November 11, 2005
How to Win Downloads and Influence People
Posted by Victor Fleischer

Like tax avoidance or earnings management, goosing one's academic reputation with a little creative gamesmanship is nothing new.  Cf. Balkin & Levinson, How to Win Cites and Influence People (1996).  Bill Henderson is certainly right that the genie is out of the bottle; Gordon is undoubtedly right that the system can be gamed; Litvak and Ribstein are undoubtedly right that blatant cheaters ought to be caught and punished. 

What's missing is a discussion of what's acceptable gamesmanship and what isn't. 

Here are a few strategies for scholars who want to win a few downloads.  Are they ethical? 

I hereby ask our self-appointed SSRN regulators for an advance ruling on the ethics of the following strategies; a notice-and-comment period may follow. 

  • 1.  Post a paper about SSRN rankings.
  • 2.  Post a paper about blogging.
  • 3.  Post a paper about student-edited vs. peer-reviewed law reviews.
  • 4.  Post a paper about teaching strategies.
  • 5.  Post a paper about scholarly trends. 
  • 6.  Start a blog, and plug your work at every opportunity.
  • 7.  Write about corporate governance or IP.  Stay away from tax and admin.
  • 8.  Plug your papers on your school's webpage.
  • 9.  Provide a handy link to your papers in your email signature.
  • 10.  Take out a Google Ad for your papers.
    • (You would only pay when people click through to the download page; assuming that some significant percentage of those people are actually interested in your paper and download it, you might end up paying a buck or two per download, maybe less.)
    • Should schools subsidize Google Ads for the papers of top scholars?  It might be more effective than law porn.
  • 11.  Attend conferences and present papers.
  • 12.  Participate in the Conglomerate Junior Scholars Workshop.
  • 13.  Assign one of your papers to your seminar or class. 
    • (When I do this I provide hard copies.  Better to kill a tree than to jeopardize one's academic reputation.)
  • 14.  When circulating a paper to colleagues for comments, provide an SSRN link instead of a pdf.
    • (Again, I think the norm here has shifted, and I now provide pdfs instead of SSRN links.)

Are any of these strategies unethical?  How would we know?  Ribstein argues that the relevant norm is clear: "don't take academic credit you don't deserve." Surely many of us bloggers rank higher than our true scholarly impact ... does that violate the norm?  When does SSRN plugging become SSRN cheating? 

SSRN downloads should reflect genuine academic (practitioner? student?) interest in your papers.  I, for one, would like a little more guidance about what's acceptable behavior.  As with tax planning or earnings management, there is something to be said for using a vague standard rather than a firm rule to police against gamesmanship.  But even I think we need to make the standard a tad more clear if SSRN hopes to remain relevant to the rankings game.

AALS is in town, and a couple of my friends are among the brave souls swashbuckling their way through the towers today. Notwithstanding all the self-promotion talk, my real advice, of course, is to write solid papers about real topics.  Blogging and writing about SSRN rankings is fun, and it will win you downloads, but it can't be turtles all the way down.   

Oh, and don't forget to download my latest paper, "How To Win SSRN Downloads and Rankings, Wow Appointments Committees, and Crush the AALS Meat-Market:  A Guide for Young Scholars."

SSRN | Bookmark

TrackBacks (0)

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Links to weblogs that reference How to Win Downloads and Influence People:

Recent Comments
Popular Threads
Search The Glom
The Glom on Twitter
Archives by Topic
Archives by Date
January 2019
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
Miscellaneous Links