No, wait, wait, I didn’t mean that. I’LL TALK! Just don’t hurt me!

Dr. Rorschach at Furious Purpose said something which I noticed first on my blog then on his blog, and it made me giggle. Later, I listened to a new podcast in which Bora and Arikia are interviewed regarding and the broader issue of Science Blogging, and some things said during that podcast (by the host) made me laugh a little more. And so now I’m just sitting here in hysterics wondering WTF?

Let me start out with this, from the blog post Jerry Coyne on Phil Plait:

I have a niggling suspicion that some people in the accomodationist camp coordinate their media messages and talks somehow.

Which corresponds to this comment on my site:

… if one was to have a position on the issue … Mine is that Phil Plait, Rebecca and the other folks from the JRF have all apparently gotten the same briefing, are all stating the same message(Don’t be a Dick), and are all vehemently knocking down a strawman

The podcast in question was called Rebooting The News #60, and involved an interview by some guy named Dave of Bora Zivkovic (of A Blog Around the Clock and Arikia Millikan (of The Millikan Daily) about science blogging. Bora and Arikia made a number of excellent points about science blogging and in particular, and you should listen to the podcast. But, what struck me as interesting besides that is the number of times this “Dave” character would be hear something, say from Bora, like “… well, no, we didn’t at actually look over our shoulder to see what PZ was thinking …” and then interrupt and say something like “… Well, no, actually, I think maybe you were … I think maybe there was influence by the editors … I think may be there is a lack of editorial independence bla bla bla …” … again and again. Yes, he is quite sure that a number of things that are not really there are. There, that is.

So on one hand we have a conspiracy among certain categories of bloggers/skeptics/etc (the weekly briefing about dicks?) and on the other hand we have dark hidden influences that certain prescient people can see even if no one else can.

I wish. Maybe somebody would be paying me better. But no.

Let me start with Dr. Rorschach’s suggestion that certain people … accommodationists, etc. … are getting together and communicating in private before saying stuff out loud, instead of just reading each other’s public pronouncements.

Well, actually, it’s true in a way.

In the last, say, 60 days, I’ve had conversations, in private medium (speaking face to face, email, whatever) with this, this, this*, this, this*, this*, this*, this, this, this, this*, this, this, this, this*, this, this*, this, this*, this*, this*, this, and this* blogger or online personality in which we communicated about one or more of the current hot issues in skepticism, atheism, or whatever. The asterisk designates contacts that were extensive, such as one hour-plus phone conversations in the middle of the night, dinner, collective consumption of beer, whatever, in which, generally, multiple topics were covered. If you look at this list of contacts, you will notice something interesting. The list spans the so-called New Atheist and the so-called Accommodationist camps. The list spans the Traditional Feminists (e.g. who were not comfortable with boobquake) and the whatever-you-call the other feminist, such as the Sepchicks, who enraged Dave Mabus and others by engaging in the quake. This is a chunk of the liberal blogosphere, as it were, conspiring.

But why would that not be the case? Dr. Rorschach, niggling suspiciously (It’s OK, I looked up niggling, it derives from the verb “to niggle” which is to be picky about irrelevant things) seems to imply that we are not to discuss these matters on our own, like jurors going home for the night instead of remaining sequestered. But we do. Yet, somehow, the dark forces that Dave imagines to be shaping our commentary are not following us home and finding a way to control our brains.

Unfortunately. I could use the help.

The truth is, it (it = whatever we’all are blogging and talking about) is a fairly open conversation and it is happening all the time, with the occasional flocking together at events like ScienceOnline, or the occasional dyadic conversation such as the aforementioned podcast, or various bloggingheads episodes.

The role of the network, by the way, is mainly at the reader end. The vast, vast majority of blogging done at by the 70 bloggers we have here (yes, the network is still quite alive and fairly large) is done with zero coordination or ‘community’ of any kind. The community part comes with the readers and commenters, who cross fertilize and tie together some of the blogs. I have just as much conspiratorial communication with fellow bloggers not on Scienceblogs than with people on the network.

And despite our Olympian efforts to take over the world, so far we have little to show. Obviously, we are doing this wrong …

So, in the end, what do Bora, Arikia, Rebecca, Phil and Me and all the others linked to above have in common? We are humans with email, phones, modes of transportation and communication, who live in overlapping widely distributed networks of informal communication. Do bloggers, in the background, plan what to write in some sort of conspiracy? It seems to me that this never happens, or only rarely. Sheril, Isis, Stephanie and I “conspired” 14 months ago to make June a month to blog about a certain topic. There was no discussion on what to say, just that there would be a blog-push on this topic to increase general awareness. That’s about as conspiratorial as it gets. But that does not mean that there is not a conversation. How could there not be? There should be.

Perhaps more need to engage in such a thing.


  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    August 26, 2010

    Dammit, now we’re going to have to kill you. Or buy you a beer. I’ll have to look at the handbook to figure out which.

    Your list repeats, which I suspect means there were many more namable contacts than that.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    August 26, 2010

    I understand where Dave comes from – the cut-throat world of early techie blogging. He essentially invented blogging software, podcasting software, and RSS. He started, ran and sold companies for millions of dollars. He knows that techie bloggers always have something to push, something to sell, so one always has to read between the lines.

    But Dave does not understand that science blogging is very different, perhaps opposite. We have no “product” to sell, no money to make, nothing to market. Our product is, if one wants to be snarky about is, Purity. It is essential for science bloggers to be perceived as independent and with the highest level of integrity. We are vicious toward anyone who implies we can be bought (“pharma shills” etc). We are painfully transparent, especially those of us not working in academic research any more.

    Pepsigate is a great example of just how sensitive we are to any potential perceptions of a loss of integrity. We have a nose for such things, a finely tuned radar. Which is why Pepsi-gate exploded within minutes of that blog getting included.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    August 26, 2010

    Ah,…. that does explain a lot, thanks. I had assumed he was from the humanities or something…

  4. #4 Coturnix
    August 26, 2010

    LOL, not Dave Winer 😉

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    August 26, 2010

    That was Dave *Winer*? THE Dave Winer? Oh, well, in that case, it all makes sense.

    Well with all due respect for Dave, and I do have more than a little respect, it is probably a good idea to research the guests and the topic a bit more, but I suppose I was seeing that as an interview rather than a spoken bloggy threeway thing, which is perhaps what it was meant to be. Because, in an interview, one reads the book before talking to the author.

  6. #6 Coturnix
    August 26, 2010

    Jay Rosen was missing and he followed the sciblogs stuff more closely. We did what we could considering the circumstances. And it is more of a discussion than interview, by design, I think.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    August 26, 2010

    It was a good podcast. It should be edited, though. I think a lot of people will not listen past the stuff in the beginning. I only did it out of loyalty to the two guests.

  8. #8 Rorschach
    August 26, 2010

    Hello Greg, if you had cared to quickly check with me, I could have told you that my post is referring to Rebecca Watson and Phil Plait, and noone else.These two I have heard talk, and these two seem to have to the word the same message.
    I was not referring to anyone else, and I don’t know the other people you mention in your post.
    Shitstir much ?

  9. #9 Rorschach
    August 26, 2010

    Oh, and my post was based on Phil’s talk that’s available on his site, and I heard Rebecca live in Denmark earlier this year.No podcasts involved.Thanks for the traffic tho…:-)

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    August 26, 2010

    Yes, I totally understood your point. There is something that I did forget to add, though I intended to, and implied it by using two different examples of conspiratorial thought (yours and Dave’s). This is that I hear this a lot. I have been ‘accused’ or seen others ‘accused’ of communicating elsewhere. Your particular statement was simply an example of that. And the point of my post is that yes, there is a lot of communication elsewhere. It doesn’t all happen here in plain view, and not for any particular reason.

  11. #11 Irene
    August 26, 2010

    “Shitstir much?”

    I appreciate that GL responded to a suggestion that Phil or Rebecca’s similar points of view were of less validity since the two had “obviously” conspired. *That* was shit stirring, because it is an assumption with no basis, and because it is a cheap trick. The argument that multiple expressions of a similar view are really of one source is much like an accusation of sock puppetry, with the same effect. That is what I think you were called on, Rorschach.

    Do you tell most people who disagree with you that they are either conspiratorial sock puppets or shit stiring? That would make you a bit of a dick. Only a little, though. Just a little dick.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    August 27, 2010

    He was too modest to ping:

    (Irene take special note)