I wonder if being accurate is important in a discussion about the Post Pepsiblawg world, like this one on Science 2.0. If so, that post and some others I’ve seen are going to need some serious rewrite.
For instance, we see a lot of talk about who is in or not in the “top five” at Scienceblogs.com (in terms of page views or traffic). I’m not sure how important the theme is of “top five” … what it really means, how consistent membership in that list is, or who is in it … but the information being bandied about, at least that I’ve seen, and certainly in Hank Campbell’s post, is almost 100 percent wrong except one item: Pharyngula is indeed number one.
About half the other facts, assertions, assumptions, etc. made by Hank and by other bloggers talking about this are also wrong.
On the other hand Hank does make some good points. A network relates to personality. Scienceblogs.com does not have a personality … there are three or four, I suppose. But these personalities would not exist were it not for a network. I would not assume this is a bad thing, though Hank seems to assume that it necessarily is (evidence?). (I would not count the pharyngulista’s as a network generated personality. That’s all Pharyngula and that was there before scienceblogs and would remain if PZ took his show elsewhere. Nor would I agree that the pharungulistas are a bad thing, though one does have to be careful about criticizing any of them because the rest may well show upa and shit all over the place like rabid monkeys. But I still love ‘em, of course.)
The old saw that the blogs at SB produce 95 percent non-science is, of course, repeated again and again and every time I see it I wonder why. It simply isn’t true . Yes, there’s lots of other stuff on some of the blogs, but most of this assertion is based on a narrow definition of science (one that excludes technology like OpenSource, communications, like OpenAccess, outreach, like the Skeptics Movement, social implications, like Atheism and science education, addressing creationism), on an insistence (of which I am very suspicious) that the political and social implications of or links to science are taboo or at least can’t be counted as science, and some bad arithmetic. The credibility of those assertions is highly questionable. And, really, making the assertions again and again does not add weight.
The most important point that has been made by Hank and others is the issue of lopsided and out of proportion reactions to dumb-ass issues. The big stupid fights. To some extent this is a matter of definition, of course. Was our large scale blow-out in relation to the question of rape in war torn countries, one year ago in June, lopsided and unimportant? Not in my opinion. Was the blow out over boob-quake a bunch off irrelevant hot air? In my opinion, yes (even though I started it, on my blog, accidentally with my “fund the skepchicks” post) . Is the pathological need for some bloggers to find a chink in the armor of new bloggers they happen to notice and pounce, like a wolf needs to pee on the newcomer, to show status unsavory and blindingly stupid? Well, sure, but they mean well.
But, the key question is this: How many of these lopsided arguments exist because sb.com is a network? Boobquake is a debate that played out across a wide range of the internet. The rape issue was a coordinated inter-blog effort but one that spanned blogs NOT on Sb as well as on Sb. I’m not entirely sure the network itself is the moving factor here.
At conferences and other venues I’ve seen and heard the same comments being made about scienceblogs.com again and again and again. Some are valid and accurate, most are folk legend, and seeing or hearing these things from a perspective of having the data in hand, it’s often rather embarrassing. (For those making the assertions, not me.) In the end, the Pepsiblawg maneno has had three effects: 1) An exodus of people who had multiple reasons to move, but used this as their tipping point, and thus, with redistribution a somewhat new landscape in detail but not substantively. The same bloggers are going to keep blogging the same things and engaging in the same alliances and fights. No blogger to my knowledge has said “I’m leaving scienceblogs and I’m now going to change who I am”; 2) Thoughtful analyses, mainly coming from a half dozen bloggers (Bora, Abel, a few others, e.g., this) using this juncture as a moment to contemplate our respective navels, but usefully, I think; and 3) A stick has been poked into the cage of the usual detractors of scienceblogs.com so they all sling their poop at roughly the same time, in unison, for a change.
Which is fun to watch but I recommend goggles.