Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A History of Science Blogging

Blogs have been around for more than a decade but it's still not clear what purpose they serve (if any). We still don't know how to distinguish a science blog from other types of blogs—perhaps it's foolish to try.

Bora Zivkovic of A blog Around the Clock has written a short history of science blogging [Science Blogs – definition, and a history]. It's well worth reading since Bora has been active for a long time and he's very well connected to the science blogging community.

Here's how he describes the category that applies to Sandwalk.
The earliest science bloggers were those who started out doing something else online – updating their websites frequently, or participating in Usenet groups – then moving their stuff to blogging software once it became available in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As much of the early online activity focused on countering anti-science claims, e.g., the groups battling against Creationism on Usenet, it is not surprising that many of the early science bloggers came out of this fora and were hardly distinguishable in form, topics and style from political bloggers. They brought a degree of Usenet style into their blogs as well: combative and critical of various anti-science forces in the society.
In my case the usenet groups were talk.origins and sci.bio.evolution. Both of those groups are hosted on a server in my office; talk.origins is still very active but sci.bio.evolution isn't.

PZ Myers is the most famous talk.origins veteran. He's the one who convinced me to start a blog back in 2006 when I realized that blogs had many advantages over usenet, especially images. I don't know how many other talk.origins veterans have a blog. Can you help me out? Here's a partial list. (Some of these blogs are not science blogs.)

PZ Myers: Pharyngula
John Wilkins: Evolving Thoughts
Jeffrey Shallit: Recursivity
Jim Lippard: The Lippard Blog
various people: Panda's Thumb
John (catshark) Pieret: Thoughts in a Haystack
Troy Britain: Playing Chess with Pigeons

I know there are many more but I just can't remember them right now.

The other thing that Bora points out is that many science bloggers were connected to each other in different ways. Often we had met in person—this is certainly true of the talk.origins veterans. The early blogs were characterized by in jokes and incestuous cross links.

This has now disappeared as a whole new generation of science bloggers have entered the blogosphere, although there's still a certain amount of personal contact (see Evolution and Poutine and Beaver Tails.) I don't know if this is important or not. Blogger cliques can be a good thing and a bad thing.


22 comments :

  1. Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars was involved in talk.origins.

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  2. Replies
    1. Just don't say my name three times in a row (especially while looking in a mirror) and you'll be OK.

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  3. Opps, Thinking for Free seems pretty defunct, though Eamon did put up a post on the passing of Richard Harter.

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    1. Eamon and I are now blogging (rather infrequently) at cfiottawa.com

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    2. Richard is gone? I had no idea. We all remain Richard Harter.

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  4. Dr. David Gorski, who blogs at Scienceblogs under the pseudonym ORAC also got his start on USENET.

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  5. Thank you! Great addition to the history. Was Wesley R. Elsberry also a part of the Usenet groups? He's at http://austringer.net/wp/

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    1. Yes, I believe so, though by my time he had mainly switched to various message boards. And, of course, he maintains the Talk Origins Archive.

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  6. Jim Foley has the Paleoanthro Weblog that is actually on T.O. Archive site.

    Unfortunately he hasn't posted in over a year.

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  7. And there's Chris Nedin's blog Ediacaran. Though he doesn't seem very active either.

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    Replies
    1. I am active, just on other things at the moment. That and Diablo 3 was just released . . .

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  8. Mark Chu-Carroll writes Good Math, Bad Math: http://scientopia.org/blogs/goodmath/

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  9. It doesn't look like Mark Isaak blogs, but he does maintain http://www.curioustaxonomy.net

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  10. The other side is, how many talk.origins creationists/crackpots are still active? I think Ted Holden has a web page that hasn't been updated in a long time, but are Kalki Dasa or any of the other nutters still around?

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  11. I have a blog at Tangled Up in Blue Guy and while I wasn't a very active poster at talk.origins I spent a lot of time reading post after post after post while my kids had to raise themselves.

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  12. how many talk.origins creationists/crackpots are still active

    Andy Schlafly has Conservapædia

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    Replies
    1. I think Tony and Sean are still there. McNameless seems to have moved on.

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  13. Talk.origins in usenet form was the nursery for a lot of the evolution crowd, I run across dozens of them in my virtual travels. Most don't have their own active blogs.

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  14. Cross-posted from Bora's original:

    While I realize that Bora was not attempting a comprehensive history of precursors to science-oriented blogs, I do want to mention the Evolution/Creationism forum of (the late lamented) Internet Infidels Discussion Board. A number of current science-oriented bloggers, themselves working scientists–including among others Tara Smith (Aetiology), PZ Myers (Pharyngula), Nick Matzke (Panda’s Thumb), Reed Cartright (De Rerum Natura and Panda’s Thumb), and me (Panda’s Thumb), along with other scientists (e.g., Per Ahlberg, a world-class paleontologist)--were active E/C participants and in some cases were moderators of the E/C forum and/or administrators of IIDB. I still miss it.

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