You can read about the details here. Interestingly, Christopher Mims has been tweeting the “secret” early history of ScienceBlogs under the #SBhistory hashtag. I was one of the original 14 in January of 2006, so I saw a lot of things go down between then and the spring of 2010, when I moved here to my comfy new digs at Discover. I’d been blogging for over 3.5 years when Chris Mims contacted me out of the blue in the fall of 2005 about some “secret project.” It was weird timing, because Hylton Jolliffe of Corante had also contacted me 1.5 months earlier, though he never got back to me after I responded to his initial email. Blogging was a fun hobby, but I wasn’t a journalist, so I was pretty skeptical about it all. Chris and I had a back & forth before we finally agreed to terms. My main reason for joining was obviously not money, but perhaps the possibility of greater access to interesting people (e.g., I met Dr. Daniel MacArthur as a commenter on my blog in the spring of 2006, before meeting him in real life years later and striking up a lasting internet friendship). I thought this tweet was very amusing because I’m pretty confident that I was the subject:
I’m not an ideologue, but any Left-liberal worth his or her salt would certainly term me a “kooky conservative” (and which blogger do you think would have had a look at the list of others invited to the network beforehand? Not too hard to guess!) After the fact I did ask Chris and a few other Seed Magazine staffers how the hell I was included on the list. Yes, I was a prominent blogger, but I was certainly on the fringe in terms of my norms in relation to the whole network. But this explains it:
I don’t have real value to add on the ScienceBlogs controversy. The only thing I want to mention is that there are some nascent superstar weblogs on that network which aren’t big names, yet, but perhaps will be. You can miss them coming in via the front page because they don’t crank out 10-15 posts per day, but they make them count when they do post. Two new weblogs which have caught my attention are Thoughtful Animals and Observations of a Nerd. There are others too if you poke around (your disciplinary focus may differ).
At this point I think for some people ScienceBlogs is not a the optimal venue. Obviously I was one of those people, as I left in late March. But for other people the reach of a prominent network still has utility. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. So by all means, let’s keep track of the SB Diaspora, but there are also diamonds in the rough who aren’t budging.
ScienceBlogsTM just put out a release on their traffic growth. The trend is interesting because after a period of flattening out, 2008-2010 seems to have seen some robust growth again. As I said when I left I do wish SB and many of their bloggers well, and I continue to subscribe to several of their blogs in my RSS as well as the select feed. The network’s robust growth is a positive sign when it comes to the transition of science communication from dead tree to the internet. I know that there’s been a lot of stress on the part of science journalists as to the sustainability of their enterprise, though that is really just a domain-specific instantiation of the issues in journalism as a whole, but until that works itself out the growth and persistence of science blogging and science-related websites is a good thing. There is a calm after the storm of creative-destruction, and the current science blogosphere is laying the seedbed for future renewal. The outcome may be sub-optimal from the viewpoint of labor, but the consumer will benefit.
The growth of internet based science communication means that the pie is growing, and the tide is rising. It isn’t a zero-sum game between SB, Nature Networks, Scientific Blogging, Discover Blogs, etc. My main concern personally is that my readership is still strongly Anglospheric, literally hundreds of millions of Chinese have started using the internet while I’ve been blogging, but very few of them do and can read my content. Due to language constraints this may be a long term structural issue, though the utilization of Google translate + chart heavy posts may be a way to push beyond the Anglosphere a bit. If you want to see the geographic skew, sitemeter is sufficient even with a sample size of the last 100 visitors.
Note: Also, please note that the growth can’t be attributed only to non-science content. Obviously I can’t lay out specific numbers, but blogs which focus on science such as Tetrapod Zoology and Frontal Cortex draw lots of traffic.