Departure: A short and incomplete history

Jun 05 2009 Published by under Blogging

There has been much speculation out and about in the comments at Sb and elsewhere that a [sigificant, distressing, salient...you name it] number of blogs have departed Scienceblogs this year. Some of the bloggers in question have left signoff messages or commented elsewhere to the effect that they are leaving in a huff, which fuels this speculation.
Being a relative n00b around these parts I was curious about the ebb and flow of blogs on ScienceBlogs over the years since launch. Have we witnessed an unusual flurry of departures in the past couple of months? Let's review the data*, shall we?


Departures from Scienceblogs.com by year
2006
Chemblog (Jul)
Frink Tank (no link trail that I can find but see this)
2007
No Se Nada (Jan)
Smooth Pebbles (May)
Dr. Charles (Jun)
Integrity of Science (Aug)
commonground (Aug)
Neurontic (Sep)
Galactic Interactions (Dec)
2008
The Cheerful Oncologist (Jan)
Omni Brain and Retrospectacle fused into Of Two Minds (Mar; but S. Batts essentially quit by the end of 2008)
The Voltage Gate (Jun)
The Loom (Jul)
Mixing Memory (Aug)
Deep Sea News (Sep)
Science To Life (Oct)
Angry Toxicologist (Dec)
2009
Chaotic Utopia (Jan)
evolgen (Jan)
The Intersection (Mar)
See Jane Compute (May)
Pure Pedantry (May)**
Afarensis (May)
Stranger Fruit (May)
Evolving Thoughts (May)
Doctor Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge (May)
Interesting. A glance over the linked final-posts will give you a flavor of the diversity of (overt) reasons for departure. It is harder to determine how many active blogs there were at each time of departure so it is tricky to estimate the percent departing. It looks, however, as if there were about 53 blogs by the end of 2006 (the launch year) and the current front page claims 70. I have nothing to go on with respect to the natural lifespan of a given blog but certainly some of the final posts will inform on that topic.
__
*I have probably missed several departed blogs, hopefully old-timer Sb'sters will clue me in to any omissions.
h/t: I have been able to short-cut the data collection by relying on the memories or prior posts of various Sb bloggers.
Additions, Corrections, etc after initial post: Neurontic and Frink Tank (h/t Bora)
**As Scicurious notes, the primary blogger at Pure Pedantry moved to Neurotopia. I think it should still be included as a closed blog, albeit with asterisk.

64 responses so far

  • While the number doesn't look is hugely different, I think it's struck us outsiders looking in because of 6 departures in May.

  • Bob O'H says:

    Plus we're not even half way through 2009. And this is the first time there has been >2 blogs leave in a month.

  • ScienceWoman says:

    It seems to me that those speculating on a common cause of the departures are making the n00b mistake of inferring causation from temporal correlation. I haven't read all of the departure messages, but some of the stated reasons were explicitly personal (e.g., Chaotic Utopia and See Jane Compute). I'd be much more interested in a comprehensive analysis of (science) blog life-cycles than more arm-wavy speculation around a subset of bloggers.
    But then again, as an insider, my opinion probably doesn't count for anything to those who will gossip regardless.

  • J-Dog says:

    PLUS.. Afarensis Doc B's and John Lynch are some of my favs...!

  • Chris P says:

    This would be more meaningful with a count of the total population, how many added, how many current and how many left. Oh yeah, and their tenure and average tenure (that can be derived from the other statistics) might add more depth to this.
    "Town empties in June" would be an annual headline in places like Iowa City, but when it fills up again in September, it is considered routine. Changes around seemingly arbitrary dates for those in academia may often be explained by the changes induced by the academic calendar.

  • Martin R says:

    Never before has such a large percentage of the Sbloggers quit in such a short period of time.
    I came on-board in late '06. I guess I'm an old-timer by now. Fancy that!

  • Scicurious says:

    For the record, Pure Pedantry didn't leave, he's merged with us at Neurotopia. It's the neuroscience blogger conglomerate.

  • Cashmoney says:

    Correlation does not equal causation Martin R.
    Anomalies are sometimes just that.
    This wouldn't pass peer review for a significant effect in my book...

  • Overall, I think we're seeing the lifecycle of the medium. It is almost three years to the day that another 25-30 of us joined the original 14 SB blogs. Nearly all of the 2009 departures have been from that group. There is inevitable burnout, change in RL responsibilities, new avenues to pursue, etc. such that I wouldn't read much into these departures. In fact, I'm surprised that we don't see more attrition at SB from simple burnout alone.
    My two-pence.

  • Martin R says:

    Correlation does not equal causation Martin R.
    I suggested neither, just pointed out an empirical fact. To offer an interpretation, I'd say that the turbulence the rumors talk about has shaken a bunch of people loose from the wagon who would otherwise have dropped off it one by one over the following months.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Abel @#9: Fair point. I know little about natural life-cycle of blogging but assumed from when I started reading science-related blogs that there would be high attrition.
    It is also noteworthy that for many of the Sb departures (this year and prior) there has been on-blog comment to the effect of being unmotivated, unwilling to keep up with (a self-imposed) pace, long departures or sustained slowdowns. In some cases these trends appeared many months prior to actual departure.
    This is highly relevant to inferences based on the departure rate in the past month.

  • Also, how about Signout?
    Does she count as having left or not? She is amongst my favorites, but she's had 1 post up since November. She is also no longer on the menu sidebar.

  • reader says:

    RE Galactic Interactions in 2007,
    I believe he is looking for a job in physics again now, maybe you can twist his arm to start blogging again?

  • @Whitecoat Tales: I had the delightful pleasre to meet recently with Signout and her blog is still live, albeit dormant. I anticipate it will become more active after July 1.

  • I had the delightful pleasre to meet recently with Signout and her blog is still live, albeit dormant. I anticipate it will become more active after July 1.

    That's fucking fantastic!

  • @Abel Pharmboy,
    I have to agree with CPP, fan-fuckingtastic!

  • doctorgoo says:

    In addition to signout mentioned above, there's also the pseudoblogs that have left* the borg:
    - What's New in Life Science Research
    - Next Generation Energy
    - Blogging the Origin
    - Rightful Place (at http://scienceblogs.com/rightfulplace/ ...was this ever actually ON the frontpage???)
    And then there's:
    - Shifting Baselines (yes, I know that 1 of the 3 cobloggers started her own on SB)
    - And let's not forget A Good Poop, which also left this year.
    So this is about 10 blogs that have disappeared within the past 10 weeks or so. This seems like a mass exodus to me!
    But what I'm curious about is what both Wilkins and Chimp Refuge referred to what happened in the hidden back-channel of SB. They were both seriously pissed off by something going on with their sciblings. So is ANYBODY going to give a straight answer on why they were forced out and/or encouraged to leave?
    *note: like Smooth Pebbles/Neuron Culture, the blogger might come back... but if they are taken off the main page, I consider them gone.

  • doctorgoo says:

    And a couple more:
    http://scienceblogs.com/intelisef/
    http://scienceblogs.com/keatstelescope/
    One's another pseudoblog, and the other one, like Frink Tank, never really got off the ground.

  • Mike Dunford says:

    @DrugMonkey:
    It's probably also worth looking at the posting frequency for the blogs that left. It's my impression that some of those were not ever very active bloggers. (The two months of Smooth Pebbles and Cheerful Oncologist I looked at, for example, had 10 posts or less). Some of the others (Chemblog, Integrity of Science) were only here for a relatively short time. All four of this month's departures had been here since at least the 2nd wave joined (I think), and all of them were pretty active blogs. I think this is a case where the numbers just don't capture the whole story.
    @doctorgoo:
    Giving an answer to your question that has any more detail than you've already seen would require that one or more current or former ScienceBloggers violate the trust of other ScienceBloggers. I'm sure you can understand why that's something that even people who are no longer at Sb are reluctant to do.

  • Pierce R. Butler says:

    It all started when one of the émigré bloggers analyzed the chemtrails over the east coast on 9/11/01...
    The truth will eventually come out, as soon as the tabloids get their teeth into the story!

  • afarensis, FCD says:

    @Dunford - I'm not sure which four blogs you are referring to but Lynch, Wilkins, and I were here from the beginning. My reasons for leaving were entirely different from those of Lynch, Wilkins, and Bushwell et al.
    @Drugmonkey

    It is also noteworthy that for many of the Sb departures (this year and prior) there has been on-blog comment to the effect of being unmotivated, unwilling to keep up with (a self-imposed) pace, long departures or sustained slowdowns. In some cases these trends appeared many months prior to actual departure.
    This is highly relevant to inferences based on the departure rate in the past month.

    This is incorrect and you know it - at least if you participate in the forums on a regular basis. Motivation, sustained slowdowns and such are totally irrelevant to why the May group left. It seems to me that, given the confidentiality that we are trying to preserve, I'm not sure why you are writing a post that so obviously glosses over the reasons why some have left. Especially, since some have stated in their final posts, and in comments elsewhere, their reasons for leaving. Reasons which directly contradict what you say in the paragraph I quoted.

  • Mike Dunford says:

    @Afarensis:
    Actually, Wilkins, the Bushwells, and I were all part of the first expansion, not the original wave. Going back and actually checking, I see that you and Lynch were part of the original group. Sorry for messing that up.

  • NJ says:

    OK, so who's going to be the Sb's backchannel William Mark Felt, Sr.?

  • PalMD says:

    Let us not forget that before, during, and after these departures, new, fantastic blogs have moved in, including two cool librarians (not an oxymoron) and two cool geologists/volcanologists.

  • @ Dunford - yes, I went back and checked my original list and Wilkins was not on it.

  • Josie says:

    Being a very interested, but fickle and wandering, reader, I'm really glad to have this list. I tend to miss bloggers leaving, and only caught Evolving Thoughts (one of my favorites) by luck. Others on the site left when I wasn't paying attention, so maybe I'll have to do a little effortless detective work.
    /sherlock
    Also, after keeping an eye on another (larger but completely unrelated) online community, I'd have to say that while the list of bloggers leaving compared to bloggers still around might seem a bit daunting, but it doesn't seem like enough of a downward trend to raise the red flag too quickly.
    Then again, I'm an eternal optimist.

  • Anonymous says:

    another possibility is that the bloggers were getting behind in their real-life work or other responsibilities from spending too much time on their internet hobbies, and this finally caught up with them and now they are too busy dealing with the consequences. (maybe got fired from the job for being caught spending working hours blogging or something)

  • DrugMonkey says:

    This is incorrect and you know it
    My description on-blog behavior is entirely accurate and verifiable to anyone who cares to read back though a blog's archive. Whether such evidence is relevant or not is my opinion, true, but it is my interpretation of events. So I cannot possibly know that it is "incorrect". You are welcome to your interpretation of events but this does not make you "correct" either.
    some have stated ... Reasons which directly contradict what you say in the paragraph I quoted.
    Speaking both personally and professionally what people say, and indeed even believe in some cases, is of less value in arriving at a close approximation of objective truth than is the consideration of all available data.

  • Bob O'H says:

    Anonymous - simultaneously? On different continents? And they're still blogging?

  • Mike Dunford says:

    Speaking both personally and professionally what people say, and indeed even believe in some cases, is of less value in arriving at a close approximation of objective truth than is the consideration of all available data.

    Yes, but you have not actually presented all of the available data. You are certainly aware of the fact that you have not presented all of the available data, and yet you appear to be encouraging your readers to draw conclusions based only on the subset of the data you presented.
    I could be mistaken, of course, but it's my impression that sort of thing is typically considered to be highly unethical behavior in the sciences.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Dunford, bullshit. And you know it. There is a public record. And statements made by some parties are only part of that record. The rest of the record is also relevant. Whether I happen to be aware of additional information that also supports my position? Irrelevant- actually Dunford this sort of thing happens all the time in science. Plenty of observations and pilot studies and blown experiments that contribute to an individual's appreciation of reality but that will never be in the open sphere of peer reviewed science. Discussion of the formal record without reference to extant facts which fail to make the grade for inclusion (stat reliability, peer reviewed, published) is totally normal. So stop with your misplaced moralizing.
    If you think the entirety of the record is irrelevant to your conclusions, feel free to address my actual points. In general terms, of course. Instead of simply insisting that I must interpret eventsthe way you do and am being misleading intentionally.

  • terryf says:

    Speaking both personally and professionally what people say, and indeed even believe in some cases, is of less value in arriving at a close approximation of objective truth than is the consideration of all available data.

    Based on all available data, including your ability to determine that someones stated reasons for leaving are incorrect, I have concluded that, in real life, you are Sylvia Browne.
    Can you contact my grandmother for me? There were things I should have said to Mee-maw before she passed and I have regretted not doing so ever since.

  • Bob O'H says:

    DM - The concern/surprise about attrition comes from the recent departures, the May crowd. Are you saying that these recent departures, specifically, can be explained by "being unmotivated, unwilling to keep up with (a self-imposed) pace, long departures or sustained slowdowns"?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Bob O'- to view human behavior as the result of single factors is usually an error. The answer to your question is no. The pattern, if it is one, likely has multiple determinants.

  • @ 28 Sounds like obfuscation and obscurantism to me. Several folks have publicly stated their reasons, they have also stated their reasons in the forums. Which you know full well having access to those forums. Yet, rather than facing up to those reasons, examining them, and perhaps learning from them so that ScienceBlogs can be a stronger community in the future, you want to make up a bunch of fictitious nonsense and peddle it to whoever is buying.

  • Bob O'H says:

    I'm afraid it's not clear what you are saying, DrugMo. Let's try another tack. Are you saying that none of the May departures were related to each other?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Depending on what you mean by related, no. There are clearly shared factors. There are also equally clearly unshaded factors. Orthogonal to this is the question of intrinsic and extrinsic forces.
    Look when you have a single purported factor that only affects a minority of your population of interest it is a mistake to assume a unique causal role. In my areas of science anyway...

  • I came into this thread with an open mind. I understand we aren't privy to all the information. But the more this thread goes on, the more it sounds like obfuscation to me.
    The original post seemed like just a "well lets see if these departures are actually out of the ordinary".
    Since then the replies appear (my interpretation)more and more like using the language of science to obscure any possible connection between the May departures.

    Speaking both personally and professionally what people say, and indeed even believe in some cases, is of less value in arriving at a close approximation of objective truth than is the consideration of all available data.

    This may be the case, but your post and your comments since then have completely ignored anything they have said. If someone read your words, it's entirely possible to interpt them as saying that you don't think that what they said is part of why they left at all. Is that accurate?

    If you think the entirety of the record is irrelevant to your conclusions, feel free to address my actual points. In general terms, of course. Instead of simply insisting that I must interpret eventsthe way you do and am being misleading intentionally.

    Yes but even though you made your conclusions based on your interpretation of the entire record, you haven't posted your analysis of the entire record, only your analysis of the part of the record that fits with your conlusions.

    The pattern, if it is one, likely has multiple determinants.

    I'll bite then, what are the other possible determinants?

    Look when you have a single purported factor that only affects a minority of your population of interest it is a mistake to assume a unique causal role. In my areas of science anyway...

    I (and I can speak for noone else) am not sayingthere is a single factor. But it certainly seems like you aren't giving us a balanced view of the multiple factors involved.
    I realise you guys are obligated not to

  • Bob O'H says:

    Well, OK, were there any forces, or events that were common causes?

  • Sorry I don't know how I cut that one off early...
    I realise you guys are obligated not to give us details of what happens in the back channels. But after some people have implied something about the content of the back channels, acting like it's not there seems disingenuous.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Wait....WHO presented an unbalanced account WCT? What a joke.

  • I'm confused, calling me or what I said a joke disputes any of what I said how?
    I'm not claiming anyone elses account is accurate, I even explicitly said we're not privy to all the information. You're attacking me on reflex for disagreeing with you, but I'm not even advocating a point of view, I'm just asking you to be straight with us.

  • Incidentally, it's not even like it would be hard to say "Look at what Bushwell et al said themselves..."
    Spoiler quote:

    Doc Bushwell and I have been mulling over the idea of returning to a more customizable site for months. Spite is not an issue and Seed treated us with class, plain and simple.

    That seems like it would be much simpler than hiding behind ad hominems and obfuscation.
    For me at least, reading your comments makes it feel like this was a bigger issue. Reading their comments, it sounds like this wasn't a big deal and timing is a coincidence, which is what I think you were trying to say to begin with.
    But hey, I'm a joke, what do I know.

  • Paranoid or not? says:

    I read the original post out of mere curiosity, and without any preconceived notions. By this stage in the thread, the only conspiracy theory that seems completely unlikely is the theory that there is no conspiracy....

  • Drugmonkey says:

    The joke, wct, is not you or your conclusions at present. The joke is your assertion that I am the one providing an unbalanced view. What I am doing goes but a little way to pull the unbalanced view presented by others back towards some semblence of reality.
    Ulike, say, afarensis, I do not argue on the basis of things that are supposed to be private but rather on the public, on-blog record. I may offer my interpretation but I do not assert that anyone that anyone else has to view things similarly to myself, else they are being intentionally and knowingly misleading.
    What is there to be "straight" about? Multiple people have made itclear why some feel ethically bound not to supply certain additional detail. Can't really help you with that.

  • afarensis, FCD says:

    No, I'm saying you are conveniently ignoring the truth - including some public on the blog record - to mislead and obscure the real issues. The fact the we have agreed to keep the content of the forums private does not obligate you to make up explanations and present them as truth.

  • Drugmonkey, I gave you an explicit example of what I mean that is caught in your spam filter.
    I am not saying that you are *the* one providing an unbalanced view. I didn't even say your view is more or less biased than that given by others who are in your opinion acting unethically. I didn't I say anything at all about afarensis or any other blogger.
    I didn't even say I disagree with your overall point that the departures have a big component of coincidence to them!
    In the comment stuck in your spam filter, I quote the Bushwell crew's comments saying that it really is coincidence.
    All I'm trying to say is that if you feel you can't bring up anything from the back channels, but it's relevant, say "There IS more information than you have, it IS relevant, but it's confidential, and in the end, it's not the main reason",
    To me, your post that makes it all look like that's all completely irrelevant, it's entirely coincidence, and we have all of the relevant information.

  • terryf says:

    I do not argue on the basis of things that are supposed to be private but rather on the public, on-blog record.

    You present your opinion as fact, comfortable in the knowledge that any contradictory information is in the private back channel and protected by the agreement with Seed.
    So, either folks can either honor their agreement to keep the back channel private or they can reveal said information and then be immediately branded as an unethical actor. This is the classic "heads I win, tails you lose" argument.
    Well played, sir. Well played.

  • doctorgoo says:

    WCT@42...
    Thanks for the Sandwalk link. I hadn't seen that one yet.
    What Drugmonkey (and other SB'ers) said there has really filled in many of the gaps.
    DM,
    Seriously dude... Kevin has the best advice for you:
    http://chimprefuge.com/2009/06/05/whod-have-guessed-that-we-would-become-the-object/#comment-9868
    If you want people to believe that this really isn't a big deal after all... then stop making such a big deal of it!
    ^o^

  • thank you (commenter above) for saying it's not an oxymoron to use cool + librarian together 😉
    If you think about it, actually, these bloggers probably do stay around longer than expected. Lots of blogs come and go - real life happens, people change, it is a burden to keep up. Even if some people were unhappy, so what? It's great that everyone cares so deeply about this community and its ongoing health - even if some of that care might be like schadenfreude sometimes.

  • Bob O'H says:

    Even if some people were unhappy, so what?

    Do you want to be part of a community that whose member are so unpleasant to each other that it forces some - several - away? Particularly long-standing members of the community?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Bob O'- To maintain a constant and unvarying theme in a discussion without apparent influence of, or response to, what anyone else is saying is simply being a troll. And not the good kind. If your only purpose is to restate the accusation over and over again you can take that elsewhere.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    terryf@48- exactly my friend, exactly. Where was it I saw this point made before....and by whom?
    WCT@47- My post does nothing of the sort for anyone (and I believe I noticed your name elsewhere) who is following the whole conversation and knows wtf I am talking about in the opening to this post. Nowhere do I say that statements made by bloggers who have left are irrelevant to their motivations and to extant facts. My point is only (as is apparently yours by referencing the bushwell's gang) that there are a diversity of factors at play. to conclude that any single factor has produced, for example, an unusually high rate of departures from Sb requires some close analysis.

  • Bob O'H says:

    DrugMonkey - I'm not trolling, I'm honestly interesting in understanding your point of view. I asked a question, and phrased it poorly, so that you didn't answer the question I was trying to ask. So I tried a different question, to try get to where I was trying to go.
    I hope that makes sense! And I hope you'll oblige by answering the question: I'm just looking for clarity here.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Well, from my perspective Bob, it looks like you didn't like the answer you received and are trying to either pry for more along the lines of what I've explained is off limits (for me anyway) or simply repeating the accusation as if it is the one truth (for whatever reasons).
    My point of view is that there are multiple sides to every story and if you take one view as gospel truth you are likely to go wrong.
    There IS a public record which can be used to place a lot of the *details* in context. And that was what this post was about. Evaluating the observation made by comments on multiple blogs within and outside of Sb that there has been an unusually high rate of departures recently. This list then permits a focus on who left when, what their good-bye had to say and what their blogging pattern was in the months prior to departure.

  • I didn't say you were intentionally did any of that. I explicitly said "To me" to say that this is my interpretation. I'm saying that based on the limited information I've seen.
    I'm not sure what you were trying to say with which is presumeably what you're referring too when you say "and I believe I noticed your name elsewhere"
    Nor did I say that this is in reference to "anyone...who is following the whole conversation." Maybe I'm wrong here but most casual blog readers won't necessarily have run across the Bushwell's new site, or sandwalk. My point about your post is for those who read it in isolation. Again to me (My interpretation, rather than my accusation or claim that this was your intention) this post, without the other points of view, makes it look like their actual statements are irrelevant.
    and while

    Nowhere do I say that statements made by bloggers who have left are irrelevant to their motivations and to extant facts.

    In the quotes of yours that I blockquoted at 38, you certainly de-emphasize anything the authors themselves said. While you don't explicitly say "no what they said is irrelevant," I don't think I'm out of line in saying a casual reader could reasonably get that impression. I think that you have done that so those people who had read the others posts, and had strong opinions, stepped back and thought about the big picture, but I feel that a casual reader could be mislead.
    And yes, my point IS that there is a diversity of factors in play. But by trying to deemphasize what others have said, especially the authors themselves, it really makes it LOOK like something is going on. I'm not the only one who got that impression, it sounds like that is what 44 was getting at as well.
    My apologies for further soiling your space, thanks for tolerating it.

  • feel that a casual reader could be mislead.

    I find it hard to believe that a "casual reader" would give a single flying fuck about any of this shit.

  • feel that a casual reader could be mislead.

    I find it hard to believe that a "casual reader" would give a single flying fuck about any of this shit.

  • Bob O'H says:

    There IS a public record which can be used to place a lot of the *details* in context. And that was what this post was about.

    This is what's confusing. I'm seeing the public record, and it's saying to be that something's happened behind the scenes. The data you show here say that there has been an unusually high number of bloggers leaving in the last month or so. We also have John Wilkins saying on Larry Moran's blog that some unpleasant stuff has been happening.
    Now, you (and others) seem to be trying to say that nothing has been going on, and this is natural attrition. But you're saying it in such a vague way that it's difficult to be certain what you mean. This is why I'm trying to pin you down: I want to be sure you're saying what I think you're saying, because I'm finding it difficult to swallow.
    I'm also aware of the confidentiality clauses you have, and don't want you to break it. The problem is that the only way I can see you getting to your position is by using information from the back channels. So I'm trying to find a way to get enough information out of you without breaching any confidences. It's difficult, and obviously I haven't worked out how to do it yet.

  • So I'm trying to find a way to get enough information out of you without breaching any confidences. It's difficult, and obviously I haven't worked out how to do it yet.

    Why do you give a fuck about any of this? Blogs come and go, and blogs move from platform to platform. If you're so fucking curious, why don't you send some e-mails to bloggers who have moved and ask them why they moved?

  • Anonymous says:

    I find it hard to believe that a "casual reader" would give a single flying fuck about any of this shit.
    Damn right. I'm a casual reader, I have no idea what the big hoopla is. so a bunch of blogs closed down. so what. it's hilarious how much energy and time is being devoted to this

  • diyet says:

    I didn't say you were intentionally did any of that. I explicitly said "To me" to say that this is my interpretation. I'm saying that based on the limited information I've seen.

  • John Lynch says:

    For what it's worth, here I set the record straight about my own departure.

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