Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Sound of Science (video)


[hat-tip: a lot of people are tweeting the link]

Scienceblogging: the Gam – a Q&A with Andrew Thaler

Over the next several months, I intend to do Q&As with a number of people who have done something interesting, useful, remarkable or at least memorable in the world of science blogging. I will interview founders and managers of networks, aggregators and services, pioneer bloggers, professional bloggers and others I think are interesting and have insight and information that should not be lost to the science blogging world.

We are also continuing to develop (and need your input and help) the Scienceblogging.org aggregator where you can discover dozens of networks and communities containing thousands of science bloggers.

I am also hoping to get several more ScienceOnline2010 participants interviews posted before ScienceOnline2011 – those are also all very fascinating people and what they said in those interviews are historical documents about the origins and evolution of the science blogging (and science communication) ecosystem.

I am starting this series with the Q&A with Andrew Thaler, blogger at Southern Fried Science and manager (and one of the founders) of the new independent science blogging network – the Gam.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

I’m a graduate student at the Duke University Marine Lab studying gene flow and population structure at hydrothermal vent ecosystems. I started blogging on the encouragement of Kevin Zelnio of Deep Sea News. I really enjoy being able to discuss science with a broader audience. After several months I added David Shiffman and Amy Freitag to the blog to expand the discussion.

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years? How do the big changes in science blogging affect medical bloggers?

I feel like the great blowout had been brewing for a long time. Even at ScienceOnline2009 there were bloggers expressing their frustration with the (then) two major networks. I’m not privy to the inner working of ScienceBlogs, but it seems like there were some deeper problems in the way the network was being managed that caused many bloggers to seek other options. The Pepsi Blog incident was just a catalyst. I think that was largely a good thing. ScienceBlogs came with prestige and a paycheck but the sheer size of the network made it unwieldy. As more direct ways of reaching an audience (Twitter, primarily) became more popular, the benefits of such a large network became less and less important, and the detriments started to become more apparent.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

I have feed reader for my favorite blogs, the ones I like to check every day. For everything else, Twitter is king, although I’ve found that since we started building a network, I find out a lot from other members of the Gam through e-mail and the back channel.

Tell us a little bit more about The Gam. What is it about? How did it come about? By what process do you add bloggers to the network – do they apply, do you invite them, or some other way?

The structure of the Gam began shortly after Science Online 2010. We had invited William Saleu to join us on Southern Fried Science, but we felt that a forth blogger on the main site would be quickly drowned out by pictures of dolls and posts about manatee farts. So when we moved from a free hosting platform, we set up our domain to allow blogs under the southernfriedscience.com domain. After Bomai Cruz launched, we stayed dormant for awhile. I had a vision for a network, but was busy with the rest of my life. Luckily, the structure for building a network was already there.

The Gam is a collection of (mostly) marine science blogs. Our goal is to find good new, less well known, or lower traffic niche blogs, and bring them to a broader audience. Bloggers can be nominated by any member of the Gam or they can approach us with a proposal. Once we vote on the new blog, we send an invite. After a blogger is invited, we can be set up to launch a new blog within a few hours.

Where do you see The Gam within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what is the target audience, what unique service does it provide?

We definitely have the marine science edge going for us, in conjunction with Deep Sea News, who we’re very close with, we comprise the largest collection of marine science bloggers on the internet. I think we’re more flexible than other blogging networks (all bloggers have total control over their web design, among other things) and we avoid the potentially toxic effect of advertisers. Each blog has a different target audience. Some of us are writing for scientists, some for the general public.

What is next for The Gam (as far as you are free to reveal)?

We have a really exciting site about to launch called Journeys. Journeys will be a group blog featuring writing by scientists in the field collecting data. It’s essentially an aggregation of expedition blogs – those one hit wonders that show up for a few months and then go silent. Because Journeys is a permanent platform, those expedition blogs won’t fade into the internets. In addition, Journeys comes with a built in audience, social media support through an active network of bloggers, and tech support, so writers can focus on writing and research and not worry about blogging from the back country.

Quick Links

Sleepy, rainy days in North Carolina…perfect for browsing blogs:
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Quick Links

A nice mix today:
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Berry Go Round #31

Welcome to the September edition of Berry Go Round, the blog carnival of all things botanical!

We’ll start with the The Roaming Naturalist who went out into the desert somewhere out in the Western United States and took pictures of Bitterroot, Desert Beauty.

Ted C. MacRae of Beetles In The Bush took a trip to the Sam Baker State Park and saw a Cleft Phlox, which is found in just a handful of Missouri counties.

Christina Agapakis of Oscillator is fascinated with figs and their symbiosis with pollinating wasps so she wrote not one but two posts about them: Edible Symbiosis and Seedlessness.

Sarcozona of Gravity’s Rainbow saw a wild Impatiens with an unusually looking flower – Orange Jewelweed.

Joan Knapp from Anybody Seen My Focus? took a lot of excellent pictures of the Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) in Wilkes County, Georgia.

Matt DiLeo is The Scientist Gardener. The Orange Mystery Dust that painted everyone’s shoes orange during a ballgame turned out to be from the lawn rust fungi. Matt tells us what that is all about.

Mr. Strawberry of Strawberry Plants.org introduces us to a strange-looking but mouth-watering new cultivar – the Pineberry: Pineapple Strawberry.

Dave Ingram of the Dave Ingram’s Natural History Blog explains how identification of native vs. introduced grasses requires some Learning about Ligules.

Emilie Wolf of Purple Carrots & Fairy Smoke tells you more than you ever knew about apples in Don’t You Just Love Apples?

Jessica M. Budke from Moss Plants and More takes a look at the new attempt to classify 350 species of peat moss in A Tale of the Sphagnums that Weren’t.

“Where should breeders look for traits like drought resistance among the landraces and wild relatives of crops?” asked Luigi of the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog and took a look at a new paper about tomatoes: Getting the most out of wild tomatoes.

The Phytophactor gets help from some strange flowers, like a star flower, to get students excited about Pollination biology in the greenhouse (and then you take a fruit, spice and veggie quiz).

Janet Creamer from the Midwest Native Plants, Gardens, and Wildlife took a series of pictures of a bumblebee, the only pollinator strong enough to force open the always closed flower of the Bottle Gentian.

Greg Laden of Greg Laden’s Blog gave his readers a photo quiz – Name that organism and his readers guessed them all.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Sugar beet biology you can learn from Anastasia Bodnar at Biofortified.

And that’s it for this month. Thank you all for your submissions. Next edition of Berry Go Round will be hosted by Mike Bergin at 10000 birds – make sure you send in your entries in time.

Quick Links

Berry Go Round coming in about an hour. Sit tight. Keep yourself amused with these links in the meantime:
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Quick Links

Busy day, and also preparing Berry Go Round for early tomorrow. These links should hold you over until then:
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