Now we had to build the site. We bought the domain from some guy whose kids had purchased it just a few months before. I didn’t now what “DNS” meant. But suddenly I had to point some “DNS” records at a “host.” I called my friend at MIT. I chose the hosting company b/c they were located in my hometown, and occupied what used to be a mall near my house. What was the name of that hometown hosting company? Rackspace. Yeah. @BoraZ @arikia @katherinesharpe Yeah this is deep, deep history here. Pre-cambrian.
Anarchy was built into the site from day 1. No one would have signed up if we hadn’t given them free reign to say anything. This is the advantage of starting from nothing: No institutional reputation to ruin.
Eager followers gathered as Mims continued. “Psst. If you’re missing it, @mims is tweeting the super secret history of ScienceBlogs,” John Rennie—who writes a blog for PLoS, which hosts one of a newer crop of online science blogging communities—whispered about an hour into the tale.
“@mims dude can’t you put this all into a one long blog rather than tweets?” George Musser, Scientific American space and physics editor and solar blogger, asked. In response, Mims announced that he would continue in a blog post later, but quickly relented at the urging of Martin Robbins, a blogger in the Guardian’s community.
“No… keep tweeting, I’ll have it in a storify later. We’re all hooked!” he wrote to Mims and Musser, referring to a site that allows people to search for Tweets, photos, and videos, drag them into a template, add context, and construct a story. It was his first attempt at using the tool, and he posted the impressive result after Mims finished his story a while later. (“I love this. A fascinating history of Scienceblogs.com, written in tweets (by @mims) and collected via Storify,” New York University’s Jay Rosen wrote less than two hours after its posting.)
So Mims continued as before:
So when SB first launched, there were tons of rough edges. Genius thing our tech person did was set up a private chat back-channel. Bloggers used it to solve each other’s tech issues. So e.g. @razibkhan [Rhazib Khan] was instrumental in squashing bugs. Without him the site would have imploded. At the time Movable Type was the enterprise blogging platform of choice, so it’s what we used. It was like all utopias - at first everyone is full of idealism, people help each other, they’re going to change the world etc. Anyway, the most interesting part of a thing is always its birth. I’m winding down already. Mostly because the most outrageous stories about working at Seed can never be told without fear of reprisal.
“So that’s what we used,” Ed Yong—who launched his blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science, at Scienceblogs.com before moving it to Discover’s community—chimed in, noting that the bit about Movable Type made him snort Pepsi through his nose. The choice of drink was an amusing coincidence.
Like Scienceblogs.com, Discover was a pioneer in science blogging communities, and began to draw blogs away from Seed’s community as early as 2008 and 2009, when it acquired, respectively, Carl Zimmer’s The Loom and Chris Mooney’s The Intersection. Yong joined in 2010, a few months before the scandal that would usher in a more precipitous decline for Scienceblogs. In July 2010, Seed Media Group was forced to cancel a nutrition blog that it had allowed the Pepsi Company to create after its members began defecting in protest.
But that was long after Mims left and way ahead of his story. After requiring some help from a number of followers remembering how many blogs made up Scienceblogs.com at the outset (it was fourteen, pointed out Bora Zivkovic, the editor of Scientific American’s blog network, who moved his personal blog off Scienceblogs after the Pepsi incident), he kept going:
Basically, after that it was just about finding other interesting bloggers to bring on board. The site literally ran itself. Editorially I mean. The upside of no oversight was… no work for editors. Thus was born the term “cat herding” We tried to come up with ways to incentive ppl to write on the same subject, because we couldn’t tell them what to do. It was an education in the ‘future’ of journalism — no control, no hierarchy, just… self organization.