That's the takeaway it seems from our poll the other day: with not quite 400 responses, nearly 75% of respondents are positively disposed to such comparisons, with fully 19% thinking they are "essential in evaluating the strength of the recommendation" and 36% deeming them "useful but not essential." If one out of five philosophers think such comparisions are "essential in evaluating the strength of the recommendation," that's probably reason enough to use them.
At the other extreme, 11% of respondents thought such comparisons "both unhelpful and irrelevant," while 14% found them "rarely helpful." To be sure, as commenters on the earlier thread noted, such comparisons can, of course, be unhelpful if improperly or unclearly framed. But I would also call attention to the observation by Margaret Atherton (Wisconsin/Milwaukee) from that thread:
However problematic the use of comparisons may be, at least they are written in straightforward English prose, whereas if you forget or never knew the damn codes, you can end up inadvertently condemning a candidate you meant to praise. So my question is, if not comparisons, then what will do the job? I am assuming the presence of discussions of the work, which are of course essential but do not in the way the codes do signal "This should be taken seriously" or "This one is not so warm as it might seem."
The ideal letter should, in my view, scrap the warmly's and the "with enthusiasm," and include (1) substantive discussion of the scholarship and its significance and value; (2) some discussion of issues related to teaching and collegiality; and (3) comparisons that should be intelligible to a non-specialist reader. What constitutes an intelligible comparison will depend on a variety of factors, including the caliber of the graduate program at which the recommender is teaching; the recent success of graduates of that program on the teaching market; the institutions at which members of the comparion class are teaching, and so on.