Science blog networks now officially kudzu-esque

By Carl Zimmer | September 15, 2010 12:54 pm

kudzu600This is one of those meta stories that just won’t quit. Over the summer, lost a bunch of bloggers thanks to a certain bubbly beverage. A lot of the bloggers moved off to set up their own blogs elsewhere, which I tried to track in this post.

But then the bloggers began to coalesce. Order formed spontaneously from the chaos.

We saw some of them launch Scientopia

A couple settled down over at BigThink

The Guardian pinched a few for the new Guardian Science Blogs

Then the Public Library of Science started up a network too: PLoS blogs

Yesterday Wired pulled back their own curtain.

And now Scientific American has taken on the Thomas Paine of science blog networks, Bora!, who will help build up their own growing network of accomplished writers.

What’s particularly pleasing is that these networks are full of talented writers, and they clearly are getting great support–excellent layouts, bells, whistles, etc.

I would like to think these are all good signs that people out there are in fact hungry for science, and that an army of talented writers are going to enjoy unprecedented opportunities to meet that demand. But I’m something of a skeptic in all things, so let’s regroup in a year to see how everyone’s faring. For now–time to update the blogroll. Arg!

[Kudzu photo from Softcore Studios/Flickr]


Comments (21)

Links to this Post

  1. Quick Links | A Blog Around The Clock | September 16, 2010
  2. Working My Way Back | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine | September 21, 2010
  1. but wait, I thought blogs were dead. I swear I heard some PR flack say that. Or maybe it was Prince.

  2. this is the cambrian explosion of science blog networks.

  3. intersting metaphor. if i’m not mistaken, as well as being highly invasive, kudzu is poisonous with hallucinogenic properties.

    [CZ: Also photosynthetic! But I’m sure readers will appreciate that I’m saying you can make sugar out of sunlight and air. ; ) ]

  4. Call me an old-fogey but SciAm remains the gold standard in my mind for popular science reporting (and all the newfangled pretenders to the crown don’t measure up). Having said that, I’ve feared they might not survive in this new communications environment (plenty of excellent magazines won’t). Having Bora there gives me some real hope that they won’t just survive, but prosper!

  5. aidel

    Carl, what an odd comparison! Networks of science blogs = kudzu?! Are you serious? Had you said the Tea Party movement = kudzu, we might agree. What nefarious plot could possibly be behind the ‘explosion’ of science blog networks? Should we all grab our guns and pull the curtains tight? Do you have any idea how many knitting blogs are out there (and does it trouble you)?

    In my opinion, you are in the top 1% of science writers in this country. Your excellent work has established you quite securely both as a journalist and as a blogger. Should we conclude that all other science writers/bloggers might as well find another way to occupy their time because it’s already been done and done well? I think not.

    In any case, Scientific American has something that no other network has: Bora. Bora has worked extremely hard for many years (usually without compensation) in order to help build a strong science presence on the Web. He now has the opportunity to be compensated for what has become his life’s work. The potential for science blog networks is far from exhausted. Given the right tools and an adequate amount of freedom, Bora has the opportunity to create something significant. There’s nothing wrong with being skeptical, but it would be uncharacteristic of you to let skepticism limit your imagination.


  6. There seems to be some kind of Rorschach effect going on here. The only thing I am alluding to in my comparison to kudzu is a dense, fast-growing mesh. Nothing nefarious.

  7. aidel

    Your kudzu metaphor is ambiguous but I didn’t think anything of it until one reader commented on Bora’s post that she “agreed with Carl Zimmer….” about the explosion of science blogging networks — so at least some of your readers are interpreting your comments in interesting ways, despite the absence of any particular value judgement. That (and because I am a Jewish wife) is why I responded the way that I did. Knowing you (although I can’t claim to know you that well), it is impossible for me to imagine that you would say anything negative about new science blogging networks (assuming, of course, that we are talking about networks with a minimum standard of respectability). Bora is very excited about this new opportunity and, let’s face it, Scientific American is lucky — they scooped up the best possible person for the job. Disclaimer: I admit that, for me, it’s ALL about Bora, even if your post wasn’t. 😉

  8. Shecky R: 25 years ago I would have agreed with you re SciAm. In the late 90s there was a distinct dumbing-down of the content and folksing-up of the style, and we dropped it c.2002, after 20 years (I never did get around to writing my irate letter to the publishers). The quality I liked about SciAm back in the Good Olde Days was that it was *hard* to read — it took work; it was a mental workout (Discover never came close). Maybe they’ve recovered some of their old virtues since then, but I haven’t looked to see.

  9. Monkey

    @eamn Knight

    I totally disagree, but appreciate your thoughts. I think the “hard to read” aspect of the magazine was not that they were taking on harder topics or offering more to their readers, but simply trying to be a science journal for the masses, whereas now they are a science popularizer for the masses. I, as one who is trained in science and teaches science and keeps up to date and reads blogs, mags, listens to podcasts, scours the news for science updates, blah blah blah….really like SciAm. And their podcasting (Steve’s podcast) is utterly amazing.

    I think the SciAm of today is exactly what we need, as one who is in the realm of helping people understand, appreciate and excel in science or science phiosophy. If you want a mental workout….hook up with Nature or Science journals. Dip into cosmological journals. Whatever SciAm ‘was’, it is what it is now. And I for one appreciate it and would be fully saddened to lose it, the people involved and the power it yields in pressing science forward in a fun and inclusive manner. There is nothing more I like than a SciAm and a long train ride.

    Blogs are dead…perhaps in the individual context. Blog networks thrive.

  10. Monkey

    “This is the Cambrian Explosion of blogs…”

    Wait, so these blogs were put here by the devil to confuse us? Hmmmm….


  11. Don

    Well, I came to the comments because I was totally flummoxed by the kudzu metaphor. Invasive, harmful, harmful, smothering are the thoughts that kudzu brings to my mind. I’m an ecologist who spent many years in the south eastern US. I have experiences of that hideous vine killing plants in many landscapes. I even had to work very hard to expunge it from my yard before it killed our six old, tall oaks. How about an image of an field of native flowers in bloom for the diversity message of this post?

  12. I prefer the Panspermia metaphor myself. Seedling Stars!

  13. Okay. I get it. Not my finest metaphor. Thanks for the responses!

  14. I offered Cordyceps yesterday. Bunch of bloggers invaded ScienceBlogs, which then demonstrated bizarre, almost suicidal behaviour, exploded, and showered the landscape with bloggers that then set up shop in other media organisations 😉

    Of course, you can read something negative into that but I wouldn’t because (a) I love the new bunch of blog networks and (b) I love parasites and think they’re cool.

  15. Gaythia

    I was having trouble keeping track of all of my favorite bloggers migrations here there and everywhere, until Bora and his friends invented something to help me out:

    Also, I don’t think that CZ should wait a year to think about regrouping. I’d like to see the senior blogers help the junior ones along, and in the process, provide us readers with information on new and exciting bloggers to check out.

    Ecosystems should be active but not smothering. Just say no to Kudzu!

  16. aidel

    Gaythia: keep your eye on what Bora is about to create at SciAm. I think you’ll be very pleased.

  17. aidel

    By the way, I really like the Discover blogs but the magazine really SUCKS. When I organize the magazines in my psychiatrist’s office, I put it right beside Psychology Today.

  18. Gaythia

    I believe that Discover magazine does a great job at what it does, which is to provide access to science based information for those who may not already have an extensive scientific background. Those of us who are interested in the advancement of science have a strong vested interest in the success of outreach efforts.

    I think that aidel should keep the Discover Magazine copies where they are most likely to be picked up and read!

  19. Just wanted to say thanks for using my photo.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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