Sunday, May 31, 2009

Another Blogger Leaves the SEED Blogs (ScienceBlogs.con)

 
Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge is the latest blog to jump ship. That makes three or four blogs that have left the SEED group in the past few weeks. Most of them have been fairly cryptic about their reasons for leaving but Kevin Beck hints at something sinister happening behind the scenes [Bon(obo) voyage: the chimps are loping away from ScienceBlogs.com].
I also want to be open about what I say without fear of being castigated as a misogynist (a term often used inaccurately - try "sexist," folks), a tremendously ironic notion given that I harbor genuine ovaries (although going dormant) and had some pretty hair-raising experiences during my fairly long scientific career which allow me to speak from a solid platform of experience and credibility.

The latter sniping derives from my stumbling upon some very shoddy behavior in the back rooms of Science Blogs, stuff that removed any doubt that leaving Science Blogs for an independent venue was the thing to do. The majority of the folks that blog here do not participate in this -- uh -- "community" forum, but the ones who do are fairly heavy hitters and like it or not, they set a tone.
Does anyone out there want to explain this? What's going on n the back rooms of ScienceBlogs?


62 comments :

  1. There's no secret: some of the bloggers are accusing everyone of being misogynistic and racist in the back forums (or rather were a while back), making it very uncomfortable to be there. But the details are confidential.

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  2. John S. Wilkins said...

    "the details are confidential"

    The details are intended to be kept secret from whom? ScienceBlogs appears to be an organization similar to the Catholic church.

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  3. We all signed an agreement that what went on in the back channels would be confidential. I think I am OK to say in general that things got uncomfortable, but I can't say any more without breaking that agreement.

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  4. Anyone who's spent time over there knows this name-calling isn't confined to the back channels. It's right there in the comments.

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  5. ScienceBlogs appears to be an organization similar to the Catholic church.Let's not overstate things. If SEED Media had a camp full of baby chimps back there whom they enslave to run giant hamster wheels to power the servers, and take a few out at intervals for, um, "special attention", all the while carefully shielding themselves fom enquiries by the ASPCA, then the comparison might be apt. But a few people insulting each other (whether justified or not), but agreeing to keep it in-house, not so much.

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  6. Eamon Knight said...

    "Let's not overstate things."

    Okay. However, please clarify: "a few people insulting each other [and} . . . agreeing to keep it in-house." Where does this happen? Does it happen in "back rooms" where regular followers of a blog can't read the comments? Please explain the procedure to me and other Sandwalk readers who are not familiar with the procedure.

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  7. The Seed bloggers had a private forum, ostensibly for building a community. As so often happens in such places, it got a bit out of hand and became unpleasant for some. I came to the point where I basically said that if people were going to proceed that way I would leave. They did, and I did. Others have their own view on the matter and their own reasons for leaving. Also, I hasten to add that Seed themselves, the organisation and magazine, have been nothing but supportive and professional.

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  8. Is it possible to tell us one what basis these accusations were being made?

    To be blunt John, recognise me or not, I've interacted with you for many years on TO and elsewhere and words like "misogynistic" and "racist" are not the first two that spring to mind! ("Australian" however....) You might even be gratified to note that they aren't even in the top 40000 or so! They aren't words I'd use to describe Afarensis or the people from the chimp diary either.

    I guess what I'm saying is I find it hard to believe that such accusations were levelled at you (personally or the SciBloggers I know in general) in any rational or meaningful fashion (if they were at all).

    I suppose my primate curiosity is getting the better of me again! ;-)

    Divulge, Wilkins! Divulge damn you!

    Louis

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  9. What about the Rob Knopf departure last year? Just curious.

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  10. If I understand the Aussie Anthropoid correctly he is not saying that he personally was accused of being a misogynist or a racist, but that this represented the level of ‘debate’ in the back channels of Science Blogs and that he being a relatively civilised Ape found this distasteful and chose therefore to vacate the premises. Having said that I thought everybody knew that back passages are full of sh..!

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  11. Actually, that's Doc Bushwell herself referring to her ovaries. Kevin, to the best of my very limited knowledge, doesn't have any.

    As for ScienceBlogs, gillt is right that these things happen right out in the open--blog posts, not just comments. Having been a party to some of it, all I can say is that if the back channel is worse, I'm very happy it's tucked away out of sight. For the sake of my blood pressure, if nothing else.

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  12. In my opinion, about 60% or more of ScienceBlogs is "shoddy behavior", in posts and comments. A lot of adolescents with big egos and no taste who think they know it all. In some ways, it's like a Howard Stern show for science. Immature poo flingers rule. I thought seriously about becoming a professional scientist at one point, but if that's what most of the people in science are like, I'm glad I passed it up.

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  13. This isn't news. The fact that there was shit going in in the back forums has been clear for a while now and you can find a lot of it in how certain bloggers are interacting.

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  14. "I thought seriously about becoming a professional scientist at one point, but if that's what most of the people in science are like, I'm glad I passed it up."

    There are gonna be people like this everywhere in every profession. Don't tell me you've never met a doctor, lawyer, engineer, politician, schoolteacher, firefighter etc. that never behaved this way.

    As far as science blogs comments and postings go, yeah, some of them are immature and juvenile in tone, but I don't think it comes anywhere close to being the majority. Also, I don't necessarily disapprove of an immature tone every now and again. Sometimes it's a needed way to vent frustration.

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  15. It's pretty easy to get labeled a racist on certain scienceblogs - just talk about the issue in terms of population genetics rather than sociology. You don't even have to stray anywhere near the topic of IQ, just mentioning the frequency of particular alleles of medical importance and you are viewed with extreme suspicion (since, of course, there is no such thing as race).
    I get the feeling that certain bloggers on that network have zero capacity for criticism. Bringing up valid points related to factual errors they have made usually leads to accusations of being a troll or results in childish name-calling.
    Whats the problem with admitting fallibility? Isn't that the whole point of science? Nobody knows all the answers and we can all learn something from others.

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  16. Eamon,
    If SEED Media had a camp full of baby chimps back there whom they enslave to run giant hamster wheels to power the servers, and take a few out at intervals for, um, "special attention"...Man, I almost lost my coffee I was laughing so hard....

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  17. Bayesian Bouffant, FCDMonday, June 01, 2009 12:08:00 PM

    What about the Rob Knopf departure last year?
    Sucked into a black hole.

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  18. Thank you, Larry, for asking, and thank you, John, for answering.

    Pretty much the one thing all bloggers of any repute have is a large ego; nature of the beast. ScienceBlogs is a mixed bag, for sure, and I can't read some of them without my eye-rolling muscles cramping up. If one sticks to the posts and (the few) blogs that are about, you know, science, it's a much more pleasant experience IMO.

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  19. John Farrell said...

    "Man, I almost lost my coffee I was laughing so hard...."

    Man, I've seen comments like the one above far too often. They are unimaginative responses to a post or another serious comment.

    Do you really think my post on 31 May at 9:46 or Eamon Knight's response was meant to be funny?

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  20. lol!

    I dont even bother with the back forum anymore-- Didnt know the Bushwell troupe left, but Kevin was one of the first victims of the SciBlog sexism witch-hunt I saw, about a year ago (OMG U SAYED WHICH-HUT DAT BE SEXIZT!). He was a pretty cool dude.

    I hate Jim though. You insult my dog, youre dead to me.

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  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. Do people really not have anything better to do with their time then go on back channel forums fighting over really pointless, petty crap?

    Do some science for christ sake.

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  23. MonkeyMan-- Oh, but its not pointless petty crap! Internet be seriuz bizness! "I be changing teh wurld wit mah BLAG!"

    lol!

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  24. i haz hypopetis that humanz evolvedbyeating elefant poop roflmania

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  25. Veronica Abbas:
    Do you really think my post on 31 May at 9:46 or Eamon Knight's response was meant to be funny?

    The comments immediately following yours ...pretty much answer your question.

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  26. It is cowardly in the extreme, Wilkins and ERV, to raise issues based solely on your opinion that have a tendency to indict other bloggers whom you know will not defend themselves because of the confidentiality policy.

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  27. Yes, that's it. Cowardly. Let's add that to racist, sexist and fascist.

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  28. Wilkins, you are a pathetic sniveling shit. Grow the fuck up.

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  29. Drugmonkey says,

    ... indict other bloggers whom you know will not defend themselves because of the confidentiality policy.

    You've got it all wrong. That's not why they aren't defending themselves. There not defending themselves because their actions are indefensible, in public.

    Hmmm ... there's a word for people who hide behind "confidentiality" and are afraid to make the same accusations in public. Now, what is that word .....

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  30. Anonymous says,

    Wilkins, you are a ....

    Well, at least you're demonstrating why you are too cowardly to sign your name.

    Does your mother know that you're playing with her computer?

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  31. There not defending themselves because their actions are indefensible, in public.

    You know this, how? Unless someone else has breached our confidentiality agreement, you have absolutely no way of knowing what has gone on in the ScienceBlogs backchannel. I suspect you're simply making this up. All I see here are the stories of two disgruntled former backchannel users. If that's the sum of your evidence, then your conclusion cannot be supported.

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  32. What stories? I reported how I felt, that's all. But you guys are doing a fine job of showing why I felt that way, so do continue.

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  33. Someone calls you cowardly for clearly expressed reasons and you think that this is the same as being called racist, sexist and fascist Wilkins?

    I guess we are indeed getting to the bottom of your feelings in the larger issue.

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  34. Wilkins:

    Oh, so you feel "some of the bloggers are accusing everyone of being misogynistic and racist in the back forums"

    I'm glad you're making your "feelings" clear. Good thing you're not telling any "stories" about, say, the actions of others in the forums, because that would be a violation of the confidentiality agreement you made.

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  35. Dave Munger says,

    You know this, how? Unless someone else has breached our confidentiality agreement, you have absolutely no way of knowing what has gone on in the ScienceBlogs backchannel. I suspect you're simply making this up.

    Gimme a break.

    I've had the pleasure of meeting you and I know you're not as naive as that statement makes you appear.

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  36. I've had the pleasure of meeting you and I know you're not as naive as that statement makes you appear.

    I know that I've heard more sides to this story than you have. I also know that I agreed not to discuss any of it publicly.

    It's also quite clear from this thread that others don't respect those agreements, and instead have chosen to use their versions of the private discussions in the forums to advance their personal agendas.

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  37. ... indict other bloggers whom you know will not defend themselves because of the confidentiality policy.
    Who has John indicted? I haven't seen him mention any names.

    The DrugMonkey doth protest too much, methinks.

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  38. exactly my point Bob O'

    "tendency to indict"

    You assume that just because I am commenting here that I must be in Wilkins "some of the bloggers" set.

    I'm generally pretty out front on my blog and in relevant other threads with my positions and even tone, albeit perhaps not every incident emerges. Many of the major ones have.

    Not everyone is so forthcoming on these issues, nor should they have to be. It is "naive" as Moran put it, to pretend that some of the bloggers that are restrained in public will not be assumed based on Wilkins' accusations to be "accusing everyone of being misogynistic and racist in the back forums".

    This is quite clearly unethical behavior, particularly given his admission that "details are confidential".

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  39. Dave Munger says,

    It's also quite clear from this thread that others don't respect those agreements, and instead have chosen to use their versions of the private discussions in the forums to advance their personal agendas.

    Apparently a lot of "personal agendas" were advanced. As a result, several friends of mine, who I greatly respect, have left Scienceblogs.

    That's a very public statement, don't you think?

    You have three choices.

    1. You can say nothing at all.

    2. You can take sides by attacking the credibility and integrity of those who resigned.

    3. You can express regret that things got out of control.

    You have clearly rejected #1 and you seem to be taking sides by leaning toward #2. Is this correct?

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  40. Not everyone is so forthcoming on these issues, nor should they have to be.
    And there's no reason for them to be - John has given no indication about who was involved. He hasn't indicted anybody, and there are enough bloggers at Sb that it's not going to be obvious who is involved.

    Look, the best thing to do is to let John be. He's unhappy with what happened, but if you refrain from adding fuel to the fire, it'll blow over.

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  41. Adding whut Bob?

    Nobody forced Moran and Wilkins to cook up this thread....



    Oh and nice frame there Prof Moran, not like you are missing several alternatives for Munger there. Such as "correcting the record" rather than "taking sides"

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  42. DrugMonkey says,

    Oh and nice frame there Prof Moran, not like you are missing several alternatives for Munger there. Such as "correcting the record" rather than "taking sides"

    Explain to me how you can "correct the record" without breaking the code of silence.

    And, just for the record, John Wilkins had absolutely nothing to do with creating this posting.

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  43. Bob O'Hara says,

    ... there are enough bloggers at Sb that it's not going to be obvious who is involved.

    If you believe that then I'd like to talk to you about a bridge in New York that I have for sale.

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  44. As someone pointed out, the quoted material came from Doc Bushwell herself, not me, although I was the one who made the post.

    It's pointless to make a big deal out of this, but our defection had nothing to do with anything going on in the mysterious "back channel." The three of us simply don't have time to do a true science blog justice, and speaking for myself, having devolved into posting nothing but arrant bullshit and Xtranormal cartoons, I had come to feel like a non-contributor.

    Hey ERV, I met a very nice Staffordshire on a run recently. ;o)

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  45. Bob O'Hara says,

    ... there are enough bloggers at Sb that it's not going to be obvious who is involved.

    If you believe that then I'd like to talk to you about a bridge in New York that I have for sale.


    As a regular reader of several SciBlogs and occasional skimmer of several more, it certainly wasn't obvious to me who might be the nexus of the unpleasantness -- there are far too many others whom I never read, and it could be any of them. The best I might do is to speculate based on those who display a more political face on their public blogs -- except that on the whole, I don't really care. I have a longstanding policy of avoiding taking sides in other people's online disputes, without a damn good reason AND detailed knowledge -- and a forum I can't read isn't even on that radar.

    So IMO, Drugmonkey's complaint about implied indictments is silly (and counterproductive -- I certainly have a worse opinion of him now than I did before). Wilkins and the chimps didn't like it at SB; they went elsewhere; I update my RSS feeds; end of story.

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  46. LOL wut?

    Doc Bushwell:
    ... also want to be open about what I say without fear of being castigated as a misogynist (a term often used inaccurately - try "sexist," folks), a tremendously ironic notion given that I harbor genuine ovaries (although going dormant) and had some pretty hair-raising experiences during my fairly long scientific career which allow me to speak from a solid platform of experience and credibility.

    Me: Remembers interactions with Bushwellies, like last summer when Kevin was accused of being sexist for sharing a harmless funny story (referring to Docs comments on the topic), and left back forum and even blagging for a while. And when Jim decided not wanting all pit bulls dead was 'denialism'. Sad to see Kevin go, not Jim, oh well.

    DrugMonkey: It is cowardly in the extreme, Wilkins and ERV, to raise issues based solely on your opinion that have a tendency to indict other bloggers whom you know will not defend themselves because of the confidentiality policy.
    What the hell are you talking about?

    Why wouldnt Larry blag about this? One, he almost joined SciBlogs, and two, dont you think EVERYONE is wondering what the fuck is going on for so many quality blaggers leaving SciBlogs allovasudden? Nono... Larry must have an insider, you see, theyre all out to get you... everyones out to get *you*.

    *flips off the attention whore, because thats what he wants*

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  47. Without making any guesses about anyone's motive for changing web addresses, jobs, houses or whatever, I would note that turnover at some frequency is what one would expect.

    As I recall, some folks joined Science Blogs over the last year, for reasons that make perfect sense in terms of the interests involved, as I know from direct conversation.

    Others left -- at least in some cases --e.g. those that Discover snatched up -- because they were offered a venue that, I presume, both pays better and provides a more desirable perch for those bloggers.

    The interesting thing to me from a media observer's point of view is bigger than the question of bad behavior within a private setting amongst a group to which I do not belong (though I value my friends over there).

    That is: John is someone whose work I regard highly. I don't care where he chooses to post it. I'll check his stuff out when I have the breathing room to do so, and I'll find it by bookmarking "John Wilkins" and not Science Blogs. So the real question is the notion of branding aggregated content like this a winner in the world of media commerce. I have my doubts, but the Seed folks are making a game effort on that end.

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  48. "So the real question is the notion of branding aggregated content like this a winner in the world of media commerce."

    The real question is WHETHER the notion...

    Me lurn to grammer real gude someday

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  49. ETA: lol Im 'disgruntled'. Uh oh! Disgruntled Oklahoman, everyone! Duck and cover!! ROFL!

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  50. Why isn't "gruntled" a word? Screw it, I'm just going to start using it as a synonym for "happy."

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  51. I've been gruntled, but not heveled, for years, most of the time.

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  52. "And when Jim decided not wanting all pit bulls dead was 'denialism'. Sad to see Kevin go, not Jim, oh well." -ERV

    I never said any such thing. I never stated that I wanted to see all pit bulls dead. Thanks for misrepresenting me. I have no desire to rehash that argument as you apparently will have no ethical problem with twisting my words again at some point in the future to fit your demonization of me.

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  53. JIm-- After searching my email, I did see that you kinda sorta apologized. And, you and Kevin were both being dicks, but I forgave him more easily because he made me lol and I get over things quickly when I lol.

    So I do apologize for singling you out.

    *bow*

    Though I still think that post of yours was shit.

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  54. Larry, Larry, Larry...how could you overlook a fellow biochemist? Oh, wait. That's right. Shriveled ovaries = The Invisible Woman.

    As the abbreviation in pop cultural parlance goes, j/k. I hadn't been posting enough on Refuge v.2 (the SB incarnation) recently to be noticeable (as evidenced by ERV's remarks).

    Honestly, this is not that big of a deal. Really. If folks actually want to follow our beshatted blog, just change the bookmark.

    I'll also echo Wilkins' comment: SEED was nothing but professional. No major complaints there. As for the rest, well, it seems that if I blab, there will be irate folks hunting me down and demanding my first-born for a blood sacrifice. Come to think of it, if they can catch my 21 year old son, they're welcome to him. OK, j/k again. Maybe.

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  55. "ETA: lol Im 'disgruntled'. Uh oh! Disgruntled Oklahoman, everyone! Duck and cover!! ROFL!"

    Ah, but a Disgruntled Oklahoman who sleeps with a pitbull!

    Duck and cover?? Hell no....RUN RUN RUN!111!

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  56. I'd been wondering about this as well. One or two blogs leaving isn't so much of an issue, but when so many leave in such a short(ish) span of time, it does pique the curiosity. I'd assumed something was up, but more of a contract or style issue. Dr. Bushwell's post didn't surprise me however, and yeah it's rather easy to make some guesses as to those making such accusations.

    Whether or not such problems were a major cause of the departure or not, it's nice to get some light on it. Not to mention amusing..

    ERV/Jim: Which post are you speaking of about the pit bulls?

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  57. "I'd assumed something was up, but more of a contract or style issue."

    People have speculated about this, and I want to emphasize again that this had nothing to do with us (or anyone) leaving. Seed was completely hands-off when it came to editorial oversight, as should be obvious from some of the inane, worthless, and thoroughly vulgar outbursts I produced in a three-year period.

    I can only say once again that our leaving at a time when several others were doing the same for reasons of their own was an utter coincidence. I know Doc B. hinted at some simmering resentment, but she's a good friend of mine and so I know this was a very small part of her own motivations.

    We had made up our minds well before learning of any of this supposed tumult between "Sciblings." When you have 80 blogs in a single domain, you're going to have "spikes" of people leaving in apparent droves merely as a result of a predictable outcropping of basic probability theory.

    I can't help but laugh at all of this, which I suppose is a good sign. And Sandwalk is a great blog (I have undue respect for Canadians for prurient reasons) so I don't mind Larry posting this at all.

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  58. kemibe:
    Good to know. To clarify, what I meant was something like everyone that left had contracts that expired near the same time*, didn't feel they could/wanted to keep up with the requisite posting volume, or got fed up with the MT system (which was the style component).

    *If the contracts actually work that way

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  59. funny, funny, story.

    This is how it may all end up, from the early days of the interwebs :)

    http://www.jwz.org/gruntle/rbarip.html

    In the words of jwz (peace be unto him)

    "Perhaps its best to just never say anything that you wouldn't want published. "

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