The navel is starting to attract a crowd

Janet Stemwedel provides an interesting and well reasoned reaction to the recent criticisms from BlaBlaBlog about the insularity and generally evil nature of Janet is merely a puppet in this case. We had a big meeting last night in the secret clubhouse and decided how to react to this biting criticism, assembled a document, and Janet drew the short straw.

Only kidding.

I do like her post, and I’d like to react to her reaction. Her original navel-gazing post is here.

I want to focus on just a couple of points that Janet makes, in answers to questions she formulated to represent the larger discussion. (I should say I totally agree with everything she says, and I just want to add my perspective which may be slightly different as I’m a noob and she’s a …. whatever the opposite of a noob is.)

Why do so many bloggers at ScienceBlogs write about stuff besides science?

… If something we wrote was so abhorrent to our corporate overlords at Seed Media Group that they could not abide more of it on their server, they could show us the door. But I haven’t felt constrained by the possibility of being booted. There are more constraints on me by virtue of the fact that I’m writing a blog I’d like my students to be able to read (and that my mom is a regular reader and will email if I blog too blue).

This is one of the key points that Blablablog seems to not get. Whatever one may be able to say about scienceblogs … about it being a group, a commuity, somehow coordinated, a corporate entity, and so on … the truth is that the kinds of things that constrain or potentiate specific decisions or tendencies by the Sbloggers are the same as for other bloggers, and the fact that we are in a single network (to use that word very loosely) is generally, if not always, the smallest factor. Blablablog has created a straw man, and didn’t even use very good straw. Anyway, well said Janet.

Do the bloggers at ScienceBlogs think they’re better than all the other people who blog about science? Do they think their traffic or incoming links make them the best?

… my best guess is that it’s a minority view. …

Of course, I’m pretty suspicious of the idea that measures like traffic, of who hired you, or how much you’re being paid are objective indicators of merit. Far from thinking I’m one of the best, I think I’m extraordinarily lucky to have been noticed in the first place.

Any group of knowledgeable people can sit down and make a list of blogs in a particular subject area that they think are “best” or “of good quality and representative” or whatever. Such a list is bound to be better than a random selection from a particular point of view. But two equally well chosen lists may in the end have little overlap.

One could think of Sb as such a list. There is some thought that goes into who is on the network. We don’t volunteer. We are asked. We are chosen. We are the chosen bloggers. But we are chosen by imperfect humans with a particular set of aesthetics and interests using necessarily imperfect information, and although I don’t personally know of anyone having said “no” to the invitation, there are claims that this has happened. Therefore, we are not The Chosen Bloggers. We are merely some chosen bloggers.

The fact that 1.2 zillion people read our blogs (collectively) every day, and only 99 percent of them are reading Pharyngula, suggests that we are not chopped liver. But, as a person who likes chopped liver, I say there is nothing wrong with chopped liver.

Why so many blogs about biology at ScienceBlogs? Why aren’t there more blogs about chemistry, or astronomy, or lepidoptery, or gastroenterology, or …?

The folks who decide what blogs to invite to try to achieve a measure of diversity … but they’re drawing from a larger pool that’s really heavy on biosciences. … It’s also the case that a diversity of blogging “voices” is valued here — which is to say, many people who are in the same field have radically different blogging styles.

The Sb overlords and certain key Sblings such as Community Manager Guy (for PLoS) Coturnix, have done more than their share to promote diversity of voice, field, perspective, and position than, well, BlaBlog, for instance, or anyone else I can think of. I don’t think anyone has mentioned this: Sb includes people who are and are not scientists, undergraduates, grad students, faculty of all sorts, independent scholars, and so on. The idea that we are not diverse in all the ways one can measure is laughable.

As to underrepresented subfields, I think Janet is correct. But I’ll add this: I get the impression that the last several (very well chosen) additions to Sb were directed specifically at this issue. Or at least it seems that way.

Why don’t ScienceBlogs bloggers ever link to blogs outside ScienceBlogs.

We do. …

Indeed. Is there anyone reading this who is not on my blog roll who wants to be? Send me an email and I’ll include you as long as you meet my basic criteria, and my criteria do not include being on

Are all the ScienceBlogs bloggers BFFs?

… [Janet says some stuff here] …

I’ve been on Sb for short enough of a time period to be able to answer this in some detail.

I knew PZ myers before I joined Sb because we are in the same state and in some of the same groups, including MnCSE, and so on. Before I was in Sb, he linked to me frequently, and helped me get going. Coturnix and I interacted quite a bit, as I recall, before I joined Sb, and that has continued unchanged. He also helped me quite a bit as a new blogger. He demonstrated that being a part of Sb was not a requirement for important community building.

Laelaps and I also interacted before joining Sb. I think we both were asked on board at almost the same time, but actually came on board at slightly different times.

As far as actual inter-bloggal interactions, there are a couple of blogs that stand out in my mind as blogs I may have discovered only after joining, and possibly because of joining, that I pay special attention to and link to now and then. This includes Janet’s blog, by the way.

The only Sciencebloggers I’ve ever met in real life is PZ Myers.

Of course, the only reason I wrote this post is to give me another opportunity to link to my fellow sciencebloggers, and avoid linking to the other blogs such as:

udreamofjanie, 10,000 Birds, A Blog from Hell, Abnormal Interests, About Darwin, A Constrained Vision, All-Too-Common Dissent, A Load of Bright, Analyze Everything, Ancora Imparo, An Inconvenient Truth, ArchaeoBlog, Archaeoporn, archy, Armchair Dissident, Astrocreep’s Science, A Very Remote Period Indeed, A world gone mad, Bad Astronomy, Beautiful Biology, Behavioral Ecology Blog, Beyond Reasonable Doubt, BiocuriousBiological Ramblings, Biology in Science Fiction, Biosingularity, blogfish, blogSci, Bootstrap Analysis, Bore Me To Tears, Brian Foster, Bug Girl’s Blog, Buzz Blog, Campus Atheists & Sec. Humanists, Canned Platypus, Catalogue of Oganisms, cephyn, Charles Arthur, and Clatic Detritus.

Oh, and Climate Change Action, Code Pink: Peoria, Coffee & Conservation, Cosmic Variance, Creek Running North, Darwin Building, Darwin Correspondence Project, Darwin Day Celebration, Darwin today, Decrepit Old Fool, DeSmogBlog, digiphile, Dinosaurs: A creationist’s Fairy Tale, Divine Afflatus, Dopo i dinosauri: Evoluzione dei Mammiferi, Dougs Dynamic Drivel, Drowning in the Real, Dubito Ergo Sum, Ecobirder, Egyptology News, Everyday Scientist, Evolutionary Times, Evolving in Kansas, Fish Feet, fool for the process, Four Stone Hearth, Fragments From Floyd, Friday Ark, Fumbling towards geekdom, Further Thoughts, Geekologie, Genetics and Health, I am the Lizard Queen!, I and the Bird, Iced Tea, Internet Infidels, Interrogating Nature, Jon Swift, Julie Zickefoose, Left Flank, leftwingfox, Life and Opinions, Life Before Death, Life Cycle Analysis, Listening to Clifford Geertz, lunartalks, Mechanically Separated Meat, Mendel’s Garden, Migrations, Minnesota Atheists, My View of It and Northstate Science.

Oh, and must not forget: nullifidian, Omniorthogonal, Open Access News, Opisthokont, Our Cultural World, Overscope, Pandagon, Paul Hutchinson’s Blog, Planetargonautes, Plant News, Political Grind, Powerup, PowerUp, Primordial Blog, Providentia, QuarkScrew, Quintessence of Dust, RealClimate, Reasic (global warming), Red State Rabble, Reduce to Common Sense, Richard Dawkins Net, Rosetta Rants, RRResearch, Runesmith’s Canadian Content, Salad is Slaughter, Salamander Candy, Salient, Salt on Everything, Sandwalk, Savage Minds, School of Thought, Science After Sunclipse, Science Blog, Science Notes, Scientific Blog, Scientific Blogging, Seeds Aside.

And of course, Self-designed Student, Small Time Television, Snail’s Tales, Sorting Out Science, Spanish Inquisitor, Spewing Truth, Surreal Georgia, Survival Machine, TalkOrigins, Tangled Up in Blue Guy, The Accidental Weblog, The annotated budak, The Ant Room, The Arc, The Beagle Project, The Birdchaser, The Carnival of Education, The Dispersal of Darwin, The Education Wonks, The Friends of Charles Darwin, The Greenbelt, The Inoculated Mind, The Lippard, The Tangled Bank, The Thinking Blog, The Unexamined Life.., The Zone, Thinking for Free, Think Progress, This Modern World, This Week in Evolution, Thoughts in a Haystack, Three Toed Sloth, Trinifar, Uncommon Liberty, Wonkette, Writer’s Daily Grind, Writer’s Daily GrindVirginia Huges, Zach Aleander, Discount thoughts, When Pigs Fly Returns, The Ethical Palaeontologist, Lounge of the Lab Lemming, post doc ergo propter doc, ERV, Bench Marks, Mobile Science Education, Muse In Vivo, Mystery Rays from Outer Space, Suicyte Notes.

And last but not least, Dead Racists Society


  1. #1 Coturnix
    February 29, 2008

    Oh, I am so mining that list on the bottom for my blogroll…

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    February 29, 2008

    I’d be happy to send you the raw file in markup language.

  3. #3 Skemono
    February 29, 2008

    Whee, I’m not least! In your face, whoever is!

    Seriously, thanks for the link, Greg. And as for the post, well said.

  4. #4 Michael Clarkson
    February 29, 2008

    Oh man. When I finish posting today I am going to have some clicking to do.