Chris Uggen's Blog: chris' <i>cosmo</i> quiz for collaborators

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

chris' cosmo quiz for collaborators

last thursday at demos, i did a joint presentation with jeff manza. we tend to give individual talks and develop them independently, so a joint presentation was a rare treat.

i've truly enjoyed working with jeff but i've been extremely fortunate with all of my collaborators -- undergraduate students, grad students, postdocs, and junior and senior faculty. really! the only times things haven't worked out, i've dropped the ball due to preoccupation with other projects. i've written that good collaborations seem to require complementary skills and enough like-mindedness to vibe together. how can you spot good potential partners?

you can probably learn much of what you need to know about a potential collaborator by (1) reading something they've written; and, (2) sharing a meal. i'll leave the analysis of written work to your own judgment, but this restaurant behavior quiz might offer some insights into criterion number two. i've written the quiz for male collaborators, but you can change the he to she or s/he as needed.

1. did he treat the server decently? this could be signaling that he treats others with mutual trust and respect. if he sends back written instructions to the chef about the proper preparation of a cheeseburger, in contrast, he might try to micromanage your contributions to the project.

_ rude as hell and a little scary -- like when animals attack: 0 points
_ decently, i guess, i didn't really notice: 1 point
_ very understanding, he must've worked in a restaurant: 2 points

2. did he stick you (or, worse, his students) with the check or stiff the server with a tiny tip? this wouldn't portend generosity in my book. it might also mean that he thinks you owe him something just for hanging out with you. you don't want a collaborator who would minimize your contributions to the project. he should be quick to point out that "my partner really did the heavy lifting here" and, when needed, "I've gotta shoulder the blame for screwing up on that one."

_ he took a call and took off before the check came: 0 points
_ split it down the middle and tipped 20 percent: 1 point
_ he paid this one and i'll get the next one: 2 points
_ i took this one and he'll grab the next one: 2 points

_ he stuck a fork through my hand when i reached for the check: -3 points

3. did he complain about being chronically overworked? if so, it could indicate incompatible work styles and ethic or inadequate time to pick up a new project. choose a collaborator who has shown some positive energy (e.g., by bringing several other projects home) and/or the proper incentive (e.g., job market, tenure) to finish the project.

_ he has not slept since 1979: 0 points [yes, this will knock down my score]
_ he yawned once but apologized for it, blaming travel fatigue: 1 point
_ he seemed really excited about getting going on the project: 2 points

4. did he rain furious anger down upon colleagues, teachers, and students as soon as they were out of earshot? uh-oh. this person may not have the patience or compassion you'll need to get over a rough patch. sometimes life interrupts the most careful plans. you'll feel better working with those willing to forgive your excesses and understand your other (over)commitments.

_ apparently, he has always been surrounded by idiots and cretins: 0 points
_ he really didn't say much about his colleagues or students: 1 point
_ you can see he loves his mentors, colleagues, and students: 2 points

5. did you laugh? you don't have to launch a lifelong friendship, but it is nice to work with people whose company you genuinely enjoy. the best collaborators take the work seriously but are comfortable laughing at themselves. social scientists require ego sufficient to get on with our audacious work, but not so much ego that we can't take a step without tripping over it.

_ he struck me/made me weep/wouldn't let me go to the bathroom: 0 points
_ yeah, i think we could probably work together: 1 point
_ i wanna party with you, cowboy: +/- 2 points (sign is up to you)

__ total points for questions 1 to 5

0 to 3 points: run. he might make you famous, but notorious is far more likely.
4 to 7 points: try email conversation over a few weeks and see how it goes.
8 to 10 points: yeah! like jagger and richards, this could be fun.

if this were really a cosmo quiz, i'd assign cute names and personality types to each collaborator. in this case, you'd have to weight restaurant behavior alongside the quality and creativity of the person's scholarly work. i would have added something about table manners, but would prefer not to ponder the meaning of my own atrocious manners. what else have i forgotten?


At 9:43 AM, Blogger Kim said...

How about,
6. does he [sic] have good ideas?

__ No. He/she mostly just repeated my ideas, and then claimed credit for them: -1 points
__ No, and it's pretty clear that he/she last read a journal article in 1972: 0 points
__ Maybe, but they were incomprehensible: 1 point
__ Yes! The conversation was a real exchange of ideas, and we both learned something: 2 points

NOTE: Any resemblence to any real collaboration is purely coincidental. (Seriously, I've had nothing but good experiences in my own collaborations.)

At 4:35 PM, Anonymous oblion said...

What did they order?
How long did it take them to order?
Did they show up to your meal on time?

You can make up your own rationale for these... I have my own.

Chris... this would be a fun assignment for students to do in thinking about methodology and measurement of some subject!

At 9:17 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

I just want to state, for the record, that I was fully, 100% prepared to pay the tab after your HIRED talk but you pulled the "no, no, no, you're a poor grad student" card and I couldn't find a fork!

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous chris said...

all good suggestions, though good ideas and crazy ideas seem to be in the eye of the beholder. maybe we should just specify that they have "ideas." i also like the idea of timing the time-to-order, since decisiveness can be a virtue. sarah, any faculty member who permits students to buy lunch is a rotter, bounder, cad, or skinflint. that doesn't mean you shouldn't offer, of course...


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