Most important, the scholarly blogosphere offers academics a place where they can reconnect with the public. The links between academic argument and wider public debates are increasingly tenuous and frayed. It's far harder than it used to be for academics to become public intellectuals (not that it was ever very easy, or very common). This has malign consequences, not only for the quality of debate on both sides of the divide, but also for public perceptions of the academy. It's also a source of considerable frustration to many academics, who either believe that their academic expertise could be valuable to a wider audience, or resent the distorted public perception of what they do. Blogging democratizes the function of public intellectual. It's no longer necessary for an academic to lobby the editors of The Washington Post's op-ed page or The New York Review of Books in order to make his or her voice heard. Instead, he or she can start a blog and (with interesting arguments and a bit of luck and self-promotion) begin to have an impact on the public conversation.
Amen to that. On that note, I've been meaning to say that this term has been especially busy and I'm behind on my non-work-related e-mail. If you've e-mailed lately and I haven't replied, apologies. I do read my e-mail and I try to get around to replying to anything I think needs a response, but it can take me a while.
UPDATE: Also, if you want to make sure I read your message, please put something like "blog" or "PaleoJudaica" in the header. Despite filters, I still get a lot of junk mail and much of it has unpredictable words in the header. If the header doesn't make immediate sense to me, I tend to discard the message unread. I don't doubt that occasionally I have trashed real messages, because a number of times, including once today, I have nearly discarded a message, but then changed my mind and read it and found it to be from a PaleoJudaica reader. So please help me out and make your message headers unambiguous. Thanks!