I’ve been neglecting the blog for over a year now, but it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and get things started again. In recent years, I’ve posted more “least bloggable units” directly on my Facebook status. It seemed I got faster and more satisfying response, but this is a problem for several reasons:
1. Facebook’s feed continues to get crappier and crappier.
2. Related to that, there is no guarantee my friends will even see the post.
3. There’s the whole Facebook is private thing.
The turning point for me was a month or two ago, when I made this post, which should have appeared here, or really pretty much anywhere but Facebook:
After a weekly nag email for which I had to unsubscribe (AGAIN), I just edited my academia.edu profile to read thusly:
I don’t trust academia.edu. Ask yourself if you should. First, they are a for-profit company using an .edu domain. Second, they are not up front about their business model, but have attracted venture capital funding. Now look around at internet businesses. There are two ways companies generate income: user fees, which are unlikely for a social networking site (since that would mess with their network effects), or advertising and the sale of marketing data on the basis of user behaviour. My prediction is that academia.edu will either become overrun with ads (see: your Facebook and Twitter feeds) or they will start selling marketing data based on academics’ behaviour on this site. Either way, the process of knowledge sharing is being monetized by parasitic third parties that have very different commitments and obligations from those of academics. If they didn’t have a good plan, they wouldn’t have attracted VC money.
And yes, I get that “following” is a useful service for people who want to keep up with colleagues’ work coming out, but there’s got to be a better way.
If you are concerned about the predatory behaviours of companies like Elsevier, you should be concerned about academia.edu.
The comment thread featured the (probably) expected range of responses, from “but it’s useful” (true, which is why we should be worried!) to I’m being paranoid (true — I think social media sites need to give us reasons to trust them; if you go the other way “I trust all social media businesses until given reason not to” then yes, I sound paranoid) to this one from Greg Elmer:
Jonathan, could it be worse than Facebook? No, don’t answer that..
Which he meant to be funny, and was funny, but also sealed the deal for me. I will link to serious comments via Twitter, which should show up on Facebook, but I should be posting stuff here, or elsewhere on freely available sites.
As to alternatives to academia.edu, ssrn.com seems promising, though I need to do more homework.