Friday links: Netflix vs. science movie, tweet vs. Jeremy’s book, and more

Also this week: the story behind Schluter & McPhail 1992, the current state of play in science blogging, and more.

From Jeremy:

This week in I’m Contractually Obliged To Link To This: Nature has a news piece on why science blogging is still a useful thing to do (at least for the rare people who are committed to it for the long haul, like the successful bloggers quoted in the piece). The recent paper on science blogging co-authored by Meghan and several other leading ecology bloggers figures prominently, as do its authors. A minor update: the linked piece quotes our traffic at over 40,000 pageviews/month. That’s a slightly outdated number; we now get a bit more than 60,000 pageviews in a typical month.

A “story behind the paper” interview with Dolph Schluter on Schluter & McPhail 1992, the now-classic “checklist” for demonstrating character displacement. It’s a really deep dive–even covers the acknowledgments! Perhaps best to skim for the bits that interest you. I was charmed by the handwritten letter Dolph got about the paper from none other than Ernst Mayr. I have an old post on the power of such checklists in scientific research, that didn’t convince Brian, so go read it and decide for yourself. That old post also includes some awesome advice to graduate students for how to write a research proposal, that I’d totally forgotten I wrote. 2011-2014 me kicks 2018 me’s butt, blogging-wise.

And here’s an interview with Michel Loreau giving the backstory of Loreau & Hector 2001.

Carl Zimmer has a new book out! (ht Marginal Revolution)

This book looks interesting too. I like learning how people in different academic disciplines look at the world. (ht Marginal Revolution)

Hope you weren’t too excited for Annihilation, the new big-budget scifi movie coming out later this month and starring Natalie Portman as an ecologist. The studio just sold off the international rights to Netflix, which isn’t exactly a vote of confidence. I wasn’t too excited, because I didn’t like the novel on which the movie is based.

My eventually-forthcoming book, summarized in one tweet that is not even by me. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Friday links: Netflix vs. science movie, tweet vs. Jeremy’s book, and more

  1. That blog with the Schluter interview contains a bunch of other great interviews with authors of other classic papers, with lots of interesting/entertaining anecdotes. I may or may not have spent too much of my morning reading through. . . it must have been a ton of work/time for person who did it. I think it’s a cool idea.

  2. Jeremy – Kieran’s tweet about “degenerate research programs” is very Lakatosian. Have you become a Lakatosian?

    • I don’t feel I know enough Lakatos first hand to say! But at a broad-brush level, I do think his work resonates with recent work in philosophy of science with which I’m directly familiar. Work like Bill Wimsatt’s that tries to give practical, heuristic guidance as to how best to go about doing science, and heuristic justifications for (and critiques of) actual scientific practice. Always keeping in mind that science is done by people, not abstract hypothetical idealized people.

  3. I came across this quite old series of tweets and it immediately reminded me of Dynamic Ecology. I almost always come here for discussions of Lakatosian philosophy (e.g. zombie ideas, methodological critiques, etc), but sometimes silliness is warranted.

  4. The blog is dead. Long live the blog.
    Many thanks for sticking with this blog for the long haul, and in a roundabout way, many thanks to those other community bloggers who might venture to glance through the DE comments. From DE and allied blogs, I have often had my thinking broadened through viewpoints and links. For instance, thanks for pointing out in this post Hari Sridhar’s Reflections on Papers Past, where he revisits old papers in ecology and evolution through interviews with their authors. It’s absolutely delightful, and I wouldn’t have found it on my own.
    And many thanks for keeping the comment discussion going, including on back posts that get rediscovered and reread or newly read. With the comments, these blogs are alive with thoughtful discussions that are often as interesting as the original post. Without the comment discussions, blogs are just another feed, newsletter, or journal TOC, to be read or not in the info flood. I seldom comment. I often read DE and its kin on my phone over coffee in my quiet time before the family gets up and before I’m off to the daily races. Phones are great little gadgets for reading but suck for writing more than a few words. So if I think to chime in, I wait until I’m at work with a keyboard, but then there’s something more pressing, and by the time there’s a lull, I’ve either forgotten or doubt that whatever I thought to say was worth sharing. (After all, I’m an impostor in this world, not an academic or even a real ecologist, just an agency guy interested in pollution effects. But these DE et al. impostor discussions have helped me with that too).
    The decline of comments has me wondering where the science community discourse is going. Small Pond Science abruptly closed itself to comments, PubMed Commons just folded for lack of interest, journals have either closed comments or get few comments, and comments have been in decline here. Saunders et al’s paper on the value of community blogging accepts comments but the OA article has yet to garner a single comment there. Not all journals will publish letters to the editor any more, or if OA, may treat letters as just another article submission that needs a valid credit card number to be publishable. Is this trend because it’s easier to twit out short bits from a phone? Blogs aren’t the new shiny toy anymore? There’s a value to two-way discourse over one-way dissemination. Thanks for keeping this all going. I expect my appreciation of the discourse found here is shared by many more readers than is reflected in simple counts of comments or me-too twits.

    • Thanks very much Chris!

      I agree that blogs are most valuable when the function as a conversation rather than a broadcast.

      Yes, I’m sure one reason people comment less these days on blogs is because they’re reading on their phones and it’s a pain to type anything longer than a tweet on a phone. But it’s not just that. After all, only a small minority of our readers ever commented even 5 years ago. It’s always been the case that what most people mostly want to do online is chat with their friends. Blog comment threads used to be a way to do that, or something approximating that. But these days social media is how most people do that.

      Glad you like our linkfests. You’re not alone; our linkfests have become more popular over the years. They used to be much less popular than our other posts, now they’re similarly popular. I’m not sure if that says something good about our linkfests, or bad about our posts (e.g., that our posts these days aren’t as fresh for as many readers as they used to be.). Or both.

      Yes, counts of comments and retweets (and even pageviews) are imperfect ways to assess how much readers value this blog. I don’t know a great way. At some level, doing a blog is a leap of faith. You just decide that it’s worth doing, or worth continuing. Much as you might decide to do lots of things, in science and in life! There aren’t many big choices in life that are dictated by evidence. Brian, Meghan, and I don’t doubt that this blog is a really good use of our time. Even though we can’t quantify the blog’s value with any precision, either in absolute terms or relative to the value of other things we might do with our time.

      Thanks for the pointer re: PubMed Commons shutting down. I always thought it was unlikely to succeed ( Hopefully we have now heard the last of people claiming that the reason why most papers get no post-publication review is because of the clunky design of commenting platforms, or the inability to comment on papers from many different journals in one place. Because PubMed Commons was explicitly designed to address those issues, by smart people who mistakenly thought that such technical issues were the main obstacle to post-publication review taking off. The truth is that post-publication review always has been and always will be only for the “scientific 1%” (really, 0.01% or so;

      • Surprised-not-surprised to see folks in the comments over at PubMed Commons attributing lack of uptake to “lack of publicity”. To which, I’m sorry, but come on. First of all, where’s the evidence that PubMed Commons was unpublicized? Second of all, you really think a substantial fraction of the *millions* of papers that went totally uncommented there would’ve been substantively commented upon if only PubMed Commons had been more widely advertised? For instance, Michael Eisen certainly knew about PubMed Commons. He publicly advocated for it–and only commented on like one paper there, if memory serves (we linked to that fact in an old linkfest).

        As a general rule, the active users of anything are probably always predisposed to misunderstand why others don’t use it. I try to be reasonably clear-eyed about why many ecologists don’t read this blog, and why only a small fraction of our readers comment. Polling readers on why they don’t comment helps, though of course we can’t poll non-readers on why they don’t read us.

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