The Questionable Authority

This is not the post I though I’d be putting up today. This morning, I fully expected to come home from work, post my already-written “I quit” post, and point you all to a WordPress blog I set up yesterday. As of this moment, I’m not leaving Sb. As of this time next week, who knows?

As some of you have gathered, a lot of the bloggers here have frustrations with Seed that extend well beyond the Pepsipocalypse, pressures that, in some cases, have already led bloggers to quit. I’m certainly in the frustrated group, and to be honest I was strongly considering moving on well before the latest incident. I have not (yet) done so for a number of reasons – some selfish, some less so (at least I hope). I do not have high hopes that Seed is going to be successful in addressing all, or even most, of the concerns that the Sb writers have. But as of now I’m willing to give it one more shot.

Right now, I’m going to try to explain at least some of what’s happened in very general terms – I’m not going to violate any confidences, or reveal any confidential internal material. But I think that, particularly given recent events, ScienceBlogs readers are entitled to get a bit more information, presented a bit more coherently, then they have gotten so far. I should note that this is my own view, and other bloggers might see things a bit differently.

Let’s start with Adam Bly, the Seed founder and CEO. I’ve met him, I’ve spoken with him a few different times now, and I genuinely believe that he sees science as a force for positive change in the world. He sees an ongoing engagement between scientists (from all fields and places of employment), policymakers, educators, and the general public as an absolute necessity for making science a more effective positive force. His goal is to try to facilitate that engagement, and he set up Seed to do just that.

ScienceBlogs was originally started as an adjunct to Seed Magazine. Many of the bloggers who were brought here early on came not because of the chances for fame or money (I know neither was a big motivator for me), but because we have views about science, politics, and society that fit in very well with what was presented to us as the Seed mission. We were being offered – we thought – a chance to be a part of the conversation about how best to begin to make a difference.

That conversation has yet to start, despite what we’ve accomplish here on our own. And when I say “we”, I’m not just, or even mostly, talking about the bloggers. I’m talking about the Sb community as a whole, particularly the readers. Bloggers are good for pointing out injustices that need fixing, but you’ve been the ones who have come through with the support needed to deal with them. You’ve shown that time after time.

Despite the success of ScienceBlogs, both as a tool for informing and mobilizing concerned people and simply (and selfishly) in terms of traffic growth, Adam Bly and the rest of Seed’s big picture management have never seen fit to involve the bloggers in any form of meaningful consultation – or even discussion – about what he is trying to accomplish. That is stupid on so many levels.

The Pepsi blog was a mistake, and a bad one. Because the roll-out was handled badly, Seed, ScienceBlogs, and individual bloggers here (particularly those of us who didn’t immediately leave) suffered a substantial credibility hit. This was not just avoidable, it was easily avoidable. If the bloggers had been given any sort of meaningful involvement in discussions about the future of the blogs or Seed as a whole, the entire debacle could have been avoided.

Instead, we wound up with a situation where we took a credibility hit, and SB took a hit, and where we took these hits not just because of something that we had no involvement in, but which could have been easily avoided had we been given the involvement that we’ve been begging for since 2006. That’s a lot to take in one shot. Particularly since Seed had already spent most of the goodwill of their bloggers on other issues over the past few years.

That kind of thing all makes it hard to stay.

At the same time, there are things that make it hard to leave. I’ve sunk a lot of time and effort into both writing this blog and participating in the broader Sb community. I don’t want to walk away from that, particularly since I think that there is still a lot of potential for Sb to grow, to improve, and to become a more effective part of the broader discussion about science and society.

For the time being, I’m staying. I’m not enormously optimistic that Seed is going to change the way they deal with the ScienceBlogs branch of their enterprise, but I’m not – yet – convinced that there is no hope for change. There will almost undoubtedly be discussions both in public and behind the scenes about the future of ScienceBlogs over the next few weeks, and I’m going to wait and see what – if anything – comes of it before I make up my mind.

Addendum:

While I was working on this post, Adam Bly was publishing the first post on his own, brand-spanking-new, ScienceBlogs blog. The fact that he’s making at least that much effort gives makes me just slightly optimistic. Or at least not entirely pessimistic.

Comments

  1. #1 symball
    July 9, 2010

    good to see you aren’t dissapearing just yet. I find having so many good blogs in one place a real boon, i’d miss being able to scroll though the days posts if you all upped and left.

    re the addendum- at least if he uses the moveable type interface he might see what a lot of you SB’er have been suffering with and push to do something about it!

  2. #2 David Marjanović
    July 9, 2010

    re the addendum- at least if he uses the moveable type interface he might see what a lot of you SB’er have been suffering with and push to do something about it!

    Oh yes. Oh fucking yes.

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    July 11, 2010

    I’m sure you’ll be welcome in The Blogland of the Cress Eaters, should you want to jump ship. Email me if you want details. :-)

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