OMG! ScienceBorgTM is like totally killing science blogging!

Feb 27 2008 Published by under Blogging

One of the kids over at bayblab wants a shot at the title and so s/he's thrown down a little smack. Tried to start some beef with ScienceBlogs. The main critiques appear to be the fact that SB bloggers get paid and that SB bloggers aren't science-y enough. Bayblab contributor bayman amps it up:

You might also have entitled that post - "How ScienceBlogs Is Killing Blogging".


The SB posse, as expected, is all over it in the comments on the bayblab post. Go play.
Back home we have have response raps by Uncertain Principles and Laelaps so far.
I'll ask you for two things DearReader. First, go on over to bayblab and read some of their stuff. Reward 'em for jumping up and down, waving their hands in the air.
Second, if you have any concerns related to the DrugMonkey blog in particular, come back over here and lay them down. We can talk about it.
[Update: If you are enjoying the "what is science blogging" part of the discussion, coturnix reminds us that history repeats.]
[Update 2: Follow up from bayblab "You've been pwned!!!!"]

35 responses so far

  • Matt Penfold says:

    I have posted a comment over at the origins of this stupidity, but I will paraphrase it here.
    The mistake being made is in assuming that scientists who blog will blog about science, at least exclusively. Why should it be assumed that a scientist has no interests outside of science ? We do not expect the same from other bloggers. Do we come down hard on a dentist who blogs about something other than the latest trends in bridgework ?

  • bayman says:

    The mistake being made is in assuming that scientists who blog will blog about science
    Again, not to tell people what they should be blogging about, or belabor the point.
    But it is called "ScienceBlogs: The World's Largest Conversation About Science".

  • Matt Penfold says:

    "Again, not to tell people what they should be blogging about, or belabor the point.
    But it is called "ScienceBlogs: The World's Largest Conversation About Science"."
    Yes it is. I cannot see what your problem is with that. A conversation about science is not restricted to discussing research you know. The four blogs from ScienceBlogs you list are all ones that do discuss peer-reviewed research on occasions. Why did you not pick on those blogs as ScienceBlogs who are not even written by scientists ? Ed Brayton, Matt Nisbett, Chris Mooney, John Wilkins, Janet Stemwedel do not work as scientists and yet all make a contribution to the dicussion. All bar one of those, Janet (who has a chemistry PhD) are not trained scientists either. Do you think they should be removed from ScienceBlogs in the name of purity ?

  • Propter Doc says:

    I didn't really know about the paid thing, but I couldn't care less whether you lot are paid or not. The seed blogs aren't killing science blogging, they are evolving it and adapting it.
    To bayman: I think science should be about science and scientists. Often the insight of scientists into non-scientific, cultural things are unique and deserving of a good forum. Now, stop trying to increase your own traffic by picking a fight, you don't have to read.

  • Some of the bayblabbing relates to a post you guys had here or at the old DM on the misconceptions trainees have about P.I.s. As a graduate student, one has the luxury of focusing purely on the science, whether it be in the lab, lecture hall, seminar, journal club, etc.
    As P.I.s we have to keep tabs on the politics of science and political issues that influence the conduct, ethics, and funding of science. "Science" encompasses much more to a P.I. than a sheltered graduate student (not that all grad students are myopic; indeed, there are several within and outside the Sb network that grok the larger picture).
    I don't blog about creationists too much but I would submit that scientists have a responsibility to each other and the larger lay public to call bullshit on anti-scientific thought. Look at it this way: if we don't play a role in combating pseudoscience and anti-science sentiments, we may find that those holding such views will elect officials who don't care too much about NIH or NSF funding. Consequently, our science-blog-purist young colleagues may find themselves without a job.
    This is without even getting into what a blog should or shouldn't be and whether a blogger under the ScienceBlogs.com masthead should blog about personal issues and post family or pet photos. Instead, my thesis is that what constitutes a scientific topic for blog commentary may be a reflection of one's experience and worldview of what it means to be a scientist.

  • SMC says:

    I think bayman may have been mistaken about the degree of non-science being posted at scienceblogs.com.
    Still, I'm a bit shocked at the amount of hostility the suggestion seems to have stirred up.

  • rob says:

    I don't blog about creationists too much but I would submit that scientists have a responsibility to each other and the larger lay public to call bullshit on anti-scientific thought. Look at it this way: if we don't play a role in combating pseudoscience and anti-science sentiments, we may find that those holding such views will elect officials who don't care too much about NIH or NSF funding. Consequently, our science-blog-purist young colleagues may find themselves without a job.
    I agree that, especially as a P.I., you have a responsibility to the public that paid to train you to call bullshit on anti-scientific thought. But is "scienceblogs" the forum to do this? Do you think that you are genuinely "combating pseudoscience and anti-science sentiments" or just preaching to the choir? When any non-scientist reads some of the posts he/she might assume that a P.I. spends time thinking about these issues which is probably not representative and legitimizes some of the bullshit. Again the point, I thought, originally is WHY are these off topics so prevalent on science blogs, and I mean blogs about science not just scienceblogs.com.
    The utility of the blog format, in my opinion, is not being utilized to its potential for the discussion of science. It's turning into digg.com/science. This is an observation and not a personal attack on other bloggers.
    To me, the best thing that came out of this discussion so far is my renewed interest in http://researchblogging.org/

  • PhysioProf says:

    Scientists spend all fucking day thinking, talking, and writing about science. Maybe they enjoy reading and writing blogs about other shit than the substance of particular scientific topics.
    It's a free market for science blogging. Whatever people want to write, they write; whatever people want to read, they read. The barriers to entry are negligible, and there are no economies of scale. No one has any ability to corner the market.
    The Bayblab complaints boil down to: "Waah! The science shit I like to read and write is not the most popular science shit in general to read and write. But I want it to be. Waah!"

  • I think Bayblab got exactly what they wanted out of this little tantrum of thers: Traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. šŸ™‚

  • rob, no, I am not preaching to the choir - you appear to have a misunderstanding of the demographic that reads many of the blogs at SB. Maybe that's another difference between your view and mine (and maybe that of other science bloggers): I shoot for an audience that includes the general public looking for objective information on alternative medicine and other questionable medical practices. I get links to cancer patient support boards, e-mails from patients and, most importantly, notes and comments of thanks from fence-sitters who now have a place to come to get pharma/med info not tainted by someone trying to sell a supplement.
    I am a scientist who has always had a public education mission which, in part, supported my being awarded tenure at a top 25 US academic medical center. That's also why I went through the rigorous process of getting HONcode designation for my blog - so the general public could have confidence in what I write. But I write for scientists and non-scientists alike, and both come to my blog.
    So I still contend that our viewpoints diverge on what we each call "science."

  • Matt Penfold says:

    "I agree that, especially as a P.I., you have a responsibility to the public that paid to train you to call bullshit on anti-scientific thought. But is "scienceblogs" the forum to do this?"
    This is one of those simple questions to which the answer is yes. Do you think those who are interested in science are not concerned about psuedoscience ? Do you think that science and politics are divorced from one another ? Do you think that religious groups back away and decide not to push religious teachings that are in direct contradiction of the scientific evidence ? Only all those things are what a scientist has to deal with. Do you think scientist who want to blog about scientific research as well as how science, politics and religion collide should have separate blogs, and possibly separate identities, in order to cover all they want to cover ?

  • PhysioProf says:

    Traffic. Lots and lots of traffic.

    PhysioProf got some fucking traffic, too!

  • Colin says:

    The idea that y'all are automatically biased towards hack writing by getting a bit of dough is silly. It's not like ScienceBlogs is some sort of indecent proposal.
    Considering that SB is directly connected with Seed, whose tagline is "Science is Culture," I don't see what the big deal is with SB bloggers discussing whatever interests them.
    ScienceBlogs is about viewing the world with a scientific cultural mindset. The posts don't have to be strictly about research because the culture of science is broader than just the research. Science also reaches into politics and sociocultural issues.
    This is the broad view of science is what I love about Seed magazine and what I love about ScienceBlogs. And by the way I've been enjoying your posts a bunch lately.

  • Art says:

    IMHO a lot of the conflict, if there is one, comes from too strict a definition of science, scientists and an oversimplification of how how people work, play and exist in and around science.
    To some extent science is a mindset. In some ways the best example of a scientific mindset and its interactions with the wider human experience is how these scientists and researchers deal with the 90% of life outside what is going on in their current project.
    There is indeed a danger of tabloid level writing and a reduction of science into sloppy thinking, tallies of anecdotes, and off the cuff analysis. I think the danger is largely avoided when the writers openly admit that they are using quick, dirty and obviously less than perfect methods.

  • Jen-Luc,
    DING! DING! DING! DING! DING!
    You are today's winner!

  • PhysioProf says:

    Jen-Luc

    WTF is Jen-Luc?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    "Still, I'm a bit shocked at the amount of hostility the suggestion seems to have stirred up."
    I think the hostility had more to do with the criticism of the fact that SB bloggers get paid and the accusation of "insularity" that got people fired up around here. I'll underline the responses of most SB-ers that our "pay" amounts to beer money for most of us.
    The question of "insularity" and "cliqueishness" is an interesting one. I tend to agree with it. Both before now as a non-SB science-y blogger and now a whopping month into assimilation. I can state from my new (personal) perspective that there are some ways that being onboard the Borg contributes to the perception (and reality) of insularity. Totally unintentional emergent properties, not ill will, in my view.
    As has been stated repeatedly we enjoy complete editorial control over our own blogging. This is not the issue. Rather it is a matter of time available for blogging and the fact that when you are in a community you have some extra community stuff to deal with. You notice your fellow community members a little more. So I find myself spending more time on the "last 24 hrs" channel and less on my blogroll (go visit those blogs, btw!).
    Because of this, I actually welcome people like bayblab jumping up and down saying "look at me, hey, over here!".
    I'll also note that the whole trackback / referrer stats around here suck compared to what I experienced on WP. It isn't that we can't get this info, it is just a lot more work. So I find that I am not always aware when someone is riffing on my posts more so than before. So for those that care about me knowing that you've blogged on my posts, do a manual track back with a comment or email, if you would.
    "I think Bayblab got exactly what they wanted out of this little tantrum of thers: Traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. :)"
    I for one am happy to send traffic their way. Which is why I phrased my post as I did.
    Question though: When this is all said and done should we tell them how much paying traffic they ginned up for us with this little stunt? :-p

  • Lewis says:

    In general, I believe that Anonymous Coward's charcterization of ScienceBlogs is overstated and misplaced. The vast majority of ScienceBlogs' authors do appear to be knowledgeable, ethical and fair.
    However, there are examples of tabloid-quality 'science' writing on ScienceBlogs. What reputable scientist would write in a science blog that religious people are stupid and "tards"? What reputable scientist would state that persons with an IQ below 100 are "conversational tards"?
    As a life-long atheist and a retired scientist, I am dismayed that such behavior can continue to exist on a science related blog site. If SEED Magazine and the reputable science writers that constitute the vast majority of blogger's at ScienceBlogs are actually sincere in a desire to be viewed as representative of the science community as a whole, they should consider first focusing their indignation within their own ranks.

  • Jen-Luc Piquant is Jennifer Ouelette's faux-French avatar and alter ego (Cocktail Party Physics, commenter number 9, number 9, number 9).
    Of course, being such an insular ScienceBlogger, it's amazing that I would know anything about a blogger outside the network, eh?
    (btw, DM, my final sentence in #15 should begin with "You")
    [fixed, DM]

  • As a graduate student, one has the luxury of focusing purely on the science
    Excuse me, I have to pick myself up from the floor from the laughing. I'll give you that PIs have to deal with the politics MORE. But at least where I am, we live and breathe politics. Who hates your boss this week? Are you going to fail my quals because of it? Stay tuned for more!
    PhysioProf, I was under the impression you weren't paid very much. But if you are, don't disillusion me.

  • PhysioProf says:

    I was talking about traffic to my WordPress blog generated by my exceedingly gentle mockery of Blayball's concerns. I sure as shit don't get paid for that!

  • bikemonkey says:

    I was talking about traffic to my WordPress blog generated by my exceedingly gentle mockery of Blayball's concerns.
    "Julia"'s outrage over a simple little comment chalks that traffic up to moi, mon frere!

  • Barn Owl says:

    I'll underline the responses of most SB-ers that our "pay" amounts to beer money for most of us.
    Chad Orzel stated that his Science Blog earnings were about $3000...if others make even 10% of that pay, it's still a fair amount of "beer money".
    Of course, I can no longer drink as much beer as I could in grad school, so maybe it just seems like a lot to me.
    And not everyone blogs about science because he or she desires e-traffic, money, attention, or cyber-fame; to insist that everyone does so smacks of projection.

  • PhysioProf says:

    How'd you get out of your cage!?

  • Coturnix says:

    Chad is one of the Top 10 here and the $3000 are for the year, not month. Divide by 12. It's beer.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Barn Owl if you think that the people who post their thoughts, on the internet, for the worldwide public to view are not seeking "attention" ...you are delusional. seriously.

  • Barn Owl says:

    Yes, Chad was clear that $3000 was for the year o' blogging.
    To be honest, I didn't drink that much beer, even in grad school, so I'm not much good as a standard. But even with an extra $25-$30 per month, I could cook up a pretty nice dinner for 3 or 4 of my friends. They'd have to bring the beer. šŸ˜‰
    [uninteresting personal aside] "Barn" = rides horses and cleans up after them + "Owl" = undergraduate university mascot [/uninteresting personal aside]
    *yaks up a pellet of mouse bones and fur on PhysioProf*

  • Joel says:

    Well, I like ScienceBlog because it's not limited to science and in general the blogs are written with intelligence, objectivity and reason. Something very rare on the Internet.
    Just ignore the critics and keep on doing what you're doing.

  • gwangung says:

    The insularity part is not without merit...but that's something that's almost inherent to humans. There's only so many hours in the day and humans can only read so much (both bloggers and blog readers).
    Pay? It's nice bonus material, but why should it make any difference to the reader?

  • Barn Owl says:

    Barn Owl if you think that the people who post their thoughts, on the internet, for the worldwide public to view are not seeking "attention" ...you are delusional. seriously.
    OK, if either a few page views per day for a blog, or one or two visitors total, ever, reading a post on that blog, constitutes "attention", then point conceded to you, DrugMonkey: yes, everyone with a blog on teh interwebz is seeking attention.

  • acmegirl says:

    And the whole ScienceBlogs thing is a little incestuous, they really like linking to each other, but not so much to the little blogs.

    How silly - your prominent mention of my blog caused me a huge spike in traffic (thanks again!). Also, several other blogs are in the process of sharing major link love, and though I haven't checked every one, it looks like a lot of non-ScienceBlogs are mentioned. Pooh, pooh on them.

  • As far as I can see, one of the main complaints is that a lot of traffic is going to blogs like Pharygula that spend much of the time contesting the ... ahem ... epistemic content and moral authority of religion (I've been waiting all day for a chance to use that wording).
    This seems like a good thing to me.

  • bioephemera says:

    I'll be shocked if I even get beer money out of this - but then, I clearly moved my blog, with its almost nonexistent coverage of peer-reviewed research, to Sb precisely because I was homicidal toward the entire concept of science blogging. There's no other plausible explanation.

  • I'm a little disappointed that a Science Borger hasn't yet offered this response:
    They see me blogrollin'
    They be hatin'
    Patrollin' and tryin' to catch me writin' dirty
    Tryin' to catch me writin' dirty.....

  • My 2 cents says:

    I'm not a scientist but interested in various science related topics. As an editor for a blog, I come to Science Blogs for interesting views related to science and culture, and not specifically for the "scientific research". If these blogs were strictly covering "peer reviewed research", etc., I doubt that they would get the amount of traffic they're getting now.

Leave a Reply