The following is a Guest Post by Stephanie Zvan of Almost Diamonds.

Background
On February 26, Anonymous Coward at Bayblab suggested that popular ScienceBloggers like PZ Myers (Pharyngula) needed more science content in order to be counted as a science blog. In the first comment on that post, DrugMonkey pointed out that there was plenty of science on Pharyngula, and the matter rested there (sort of, once the author proclaimed the post only an experiment).

Then, on May 12, rommy told PZ Myers (in a comment on Pharyngula), “Sorry PZ – I have long thought that your blog was one of the weaker science ones – too much ranting not enough science – go take some lessons off Darren at Tetrapod Zoology on how to write a science blog.”

Obviously, the question of whether Pharyngula is a science blog needed to be settled. Greg issued the challenge and I, because I am a complete geek who can’t walk away from piles of data when it might answer a question, took it on.


Sorting the Posts

I chose five blogs to look at. Pharyngula had to be included, of course, and Greg suggested he be as well. rommy held up Tetrapod Zoology as an example of a blog that was doing everything right. Bayblab pointed to Cognitive Daily as another. And it only seemed fair to include Bayblab as well. In the interest of full disclosure, I read Pharyngula, Greg’s blog, and Cognitive Daily regularly. Cognitive Daily was my gateway drug for ScienceBlogs. I’ve read Tetrapod Zoology and Bayblab occasionally if I’ve seen a link to a post that looked interesting.

I picked February, the shortest month, to make my life easier. The effect was somewhat mitigated by this being a leap year. I made no attempt to determine whether February was a typical blogging month for any of the bloggers I chose.

Because I wanted to know what people were talking about in more detail than whether they were talking about science, politics, science politics or something else, I expanded on Greg’s suggested categories. I ended up with eight. Brief descriptions are included below. If a post’s content was mixed, the higher category on this list prevailed. I made no attempt to grade the posts on amount, depth or quality of information included.

Post Categories

Original Science Content: Summaries of current knowledge, presentations of the blogger’s research, definition and discussion of terms.

Other Science Content: Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research, reporting and linking to research results, announcing future research projects, links to educational essays or videos.

History of Science: Who discovered what and when.

A Life in Science: Life as a scientist.

Politics of Science: Controlling what is funded and taught.

Other Politics: Not directly science-related.

Blogkeeping: Meta-blogging, blogrolls, requests for information, links to interesting blog posts, promoting and reporting on the blogger’s appearances on the web and in person.

General: Other items that strike the fancy or the nerve of the blogger.

Not that inclusion in a category such as Blogkeeping or General does not mean that the post was not full of geekery that would appeal to scientists and science fans. Also, events, interviews and podcasts promoted by the bloggers frequently contained science content that wasn’t counted for this study because it was not on the blogger’s own site.


Results and Discussion

What did I learn? Greg posts a lot. Well, okay, I knew that already, but categorizing 310 posts for a single, short month is still painful. Pharyngula boasted just over half that many at 175, with Bayblab at 43, Cognitive Daily at 17 and Tetrapod Zoology at 16.

Aside from that? How much science content you see on each blog depends on how much you limit your definition of science content. If you only include Original Science Content, Tetrapod Zoology is your winner, with Pharyngula and Cognitive Daily suffering by comparison. Add Other Science Content, however, and Greg pulls away from the pack, while the other four even out somewhat.

i-3450fffb026a32e3b817059850b65b12-StephanieZ_Fig_01.jpg

Add the other science-related categories, and Greg and PZ make the others look like total slugabeds. (Yes, that’s a technical term.)

i-8fa9fc4c7fd3077b18b42dcb6b40e348-StephanieZ_Fig02.jpg

So it would seem that the real burden of the complaint is not so much that Pharyngula doesn’t contain enough science, but rather that it contains too much other stuff. While I don’t know that “too much” was within the scope of my assignment, Pharyngula, Greg’s blog and Bayblab do contain much higher percentages of non-science content than Tetrapod Zoology and Cognitive Daily.

i-1523ecba70dc2d5d2a4d7decc032a89c-StephanieZ_Fig03.jpg

Again, please note that much of what is labeled here as non-science may still hold special appeal for science fans. Additionally, at least on ScienceBlogs, readers may use feeds that exclude much of the non-science content.

Conclusions

Once again, we discover that there are differences between bloggers. What hasn’t been borne out is the idea that writing about things other than science requires that there be less science content in a blog. In fact, prolific science bloggers tend to blog prolifically about science as well.
There are two questions I’d still like to see addressed: Why is diversity among bloggers a bad thing to some people, and who thinks that telling a blogger what to write is productive?

Comments

  1. #1 ERV
    May 29, 2008

    …who thinks that telling a blogger what to write is productive?

    LOL! I love post suggestions and hearing what readers like, but I know what youre talking about. I luv comments like “This blog would be so much better if you stopped using lol-speak and used apostrophes and only talked about HIV no one cares about Creationists and blah blah blah.”

    Ugh.

  2. #2 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 29, 2008

    …who thinks that telling a blogger what to write is productive?

    I think Phil Plait would love to read that. In my utterly scientific estimation (cough cough) he is told to stop ranting and write about his subject (astronomy) more than almost anyone.

  3. #3 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    ERV, my sympathies. As though the lol-speak and idiosyncratic punctuation weren’t a big part of your voice, which is drawing in your readers and making the technical bits palatable to those who might otherwise be intimidated by them. Do you think people told Don Marquis that his work would be better if he wrote proper English and had more sympathetic characters?

  4. #4 PZ Myers
    May 29, 2008

    Obviously, the appropriate question is not, “Do you have a science blog?” but, “How PURE is your science blog?”. This is a wonderfully subjective question, so the questioner can decide, for instance, that the absence of apostrophes dilutes the science content of ERV’s blog. It’s also important, because defending purity is a virtuous act.

  5. #5 Romeo Vitelli
    May 29, 2008

    When dealing with blog critics, there is an important point I try to remember. It’s MY blog, not theirs. I write what I want to write about since these are the things that are important to me. Not everyone is going to agree with me and the big subscription numbers seem to go to bloggers writing about celebrities and the latest craziness anyway (at least that’s what I keep telling myself).

  6. #6 Jason Failes
    May 29, 2008

    “Again, please note that much of what is labeled here as non-science may still hold special appeal for science fans.”

    In the tradition of half-full cups, one may ask, is it half pro-science or half anti-religion?

    There exists a natural pairing between having an active interest in science and having an interest in seeing anti-science smacked down.

    “Why is diversity among bloggers a bad thing to some people, and who thinks that telling a blogger what to write is productive?”

    Been trying to figure that out myself. If someone wants a 100% science blog, they can always start one themselves.

    This is perhaps more of an issue for people concerned with the culture wars and good PR, who may essentially agree with PZ, but think that he goes “too far” and/or provides too much quote-ore, and that we should be attracting flies with honey, or whatnot.

    Personally, I think the anti-science must be mocked out of existence, but that’s just me and, of course, opinions differ wildly on this.

    Good post. I appreciate all the hard number crunching you did to make it happen.

  7. #7 Joel_m
    May 29, 2008

    All science is politics, all politics is science. I like the science in these blogs but if they were “pure” I probably would not read them.

  8. #8 Geoffrey Alexander
    May 29, 2008

    For me, as a pure consumer of sorts (as close as I get to science as a profession is the software engineering that supports my creative writing), I look at ScienceBlogs as blogs by and about scientists, in the particular sense, rather than blogs about “Science” in the “Big Vanilla” sense. I certainly expect scientists to share their knowledge, insights, and passions about their research. I also expect them to share much more of themselves as well. That’s what makes ScienceBlogs such a thriving ecosystem.

    And look at it this way, if these blogs were only about pure science, posts like this one would also be off topic :)

  9. #9 Joel_m
    May 29, 2008

    Good point, Geoff … is THIS a science post or a not a science post?

  10. #10 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Okay, now we’re getting into the hard vs. soft science debate, which would require a whole ‘nother rant. Or are you merely suggesting that the wee bit of snark dilutes the tone enough to keep this from being science?

  11. #11 Geoffrey Alexander
    May 29, 2008

    I guess because it uses a bit of science (well, statistics, anyway, if that counts) and it provides direct commentary on (and within the context and methods of) the very subject of which it is a part, this self-referential aspect of it makes it — a Literary post! Yay!!! Score 10…

  12. #12 Joel_m
    May 29, 2008

    Well, some categories are meta and some are not. I like the color coding in the graphs, by the way. The symbolism is very nice.

  13. #13 Yasser
    May 29, 2008

    The conclusion I draw from these statistics (good work by the way) is that Pharyngula is not a science blog. General/Blogkeeping/Politics (of science or not) have an equal share of the pie, and there is a little bit of actual science thrown in. When a new item from Pharyngula appears on my aggregator, there’s a small chance it will be about actual science

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Geoffrey, you’re lucky I’m not one of those genre writers. That literary comment would get you hurt in some places. Sure, it would just be paper cuts, but they do sting.

    Statistics is a tool used to test hypotheses. Which part of using it that way isn’t science?

    Yasser, while I have yet to see a definition of “science blog” that satisfies everyone, I have trouble accepting the idea that, given the amount of its science content, Pharyngula isn’t one. Have you checked out Research Blogging (researchblogging.org)? Sounds like it might help you narrow your feeds to just the stuff you’re interested in.

  15. #15 Dave Munger
    May 29, 2008

    Nice little study!

    Personally, I’d put “blogging about peer-reviewed research” into the “original science” category, or give it its own category to distinguish from “blogging about research press releases/news reports,” but that’s a minor quibble. Interesting stuff, confirming some suspicions I already had about what makes a “science” blog.

  16. #16 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Dave, thanks! I quibbled on the peer-review posts. I finally decided it was too hard to tell just how much content the blogger added without going way beyond what I was prepared to do. That’s why I took care to be clear where they were included.

  17. #17 idahogie
    May 29, 2008

    Isn’t there a technological solution to this issue? Couldn’t blogging software be written so that individual readers could set their own preferences to display only “hard science” posts?

    That is, if this issue is really a problem. I read PZ, ERV, Greg, and others – I love the diversity, and I’m also more interested in the non-science content. So I’m not really a good judge. I say, “more of the same, please.”

  18. #18 Peter Mc
    May 29, 2008

    Stephanie appears to have pioneered the field of blogthrapology. Good post. ERV: lack of punctuation didn’t do ee cummings any harm.

    If people don’t like my blog, I tell them to have a full refund and engage in sex and travel.

  19. #19 Rob
    May 29, 2008

    Awesome. Taking the bayblab to task was a good idea.
    Have to say that I thought the original bayblab post was not about telling science bloggers what to blog about, but WHY ‘science blogs’ have so much non-science. Bayblab is just as guilty as many other blogs of posting similar non-science content (although your analysis suggests that the amount of this material is lower).
    Why is it that science blogs have so much anti religion content, for example? Is that part of science? Is that what the community finds interesting?
    Also it’s interesting that so many science blogs have such a similar political leaning. Perhaps that is true of bloggers in general or something.
    BTW tetrapod zooolgy is hardcore!

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Peter, to the best of my knowledge, Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light (and disemvoweling) fame has been doing this longer than there have been blogs. Her work tends to be more descriptive than quantitative, though. :)

  21. #21 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Rob, I took Bayblab “to task” at the time in the comments. I really just wanted to know what they blogged about. Kamel’s pretty good.

  22. #22 Jimmy
    May 29, 2008

    Why is diversity among bloggers a bad thing to some people, and who thinks that telling a blogger what to write is productive?

    These are really the correct questions to use in response to people who complain, “too little science!” If you don’t enjoy Pharyngula or other blogs which include much more other content, it’s not as if you’re being forced to read them. This is the Internet–the science content is out there, and easy enough to find even without ScienceBlogs.com. I personally don’t find much interest in PZ’s posts, but I don’t stop by his comments to tell him what he’s doing wrong because he’s obviously got a very good readership without me.

    All of which isn’t intended to diminish this post, Stephanie: extremely interesting, and I enjoy meta-analysis as much as the next geek. But I find it obnoxious when people tell bloggers to write about what they find interesting, especially when the niche they like is already being explored by plenty of others.

  23. #23 Kamel
    May 29, 2008

    Nice post. I’m actually a little surprised at how we stacked up science-wise.

  24. #24 Darren Naish
    May 29, 2008

    BTW tetrapod zooolgy is hardcore!

    I’ll take that as an compliment :)

    And the rest..

  25. #25 Darren Naish
    May 29, 2008

    Or ‘a compliment’ even. Me no so good lalanguage.

  26. #26 Kamel
    May 29, 2008

    And thanks for the kind words!

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    May 29, 2008

    Yasser:

    You bring up a question that pertains in its overall form to many things, even things beyond the blogosphere. To address it, first an analogy, then an experiment.

    The analogy: Say you live in Elk River, Minnesota, where there is both a drug store (very rare these days) and a Target. (A Target is a giant store that sells everything). It may well be that even though the Target sells lots of stuff that is not over-the-counter meds, you still would prefer the Target because it sells a greater variety, more likely in sock, at a better price, than the old drugstore.

    Now the experiment: You want science blogs. Here’s the deal. You pick a blog to read for one month, and commit to reading only that one blog. I’ll give you a dollar for every science post (according to Stephanie’s definition) that you encounter on that one blog. Which blog are you going to pick?

    Obviously, it is fair to say that one may not want to wade through a bunch of posts that are not science posts, so a blog like TZ, which posts very little, but it’s all science, is very nice that way. But still, you can’t say that Pharyngula or GLB is not a science blog is belied by the obvious result of my (thought) experiment. (And it was a thought experiment … there will be no dollars, sorry.)

  28. #28 Darren Naish
    May 29, 2008

    Or ‘a compliment’ even. Me no so good lalanguage.

  29. #29 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Greg, does this mean I’m not getting paid for this? :)

  30. #30 Greg Laden
    May 29, 2008

    The check’s in the mail.

  31. #31 Dave Munger
    May 29, 2008

    Isn’t there a technological solution to this issue? Couldn’t blogging software be written so that individual readers could set their own preferences to display only “hard science” posts?

    Hmmm… I suppose that’s possible, but if it was, you might think someone would have already done it.

  32. #32 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Heck, Dave, you might even think someone would have already plugged it upthread of the question when the “problem” first came up.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    May 29, 2008

    Dave: Research Blogging and the RSS feeds that Scienceblogs provides do indeed serve this purpose. I would like to see more capacity, though, for customizing the feeds. It is probably out there and I’m just unaware of it.

  34. #34 Dave Munger
    May 29, 2008

    Stephanie,

    oops — sorry I missed that.

  35. #35 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Dave, your mention was perfectly appropriate (and nicely snarky). I was being annoyed that it needed the second mention, which clearly it did.

  36. #36 Yasser
    May 29, 2008

    The way I see it is like this: ABC has lots of sports and news and movies in it, but it’s not a news, sports or movie channel.

    So, I’d say that Pharyngula covers science among other things, but it’s not a science blog. Science doesn’t even seem to be the modal topic of the blog, politics is.

  37. #37 yogi-one
    May 29, 2008

    The meat is in the percentages and the numbers.

    They show that Greg posts more of all the types of content. He gets more readers because there’s a higher chance that readers will open up the SB home and see something they haven’t seen before.

    So the guys that post more of everything get more readers. That isn’t surprising.

    As for my opinion:

    So far the mix on SB I think is good. It’s good that PZ and others are defending science from the holy rollers. I’d also like to see more blogging that exposes instances where science is manipulated for politics to the detriment of the public, and more posting about innovation being squelched by huge corporations and lobbies that don’t want competition.

    SB could categorize it’s own feeds according to whether the material is more weighted to pure science, but I am glad they don’t. Now you get people who think they don’t want to read pure science to read some science, and the structure encourages the geeks who avoid politics like vampires avoid daylight to get over it, get involved and do something to help their profession.

    If the mission of SB is to engage the general public (like me, for example), then there will have to be some mixing of “Nature” style articles and pure academic stuff with material that people like me can get a better handle on.

    On the other hand, if SB becomes too much like People magazine, I’ll stop reading it. That’s why I don’t read “Discover” magazine for example – they have decided to popularize their whole issue, and that turned it into just more noise in the mediasphere (tell ‘em I said so, I don’t care).

    Now on SB there’s a balance between pure science, and other stuff such as science politics and what I’ll call here “science explained for non-scientists”.

    So far it’s working, and it’s quite within the scope of SB (and I think healthy for SB) to have these discussions to help keep the mix in a healthy balance.

  38. #38 Ed Brayton
    May 29, 2008

    I get comments fairly regularly that take the form of “why are you on ScienceBlogs if you’re talking about (fill in the blank).” I’ve gotten it often enough that it irritates me and I usually just reply “don’t like it? Then go somewhere else.”

  39. #39 idahogie
    May 29, 2008

    Dave, Stephanie,

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. Reader A goes to Pharyngula and sees all the posts. Reader B visits and sees only Original Science Content. Reader C sees OSC plus Other Science Content and History of Science posts. Each reader establishes the level of content he or she wants to receive as a preference.

    You may correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that Research Blogging does that. However, a little less snark would be appreciated.

  40. #40 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    idahogie, I’m sorry. In the context of the comments and discussions that prompted me to do this work–far more than are referenced in the post itself–it would have been difficult for me to read your comment as anything other than trying to weed out all non-science content. Not your fault.

    Dave can speak to the capabilities of Research Blogging far better than I can, but you’re probably right.

  41. #41 Dave Munger
    May 29, 2008

    Well, on Cognitive Daily you can click on the “research” tab and just get the science. On Pharyngula there isn’t a single overarching category but you could click on the “archives” tab and explore just the categories you’re interested in (“science,” “fossils,” “molecular biology,” and so on).

    Most blogs do offer some way to sort through their posts. ResearchBlogging offers a way to sort through the posts on a whole bunch of different blogs. In our new version (coming soon™) we will also offer readers the opportunity to view just posts about research on a blog-by-blog basis.

    If you only want politics, however, you’d have to go elsewhere.

  42. #42 Greg Laden
    May 29, 2008

    So the guys that post more of everything get more readers. That isn’t surprising.

    I don’t think I have more readers than Cog Daily. I know I don’t have more readers than Pharyngula. My extra posts don’t add readers, they just increase the annoyance level for the readers that I do have.

    What? My efforts to replicate People magazine have failed? Drats!

  43. #43 Geoffrey Alexander
    May 29, 2008

    @ Stephanie

    Actually I do regard statistics as a science, of course (although my own background is Computational Science and Information Theory), as an engineer the application of statistics per se as a wholesale tool of analysis is bound by such practical limits that when I see it and other subgenre of mathematics otherwise applied in the popular sphere without professional rigors (or safeguards as the engineer in me would have it) I get snarky (and when it comes to clowns like Berlinski, I get moreso…)

    Not here though — this is just nice, straight-up analysis of a well-specified question (and using good perspective on the question). I’m wondering how many more dimensions of categorization (re a given post’s subject or approach) would reveal even more, or whether it might simply be tedious. In cases were the subject is ostensibly non-science, is the approach from either an appreciably scientific or is it approached from a purely political POV? Is the issue regarded in a particular post part of an ongoing narrative in the context of the blog (part of the blog’s political and social culture perhaps ) or just ad-hoc in-box mongering to fill a post-quota? and so forth.

    (I wonder if one could get a grant for this?)

    My point would be though that applying the same numbers-assessment to these other metrics is less revelatory of meaning that considering these questions vacuus duco, and it’s in the depths of these more subtle assessments the real truth lies (so to speak). Statistics only goes so far; take me that far and I can walk the rest of the way.

  44. #44 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Geoffrey, I don’t think I want the task of trying to separate science from politics in the thinking of science bloggers. Even political posts that don’t explicitly say anything about someone’s field of research often obviously reflect it.

    See Greg’s recent posts on racism and sexism in the Democratic primaries. You can’t imagine that those aren’t influenced by his study of human development and gender roles? Or that PZ’s posts lambasting politicians for spewing crap about homosexuality aren’t influenced by his understanding of the current science on the subject? Or that a blogger talking about education funding isn’t aware of the studies showing how much a dollar spent in early childhood saves in costs to society later?

    And on an unrelated note: dude, science is almost all baby steps. It isn’t not science just because it doesn’t answer all your questions.

  45. #45 bayman
    May 29, 2008

    Good idea and nice study. It would be cool for blog readers to have access to more of this type of information.

  46. #46 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    bayman, are you allowed to come over here and say nice things? :) Thanks.

  47. #47 FtK
    May 29, 2008

    What I find interesting is that for a group of bloggers who insist that religion has no influence on science as well as relentlessly claiming that ID (which is not religious) is dead, dead, dead, it’s obvious from the endless posts written on the two topics that that is not the case. It’s also apparent that your philosophical viewpoints are every bit as bent as the “pseudoscience” pushers you so abhor.

    Personally, I think the description “sciencebloggers” should be changed to something like “thepoliticsofscience” or something a bit more accurate. Most of you are more about bashing religion and groups of people who don’t follow your dogma than you are about providing the public with information about what is happening in the world of science.

  48. #48 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Wow. Trolled. I feel like a real blogger now.

  49. #49 themadlolscientist
    May 29, 2008

    I suppose I’d call myself something of a Scienceblogs groupie. I like the Scienceblogs precisely because they’re not “just science.” Science doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do scientists.

    The Scienceblogs are valuable precisely because the bloggers talk about the cultural ecosystem, if you will, that they live and work in. These blogs are at least as much about being a scientist as they are about doing science. And being a scientist – a human being who does science – necessarily involves dealing with life in human society in general, including all the political and cultural craziness out there.

    There are plenty of other outlets, both online and offline, for “pure science,” and lots of individual blogs out there that deal with “life through a scientist’s eyes.” But AFAIK, there’s no other far-ranging assembly of scientists addressing the world outside the lab like you’ll find on Scienceblogs.

    One of the goals of Seed magazine (host of Scienceblogs) is to explore science’s place in the context of messy human society, and I have yet to see a Scienceblog that doesn’t do exactly that. Keep doing what you’re doing, Sciencebloggers! I wouldn’t change a thing.

  50. #50 FtK
    May 29, 2008

    Stephanie,

    Just curious why you consider me a troll? It seems to me that I’m posting on topic, and I’ve certainly wondered in the past why Sciencebloggers are so often focused on religion and politics rather than actual science. In fact, I’ve considered putting together some graphs similar to your own and posting them at my blog. But, I thought I’d be nice and not point out the lack of actual “science” being discussed by this group sponsored by Seed Magazine.

  51. #51 Geoffrey Alexander
    May 29, 2008

    Geoffrey, I don’t think I want the task of trying to separate science from politics in the thinking of science bloggers. Even political posts that don’t explicitly say anything about someone’s field of research often obviously reflect it.

    Yes, Stephanie, that’s exactly my point, and why I think that any quantification of content type is entirely misleading because of those very undercurrents of connection between science in raw and science in its social/political aspect. We can’t rightly say a given blog has, overall, “more science” or “more politics” but we can say this or that blog, over time, shows a propensity for Science with a social/laboratory/historical/political flavor (pick one, or more — they are all valid).

  52. #52 FtK
    May 29, 2008

    Of course, considering the comments here and the content of the *popular* blogs in the Scienceblogs group, it seems that your readers are those who are looking for politics and religion bashing rather than real science.

    So, that’s cool, keep doing what you’re doing…but I’d seriously consider a different group sponsor and a change of description simliar to my first suggestion.

    Oh, hey, here’s a good description of this group…

    *The Political Sideshow in the Scientific Culture Wars*

    …or something simliar.

  53. #53 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    FtK, I’m not unfamiliar with your work. Even if I were, the post above is a great example of latching onto a tangential discussion in order to push your own agenda. You’re trolling.

  54. #54 Mike The Englishman
    May 29, 2008

    FtK, I’m not unfamiliar with your work. Even if I were, the post above is a great example of latching onto a tangential discussion in order to push your own agenda. You’re trolling.

    I don’t want to act as if PZ is ultimate authoritah of the interwebs, and I wouldn’t presume to speak for him in any case, but FtK, aka “ForTheKids” has been consigned to the Pharyngula dungeon for overwhelming creepiness. She is basically a concern troll and IDiot; I refer you to her blog for evidence thereof.

  55. #55 Dave Munger
    May 29, 2008

    FtK, Don’t mistake long comment threads for “popularity.” While we’re not allowed to give traffic statistics, I can assure you that some of the most-visited blogs on ScienceBlogs.com rarely if ever discuss politics. Politics tends to attract more persistent trolls and longer discussions.

  56. #56 Greg Laden
    May 29, 2008

    Stephanie, I’m very concerned that you are saying that “For The Kids” is trolling. Perhaps she is just concerned for the kids, and not actually trolling. Concern is something to think about all the time, even when out strolling along the avenue.

    Don’t be concerned, though, I tend to patroll the comment section of my blog regularly.

  57. #57 Greg Laden
    May 29, 2008

    Well, Dave, yeah, but… if we take the four, five, or six (or so) blogs on Sb that are heavy on politics and add up their numbers, which we can’t discuss, that’s a very very large chunk of our readers (like, the rest … the ones reading science … could go away and that Shell Oil ad would stay right there on the side bar).

    The truth is… (ready for this) most of our readers prefer the politics and stuff. Yet many do like the science. If we actually blogged in proportion to what the readers seem to like, there would be very much LESS science than there is.

    Putting it another way, despite severe pressure to stop writing about science, we continue to do so. That is because we are cool with science.

  58. #58 bayman
    May 29, 2008

    It would be interesting to compare Carl Zimmer’s blog. My sense is he writes primarily about science for the pop-culture audience with very little politics. Is there less of a market for this type of quality pop-sci writing than culture wars politicizing?

  59. #59 bayman
    May 29, 2008

    Do other Sciencebloggers like Zimmer feel pressured to stop writing about science?

  60. #60 Greg Laden
    May 29, 2008

    Part of it may be that the science is just more work (to read and comment on).

  61. #61 Dave Munger
    May 29, 2008

    Greg,

    Again, not giving specifics, only 4 of the top 10 blogs on ScienceBlogs discuss politics more than science. That’s including Respectful Insolence, which to me is a debatable case since Orac focuses on science most of the time; he just focuses on extremely hot-button issues.

    Yes, the elephant in the room, Pharyngula, gets a vast swath of that traffic, but once you get down to the next 10 to 20 blogs, most of them talk about science most of the time, and they attract an awful lot of readers.

    Bayman, I don’t think Zimmer feels pressured in the least to stop writing about science. He makes an excellent living at it.

  62. #62 Greg Laden
    May 29, 2008

    Dave: You are right, of course. I started to add up the same thing and ran into the same problem. I did not want to put Orac in politics yet it is all politics. Yet it is all science.

    If you take pharyngula out you get a whole different story. But still, dispatches must be twice the size of the next blog in size, but then do you take that out? I’m in the top ten most of the time and I’m not small, and I’m half science (see analysis above).

    Yes, there is a lot of science. But what I find interesting here is that the statement that there is not enough science, or that there is too much of other stuff, is almost always stated as a flaw or an accusation, yet the readers read what they read and …. most of it is not science according to any somewhat strict definition.

    On my own blog, my most visited posts are often not science. Or, if they are they are politics related to science. My most sciencey posts, or at least the ones that I think of that way, are almost always he least read of the substantive posts. This is probably because people read them and then don’t link to them.

    In the month of march, my top posts were:

    PZ Myers expelled
    Myers and dawkins speak out
    Teacher under fire (about creationism)
    Homosexual geneticists isolate gene (a joke video)
    behold the vampire squid (serious but short, squid in title)
    myers dawkins expleled gate
    expelled the movie
    happy birthday PZ myers
    murdered 15 year old (gay school kid killed)
    the framing critique.

    So my readers mainly want to read about PZ.

    I wrote many peer reviewed posts, lots of other stuff that month. We are basically mirroring hollywood here. THe really good documentaries are what we really want to do, but the people line up for pictures of britney spears pregnant, lurid stories of murder, and of course, the soap operas (pz/dawkins/expelled)

    Science is to be found across the above listed posts, but I think they are the sorts of posts that people look at and say “that’s not science” ….

  63. #63 Dave Munger
    May 29, 2008

    Sure, but you count as a “non-science” scienceblog, since you write less about non-science than science. CogDaily’s most popular posts are, for the most part, about science. That was true even back when we used to post a lot more silly polls and YouTube videos.

    Someone (and it’s not going to be me) would have to do a detailed post-by-post analysis of all the “science” scienceblogs to find out if non-science is *always* more popular.

  64. #64 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Dave and Greg, this is why the Politics of Science definition is so limited. As I mentioned upthread, I don’t really want the job of figuring out where the line between a science post and a political post is. I went with a pretty conservative definition that wasn’t going to favor either of the blogs where I’m most visible.

  65. #65 Sili
    May 29, 2008

    Dey see me trollin’. Dey hatin’.

    I’m reminded of the Websnark evergreen “Entitlement and the Modern Fandom”.

    Some people will always want to control the actions of others. When they say “You need more X content”, it’s just code for “Shut the fuck up. You shouldn’t be on the Internet.”

    I gather blogging on SB is by invitation only. As I said on ERV’s last post, the Seed overlords must know what they’re getting, and if they’re unhappy they can disinvite bloggers. Actually, I’d be curious to know just how much mail they get asking for PZed and ERV to get thrown out.

    As I also said (or rather stole from Arnold Zwicky) “Labels aren’t definitions”. It may be called “Scienceblogs”, but that does not imply that it’s all science all the time.

  66. #66 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    Sili’s link doesn’t work, but the essay is worth reading. Here:

    http://www.websnark.com/archives/2004/10/entitlement_and.html

  67. #67 PZ Myers
    May 29, 2008

    I have the solution.

    1. Everyone must stop posting anything that anyone else might not like.

    2. All blogs must have only one subject.

    3. The person writing the blog may not decide what he or she wants to write; the subject is determined by an external panel or committee of reviewers.

    You might wonder how we will enforce these rules. Simple. If someone cheats and breaks these rules, their readers will immediately stop reading it and go to a compliant blog.

    THIS IS HOW WE SHALL ACHIEVE BLOGTOPIA!!!

  68. #68 Paul W.
    May 29, 2008

    I would guess that a fair fraction of the blogs on SB don’t have as many total posts as P.Z. has science posts.

    Just to pick a blog completely at random, have a look at the February archive for Framing Science.

    http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2008/02/

    19 total posts. I think a quick scan of the titles will give you a pretty good idea how many of them are about science per se, or blogging on peer-reviewed research.

    I’m not in any way suggesting that FS doesn’t belong on SB. I do not think it’s reasonable to expect most bloggers on SB to be anywhere near as prolific as P.Z. or Greg, or any “purer” science-wise.

    It would be interested if somebody looked at the February archive counts of all the SB blogs to see how many have fewer total posts than P.Z. has science posts. (Or fewer posts per blogger, for group blogs.)

  69. #69 PZ Myers
    May 29, 2008

    It would be interested if somebody looked at the February archive counts of all the SB blogs to see how many have fewer total posts than P.Z. has science posts.

    So we can fire them?

    Actually, I don’t find that very interesting. I am not the measure of blogging, nor is Darren Naish (even if he does have an excellent blog).

    This whole thing is very peculiar. Why should anyone have these anxieties about what other people do on their blog? It’s an entirely voluntary medium; read a blog if you want, ignore it if you want. It is not a zero sum game, either; if someone reads Greg Laden’s blog, it doesn’t mean that their brain is now full and they can’t read ERV.

    How about if everyone writes the blog they want to write, reads the blogs they want to read? Maybe that would be BLOOOGTOOOOOOOPIAAAAA!!!!!

  70. #70 Kevin H
    May 29, 2008

    Thanks for the post. I’m new to science blogs and have been a bit overwhelmed by the combined feed, and have been looking to pair down, or at least highlight a few blogs that I think are a starting point that match my interests.

    One idea might be to instigate a self-imposed, but inter-blog consistent set of tags that bloggers could mark posts with in line with your categories. This would make analysis such as yours much easier to create, and could be applied to all science blogs across the blogosphere. You could browse blogs by # or % of posts on your topic of interest, etc.

  71. #71 David Marjanovi?
    May 29, 2008

    The conclusion I draw from these statistics (good work by the way) is that Pharyngula is not a science blog. General/Blogkeeping/Politics (of science or not) have an equal share of the pie, and there is a little bit of actual science thrown in. When a new item from Pharyngula appears on my aggregator, there’s a small chance it will be about actual science

    Much of the rest is still related to science. For example, about cdesign proponentsists that want pseudoscience taught in schools, or about politicians who make decisions based on pseudoscience or otherwise against the available data.

    And besides, the scientific method can be applied to a fairly wide range of fields. Take politics. Saint Ronnie Raygun tested the hypothesis of supply-side economics by experiment, like a (…rather ruthless…) scientist. The hypothesis was falsified. Captain Unelected felt that doing statistics with a sample size of 1 was too uncertain and repeated the experiment, with the same result. Scientists are entirely justified in concluding that the experiment should be stopped already.

    Isn’t it our duty as scientists to find out if reality has a liberal bias?

    —————————

    FtK, if you want a lesson or three in the philosophy of science, please tell me. I’m available to explain the difference between methodological and metaphysical naturalism, the reason why science cannot prove but can disprove, the difference between dogma and an evidence-based conclusion, and the like. I have little hope that you will accept this offer — so far you have mostly behaved as if you didn’t even want to know what you keep talking about –, but I’d like to be surprised.

  72. #72 Paul W.
    May 29, 2008

    P.Z.,

    I agree completely.

    The only reason to see how many blogs have fewer total posts than you or Greg have science posts is to rebut the silliness about you guys “not posting enough science.”

    Counting total posts is just much easier than what Stephanie did, and would shine a similar light on the (non-)problem; it’s ridiculous for people to complain about you or Greg if a bunch of other people obviously aren’t doing any better at posting “enough science.”

    It would suggest that what they’re really unhappy about is not the “pure” science you don’t post, but the other stuff you do post. (And that you’re wildly popular for it.)

    Bloggers should blog as they see fit, and readers should the blogs they like, period.

  73. #73 magetoo
    May 29, 2008

    It would be interesting to see an analysis based on something like the amount of text instead of just post count, which doesn’t really tell us that much.

    I would guess that “Original Science” would end up taking a bigger share, and “Other Science” a smaller one (short “Here is an interesting paper by so-and-so” type posts versus pages of text about one’s own topic of interest). “Blogkeeping” and “General” would probably shrink dramatically too — think posted videos, PZ’s polls and razib’s cats.

    I suggest this because it would be useful for me, of course. (Me, me, me!) I really enjoy sitting down reading well-written pieces about some topic that I only have a brief exposure to. Posts consisting of just a link to some paper, of which I can only see the abstract, not so much.

  74. #74 Stephanie Z
    May 29, 2008

    magetoo, you might be surprised. Bloggers tended, with the exception of a few things that were just links or videos, to write to length. Not surprising–a lot of fiction writers have a natural length; why not bloggers? It seems that people get used to thinking or arguing or storytelling in set patterns.

    PZ’s poll posts aren’t as short as you think they are. He tends to give background on the issue before suggesting that people vote. There’s background on much of the politics too. Greg does do shorter posts sometimes, but they’re frequently linked, carrying on a conversation from one post to the next or adding to a series. Bayblab is less consistent, since there are multiple bloggers. Dave and Darren have pretty standard lengths unless they’re doing something really unusual.

    Of course, you’re always welcome to quantify these things for yourself. :)

  75. #75 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    May 29, 2008

    PZ Myers expelled
    Myers and dawkins speak out
    Teacher under fire (about creationism)
    Homosexual geneticists isolate gene (a joke video)
    behold the vampire squid (serious but short, squid in title)
    myers dawkins expleled gate
    expelled the movie
    happy birthday PZ myers
    murdered 15 year old (gay school kid killed)
    the framing critique.

    Hmm.. most of those were PZ, and two of the others were linked to my site. So, I come to an additional conclusion…

    People want to either read about PZ, or Tangled Up in Blue Guy

    FTK, what a silly little person you are. ID is religious. Pshaw!

  76. #76 Carlie
    May 29, 2008

    I think Scienceblogs is supposed to be a community, yes? It’s a bunch of sciency people all talking about stuff. The group “people who like and do science” is not identical to the grou “people who like to talk about nothing but science”. One thing I find valuable on Sciblogs is the ability to see how people who are trained to think as scientists treat other topics.
    And the overlap between science and other areas is tremendous, and difficult to quantify. When Sciencewoman talks about the difficulty of juggling a research schedule with summer childcare, is that about science? (yes) When Zuska talks about faulty cultural assumptions of women in engineering, is that science? (yes, again)
    People who complain DON’T HAVE TO READ THEM. It’s amazing how that works!

    I do agree, though, that a standard set of category tags across all of the ScienceBlogs would be a Very Good Thing. A Super Duper Very Good Thing would then to be able to subscribe to category feeds in addition to individual blog feeds, so as to catch good posts about topics one really likes on blogs that person may not frequent.

  77. #77 greg laden
    May 29, 2008

    Just a few comments before I go fishing.

    PZ: if someone reads Greg Laden’s blog, it doesn’t mean that their brain is now full and they can’t read ERV.

    Seriously? Then what’s the point??????

    I do want everyone to know two things. First, I see my blog as totally internally coherent. Like my teaching. I teach one class. It is a very large class covering a range of material at many levels, so large that I must cut it up into a half dozen different sections that most colleges or universities call individual courses. But there is only one.

    I only blog about one thing, it is just a very large topic, beyond most categories. Read the top of the blog, I describe it there.

    Stephanie wrote this post, crunched the numbers, and gave me a spreadsheet, but I redid the graphics (because I wanted to fit them to the blog format). Notice the colors I chose to indicate the categories. THIS SHOULD TELL YOU SOMETHING!!

    The other thing I wanted people to understand is that I put a LOT of effort into deciding and planing what to write about, and 100 percent of that effort is wasted and has no effect on the outcome. There is no actual plan (that works) yet there is a perfect totality that exists only in my mind and is reflected imperfectly in the minds of a few others. My blog is a golden mean floating in a cave with a flickering fire casting its shadows imperfectly on the cave walls. It is that shadow that appears as ‘posts’ on this blog. Blogotopia is an essence. Actually, right now, it is the double shot latte that came out of my mother-in-law’s amazing espresso machine.

    I’m going to change the name of this blog to Plato’s Ghosts.

    OK, time to get my fish…

  78. #78 laurisa
    May 30, 2008

    right on, Stephanie! you did good, lady. thx.

  79. #79 themadlolscientist
    May 30, 2008

    Isn’t it our duty as scientists to find out if reality has a liberal bias?

    All the evidence collected to date seems to indicate that it does indeed. :-)

    Happy fishing, Greg!

  80. #80 clinteas
    May 30, 2008

    Gee,I hate to be late to the party !

    Can I just say that I find this whole discussion totally superfluous,as others have pointed out before me,PZ anf Greg have more Science posts every month that most others in a year just given the frequency of their posting,so what are we talking about? And Stephanie,good job,but I think to compare a 15-post-a-month blog with Pharyngula is just not going to give you comparable data.

    As to what is a science post and what isnt,just one point I want to make,it is indeed very relevant for Science,and society in general,if IDiots and death cultists in the US are trying to remove the teaching of science from the classroom and replace it with goddidit ! And every scienceblogger should see the relevance of it and blog about it often !

  81. #81 clinteas
    May 30, 2008

    Not that I am suggesting to any SciBlogger what to blog about LOL

  82. #82 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2008

    Thanks, Laurisa!

    clinteas, finding out whether there is any point in comparing them was, of course, part of the point. People do keep suggesting that there is.

  83. #83 clinteas
    May 30, 2008

    I dont have a blog myself Stephanie,and mostly lurk/sometimes post around here,but to me it just seems that all the people here are doing an excellent job at broadening my perspective on things outside my own sphere of knowledge(which is medicine),so I have laisser faire attitude towards this,if i dont like it,I just wont read it,easy as…
    It would be nice to have a category search implemented across the blogs tho,have to agree,good idea.

  84. #84 greg laden
    May 30, 2008

    On the cross-blog category search:

    Our handler, Ginny, is working on this, but first she is developing a machine that causes 71 cats to meow at exactly the same time. Then she’ll apply it to us.

    But seriously, this is where a widget with open source programming would work. A bookmarking facility of some kind. User driven. Just thinking out loud.

    In the mean time, a keyword search on our search engine is fairly useful. And the channels.

  85. #85 Yasser
    May 30, 2008

    Google listas 6,760 entries from Pharyngula.
    4,040 of them have “god” in them
    3,290 of these have “religion” in them
    3,380 of them have “atheism” in them
    3,230 of these have “biology” in them
    2,570 of them have “Jesus” in them
    1,969 of them have “Darwin” in them
    1,530 of them have “Bush” in them

  86. #86 JanieBelle
    May 30, 2008

    It’s funny to me how many people there are out there on the intertubes who can’t seem to operate the back button on their browser.

    Dr. BA and Ed do seem to get a large number of “wahhh I don’t like what you just posted about” comments. Almost invariably, these commenters turn out to be religious whack-job concern trolls like Ftk. Also almost invariably, a ton of commenters chime in to remind them that no one is forcing them to read anything at all. And again almost invariably, the trolls return to whine another day about the exact same thing. What’s that saying about repeating behavior and expecting different results?

    Here’s the good part, though: As long as they’re sitting at their computer whining about a blogger’s subject matter, they’re not out -f- mucking up my local school district. As irritating as they are, there’s a silver lining.

    ***waves and laughs at Ftk***

    How’s that retraction and apology coming?

  87. #87 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2008

    Yasser, in the posts or in the comments?

  88. #88 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2008

    Oh, and: so what?

  89. #89 JanieBelle
    May 30, 2008

    Yasser,

    Google listas 6,760 entries from Pharyngula.
    4,040 of them have “god” in them
    3,290 of these have “religion” in them
    3,380 of them have “atheism” in them
    3,230 of these have “biology” in them
    2,570 of them have “Jesus” in them
    1,969 of them have “Darwin” in them
    1,530 of them have “Bush” in them

    Given that the only real source of the manufactuversy over Evolutionary Science comes from religio-political motivations, that’s sort of to be expected, is it not?

    Or, less verbosely,

    so what?

  90. #90 Yasser
    May 30, 2008

    Total/god/religion/atheism pages indexed by google

    pharyngula 6,760/4,040/3,290/3,380
    gregladen 2,700/215/297/132
    tetrapodzoology 407/36/8/1
    cognitivedaily 1,470/123/150/8
    bayblab: 2,590/61/40/3
    scienceblogs domain 133,000/16,400/15,900/7,190

    So, “god” features in 60% of Pharyngula vs. 12% of scienceblogs.

  91. #91 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2008

    They’re very pretty numbers, Yasser, but they don’t answer either of my questions.

  92. #92 Matt Penfold
    May 30, 2008

    One thing I want to add to this discussion.

    I have read on more than one blog that the really sciency type posts are the ones that take the most work to prepare. I can quite understand that. They also take more effort to read. Not in bad way, as in being badly written, but in that they normally deal with concepts that are not always the easiest to understand.

    To give an example, to do with books, but the argument is the same. I like crime fiction and can get through a 500 page book in a day if I am enjoying it. I also like history, and am currently reading the first volume of Kershaw’s biography of Hitler. It is some 600 pages long (excluding the end-notes). So far it has taken me more than a week. The subject matter simply requires more effort.

  93. #93 lylebot
    May 30, 2008

    Yasser, Google is pretty unreliable as a word-counter. If you click through to some of those Pharyngula posts that supposedly have the word “god” in them, you won’t actually find it in the post or the comments. One reason is that there’s a random quote on the side of the page, and if Google indexed the page when the random quote had “god” in it, then the page will turn up in a search for the word “god”. So your results need to be adjusted by how likely a quote that contains the word “god” is to appear. There may be other sources of error like that too, and I think pretty much all of them would reduce your count.

  94. #94 JanieBelle
    May 30, 2008

    I lost one to the moderation queue, Greg. Would you mind fishing it out for me, please?

  95. #95 Yasser
    May 30, 2008

    One reason is that there’s a random quote on the side of the page, and if Google indexed the page when the random quote had “god” in it, then the page will turn up in a search for the word “god”.

    A random quote would not make the word “god” (and religion/atheism/etc.) appear in Pharyngula much more often than in the other blogs.

    To answer Stephanie, it is possible that the word “god” etc. could be from one of the commenters. Comments tend to be correlated with content though. If people tended to sprinkle their speech with references to “god” “religion” “atheism” etc. then why is the frequency of these words in scienceblogs lower than in Pharyngula? Indeed, these words get mentioned in scienceblogs even more often than in the whole English-language blogosphere.

  96. #96 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2008

    Yasser, if you look at Pharyngula, you will see that there is a quote generator on the sidebar with quotes about religion and atheism. That isn’t central to the content of the posts, but it is read by Google. By the way, if you do the same type of search for “evolution,” which is actually PZ’s field of interest, rather than the generic “biology,” you’ll also get nearly 4,000 hits–without a random quote generator.

    As for the commenters, yes, atheists feel very welcome at Pharyngula. Again, so what?

  97. #97 JanieBelle
    May 30, 2008

    Yasser, desperate to confirm his own bias,

    A random quote would not make the word “god” (and religion/atheism/etc.) appear in Pharyngula much more often than in the other blogs.

    Um… yes it would, if the quote generator only appears on Pharyngula. Do you happen to notice one on say, this blog, for instance?

  98. #98 Yasser
    May 30, 2008

    Yasser, if you look at Pharyngula, you will see that there is a quote generator on the sidebar with quotes about religion and atheism. That isn’t central to the content of the posts, but it is read by Google.

    It is part of the blog’s identity, since it was installed by its creator. Nonetheless we don’t have to rely on this measure for a quantification of the blog’s content

    Here is also the Technorati cloud for Pharyngula, which are taken by the labels chosen by the author of the blog.

    http://i26.tinypic.com/21tqxc.jpg

    The most frequent topics are (according to the scale grouping of technorati)

    1) creationism
    2) humor
    3) godlessness
    4) religion, science, kooks, weirdness
    5) politics

  99. #99 JanieBelle
    May 30, 2008

    …and again…

    So what?

    Is there a point to be made, other than that you don’t approve of Pharyngula’s content?

    Is there any reason whatsoever that anyone else should give a flying crap?

    No offense, but again, so what?

  100. #100 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2008

    Right, and creationism encompasses evolution, since PZ does a lot of explaining science in the context of others’ misunderstandings. You’ll notice there’s not a separate tag for it.

    No one is saying Pharyngula contains only posts directly related to current scientific research. Several solutions have been offered above to help you avoid polluting your eyeballs with anything aside from pure science. And the analysis shows that there’s plenty of that at Pharyngula, which is why Pharyngula is a science blog.

    What exactly are you trying to get at?

  101. #101 JanieBelle
    May 30, 2008

    A very simple solution:

    Click here.

  102. #102 greg laden
    May 30, 2008

    I don’t get what’s wrong with god/religion/atheism appearing so frequently as a keyword on Pharyngula. PZ Myers is one of the world’s leading experts on atheism. It would be very odd if these google results were any different.

    Janie, your comment has been released from the dungeon, and yes, I did like your writing project. I didn’t respond because I’m still thinking about it.. Mainly I’m thinking about the problem of writing what one wants to write as opposed to what one needs to write as opposed to what one ends up writing (in relation to blog-writing vs. non-blog-writing) Which of course is a private conversation between you and me but it also happens to be very relevant to this entire discussion.

  103. #103 Yasser
    May 30, 2008

    Is there a point to be made, other than that you don’t approve of Pharyngula’s content?

    Who said I don’t approve of its content? A blog doesn’t have to be a science blog to be interesting. I find Pharyngula to be one of the best blogs out there, that is why I subscribe to it.

  104. #104 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2008

    Yasser, PZ covered this already. See his first comment above.

  105. #105 JanieBelle
    May 30, 2008

    Thank you for fishing out my comment, Greg.

    I was beginning to worry that my story really suckapated, so I’m glad you took the time to mention it. (Please do remember that that was a very early idea, and it’s come some distance from there.)

    I know that there are unspoken boundaries of appropriateness in different venues, so although our discussion has been private, it is sort of part of this same discussion. Please feel free to take up as much or as little of it publicly as you see fit.

    For me, I write what I want, whenever it strikes me to write it. The difference of course being that I have no overseer and no set of expectations. In the beginning, it was important to me to be read, and due to the circumstances, it was vitally important that I be read by specific individuals.

    Somewhere along the line, I stopped bothering with the blog stats, which is funny because I get more traffic now than I ever have, thanks to a mention by PZ. (Mostly, it’s google searches for porn these days, though.)

    Sometimes I come across something which creates in me a feeling of obligation to write. I dislike that feeling. I don’t want to write because of obligation, and once that feeling of necessary activism began to dominate what I was writing I mostly stepped away from my blog. I just lost the joy of it for its own sake. Maybe that’s the source of my recent funk. Even my novel has become more of a chore than a pleasure.

    So, after all is said and done, I write whatever I feel like writing, whenever I feel like writing it. If there is someone who doesn’t like what I have to say, I’m not shy about telling that person to piss off.

    Whether a ScienceBlogger has the same freedom is something else, and a subject on which you would be more qualified to speak. Were it up to me, subject-matter whiners and concern trolls would have their computers smashed to pieces. If one is incapable of operating a browser’s back button, one has no business on the web.

    Yasser,

    “Who said I don’t approve of its content? A blog doesn’t have to be a science blog to be interesting. I find Pharyngula to be one of the best blogs out there, that is why I subscribe to it.”

    Well then what’s your beef? Now you’ve totally lost me.

    Perhaps you could get around to making your point?

  106. #106 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2008

    Hey, Janie, most novels hit that point somewhere along the way. That’s a hell of a lot of work for the original spark and joy to carry you through. I tend to clock my writing in decisions per minute, and the rate isn’t low. The good news is that it generally gets back to being fun. I spent my first (and so far, only–shortly to change) book in an adrenaline rush of combined terror and elation, but there were still points where I just wanted it done already. It’s such a different process from writing the short stuff. You have my sympathy.

  107. #107 JanieBelle
    May 30, 2008

    Thank you for the encouragement, Stephanie. It really is totally different than writing a blog post, or even a series of them.

    It’s a sci-fi novel to mock the UD Creobots (and others), and I’m afraid I might miss a good window of opportunity for such a thing to be published. I’ll keep at it, and keep looking for the fun to return…

    :)

  108. #108 greg laden
    May 30, 2008

    Janie, I want to encourage you to write your book, but I have to say that you should not worry about the window of opportunity. That window is not going away any time soon!

    Reading your comment was interesting for me because I have this obligatory content writing project thing going that is exactly as you say. On the other hand, when I DO get something done in that area, it is so much more satisfying (usually).

    It is not the obligatory nature that is the issue. I am obliged to write a lot of things and it is just a job, I just do it, there is usually no difficulty in sitting down and writing something I need to write. Rather, it is something else, which is what you touch on in your comment. Certain issues are very important to me, so important that I find it difficult to engage.

    For example, I honestly believe (and this will sound very obnoxious, so prepare yourself) that there are very few people who really understand the biology of the race/racism issue, or the biology of gender (in humans) and gender orientation to the extent that it is possible to understand these things. But there are a few, and I’m one of them. (that was the obnoxious part) (Notice I did not say “fully understand” …. not even close.) The problem is that the most basic question or argument requires going in reverse for a long distance and staring over again with basic thinking about behavioral biology and society. And so on.

    But the fact that the topic is technically difficult is not the problem. The problem is that it is emotionally difficult.

    SO far the best i’ve done in integrating blogging with this writing is to write the occasional blog post that elicits the usual range of misinformed or politically charged reactions. This has given me a laundry list of dumb things people will say about these topics. That is inspiring, potentially.

    I’ve written very little fiction. (Or maybe I’ve written only fiction.. )

  109. #109 PZ Myers
    May 30, 2008

    Just another datum of some relevance to this debate: I’m currently at an evo-devo conference. All these people I never met know me, which is a little weird, but I’ve been talking to them about this blogging thing, and science and the web, and I’m discovering how many of them discovered me.

    Would you believe that scientists know how to use google, and they’ll even google subjects of their scientific interest, to see what’s being said about it?

    It turns out a lot of the magic words I use in my science posts happen to be the same words these scientists are googling. And they find this silly blog that has a short summary of their favorite research topic. Try it. Something like “spiral cleavage” or “segmentation genes” or “Nematostella”, and there’s Pharyngula, somewhere in the first page or two. So I’ve got all these people telling me that they are greatly relieved to find their kind of work is getting the pharyngula treatment, rather than the Discovery Institute treatment.

  110. #110 greg laden
    May 30, 2008

    And…. why does Pharyngula come up on the first page of Google even when looking for some obscure evodevo word? Because Pharngula has a high ranking in Google’s scheme. For whatever reason.

  111. #111 Stephanie Z
    May 31, 2008

    Janie, no problem. Just paying it forward. And I agree with Greg. There will always be an audience for that. Even if this idiocy stops (hah!), someone will find it useful as oblique critique of another sort of idiocy altogether. That’s one of the great things about science fiction. I get to write about the problems of science in the service of capitalism or the perceptual problems caused by lack of empathy or the internal contradictions of religion, and it’s timeless as long as there’s a good story behind it all.

    Greg, not to add to the pressure or anything, but could you write a little faster? I keep seeing little hints around the edges, but the middle is a big blank. I hate big blanks. Not (ahem) that I’m telling you what to write.

  112. #112 JanieBelle
    May 31, 2008

    Thank you both again.

    In the plus column, there’s some good sex in it, too. I imagine that will always attract someone’s interest.

    ;)

    Ok, I’m off to buckle down and write some good sci-fi/sex/creobot bashing…

    Kisses

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