Not quite blogs, but a related topic:
I have been thinking about the visibility and invisibility of researchers on the web. I have been thinking about this because, in editing the journal, I spend a lot of time contacting potential referees of articles. If I can’t think of anyone on a specific topic offhand, or find someone on our Editorial Board, I usually look for other people who have written on the topic, in articles cited by the author or found in Google Scholar. I get the name and the institution they were at when they wrote the article (maybe in 1995 or 2005) and search. Usually that works, because academics in full-time employment at universities are pretty well represented on the web. Some institutions, such as the Open University, won’t give an e-mail address, but usually they give enough detail on publications so that I can tell if this is a plausible person to referee on this topic or not, and I can find an e-mail address somewhere else.
That all works if the researcher has stayed at the same institution for most of their working life, as I have. But of course many of the researchers who have written on just what I need (say, sit coms in Estonia, or deictic expressions in text messages) have moved. They could have been research associates, or graduate students, or assistant professors without tenure, or teaching fellows, and they could be working doing something very different from what they wrote about, or they could have retired. Or they could have gotten a better job somewhere else. And it may be that universities are tightening up about just who is associated with them. At Lancaster it used to be common to offer an honorary research fellowship to someone who had been involved in research there but had moved on; then the university declared that such positions could not be offered to anyone who had previously worked at the university, so anyone searching for these people will find nothing, even though they are most strongly associated with Lancaster.
If universities are good about recording who is there, they are very bad at recording anything about people who used to be there; they seem to delete their web pages as soon as the office is empty and the key is returned. It would be so nice if they just left a note: ‘Dr. Media was just teaching that year at Sorry U., but maintains his interest in Estonian sitcoms, and can be reached at DrMedia@gmail.com” or “Professor Deixis is happily retired from the tensions of Worry U., is busy with her allotment, and really doesn’t want to hear about what tasks you have to offer her, so don’t bother.” That would be better than nothing.
Then I began to think of this problem from the other side, the academic wanting to be found rather than the editor wanting to find them. I began to think about this when I saw an author who did have a job but gave as her web page an Academia.edu address. Others have a page dedicated to their topic hosted on some other service, or a Google site. There might be many reasons to do this: university web pages are more and more centrally controlled, and one might not be able to present one’s work or update it as one wished. Or one might prefer to be associated with one’s interesting topic or group, rather than one’s employer. Or one might be going through a series of short-term or part-time jobs, and not want to have one’s web identity tied to some institution that just pays you the minimum possible per hour of marking.
I signed up on Academia.edu because this site came up frequently at the top of Google searches. It does a lot of what one might hope for maintaining a web presence: e-mail, CV, links to papers. One could sign up as “Independent Scholar”, or as an ex of your old university. Of course the problem is that the person searching has to be on Academic.edu too, but that may become more common. I’d be interested in any comments on whether it works for keeping up contacts.