Back the summer of 2002 I recall a friend of mine telling me, “so you’re a pundit now!” I’d been blogging for a few months, and I didn’t feel like a pundit, whatever that meant. ~10 years on I guess I am a pundit. In that vein I was discussing with a friend what it took “to be a blogger” (they wanted to get into the game). First, blogger is a rather expansive category. I have no idea what one would need to do to be a food blogger beyond any old person off the street. But I do know how to be what I am. I focus on three things:
And exactly in that order. It’s of the essence you say what you mean to say. Confusions will still occur, but you can mitigate it by trying to be precise. Accuracy is important, but not as important. That’s because I don’t know everything very well. I’m going to be wrong a lot of the time. I know what I think I know, and so can be precise in my description, but I don’t know what I don’t know, and can only do my best in ...
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Today I was curious what people thought of Wired Science Blogs. More honestly, I was really trying to see if anyone else was a little put off by the forced registration to comment. But in the process I ran into this post, In which I notice a trend. The author did some counting before talking, which is always something I respect. Now, I suspect if you have read me closely over the years you can tell I’m not too worked up over lack of proportionality in the science blogosphere, whether it be of sex, race, ethnicity, religion (or irreligion) or politics. I say this as a Right-leaning brown-skinned male who was once termed “the black science blogger” at ScienceBlogs.
But can Discover Blogs get some props here? Once they swap out the DNA logo and put in my head shot it will be clear that we’re much more ethnically diverse here than at the other “celebrity” blog networks! N = 2 far beats out N = 0. And Wired Science Blogs even has a guy blogging for them who has the same surname as Lou Dobbs! How’s that for insensitive, I’m a naturalized American citizen (and look at this title, it makes me feel unsafe on the web! What’s he trying to say?).
Rest assured, Ed Yong and I are here to give voice to the 85% of humanity which is not of European descent, and, love to write about natural science. You can call us the Chindia of science blogging.*
(and Jeremy Jaquot of Science Not Fiction is half-Asian I believe)
* Indians will object because I was not born in India. Get over it, we all look to the same to everyone else.
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Alert! Some Big And Important And Exciting News!:
So yes, I will be working with the Scientific American editors and staff in conceptualizing, building, launching and then running a new science blogging network. How could I say No when given such a chance? To do what I love and what I think I can do well, and all of that under the banner of a magazine that was published continuously since 1845.
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I began blogging in April 2002 (I once had a graduate student approach me and tell me that she was a big fan of my blog back in high school!). Derek Lowe is the only science blogger I can think of off the top of my head who was around before I was, is still around, and has been around continuously across all those years. The mildly unbalanced Dave Appell left the scene to clear his head for a few years. In those early days a term like ’science blogger’ would have seemed kind of quaint and strange, but I do recall being approached by others to rebut the naive Creationism of some parts of the blogosphere. It was early days, and the big division was between the older cohort of techbloggers who had emerged organically before 9/11, and the political blogosphere which rapidly crystallized in the months after that event.
But in any case, Chad Orzel’s asking straight up, who’s the oldest science blogger? My money is on Derek, but I’m no Bora Zivkovic, so I could be wrong.
Image Credit: Wikimedia
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ScienceBlogsTM just put out a release on their traffic growth. The trend is interesting because after a period of flattening out, 2008-2010 seems to have seen some robust growth again. As I said when I left I do wish SB and many of their bloggers well, and I continue to subscribe to several of their blogs in my RSS as well as the select feed. The network’s robust growth is a positive sign when it comes to the transition of science communication from dead tree to the internet. I know that there’s been a lot of stress on the part of science journalists as to the sustainability of their enterprise, though that is really just a domain-specific instantiation of the issues in journalism as a whole, but until that works itself out the growth and persistence of science blogging and science-related websites is a good thing. There is a calm after the storm of creative-destruction, and the current science blogosphere is laying the seedbed for future renewal. The outcome may be sub-optimal from the viewpoint of labor, but the consumer will benefit.
The growth of internet based science communication means that the pie is growing, and the tide is rising. It isn’t a zero-sum game between SB, Nature Networks, Scientific Blogging, Discover Blogs, etc. My main concern personally is that my readership is still strongly Anglospheric, literally hundreds of millions of Chinese have started using the internet while I’ve been blogging, but very few of them do and can read my content. Due to language constraints this may be a long term structural issue, though the utilization of Google translate + chart heavy posts may be a way to push beyond the Anglosphere a bit. If you want to see the geographic skew, sitemeter is sufficient even with a sample size of the last 100 visitors.
Note: Also, please note that the growth can’t be attributed only to non-science content. Obviously I can’t lay out specific numbers, but blogs which focus on science such as Tetrapod Zoology and Frontal Cortex draw lots of traffic.
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