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Interesting discussion on the nature of media today, and the tendency toward driving traffic via the information equivalent of Twinkies. Below are my top 10 posts since moving to Discover Magazine measured by visits. The numbers to the right is the ratio of visits of the post over the past 2 years to the rough number of visits in an average day on this weblog.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Blog, Media 
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So what do readers of this blog think? Pay or no pay? It’s useful, and The New York Times is pretty massive in scope, if sometimes lacking in breadth. I love their data-oriented stuff, but I ignore their columnists and a lot of their “analysis,” which is frankly substandard if I know anything about the topic (which suggests to me if I don’t know about the topic, they barely do too). There are certain areas where blogs have a comparative advantage, and I don’t see why an organization with other strengths would even make an attempt.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Blog, Media, The New York Times 
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I have some Google Alerts set up relating to human evolution and such, and a few days ago I noticed a spike in articles about the evolution of clothing and lice. Like this: We were all naked until 170,000 years ago. Since I blogged this in September, The naked years, I was confused. Here’s the explanation in USA Today:

The study, in this month’s print edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, finds that the one louse species began to diverge into two about 170,000 years ago, 70,000 years before humans started migrating to colder climates, which began about 100,000 years ago.

The paper was on the website in early September, but didn’t make it into the print edition until 2011. I have no idea how this sort of stuff works; contrary to perceptions of many I’m not a science writer. Perhaps they blasted a new wave of press releases? Whatever they did, it worked. A huge plume of articles has been welling up over the weekend on the topic.

But it does make me wonder as to the possibility of getting new publicity for “old” science. There are certain papers which are going to make a big splash, no matter what. This is a case where there is a “hook,” but it isn’t a sure thing. And the core of the research on the evolution of lice morphs is a somewhat abstruse statistical method.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Media 
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The Worst NYT Trend Story of the Year?:

Here’s an early autumnal contender: Virginia Heffernan’s entirely anecdotal story about a massive Facebook Exodus. How serious is this Facebook exodus? Heffernan explains:

The exodus is not evident from the site’s overall numbers.

The exodus is not evident from the site’s overall numbers! Some trend!

This is a serious problem. Anecdotes add spice to real data. As illustrations of something real. Too often journalism involves finding five people on the street who can agree with whatever “trend” you’ve made up. This reminds of how I was taught to write essays in Middle School, make up a thesis and find n facts to support the thesis. Who cares if those facts are representative of the distribution of facts in the real world! You got your thesis and you know what you are looking for. And secondarily, there is the problem of trends are so widely accepted as to become background assumptions, but which turn out to be false upon even cursory examination.

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Blogs, Media 
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Looks like NOVA, the PBS science program, has finally put a bunch of shows online.

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Media 
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"