But the Internet has led to an increase in requests because one can now have automated processes that send requests for letters. Harry Buhrman has two complaints about this model.
- Often these automated requests seem cold. Even automated they could ask in a nice way, be grammatically correct and address the person directly.
- Universities should pay at least some small amount of money to letter writers or their institutes. This will keep down the number of requests and reimburse the letter writers for some of their time.
I don't agree with Harry's second issue. We have a responsibility to write letters for our students and colleagues. The marginal cost of a sending an additional letter for someone is rather small, though the universities should make the process as painless as possible. A URL I can click and then upload is best. Having to cut and paste a username and password sent in an email is already adding effort for me with no increased security. For one graduate program I had to go through ten web pages of forms to fill and verify; there is no excuse for that. Ideally I would like some place I can just deposit the letter which legitimate universities could just download as needed.
For tenure letters perhaps a payment scheme would make sense. These letters require much more effort and we only write one of them for each candidate.