Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And the bottom falls out of the Science Blogging Universe

I love soda.  That should be no such a big surprise if you saw my previous post where I admitted to loving junk food.  I love science.  And you know I loves Science Blogging.  But if I had known my little affair of junk food and science and social media would end up in the mess now regarded as #PepsiGate/#SbFail, I would have shunned the tasty but not-so-healthy beverage long ago.  You see, Cola has shattered my science blogging world.

July 7th, news began to spread that Scienceblogs (operated by SEED Media Group) was now hosting Advertising blogs - Blogs that paid to be in the Sb Community to blog about a particular subject.  At first the idea of Advertising blogs didn't raise any alarms until I read the critique of the whole matter at the much respected Knight Science Journalism Tracker: ScienceBlogs trashes credibility: Leaked response from editor. I then understood why many of my fave Sb bloggers were in an uproar. 

I was grateful that not everyone reacted too quickly or strongly to PepsiGate, e.g. Dr. Isis and Greg Laden.  I tend to be rather oblivious to tensions and in-fighting of others.  Unless I'm personally affected by the madness, I remain agnostic about strife and that was my initial response to this matter.

See, what had happened was....
Junk food giant Pepsi Cola purchased blog space for their new social media baby - Food Frontiers.  It was supposed to blog written by their Food/Nutrition Scientists about Nutrition and Food Science and all of the yummy ways corporate America makes us healthier one bite/gulp at a time.  No kidding.  None of that sounded right to Sb bloggers or to me.  And the reasons why Pepsi purchased blog space as opposed to being invited are articulated quite well here and here.

But before I could adjust to this madness, I started reading blog posts or twitter feeds like this:  
Culture Dish Doesn't Live Here Anymore  (Best-selling HeLa cells Author, Rebecca Skloot leaves)
My Official Farewell (My co-dissertator and high-heel shoe friend SciCurious leaves)
A Pepsi-Induced Hiatus Exodus (Super popular,science writer paleo style blogger Brian Switek departs)

What's going on here?!

Sciencebloggers striking and others were jumping ship like rats off of the Titanic.  

Can't this be fixed? Is the party ending already?
After all, SB was this idyllic place in my head.  Once a upon a time, I would dream of being invited to join this great science blogging community. Me, or rather this blog, would be in the company of the Greats! Yes!  But no invite came.  More blogs were being added to the Sb fold and none of them looked or sounded like mine.  Eventually, I shrugged it off and kept it moving. I realized that as a niche blogger (science introduction) that targets a particular audience (African-Americans), joining Sb might not be a good move for this blog. I would certainly get more traffic and attention; but not necessarily from the people I was trying to reach.  Until such a thing as an AfroWorld Blogging Community, something akin to the SB model, existed, then my blogging platform was just fine.

And so it has been.  I've been a firm member in both the Science Blogging Community and the Black Blog-o-sphere, doing my thing and bridging the two communities where ever, whenever, and however I could.

However, with the exodus of great bloggers from Sb, Emerald City hasn't been looking so shiny lately.  And then the bottom fell out. On July 19, 2010, the leading link in the header of Scienceblogs read Bora leaves ScienceBlogs with superb history and analysis of science blogging. I actually gasped and teared up. No, not Bora! The Papa Smurf of the ScienceBlogs village. Always level-headed and fair. His virtual leadership in Sb was always obvious.  Like Papa Smurf, he seemed to know, accept, and even appreciate every single Scibling as he or she was  - sweet, the crusty, the potty-mouthed, and the antagonistic.  Everyone looked to him and no doubt he was the nucleus of Sb. Read Bora's Farewell- a long but thorough history of Sb,science blogging and new media science communication.

The bottom has dropped off!
Adam Bly, you messed up big time. Big Time! And if you still don't get why losing Bora is a big deal, I mean a REALLY big deal, then check out the Twitter Feed all about him #IOweBora.

And if that wasn't enough, as I was trying to write this post (taking me 2 days to do so), I read on Twitter that PalMD, Zuska, and Abel Pharmboy is departing, too.  Wow, those last two departures sting, too. Both have been great SM mentors to me. Zuska reached out to met at ScienceOnline09 in the sessions about STEM diversity and jumped immediately on board the Diversity in Science Carnival.  And if Bora is Papa Smurf, then Abel Pharmboy is certainly my Fairy God-father.  When I needed assistance getting to the Blogging While Brown Conference in DC, he came through in a flash.  His mentoring spiriting and influence on science blogging and outreach to diverse audiences is summed up nicely in these lines:

"Preaching to the choir certainly has value in galvanizing the science communication community. However, I can't think of a single science blogger who doesn't view this exercise as a form of outreach - to share and demonstrate to our constituents, the humble taxpayers, that what we are charged to do for world health is well-spent and communicated in an objective and approachable manner."

*Throws this soda away. Turns the lights down low. Departs the room*

Monday, July 05, 2010

Blog Book Review: Jack in the Box presents Science Kids Mini-books

I love junk food.  I just do. And one of my guilty pleasures are kids meals.  The other evening I was picking up a hamburger meal at Jack in the Box.  BTW, I love Jack.  I'm from the south, so this fast food chain was so novel to me when I moved to the Midwest.  They serve all kinds of tasty and savory treats.  But I digress.
I gobbled my right size burger with the right amount of ketchup and mustard and right size fries and soda.  I then automatically grabbed the toy and prepared to just toss it on the back seat.  But this was no ordinary kiddie meal toy.  It wasn't a toy at all, it was book, a science book, just for kids.

This is the book I have.

Title: Animal Homes
Author: Angela Wilkes
Publisher: Kingfisher

It's a book that explains a very important concept in ecology - habitats.  I love how the author explains why animals need homes, how different animals build and use homes, and the different places animals build homes - trees, under ground, and in the water. It is a trade book for sure, but only 7 x 5.5 " it fits perfectly in smaller hands. The bright bold photographs of birds, fish, mammals, insects, rodents, and more in the their homes illustrate the importance of homes - or habitats - to our wild neighbors.  Plus, it is just the right amount of text for young readers.  Along the footer of each page are definitions of some of the more complex words used in book I recommend for pre-K-grade 1 students. And my absolute favorite part of the book...Activity suggestions!  Yes, Jack encourages the youngsters to 'investigate the world of science' and offers simple instructions, using upcycled materials, to watch their wild neighbors.

Synopsis from Jack in the Box Kids Toys website.

In this book about animal homes, you'll discover an ant colony, learn about animals in mobile homes and take a look at how some animals live underground. More fun included with hands-on projects for you to do.

Okay, Jack. I didn't realize you loved sharing science and encouraging the citizen science in your younger patrons, like me. But now that I know, expect a call from me. I see us doing great science outreach together in your urban markets.

Dr. DNLee, at your service!
demystifing nature, letting everyone experience.

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