Some thoughts on ScienceBlogging.org

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Gad Zooks, They’ve done it! shouted the mad scientist from his laboratory…

Last week I posted my call for a more meta-blogging approach to the whole science blogging malarky with my post; Can we have a “Meta-Blog-Network” please? and I was surprised by how well it was received (even garnering a link from Bora Zivkovic – an acheivement I am secretly kinda proud of), the article seemed to strike a chord with some although as usual with this blog there was little conversation to be had after the fact.

Today though an excellent reposte was given to the concerns I expressed in that post with the coming online of a new Science Blogging aggregator at ScienceBlogging.org which looks at first glance to be the answer to every science blog reader’s prayers. The site provides a central place from which you can get to all of the major networks (including many I didn’t even know existed!) and therefore to all of the most popular among the science blogging community.

Anton, Bora and Dave have also trumped any others considering doing this by including the Blog Carnivals (another new one on me) as a separate entity within the site, a definitely positive move as unless you are au-fait with the blog carnivals you may not think to look for them.

Yet another positive for the site and something I’m sure my friends over at Science3point0 will be very pleased with has been the very open request from the founders for the input of the rest of the science blogging community, something that everyone should welcome and get invloved in (for example @sandygautam has already posted a nice list of requests over at Free as in Science).

Now, having showered glory on this new and exciting venture I will bare the concerns that I do have with it:

  • I worry that this is going to fail because of “information overload”; by which I mean that having such a great clearing house as we now have for the science blogging community, it is quite a foreboding thing to look at on first turning up on the site. Without some kind of searchability or sub-categorisation of posts into (for example) sub disciplines I fear that people will just not know what to look at first.
  • Independent Bloggers are essentially excluded under the current set up of the site, and there are a lot of great independent bloggers out there who are excellent writers (I’m not one of them) and I don’t want to see them drowned out because in place of the one-big-all-consuming-network we now have lots of smaller-all-consuming-networks and a meta-infrastructure built between these and only between these, leaving the independents to join a network or stay out in the cold.
  • This site is a fantastic start, but you still have to go back to it to get different “appropriate links” to the blog post you may have initially started from – leaving the central idea of my initial post standing at the moment; though that may change with time.

These quibbles aside though, I wish to extend my congratulations to the three man team over at ScienceBlogging.org for getting this up and running, as this is an excellent place from which other projects can begin, and I look forward to seeing what they – and others – do next!

Ben Brooks

Short Link for this Post: http://wp.me/pFUij-6l

Can we have a “Meta-Blog-Network” please?

Since the outbreak of the PepsiGate affair over at Science Blogs, the science blogging community – if it could be called a community – has been shaken, remoulded and has evolved extremely rapidly with the creation of all new blogging networks such as scientopia and the rapid expansion and evolution of other networks such as Discover and science3point0. Science Blogs hasn’t gone the way of the dodo though… more accurately it has done something more akin to the survival of the Aves taxon after the end-cretaceous mass extinction, becoming lighter, faster and debatably prettier after the quasi-mass-extinction event marked by the PepsiGate affair.

Anyway I digress, as an almost entirely* independent blogger watching with interest at how things develop, I must confess to a little annoyance that the focus of this recent evolution has been on creating more, large, all consuming blogging networks which at the moment seem to be mutually exclusive to each other and to independent bloggers who may or may not be willing to get involved with large co-operatives.

I am more of the opinion that some form of Meta-blogging-network is something that is severely lacking in the community and would be truely valuable. Despite some initial talk of creating meta-services, much like the news aggregators to be found around the web, there seems to have been no real progress with any of these overarching catch all services – we need a science-blogging-aggregator.

Such a service as I am imagining here is to catch network members and independents alike, and mutually create traffic for all. For example a service with whom you can register your collective or your independent blog, and the blog would then be trawled now and again, keywords in each post identified (possibly using tags such as in wordpress) and then links provided from blog A to blog B based on relevance with the installation of a widget in say each blog’s side-bar. Unobtrusive, workload light after registration and easy to configure, and all it would take is for a small amount of space on your blog to be devoted to the widget.

The closest we have to this is ResearchBlogging.org which does this sort of thing for blog posts about peer reviewed papers, but it’s workload heavy from what I can gather, and may not be the best service even for that, as discussed excellently over at Free as in Science on Science3point0.

This is of course only an idea, and i’m not a software designer so wouldn’t have the first clue about how to do it, but I would none-the-less be really interested in what the rest of the blogosphere thinks?

Ben Brooks

Short Link for this post: http://wp.me/pFUij-60

* by largely independent: I am a member of Science3point0, but due to their focus on open-sci, open-source, open-data etc. advocacy (and it not being my forte) I’m not doing a great deal over there.