Shifting Baselines

For anyone who knows me, you know that’s the highest compliment I could ever pay a communicator.

There are two fundamental errors to consider in the mass communication of science: errors of inaccuracy, and errors of boredom. It’s a lot like Type I and Type II errors in statistics. And just like with statistics, there’s a tendency to focus on one more than the other. With science communication, accuracy is usually held up as the be-all-and-end-all, for good reason. But good communicators know you not only need to get things right, they also need to be readable.

It’s obvious PZ gets things right–the scienceblog readers would tear him apart if he didn’t. But he also knows how to not be boring, which is why he has the most popular blog. So in the grand scheme of things, I have great regard for him.

But…that said…his readers who comment on his blog aren’t quite up to the same standard. So when he launched his army at me yesterday, I had a hard time making it through more than about 50 of the over 200 comments. Ho hum. I suppose it’s like a teacher and his students. They’re working on trying to emulate him. And I’m guessing they’re making progress. But most of them still have a long ways to go. They’re still learning.

Hmmm…”pharyngula”…isn’t that a developmental stage? How appropriate!

P.Z. Myers, keeping things right and readable.


  1. #1 iRobot
    May 24, 2008

    Launched his army? Can I swear at you and not get banned? I am in NO ONE’s army. Just because he is a good writer, popular and gets lots of hits doesnt mean his readers are some dittoheads. You have us confused with the conservatives. I am a skeptic because I dont take orders from someone who says they are in charge! grrrrrr! If you dont like what he says say it, dont insult the rest of us you bleeeeeeeeeeeep!

  2. #2 mlf
    May 24, 2008

    Yes, they could all be sheep, sucking up to PZ. Or, they could all disagree with some of your beliefs and approaches.

    Either way, you achieve nothing by ignoring the substance of the some 28,000 words that have been written so far.

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    May 24, 2008

    I had a hard time making it through more than about 50 of the over 200 comments.

    Yeah, I’ve more or less given up reading the comments at Pharyngula. There are some good commenters, but there is also a lot of dross. Especially on PZed’s favourite hobby horse posts.

  4. #4 Fred E.
    May 24, 2008

    Only a Dittohead says he’s not a Dittohead.

  5. #5 Matti K.
    May 25, 2008

    I see no sense in going through some other’s bloggers comments to check their personal opinion of you. Just confront the issues PZ brought up here in your own blog and I’m sure the amount of comments here would not be owerwhelming. I’m also sure that even after a polemic post, you would not be seen as “launching an army”.

  6. #6 Paul W.
    May 26, 2008

    Only a Dittohead says he’s not a Dittohead.

    Have you stopped beating your wife, Fred?

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