Digging in Wales, Watching Sb Crisis

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I’m in north-east Wales for a few days’ work on a Universities of Chester and Bangor dig. We’ve had a rainy day, which meant that we couldn’t work effectively for very long. But I did some metal detecting, finding lead spatters that may have to do with 18th century repairs to the 9th century Pillar of Eliseg, and two 20th century coins, and of course a few aluminium ring-pulls. And I took part in de-turfing and trowel cleaning on the flanks of the barrow and the flat field around it. The weather forecast for the next few days looks somewhat more favourable.

Meanwhile, here at Sb, the crisis set off by Pepsigate has worsened. GrrlScientist and Bora Zivkovic among others have left, mirabile dictu, and Pharyngula is on strike. The latter fact is of critical importance to Sb’s future since PZ pulls in 2/5 of the entire site’s traffic. The problem is no longer about journalistic ethics: bloggers are leaving Sb because SMG doesn’t seem to care what they do. This isn’t news to me: my blogging situation is no worse now than before Pepsigate. But if Sb loses Pharyngula, then the upheavals we face won’t be about SMG selling the site as I suggested recently. It will be about the site no longer being profitable nor sellable at all.

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11 thoughts on “Digging in Wales, Watching Sb Crisis

  1. [b]The problem is no longer about journalistic ethics: bloggers are leaving Sb because SMG doesn’t seem to care what they do. This isn’t news to me: my blogging situation is no worse now than before Pepsigate.[/b]

    I think you nailed it. The claims of ethical failure are bogus. If your blog is ethical then that’s all you need to worry about. What some other blog does, or in the case of Food Frontiers, might have done, doesn’t have much to do with it. Jumping off a cliff because someone with loose ethics moves in doesn’t make sense.

    And, unlike what one blogger fleeing claims, the pain of a choice is not a reliable guide of what is the ethical decision. That is simply ethical masochism. Marching into the SMG offices and setting yourself on fire would be a lot more painful. Does that make it more ethical?

    If there are problems with Sb and its management then these issues should be negotiated and worked out. But running away in a symbolic protest, instead of grappling with the issues, is melodramatic and silly.

    Good luck with the dig. It looks like a nice place to be working.

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  2. But if Sb loses Pharyngula, then the upheavals we face won’t be about SMG selling the site as I suggested recently. It will be about the site no longer being profitable nor sellable at all.

    it’s their fault for letting this kind of thing happen in the first place

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  3. “Peru archaeologists find pre-Inca remains” http://www.physorg.com/news198905349.html
    …which actually would be contemporary with the Pillar of Eliseg in the background. The difference is that your dig only go back to the (local) Iron Age, while the South American sites can be compared with the copper-stone age of the first pyramids. An interesting result of the late domestication of plants and animals in the New World.

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  4. #7 Sure, agreed, but if it goes belly up, it doesn’t help Martin at all.

    I get the feel that the CEO is inundated and people need to give him some space/time. I could be wrong, but I know what it’s like to be at the centre of a crisis. Instead of piling more demands on him, he needs a bit of support and some breathing space to figure out what to do, because if this ship sinks, it doesn’t help anyone. Not that I feel hugely sympathetic to him, but I do know what it’s like to find yourself in a crisis situation. He’s not responding because he can’t – he’s flooded with incoming. He doesn’t know that PZ and Greg Laden are on strike because he has no time to read the blogs, he’s flooded with incoming messages. We only see a fraction of what he’s getting.

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  5. It seems to me that Pepsigate doesn’t have anything to do with the SB problems any more. While there was a real issue there, in the bigger picture, it seems to me that it simply provided a catalyst/convenient excuse for some bloggers to create a huge stir about things they’ve actually been thinking about a long time. (Which of course doesn’t mean that they aren’t right about the actual issues.) Whether to stay or go is and should be every blogger’s own decision, and I will not fault those who do not want to stay under the present circumstances — especially since it now turns out that many of the important circumstances have not been obvious to us readers. However, I have to agree with Art that at least from the outside (the ordinary reader’s perspective) some bloggers now give the impression of running out screaming and slamming the door behind them in true drama-queen fashion, which does not appear very constructive or thoughtful. For once, PZ Myers takes the sensible position.

    … which brings us to “if Sb loses Pharyngula, then the upheavals we face won’t be about SMG selling the site as I suggested recently”. If this is so, then there’s one of SB’s big problems right there. I know a lot of people love Pharyngula for reasons beyond my comprehension, but if SB truly hinges on one blogger — whose main characteristic is that of shouting the loudest — then indeed there is a problem.

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  6. This is turning into a text book example on how to take a potentially sensitive situation and making it 10x worse and then taking the controversy and through inaction and ignorance making it even worser! There are so many instances along this road where the SMG could have defused the situation, instead its saddled with some of the worst PR in the science blogosphere – rightly or wrongly.

    I think Bora and PZ made some excellent points in their departure/strike posts. Not least about the way SMG seems to treat the bloggers as an afterthought instead of as an amazing asset. I hope SMG pulls it together, but if they don’t I’m sure other will steal all you great bloggers away somewhere else and I’ll follow. My loyalty is to the bloggers, not the hosters.

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