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Why I rarely go to Scienceblogs.com anymore

March 24, 2008

Let me first say that Highly Allochthonous and Green Gabbro will always be in my aggregator whether they’re on Scienceblogs or not…they are fellow geoblogspherons. And there are a few other blogs on there (e.g., Laelaps, Deep Sea News) that I read semi-regularly as well.

What I’m talking about here is the front page of Scienceblogs.com … the chatter, the latest debate, the latest drama.

For example, check out this idiotic exchange on the blog The Intersection. Most of you might know what’s going on, if you don’t, it goes like this:

(1) atheist blogger gets thrown out of screening of creationist movie, (2) atheist blogger blogs about it in his usual brazen style, (3) those claiming to speak and strategize for science tell atheist blogger to shut up, he’s doing more harm than good, (4) atheist blogger tells science “framers” to ____ off (again, in his usual brazen style), and finally, (5) a different science framer tells atheist blogger to be nice.

Sigh.

Perhaps all of this is entertaining in some way. I used to spend more time reading blogs and their comments over there … not anymore. This latest brouhaha is particularly energetic and getting a bit nasty. Those advocating better science communication via “framing” (Nisbet, Mooney, et al.) have gone a bit too far. Essentially, they are telling outspoken scientists that they should keep their mouths shut and let “professional” communicators take care of it.

____ off!

I hear and appreciate their overall message … yes, scientists aren’t always the best communicators in every instance. But, c’mon … telling us that we should just shut up! They are wrong on this one.

Sean over at Cosmic Variance wrote a great, succinct post summing up exactly how I feel. You should go read it now.

So, while I have my favorite handful of science blogs that happen to be hosted at Scienceblogs.com, I can neither find the energy nor the time to wade through a sea of banter anymore. Maybe it’s my new job (I am definitely way busier), or maybe Scienceblogs has really changed since I’ve started paying attention (late 2006). Any thoughts?

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2008 1:55 pm

    I agree. I generally skim for the peer-reviewed logo now or only read the articles with headlines I am interested in. The rest just get “marked as read” without me even opening them. And I am SO over the framing debate. (I side with you on this one Brian, I’m not going to be shutting up anytime soon!) But, it is peoples personal preferences on what they put on their blogs. I’m just glad there is a headline for each post so I as the reader can ignore it.

  2. March 24, 2008 4:36 pm

    I am glad I am not the only one feeling this way about science blogs (TM). I don’t want to rehash the whole “what do science bloggers do” issue, but it seems like a lot of people have forgotten about the entire science thing and are have silly high school fights over atheism, politics, framing.

  3. March 24, 2008 4:52 pm

    I never read the ScienceBlogs front page before I joined, and basically only read it now to check that my posts are well-positioned and my excerpts are grabby-lookin’, so I don’t know if the buzz topics have degraded. I definitely think lots of them are silly or uninteresting – but it’s quite difficult for the editors sometimes to find a topic that lots of us have written about, so I can also understand why that happens.

    I don’t understand why people are so obsessed with the framing debate, either, but I do think it’s the kind of argument that deserves to be on the front page. Unlike, say, PZ Myers’s birthday. Opinion and debate are what makes blogging more fun than editing Wikipedia*, and “science PR” is an important topic, one that’s relevant to scientists or anyone else with an interest in science, and it’s something that everybody can have an opinion about.

    *Maybe I shouldn’t say this until I’ve actually engaged in that flame war about Darcy’s law that I keep meaning to start… I can’t believe those idiots think that pressure is the same thing as hydraulic head!

  4. March 24, 2008 5:15 pm

    What yami said. I didn’t really check the feed or front page until I started blogging at ScienceBlogs, although I would agree that having PZ’s birthday be a front page event didn’t sit quite right with me. The framing issue could be interesting, but at this point it’s practically vitriolic name-calling and little else, so it’s practically a lost cause.

    What I like about Sb is that most of the people I read blog the same as they did before they moved; everyone still can be an individual blogger and do what they like and do best. On the other hand, my neighbors are people that I don’t always agree with but there’s not much I can do about that. I guess what it comes down to is what each individual blogger is doing and what anyone’s particular idea of what a science blog should be. I think blogging at a higher-profile site has made me a better (or at least more cautious) writer, but everyone might not agree. I’m glad that you do still stop in from time to time, though, Brian.

  5. March 24, 2008 5:18 pm

    I found some of the recent brouhaha interesting, but when getting into the comments (millions of them), it seems that it might all be designed to increase site traffic – maybe not, maybe. And like you, I generally don’t get into sites/posts that are about religion/politics, because I think people are entitled to their own opinions, and I guess I don’t like being that confrontatory (or over the top?) as far as touting my opinions v. other peoples.
    Scientists, as we have seen, can be rather evangelical, about science, and I don’t see much difference in either extreme side. Although it may not be popular to say, I know that many scientists are at least agnostic with respect to religion, and some go farther than that. I also know that many people of many “Christian” “sects” are not “fundamentalists”, don’t believe in literal interpretations of everything, and are scientifically oriented as far as evolution goes. But saying the above particular things, could get me sliced and diced on some science websites.

    Oh, well!

  6. March 24, 2008 5:34 pm

    Yami … I hear ya … I do think that the debate/discussion about ‘science PR’ is indeed important. I just think the Framers are way off base.

    This statement from Nisbet:

    “So Richard and PZ, when it comes to Expelled, it’s time to let other people be the messengers for science. This is not about censoring your ideas and positions, but rather being smart, strategic, tactical, and ultimately effective in promoting science rather than your own personal ideology, books, or blog”

    …it kinda makes my skin crawl a bit. Basically, he’s analogous to a political operative. What’s the platform here, Matt? Please let me know. You don’t speak for science, and you don’t speak for scientists. Who’s in charge of these “messengers”? It’s all so smarmy … triangulating, spinning, framing … whatever. It’s like the Clintons.

    I get the feeling Nisbet, Mooney, et al. really want to take science reporting, journalism, commentary, etc. back from blogging scientists. They don’t like us saying what we are saying…we messin’ their s#@t up. Too bad.

    I suppose my own post and comments are paradoxical in a sense…since I was talking about how all of this is nonsense, and here I am commenting on it.

  7. March 24, 2008 6:09 pm

    I agree with your post…the vitriol in this case has gotten way out of hand and the whole thing is starting to remind me of the in-fighting in the Democratic party. But anyways, as a scienceblogs.com blogger, I guess I feel like I should remind you that there are 70 blogs over on that domain and the vast majority of us are not involved in the flame war. On the front page, the buzz is contrived and the most active/most emailed widget is dominated by a few big hitters, but if you dig into the channels (categories) and individual blogs, there are plenty of great posts that aren’t about religion/politics.

  8. March 24, 2008 6:21 pm

    My problem with the whole “framing” discussion is that the concept (at least as promoted by Nisbet) is very limited. He had, what, six “frames” that he argued that all science reporting could be reduced to? But Nisbet’s examples don’t fit his models – they seemed to be classic cases of trying to make data fit a bad model. And on top of that, Nisbet seemed more interested in attacking scientists than in convincing people to communicate better. (In fact, I’ve often wondered if he is deliberately trying to stir up controversy so he can seem to be an Important Voice Critiquing Science to his tenure committee.) If he intends to win people to his side, his writing is an example of the wrong way to go about persuading anyone.

    And PZ Myers may be right to criticized Expelled, but he’s giving Nisbet way too much attention. All attention is good attention, though, I suppose.

  9. March 24, 2008 6:29 pm

    Framing a la Nisbet is done.

    Sciencewoman, I do understand that there are a lot of great blogs hidden behind the scenes. I guess that was kind of the point of this post, although I didn’t state it very clearly.

    Why is all that junk on the front page? Is it simply the nature of popularity…people like the sensational. I’ve seen some political blogs go down a similar road. They start off with some good discussion, but before you know it, it’s an all-out partisan flame war.

    I think Sb.com is already there. I’m sure SEED loves it … they want more traffic so they can sell more magazines or whatever.

  10. March 24, 2008 6:36 pm

    I am so baffled by the utter impracticality of the “be quiet and let the happy fuzzy faithful do the talking” argument that I cannot even begin to evaluate its wrongness.

    It seems to me, though, that you have two entirely separate criticisms of the SB front page: it’s full of chat and Internet brouhaha instead of interesting substance, and also, this particular argument on a substantive topic is wrongheaded. The first criticism is something I can imagine addressing, the second, well, I’m not sure I want the editors stuck in the position of telling us which of our arguments are wrongheaded.

    BTW, if anyone wants to help fill the “most active” widget with fantastic non-inflammatory posts, I still need to name another SuperReader (see here for what that means).

  11. March 24, 2008 6:50 pm

    Yami, I think you are right that no one should be telling you (all -anyone) what to blog about – and BrianR, yes we are all (some of us?) kind of indulging in a little paradoxical commenting, perhaps?

  12. March 24, 2008 7:03 pm

    Hey – didn’t mean for that to sound sanctimonious, my comment way above was commenting about not getting involved – yet I am doing it here – that’s what I meant. Sorry if it sounded that way1

  13. March 24, 2008 7:09 pm

    Yami, you’re absolutely right … I am indeed complaining about two things in one post. It’s a twofer!

    And, you’re right again … any sort of control or stated-position from Sb editors regarding these issues would be the worst thing to happen.

  14. March 24, 2008 7:14 pm

    Silver Fox, no worries … I can “hear” your tone alright. It didn’t sound sanctimonious to me.

  15. March 24, 2008 7:18 pm

    I realize that there is a lot of fluffy, contentious, and insubstantial crap on some of the SB blogs, but I still check the umbrella site every day. Darren Naish’s Tetrapod Zoology is an example of an SB blog which doesn’t seem to feature the vapid and incestuous cross-postings and endless streams of flame-war comments common on a few of the SB blogs. Janet Stemwedel’s Adventures in Ethics and Science, Laelaps, and Afarensis are three other favorites.

    I never would have known of this blog if I hadn’t seen a link to it at an SB blog!

    I have about a dozen favorite SB blogs and I generally ignore the “most active/most e-mailed” sidebar menus.

  16. March 24, 2008 7:25 pm

    Just to throw in another idea about the front page, posts only appear there if they’re flagged by the bloggers themselves. Some bloggers, for whatever reason, just don’t flag the posts. Most of the bloggers who appear on the front page are the same people (myself included), so there’s going to be a lot of similar stuff over the long term. That’s why I’ve been using the 24 hour feed more often to cast a wider net (there’s plenty of good stuff that never shows up on the front page), but I still find the front page useful when there’s a “hot topic” that everyone’s writing about.

  17. zsylvester permalink
    March 24, 2008 8:05 pm

    I find it amusing when Nisbet et al. think they know so much about communicating science that they can tell the author of ‘The Selfish Gene’ to shut up.

  18. March 25, 2008 6:33 am

    zsylvester … I agree, and their attitude of ‘we are better communicators than you scientists, so leave it to us’ does not seem to be adequately demonstrated. So, even if it was right to say ‘shut up, let us handle it’ (which it’s not), are these the right people to have handle it? They seem to have bungled this whole kerfuffle.

  19. March 26, 2008 2:25 am

    The only entertainment to be found in the framing debate is Nisbet and co.’s god-like inability to ‘frame’ their points in a way that doesn’t get most scientists’ backs up. It’s not exactly a recommendation. I’m glad that I was on holiday for the latest dust-up…

  20. April 1, 2008 1:27 pm

    ScienceBlogs has a front page? I’ve never gone above the channel level.

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