A year ago I took a look at the surrounding landscape here at Sb, investigating which of the blogs were active – defined as which ones had seen an entry during the month up to 24 Jan '15. Now I've looked at the month up to 17 Jan '16. The result isn't great. Four blogs have gone quiet and one has re-awoken, bringing the total down to 16. Not one new blog has been added to the roster in the past year. You may wonder what the Sb Overlords are thinking about this. I sure do.
Here are the currently active ScienceBlogs (apart from the one you're reading). Check them out and drop them a few comments!
I sampled a few. The problem is immediately evident - they are long winded, irrelevant and boring.
I picked Orac's piece on the Flint water supply, because I had heard something about it in the news, and because water supply is something I know something about - after telling us his life history, he finally gets around to the topic at hand, and then totally misses the point. The point is that water supply pipes need to be joined by soldering the joints with tin solder, not with lead solder - everyone and his dog knows that. The Romans knew that lead was killing them, but went on using it anyway. The Flint water supply pipes should have been replaced decades ago, because they do not meet the most basic health and safety standards. End of story.
Greg Laden, who I used to read regularly because I enjoyed his stuff on anthropology (he is very good when on his subject; the problem is he is rarely on his subject) was telling everyone which is the best mouse to use. Really.
Myers was OK when he used to write about something he knows about, but he decided to become famous instead by becoming an aggressive new atheist - I get the problem in America, but after 10 years of it, it gets beyond tedious.
Same with Orac and anti-vaxxing, or cancer. Yes, we get the point; we got the point 10 years ago (or in my case, even longer).
That's the hard truth, Martin - none of them seem to have anything new or interesting to say.
I'd be happy to pass on suggestions for new blogs to the Overlords.
I'm sure Greg Laden could find a lot more to say about anthropology if he wanted to. I guess he just found that he got more hits if he went off-topic and pushed people's buttons on politics or whatever. In the long run, I believe he would have been better talking more about anthropology and less about other things, because the other things get stale; the science never does to those who are interested or who could become interested, and he would have built a long term following.
But, case in point, we've just had the discovery of the earliest known evidence of warfare, among hunter-gatherers, and that's surely something that a competent anthropologist like Greg could say something interesting about. But no, he's talking about the Democratic primaries or whatever.
I don't have any suggestions for new blogs. I think it would have been a good thing if the science bloggers at Sb had adhered more to talking about science for the sake of science.
I have been reading Razib Khan on genomics for more than 13 years. I'm not interested in anything he writes about anything else anywhere else, so I don't read any of his other stuff, just that one blog - he has been on it solidly for 13+ years, he rarely goes off-topic, he never gets boring, and he never runs out of things to talk about. In fact sometimes he has more things to talk about than he has time to talk about them. And he's not unique, there's David at Eurogenes, and others like West on linguistics and such who I don't read because I just can't get interested in it.
I think the fundamental problem is that Sb has ended up with a collection of science blogs that don't talk much about science. Myers should carry a lot of the blame, he blitzed everyone else - everyone interested in group wanking came running, and those who weren't just got turned off by it. Aggressive atheists are just as low intelligence as aggressive evangelists and equally as boring. But the basic problem is that the bloggers as a group seem to have lost direction and purpose.
Your blog is the only Sb blog I even bother to look at any more, and it's been that way now for quite a while. Save for your welfare, I wouldn't care if it died.
Glad you still like this one! For the past three years I've been teaching a lot, which tends to cut down on what I have to say on the subject of research in my discipline. But it's never been all gone.
Not to keep on about it, but I do think it is relevant that your pieces get more comment on Fb than on the blog. I have seen people predicting the demise of the open blog as a form per se, with people moving to 'closed circle' discussions.
I see a couple of disadvantages in that. One of them is that no one will pay you to post pieces on Fb. Not that I imagine Sb is forking out much dosh to you, but I presume it's not nothing.
The money isn't significant, but a closed opt-in blog wouldn't attract any drive-by customers from Google searches and Twitter, and so would never get any new regulars.
Yes, that's the other downside I see to it - people only find out about closed circle discussions on Fb and Twitter from friends.
I guess it's easier to exclude the trolls and people who are just out to make offensive comments (see Anatoly Karpov's Open Thread of 22 Jan for an example of when the blogger throws open the blog for whatever people want to say, and then doesn't rigorously vet the comments he gets - some genuine nastiness.
On the other hand, with a closed circle, for serious discussions you are likely to get mostly comments that are just reinforcing what you think, and few dissenting views or differing points of view. It is noticeable on Fb that few people are willing to post anything that might be taken to be disagreeable.
I don't use it, but for keeping informed of new developments, Razib Khan seems to find his circle on Twitter to be the most useful - i.e. he's really doing a search for new information to feed into his brain; he's not really interested in other people's opinions expounded at any length.
I don't do the Twitter thing - I just don't have the time for all the distractions most of the time. And to be honest, I don't find Fb to be of much use at all. But then I have only a dozen 'friends'. Before I cancelled my previous Fb account I had a couple of hundred 'friends' I didn't find that too useful either - I used to post what I thought were interesting pieces in the hope of stimulating useful discussion, but it just didn't work that way. Frequently the only person who would comment would be my daughter, sitting in the next room.
I guess it just illustrates that I have been unsuccessful in building a ring of online 'friends' who are interested in discussing the things that I am interested in. Fb is not for discussing, it's for bragging or posting endless pointless funny animal stuff. No names, but I have one fairly close relation who is anti-vax and thinks any compound that is manufactured rather than occurring in nature is called a 'chemical', who is very active, but I just have to ignore her outpourings, because rational discussion to try to steer her right is a lost cause.
If I posted photos of my wife or daughter, I would get tons of feedback, even from my measly number of 'friends', but I have been told very firmly by both of them that I am not to post anything about them on Fb, and especially not photos. So...I have an Fb account but really no use for it, except for following a few athletes and tennis players I happen to like.
I did get a comment back from Genzebe, the Ethiopian distance runner who shattered the long standing world record for the women's 1500m (a record that everyone is pretty certain was drug assisted, so breaking it was a really big thing, and she didn't just break it, she smashed it), and that was a real kick. But Genzebe's English is limited, and my Amharic is nonexistent, so those kinds of exchanges are inevitably going to be rare and very short.
This is a delicate subject, but I would agree that many current SB members spend too little time talking about areas of expertise, and too many are trying to recruit me for political fights in the US. I am not an American and frankly I have spent too much energy watching silly people in the US which I should have spent making my own country a better place.
SB is powered by advertising, which would probably be a deal-breaker for this Wissenschaftler.