Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pharyngula goes on Strike

In light of the problems going on with ScienceBlogs, and its parent company, Seed Magazine, many bloggers have left the ScienceBlogs community.  If you're not familiar, ScienceBlogs has been plagued with a number of bugs that are have not been fixed for months.  And recently, Seed added a new blog about food science, except that it was written by representatives from the Pepsi Corporation.  Many bloggers on SB felt this was blurring the lines between the bloggers content and advertising, essentially giving advertisers a seat at the table with objective science writers.  Seed finally canceled the PepsiCo blog, but not before a number of SB bloggers left. 

Most recently, Bora, who blogs at A Blog Around The Clock and was a key to building the SB community to what it is today, has decided to leave.  Many other bloggers there have followed suit, and more are considering it, including Orac over at Respectful Insolence, if his lately entry is of any indication. 

PZ Myers at Pharyngula is also fed up with Seed and ScienceBlogs ineptitude, but he's taking a different approach.  He has decided that Pharyngula will go on strike, until Seed meets some demands:

So this is my last post for a while. I don't know how long; maybe SMG will contact me right away and surrender to my demands (which are pretty mild, so it's entirely possible). Or maybe the pattern of silence will continue, and with regret and exasperation, I'll have to find a new host somewhere else. Whatever happens, we can't keep going as we have.
Oh, right. Demands. You can't have a strike without some goal that will resolve it. Here's what I want from Seed:
  1. Immediate formation of a mechanism for communication between management and bloggers. We're an unwieldy group, so setting up a small committee of bloggers with regular (monthly) conference calls, and the option for ad hoc calls when serious issues come up, such as the PepsiCo mess.
  2. Prompt responses from management. When Bora left, that was a major event; there should have been a quick in-house response that would have involved scheduling a conversation within the week. No more long silences.
  3. Regular updates on the status of tech support, and input from bloggers. We've got bugs, they get ignored, and the priorities are biased towards advertising opportunities. Ads are important, but who is going to want to advertise at a place that's falling apart? Or has big signs saying "ON STRIKE" out front? Throw us a bone now and then.
  4. Transparency. Bloggers need to be informed about any problems in the parent organization, and we'd also like to hear more good news, too. Fly new plans by us so you can get feedback before they go live and blow up.
  5. More trust. This may be an odd one, but the bloggers are dependent on the financial health of Seed, too. It's OK for management to suggest to us what they'd like to see more of on the blogs; I have no problem with suggestions, for instance, that we throw in more nutrition or food blogging this month, because we've got an advertising contract from PepsiCo, as long as our response is optional and as long as we're also free to criticize.
See? Those demands shouldn't be so hard to meet. Now the test is whether Seed can exhibit a little agility and respond to them expeditiously.
This is going to be quite a blow to the traffic coming to ScienceBlogs.  I'm not familiar with the numbers, but Pharyngula has got to be one of the most, if not THE most, popular blogs on their network. I doubt advertisers are going to be happy about the decreased traffic.

Although it will be tough to lose, at least temporarily, one of my favorite atheist blogs, I completely support this decision.  ScienceBlogs needs improvement, and it won't happen unless someone puts pressure on them and on Seed to make the necessary changes.  If you haven't already, show PZ some support in the comment section of his ON STRIKE post, and perhaps let Seed and ScienceBlogs know how you feel about all of this.
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