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Schadenfreude, the taste of the real thing generation

OK, I shouldn’t be enjoying this. Scienceblogs, my former mothership, has accepted an as-yet unknown quantity of a nutrition blog funded and run by… PepsiCo. Now, I don’t drink carbonated sugar drinks much, and when I do they aren’t multinational corporation products, but that has less to do with the fact that they are capitalistic running dogs than that they simply taste awful, as we’d all realise if we weren’t brought up to like them.

Many of my former cobloggers are outraged, or suspicious. Some even assert that bloggers ought to be totally pure, and allow no advertising (no prizes for guessing who the pure ones are). One, Mike Dunford, takes a sensible wait and see approach; no doubt he will be excoriated by the pure ones for a moral failure. Damned empiricists! He’s probably a conservative pedophile. At least one other is in agreement with this approach.

And I am totally unsurprised. I would love not to have advertising, because I think advertising is the root cause of much of what is presently wrong in our economies and social orders, but I don’t get to choose where I live, and I unfortunately acquire to provide the resources I would need to pay for the things I’d need to blog by myself. And if I had, it would probably involve advertising, since the lottery plan seems not to be working out for me.

So the alternative is to get you lot to subscribe, or I can use the free service provided by WordPress (or Blogger, or whoever) so long as they are able to fund it, using… advertising. Sucks, but then who ever said that life was fair or well organised? Apart from Ayn Rand, I mean.

But the thing that most surprised me with the screaming irony was a comment, by the person most responsible for my having to leave Scienceblogs because I was some kind of social throwback and I was to be told this until I recanted and submitted, and even then I was to be repeatedly criticised, just so I’d know my place in the social hierarchy: that it would be a shame to lose the community of being able to chat to other bloggers. Colour me unsympathetic. Terribly uncivil of me, I know. But then, I’m a dick.


  1. Cromercrox Cromercrox

    From one upholder of the patriarchal hegemony to another, who no doubt believes, as I do, that women have the brains of squirrels and should be taken roughly from behind in the kitchen …


    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Mind if I ask Missus Crox her views on that?

  2. But then, I’m a dick.

    I thought you were a john!

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      To be a john, you need to have a dick.

      • I thought you needed a dick to use the john!

  3. Cromercrox Cromercrox

    Missus Crox has long since learned not to take any of my ravings seriously.

  4. EMJ EMJ

    Yes, it is rather ironic that Pepsi, but not General Electric or Shell, is what got everyone into a lather. Still, it is a dumb idea. At least Sb isn’t raising subscription costs to public universities, right Cromercrox?


    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Boys! (Yes, I’m aware of the aptness of that.) If you are going to do politics here, make sure it is funny. Only I get to do serious political ranting on this blog.

  5. Cromercrox Cromercrox

    EMJ, you are of course well aware that I am a mere bottom feeder (in the sense that I grub around in the dark, rather than feeding on other peoples’ bottoms). It is not for me to opine on the policies of those who bask in the photic zone. In any case official statements concerning the matter to which you refer are available and have been widely bruited and you are invited to refer to those. Would you like a watercress sandwich?

  6. EMJ EMJ

    I laughed. Did you laugh?

    But, of course, I fill my chortle with much love. I’m a long-time admirer of you both and don’t comment as much as I should.

  7. EMJ EMJ

    And, yes, I would love a watercress sandwich.

  8. Cromercrox Cromercrox

    Laughed? I almost krupled my blutzon.

    I believe Dr Isis is making watercress sandwiches this week. Mine a better, but hers are closer.

  9. 🙂 nice to be less fractious waters 4 shore.

  10. several things have pissed me (us?) off.

    1. this was a sneak addition of a blog done without any advance discussion or warning.
    2. the “blog” writers are pepsico employees, not people who write for a corporate-sponsored blog, as the others were (nevermind that i also disliked those sponsored blogs, but i kept my mouth shut publicly because those blogs were not written by the corporate sponsors themselves).
    3. this “blog” will be aggregated by google as if its genuine news, alongside all the other scienceblogs that do not generate paid-for-spin content.
    4. pepsico has plenty of resources at their disposal, why not simply share in the reflected glow by $supporting sciencbelogs? why buy their way onto the site?
    5. i actually have not made up my mind as to what i’ll do.

  11. Cromercrox Cromercrox

    @GrrlScientist – does it really matter? In your blog you are true to yourself and to your readers, and everyone knows this. There are people who read your blog who won’t read every blog on Sb, nor will they be very conscious of Sb as an entity, and won’t care about the PepsiCo blog.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      What Henry said. Unless you are being pressured to conform to some corporate line (and the way things are panning out, it is pretty clear that you all aren’t), your blog is your blog. You can always move, but if you aren’t under pressure, I don’t see why you should be.

  12. Jim Menegay Jim Menegay

    Interesting. I wonder whether the Pepsi folks will actually be doing a science blog, or whether it will be yet another Sb blog about sex, politics, and religion?

    But one thing has me puzzled. In the “About us” paragraph, Pepsi writes: “All editorial content on the blog is overseen by ScienceBlogs editors.”
    Say again?! There actually are Sb editors? I wonder whether Our Gorilla ever encountered one during his sojourn over there. And whether said editor did any editing…

  13. thanks for your insights and thoughts, wilkins and cormercrox.

    yes, there are editors at SB. not sure what they did exactly, but i think they edited the front page. there are several people who, at one time, read all our content and helped the editor choose quotes, videos, etc., for the front page. it’s possible that the editor and the “community manager” (cat herder) does this now, without any extra help. the current editor oversees the online version of seed magazine, and probably also the front page, but i might be wrong about that.

    anyway, now there is so much .. erm, “content” being produced by SB blogs that i sincerely doubt that even half of it has been read by anyone at SB. although i am sure this pepsico blowup is being read carefully by corporate eyes. i cannot imagine they’d want to stay, considering the overt hostility they are getting from the SB community; the blogs, the readers, on twitter and facebook, and especially in view of the beginnings of what look like a mass exodus.

    • ERV ERV

      …and especially in view of the beginnings of what look like a mass exodus.
      I wanted several bloggers to be forced to leave after what happened last year. Better late than never, as far as Im concerned.

      But if *you* leave over this, I will be pissed off at you, on several levels, Grrl.

      • questionableauthority questionableauthority

        No idea if I’m in the “bloggers you wanted forced out” group (don’t particularly care, either), but I’m actively starting to relocate my content to WordPress.

        It’s not because of the Pepsi blog per se (I still think “wait and see” is the best approach there), but more because Seed has chosen, again, to treat it’s bloggers like mushrooms.

      • ERV ERV

        Actually, a really nice thing that came out of the affair last year, is that I learned which bloggers I can trust, and which I cant.

        Too bad several of the people I do trust left.

        High-five to the backbiter that ‘bravely’ posted a non-interesting letter from Adam. High-five.

  14. Hey, it’s the interweb and it should remain a free market of ideas. If Smith & Wesson wants to put up a blog about health and safety on SB, so be it. At the end of the day, people can choose to read it or not; or read it and blast it in the comments; or whatever.

    There is also the wild possibility that PepsiCo, Monsanto. or S&W, or BP, or BAT, might have something informative to contribute to such discussions. After all, for good or ill, you can trace a lot of money spent in academia to such corporate entities, so pretending they aren’t a viable voice in this thing is just foolish.

  15. chris y chris y

    ScienceBlogs used to be a site I’d visit regularly because it aggregated a bunch of blogs I wanted to read and it was easy to ignore the rest. For some time now it’s been teetering on the edge of a critical mass of interesting material below which it’s no longer worth the bother – god knows I could bookmark GrrlScientist, Switek, Naish and a couple of others easily enough if I weren’t bone idle. I wonder if there’s also a near critical mass of readers who feel the same way.

  16. Susan Silberstein Susan Silberstein

    Surely that’s Dr. Dick.

  17. As a recovering Scibling, (“Hi, I’m John and I’m 13 months clean”) I’m a little saddened and a little unsurprised. Given how Seed management didn’t step in at various stages in the past, this sort of treatment doesn’t surprise me.

    I find it interesting that PZ isn’t publicly applying pressure. He’s the big dog in the room and if he left, Sb would effectively cease to be viable given the traffic that would get lost. All he has said publicly is “ignore the new blog”.

    I have to admit not to reading the vast majority of the Sb stream precisely because (with a few exceptions) there are no voices worth reading anymore. My gut tells me that Scienceblogs has probably ceased to be a viable entity and that places like Nature and Discover are the new bearers of the torch.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Another layer of irony (an isotope of iron in American) is that after laying into the Templeton recipients, PZ is not prepared to do the same thing with corporate shillery. I guess some beds are less full of fleas if you get paid, than others.

      • Louis Louis

        But John, not all beds, and not all fleas are equal.

        Like a corporation, Templeton has a defined agenda. Interestingly it’s an agenda they sometimes try very hard to disguise, or at least try to give the impression their agenda is open discourse when it frequently isn’t. It might just be my ignorance an inexperience, but I am unaware of Templeton funded projects that are absent an agenda.

        Corporations, for all their evils (identical to those of Templeton in this regards at the very least), at least have a history of funding projects without any oversight or imposed agenda. Take for example the CASE award system for PhDs in UK academia. The funding is given with no strings attached. The corporation even provides helpful advisors for the student to get second opinions from. Undeniably this is a recruiting tool, but it’s not an ideological one.

        Like I said, I might be unaware of all of Templeton’s efforts and so I’m happy to be corrected. But the instances of Templeton influence I *am* aware of (perhaps a self selected set) are corrupting. Often disingenuously and unfortunately so. The very set up and stated goals of the organisation indicate this pretty clearly.


  18. Everyone assumes I have this massive clout with Sb. I don’t. Really — they don’t meddle in content at all, and they don’t rank us or judge us by traffic. When you guys were there, did you ever get the impression that the care with which they listened to your voice was proportional to traffic? We’re all the faceless mob of content providers.

    I’m not applying pressure in the sense of threatening to jump ship because I think the threat is indirect: the corporate blogvertisement doesn’t hurt me right now. It hurts me if I end up being the rare weirdo in a sea of shills, though. I’ve told the Overlords I’m unhappy, and that’s got to be enough for now.

    Although, if some respectable predator came along and offered my the same money for blogging that Seed does, I’d be tempted. (I know what you’re thinking, and yes I am.)

    • PZ,

      I wasn’t thinking that you would be treated different (that indeed was *not* my experience, as you note). I was thinking that if you threatened to haul > 50% of their advertising revenue away, they’d listen to you.

  19. Except that they have never caved in to that sort of pressure, so I’d really look the fool if I said I was taking my ball home and they just said bye-bye.

    There has been considerable consistency in how they handle the stable of bloggers, so I don’t have any illusions that I’d be given special consideration.

    Although, it is tempting to the ego to pit Pharyngula vs. PepsiCo in a duel to the death in the Sb arena.

    • Except that they have never caved in to that sort of pressure, so I’d really look the fool if I said I was taking my ball home and they just said bye-bye.

      I’m still willing to bet that if you (and perhaps one of the other high traffic blogs) threatened to leave there would be a change. The loss of pageclick revenue would sink the operation.

      In any case, I don’t have a horse in this race.

  20. Given the way I access the blogosphere (add whatever looks interesting to my RSS; mindlessly read whatever pops up), I no doubt miss the significance of some largish group of folks blogging (or not blogging) under the same “banner”. It’s all just a list of URLs, and that some of them string-match on the first N characters is immaterial. The main effect for me as a reader is that there is less likely to be the side-bar cross-linking to other interesting posts and stuff (unless the blogger takes the trouble to include such an aggregator).

    • …and as usual, I manage to avoid making much of a point. So: why does sharing part of a URL with a Big Evil Capitalist Baby-Poisoning Corporate Propaganda Outlet give so many scientists the heeby-jeebies? Is there a perception that the place as a whole will get a Reputation, which will taint all that touch it? (And is that a reasonable perception to hold?)

  21. PZ said,
    “Except that they have never caved in to that sort of pressure, so I’d really look the fool if I said I was taking my ball home and they just said bye-bye.”

    Unless Seed is run by the thoroughly business incompetent, I find that hard to believe. It takes a very long time and a lot of work to make a blog popular, and those blogs who jumped on the wagon when it was barely out of the gates have maintained a distinct advantage. Bare in mind that PepsiCo’s interest in Seed is almost certainly due to Seed’s standing based on its current content providers. If the popular providers go, and the fan clicks with them, then as Lynch said above, the incentive for PepsiCo to hang around evaporates.

    That said, I think it was commendable that you didn’t leave. PepsiCo deserves some credit for being upfront with this thing. They could just as easily have hired an “independent” to shill for them without putting their label out front and center and riling up the anti-capitalists. Frankly, I think they came out of this looking better than their critics.

    It’s a shame, because it would have made for an interesting experiment; would the corporate blog have remained aloof and indifferent to its environment and stuck to the corporate talking points? Or would the writers have invariably been sucked in to the blogosphere culture to duke it out with their audience and competitors? Could there have been a discussion involving a highly influential part of the food industry?

    We won’t know, because they were tried, convicted and subsequently censored in a kangaroo court of bloglic opinion before they got so much as a word out.

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