Charles Norman Todd had an interesting blog entry last week, "When Academics Blog," in which he discusses U of C's denial of tenure to a poli sci professor. I don't know the details of this case, and sadly, I don't really have the time to research it further. But, I found the end of Todd's piece though provoking:
The idea of incorporating individual's blogs into the tenure process is intriguing. I would add that only blogs wherein the author identifies him or herself are fair game. If untenured junior faculty maintain blogs anonymously or pseudonymously, then it seems wrong to consider this as academic work distributed to the public domain (even if someone else "outed" the prof).
But, if a blogger identifies him or herself, then it might be really interesting and worthwhile to consider the blog as part of the tenure dossier.
I think that blogs have a great deal of value for academics and the academy. Given how long we are likely to labor on publications, with little to no feedback before submitting it to a peer review journal, being able to put your inchoate ideas in the public via blogs is really helpful. In my own case, I have can honestly say that I have come to enjoy writing and working ideas out when I know that I might attract some thoughtful responses (or even unthoughtful responses).
Blogs also seem to be an excellent medium for combatting the ivory tower image of academia. When professors begin to blog, and they know their audience is wider than specialists, their writing is bound to be more comprehensible to the general public. As I understand it, if you want to be a tenured Harvard professor, you need to publish a "popular" work in addition to your scholary work in order to influence a community wider than fellow academics.
Academic bloggers have the opportunity to learn better how to translate the often abstruse and specialized vocabulary of micro-disciplines into "plain english." A successful academic blogger, who has attracted a wide audience, has done more than write a good blog. He/she has also demonstrated his/her mastery of subject matter.
All too often academic jargon allows the lesser minds of the academy appear to be saying something more profound than they actually are. Blogs can be bullshit detectors.