Posts Tagged ‘Blog’

Bora! Bora! Bora! Could this be SciAm’s Pearl Harbour?

October 17, 2013

This is a sorry tale. And Scientific American and their Blogs Editor, Bora Zivkovic are covered in the proverbial effluent. Scientific American’s editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina has not covered herself with very much glory. Biology Online has tarnished what little reputation it had.

It all started as an unpleasant little incident when DN Lee, a scientist and a blogger at Scientific American, was called a “whore” by an “editor” at biology-online because she declined (very politely) to contribute free material for that site. She took exception to being called such names and blogged about it at her SciAm blog. The idiot who had referred to her in such terms was dismissed.

Then Scientific American made a fool of itself.  It removed her blog post. (All the rest follows only as a consequence of that one action).

Scientist and science communicator @DNLee5 declined an offer to blog for free from biology-online.org and got called a ‘whore’.  @DNLee5 posted a thoughtful response on herScientific American‘s blog The Urban Scientist.  A short time later, her response vanished

Scientific American editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina also made herself out to be very economical with the truth. First she explained that the post was inappropriate and then – when the noise mounted –  said it had been removed for legal reasons. After the fire storm the post was reinstated.

But that was not all. Monica Byrne recounted her story. This Happened by Monica Byrne. The apparently well respected (in some circles) Bora Zivkovic, Blogs Editor for Scientific American, was a regular wolf in sheep’s clothing. His reputation in the blogosphere as being very helpful to women bloggers now seems to have been built on a hidden agenda. (Zivkovic is known as being hypocritical in other circles).

Priya Shetty was astonished at the silence on the blogosphere and was scathing in her article. Silence she argued was condoning the behaviour (as it was).

Bora apologised  – but not before the critical comments had escalated to a level which made it impossible to stay silent. This was when DN Lee’s post was reinstated by Scientific American.  And then further details emerged that this was not just some isolated incident but appeared to be a pattern in Bora’s behaviour.

(UPDATE!  And yet another “But he didn’t just make a mistake, apologize, atone and change his behavior. He harassed, and kept harassing”)

Andrew Maynard performed some ethical calisthenics and suggested that Bora had done so much good that he didn’t deserve to be named and shamed. He deserved “compassion”! He only managed to come out as an apologist for Bora — but his ethical standards came up rather short (in my opinion). The use of positions of power (actual or implied) for sexual harassment cannot be excused – I think – in any circumstances. Greg Laden is another blogger who tries to appear objective but comes out as an apologist for his friend Bora. (I recall that he tried in a very similar style to excuse the disgraced Marc Hauser – also apparently a friend). So I think Greg Laden’s excuses for the wrongdoings of establishment figures are to be discounted.

But the bottom line is that it took much too long for SciAm to show any kind of support – if it could even be called support – for DN Lee. The grudging reinstatement of her post hardly redresses the balance. The many friends of Bora are either silent or are drafting carefully worded apologia in his support. SciAm is now contorting itself to ensure that Bora’s position at SciAm is not jeopardised. I don’t see how SciAm can avoid a public rebuke for Bora.

Shades of Pearl Harbour! Bora! Bora! Bora! will be etched in SciAm’s psyche for some time to come.

(For those who can’t remember the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!  is the Japanese code-word used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved at Pearl Harbour)

3rd anniversary

April 16, 2013

WordPress reminded me this morning that I started blogging 3 years ago.

My thanks to all those who do visit and to those who take the time and effort to comment.

Botticelli's St. Augustine writing and revising in his cell

Botticelli’s St. Augustine writing and revising in his cell

As blogs go I don’t suppose that the blog statistics are anything to write home about (1650 posts, about 500K views with typically between 400 and 800 views per day and a maximum of 5000 views in a day). I find  I cannot  predict which posts will get a high viewership but I also find that I don’t really worry too much about that. Sometimes I find that an old post suddenly gets a lot of interest and I usually don’t know why. I suspect it might be when a class somewhere gets an assignment which just happens to have been the subject of an old post. But blogging has changed my behaviour. It helps me to construct my thoughts and it has certainly changed my reading habits. It does- I think – help me to maintain a “discipline”. Perhaps it helps my perception of myself as a St. Augustine blogging in his cell!!

Writing this blog has become important to me as an extension of my personal space and as I wrote a month or two ago

  1. I write primarily for myself on any and all topics that interest me and this interest varies over time and with my reading.
  2. I write when time allows and my posts reduce when I am on assignment or if I am travelling abroad.
  3. My posts here increase in frequency when I get “stuck” with my other writing projects but I find that just writing a blog post can often “relieve” the “writer’s block”. (And that I think is because a blog post is not directed at anyone in particular but my other writing is).
  4. I have no commercial interests or consequences connected with this site. …….

……..

So this blog is just a place for letting off steam, for getting my thoughts in order, for keeping my writing flowing and generally for developing my own views in areas that are relatively new to me. It is merely an extension of my space in the world – for good or ill.

When posts are of sufficient interest to attract many (or even any) readers then that is just an added bonus.

Noted in Passing – why I write this blog

February 23, 2013

A few weeks ago I started a “Noted in Passing” feature which I hoped would become a regular weekly post with interesting links to other sites about subjects I did not have time to blog about. I find I have now missed a couple of weeks and a weekly post is going to be too onerous and this will now become an occasional feature.

However my failure to be able to keep up the weekly feature led me to review why I actually write this blog and I find that:

  1. I write primarily for myself on any and all topics that interest me and this interest varies over time and with my reading.
  2. I write when time allows and my posts reduce when I am on assignment or if I am travelling abroad.
  3. My posts here increase in frequency when I get “stuck” with my other writing projects but I find that just writing a blog post can often “relieve” the “writer’s block”. (And that I think is because a blog post is not directed at anyone in particular but my other writing is).
  4. I have no commercial interests or consequences connected with this site.
  5. Posts that are vaguely connected to my “6,000 Generations” project are posted on that site – sometimes with a link from this site.
  6. Sometimes what starts out as a blog post then becomes a longer essay which moves into one of my other projects.
  7. I don’t have any particular target profile of my readers because my own views seem to cut across all traditional religious and political boundaries and are often “politically incorrect”.
  8. Where I have actively formed an opinion it is the only opinion of consequence – for me. A consensus view – on anything – is inherently worthy of suspicion. Democracy has no place in science.
  9. I look at blog statistics from time to time but I  find I am not much motivated to “tailor” my posts in response to the statistics. (Typically this site has 400-500 visitors per day – 300 over the weekend – and occasionally a few thousand with 5,000 visitors being the peak for a single day).
  10. I have no political ambitions even though I am quite certain that if everybody agreed with me, all the world’s problems would be solved.
  11. I am content to observe and have no desire to be an “activist”, a “do-gooder” or “unprofessional” (which – it should be obvious – are the 3 most insulting epithets I can imagine).

So this blog is just a place for letting off steam, for getting my thoughts in order, for keeping my writing flowing and generally for developing my own views in areas that are relatively new to me. It is merely an extension of my space in the world – for good or ill.

When posts are of sufficient interest to attract many (or even any) readers then that is just an added bonus.

LSE on Blogging: “Blogging is .. one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now”

February 27, 2012

Patrick Dunleavy (Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science) and Chris Gilson (Managing Editor of the EUROPP blog) discuss social scientists’ obligation to spread their research to the wider world and how blogging can help academics break out of restrictive publishing loops.

Five minutes with Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Gilson

One of the recurring themes (from many different contributors) on the Impact of Social Science blog is that a new paradigm of research communications has grown up – one that de-emphasizes the traditional journals route, and re-prioritizes faster, real-time academic communication in which blogs play a critical intermediate role. They link to research reports and articles on the one hand, and they are linked to from Twitter, Facebook and Google+ news-streams and communities.  So in research terms blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.

But in addition, social scientists have an obligation to society to contribute their observations to the wider world – and at the moment that’s often being done in ramshackle and impoverished ways, in pointlessly obscure or charged-for forums, in language where you need to look up every second word in Wikipedia, with acres of ‘dead-on-arrival’ data in unreadable tables, and all delivered over bizarrely long-winded timescales. So the public pay for all our research, and then we shunt back to them a few press releases and a lot of out-of-date academic junk.

Blogging (supported by academic tweeting) helps academics break out of all these loops. It’s quick to do in real time. It taps academic expertise when it’s relevant, and so lets academics look forward and speculate in evidence-based ways. It communicates bottom-line results and ‘take aways’ in clear language, yet with due regard to methods issues and quality of evidence. …..  

(my emphasis)

Blogging as therapy: My 1000th post

August 30, 2011

I started this blog in April 2010 but I was still occupied completing my book and did not really start posting until the summer vacations in June 2010.

This is now my 1000th post.

Since then I have averaged between 2 and 3 posts a day though there have been periods for a week or two with very light posting and some long winter nights with many posts. Some things are however becoming clear to me:

  1. I post primarily for myself as a way of expressing whatever might be engaging or attracting or disturbing me at that moment. Just putting a post together is a little exercise which itself forces feelings or emotions into expressible text.
  2. Having posted on a particular subject functions as a form of catharsis. Sometimes I may never return to a subject for a long while or even at all.
  3. I cannot judge – and no longer concern myself greatly – which posts will get read and which will not. Old posts which had very few readers when initially posted may suddenly attract readers for no discernible reason. Posts I felt were not very well written can attract many more readers than others which I thought were well expressed.
  4. I find that some sense of achievement occurs at the time when I complete the post and not – surprisingly – when the views of the post become high. (Just as the main sense of achievement was when I completed my book manuscript and not when I found a publisher!)
  5. The structure of my web reading has changed as a consequence of posting. I find I look for different viewpoints and not just supporting viewpoints much more regularly. I am continuously amazed at the amount of quality writing available on the web. There is a great deal of utter rubbish also. But it does not seem to be too difficult – or too onerous – to separate the wheat from the chaff. In fact some of the rubbish – if well written – can be quite entertaining.
  6. I seem to straddle all political labels of every persuasion.  On some subjects I would be labelled a fascist, and on others a socialist. I appear to be conservative and liberal simultaneously. Sometimes I find I support some views which would be considered environmentalist views and on many others I find I am totally opposed to what would fit that label. Some left-wing and some right wing causes attract me as often as others which repel. But I am quite comfortable in not finding any label which fits me. Being politically correct was not and is not of any relevance.
  7. A natural cynicism I have had about all politicians and all “do-gooders” is now I think a little more nuanced and analytic under the heading of “behaviour”.
  8. Blogging is a wonderful way of venting indignation.

In essence blogging functions as therapy for myself. It helps in sorting out my disjointed and chaotic thoughts. It forces me to read opposing views. I have even been forced to change my initial view as I have read more. It functions as a means of expressing indignation and a vent for letting off steam. It enforces some self-discipline. It creates some identity markers. It helps me to continue writing though it does take some time away from my next manuscripts. Whether it improves my writing is uncertain but it is certainly addictive.

It is – without doubt -therapeutic.

Some notes to myself for future posts include:

  1. It is perfectly OK to write for myself and not for any specific reader
  2. Avoid preaching
  3. Use fewer extracts from others and let the link do the work
  4. Don’t pretend to be a reporter
  5. Resist posting a link without comment
  6. Resist the temptation to “slander” which can be very strong but does not add much literary merit

The simple truth is that I shall continue blogging primarily for myself and I have no agenda other than to feel better in my own mind. It is an extension of my personal space; entirely under my control, my responsibility and for which I alone am accountable. But I am well aware that this space is also in the public domain. But this is precisely why  – because it allows public scrutiny- I think it is therapeutic.

If in addition some people read what I write and if some few find it readable or provoking or just interesting then that is a bonus. But what readers – if any -may think is entirely secondary.


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