophical Association.

PhilPeople is an extension of PhilPapers.  The core of PhilPeople is a database of professional philosophers which complements and works together with the database of philosophical works that is at the core of PhilPapers. PhilPeople has also become the locus of user profiles and social features previously on PhilPapers, with numerous new features added.

The key features of PhilPeople include:

  1. A powerful search engine for searching PhilPeople’s database of philosophers based on topics, location, demographics, and other criteria.  This will enable conference organizers, researchers, and others to search for philosophers meeting various criteria.
  2. A comprehensive directory of departments offering an array of department-wide statistics.
  3. Personalized profiles for every philosopher, including customizable publication lists and graphical elements.
  4. The news feed, a social networking system that allows you to follow the publications, appointments, updates, paper recommendations, blog posts, and other activities of philosophers.
  5. The radar, a tool to discover people traveling near you, and for announcing your own travels.
  6. discussion sessions feature allowing you to share a paper for discussion among as many or as few people as you want, with extensive on-screen commenting and group discussion features.

At the moment, the PhilPeople database includes all registered users of PhilPapers and many other philosophers for whom we have included information from PhilPapers works and from institutional websites. We estimate that well over 80% of academic philosophers in Anglophone countries are included, with less complete coverage elsewhere. Our eventual aim is to extend coverage to all professional philosophers worldwide. Graduate students and others are also welcome to register.

If you are a registered user of PhilPapers, what was previously your PhilPapers profile has been redesignated as a PhilPeople profile. We encourage you to try the new features of the site. As before, any user may opt to have their profile hidden or removed.

If you are a professional philosopher who is not a registered user of PhilPapers, you may find that the PhilPeople database includes an entry for you with some minimal public information, akin to an entry in a standard academic directory. We encourage you to  register as a PhilPeople user so that you can make a full profile available to users searching the site. However, if you prefer, you can remain unregistered or have your entry removed from the site completely.

PhilPeople remains in beta testing. The database is still incomplete and not every feature has been tested thoroughly. If you notice any problems, please notify us in the comments here or by using the Feedback button on the site.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank all of those who have contributed to this project. The Committee for the Status of Women in Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association provided the initial impetus by asking us some years ago if we could make a tool to help find members of under-represented groups. The American Philosophical Association provided seed funding for the project. The editors of the Philosophical Gourmet Report shared the faculty lists they compiled for the 2018 report. The Department of Philosophy at Western provided generous research assistant support. Cecilia Li and Mark Dunlop did excellent data collection. Last but not least, our outstanding team at the Centre for Digital Philosophy did a superb job. Many thanks to Steve Pearce, Jen McKibbon, Mavrick Laakso, Ryan Augustynowicz, Craig Weston, and Chris Brogly.

Added note: We have heard some concerns that the “Radar” feature, which shows philosophers who will be speaking in a certain area in a certain period, may facilitate stalking and harassment. We should clarify that by default this feature conveys no information that is not already easily and publicly available in PhilEvents and in other conference announcements. Further information about a user is included only if the user chooses to add the information. We have also made it easy for users to exclude any information about their events from the PhilPeople site. As always, we are open to feedback and to fine-tuning the system before the full public launch.

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Owl
Owl
2 years ago

Great job. I poked around it yesterday and I really appreciate the data on what people use to find my work. Report

Phoenix, Son of Amynto
Phoenix, Son of Amynto
2 years ago

As someone who thinks Facebook is a social disaster, I’ll confess that I’d like to hear more about how the advantages of what is essentially Facebook for philosophers will outweigh the disadvantages. I don’t mean to be a jerk here (especially since the folks involved in the project seem like very fine people), but I’d really love to hear some considered debate about this very public database that is about to be launched.Report

Phoenix, Son of Amynto
Phoenix, Son of Amynto
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

Stalking, bullying, rapid spread of rumor or hate, loss of privacy (including data breach), & oversharing (or simply lots of noise relative to good signal). But, as I say, I’d love to hear what people think. I promise that I’m not trying to be glib.Report

E
E
Reply to  Phoenix, Son of Amynto
2 years ago

Well, if PhilPeople takes off, I’ll be deactivating my Facebook (and Academia.edu) account, since these days I basically use it to read and share professional news with colleagues. Come to think of it, philosophers seem to be the only kind of people in my social circle who use Facebook regularly. Report

Curtis Franks
Curtis Franks
Reply to  Phoenix, Son of Amynto
2 years ago

I too wonder how the merits and faults of a project like this will shake out.

Already my (quite limited) experience with PhilPapers suggests that it presents a skewed image of philosophical activity. Lists of many author’s written work are far from complete. Also, the gadget tracking the number of times a paper has been accessed makes a strange impression. Consider Lawvere’s “Adjointness in Foundations,” a paper that inspired entire careers, textbooks, etc., which has been downloaded fewer than 20 times. Or consider the list of papers by Stephen Cook, both what’s not included and the apparent unpopoularity what is. One gets the impression that these lists and numbers present us roughly with the interests and reading habits of a particular group whose commonality is that they access information more through social networking type channels than through library catalogues, scholarly indexes, and such things.

One might worry that PhilPeople will only amplify this tendency, by wrapping in aspects of self-presentation and celebredom.
Report

noah
noah
2 years ago

As with other “social network” sites, who will have access to the data? If you think it doesn’t matter yet, it will:

For instance, say I want to advertise my school to prospective hires/ students/ etc. and I want to show off how many philosophy talks were given in the last year in my city. Will I have access to the historical Radar data?

Will we be able to see networks of people who are PhilPeople “friends” that consistently cite each other?Report

Jonathan
2 years ago

Seconding E’s sentiment with deleting academia.edu. The biggest score for this new project is **finally** a proper replacement for academia.edu, after so many public and loud complaints from various people. I’m very glad to see what looks like a proper alternative finally come around.Report

Louis
Reply to  Jonathan
2 years ago

It is not a “proper replacement for academia.edu.” At best and at most, it’s a proper replacement ONLY for philosophers. There are untold numbers of academics and others who who use academia.edu who are not philosophers. That Daily Nous is a site read mostly by philosophers is not a sufficiently good reason, istm, to write a comment whose language suggests that philosophers are the only people in the world. I’d submit that that is parochial, to put it mildly. Report

david chalmers
2 years ago

for what it’s worth, we don’t think of philpeople as essentially “facebook for philosophers”. it’s true that it has some features in common with facebook (the news feed) and also with academia (the profiles). we hope people find those features useful, but i don’t think we would have set up the service if those features were all there was to it. the core of the system is the database of philosophers and the “find philosophers” search engine, which allows you to search for philosophers along many dimensions (e.g. all the philosophers in a given country working on a given topic). this is something that hasn’t really existed before and which we hope will be a powerful and useful tool for many philosophers.Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  david chalmers
2 years ago

In 2006 or 7 I created a Facebook account to email someone named ‘Preston Stovall’. I didn’t use it otherwise, until a couple weeks ago when I had to log in and officially delete the account because it was hacked by someone who put up a picture of a Russian woman and started contacting people (no joke).

I now see that PhilPeople has an account under my name, complete with misinformation about what I’ve done. Can you tell me why i should acquiesce in David Chalmers (or whomever he’s speaking for) having curated a partial and at least partly false record of my professional life and used it to further a project he’s working on? Am I supposed to accept that this is what’s best? Or is the idea supposed to be that this is going to happen anyway, so we should just accept it either way? More to the point, why should my choice be to opt out rather than to opt in?
Report

david chalmers
Reply to  Preston Stovall
2 years ago

i can’t speak for facebook, but regarding philpapers/philpeople: there appears to be one profile created years ago for a “preston stovall” who is identified as a graduate student at the university of pittsburgh. we didn’t create that profile, so it was created either by a preston stovall who was a graduate student at pittsburgh or by someone giving false details. if it was someone giving false details, our apologies — email [email protected] and we should be able to delete it. if you created the account, then you can either update your details or delete the profile at any time.Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  david chalmers
2 years ago

Good to know. Thank you.Report

Phoenix, son of Amyntor
Phoenix, son of Amyntor
Reply to  david chalmers
2 years ago

The brief exchange between Chalmers and Stovall has increased my worries. First, note that PhilPeople has *aggregated* departmental data without consent of those being aggregated. Yes, department’s make their faculty lists publicly available (often along with emails), but PhilPeople has gone one step further: it has presumably scraped these pages in order to form its own big data set. Is data scraping ethical? I genuinely don’t know but I think there should have been public debate before PhilPeople went ahead and did the data scraping.

Second, now that PhilPeople has created its own database, it has put the burden upon those listed there to either correct the mistakes or ask to be removed. Stovall, for example, wound up in your dataset and, when he noted the errors, he was given a e-mail by which to correct it. I think that approach has the consent exactly backwards. PhilPeople should rely on an entirely volunteer, sign-up model rather than its “opt-out” model. That is, if I don’t volunteer, I don’t get listed at all.

Finally, by centralizing this data (including the creepy “radar” feature), I again worry PhilPeople makes it easier for individuals to engage the sorts of problematic behavior found on Facebook: stalking, bullying, rapid spread of rumor or hate, loss of privacy (including data breach), & oversharing.Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Phoenix, son of Amyntor
2 years ago

Just a couple of clarifications. From what I gather, PhilPeople imported an old profile I’d created for PhilPapers onto the new site. I don’t remember creating that profile, and I can’t find a copy of a creation-confirmation in the email linked to that profile, but I was able to reset the password and make the profile private. Part of the problem is that the profile lists some but not all of my publications, and at least some of the ones it does list are ones I am sure I did not add myself as they are recent publications and I have not logged onto my PhilPapers account in years. And if the “Confirm as Mine” tab next to a publication on my profile is evidence that the publication was added automatically, then none of the publications were added by me. So it does look like there is some data scraping going on. But in my case I do not think the profile itself was created by data scraping.

At any rate, David Bourget and David Chalmers say this in their original post:

“If you are a professional philosopher who is not a registered user of PhilPapers, you may find that the PhilPeople database includes an entry for you with some minimal public information, akin to an entry in a standard academic directory. We encourage you to register as a PhilPeople user so that you can make a full profile available to users searching the site. However, if you prefer, you can remain unregistered or have your entry removed from the site completely.”

And at the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the “Help” tab at philpeople there’s this:

“What is an unregistered database entry?
An unregistered database entry is a page with information about a philosopher who is not a registered user of PhilPeople. PhilPeople aims to be a relatively complete directory of professional philosophers (akin to standard academic directories), regardless of whether those philosophers are registered users of PhilPapers or PhilPeople. For philosophers who are not registered users, we have relied on data entry from public sources (typically institutional websites) and sometimes on information supplied by departmental administrators. These are unregistered entries typically have much less information than registered profiles. We encourage philosophers in this class to register as users in order to complete their entries and use other features of PhilPeople.

“Why am I included in the database if I never registered as a user?
PhilPeople aims to have an entry for every philosopher, including those who are not registered users. Non-registered users have ‘unregistered entries’. See the previous question for details on unregistered entries.”

Given I was able to take control of the profile and set it to private, I’m happy with things as they stand now. I’ll think about what to do going forward, as I appreciate the value in social networking sites though I’m not a big fan of them myself.Report

Phoenix, son of Amyntor
Phoenix, son of Amyntor
Reply to  Preston Stovall
2 years ago

Thank you for your reply. I’m sincerely glad that you were able to take control of your profile. I’ll confess, though, that I think my worries still stand. They’ve done data scraping and are now deploying an opt-out model. I think we need to be debating the ethics of that decision. Moreover, I’d really like to see discussion of the merits versus demerits of such a centralized, big database (including the “radar” feature).Report

david chalmers
Reply to  Phoenix, son of Amyntor
2 years ago

data scraping: we didn’t do any data scraping for philpeople. all data came from other phil* databases or was entered manually by users, by departments, or by our data entry staff. the only data entered by our data entry staff was from public faculty lists on department websites. we’ve notified every department whose information we used, and none has objected. the department lists are basically analogous to any standard academic directory such as the directory of american philosophers.

opting in: every user profile was created by a user who signed up for one. entries for non-users (which are clearly distinguished from user profiles) just include publications plus department affiliation. these are again analogous to those found in standard academic directories, which aren’t opt-in. opt-in would make these directories far less useful. opt-in would also be largely pointless for philpeople, since almost everything on a philpeople non-user page (e.g. https://philpeople.org/profiles/daniel-c-dennett) can be found just by searching on the author’s name on philpapers (e.g. https://philpapers.org/s/daniel%20dennett). and obviously bibliographic databases such as philpapers aren’t opt-in.

i don’t want to make light of ethical issues, which arise where any database is concerned. but we’ve done our best to notify everyone in the database of what’s involved in philpeople, and for anyone with reservations, we’ve made opting out very easy.Report

Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
Reply to  david chalmers
2 years ago

Thank you for the judicious reply. It is much appreciated.Report

asst prof
asst prof
2 years ago

As someone who uses facebook to stay in touch with family and friends, post pictures of my kids, etc., I’m really happy that there’s a place for professional networking which involves less of my personal life. I’d like to keep the two more separate than professional networking on facebook allows, without tons of effort spent curating who-can-see-what settings on facebook.

I understand that some people use facebook almost primarily for professional networking. I’m sure these people don’t want to see my comments cooing over my newborn niece appear in their news feed, and I don’t want it to appear in their news feed. I know some people have two separate profiles, but that seems a little weird, since there are people who I am close to both professionally and personally, whose kids I DO want to see. I also want to stay updated on the publications of friends, but posting your most recent publication on facebook is often (for whatever reason) regarded as annoyingly braggy by some. This is a great alternative.

Thanks Davids for this resource. Report