An open thread on Wikipedia’s list of science blogs

A Twitter discussion this weekend between Ed Yong, Christie, and Sci Curious pointed out that Wikipedia’s list of science blogs is seriously lacking. If I’ve learned anything in my year in the blog-o-sphere, it’s that there are a lot of excellent blogs and bloggers out there. From reading the Wikipedia entry, you would think that there are only eleven.

Two questions arose from this discussion. First of all, is it a problem? Second of all, if it is a problem, should we solve it? I think that the answers to both questions are yes, but as always, I’m interested in your feedback.

I think this is a big problem. While it doesn’t prevent anyone truly dedicated from finding a blog they’d be interested in, an unscientific poll of my students shows that Wikipedia is often the first place that people look for information on a topic, and many times people don’t look anywhere else. In short, if a given blog was listed in a Wikipedia entry, more people interested in what that blog has to say would become readers.

I also think we should fix it by updating the Wikipedia article. The whole point of Wikipedia is allowing people who know a lot about a given subject to update the entry to make it as correct as possible. Who knows more about science blogging than science bloggers?

The Twitter discussion showed that people have some reservations about updating the Wikipedia entry because it would appear to be self-promoting. I think these concerns are baseless. We wouldn’t be forcing anyone to read our blogs, we would be merely making it easier for people to find them. No one would come across the update list of science blogs on Wikipedia unless they looked for it (or hit “random article”, which has wasted an alarming amount of my life).

In the interest of disclosure, my views on this should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt since I’ve been accused of being a spammer in the past (most recently by some jerk who introduced my presentation at Science Online).

I am interested in what other science bloggers think about this, and I am also interested in what our readers think.  Let’s discuss this issue in the comments below. If there is a lot of support in the science blogging community for updating this Wikipedia page, I will volunteer to become a Wikipedia editor and will work closely with any blog authors who want their blog included on the new list.

My goal for this is a main page with a list of all science blogs categorized by field (conservation, ocean blogging, space, earth science, etc), a separate article for each field that again includes a list of every relevant blog, and a separate article for each blog with a brief author bio and a list of their 5 favorite posts. That’s also open to discussion, though.

Please let me know what you think!



  1. Coturnix · March 1, 2010

    That is not really a page – just a Table of Contents kind of thing. I added a lot of stuff on the Discussion page there, but someone needs to alert Wikipedia editors about it so they can make an actual Wikipedia page and populate it with information we can provide in the Discussion page.

  2. Scicurious · March 1, 2010

    Sci doesn’t know the first thing about editing Wikipedia, she’ll be honest. But as it’s a table of contents kind of thing, is it exempt from the usual editing rules? Who determines where those rules apply?

  3. WhySharksMatter · March 1, 2010

    I didn’t realize there was a difference between an article and a table of contents- obviously I would learn more about the specifics before taking on this project.

    Let me slightly alter my question, then: Do you think we should make an updated article with a correct list of active science blogs?

  4. Ruth Seeley · March 1, 2010

    It wouldn’t be self serving to sort out that mess, it would be extremely helpful. The Wikipedia generic page lists some individual blogs, some category blogs, and some aggregator blogs – which isn’t particularly helpful.

    Perhaps using the SEED categories of blogs would be helpful (if there were some additions, like nanotechnology, for instance) and then add the individual blogs within the categories, while creating a separate list of aggregator blogs. Would that work? I’ve only ever edited one Wikipedia entry, myself, but I’m sure there are people who are much more experienced than me at doing so.

  5. kevin Z · March 1, 2010

    It aggregates those blogs with a Wikipedia page. If science bloggers want to be on a Wikipedia Table of Contents for science blogs, they need to create and edit a Wikipedia page for their blog and tag it “Science Blog”.

    This is sort of dumb IMO because, that information exists at everyone’s one blog. A google search for “science blogs” doesn’t even bring up that wikipedia page in the first 50 results. OTOH, if you search any of our respective subjects, our blog page is more likely to come in near the top. At least for the more established bloggers or for more niche topics.

    • WhySharksMatter · March 1, 2010

      “A google search for “science blogs” doesn’t even bring up that wikipedia page in the first 50 results”

      That’s true, and therefore this wouldn’t help us find people who use Google as their primary way of finding information about the world. However, there are people who use the Wikipedia search feature as their primary means of finding information about the world.

      Just to be clear, are you saying that your objection to doing this would be that it would be a waste of time and not helpful? You aren’t saying that you philosophically think it’s a bad idea because it would be self-promotion?

  6. Coturnix · March 1, 2010

    Someone should start an actual page there, called “Science Blogs”. They will NOT let us have a list of blogs, but an article that describes history, main players, key events, controversies, etc. See the discussion page on that TOC, as well as the discussion page of the page on Wikipedia. It is always better to put stuff on the Discussion page and let their editors sort it out than to do any editing ourselves. We can make a “stub” and put info on the Discussion page and let them go from there, answering their questions in the Discussion as needed.

  7. Glendon Mellow · March 1, 2010

    I wonder if any of the bloggers listed have any significant stats about who finds them through Wikipedia?

    I agree with Kevin that it isn’t the likely route most people would find a blog on say, art & science, for example, but I think David has a point that as a resource guide, something better needs to be set-up. The more ways for people to find a route to good science, the better!

    • Ed Yong · March 1, 2010

      Yeah, I get the odd regular referral from Wikipedia. It’s not a huge amount of traffic by any means, but there are various articles about the place that have linked to me. See Puijila and Emerald Cockroach Wasp. And bizarrely, PNAS, even though I wasn’t actually writing about PNAS at the time…

  8. Christie · March 1, 2010

    I think having a “real” page on science blogs (whatever that means) would be a great idea. Something that describes what a science blog is, what kinds of blogs are out there, and contains a list of blogs for the user to refer to.

    The point on self-promotion, I think, comes up with who to include – how do we/whoever makes the page decide whose blogs are pertinent or important enough to make the cut? I presume we’re not having a page with several hundred blogs on it. So where do the lines get drawn?

    • WhySharksMatter · March 1, 2010

      Good point, Christie.

      Actually, I have no problem with a page with lots of blogs on it, as long as they are categorized so that people can easily find what they are looking for.

      The best way I can think of to decide who gets a page is whether or not people want one and are willing to help me make their page. If they aren’t (which probably applies to lots of people), that makes the decision easier.

  9. Jared · March 1, 2010

    Perhaps developing a distinct Wikipedia “science blog” entry could be of more use than any list of science blogs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for promoting the numerous exceptional science bloggers, but I don’t think Wikipedia would be the place to compile such a list. Perhaps using a few high profile examples would be acceptable (The Panda’s Thumb comes to mind) with passing references to mixed “science/culture/personal” blogs such as Pharyngula. This article could cite a comprehensive list of categorized science blogs, but the volume and turnover rate of such blogs would be make it difficult to be comprehensive.

  10. anon · March 1, 2010

    The key point is that that Wikipedia page is not a general list of science blogs. It’s a list of Wikipedia pages about specific science blogs. For a blog to be listed there, it has to have its own Wikipedia page, which means it has to be deemed “important” or “notable” or whatever Wikipedia’s term is.

    So what you’re proposing would entail creating a bunch of new Wikipedia pages, each about a different science blog, each of which would be subject to review for “notability”. This is probably not the best way to go about it. Coturnix’s idea of a page about science blogs is a good one (but obviously much more work).

  11. Coturnix · March 1, 2010

    Yup, I think Wikipedians would scream bloody murder if tried to either list hundreds of blogs in one page, or worse, make individual pages for each of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of blogs. Those pages would be deleted in a nanosecond. W pages have to be encyclopedic, i.e., explaining the term within a historical and cultural context. There can be links to outside sources that may collect many blogs, though, and I have already placed some such links on the Discussion page.

  12. Crazyharp81602 · March 1, 2010

    A bit off topic: I don’t think I’ll ever like editing Wikipedia anymore after they took off many of my articles I wrote about the late 80s’ animated TV series C.O.P.S. aka CyberCOPS.

  13. SimonG · March 1, 2010

    I’m not convinced that blogs should appear as references in Wikipedia, unless the article is specifically related to that blog: some blogging war, say. Blogs are not reliable.
    A list of specific blogs is also pretty futile as it’s both subjective and changeable.
    Information on blogging awards might be OK, and perhaps thd larger blogging sites such as ScienceBlogs or NatureNetworks, but that would miss a lot of good blogs.
    Personally, I’ve found most of the blogs I follow from mentions in other blogs.

  14. Ed Yong · March 1, 2010

    Can I just say that, having posted the tweet that started this debate, I wasn’t actually suggesting that this situation needed fixing. Just that the current list of science blogs was amusing for its brevity.

    I like Bora’s idea best – create a page about science blogs as a format.

  15. Southern Fried Scientist · March 2, 2010

    Wikipedia isn’t a top 100 list or spam aggregator. It would be incredibly self-serving and ultimately counter productive to try to “game” the wikipedians. Focus on producing content, not seeing how many different pages you can get your name on.

    • WhySharksMatter · March 2, 2010

      I certainly don’t see it as trying to game anyone, but rather as trying to provide information to those who would be seeking it.

      However, while there is some support for this idea, there are enough strong objections to it that I won’t be pursuing it any further.

  16. Dave Munger · March 19, 2010

    In my (obviously biased) opinion, at least deserves a page. Then blogs like the RB awards winners could be listed there. But as an interested party, I would not be allowed to create the page.

Comments are closed.