July 1, 2008

Science blogging communities

It seems that Carl Zimmer has moved his blog The Loom over to the Discover Magazine site. Phil Plait has also moved Bad Astronomy there too. Quite a couple of coups for this new blog hosting service, a welcome competitor to the ScienceBlogs site. The more the merrier, I say. Each site can only add to the richness and diversity of the science blogging community, making the whole pie bigger for everyone rather than fighting over a fixed audience.

From what I can tell, the Discover site is similar to ScienceBlogs in that they're concentrating on hosting established blogs or inviting specific people to give it a shot. It's still pretty small but I imagine it will grow over time. I wish them luck in their new endeavour.

All of which makes me wonder what all the different blogging communities are out there? Of course, whenever I wonder something, Bora goes and does it. Some of the sites are by invitation only while some allow anyone to set up a blog and some are somewhere in between. Here's the list Bora came up with:

And that's not counting magazines, newspapers and other media outlets that have science blogs like Wired (and Correlations with PBS), Time, the CBC or the NYT and others I'm sure.


Christina said...

I see a real role for professional societies in this - I know a couple tried message boards and some subgroups in IEEE had blogger blogs, but it seems like the societies could offer more in the way of help displaying math content or links to literature or chemical structures.
Popular science magazines are fine, but it would be nice to see some more scholarly stuff, too, well, besides Nature.

John Dupuis said...


I agree completely. In fact, I'm kind of mystified why none of the societies seem to be following in Nature's footsteps and experimenting with their own community-building applications. Or maybe they are and I just don't know about them.

Hank said...

Scientific American blogs is dead.

I am not surprised other companies don't try it. It's not an easy thing for a big company to grasp.

It's easier for them to team up with someone already successful. We had discussions with AAAS, for example, but teamed up with Imaginova(Livescience.com,Space.com) because they write for the public so that's more synergy for us. Peer-reviewed journals aren't going to be the audience for the faster, looser world of blogging.

In our case we do featured articles like Scientific American, blogging like Nature blogs and then science news like, well, everyone.

Because we're an open community we get scientists who don't like the ideological or political litmus test some sites have or are book authors that don't want the hassle of their own sites and write once a week or two rather than every day. That niche is why we were able to be successful even though we're the only large one not owned by a big media organization.

GrrlScientist said...

oh, puhleeze, hank. if you are talking at scienceblogs, i can assure you that there was NO "ideological or political litmus test" that we were subjected to, nor did we sign anything that said we would behave ourselves. we were recruited to do what we already have been doing, that's all. if you take a serious look around scienceblogs, you will find that there are political conservatives mixed in (although most of us are either moderates or liberals, JUST AS YOU FIND IN ACADEMIA, where we all are employed or were educated!).

and really, i am confused. how do you define "owned"??

owned by no one!

John Dupuis said...

Hank, GrrlS,

Thanks for the comments. I have to say of all the sites I follow I prefer SB because the overall quality is the best; I'd put Nature Network second. It's a little more uneven but there's also a lot of very fine writers there too.

I always found it a bit strange that NN didn't try and seed (er, sorry) their blog community with established blogs to get things going. I think it took them quite a while to get a critical mass to make the community as vibrant as it is today.

ScientificBlogging is a bit too heavy on the news reporting for my tastes and a little light on the community. On the other hand, I think it's also improved quite a bit over the last little while as well.

Greg Laden said...

If there is a political litmus test for Scienceblogs.com, then why do I dislike so many of my fellow bloggers' politics?

Is someone really suggesting this?

Eva said...

Nature Network DID try to seed their site with established blogs, but their blogging software is...well..crappy (they know, and it will change), so it wasn't possible to import old entries and just move the whole thing. So even the established bloggers started a new blog over at Nature Network. Some never got their NN blog going, and others, like myself or Richard Grant, wrote for different audiences on our different blogs.

John Dupuis said...

Hi Greg, I can imagine. If there isn't someone you don't like from the motley, assorted SB crew, then you're just not trying!

Eva, I was thinking of the very beginning of NN when there were only a couple of blogs. I can't imagine that those first few were recruited because there were so few posts -- usually less than 1 per day total among all the blogs. Lately they have done a much better job of building the commuity.

Christina said...

Returning to this a bit late - I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of "preferring sites" - I mean, the point of blogs is that they are individual (or small group) expressions and the community happens in the spaces between. There are lots of fabulous blogs that are not affiliated with any network. I find it much more difficult to casually keep up with blogs hosted by Nature because of the structure their software creates - but I wouldn't necessarily form opinions about individual bloggers based on their software or network choice.

John Dupuis said...

Hi Christina,

Good point. I certainly wouldn't want to give the impression that I don't value the voices of non-affiliated bloggers, being one myself. I really meant that certain of the sites have better mixes of bloggers and better environments. On the other hand, the mix of bloggers and their interactions can affect the overall enjoyment of the site. Sb is very good on this count. They've really managed to create something quite welcoming that gets comments from a very wide range of people. NN tends to be a lot more close knit, as the commenting, while lively, almost entirely comes from people in NN. NN feels like a VERY large family gathering while Sb is more of a vibrant town hall with lots of interaction between the crowd and the people on the podium.

It's interesting that the science blogging world has spawned so many affiliation networks like it has. I don't know if any other blogging communities have had similar things happen. Certainly not the library blogosphere -- but who knows, maybe there's a vendor out there who's cooking up a plan to organize and monetize the top libbloggers even as we speak.

As for hosting environments, Sb is the best in my opinion for sure, with the "Last 24 hrs" page being my most used way of keeping up. NN, I just use the RSS from the blogs page, but they only instituted that relatively recently. Scientificblogging is the weakest environment -- I actually find it quite confusing.