Blogging Medicine Science

ScienceBlogs under the microscope?

It looks like someone over at BlogCritics is undertaking the task of reviewing each of the component blogs of ScienceBlogs. So far, he’s not particularly impressed with anyone except Martin and, to a lesser extent, Afarensis. Although he makes a few good points in checking out the first five blogs (he’s proceeding in alphabetical order) and I have to applaud an attempt to do a critique of nearly 50 blogs, he clearly needs a gentle (for the moment) beating with a clue stick about a couple of things.

For one thing, he’s full of crap when he says this about Janet:

My major criticism of this blog is that it is personal first, and only professional by a distant second. In my mind, if you are blogging as part of a network, the group goal takes priority. Keep the personal stuff personal, or start another blog if you want a diary.

I would disagree both that Janet’s blog is personal first and that she should start another blog if she wants to do a diary. There’s nothing that says science blogs can’t have a significant personal element. It shows the humanity of those interested in science. This reviewer postulates a false dichotomy that I (and, I daresay, most readers) do not accept.

In any case, let’s review the mission of ScienceBlogs:

Our mission is to build a community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about science and its place in our culture, and give them a place to meet.

We believe in providing our bloggers with the freedom to exercise their own editorial and creative instincts. We do not edit their work and we do not tell them what to write about. We have selected our 40+ bloggers based on their originality, insight, talent, and dedication and how we think they would contribute to the discussion at ScienceBlogs. Our role, as we see it, is to create and continue to improve this forum for discussion, and to ensure that the rich dialogue that takes place at ScienceBlogs resonates outside the blogosphere.

Note that none of the above precludes personal posts or forays into chatter about other topics. All it requires is passion about science and a willingness to approach it from one’s own unique personal angle, plus the ability to write well enough to communicate one’s views about science and other issues. Personally, although I don’t do it that often, I think bloggers throwing some personal tidbits enriches the whole ScienceBlogs experience. It makes me feel as though I’m getting to know them as persons, at least as much as is possible from text alone.

And what about this this about Tara:

I just have a couple of niggling concerns about her blogging style – one is a tendency to tag articles with every category possible, which defeats the whole purpose of tagging things, and two, there is a lot of chit-chat which isn’t reader related. It is her blog, and she can write whatever she wants to, but joe average has no idea what a blog carnival is and doesn’t need to know. If every third post is just noise, people will eventually make a value assessment.

From my perspective, tagging items with multiple tags makes it more likely that people will be able to find posts months from now, because they will show up under multiple related tags. If you use only one or two tags for a post, if a person looking for the post again guesses wrong picking which category to search under, he may have to click several times to locate the post. It’s all about making the experience as easy as possible for my readers, in my book. I do the same thing, and it helps me find specific old posts of mine when writing new ones. My expectation is that it also helps readers find specific old posts as well.

Also the reviewer’s ignorance about blog carnivals shows. Here’s where the clue stick comes in, administered with a bit of Respectful Insolence from someone who was bequeathed a great blog carnival and has kept it going since July 2005. The whole point of blog carnivals is to aggregate the best posts on a particular topic from the last week or two or whatever the interval is between editions of a carnival into one place. Hence, the Tangled Bank is great to catch up on the best blogging about science; Grand Rounds, about mediicine; the Skeptics’ Circle about skepticism and critical thinking; Mendel’s Garden, about genetics; etc., etc. Promoting blog carnivals about science and critical thinking is completely consistent with the mission of ScienceBlogs, and I would point out that hosting Grand Rounds and Tangled Bank early in my blogging effort gave my young blog just the boost it needed to cause my readership to start climbing. Just because this reviewer doesn’t like them or understand them does not mean we ScienceBloggers shouldn’t be promoting them.

Now that I’ve taken him to task, I can only guess what he’ll have to say when and if he ever gets around to Respectful Insolence (other than that I have a distressing tendency to become way too long-winded way too frequently) or what he would make of my occasional forays into frivolity (EneMan, the Hitler Zombie, and, of course, Your Friday Dose of Woo for example).

We’ll see.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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