Blogging isn’t the path to riches, I guess

I’m getting a lot of sad stories about bloggers struggling financially, and I just thought I’d mention a few of them.

There’s the perennially struggling Gary Farber, of course. He’s a blogger emeritus, having been around for several years longer than I have. Check out his left sidebar for options to help him out.

Gary has mentioned that the fierce and acerbic Roy Edroso of Alicublog is having a rough go of it, too.

Now I learn that Lance Mannion is deep in a hole and scrabbling to escape. He’s writing a book on raising a child with Asperger’s — somebody ought to snap it up, he’s a wonderful writer.

The annoying thing about these writers is that they’re all good, thoughtful, interesting people…and they ought to be writing for the big magazines or newspapers. But, unfortunately, when the NY Times goes looking for columnists, writing skills and cogent commentary aren’t among the qualifications, or plodders and hacks like Ross Douthat or Jonah Goldberg would be unemployed, rather than living well on wingnut welfare.

I’ll also mention a fourth example of low-budget blogging: me. Seed hasn’t managed to send me a paycheck for the last several months. I, at least, have a solid stable day job and a family that has grown up and moved out on me, so I’m not panicking. I’m definitely not asking for money for me…if you’re feeling like dropping a few dollars on someone for online content, look to Gary or Roy or Lance. Or if you can’t afford anything right now (I’m definitely sympathetic about that), at least go start reading their stuff regularly.

Mexicans communicating science and skepticism

It was a long day and a late evening yesterday at Primer Coloquio Mexicano de Ateísmo, and today I plan on doing some sightseeing in Mexico City. I also met a lot of Mexican atheists and skeptics and scientists yesterday, and some of them have blogs and podcasts…so here, Spanish speakers, is a list of excellent sites you ought to add to your regular reading list:

  • Pócimas, cocciones y brebajes. Una bitácora electrónica que pretende ser filtro de amor a la ciencia, y un bálsamo contra sus enemigos.

  • La Ciencia por Gusto. Versión ampliada de la columna semanal divulgación científica de Mart&iacuteln Bonfil Olivera, de la Dirección General de Divulgación de la Ciencia, de la UNAM, que aparece los miércoles en el periódico mexicano Milenio Diario.

  • Masa Crítica. El podcast Ateo.

  • Un Papá Escéptico. La Ciencia Salva!

  • Espeja Escéptic. Simplemente, Observando al Mundo.

I’ve also learned that the convention was held near a public square where the Inquisition used to burn heretics. Isn’t it sweet to consider that every one of the people above would have been dragged out, tied to a stake, and set on fire once upon a time? There is progress!

Breathtaking editorial arrogance

A woman wrote an article on LiveJournal, freely available to readers and for her own interests, and then the managing editor of a small magazine picked it up and published it, without notification and without, of course, payment. When the author contacted the editor and pointedly brought up the matter of the ethical lapse, suggesting that compensation could be in the form of a donation to the Columbia School of Journalism, the editor, Judith Griggs, condescendingly wrote back with this load of tripe:

Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!

Whoa. Patronizing, critical snark from the wicked witch who plainly stole somebody else’s work for her personal gain. By the way, apparently the bits that needed editing were literal transcriptions of 16th century spellings from an old cookbook which the editor updated, not flaws in the author’s writing.

Just to add a little extra irony to the whole affair, Judith Griggs’ email had this signature:

This electronic message may contain information privileged for the addressee only.
Please be advised that the Cooks Source email addressee is not intended to be transferred to any other addressor, and any copying, distribution or use of the contents of this message is prohibited.

I think Ms Griggs is about to discover that her snootiness is going to be transferred, copied, and distributed to a greater extant than she imagined.

We teach developmental biology at UMM

I’m back to teaching developmental biology this term, and one of the things I do in my upper level classes is have students write blog entries on the themes of the course. In the past, I’ve given them space right here to do that, which I’ve found to be a parlous course of action — the commentariat here is savage and brutal, and infested with trollish nitwits who can derail threads spectacularly, so I’m doing it a little differently this time around. I’ve had them create their very own blogs on their own spaces, which has the additional benefit that maybe they can keep them going after they graduate.

So here’s the list of student blogs from my course. Feel free to visit, criticize, comment, etc., but do remember that they’re just now learning, so constructive discussion is far better than our usual ravaging ferocity. They’ve also been warned to be thick-skinned, though, so you don’t have to be too gentle.

Developmental Biology blogs

There isn’t much there yet in most cases, since they’ve just set them up, but I’ll be making weekly links to relevant articles in the future.

While I’m at it, I’ll mention that a former student, Levi Simonson, has a blog from his perspective as an ex-UMM student, now a graduate student at the wonderful University of Oregon. People do leave here to go on to interesting work!

I was wondering why I so rarely get any Digg love

I remember seeing sporadic bursts of activity here when Digg, one of the big aggregator sites, would link to something here, but I haven’t seen that in a while — but now I learn that there is a fanatically active group of conservative haters at work over there. They call themselves Digg Patriots (“patriots” is one of those words, like “family”, that usually get appropriated by people with an extremely narrow view of what it means.) They take advantage of a feature of Digg: in order for an article to get elevated to the front page, where it will get a lot of attention, it has to be voted up; however, Digg also allows people to vote down, or bury, articles. The Digg Patriots take advantage of this to organize what amounts to poll-crashing to suppress views they dislike. Obviously, I think poll-crashing is a fine and fair activity, except that in this case they take advantage of a Digg mechanism to bury their opposition, which isn’t exactly in the spirit of free speech. And they’re picking on me!

The DP group searches Digg for any articles from websites they want to drown out, sites such as Salon, News Junkie Post, Talking Points Memo, FreakOutNation, Five Thirty Eight, ThePublicRecord, Rawstory, The Nation, Media Matters for America, PoliticusUSA, Alternet, Fire Dog Lake, Political Carnival, TruthOut, DailyKos, The Joshua Blog, The Brad Blog, Huffington Post, Science Blogs, Smirking Chimp, Down With Tyranny, Crooks and Liars, MarioPiperni, Buzzflash, Bob Cesca’s REALLY AWESOME Blog, and The New York Times.

The Digg Patriots are rather sleazy — they use multiple aliases, violate various Digg rules, and actively work to get around bans — and they do try to suppress some good blogs and news sites, but I don’t think they can have that much influence on everything, and are mainly a threat to individuals they target, which makes them nothing more than petty bullies.

One thing we can do to counter them rather easily is to use those aggregators ourselves. You’ll notice that every site at Scienceblogs has this little bar across the bottom of each article:


Use it now and then, if you’re familiar with how those aggregators work. Clicking on the “Reddit” button, for instance, will pop up a window with the URL and title of the article filled in for you (that is, you are a registered Reddit user), and a button allows you to submit stuff to that site. Digg is tucked away under the “email+more” button.

The other thing you can do is browse those sites and search for the sources conveniently listed by the Digg Patriots above, and if you like them, vote them up. It’s a good way to help promote good sources, and as we all know, the NY Times needs as much help as it can get.

I’m not too concerned about the general effects of a group of know-nothings reflexively voting down liberal sites — they will be drowned out by the rising tide. But where they can do real damage is when they concentrate their activities on single groups or individuals. There is one fellow called R.J. Carter or CaptCarrot who went on a YouTube crusade against a youth group accusing them of promoting pedophilia and otherwise just generally trashing them with libelous accusations, and got accounts shut down and hurt innocent people, and that’s serious.

What’s this? Mike the Mad Biologist posted on the same thing at the same time?