ScienceBlogs Has Some Problems…

Mon May 25 2009

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And they’re losing bloggers because of it.

For those of you that don’t know SB much, here’s a description, as provided by Wikipedia:

ScienceBlogs is an invitation-only blog network and virtual community. It was created by Seed Media Group in 2006 to enhance the public understanding of science. As of February 2009, ScienceBlogs hosted 75 blogs dedicated to various fields of research. Each blog has its own theme, specialty, and author(s) and is not subject to editorial control. Authors include active scientists working in industry, universities and medical schools as well as college professors, physicians, professional writers, graduate students, and post-docs.

SB is home to some -very- good science blogs and bloggers. And they may just have lost one of their stars. Greg Laden’s Blog has jumped ship (at least for now) because of a ’strange commenting problem’ he describes on one of his last entries on SB:

Something is wrong with my site. Comments appear to be totally screwed up. This situation started on Friday, and I informed Scienceblogs Central of this. Since then I’ve been off the internet, wandering through the wilderness in the Great American Southwest. The tech people are aware of this, but I have not heard any details of when it may be fixed.

Also, trackbacks don’t seem to work well. Or at all. Try for yourself: (the trackback for the post linked to above) and you’ll get an error. In fact, as anyone who knows Movable Type can see, the trackback address should probably be That url yields valid trackback responses, but doesn’t seem to work either on most SB blogs (so why suggest trackbacks are on at all, after every entry?).

So commenting, trackbacking… these are backend issues, right? Movable Type issues, maybe related to scaling? Well, maybe, but there are other big problems going on, As Laden has also recently illustrated the advertising on the site is taking a starring role, leaving the content a distant second (Laden also takes issue with the nature of the advertising).

It gets worse too. This is what the homepage of the ScienceBlogs site looks like as I write this in Firefox 3.0 on a 1280×768 monitor:

A bar, a top-level menu, and a big ad. Oh, and one column of clickable content, right? Well, there is a link in that column, but it’s a tiny blue link underneath that giant ‘30m’ — the column item seems basically to be a factoid linking to a Wikipedia article (and a broken link at that!)

Below the fold, things get a little better. But only a little:

3 fresh stories relevant to the title above the fold, and 3 features of ‘Community News’, ‘Video’ and ‘Peer Review’ (what I would consider non-core content). If you’re not interested in Waves, or those secondary features, you’ll need to scroll through more ads to get to some good blog headlines and content organized by category. Why the heck isn’t this above the fold? Who knows. Coding errors, lack of testing, lack of effort? Who doesn’t test with Firefox these days though?

For a site that’s supposed to be more professional, more profitable, and more visible for science bloggers, ScienceBlogs is sure going out of its way to hide their content and look like a bunch of amateurs.

No wonder Greg’s jumped ship for the time being. It will hardly be surprising should more follow shortly. Not good, ScienceBlogs, not good.

Bioephemera seems to be having some troubles too — with posting of all things!
… and Pharyngula
… and a Blog around the Clock
… and Thus Spake Zuska
… and Uncertain Principles

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