Social media are widely understood to provide extraordinary new opportunities for connecting people and sustaining conversation and dialog. This is true for blogs just as it is for Twitter and other vehicles. So here’s a comparison that (a few) people might find interesting. As of 9:35 EDT this morning, the Tuesday Eos.org opinion piece on the social contract between scientists and the public had yielded five comments on the AGU site. Yesterday I followed up with a post on LOTRW building on the Eos piece. The yield? Zero comments. The silence has been deafening.
By contrast, Wednesday Judith Curry picked up on the Eos piece on her blog Climate, Etc., generating 247 comments. Bottom line? Since its publication, 98% of the dialog on the social contract has occurred in that space.
Read through that extensive Climate, Etc. comment string, and you’ll find opinions and reactions covering the gamut. You’ll also recognize that much of the commentary comes from people who’ve been actively following Professor Curry for years. You’ll also see that those engaged in the conversation often use whatever subject her proximate post may offer merely as a springboard to launch other discussions, or return to earlier topics from previous posts. There’s an in-crowd flavor to the dialog that sometimes makes it hard for the occasional reader to follow or fully appreciate it. But there’s much that remains on point. And in fact, when you get to the latter parts of the discussion, you’ll find comments leveled at the post that I had expected to see aimed directly on my blogposts for years, but that people have somehow been too polite or gentle to express to me personally. Some of her readers were dismissive of the Eos piece because it offered no more than mere opinions, unsupported by data. (Others, thankfully, noted it was clearly labeled an opinion piece. But there’s a sense abroad in the land that scientists, having tasted the delights of unassailable facts, will never stoop to opinion again.) Some noted inconsistencies inherent in a message that called for scientists to listen first, yet was expressing opinions. Some saw a scolding tone in parts of the post even as it called for a reduction in scolding on the part of others. All this criticism has merit.
Of course the number of readers of each and every blog far exceed the numbers of those who take time and effort to comment. But the question remains: What’s the secret sauce of Climate, etc.? Why do Judith Curry, Gavin Schmidt (RealClimate), Andy Revkin (DotEarth) and a handful of others provide such fertile soil for extended discussion, when the rest of the world’s 200 million bloggers go unremarked and observed?
Professor Curry isn’t saying. Perhaps that’s understandable. Living and working in Atlanta, she’s in the shadow of a far more famous secret sauce. Coca Cola, in order to avoid the term limits attendant on patents, have chosen to keep their syrup recipe secret for more than a century.
In any event, we should all take a moment to applaud successful bloggers for their hard work and (largely thankless) role in society’s great conversations on so many subjects.
And thanks to you personally, Judy, for exposing the Eos.org post to the light of day.