After the shake-up at ScienceBlogs over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of buzz in the social media networks over what to do next.
Sure, there are some other burgeoning science blog networks, but none seem to be prepared to assume the ScienceBlogs mantle (which ScienceBlogs itself hasn’t actually yet ceded). There are also some lists of all the bloggers who’ve left ScienceBlogs, but they don’t capture all the other science bloggers who were never a part of ScienceBlogs, or the many excellent bloggers who chose to stay.
To me, the obvious next step would be to find some way of collecting all these disparate voices in one place. Sure, ResearchBlogging does some of that, but it only captures posts specifically about peer-reviewed research, which is probably less than ten percent of what scientists and science communicators actually blog about.
One idea that shows promise, at least as a stopgap, is to use an existing social network to do the task. There’s already discussion over at Friendfeed about doing just that. The advantages of such a system is that Friendfeed already has tools in place to help people “like” and “dislike” posts, discuss them, and so on.
To see how this might work, I created a FriendFeed group for Anthropology, based on blogs registered with ResearchBlogging.org. You can check it out here. But this isn’t all Anthropology blogs, or even all Anthro blogs registered with ResearchBlogging — I cheated a bit because my default report of regisered blogs doesn’t include RSS addresses. I only used blogs from Blogger and WordPress since their RSS URLs are easily reproduced based on the blog URL. And there are other problems. Many blogs cover multiple topics. How would you decide how which list(s) to put them on? What if someone started posting pseudoscience, or moved their blog? Who would be in charge of monitoring the list to make sure it remains useful? And how many people would actually register with FriendFeed just to follow blogs? The beauty of a site like ScienceBlogs is it stands on its own — you go there to read blogs about science. Someone who’s only interested in science (and not social networking) is less likely to hang around a site like FriendFeed just to read science blogs. I’m unconvinced that a set of feeds could have the same influence as a dedicated science blog aggregator.
A more elegant system would be built into ResearchBlogging itself or a similar site. Then bloggers could register once, and change their information themselves as necessary. ResearchBlogging already has editors who ensure that the registered blogs report high-quality science.
But of course, such a system takes time and money to build. It would need to somehow differentiate itself from ResearchBlogging because it would be filling a different purpose. I think it’s a good idea, but I’m not sure I want to be the person in charge of it (and that’s assuming I can convince the management at Seed to pursue it). Maybe, even though it could be a slower process, a better approach might be to build the FriendFeed groups first, then see if the interest level is high enough to support a more sophisticated dedicated website. Even those will take a little work, which I can’t do on my own. It takes a lot time to copy and paste hundreds of RSS URLs into FriendFeed, so ideally we should divide the labor (I think I can provide a list of blogs and RSS addresses sorted by topic). Who’s interested in helping out?