How Do You Balance a Network?

Dave Munger wrote a column in SEED Magazine today, which followed up on Jenny Rohn’s post that cited a gender bias in ‘elite’ blogging networks — those who were selective in the bloggers they recruited. By that definition, PLoS Blogs falls under this particular category of science blogging network, and Jenny pointed out our ratio of male to female bloggers.

I was very happy that Dave Munger contacted me for an official comment on this important issue. I had spent a lot of time the previous week talking to our own bloggers about Jenny’s post shortly after it was published. I also talked about Jenny’s points with PLoS staff members, many of whom were involved with creating PLoS Blogs.

As Dave correctly said in his column, PLoS has been thinking about the diversity of our network from the very beginning. Still, I was bummed to see my full explanation get whittled down to a few words. So in the spirit of openness, I’m posting the response I emailed to Dave last week below. I think it’s important that our readers know exactly where we stand on this issue:

I think Jenny’s post raises some outstanding — truly, very important — issues. But I wonder, shouldn’t we also be focusing on overall diversity in the blogosphere?

The age of our thirteen bloggers nearly spans four decades. We have an equal mix of researchers and journalists. Our group includes four women, represents four countries, and has an openly gay blogger in a legal marriage to his partner. We have a writer who won the Pulitzer Prize, and others just starting their careers.

How did we select our network? First and foremost, PLoS Blogs wanted to recruit people who have a track record for creating top-notch content. That was the first hurdle that everyone had to clear. But we also wanted to create a diverse network in many respects. Granted, this gets increasingly difficult when you are only launching with 11 blogs! But we consulted many people – both internally and externally – to make sure our list of bloggers was a well-rounded and diverse bunch.

Of course, every network should strive to do better in terms of diversity. And we’ve fully intended from Day 1 to incorporate a ‘Guest Blog’, where we will invite thought-leaders from across the web (including other networks) to share their ideas. The PLoS Guest Blog went live today, and we have quite a diverse lineup in the pipeline. Also, some of our bloggers will independently host other writers from around the world, offering their own private version of a Guest Blog.

Since our network is keen on collaborating with other blogging collectives, we are exploring ways to work together with other regional networks.

Diversity – in its broadest sense – is a paramount concern in the blogosphere, and we look forward to working with others on unique ways to push the current boundaries.

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