Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

ScienceBlogs = ZombieBlogs

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you are the CEO of Seed Media Group (SMG), you are well aware that Bora Zivkovic left ScienceBlogs 24 hours ago. Shockingly, despite this important loss, Adam Bly, CEO of SMG, has not communicated with any of us who remain at ScienceBlogs about this loss either by telephone, email, text, twitter, carrier pigeon or even with smoke signals. As far as I am concerned, ScienceBlogs is now ZombieBlogs, the undead, a heartless and soulless brain-eating monster that once was a beautiful living ideal.


A significant number of us have been planning a strike, starting now, and continuing until SMG takes significant steps to correct the numerous problems they’ve saddled us with and until they put the proper priority on supporting us — the Sb cash cow. But considering their track record, how much do you want to bet that Adam Bly/SMG/Sb will do nothing at all?

At this point, we are deeply concerned about the future of SMG/Sb, primarily due to the chronic lack of paychecks and the complete lack of communication after all those promises that SMG/Sb made just 12 days ago to work at developing transparency in their operations. How can an entire media organization fall mysteriously silent again, and at such a critical time as this? I thought a media company was all about communication, but I guess this is yet another deception I’ve grown to accept after my indenture here at SMG/Sb.

I am not sure what this media circus looks like to my readers, but as one of the writers here, I am both baffled and incensed by this inexplicable veil of secrecy that surrounds the entire SMG/Sb operation — none of us blog writers have any idea if there are any SMG employees in the offices anymore. And all this confusion is after Captain, er .. Adam .. Bly promised he would address our very real concerns and make an effort to improve communication with us.

But unlike the real Captain Bligh, Adam Bly is nothing more than a smooth-talking con artist. Unlike the real captain Bligh, not only does Adam not know how to sail a ship, but he also is absolutely clueless when it comes to either successfully running a business or communicating effectively with his employees, both of which are especially damning since he captains a media outfit that, you know, relies on communicating with the public. So most of us who write blogs here are racing around trying to save our work whilst Adam Bly’s “ship” silently sinks beneath the waves, never to be seen again.

Maybe you think this lack of communication is a recent development at SMG, but if so, you’d be wrong. Very very wrong. Lack of communication from on high has been the standard operating procedure for SMG for nearly all of the years of its existence, leaving the individual blog writers, Scienceblogs itself, and even the “overlords” — those people who were hired to communicate with us on behalf of SMG — in the dark. This, even though SMG has been chronically late in paying us our meager salaries for more than two years now.

Equally revealing, SMG/Sb has not hired any technical staff since that position became vacant last year, choosing instead to rely on part-time IT consultants who are left to stare at the platform code from afar only after a crisis has developed, without coming in to the offices and without actually improving anything — astonishing when you realize that SMG/Sb supposedly is all about online communications. No, wait. This is not astonishing, it’s downright pathetic. Oh, but they did just hire an IT expert, part-time (!!), a few days ago, only after this PepsiCo fiasco, and only because we demanded that SMG do so. This IT expert is charged with attempting to fix myriad problems that have plagued Sb for years now. Unfortunately, our new tech person immediately went on vacation, so we are still without support, like a rudderless ship floundering in a storm.

Our lack of tech support, combined with our lack of paychecks and a total blackout on any and all forms of communication has demoralized the entire community. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the PepsiCo blog popped up on our rss feeds out of the blue, without warning or input from any of us as to how this might be accomplished in a way to cause the least amount of harm to the credibility of the site and to everyone who contributes here. Most of us erupted with a firestorm of righteous indignation.

In retrospect, such blatantly unethical behavior should not have surprised any of us. Since Sb attracts far more traffic and generates far more money than the defunct SEED magazine ever did, it appears that sole function for Sb is to be the cash cow whose milk funds Adam Bly’s pricey fantasy lifestyle as a hotshot magazine publisher living in lower Manhattan. Forgetting, of course, that magazine publishers have to, you know, actually publish a magazine.

Against this chaotic backdrop of turmoil, we lose Bora. Besides being as close to a brother as I’ve ever had, losing Bora is critically important to Sb, especially now, because he was the one who did the most to contribute to building a strong community here at Sb. Further, the shocking lack of any comment or response, either public or private, from Adam Bly, or from SMG/Sb regarding Bora’s departure makes it intolerable (for me, at least) to “just be patient” and remain here any longer. I cannot and will not sit idly by and watch Adam Bly and SMG/Sb compromise its writers’ credibility and make a mockery of their efforts to shine a light into the darkness of willful ignorance. In short, I cannot wait any longer because I don’t know what I am waiting for. Based on past experience, and because I fully believe that Adam Bly/SMG/Sb are incapable of suddenly developing even a modicum of respect for me as a scientist, writer and employee, I am taking this opportunity to make my Sb strike a permanent condition.

For the past couple years, I have been very unhappy at Sb; I’ve found myself worrying constantly over the future of SMG, stressed out by the lack of promised paychecks — my landlord didn’t give a rat’s ass as to why I couldn’t pay my rent, after all! — and my writing output diminished sharply when compared to my previous years of high quality and productivity.

I have wrestled with quitting the blogging game altogether because, after nearly six years to the day of writing a blog, I feel I’ve not accomplished anything at all, I feel inconsequential, I feel invisible. I had almost convinced myself all of this was true, too, except that my spouse — whom I met through my blog — reminds me that this is absolutely not the case, that I have done a lot for my readers and my colleagues throughout the blogosphere, and they have responded in kind.

I am profoundly sad to be leaving Sb. Being part of Sb was as close to having a family as I’d ever had up until recently, and for that reason, it was a very important part of my life since I came here as part of the “first wave” in January 2006. I owe nearly everything I have to my colleagues and readers here at Sb. You were there for me during the darkest, most excruciatingly painful period of my life: chronic unemployment. When my real life colleagues and friends abandoned me, you kept me alive with your compassion, energy and optimism. When I battled lawsuits for medical bills that I had no hope in hell of paying, you listened and provided much-needed advice. When I was faced with the spectre of hunger and homelessness, you helped me pay rent, you fed me, clothed me, emailed me and called me on the phone from around the world. When I was isolated and in despair, you sent me cards, packages, a digital camera (!!), home-baked cookies, hundreds of scientific papers, thousands of digital photographs and hundreds of beautiful books to read. One of you even bought me a parrot to console me as I mourned the untimely deaths of not one, but two of my parrots while I was hospitalized for months. Thanks to all of you, my dear readers, I’ve learned so much about what it truly means to be fully human and to be a part of this world — lessons that I would never have learned if you hadn’t provided me with your amazing example.

I worry that my departure is a disappointment to you because I wanted to accomplish and experience and share so many things while I was here. I wanted to help SMG/Sb regain its original vision and get back on track again and become the healthy organization that I know it can be under the right management. I wanted to finish writing some books based on ideas I’ve developed while I was here — my first tangible “thank you” to all of you (the first installment of many such “thank yous,” I hope). I was looking forward to experiencing my 6th “blogoversary” coming up in a few days on 4 August. Six years is a very long time to devote to doing anything (especially writing a blog!) — and I was hoping my humble blog would either meet or surpass 6 million visits on or before that day. Alas, even if that happens, I won’t be here as an active participant to enjoy it.

But I will be somewhere out there. I have purchased five domain variations on my name that these will redirect you to where ever in the world that I land. These URLS are;

http://www.grrlscientist.net/
http://www.grrlscientist.org/
http://www.grrlscientist.com/
http://www.grrlscientist.info/
http://www.grrlscientist.us/

I encourage you to bookmark them since they will always point to my new blog home after I find a place to settle in. Meanwhile, I will still oversee Scientia Pro Publica, which is THE blog carnival devoted to showcasing the best science, environment, nature and medical writing in the blogosphere. And yes, we do need hosts as well as submissions, so please don’t forget about us!

I also write a blog at Nature Network, Maniraptora. I activated my long-dormant site at wordpress, the invisible scientist, that I am using as a content dump and mirror and also to experiment with the travails of importing an MT4 blog into a WP platform. I am fairly certain I can get the last backups of my complete blog, including all your comments, from Sb’s new IT person, Tim Appnel, before everything is shut down here, and I hope I can update the last of the mystery birds that appear here before all is said and done. But in the unlikely event that I cannot, I will be still reading your comments since copies are sent to my gmail address.

I have been awake all night, thinking and writing and backing things up, so I am exhausted. The sun is peeking over the hills in the east as I write this, and everything is pink in color at this moment. I am absolutely exhausted, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I curl up and take a little nap. Before I go, I want to leave you with a few words that have been scrolling through my head whilst I’ve been composing this farewell to you.

Juliet:

‘Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone –
And yet no farther than a wan-ton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.

Romeo:

I would I were thy bird.

Juliet:

Sweet, so would I,
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Romeo And Juliet Act 2, scene 2, 176-185

Comments

  1. #1 David Dobbs
    July 20, 2010

    Nicely, done, GS. I wish you all the best luck.

  2. #2 Deborah Blum
    July 20, 2010

    You make a great case here. Hope to keep following you as you go. And best of luck.

  3. #3 Glendon Mellow
    July 20, 2010

    Keep blogging Grrl! We’ll be watching!

  4. #4 Pete Moulton
    July 20, 2010

    All the very best, GrrlScientist. Sb was fun (for us readers, anyway) while it lasted, and your new site, wherever that may be, will be fun too. I’ve bookmarked your possible new domains, and will be visiting Maniraptora. You know I need my mystery bird fix!

  5. #5 Gini
    July 20, 2010

    I’ll be reading, wherever you are.

  6. #6 Zuska
    July 20, 2010

    Goodbye, Grrl! Your blog has always been amazing and beautiful and intelligent and wonderful, just like you. We will all look forward to seeing where you pop up next, and following the good things you do in a new venue.

  7. #7 omgwtfbbq
    July 20, 2010

    Shorter GrrrrrrlScientist:

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! MOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

    Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

  8. #8 bardiac
    July 20, 2010

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ll make a bookmark, and see your mystery birds and other posts on the flip side.

    Best wishes for happier blogging to come.

  9. #9 Chris' Wills
    July 20, 2010

    Good luck and have fun in Germany.

    I know I’m a bad person and haven’t commented for a while, became a lurker, too much work.
    But your blog was the reason I started visiting Sb, one of the most interesting, open, pleasant and well written blogs.

    Maniraptora is already booked of course.

  10. #10 Cujo359
    July 20, 2010

    Good luck to you wherever you “land”.

  11. #11 Adrian
    July 20, 2010

    As someone who was a lurker for a long time and only started commenting a short while ago I am going to miss all of the fun here. This was one of my top three blogs at Sb. Please keep us informed about where you will finally move to and I wish you and Mr Grrl all the best for the future and come back to your loyal fans soon.

  12. #12 Dirk Hanson
    July 20, 2010

    “Lack of communication from on high has been the standard operating procedure for SMG for nearly all of the years of its existence”

    Incredible. I’m trying to imagine a writing collective (often called a magazine) in which the managing editor or publisher NEVER speaks directly to individual writers.

  13. #13 rcs
    July 20, 2010

    I hope you find a blogging home, Grrl. I’d never heard of ScienceBlogs until I started reading you a couple of years ago.

  14. #14 Murray
    July 20, 2010

    I’m so sorry to read that you’re giving up Sb–I don’t get to visit as often as I’d like, but you’re an excellent writer and you’ve designed a truly enjoyable website. I learned so much, just trying to ID the photos (and reading the comments!)–and it was FUN! Good luck with your next adventure!!

  15. #15 Joan
    July 20, 2010

    Please keep on somewhere else. You make my day! I have only thrown in a comment once but I love to read them. I have enjoyed some of the others on Sb but yours is my favorite….and the best.
    Don’t disappear!

  16. #16 Pierce R. Butler
    July 20, 2010

    Yargh. Uck. Phooey. Grrrrgh. Yikes.

    And words to that effect.

  17. #17 IBY
    July 20, 2010

    I hope you find another place to blog. It would be a shame if not even a trace of you could be found in the blogosphere.

  18. #18 Azkyroth
    July 20, 2010

    In response to what was comment #7 when I posted this:
    1000 words.

  19. #19 Grant
    July 20, 2010

    Phew! I’ve just added all those URLs to my science blog tracking list…

    So I don’t lose you :-)

    PS: I replied to your gmail account re your comments re science blogging initiatives

  20. #20 Rob
    July 20, 2010

    Sniff. But I totally understand. Good luck with the move! I’ll look at the new domains to see where you end up.

  21. #21 Art
    July 20, 2010

    Given that your blog on Sb has largely been a collection of “mystery birds” that are not discussed or used to explain anything, PLoS announcements, and toss-off You-tube posts, I find your accusation of zombie behavior ironic.

    Bora, a hell of a nice guy by all accounts, had his own conflicts and tendency to plump his blog with quote posts that are cute but thin and PLoS announcements. He still had many meaty and interesting posts but much of his output was filler. He clearly had other thing to do.

    What where you expecting Adam Bly, or others at Sb to do? Would tearful begging do it for you or will sepaku be required as contrition. The simple fact is that every leader knows that when someone says they are leaving, or threatens to leave, you politely thank them for their service, and show them the door.

  22. #22 Victoria Reeve
    July 20, 2010

    @Art… perhaps Adam Bly could, oh, I don’t know… PAY them on time?

  23. #23 John M. Lynch
    July 20, 2010

    @Art … I’m going to suggest you stfu. You clearly know nothing about how SMG/Sb has been run over the past four years.

  24. #24 arvind
    July 20, 2010

    Didn’t realize this was a farewell post until I saw your husband’s comment on PZ’s strike post. Serves me right for not reading the entire thing today morning.

    I will follow your blog wherever you take it Grrl. I have been following your writing from before you moved to Scienceblogs when you were on blogspot, and the consistent quality of your writing over the years is a testament to your selfless desire for science outreach. I keep hoping (as I always have over the years) that your writing ends up being a more financially viable career option for you because you do have the gift for it. Please never ever think that it was a futile exercise. You touch more people than you realize every single day with your blogging.

  25. #25 Joseph Hewitt
    July 20, 2010

    I worry that my departure is a disappointment to you

    Screw that noise. You’ve given us six years of a fantastic blog for very little in return. Thank you so much for all of that.

  26. #26 RickD
    July 21, 2010

    Some perspective:

    I just don’t understand why bloggers are leaving SB on the heels of having achieved a major victory. The complaint appears to be that SB cannot possibly recover its reputation after the Pepsi debacle. But that’s not how I see it. I see that the bloggers of SB uniformly rejected the Pepsi corporatism.

    But on the heels of victory, you’re walking away? This does not seem appropriate.

    If you are trying to reach a wider audience, you’re going to have to deal with setbacks from time to time. But in this case, when you’ve won a victory, people are walking away anyway.

    And the complaint is that…management didn’t disclose to you that one of the other bloggers was leaving? I’m sorry, but welcome to the real world. In 99.9% of the workplaces in this world, management is not going to communicate with you in that fashion. One of your friends is leaving?

    This is the position you want the scientific community to rally behind? You want to have a work place where management consistently defers to your collective judgment? (all of you, mind you, since every single blogger must be included in every decision regarding every other blog)?
    I’m thinking this is a wee bit unrealistic.

    Another complaint is that the technical support has been crap for several years. Well, if that’s the case, that’s the case, and it’s a valid reason for leaving. But let’s not pretend it’s being done for ethical reasons.

    The community of bloggers at SB has an opportunity to really seize control of this situation. But instead, you’re just walking away.

    I’m not seeing it.

  27. #27 garth
    July 21, 2010

    I’m seeing people not being paid and no one communicating from the “mothership” as it were, and no doubt a long buildup of said behavior. The Pepsi thing seems to have been a relatively minor point that help decide things for many of the writers. Why are you not seeing that, #27?

  28. #28 ranggaw0636
    July 21, 2010

    Another good soul has left scienceblog, it’s just matter of time before everyone left this place

  29. #29 Fred
    July 21, 2010

    Wait, what? You’re leaving? But I just figured out one of the Mystery Birds from April. A golden flicker. Am I right?

    Seriously, though, best of luck to you. Those birds always brightened my day.

    P.S. It’s too bad YouTube banned those Downfall videos. Someone could do a great one of Bly losing his shit as the SB bunker closes in on him.

  30. #30 Abel Pharmboy
    July 21, 2010

    Damn – I totally missed you leaving because I was so tied up in my own departure! Your place here will be sorely missed but I will follow you wherever. You have always been a source of encouragement from the days even before you were at ScienceBlogs. You are one of the truly good souls in the world. I wish you all the best and a lifetime of happiness with your beloved. Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on those URLs. Be well, my friend.

  31. #31 Brian
    July 22, 2010

    Hi – you and PZ were the reason I started reading SB. Your story at the time – 2006/2007 (I was still living in NY, way the hell up and gone on Dyckman st) mirrored, to some extent, mine. Pent up in a city where I didn’t know any one, really, and there were some very bad things going on in my life at about the same time. Is it weird that I was really happy for someone I’ve never talked to or even commented on her blog when she got married and moved to Germany?

    Anyway, I figured this was my last chance to delurk – if nothing else, I’ll follow the pictures wherever you go.

  32. #32 David Harmon
    July 22, 2010

    Awww… Even if I haven’t been around much lately, your blog was one of the reasons I came around to ScienceBlogs in the first place, and (having abandoned Pharyngula some time ago) yours was the only SB bookmark left on my “Daily Blogs” list.

    I wish you luck wherever you end up. I’ve bookmarked your WordPress blog as a starter….

  33. #33 Avind mishra
    July 24, 2010

    Best of Luck-with heavy heart!

  34. #34 steppen wolf
    July 26, 2010

    Haven’t been around SB for quite a while, but it is sad to see this happening. Wherever your blog settles, keep going… our bookmarks will follow.

    Hold in there.

    The wolf

  35. #35 MadScientist
    July 30, 2010

    *sniff* bye-bye. :( Will catch you again some time. And don’t forget:

    Sing for your supper and you’ll get breakfast,
    Songbirds always eat, if their song is sweet to hear!

    I’m a bit slow because I was traveling (I think there *is* such a thing as traveling too much). Flying is tiring – how do the birds do it every day?

  36. #36 Daniel J. Andrews
    July 30, 2010

    New sites bookmarked (or will be soon as I post this). Thanks for all the posts, mystery birds. I loved the ones where all you could see was part of a tail or wing. That’s the type of challenge I like. Best wishes to you.

  37. #37 Daniel Eichenbaum
    July 31, 2010

    Please keep the blog going wherever you happen to land. Your ideas and discussions are too important to be silenced. I especially love your attention to avian research. :-)

  38. #38 Funny about Money
    August 1, 2010

    Don’t go far, GrrlScientist! We lurkers love you, even if we don’t have much to say.

  39. #39 mackerelsaladboy
    August 2, 2010

    Sorry to hear of this just now. Will catch up with you soon, I hope. Take care.

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