2013 – Blog Year In Review

I wish everyone a happy, healthy, successful and prosperous New Year!

Many bloggers start each year with a “Year In Review” type of post, so I thought this would be a good way for me to get back to blogging after a brief hiatus.

January

My most popular post of the entire year, at least judging by traffic, was Commenting threads: good, bad, or not at all.

In January, The New York Times announced they were eliminating their environmental desk, so I wrote Why the NYTimes “Green Blog” Is Now Essential – unfortunately, this did not work, as the Green Blog was shut down later in the year.

I mildly edited and republished an older (but I believe still important) post: ‘Echo-chamber’ is just a derogatory term for ‘community’.

And I was Tom Levenson’s guest on the Virtually Speaking Science online radio show.

Ahead of ScienceOnline2013, I interviewed a few of the past participants, including Cathy Clabby, Allie Wilkinson, Chris Gunter, Sean Ekins, Anthony Salvagno, Sarah Webb and Simon Frantz. This was a part of an ongoing, multi-year series of Q&As with #ScioX participants, giving them the opportunity to tell the world who they are and what they do, while at the same time showcasing the diversity of people who attend the annual event.

But the most important pair or posts of January are two interviews in which Anton Zuiker and I interviewed each other. They are both long, and each contains both some elements of unusual frankness and openness and some elements of enigmatic riddles that can be solved only by close reading of both pieces, perhaps more than once. Here they are: ScienceOnline – crossing a river with Anton Zuiker and An interview with Bora Zivkovic. Quite eye-opening to read them both a whole year later….

February

ScienceOnline2013 took all of my time and energy in February, but I still managed to interview the new ScioX Executive Director Karyn Traphagen and help Rose Eveleth and Ben Lillie kick-start yet another new project – Science Studio.

March
In March I wrote a piece for Zocalo Public Square – Let’s Not Spring Forward, for which I was also invited to discuss Daylight Saving Time on CBS San Francisco.

April

A very, very important person in my life died. I wrote about her here – Morning at Triton.

May

In April and May I traveled a lot, including Ottawa and Toronto where I gave talks and New York City where I attended the first ScioX topical satellite event – ScienceOnline TEEN.

In preparation for WCSJ2013 in Helsinki in June, I wrote a summary post What makes one a “killer” (science) journalist of the future?

June

June was another busy travel month (and summer, so time to goof off a little and not do much writing), so there were only some brief updates about
travel plans and ScienceOnline events.

July

In July, I photoblogged SciFoo, and participated at FtBCON online.

I also finally found some time to write about science again – Good Night, Moon! Now go away so I can sleep.

August

Science writing streak continued in August, with Sharks have rhythm, too, specifically timed for the Shark Week.

I was also preparing some SciWri panels that were subsequently very successful although I was not there in person and only watched on Twitter from afar.

September

In September, I photoblogged WCSJ2013 in Helsinki and had some brief media mentions.

I finished and reviewed a book – Brian Switek’s ‘My Beloved Brontosaurus’.

Finally, I veered off into anthropology with a longish and pretty serious post They eat horses, don’t they? for the Food Week at SciAmBlogs.

I went to Belgrade in October, but did not yet have time to write much about it.

Also in October I moved my blog from its spot at Scientific American back to its home here. For the three years that I was there – the best job with the best colleagues in the best magazine ever – I (as an author on several blogs there) accumulated 1,803,619 visits and 2,214,082 pageviews, which placed me at the all-time #2 spot right behind Katie Harmon (this probably still holds and will take a while for someone else to displace the two of us from the top two spots). If one looks at just my own, somewhat neglected A Blog Around The Clock, it collected 534,460 visits and 640,916 pageviews while it was on their site, if you want to do some mental calculation and add that to the Sitemeter numbers visible here on the sidebar.

After two and a half months of hiatus, I will continue blogging here. What about? I don’t know, I’ll have to play by ear and see how it develops and where it goes. I expect to write about science, about media, and more. Personal stories? Perhaps. We’ll see. I recently had plenty of time to be offline and read actual, physical books, so I may write some book reviews. Hang in there, and let’s see in which new direction this blog goes over the next year. And thank you all for reading my stuff over the years – I promise, there will be more, and I hope it will get better.

Until then, though, make sure to read this beautiful post by Anton Zuiker, a perfect start for the new year – Roots and bitters: What to do when a friend hands you gentian.

Addendum

I can see now that my first blog post was too tentative and not satisfactory. All I hoped to do is get back online today and delve into the issues slowly over time. I did not expect anyone would want to prolong a discussion that has been painful for all of us. But I certainly did not think it was resolved or would be resolved quickly.

Let me be clear: In no way did I mean to deny or downplay or pretend the events didn’t happen. Absolutely not. I accept full responsibility. I was wrong. I am sorry. My public apologies of October 15th and October 15th again and October 16th still stand. My new tweets and posts do not erase or diminish or retract those in any way. Likewise for the apologies issued much more appropriately – privately to the harmed parties.

I didn’t think I needed to offer a new public apology in my first post – I was wrong about that. So, I apologize, this time to the community at large.

More importantly, Anton’s post in no way asks for forgetting or forgiving – neither is up to him or myself to ask, and he is very clear about it in his closing paragraphs. Only the women affected by my actions can decide what they want to do, and what, where, when and how they want to ask me to do.

I had plenty of time to think and I am still learning. I am in therapy and am dealing with all these issues – I was hoping to write about all of this later, slowly, in more detail, not yet today.

I am more than willing and happy to do whatever the women I harmed ask me to do. I don’t know whether it is appropriate for me to do this all in public, though. I have to pay attention to the actual needs and wants of people I harmed, rather than the popular public opinion. I have been shy and embarrassed and tentative and scared about it, but I hope to be able to, via mediators, get in touch with them in a manner safe for them if they want to ask me for additional explanations, apologies or actions.

Because of my actions, I lost my job but I hope to resume and rebuild my career. I am not seeking sympathy. I accept the price I paid and, as you all probably know, I resigned voluntarily from Scientific American (in the morning of October 14th, although it was publicly announced in the afternoon of October 18th), as well as from all the other advisory and editorial boards and such. I will try to now restart my career from scratch.

I am very grateful to my wife for supporting me through these difficult times. After all, I harmed her as much as anyone.

I am also thankful to Anton Zuiker for being a rare kind of true friend, someone who could tell me how I screwed up, and then tell me how to pick myself up and move on.

I hope to repair some of the friendships I damaged, however long it takes. I am angry only at myself and will gladly accept the hand of any friend who may wish to extend it, whenever that may be.

I know that not all questions have been resolved to the satisfaction of the community. Thus, I will explore the events – and the lessons I learned from them – in future posts.

I understand I harmed not just individuals, but also the community. I want your feedback as well – what kinds of changes do you expect to see from me, how can I make amends, what kind of actions will persuade you I’ve changed for real, what kind of changes you’d require to let me back into your circle of people you trust? You can contact me publicly or privately. I am listening.

This happened

I am very ashamed of this incident which happened more than a year ago. Staff at Scientific American spoke to me and Ms. Byrne about our interaction at that time. I asked that my sincere apologies be conveyed to Ms. Byrne for the distress she suffered as a result of my inappropriate remarks and emails to her, and I also expressed my deep regret to the company about acting unprofessionally. The company offered her an apology as well. It was a difficult time for me personally and I made a mistake – I should not have shared my personal issues with her. It is not behavior that I have engaged in before or since. I hope to be known for my continued professional and appropriate support of science writers rather than for this singular, regrettable event for which I am deeply sorry. My behavior before and after this incident reflects my true respect for women, and I deeply regret the distress I caused to my wife and Ms.Byrne. I appreciate the messages of support I have received and understand the views of those who have been critical but I intend to let Ms. Byrne’s post and this statement end the discussion from my side.

Welcome the Popular Science blog network

 

This morning, the science blogging ecosystem just got bigger and better. More the merrier!

Our friends at Popular Science just launched a brand new blog network.

They are starting with 13 wonderful bloggers, some veterans, some new, and there will be something for everyone:

Zero Moment: Erik Sofge on our robot future
Techtiles: Emma Barker on the science behind the clothes and gadgets we wear
Biohackers: Daniel Grushkin and others on bathtub genomicists and tissue tweakers
Ignition!: Peter Madsen on the world of amateur space exploration
Our Modern Plagues: Brooke Borel on the latest contagions and infestations, and the science of fighting them
LadyBits: Arikia Millikan and others on gender and feminism in science and technology
Boxplot: Maki Naro on science through the medium of graphic narrative
Rotorhead: Chelsea Sexton on the green rebirth of the automobile and other forms of transportation
Vintage Space: Amy Shira Teitel on the history of space exploration
Under the Microscope: Jason Tetro on microbiology and the germs that define us
Unpopular Science: Rebecca Watson on the area just beyond the fringe of science
KinderLab: Kate Gammon on the science of childhood development
Eek Squad: Rebecca Boyle on creepy animals

As you may be aware, Popular Science received some pushback a couple of weeks ago for their decision to shut down comment threads on (most of) their news articles. Bloggers, on the other hand, will open up their comments and will actively moderate their commenting threads to ensure high level of discourse on their blogs. Thus, go ahead and visit them all, subscribe to their feeds, and start posting smart comments!

Best of September at A Blog Around The Clock

I posted five times in September, including:

They eat horses, don’t they?

“My Beloved…” and other dinosaurs.

WCSJ2013 in Helsinki, a photo-tour

Updates, Events and Miscellanea

Previously in the “Best of…” series:

2013

August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2012

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2011

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2010

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2009

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

Quick update: UNESCO Belgrade, and NYTimes

I am in Belgrade, my hometown, participating in the First SEE Regional Science Promotion Conference October 2nd and 3rd, Belgrade, Serbia and the UNESCO South East European (SEE) Science Journalism School. Longer blog post about it later, after it ends.

Also, if you missed it on social media, I was quoted in New York Times yesterday, in Comment Ban Sets Off Debate, about the value of comments on science news articles and blog posts, as this is a hot topic these days after PopSci closed comments (and was also hot topic back in January when I wrote this post about it). Short quote, but does not misrepresent what I said (and yes, we chatted for an hour, that’s how it works), and gave me a new nickname “Weed Wacker” among my bloggers ;-)

WCSJ2013 in Helsinki, a photo-tour

Flying directly from SciFoo in California to WCSJ2013 in Helsinki, Finland is a pretty long trip that requires a pretty big airplane. Those of you who know me well, know I am obsessed with airplanes, am an addict of FlightAlert, choose JetBlue on domestic flights in order to continuously monitor flight statistics, and my first requirement when someone else is booking my flights is “the biggest airplane you can get”. So I was quite pleased to be riding on this big bird, the original Jumbo Jet:

Boeing 747, ready to go from San Francisco to Heathrow, London.

Boeing 747, ready to go from San Francisco to Heathrow, London.

What I really liked, though, was something that is apparently banned on US air carriers, but both of Finnair flights (to and from London to Helsinki) had – a cockpit cam! While the screen shows many more different flight stats than JetBlue does, and one can also watch the view from a camera facing straight down (which is really nice when approaching the Land of 1000 Lakes), during the last few minutes of flight, during landing, everyone’s screen is automatically turned on to the cockpit cam. It feels like playing a video game, piloting the airplane down onto the runway!

Cockpit cam view, just seconds after landing at Heathrow from Helsinki.

Cockpit cam view, just seconds after landing at Heathrow from Helsinki.

Helsinki is gorgeous:

Plenty of water

Easy to relax on the square in front of the University

Cathedral in the middle of the day

Cathedral in the middle of the night, i.e., that two-hour period when it's not as bright as usual in the middle of the summer!

I checked in:

Of course, I added my Twitter handle to the nametag ;-)

And picked up the Program:

It's all there, black on white.

First morning plenary, by Hans Rosling “A fact-based world view – people, money & energy”

Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling, giving the first plenary

A Hans Rosling slide

A Hans Rosling slide

A Hans Rosling animation

Hans Rosling polled us, and we all failed miserably!

The first morning plenary panel was What about ethics?

Deborah Blum at the first morning plenary panel

Deborah Blum on Chemophobia

Deborah Blum on Chemophobia

Deborah Blum on Chemophobia

JAYFK makes an appearance

SA Guest Blog makes an appearance

Chemophobia

More Chemophobia

Even more Chemophobia

I went to many sessions, but did not take photos in each one. And those I took from the back row with my iPhone, as you can see, are not very clear, but OK….

What happens outside USA and UK?:

Nina Kristiansen, Chief Editor of ScienceNordic

Says who? – Challenging the experts on medical knowledge:

Mikael Fogelholm, Professor in Public Health Nutrition, University of Helsinki. (I think)

Wearing many hats? How to preserve independence was already covered in great detail by Kai Kupferschmidt and Anne Sasso.

The day ended with an evening at the National Archives of Finland:

City of Helsinki welcomes science writers

Second day’s morning plenary – Deborah Blum: “The Poisoner’s Guide to Life (And Communicating Chemistry).”

Deborah Blum communicates chemistry

Deborah Blum communicates chemistry

Then, there was a plenary panel, The Rise of the Science Blog Network: Lessons from All Corners of the World, organized by Deborah Blum, moderated by Lynne Smit, with panelists Betsy Mason, Alok Jha, Ed Yong and yours truly:

View of the panel while being on the panel.

Alokh Jha explaining something I agree with a moment later (perhaps we all agreed too much!).

You can watch the whole panel webcast here (You can watch webcasts of all the plenary talks and panels):

Next panel was “The ‘killer’ science journalists of the future.” But if you’ve ever been to my blog, you know I wrote a lot about it already, see: #sci4hels – ‘Killer’ science journalists of the future ready to take over the world!, and #sci4hels – the ‘killer’ science journalists of the future want your feedback, and #sci4hels – What makes one a “killer” (science) journalist of the future?. Of course, preparing for this for almost a year, they did an amazing job and were rightfully stars of the event (but also see this and this).

Last strategy meeting before the panel

It's about to start!

In front of a packed auditorium

Rose Eveleth introduces the panel

Lena Groeger demoes Cicada Tracker

Kathleen Raven tackles the tough questions from the audience.

Erin Podolak and Kathleen Raven, relaxed and happy during a break a little later.

A deserved outing:

On the island...

An old fortress

A church

Reindeer calf for dinner.

An old cannon

Geese and goslings

The third day started with the plenary talk “Mental preparation for a vulnerable world“:

Janne I. Hukkinen's slide

Late breaker session: Big data, big brother:

Dino Trescher (Germany), editor and founder of Constart Correspondent Network.

Making Sense of Uncertainty:

Making sense of uncertainty

Closing Plenary: New Horizons:

Ivan Oransky

Connie St.Louis

Barbecue dinner at Heureka, the Finnish Science Centre, was the last event:

Entrance to Heureka

The rainbow colors of the building

The Fire dance

Plenty to play with

Easy to roll a ball in the water

Phase space in sand. It's beautiful!

In the basement of Heureka, in the replica of a WWII bomb shelter, at the moment the bomb struck and lights went out.

Breakfast with Vesa Niinikangas, outgoing WCSJ President.

A sparrow at the Helsinki airport, at my gate.

Beautiful city, I hope to be back one day.

Updates, Events and Miscellanea

Last week, Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer ran a short Q&A with me about science blogs.

I am also included (as #101) in the last issue of WIRED’s 101 Signals for Science:

"...aggressive..."?

On September 23rd and 24th, I’ll be participating in The Evolving Culture of Science Engagement event at MIT, followed by the Story Collider on the evening of 23rd, and by ScioBeantown tweetup on the evening of 24th. This may be followed by a tweetup in NYCity a day or two later – TBA.

Then I will go to Belgrade, Serbia to participate in the UNESCO South-East European Science Journalism School on October 2-5th, (more background, Facebook event page) where I will be involved in several workshops and panels (and will get to see my Mom).

Later in October, on 23rd and 24th, I will speak to health & medical journalism and science students at University of Georgia in Athens, GA. The rotating Atlanta/Athens science tweetup will be in Athens for that occasion.

Finally, on November 1-5 I’ll be in Gainesville, Florida for the annual NASW/CASW ScienceWriters2013 meeting, where I am organizing two sessions.

If you will be at any of those events, come by and say Hi.