An academic LinkedIn

Typepad are promoting a LinkedIn widget, so I thought I’d check out the site and created a profile. If you haven’t seen it, then it’s kind of a business-oriented MySpace with a bit of FriendsReunited thrown in. They make a big play of the power of connectivity, and I can see how it would be useful for those headhunting (or likely to be headhunted), particularly in the IT industry, or those looking for venture capital. It was very US oriented obviously. I felt as though it was too business-oriented to be much use to me though (although I’m always up for a bit of consultancy if you want). But one could imagine an academic version of this – where the categories were focused around research, publications, teaching interests, grants, etc. It would be useful to find those interested in forming research consortia, sharing learning objects, collaborating on development, etc.

I know there have been some projects looking at eportfolios or personal repositories to do this (the PROWE project I’m involved with is an example), but I’m not aware of such a site for academics. There are a number of networks associated with finding partners for EU projects also, but nothing that is as informal and individually focused as this – I’d be interested to hear of one if there is.

Obviously it’s one of those critical mass things – it only works if the community is large enough to make the connections worthwhile. Inevitably this has been converted to a ‘law’ (in the business, not physics or legal sense) – Reid’s law (after Reid Hoffman the co-founder of LinkedIn), which says that "the usefulness of a business network grows exponentially as its ranks expand" (well, yes, I suppose it does is the obvious response to this). I do feel that this is a tool/service that is best developed by a business start-up rather than as the result of an academic research project. Not that I’m going to do it of course…


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