Academia.edu, which bills itself as a sort of Facebook for academics, completely weirds me out. Colloquial though that may be, it's the only way I can accurately describe my reaction to it. I don't, after preponderance, find it to be weird. No, it actively weirds me out every time it does something.
Whenever anyone googles a person with an academia.edu profile and clicks on that profile as his chosen search result, the person with the profile gets notified that "somebody" has googled her. If the googlee logs into her profile it is possible to see what country the googler googled from, and what keywords got him there. It's just enough information to pique one's curiosity and be sort of agitating, but not enough to be useful. When somebody views my blog, I get a city, a service provider, the referring link, information about the computer being used to view it (OS, web browser, display properties), and even an IP address. So sometimes, I can tell exactly who's reading. (If I have only one Facebook friend in a particular city and a reader in that city has gotten to a post via my having posted it on my FB wall, then I know who it is.) And other times, I can at least tell if a consistent reader is back again or has been missing for a while. But this? Somebody in the United Sates? (Or even more puzzling, somebody in Tunisia?) Hm.
I'm also not crazy about the terminology that they use. When someone in effect adds your profile to their reader, you get an email that says "So-and-so is following you." And every time, I feel the urge to look over my shoulder.
And finally, I don't really like the fact that it posts a little thumbnail of your profile picture above the Scribd window of every paper that's been posted to the site that you've read. I like my reading to be a private act; I also so didn't like the fact that they made this change suddenly and without consultation (I did mention that they kind of see themselves as a specialized Facebook, didn't I?) that I did quit for a while.
It seems like it has potential as a tool for some of the self-promotion that I'm coming to realize is required of academics and, more importantly (when used correctly), as an aggregator for finding out about new work, so I'm sticking with it for the time being. But it wouldn't take much to convince me to drop the service, either.