Home > Bits and Pieces > On “PepsiGate” and #Sbfail

On “PepsiGate” and #Sbfail

July 20, 2010

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I take no pleasure in watching what is happening to Scienceblogs. The vast majority of my time there was pleasurable, tainted only by the actions of a minority who managed to poison the community (and were allowed do so by the notional management). Now the self-same management are watching the ship go down due to “PepsiGate” and #Sbfail highlighting their inability to treat the bloggers as co=partners in a business enterprise.

Scienceblogs started in January 2006 with 14 bloggers. Within a year, a further 39 bloggers had arrived. Less than half formed the core community of Scienceblogs (by this I mean, individuals who swam in the backchannels that existed and were members of the support community I valued). It’s worth noting what had happened to them:

  1. Adventures in Ethics and Science – still going
  2. Aetiology – still going
  3. Deltoid – still going.
  4. Pharyngula – still going but currently on strike
  5. Mike the Mad Biologist – still going
  6. Neurotopia (version 2.0) – still going
  7. The World’s Fair – still going
  8. Respectful Insolence – may be leaving but can always be found here.
  9. Thoughts from Kansas – future unclear
  10. Deep Sea News – left January 2007 September 2008, now here.
  11. Evolgen – left Jan 2009, no longer blogging.
  12. Dr. Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge – left May 2009, now here
  13. Afarensis – left May 2009, now here.
  14. Evolving Thoughts – left May 2009, now here.
  15. Stranger Fruit – left May 2009, now here (literally).
  16. Cognitive Daily – left January 2010, now here.
  17. Gene Expression – left April 2010, now here.
  18. Living the Scientific Life – left July 2010, now here.
  19. A Blog Around The Clock – left July 2010, now here
  20. Good Math, Bad Math – left July 2010, will continue blogging.
  21. The Questionable Authority – left July 2010, will continue blogging.
  22. Terra Sigillata – left July 2010, now here.

So, of these 22, twenty-one are still blogging, but only seven are remaining with Seed Media Group. (A further two have uncertain futures at the site.) And I think that tells you something about the ability of the Seed Media Group management to run a business.

Update: Here’s the Twitter feed – follow the fail as it happens.

Update (7/21): Abel Pharmboy (Terra Sigillata) had flown the coop. I have updated the count of those remaining. In addition, Dave Munger (formerly of CogDaily) has given his take on the whole debacle.

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  1. July 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm | #1

    Scienceblogs was exploitative IMO, but had the ability to make you not care so much. But even early on we were questioning their business sense. The horrible and offensive ads were part of the last nail in the coffin. It took a terrible experience over over at discovery channel to make us realize the money wasn’t worth it.

    Small correction BTW, we left sept 2008.

  2. July 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm | #2

    “I think that tells you something about the ability of the Seed Media Group management to run a business.”

    Unlike Discover or even Science 2.0, it never had to run as a business. When you have inherited money and convince investors to give you more, the business model takes a back seat to the hope of future growth. Baffling to business people was that he continued to lose $100K an issue on the magazine and ignored the bloggers – and that the bloggers stayed – when they were the thing with value.

    With that traffic, and the low costs of running a site, there is no way to NOT make money. Seriously. It is not that hard. But he managed to do it.

  3. Snarkyxanf
    July 20, 2010 at 7:07 pm | #3

    Rearranged in order of departure, interesting because the departures are extremely clustered.

    Living the Scientific Life – July 2010
    A Blog Around The Clock – July 2010
    Good Math, Bad Math – July 2010
    The Questionable Authority – July 2010
    Gene Expression – April 2010
    Cognitive Daily – January 2010
    Dr. Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge – May 2009
    Evolving Thoughts – May 2009
    Stranger Fruit – May 2009
    Afarensis – May 2009
    Evolgen – Jan 2009
    Deep Sea News – January 2008

  4. July 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm | #4

    kevin z :

    Small correction BTW, we left sept 2008.

    Fixed, thanks.

  5. July 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm | #5

    Snarkyxanf :

    Rearranged in order of departure, interesting because the departures are extremely clustered.

    Certainly. DSN & Razib moved for better things, but the Chimp Refuge, Wilkins and I moved around the same time in 2009 for more or less the same reasons. The recent cluster is, I think, a mixture of immediate reaction to the Pepsi debacle and the overall mismanagement by SMG and Bly.

  6. Mike Dunford
    July 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm | #6

    Snarkyxanf :
    Rearranged in order of departure, interesting because the departures are extremely clustered.

    Yes, that does stand out a bit, doesn’t it?

  7. afarensis, FCD
    July 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm | #7

    And to be clear, I left entirely due to the fact that I wasn’t being paid and if I did get paid it was because I had to pitch out. The fact that there was a group of folks who were poisoning the atmosphere was added incentive, although I experienced less than you and Wilkins. More because I tended to absent myself from those threads where things got really nasty. There was a certain core group that got to know me, and I them, while some were spending time being judgmental and holier than thou. Of these latter I always thought “f%#k ‘em if they can’t take a joke” and for the most part was quite happy to ignore them.

  8. July 20, 2010 at 8:09 pm | #8

    afarensis, FCD :

    And to be clear, I left entirely due to the fact that I wasn’t being paid and if I did get paid it was because I had to pitch out. The fact that there was a group of folks who were poisoning the atmosphere was added incentive, although I experienced less than you and Wilkins.

    You had more patience than Wilkins or I with all of those shenanigans! It is interesting to note that the current Sbloggers apparently haven’t been paid for awhile.

  9. July 20, 2010 at 10:48 pm | #9

    Certainly. DSN & Razib moved for better things, but the Chimp Refuge, Wilkins and I moved around the same time in 2009 for more or less the same reasons.

    i was lucky that discover came along. but i can echo a lot of the same sentiments in terms of my displeasure with SB and its direction.

  10. July 21, 2010 at 1:03 am | #10

    afarensis, FCD :
    The fact that there was a group of folks who were poisoning the atmosphere was added incentive, although I experienced less than you and Wilkins. More because I tended to absent myself from those threads where things got really nasty.

    Yeah. Somehow, I managed to miss the worst of that business — I think I caught the prelude and the aftermath, but the most intense part must have happened on blogs I didn’t read anyway, in the back channel I had stopped visiting by then, whilst I was trying to focus on my day job, etc. Lucky me, I guess. . . .

  11. afarensis, FCD
    July 21, 2010 at 9:09 am | #11

    Blake Stacey :

    afarensis, FCD :
    The fact that there was a group of folks who were poisoning the atmosphere was added incentive, although I experienced less than you and Wilkins. More because I tended to absent myself from those threads where things got really nasty.

    Yeah. Somehow, I managed to miss the worst of that business — I think I caught the prelude and the aftermath, but the most intense part must have happened on blogs I didn’t read anyway, in the back channel I had stopped visiting by then, whilst I was trying to focus on my day job, etc. Lucky me, I guess. . . .

    Yes, most of it occurred in the forums, so I will say nothing further. I tend to adopt an realist attitude on that kind of thing. Assholes exist in the world and I am not all that surprised when I come across one.

    @ Lynch – actually PZ is getting a regular check and I suspect some of the other big fish are as well.

  12. Wes
    July 21, 2010 at 9:59 am | #12

    I noticed you didn’t mention Ed Brayton. Is he usually more aloof when it comes to the back channels and such? I check his blog daily, and I’ve notice that he has barely mentioned the Pepsi thing until Bora left.

  13. July 21, 2010 at 10:02 am | #13

    I don’t think Ed ever was in the back channel in all the years I was there.

  14. Wes
    July 21, 2010 at 10:20 am | #14

    John M. Lynch :
    I don’t think Ed ever was in the back channel in all the years I was there.

    That explains a lot. Brayton was always silent whenever these behind the scenes controversies would explode, so I figured he probably just didn’t get involved in the behind the scenes stuff at all.

  15. July 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm | #15

    ed was on the back channel in early 2006. mostly tech stuff. guess he’s allergic to drama.

  16. July 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm | #16

    Yeah. I forgot that. *Very* early 2006. But that was well before the drama(s) broke out.

  17. Mike Dunford
    July 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm | #17

    razib :
    ed was on the back channel in early 2006. mostly tech stuff. guess he’s allergic to drama.

    He’s an intelligent man.

  18. July 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm | #18

    back when people were sharing a lot in 2006-2007 i remember one thread where ed did share something poignant about his personal history. that was when we felt safe to share things without being judged. i agree with john’s overall point. ed brayton kept to himself in general. but i think it is interesting that even he was “sucked into the community” at its peak of activity and maximal group comfort level.

  19. afarensis, FCD
    July 21, 2010 at 7:34 pm | #19

    I

    razib :
    back when people were sharing a lot in 2006-2007 i remember one thread where ed did share something poignant about his personal history. that was when we felt safe to share things without being judged. i agree with john’s overall point. ed brayton kept to himself in general. but i think it is interesting that even he was “sucked into the community” at its peak of activity and maximal group comfort level.

    I think at that point we were all working towards a common goal and that goal outweighed whatever differences there were between us.

  20. July 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm | #20

    We’re like a bunch of old timers on a porch :)

  21. July 21, 2010 at 8:18 pm | #21

    lol. yeah, i was thinking the same thing. communities evolve. at least we experienced it. there’s more living to be done.

  22. July 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm | #22

    btw john, i love the photo. it does capture a particular moment in time. for the community, and our individual lives.

  23. July 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm | #23

    Yeah. I still have the original they sent me in my den. A snapshot in time indeed.

  24. July 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm | #24

    i have the original too.

  25. July 21, 2010 at 9:41 pm | #25

    also, re: “community,” there were intense arguments about the fixation on atheism and politics and such as early as 2006, and whether it was healthy or not. but they were arguments about substance and real differences of opinion. we didn’t take it as a matter of a lack of character, just difference of opinion.

  26. July 21, 2010 at 9:49 pm | #26

    agreed.

  27. afarensis, FCD
    July 22, 2010 at 7:01 am | #27

    I somehow or another lost mine. It is a great picture.

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