Friday, March 07, 2014

How to survive in the blogosphere

Later on today I'm giving a talk at Western University (London, Ontario, Canada)1 The subject is blogging.

I realized while preparing my talk that there were lots of things I didn't know for sure so here are some questions that you may be able to help with.

Most popular biology blogs

I don't know for sure which biology blogs are the most popular. I'm pretty sure that Pharyngula is still on top with respect to the number of views per day and I'm pretty sure that Why Evolution Is True is in the top ten but what about others? Do any of you know?

Best biology blogs

The best blogs aren't necessarily the most popular. I have my own opinion about the best blogs but my fear is that I've missed some blogs that I should be reading. What do you think? What are the best biology blogs?

Why do you read and comment?

I've talked to a lot of bloggers so I'm pretty sure I have a good idea about why we write blogs. But I realized that I was much less sure about why people read blogs and why people comment on blogs. What do you get out of reading blogs and why do you post comments? Do you think all scientists and science students should read the science blogs? (I don't.)

Have blogs changed anything?

Have blogs had much of an impact on science? I can think of a few examples such as the Arsenic Affair and the ENCODE Publicity Hype Fiasco where bloggers had an impact but I'm not sure these are significant in the log run. Is blogging just another kind of social interaction that really doesn't change the way science is done?


1. Formerly the University of Western Ontario. The talk is in the North Campus Building room 114 at 11:30 am.

38 comments :

  1. I'm a fan of the following blogs:
    http://ecoevoevoeco.blogspot.fr/
    https://blog.uvm.edu/cgoodnig/
    http://svpow.com/
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/

    They represent very different topics, and are written by workers in very different fields, but all of them go into what I think's a good amount of detail, and often feature very thought-provoking posts and updates on compelling literature.

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    1. My top five (in any order):

      Sandwalk (Larry Moran)
      The Loom (Carl Zimmer)
      Tetrapod Zoology (Darren Naish)
      Laelaps (Brian Switek)
      Pharyngula (PZ Myers)

      There are several other biology blogs I check daily (Why Evolution Is True, Not Exactly Rocket Science, ERV, etc.). I learn a lot from all of them, but Larry's place attracts particularly interesting discussants as a bonus (including the resident IDiots). Come to think of it, so do Pharyngula and WEIT), but Sandwalk is still kind of special in this respect.

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  2. To state the obvious, anywhere that Carl Zimmer, Ed Yong, or others you can readily think of post. And I'm sure it aids dissemination of information among interested laymen (which is my own status when it comes to life sciences), which is no small thing. And I did once uncover a vital reference as a result of blog comments.

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  3. razib khan's gene expression is very good

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  4. I like Tetrapod Zoology, which has essentially no overlap with you. No idea on relative popularity.

    I have two reasons for reading your blog: sometimes I learn something, and you attract amusing IDiots.

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  5. On blogs like yours, uncommondescent, whyevolutionisfalse, people like myself find out the truth about some common, unfounded and so-called scientific claims... It is also amusing what one can learn about the personalities and attitudes of many respected scientists who conduct research and write textbooks... For me, it was the best experience ever...life-changing actually...

    Also, for me, there was no better satisfaction than shutting up NickM, and having many world renowned scientist calling me names or swearing at me, because they had no answers...

    However, my the best experiences on blogs, and the saddest at the same time, was to learn how many so-called world scientist can be so blind to obvious and undeniable facts... If someone had told me this, or I had read it somewhere, I would have never believed. it... Now, thanks to blogs like this one....I do...

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    1. To clarify: Quest is not one of the amusing IDiots I mentioned above. He fails the first criterion.

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    2. Johnny Harsh,

      You can say all you want about me... It is what you believe...Proving what you believe in may be a little more difficult... just like proving your belief in the foundation of your all beliefs-abiogenesis...

      I'm not sure if even there is such a thing as a criterion for a moron like you who blindly believes in it, without any evidence whatsoever... Do you?

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    3. "I'm not sure if even there is such a thing"

      ^ This is your brain on creationism. That's a very Bob Byers-esque thing to say, buddy

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    4. Accusations of blind belief advanced by people who believe in literal divine creation magic is one of the great ironies that keep me coming back to sandwalk. Quest never disappoints in this department. Promise that you won't ever change Quest? Please!

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    5. Rumrocket,

      How can I have a discussion with you, if you are one of the leaders of all the blind who believe that blind chance is more intelligent than morons like you...?

      Can you explain this phenomenon...? Nobody has been able to... so far... Maybe you can...?

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    6. I perceive, rum + coke means his is right"?

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    7. Quest you are my hero. I stumbled upon Sandwalk and didn't realise the elevated intellect of the inhabitants. Instead of respectfully pointing out my honest mistake they bullied me and called me "Pauline" - accusing me of being you!
      Isn't it enlightening what emotions and primitive (sic) rudeness can be churned up in supposed objective scientists? It just proves to me that Evolution is a faith.

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    8. "Isn't it enlightening what emotions and primitive (sic) rudeness can be churned up in supposed objective scientists? It just proves to me that Evolution is a faith."

      Ah, the most glorious of ad hominem fallacies, so beloved by the lowest Dunning-Kruger quartile: "You are being rude to me; therefore your position must be wrong." And your delectable use of the word "proves" is pretty good evidence that you don't have the faintest idea about how science works, right? I hope this is a poe?

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    9. Ah, how wonderful. "Quest", "Pauline" and "LouiseG", all in the same thread. You folks must have so much to talk about.

      Instead of respectfully pointing out my honest mistake they bullied me and called me "Pauline" - accusing me of being you!

      Not quite the whole truth. While it may not have been done "respectfully", your mistakes ("Honest mistakes"? So you say.) were pointed out to you and corrected, often by people with professional expertise in the field. The insults and disrespect were provided as a bonus, free of charge though richly deserved. And returned in kind, it must be said.

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    10. "Quest", "Pauline" and "LouiseG", all in the same thread.

      The tedious, turgid, tawdry trifecta of tasteless, tactless theological toadying.

      Toss in mregnor, Wilburforce and Andre and with any luck the whole lot will implode into a black hole of ignorance.

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    12. On blogs like yours, uncommondescent, whyevolutionisfalse, people like myself find out the truth about some common, unfounded and so-called scientific claims...

      However, my the best experiences on blogs, and the saddest at the same time, was to learn how many so-called world scientist can be so blind to obvious and undeniable facts...


      It's interesting you mention this previous ignorance of yours about what scientists really think about certain aspects of biology, when in a previous thread you said you were a "scientist", the PI of a "multimillion dollar research lab", with a brother-in-law who is a "rich scientist that travels in his own private jet plane", many travels to the Galapagos, etc. I would expect such an "experienced scientist" such as you to know pretty well what scientists in general think about evolution instead of having to read about it in a blog.



      Quest you are my hero.

      How apropriate.

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  6. I like:
    virology.ws and
    microbiologybytes.com/blog/

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  7. Oh, and the ever excellent smallthingsconsidered (http://schaechter.asmblog.org/)

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  8. Are blogs intended to have much impact on science? I don't see how they would unless as a sort of online journal club. But blogs mostly aren't patronized by specialists in the way this would require. It seems to me that if blogs have any impact it would not as a rule be on science but on public interest in and knowledge of science.

    Larry, why do you have a blog? What purpose do you intend?

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  9. I'm fond of:
    http://mikethemadbiologist.com/
    http://pipeline.corante.com/
    http://smallpondscience.com/
    http://labandfield.wordpress.com/
    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/
    http://ibycter.com/
    http://angrybychoice.fieldofscience.com/
    under the broad umbrella of "science blogs" (the above are all written by scientists, as far as I can tell).

    I read science blogs because I like reading about other people's research and research interests, the conversations about a career in science are almost always very interesting to me, and because it exposes me - at low levels I can tolerate - to various flavours of non-scientist as they react to the things written by the scientists.

    I haven't been a scientist long enough to know if blogs have changed anything - I started blogging during my MSc., when I was just starting to think of myself as a scientist. I didn't read many blogs of any kind before about 2004.

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  10. I'm a faithful read of The Panda's Thumb.

    ~~ Paul

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  12. I enjoy the fact that Larry bothers to explain interesting concepts in genetics and biochemistry. Sandwalk has served as a kind of portal to other blogs too. I usually read the comments, this very blogpost has now proved to be an excellent resource for possible blogs I want to go and check out.

    Basically I read biology blogs because they're great news sources from people "in the know" in various fields. Particularly educational to me has been to read the discussions between actual scientists on contentious issues (like drift vs selection, junk vs function and stuff like that). That's where often the different evidence and thinking is spelled out, making it easy to track the discussion, instead of having to trawl through a long list of papers and obscure references looking for relevant material.'

    I couldn't say which blog is better, they're all different in their own ways. Pharyngula as a lot of social commentary with kinda bores me to be honest, I mostly go there to read the occasional post on a scientific subject. Whyevolutionistrue has very little scientific output at all, it's almost exclusively about religion vs atheism, and mostly about the situation in the US, and then all the fucking cats. ZzzzzzZZ. Basically I rarely go to either of them, because I've found they just don't write much about what really interests me(even if I do somewhat agree with their stance of various social issues), which is the actual biology.

    The scientific output from sandwalk is significantly higher in frequency than most other blogs. Which is why I mostly come here.

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    1. Couldn't have said it better myself. I love the scientist-heavy commentary on these posts (and the huge irony of the clueless crea-trolls that reside and comment alongside these brilliant people), I'll often learn as much from the comments as I do from the posts. I never took much biochem in college so all of Larry's posts related to that subject are a very valuable learning tool for me.

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  13. Why are the evolution blogs or blogs that partly deal with evolution, like this one, claiming to be about biology???
    Where's the biology ? i never have evolutionists point this out to me!!
    Geology is not biology. Extrapolation is not biology.
    Is it me??

    Uncommon descent has probably the best stuff on biology dealing with origins.
    Blogs follow the same equation as everything else in humanity.
    Reaching important or numerous numbers of people with ideas.
    Ideas do well or don't on their own but reaching people moves them along quicker.
    Blogging will seen in the future as a tool in how creationism(S) overthrew in part or whole a past evolutionary biology orthodoxy in those small circles that seriously think and research about origins.

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    1. Blogging will seen in the future as a tool in how creationism(S) overthrew in part or whole a past evolutionary biology orthodoxy in those small circles that seriously think and research about origins.

      Hey booby, people are laughing at you, not with you.

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  14. I very much prefer blogs that actually blog about theoretical topics in evolutionary biology. I tire quickly with the evolution-creation stuff, as it's difficult to argue with people who don't believe in reality.

    Some of the more theoretically nutritious blogs that I enjoy are

    Razib's blog, Gene Expression
    Charles Goodnight's blog, Evolution in structured poplations (this is superb for theoretical pop-gen stuff)
    The Mermaid's Tale
    GCBias (another good theory-oriented blog)
    Jabberwocky Ecology
    John Hawks' blog
    Equation of the Month (thePEG) (occasionally updated but really good)
    The occasional nature/evolution post on Why Evolution is True
    (and this blog).



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  15. Other blogs I read:
    Teaching Biology http://bioteaching.com
    Small things considered http://schaechter.asmblog.org
    Catalogue of organisms http://coo.fieldofscience.com
    John Hawks http://johnhawks.net
    And what ever catches my eye at ScienceBlogs http://scienceblogs.com especially Pharyngula.
    Why do I read?
    I am a science teacher and often find these blogs give me a deeper understanding of concepts I am required to teach.
    Do I comment?
    No, this is only the second time I have commented. I only read the blogs to learn and be stimulated to be a better teacher.
    Has blogging had an impact?
    Yes I think so, if there are many other silent blog readers (other scientists, teachers students or the general public) out there who are just clarifying their understanding and being stimulated to think about concepts in a different light, then I believe that there would be an impact. Science bloggers certainly have made a significant impact on my world view and I hope this has had a positive flow on to my students.

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  16. The science blogs I read regularly are:

    Not Exactly Rocket Science (Ed Yong) for clear, responsible coverage of science news. The one blog I recommend to people most.

    Pharyngula (PZ Meyers) and Why Evolution is True (Jerry Coyne) because I enjoy the argumentative tone and the multiple updates each day mean I can read new things when taking breaks from work. And I like the cats (though I'm tired of the free will arguments).

    Sandwalk -- fewer posts, but they tend to have more depth and pose interesting questions.

    Bad Astronomy (Phil Plait) -- not biology, sorry, but sometimes this blog introduces just mind-blowing things -- like photos of effects of gravitational lensing!

    John Hawks blogs (by guess who)

    Mike the Mad Biologist - as much for the social commentary as the science news

    Tetrapod Zoology and Laelaps both have really cool posts, but posts aren't nearly as frequent as I'd like.

    I suppose Earth Observatory isn't a science BLOG, really, but it's very interesting.

    I read blogs because I learn new things -- new facts, new ideas, refinements of things already knew but not quite as well as I should have. And their entertainment that can justify itself as educational. Discussions can be fun to watch. Angry creationists trying to argue logically are interesting, if the dosage isn't too high. From them and other odd commentators I do learn about points of view I don't often meet in my real life.

    Blogs can communicate science (facts and reasoning both) to more general readers. Great education, and thus a benefit for science.

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  17. I can get a lot of info I couldn't get otherwise from working scientists. I am not a student and travel a lot and don't have access to libraries with books and evidence much of the time. Further I want my ideas and thoughts challenged by others.

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    1. In fact it was through blogs and blogging that I came to understand better and accept evolution long ago.

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  18. I like science. It's a privilege to read posts from 1st rate scientists. I wasn't aware of the scale of creationist nonsense until I started looking at science blogs. That's both annoying and entertaining.

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