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The Network Central

The Network Central

Updates on the blog network and news from the science blogosphere.

What is: ScienceBlogging.org

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Several years ago it was possible for a single individual to regularly read all the English-language science blogs (loosely defined as either blogs predominantly about science, or blogs written by scientists). I know, because I did.

Soon after its launch in 2006, Scienceblogs.com gathered a fairly representative sample of the science blogosphere under one roof. This became a one-stop-shopping place for people who wanted to peer into the science world and see what's new. Many of the people checking in on science this way were the people in the media, either specialized science writers/journalists, or reporters who occasionally needed to cover science so wanted to keep up.

Over the years, the science blogosphere exploded in size. There are now thousands of science blogs (in many languages) and nobody can keep up with all of them. Thus, by this time last year, Scienceblogs.com was containing only a miniscule proportion of the science blogging community, and it is quite possible that it was not as representative as it used to be. Yet it was still a one-stop-shopping destination for many, including for the media.

This situation was not stable, so the inevitable happened - the infamous Pepsigate which resulted in a reorganization in the science blogging ecosystem, including a formation of several new (and revamping of some old) blogging networks, as well as growth of group blogs, lose aggregations of blogs by topic, etc.

Those on the inside of it could happily follow bloggers wherever they are, and they knew how to navigate the new ecosystem. But those on the outside, people looking in every now and then, lost their one-stop-shopping destination. Where to go? How to find out what the scientists online are talking about? How to catch the zeitgeist?

Are the media types going to just give up and not even try to check in any more? That would be quite unfortunate. Well, that can perhaps be remedied by making a new one-stop-shopping destination, but that could not be any one of the emerging blog networks. So, the science blogging community built not one but three such places, as aggregators, each with a somewhat different organization and overarching goal.

I will introduce ScienceSeeker.org and ResearchBlogging.org in the following weeks.Today, I will try to introduce and explain ScienceBlogging.org.

Scienceblogging.org is something we put together pretty fast after Pepsigate, with the explicit goal of providing a one-stop-shopping place for the lurkers, especially from the media.

This aggregator is not trying to be comprehensive, searchable and organized by topic (like ScienceSeeker), nor is it trying to act as a filter for only the posts that cover science with some quality and detail (like ResearchBlogging.org).

ScienceBlogging.org is supposed to give one an easy and quick glimpse of what science blogosphere is talking about at any given moment. Obviously, each of the three aggregators has its uses, its goals, and its intended audience.

Jessica Hekman, Mark Hahnel, Dave Munger, Anton Zuiker and myself made the site simple, using an existing Wodpress theme, purposefully leaving off the various bells and whistles to make the site as clean-looking and easy to understand and navigate as possible. There is a blog (not used much these days), some information about ScienceOnline, Open Laboratory and the concept of blog carnivals, and the rest is just a simple aggregator of RSS feeds from major blogging networks, science news blogs and sites, biggest group blogs, and science writing student blogs.

It is often hard to determine how to classify a site - is it a network, a collective, an aggregator, a group blog, a news blog, or something else, so the classification we used is somewhat ad hoc and capricious. Once you start using it, you will become familiar with it and will know where to look for what.

The site is particularly useful for people like me - managing a blog network and wanting to see what the other networks are doing - and for the media, to get just a daily snapshot, without having to spend hours participating in what thousands of blogs are discussing. The issue is not that of quality (nobody says these are the best), or complete coverage, just a representative sample that is useful for someone who needs to take a quick look every now and then.

The team has moved on to developing ScienceSeeker.org with much more energy, and we do not plan to do much more development of Scienceblogging.org any more, although we occasionally take a look, add a new network and such. Still, even without much development, the simplicity of the site and representativeness of the blog sampling can keep the site useful for years to come. I hope you bookmark the site and check it out every now and then.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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