This is news?

Microsoft Word saves author information in a doc file. Who knew?

But seriously. It's 2006, and these are people who have had access to computers, Windows, and Word for years now. Hasn't anyone ever hovered a mouse over a file icon before? Wow. It's being discussed on the ATTW listserv and at Crooked Timber as well, thankfully from a more clueful perspective. Back in 2003-4 when we were overseeing the review process for Into the Blogosphere, we engaged in the painstaking process of creating a file for each author, copying and pasting both reviewers' comments into the document, and saving it on one of the machines in the Rhetoric Department, so that the author byline would just read "Department of Rhetoric" or "COAFES" (College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences) when we emailed the file to the reviewer. When a reviewer used the yellow post-it note feature in Word to leave comments in the body of the text, we just stripped the author's information. Admittedly, there still could have been some way a particularly savvy user could find out the information anyway, but if there was, we couldn't think of it, and hey, at least we were aware of the issue and tried to do something about it.

Edited to add: I'm not trying to be a Big Meanie or make anyone feel bad; it's really nothing personal. I'm just honestly surprised and slightly disappointed that there's such apparent widespread lack of awareness of this information.


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my reaction exactly

I said exactly the same thing to myself when I saw the Chronicle story: this is news? I mean, that isn't even the most egregious stuff about Word -- it used to be that it dumped the contents of RAM at the end of the file when you saved it, so you could open up the file in a hex editor and see a record of every keystroke, deletions and all. So yeah: surprised and a little disappointed. Mike

The scary part

The scary part of the chronicle story was when Rosemary Feal said she wasn't aware of this.

a little late, aren't they?

You figure they would have gotten the message when this story came out last September. Teaches us that many academics only follow what's happening with technology when it is directly about academia.

BTW: Letting your 24 obsession get the best of ya? ;)

other editors caught unawares

I admit to not thinking about document properties all that much, but after reading the Chronicle article I clicked on properties of a couple pieces I've reviewed for national journals in our field, and voila--there were the identities of the authors. Creepy.

Concession for Mac users

Okay, I amend my comments somewhat for Mac users. PC users, on the other hand, have no excuse. I discovered the author information property on a PC by accident while hovering my mouse over a file in a folder. In Windows, I believe the default is to have this feature on, so even if someone accidentally positions the mouse on top of a file icon just for a second, he/she can't help but discover who the author is. So of course a lot of people probably don't go to File-->Properties in Word on a regular basis, but on a PC it's so much easier to view the properties. (Master Shake: "I can't close my eyes to not see!)

On a Mac, though, you have to do a ctrl/click and select "Get Info" in order to see who the author is, so it's more understandable that Mac users wouldn't know about the author information property.


Funnnny! I love the wryness of this post ... totally funny. I rely on this feature all the time with student work.

Student: "Dude, I like totally wrote that last week but forgot to send it to you."
Prof/Dude: "Great, send it to me now, then, and I'll take a look."
(Two days pass. Document arrives. Check document properties. Eh hem!)

my response exactly

Clancy, when I saw the article, I actually thought it was a belated April Fool's joke. The outrage of the people who "had no idea about this" is just so. . . . April Foolish.



One big duh.

Oh My God. "As it turns out, Microsoft Word tags every document..." WTF? "Curious, he clicked on the document's preferences and was surprised to see a screen labeled "Summary" that listed the name of the person who had created the document -- someone in his discipline whom he knew" ??

What a deplorable waste for even The Chronicle.

Academics can be such idiots.

Should academics know?

The scary part of the chronicle story was when Rosemary Feal said she wasn't aware of this.

I found the whole article scary, and that part just floored me. But then I got to thinking about it some more, and I'm not sure why we'd expect academics to know this kind of thing.

As a software technical writer, I worked frequently with file properties, and I assumed that other people knew how to do so, too (as, in fact, my coworkers did). But the only time in my academic life when it's ever been necessary has been when submitting a paper online. If I had never worked in the corporate world, and I had never received instructions to submit a paper with the author information stripped from the document, I probably wouldn't know this, either.

Last week, one of my colleagues, who has been teaching for more than thirty years, was amazed that I had my students do virtual peer reviews. She had never heard of anyone asking students to use Word's Comment feature to comment on a peer's paper. So she told another colleague, who was also impressed. These aren't dumb people. They just never saw these techno-tricks as a part of teaching writing.

With that in mind, it's not so surprising to me that even an editor wouldn't know about document properties.

Tom, while it's certainly

Tom, while it's certainly realistic that faculty members will not be up to speed, and I think your example of a colleague who taught for thirty years is a good one, I do think that it is incumbent upon writing teachers to know the "ins and outs" of software in order to point their students in the right direction. I'm way too shocked by the computer illiteracy of many lower-level undergraduates to be interested in the reasons why any teacher who requires students to write papers may not be able to give advice.

It doesn't take all day to explore the toolbar, and teachers should know what's available. This is not a generation of people using typewriters and if they're using word processing software as such, they need teachers who can steer them in the right direction or else they'll be nto as prepared as their more tech-savvy peers.

The computer-free computer classroom

Yes, they do need teachers who can steer them in the right direction.

I just finished covering a "computer-assisted" composition class for an instructor I've never met. Even knowing nothing about her teaching methods, I assumed (naturally, I think) that she would use the computers the classroom. So when I noticed that the students weren't logging in, I told them to go ahead and do so. "Oh, we don't use the computers in this class," they said.

I stared. "You don't? At all?"

One woman shook her head. "I don't even know my password." She looked over at the screensaver on her monitor, seeming worried by the possibility that she would actually have to interact with it. "I don't know what to do."

I told them not to worry. "If you don't use computers in this class, then we'll do this lesson without computers." They seemed relieved.

I'm not sure if I did the right thing, but then, I'm not sure what options I had. If they don't have their passwords, there's not much I can do with them.

Now I'm trying to figure out a polite way of asking this instructor why in the world she isn't using the technology she's offered. But then, maybe it's not worth my time. Maybe there's no need to "be interested in the reasons why any teacher who requires students to write papers may not be able to give advice."

Oh, well. I'm quite sure that next year, I won't have this problem with my colleagues.

Tom, As an instructor who


As an instructor who would stop short of [a great many deplorable acts] in order to have a computer lab to teach in, I find this even more shocking and evidence that some teachers aren't climbing the curve with resources available.

I just don't even know what else to say.


2 Board Alley

Michelle, I agree with you--and I think that computer ignorance is going to pass as newer, younger academics join the field. They will have grown up with a far more computer-aware perspective and won't fear the machine. I am amazed, Tom, that your example teacher managed to get away with it--our labs are sought after by more than the college can accomodate. If someone had a class in a lab and never used the computer, all hell would break loose.

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