Thursday, January 31, 2008

Defining science bloggers

Jeremy Bruno of The Voltage Gate does an excellent job of tying together some of the ideas I was playing with in my post on the Boxer article and my post on responsibilities to readers. Commenting on Brian Switek's response to Boxer, Jeremy says
Brian goes on to say how science bloggers are different, basically that we haven't fallen for the dressed up dumbed down money trap, even since the move to Sb. I'd like to riff on this idea for a bit, coming from the perspective of a writer.
Jeremy points out that there are several reason why science bloggers are different from your average bloggers, at least when they are talking about science - in part, because the community is relatively small (there aren't that many people who are really qualified to talk about science), and at the same time, there are enough knowledgeable people out there that
If something is wrong in your blog post, expect that someone in the science blogging community will pick up on it and tell you why you're wrong...Fluid physics and phylogeny take an instructed understanding to discuss properly, while the ills of liberalism or war in Iraq can generally be commented upon by anyone. A political scientist or a historian might be more eloquent and be able to cite specifics, but in general, politics can be approached by anyone with half a brain.
(Which is reflected, I suppose, in the fact that science bloggers spend a lot of time commenting on politics, but few political bloggers spend much time talking about science - DarkSyde at dKos being a notable exception. Of course, that does raise the question again of "what is a science blogger?" Is DarkSyde a science blogger on a political website, or a political blogger who writes about science?)

The contrast between ScienceBlogs and other paid bloggers may reflect a difference in where they are coming from. Jeremy agrees with Boxer that professional journalists who blog at blogs set up my newspapers and magazines tend to fall flat (or, to use his far more evocative language "forced, boring and stink of the inverted pyramid"). But these are people who got the job because they are journalists, not because they are bloggers. The people at ScienceBlogs earned their reputation as bloggers. It isn't like Seed went out and recruited people based on their reputation as scientists. That is likely to be the reason why Boxer's assessment of paid bloggers falls so far off the mark when it comes to ScienceBlogs.

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