I hate to say it, but there’s no avoiding the stinking corpse on the living room rug: Scienceblogs.com is dead. It might be twitching still, but that’s just the biota working beneath the skin, and soon they’ll erupt and start looking for new hosts.
Many already have. Scientopia was one of the early products of a Sb diaspora, and now Bora has announced the Scientific American network, which also has a swarm of very good bloggers, some formerly of Scienceblogs, but also some new and interesting faces. Scienceblogs won’t be competing with SciAm; it can’t, and there’s a lack of interest in doing so.
What happened? I’ll tell you: the absence of support. You cannot maintain a quality network without some regular investment in maintenance and growth, and while blogging is one of those activities that can flourish on a shoestring budget, it needs some nurturing, and we haven’t been getting it. Basic functionality, like LaTex support and mobile CSS, have been talked about for years and vague promises made, and nothing was done. A members-only forum was created early on for discussion and technical issues, and it was a wasteland — we’d bring up problems, sometimes quite pressing problems, and there was no reply from management — it was like whispering in a great empty room. There was a misplaced focus on advertising: the management seemed to want to land nothing but big prestige clients, like GE, but what they were selling was a motley horde of diverse and fractious voices, not the kind of thing corporate giants like, and now we’re reduced to hosting garbage ads for Christian singles, Michele Bachmann, and psychic networks, which is even more badly targeted.
If you won’t maintain the property, you end up with a slum.
It’s a real shame, too. I like this place, it’s been good to me, and I wish it could be revivified. But the head is dead, and there doesn’t seem to be the will or the ability to even try.
I think I’ll be flying away soon, too, but that’s a different announcement that will have to wait a little longer.