Cordial Deconstruction

Observations from our shared single objective reality in a materialistic, naturalistic, & effectively macro-deterministic universe.

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Blog Maintenance & PepsiGate

Posted by Karl Withakay on July 22, 2010

I had intended to write an actual blog post for this week tonight, but my sister and brother-in-law were in the neighborhood and invited me to dinner, wiping out most of the evening for me.

That, the fact that I’m kind of burned out from work this week, and the need to do some blog maintenance means I don’t have time to do a “full” post tonight.

The blog maintenance I need to do is mostly updating numerous links, due to the partial collapse/implosion of ScienceBlogs .   I’ve had to edit numerous links to bloggs of bloggers who have left ScienceBlogs for greener pastures.  If you don’t already know there story, I’ll give you the outsider’s Reader’sDigest version.

ScienceBlogs is a sort of super blog collective that hosts a plethora of science themed blogs.  It has (or had) a fairly impressive stable of high quality science bloggers, including P.Z. Meyers and his Pharyngula blog, one of the biggest blogs on the internet.

Recently, ScienceBlogs shot themselves in the foot by deciding to host a blog sponsored, produced, and written by Pepsico called Food Frontiers.  The focus of Food Frontiers was to be “innovations in science, nutrition and health policy”.  The key issue was not so much hosting a corporate sponsored blog, but hosting what was essentially paid advertising on an equal footing with actual, independant blog content without clear indication that it was paid advertising.  This is analogous to the New York Times publishing an article on environmental responsibility written by BP on the front page without providing clear indication that the content was a paid promotion produced and written by a corporate entity.

This blurring erasing of the line between advertising and independent blogging would have been bad enough, had ScienceBlogs not already been on thinner ice with its bloggers than most people realized.  There had been issues with poor tech support, late payments, a quashing of column by Seed Media Group (parent company of ScienceBlogs) because it was unfriendly to a potential advertiser , etc.  You can look at the Pepsi fiasco as either the straw that broke the camel’s back, or Seed Media/ScienceBlogs crossing of the Rubicon, but either way they have lost nearly 20% of their bloggers since they debuted the now removed Pepsi blog.

There’s no doubt about it, they are hemorrhaging bloggers and are feeling some real pain.  P.Z. Meyers went on strike and issued demands for changes, and apparently those demands have been met, and ScienceBlogs is still alive, for now.  It remains to be seen whether it stay that way; they’ve lost a lot of heavy hitter bloggers, and I don’t think many of them will come back.  It seems likely they’re going to have to fill in the gaps with what are currently 2nd or 3rd tier bloggers.  P.Z. sure seems encouraged by the discussions he’s had with the Seed overlords, but I’m curious of just how confident he is that things are headed in the right direction.  Would he be willing to put his clout on the line and reassure new or returning bloggers that ScienceBlogs is the place to be, or is he, like Orac, really taking a hopeful wait and see approach?

That’s kind of the $64,000 question right now, isn’t it?  Yes, you’re staying, but right now, would you recommend blogging at ScienceBlogs to your best friend?  It’s not necessarily the perception that the party’s winding down because people are leaving.  It might be that the party’s run out of beer, someone promised a fresh keg is on the way, and although you’re sticking around, you’re talking to your best friend on the phone, trying to decide if it’s worth it for him to drop by because you’re not so sure whether that keg is really coming or not.

OK, so I just spent about 90 minutes explaining why I don’t have time to do a full post tonight and essentially wrote the same post I would have written if I had time anyway.  Now I don’t feel like going back and editing this to pull out that parts about not having time to do a full post.  🙂

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