We have a confession. You have all been part of an experiment in social engineering. This has been in the planning for a while now. But let me step back and explain the purpose of our experiment before we analyze the results.
….. bla bla bla…
Then they go on to explain how the embarassingly narrow minded and, well, just not very well thought out post they put up yesterday was all really a very smart trick. (See this.) The claim is that Scienceblogs.com is evil. One of the reasons sciencblogs.com is evil is because it is commercial.
Funny. Bablab is commercially sponsored as well.
And… scienceblogs.com is evil because it is a group of bloggers, and you know how incestuous that can be.
Funny. Blablab is a group of bloggers. All anonymous, by the way.
And .. scienceblogs.com is evil becuuse it is very successful. Lots of people read scienceblogs.com.
Funny. Blablab is … ah, well, not.
Anyway, here’s what I want my readers (and fellow non-scienceblogs.com bloggers) to know:
Scienceblogs.com is at this particular moment not particularly evil. All the possibilities are there, of course. There is a wealthy individual who owns Seed Media Group. I don’t know a thing about him except his name is Adam something and he’s from Canada. Seed is a corporation that does all that corporation stuff. They are presumably in it for the money, or at least, have to break even.
As a sideline, Seed Media Group maintains Scienceblogs.com. They give us a part time techie who is barely holding things together with the servers and stuff …. you will note that sb.com normally works, and that’s pretty impressive. They give us one editor, who is very busy. And there is normally an intern hanging around as well.
There are rules, pretty much as expected. Because of our passwords, we have access to secret stuff sometimes. We can sort of see new bloggers before you can, so we have to have rules about not linking to them until they are “on line.” We have rules about what parts of the movable type software to not touch, because if we touch it, we break the whole site, and so on.
We have a back channel place where we can talk. The rule is strict: Whatever is said there stays there. Every once in a while, a blogger makes mention of something from the back channel, and the other bloggers descend on him or her and rip the flesh form the bones like piranha. The editors hate this because then they have to go and get a new blogger.
I will take the risk though. I’ll tell you a little about what the back channel is like.
Did you ever see a discussion list? Where someone posts something that might or might not be an important statement or question? Then, the other members start to comment on that question, but quickly, the conversation shifts to irrelevancies or sidetracks? Then the usual people who happen to be active on the list start to chime in with their favorite highly stylized commentary, oft profane, edgy, sometimes aggressively insulting but in a friendly way? As if? (And why do people talk in question marks like this?)
By the time the initial question is a few hours old, the thread of the conversation is lost, and if the question is not handled right way, then it is pretty much hopeless.
That is what the back channel is like. Fun, but not momentous. Useful, but not very interesting to the outsider.
The most fun we had today, for instance, was when a blogger asked how to make a particular symbol on a blog post using HTML code. So we spent an hour showing off with HTML code. This, dear reader, was instead of either a) blogging or b) working on the plot to Take Over the World, which Bayblab seems to think we are working on.
We also discuss another major topic on a regular basis: Ethics. If someone has a question about the right thing to do, we can run it by each other. Perhaps a lot of mistakes are NOT made because of our conversations.
Hardly ever does anyone ever discuss what they are going to blog. We just blog, then maybe we talk about what we did blog. But mostly we talk about stuff that has nothing to do with blogging. Like how to get a train from San Fran to San Jose.
The most important thing that happens in the back channel is that this is where the editors can organize what they do. They organize the ask the science blogger question there, for instance. We complain about technical glitches like when an ad misbehaves. Slow moving, general and blog-wide not very interesting yet important stuff.
The most important thing I want you to know is this: As I said above, scienceblogs.com is not evil, but it could be. Think Microsoft vs Google (evil vs. benevolent). One could become the other so easily. Hey, these days, IBM is the bunny-fuzzy linux-loving blue thingie company. Many of you are too young to remember, but there was a time when IBM WAS the military industrial complex.
Here’s the thing: The moment scienceblogs.com, or Seed Media Group, goes evil (should that happen) I’m outta here, and so are a number of others, of this I’m sure. I trust the editorial staff (Katherine then, Ginny now) and I even like them. Beyond that, I know nothing about Seed more than I really know what happens here at the U at the President’s office. I’m reasonably comfortable. I am developing some good relationships with some of my fellow bloggers, but I also have good relationships developed mainly through blogging with non-Sb bloggers, and I worked with Sb bloggers back before I came here and would continue if I moved on. In other words, Sb is good for me, I’m comfortable, and they don’t pay me enough to say much more than that!
So if I seem a little defensive when responding to Bayblab, is it because I’m overreacting because Sb and we Sb bloggers have something to hide? Because they’ve struck a nerve? Because they’ve revealed an uncomfortable truth? No. It is because the Bayblab bloggers are being bad neighbors in the blogosphere. They are insinuating and ingenuously implying innuendo. Alliteratively, their aggressive allegations are annoying. (somebody stop me…)
…. OK, sorry ….
My point is that they have been jerks before, they are being jerks now, and I would expect them to be jerks in the future. Why do they do this?
PS: Further discussions of the nature of life here at Sb can be found here: