Science blogging anthology available18 Jan 2007
Bora Zivkovic has edited and compiled an anthology of 50 outstanding science blog posts from 2006. The word "posts" is maybe a bit too informal -- the majority of these are essentially light review articles of one kind or another, with some opinion and some humor. In essence, it's good writing as applied to science (including the online work of some well-known science writers), directed toward a scientific readership.
I think it's a very interesting niche. The choices aren't as "bloggy" as the average content of most science blogs -- instead of short, snarky posts interleaved with more serious fare, there is a good selection of long, thoughtful pieces. It's also a different kind of filter than the interlinks of all the different blogs generally provide -- these are all well-written, but not necessarily the most prominent or visible.
Personally, I hope that this will be a new format for scientific writing. The strength of the blog form is that it encourages a journalistic style applied to topics more specialized than journalists generally cover. The weakness is the flat organization: it's hard to focus in on the posts that are interesting, versus the posts that are just notetaking.
I post a mix of notes, ideas, and links from other places -- I thought once that I would maintain a separate level of the site for more detailed essays, but maintaining different levels really defeats the purpose of quick reaction and progressive writing. And Google, Technorati, and links from other sites function very well to impose a structure on things -- the most interesting are usually highly rated. If anything, that's the bloggy style. A well-devised mix tends to gain readers, but it also can put off certain professionals who like to see their subject treated with, well, a certain decorum.
So I think an anthology like this really highlights one strength of blogs: the ability to find good and diverse writing. The strength of the anthology is putting several things together in one place that would be difficult to find separately -- I certainly couldn't have found these 50 posts, and even with a list of them, it is unlikely I would systematically read all of them.
I would suggest that alternative anthologies might arise to examine special subjects -- for example, viewpoints on race, or anticreationism, or genomics. Such collections could exploit the other major strength of the medium: its interactivity. Posts don't just exist in a vacuum; they react and generate reactions from other sources.
I'll certainly be writing with this in mind from now on.