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Responding to No name Life Science Blog Editor who called me out of my name

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


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Editor’s note (10/14/13): This post was originally published on Friday, October 11, 2013, at 16:58, and taken down within the hour. As fully detailed here, we could not quickly verify the facts of the blog post and consequently for legal reasons we had to remove it. Email to the editor referenced in this post to elicit his comments has gone unanswered. Biology Online would not disclose his identity or give out additional contact information and other efforts to identify him to solicit a response have been unsuccessful. Biology Online has confirmed the exchange. This post is therefore being republished as of October 14th at 4:46pm.

wachemshe hao hao kwangu mtapoa

I got this wrap cloth from Tanzania. It’s a khanga. It was the first khanga I purchased while I was in Africa for my nearly 3 month stay for field research last year. Everyone giggled when they saw me wear it and then gave a nod to suggest, “Well, okay”. I later learned that it translates to “Give trouble to others, but not me”. I laughed, thinking how appropriate it was. I was never a trouble-starter as a kid and I’m no fan of drama, but I always took this 21st century ghetto proverb most seriously:

Don’t start none. Won’t be none. For those not familiar with inner city anthropology – it is simply a variation of the Golden Rule. Be nice and respectful to me and I will do the same. Everyone doesn’t live by the Golden Rule it seems. (Click to embiggen.) The Blog editor of Biology-Online dot org asked me if I would like to blog for them. I asked the conditions. He explained. I said no. He then called me out of my name. My initial reaction was not civil, I can assure you. I’m far from rah-rah, but the inner South Memphis in me was spoiling for a fight after this unprovoked insult. I felt like Hollywood Cole, pulling my A-line T-shirt off over my head, walking wide leg from corner to corner yelling, “Aww hell nawl!” In my gut I felt so passionately:”Ofek, don’t let me catch you on these streets, homie!” This is my official response:

It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request.. After all, Dr. Important Person does it for free so what’s my problem? Listen, I ain’t him and he ain’t me. Folks have reasons – finances, time, energy, aligned missions, whatever – for doing or not doing things. Seriously, all anger aside…this rationalization of working for free and you’ll get exposure is wrong-headed. This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story. Even if I decide to do it pro bono (because I support your mission or I know you, whatevs) – it is still worth something. I’m simply choosing to waive that fee. But the fact is I told ol’ boy No; and he got all up in his feelings. So, go sit on a soft internet cushion, Ofek, ’cause you are obviously all butt-hurt over my rejection. And take heed of the advice on my khanga.

You don't want none of this

Thanks to everyone who helped me focus my righteous anger on these less-celebrated equines. I appreciate your support, words of encouragement, and offers to ride down on his *$$.

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

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





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  1. 1. Rae2cool 5:53 pm 10/11/2013

    Absolutely appalling behaviour on “biolog-yonline.org” part. Does this socially inept troll have any clue that the majority of populace will most certainly boycott that blog now? All due to his idiocy and lack of professionalism. Kudos to DNLee for behaving with an incredible amount of professionalism & a level of self-control that many of us would be hard pressed to emulate.

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  2. 2. red_panda 5:58 pm 10/11/2013

    Well said! Can’t believe that people believe it’s OK to behave like that!

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  3. 3. jonmoulton 5:20 pm 10/14/2013

    Thanks to SciAm for bringing Dr. Lee’s post back.

    Link to this
  4. 4. greg_t_laden 5:24 pm 10/14/2013

    Welcome back to the Intertubes, blog post!

    That guy was a jerk, totally out of line, no excuses. There are too many jerks!

    My understanding is that he was “fired” but he was probably working for free anyway. Otherwise … oh never mind.

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  5. 5. clairesturg 5:47 pm 10/14/2013

    A) THANK YOU for standing up for yourself and all the others who may not have.

    B) You are awesome.

    C) I think you have far surpassed the 1.6 million POTENTIAL viewers you were quoted. Well done.

    D) Refer to statements A and B 1.6 million times.

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  6. 6. MrProsser 6:02 pm 10/14/2013

    It is nice to see this back up. It is too bad that so much discussion of the incident had to happen outside of the comments here.

    I am still a bit disappointed with SciAm, they have done the right thing it putting this up, but they have yet to explain their actions in a very convincing manner. They need to explain why it took multiple iterations of misinformation before they got to bringing up legal issues.

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  7. 7. FreeRangeRadical 6:27 pm 10/14/2013

    Flat out, there are a lot of rude a-holes on the internet and many of them think that because they’re credentialed, it gives them the right to sneer at anyone they consider beneath them.

    Think of this as Round 2, and you’re already ahead by a knock out! :)

    If I were there, I’d hug ya!

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  8. 8. Crip Dyke 8:19 pm 10/14/2013

    Dr Lee: It’s good to see you.

    Rock some change for me, will you?

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  9. 9. zweihander 9:11 pm 10/14/2013

    You go.

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  10. 10. whysocertain 9:12 pm 10/14/2013

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

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  11. 11. Chris Ho-Stuart 9:16 pm 10/14/2013

    Good result all round. My own view it is also good Ofek has remained anonymous. Internet justice is too often an oxymoron.

    Ofek now gets to decide for himself what to learn from this and will either remain a jerk, or benefit and become more human. Same for any of us who have made mistakes and done hurtful or cruel things in the past. And that’s a good thing too.

    I’ve been reading more on the blog here as well; found your post on Dreams Deferred very moving.

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  12. 12. lblaffitte 10:52 pm 10/14/2013

    embiggen! love that…and your wisdom and rhyme!

    Link to this
  13. 13. crowther 11:30 pm 10/14/2013

    Dr. Lee, I commend you for turning a stupid email remark into a teachable moment. Your response was both illuminating and funny.

    There seems to be some confusion as to why Scientific American took down the post for a while. To me it is clear that they were uncomfortable with an accusation being made against a specific person (or at least a specific email address) and a specific website. I fault Scientific American for not showing more trust in you, one of its own bloggers. However, I also wonder whether you could have done the post with the specific email address and organization “blacked out” of the screen capture, and then called out Biology-Online.org in a later post if they failed to take appropriate action. That’s what I might have done — but if you felt it was important to “name names” right away, I’d like to hear more about that.

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  14. 14. psychugo 1:08 am 10/15/2013

    I am happy this post is back up. Only cowards will resort to such disrespectful behavior -online, when they don’t get their way.

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  15. 15. cstellawatts 2:50 am 10/15/2013

    Ms. Lee, you just made my day. You’re an inspiration. Thank you for sharing this, and for the video, which was perfect in tone and content.

    cw

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  16. 16. Trish Lindsey Jaggers 10:26 am 10/15/2013

    A-woman to that!

    A whole other side to this is that people have some nerve EXPECTING (not even asking) ANY professional (scientist, writer, photographer, artist, musician, and so on) to contribute her/his work for the “exposure” it brings. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills!

    The fun irony is that Dr. Lee now has quite a bit more exposure than she would’ve ever received from the free blog–just because she defended her right to say “no,” regardless of her reasons. Again, a-woman!
    tlj

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  17. 17. Schizophelia 11:06 am 10/15/2013

    Dr. Lee, you ROCK.

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  18. 18. dtaunton 11:26 am 10/15/2013

    I am a political and social liberal, but maybe I’m academically conservative, because I don’t think a first-hand account of name-calling belongs on a web site with the domain name of “scientificamerican”.

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  19. 19. max xavier 11:37 am 10/15/2013

    You know how awesome you are? You are so awesome I am sharing this link with my 20 year old daughter. Thank you for being smart, and REAL. There are not enough women in the science fields, and you break all kinds of stereotypical models of a highly intelligent person ( let alone WOMAN)just as she does. I wish you incredible success and no trouble on you ;->

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  20. 20. katsalerno 11:42 am 10/15/2013

    dtaunton — To dismiss this as simply a “first-hand account of name-calling” is a grave mistake. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the concept of “microaggressions” in society. If so, you should familiarize yourself with that term. Calling a female scientist who is also Black a “whore”, in a professional forum, is an incredibly aggressive and demeaning thing to do. That insult was loaded with the full weight of 200+ years of institutionalized racism and misogyny.

    You might be able to shake it off as a simple act of “name-calling”, but this appears to have been the straw that (quite understandably) broke the camel’s back in Dr. Lee’s case. Interestingly, your reaction has been shared by many of the white male scientists I’ve discussed this with; virtually every female and/or ethnic-minority scientist I’ve talked to about it has responded with a loud “OH, HELL NO!”

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  21. 21. bongobimbo 11:59 am 10/15/2013

    Good for you, Ms Lee! This old white woman supports you all the way. As for SciAm’s editor Marietta DiChristina, SciAm has been drifting to the Radical Right since she took over. Recent published articles and both published and online blogs dogmatically encouraging fracking, nukes, and now sexism and racism, are clear evidence that Marietta NEEDS TO BE DISMISSED AS SCI AM’s EDITOR. Maybe she’s a woman, but she supports the white-male-greedo-polluter oligarchy’s party line, and is not only an embarrassment to science but a DANGER to the survival of my grandchildren!! I don’t put up with that.

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  22. 22. David Cummings 12:16 pm 10/15/2013

    Excellent response, Ms Lee. Very well said.

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  23. 23. wolfmara 1:19 pm 10/15/2013

    I can’t comprehend a person wanting to be taken seriously as a professional Insulting the person he was originally trying to hire/attract WTF WHhat kind of moron IS he? (and on a side note: “embiggen”?…really?)

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  24. 24. wantonhubris 1:20 pm 10/15/2013

    Are you sure this miscreant is “he”?

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  25. 25. jmw499 5:11 pm 10/15/2013

    Of all the ways scientists, as students and post docs, are exploited (low pay, stressful working environment, long hours, bosses who don’t know how to manage people, thankless work) this is beyond ridiculous.

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  26. 26. David Marjanović 5:38 pm 10/15/2013

    I am a political and social liberal, but maybe I’m academically conservative, because I don’t think a first-hand account of name-calling belongs on a web site with the domain name of “scientificamerican”.

    It’s a first-hand account of what the job market for scientists looks like. Of course it belongs on Scientific American.

    Also, I’m not sure if you’ve understood what a blog is.

    “embiggen”?…really?

    That’s an allusion to the classical literature.

    Of all the ways scientists, as students and post docs, are exploited [...] this is beyond ridiculous.

    Quoted for truth.

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  27. 27. Lissba 6:14 pm 10/15/2013

    While I agree whole-heartedly with the enclosed sentiments, as a consumer, I would like to inform the appropriate party that your readers still care about grammar and meaning, and it might appear more professional to edit this material before posting it under the illustrious name of Scientific American.

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  28. 28. Liadan 6:16 pm 10/15/2013

    No, you are not a “whore.” Neither are you a “slave” working for free!

    I love that through his misogyny, you have gone viral and reached far more people in one day than a lifetime of writing for them!

    You are an inspiration for girls in science.

    Stay classy.

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  29. 29. d00mcake 8:48 pm 10/15/2013

    I just noticed on the front page of the site, it boasts a daily visit count of 25,000 hits. Even multiplied by 30, it comes out to 750,000. And even then you would be the most professional person there considering their staff bios look like something off of an off-the-wall MMORPG’s guild page. And that’s just at a glance, I don’t even care to give their pages any more hits to see what else is there. You’re better off, as you know, where you are. Trying to poach you from Scientific American is laughable in and of itself anyways. Keep being you, girl. You’re an inspiration to not only myself but to so many other girls (and boys!) out there.

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  30. 30. floridiajbettina 6:16 am 10/16/2013

    The gift of your brilliant mind is your most valuable commodity. Let know one pimp, tempt or cause you to be limp in your gift. Nobody.

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  31. 31. marcreiner 7:57 am 10/16/2013

    Very nicely done.

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  32. 32. HurricaneLake 10:17 am 10/16/2013

    Great response! Proud and unique. Thanks for sharing.

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  33. 33. pnwillis 12:59 pm 10/16/2013

    I’ve never written on a blog before, so I’m going to comment in the form of a letter.

    Dr. Lee,

    First I would like to say I applaud your years of hard work to get where you are. I would also like to thank you for being an advocate and example for underrepresented groups. Reading about this incident has caused me to do some self reflection. I am black female who recently finished my postdoc (in math) and I try to do my part to encourage others to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields. Reading about this incident has made me realize I don’t often feel the need to confront injustice head on. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take ____ from anyone and I stand up for myself and others when needed. But I don’t think of making it a larger teaching moment. Your experience and the way you handled it has challenged me to think about what I can do in my day to day experiences that will truly create change for the future generations. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Best,

    Paulette

    P.S. I noticed that some people on various sites made comments claiming that this situation is a personal issue. I disagree with that to the point that I decided to log this comment from my LinkedIn account instead of Facebook because I agree that the disrespect came from a professional outlet and should be treated as such.

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  34. 34. emilie.bee 3:59 pm 10/16/2013

    Who could have said it better?? You are great, Dr. Goodenough!
    <3

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  35. 35. Iamnotmakingthisup 4:31 pm 10/16/2013

    Thank you for speaking up, and so articulately. I have observed the “I don’t have any compensation for you, but I can offer untold exposure” to be a spreading microbe, and it seems to be somewhat generational, where young self-appointed entrepreneurs presume they can “help” established professionals of any age (with their rather promiscuous self-promotion, no less!–and I use that word advisedly given the context) I would be surprise if they treat all demographics equally in this regard.

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  36. 36. jnhernan 6:45 pm 10/16/2013

    Amazing response! You are my new hero. The naysayers have no understanding of the blog medium-your editor included- and shame on Scientific American for censoring your posting. I’m glad it’s back up and hope you will continue the important and illuminating work that you do- both scientific and otherwise.

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  37. 37. shazdancer 8:39 pm 10/16/2013

    Outstanding, and nice advice about treating and being treated in a professional manner. As a former dancer, I also got many free offers to dance, “because you love it so much.” Yes I did, and I loved having a roof over my head, too! Any time I did a freebie, it was for a good reason (good cause, publicity, etc.), not because I wasn’t worth paying. I fully agree, you earned the right to receive compensation. And if that blog editor got fired, well, he earned that, too.

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  38. 38. Lady_Valkris 8:54 pm 10/16/2013

    The insult was unwarranted and should’ve been exposed. But the response? #hoodratwithadoctorate

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  39. 39. Debbyka 11:28 pm 10/16/2013

    Hoodrat with a doctorate? This woman stood up for herself, and the only thing you came up with is a derogative term. Pitiful…

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  40. 40. AliceChildress 10:57 am 10/17/2013

    Wow- “hoodrat with a doctorate”? Outrageous! That’s Dr. Lee to you. Must someone erase all traces of who they are and where the came from to be a “real doctor”? It brings a different perspective and that’s not a bad thing. In case we have forgotten, most MDs/PhDs graduate deeply in debt; exposure does not pay the rent. Oh, and “embiggen”? I’m betting it’s a Simpsons reference. Dr. Lee, you keep on being you. You handled this with perfect outrage, humor and grace.

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  41. 41. HeadDoc12 11:36 am 10/17/2013

    Lady_Valkris, seriously?? Your comment actually illustrates the same issue described in the post: people say things on the internet that they would NEVER say to someone’s face, and assume that it is okay. In case no one has said this to you before, LV, I will say it: it is not okay. You are entitled to your backward, ignorant, racist thoughts; you are even entitled to express them (price of freedom, yadda yadda yadda). It is actually very important to me that we are all able to do that, at the moment, in the country where I currently live. However, you expose yourself as possibly WORSE than the editor who called Dr. Lee a whore, since you purport to have at least some standard of civil discourse, and then break it into a trillion pieces. Also, hashtags are ridiculous. Finally, huge SHAME on SciAm for pulling the post. Reminds me of the argument all of the gynophobic nerds in the Skeptic community propose when one of their own is accused of sexual assault or harassment: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Except here, as in the skeptic example, the claim is extremely ordinary, and the evidence is clear. Dr. Lee, I admire the way you handled yourself in all of this, and appreciate when someone responds to terrible behavior with calm, dignity, and awesome jokes. You have a new (white, middle-aged, male) fan.

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  42. 42. rkipling 3:39 pm 10/18/2013

    Dr. Lee,

    I’m not easily shocked, but I was shocked at the manner in which you were treated. It’s terrible that anyone would be insulted like that, but it is beyond comprehension that it would come from someone requesting submission of a scientific article. I’m still flabbergasted that happened.

    You should be commended for bringing this incident forward. It should serve to inhibit future similar occurrences. You should be further commended as a marketing genius. When I first read about this and watched your video, I couldn’t understand why you chose that manner of reply. I somehow doubt that’s how you typically present yourself. On reflection, my guess is that you were looking for maximum visibility. In any event high visibility was achieved.

    I hope you can forgive a bit of unsolicited advice. Consider running for political office. I have no idea what your political philosophy may be, but the country could benefit from leaders who understand science regardless of their party affiliation.

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  43. 43. shandarley 10:45 pm 10/19/2013

    @bongobimbo and others taking “the white-male-greedo-polluter oligarchy’s party line” to task -If I might offer one piece of unasked for advice? If you want to rail against prejudice, sexism, and racism, may I suggest that you don’t engage in it yourself? I am in full agreement with Dr. Lee’s post and completely understand her anger, having been on the receiving end of the same. However, the only way we defeat the idiots that act like this is by changing EVERYONE’S attitudes, not just theirs. There should be fairness and equity on all sides. If “they” can’t do it, you and I shouldn’t be able to do it either.

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  44. 44. scientificr 8:01 am 10/21/2013

    Thank you Dr Lee. It was interesting that the assumption was made that you are not allowed to consider monetary payment for your time, only to expect increased readership of your blog as the only acceptable compensation for your time.

    Scientific publishing is facing serious competition to existing business models, by blogs, open access dissemination, etc.

    If SA fail to investigate further (i.e. identify and authenticate “Ofek”), ‘Urban scientist’ should find another blog host.

    (Read via http://blackfolk.livejournal.com)

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  45. 45. scientificr 10:04 am 10/23/2013

    According to Peter Griffin’s blog post (17-10-13), the web site parent company offered an apology to you Dr Lee. Would you be kind enough to confirm whether this apology has been provided and accepted (or not)?

    Have you received an apology from ‘Ofek’?

    Thanks.

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  46. 46. MidtownBrown 9:08 am 10/26/2013

    I’m a writer who, like you, went to U of M. And like you, I’m from Memphis. And like you, I refuse to write for free. Solidarity on this issue is so important.

    I found your blog because of its viral nature, but I’m going to keep reading it because I like science and you have a very enjoyable voice. Science writing can be snooze inducing. The laughter will keep me awake.

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  47. 47. mousethatroared 10:10 am 10/26/2013

    Wow, you handled this so well. You are my new hero.

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  48. 48. zulu53 1:34 pm 11/24/2013

    The khanga quote says it all about whats wrong with Africa. Implicitly “its fine by me if you give trouble to others just do not do it to me”. No social conscience, its all about the survival of “me”. I see that you followed it exactly. No “turning the other cheek”, no “leading by example”, no “do unto others….”. Just get back at a person that says a few (admittedly insulting) words to you. Guess that you never got “sticks and stones……….” either. Just get back at the other person (I hear that the guy was fired). All I can advise you; “grow up, be an adult, develop a social conscience” then you might be a professional scientist. A piece of paper does not give you the right to add the word professional in front of the word scientist, one actually has to be “professional” with all of the ethical and moral implications of this.

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  49. 49. conticreative 5:41 pm 01/7/2014

    I have worked on the web for close to 20 years and I am still amazed by how many people pretend free work in exchange for “exposure”.
    While I do appreciate exposure in my field, my mortgage company insists on being paid in Cash. So does the electrical utility company and even my local supermarket won’t take my Twitter followers as payment for goods.

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  50. 50. aidel 3:54 pm 01/8/2014

    Wow! You are so forgiving to SciAm now. That is so big of you.

    Link to this
  51. 51. the-truth-seeker 2:44 pm 07/7/2014

    There is another – even bigger – science scandal and malicious cover-up, still going after almost 10 years! Both the LA Times and USA Today are refusing to discuss the matter and are being implicated as knowingly participating in the cover-up. Even their attorneys are refusing all requests for comments. It appears their journalists have all been placed under a gag order as well, which is yet another scandal, because American journalists should NEVER be subject to such gag orders and should never abide by them, unless they are for reasons of national security.

    Link to this

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