Friday, August 6, 2010

Mesozoic Blogosphere

The last month or so has seen my Google Reader swell with new writers who I hadn't read before, due to the Pepsigate fiasco and my renewed interest in Twitter. One of the most insightful voices is Bora Zivkovic, who writes thoughtful pieces on the craft of writing about science. Because of the huge amount of new material, it's also become a lot harder to keep up with things, so I just today was able to read Bora's 7/27 piece on the future of online science writing in the wake of the ScienceBlogs downsizing. He writes that... the network was huge, and hugely visible, and hugely respected, and hugely watched by MSM, all those wonderful science blogs outside the network were essentially invisible, living in the shadow of Sb and hoping we’d link to them sometimes (which we tried to do often, but that is not enough). It is like in the Mesozoic – all those tiny little shrew-like mammals hiding in underground burrows and foraging for seeds at night, being unable to spread into any other niches because the big, dangerous dinosaurs are roaming around the land.
He goes on to liken Pepsico's Food Frontiers blog to the Chixculub impact. Brilliant. More optimistically, he compares the remaining writers at ScienceBlogs to birds, who after all survived the K-Pg extinction that killed the other dinosaurs and thrived in novel ways.

Of course, all this talk of the "archipelago" of science blog networks (rather than the Pangaea of the old ScienceBlogs) has caused me to think about what being on a blog network would be like. I know that I'm not in the same class as the SciBlings, but I think that I'm one of many dedicated amateurs who care about science, love writing about it, want to improve, and want to find a larger audience. My goal is to be able to dedicate a hefty chunk of my professional life to science communication, both through writing and graphic design.

I'd love to be part of a paleontology/ natural history/ evolution themed blog network. Anyone want to talk about starting one? Or can anyone suggest an existing one I might fit into? I do try to keep abreast of new developments in the science writing community online, but like I mentioned above: it's daunting. I invite anyone who wants to brainstorm this to holler my way.


  1. I'm a relative newcomer to the world of blogging and, perhaps more importantly, to the craft of science-writing. The only half-way decent things I've ever written were fiction pieces so maybe I'm not qualified to comment on this. But that's never stopped me.

    You might want to check out Scientopia: if you haven’t already.
    I’m not a fan of the other big Science-blog network, the Nature Network – a website with a template that is as uninspired as it is hostile to the casual commenter.

    Perhaps, instead of a blog-network, the Paleoblogosphere needs a post-aggregator of some sort. I’m not aware of the existence of any such thing at present – at least within the Paleo-blogging community. Perhaps it could publish posts from a few separate blogs (not unlike this one) or selectively pick out and release the best posts from a wide range of paleoblogs. The latter case would, of course, imply editorial management and a submission mechanism. Either way, you could enjoy the benefits of increased visibility without having to surrender one iota of control over the design, content or feel of your blog.

  2. I've been thinking about post-aggregators that operate across networks as well. I really like the idea. I'm not exactly sure how the technology would work and would love to talk to people about it. I'm in a different field than you are, so I can't help you get people for your network/aggregation, but we could work on how the tech would operate.

    I noodled on this here:

  3. i'm in for cooperation with my fellow palaeo-bloggers...

    we need to try and bring back the boneyard in some form or another (the palaeo carnival). the carnie up on dinosaur tracking is pretty sad, which is unfortunent as those were a good way to connect us all. sadly it is a lot of work for anyone hosting it.

  4. I have been poking around and it looks like this is pretty easy to do. There are a bunch of mashup tools. Yahoo Pipes seems to be popular, but searching for "feed mashup" gets some useful hits. It looks like the technical end isn't the problem, just getting people together.

  5. David,

    you've certainly peaked my interest. I'd love to be a part of a paleo/natural history/evolution themed network. I'm actually a member of "NatureBreak", a video blog/social network for nature lovers (obviously) where I've posted photos and engaged in some comment threads. It's a good example of community working towards a common goal, but don't know if it would work for what you're proposing.

  6. Actually, Yahoo pipes sounds like a great idea. But is there a way of moderating/selecting entries so that only quality material appears on said "Science Blog" pipe? At any rate, I'm intrigued!

  7. finstofeet has a good point. Bloggers like me wont always post paleo related material.

  8. Whoa, good responses! Sorry I've been absent - just spent three days away from the computer doing some heavy landscaping work. Refreshing!

    I am definitely not a hardcore tech guy. Building something like Scientopia would be beyond me, and I'm not sure that's what I'd really be looking to do. I do like the idea of an aggregator of some sort, and I'd certainly want individual bloggers to be able to determine the content, design, and schedule of their own blogs on their own.

    Would it be possible to set up something like Pipes that would pull from the feeds of the member blogs only those items which have a certain tags? There are many blogging platforms, and it might not be possible for an aggregator to recognize a Wordpress tag and a Blogger tag as being the same thing. But that could be a way for the bloggers themselves to moderate what of their content is fed to the aggregator. Then member blogs could also include a widget of some sort on their sidebar. just a thought - I need to read more about these things to see what's possible.

    I also am very into doing a blog carnival, and would happily organize that here. A monthly thing would probably be best. The possibilities are endless, and it could be a cross-disciplinary thing. I've never hosted one, but I'd be willing to give it a shot as a trial, and see how feasible it is.

  9. I really miss the Boneyard. Something like that would actually motivate me to blog more often. As it stands, I only blog when I make the time, which isn't often. I hate getting older and busier--I don't have time to do what I love anymore.

    I'd like to be a part of some kind of network or feed or Boneyard in the future. Keep me in the loop, folks!

  10. I understand that, Zach. It's tough to find time to really dig into things deeply. It's always a treat when you post, though, and your willingness to dive right into controersies and pick apart research is really, really awesome.

    The Boneyard was a bit before my time here, but I've gone and looked at it and it's a good idea that should still be happening. Why don't we resurrect that? Like I said, I'm happy to kick things off. I would happily host it here, or if a rotating host system seems best to folks, that's fine, too. Without wanting to make it feel like an assignment, it could be fun to make each edition themed, while being flexible enough that it could incorporate big news items. I'm going to mull this over a bit and possibly write a longer post about it.

    I've also mentioned Twitter recently, and I link to other paleoblogs there quite often. I could do more, though. I'm going to continue doing that, and possibly add the feed to this page. I've been wanting to do a redesign for a while now, but not had the time.

  11. Do it. Be the Necroblogger. Resurrect the Boneyard. The people have spoken.

  12. Agreed. Let's do it. I will happily host anytime, Dave, and I will prepare awesome posts for each edition. I've got one coming up about the new mosasaur paper, actually.

  13. Yahoo Pipes should work to mashup feeds with tags. For example, here is the RSS feed for all my posts with the tag "links":

    So you would hand that URL to Yahoo Pipes, and it would then add only my posts tagged "links" to its new feed. Easy enough to tell participating people what tag to use. I assume other blogging platforms have similar capabilities (RSS feeds for specific tags).

    I don't think there would be a way to pull out specific "bad" posts, but hopefully you'd select competent participants from the start.

  14. I wish someone would restart The Boneyard. Switek has the archives and the keys to the e-mail, I think.

  15. i'm in on the boneyard too (obviously)...

    the themed boneyards (mine was "your favourite museum") definately were hits (though the only other one i can think of was glendon mellow's palaeo-art one... the seed for ART Evolved), but i'd suggest loose adherence to the theme.

    in the same line as what zach was saying, some of us don't have time for an ubber specific post for themes that don't nessecarily interest us EVERY month. (We run the razor's edge on ART Evolved with a new theme every two months)


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