Brave Last Days?


This morning I received an email forwarded from a science editor/literary agent asking about the Accretionary Wedge, with respect to promoting a book of geological photos and descriptions. Below is my response. Names of the involved parties have been redacted with (XXXXX).
Thanks for the note, (XXXXX). I’m perfectly willing and able to “keep it going,” to use your phrase, but we haven’t been getting hosts, themes/ideas for AW’s, nor most importantly, participants. Looking over the last couple, Tuff Cookie did a stunningly good job of fleshing out the three or four participants and linking scads of related sites and posts for “outreach.” Dave Bressan only got 3 submissions for what I thought was a terrific topic in “unanswered questions.” Given that this is the first time the issue of the AW’s continuity has been raised (to me or at the AW site, at least) since TC’s hosting nearly 3 1/2 months ago, I have to ask in all seriousness, is the geoblogosphere really all that interested?

I have considered posting about this issue at my own blog, but for reasons that make plenty of sense to me, I don’t think the geoblogosphere pays much attention to it- I don’t think the question would have the impact it ought to. And sounding like a broken record, “still looking for topics and hosts,” at the Wedge’s site was starting to become a little painful.

I have been pretty frustrated about it; I have enjoyed the AW both as a reader and a participant [and as an editor, I might add], and it pains me to see so many other carnivals in the biosciences, astronomy, physics and so on, flourish while the single geology carnival sort of withered on the vine. But I honestly didn’t and don’t know how to politely pressure people into actually taking the time to put together a post every month or so. Do you have any ideas?

To revive it now, for the purpose of promoting a book, seems to me somewhat distasteful. It may be a fine book or not, I don’t know. But is this the face we want for the AW? What exactly would be the topic for such a post? Pretty Pictures? Most geobloggers do those posts as instinctively as breathing, and I’m not sure that would be a terribly engaging wedge.

Look, I’m willing to put quite a bit of effort into this carnival, but from the time I started, I’ve tried to keep a light hand on it, not make single-handed decisions, and count on the unparalleled enthusiasm of the geoblogosphere and its bloggers to provide direction. Perhaps I overestimated their enthusiasm.

I’ll CC this to (XXXXX) and (XXXXX), and I’ll also ask your permission to put this note up as a blog post, as is. This has been tough to write; I feel a little like I’m being asked to make the final decision for a loved one on life support. I want to emphasize that I’m willing to do whatever I can to keep the AW going, but I can’t live the loved one’s life. I can’t be the Accretionary Wedge. Only the Geoblogosphere can. And I’m just not seeing the effort or concern there.

Sincerely and Wistfully, Lockwood
Comments and reactions? Here’s The Accretionary Wedge‘s home page if you’d rather leave comments there… they’ll end up in my email either way. I’m hoping to track down an image I used sometime last year to tack on a somewhat less dolorous tone for the end… wish me luck.

Followup: Why is it I never think of using Firefox’s “find” tool until I’ve already spent 15 minutes scrolling? At any rate, I think we can say with some confidence that this is not the status of the Accretionary Wedge… at least at this point.
(Originally posted in Sunday Funnies, from Saturday Bulletin; I’ve cropped the caption)

(Cross-posted at Outside The Interzone)


14 Responses to “Brave Last Days?”

  1. annejefferson Says:

    I don’t think we should write off the Accretionary Wedge just yet. I’m willing to volunteer Highly Allochthonous to host it sometime this spring, if people are willing to write posts and submit them. One thing we could consider doing is deviating a bit from the thematic format and suggest that people just submit their favorite post of the past X weeks. That way it could be used as a showcase for the best of the geoblogosphere that exists now, rather than forcing people to feel like they have to write a special post to fit a dictated theme. What do others think?

  2. lockwooddewitt Says:

    Anne, you know, I hadn’t considered that. I’ve always found those sorts of carnivals rather dull, and more often than not end up not actually reading most of the linked posts. I think it also puts a lot of pressure on the host to come up with some way to tie together a whole bunch of unrelated topics. At worst, the host just posts a bunch of links… like that’s going to inspire me to go read. A list is more like tasks, and does not bring the idea of carnival anywhere close to my mind.

    All that said, I’m willing to try almost anything at this point. I think you are right that part of what is putting people off is the idea of having to write an extra post on a particular topic by a particular time, in the midst of an already hectic schedule. It’s certainly worth trying, especially for “off” periods like the Holidays, end of terms, semesters, field season… etc, etc. In other words, pretty much the whole year unless a host has a good idea for a theme. 🙂

  3. notanester Says:

    I certainly hope that the AW keeps going. I’ve enjoyed many of the posts it has brought to my attention.

    As I am not an actual geologist or geoarchaeologist (yet) nor do I have a geoblog, I don’t have much I could do to contribute except in the case of submitting ‘favorite posts’ as Anne just suggested.

  4. Tuff Cookie Says:

    It would be a shame to let it go, and I really like Anne’s idea. It reminds me of the Open Laboratory, and I’ve always been disappointed that that “carnival” doesn’t include more geology bloggers. Possibly it’s because that seems to pick up more generally science-y posts. Maybe we could make a book out of Accretionary Wedge posts some day?

    I can’t do anything this month (I’ll be in Guatemala), but when I get back I’d be happy to pick up a Wedge or two to get it going again.

  5. BrianR Says:

    It would be shame for this to die … I can’t promise to host one anytime soon, but I will promise to contribute to the next one if someone else does. I haven’t participated in a while .

  6. Kyle House Says:

    I am thoroughly guilty for not participating in the AW. I should probably crank it up a notch and jump in. Has anyone used the theme of ‘truly epiphanic insights in the field’ ? I like that one…could go with it.

  7. Dave Schumaker Says:

    Oh, man! It would be a huge shame for this to die. That said, I know a lot of us are guilty of not participating in awhile. The posts people contribute are some of the most fun I’ve read (and even compiled when I’ve hosted it).

    I totally understand your feelings and frustration though. Maybe the crunch of daily life makes it hard to contribute to these on a consistent basis. Maybe we need simpler questions? We always did a great job raising these complex questions that resulted in numerous, detailed posts. Perhap people don’t have time for that at the moment?

    And the revive it solely for a book seems a little misguided in my opinion. People do these posts out of love and appreciation for our field. I think this would severely compromise what interest it left.

  8. Chris Rowan Says:

    I certainly don’t want the wedge to die, and I also share some of the blame for its current moribund state – I was extremely bad at both contributing to and publicising it last year.

    Some thoughts/suggestions.

    (i) In terms of making sure that regular editions come out – we should ask for and encourage anyone to host, but possibly we should maintain a rotating list of ~5 people who will host it in the absence of anyone else.

    (ii) Have more flexibility regarding the make-up of an edition: the “write posts on a theme” concept is great, but also requires some time commitment; this probably limits contributions a little (especially during field seasons). We could intersperse them with (at the discretion of the host), “best of the last month” type editions, or “cool outcrops/photos/places I’ve seen/been recently” editions (there’ll always be more material for this, and people can simply submit a brief photo/description if they like), or research blogging editions. Another idea would be to have retrospective calls for posts (have you ever written anything on…”)

    (iii) Use Twitter etc. to drum up attention/interest contributions.

    Either way, I think it’s worth trying a resuscitation before holding a wake…

  9. Silver Fox Says:

    I’ve contributed fairly regularly, except when topics really aren’t something I can write about (academic things) – and the December one is very hard to make, no matter when in December it’s held. We could skip that month, imo.

    Scientiae Carnival allows contributions that are off-topic, and with that change plus occasional best-of-month type assemblages, maybe we can get more posters.

    I also don’t feel like I’m very good at coming up with themes or ideas, but could host one, maybe August? I’ll think about topics, maybe we need some random brainstorming on that.

    Also, we’ve had a few field-related topics that never got compiled. So another field-related one would probably work just fine (@Kyle).

  10. Miguel Vera Says:

    We shouldn’t let the AW die, even more now that the geoblogosphere is growing (or so it seems to me). I know I’ve only made it to 2 editions and I really would’ve loved to participate in all the others, but it’s already hard for me to get the time and try to write a decent post on a specific subject, let alone translate it. That’s why I like the idea of running “free” editions (or “best of”, like Chris said), with specific theme editions from time to time. It would be an opportunity for everyone to share recent interesting posts that would otherwise sit there waiting for the appropiate theme to come up for submission.

    I think it would also encourage foreign language geobloggers (like me) to translate their posts in order to participate. And, like Chris said, if we promote it on social networks like Twitter (FB?) it could encourage non-bloggers to start a blog, or non-geobloggers to chime in with their experience, who knows.

    By the way, a good idea for themes would be recent geo-related events. We could’ve easily run a “Haiti Earthquake” AW, why didn’t we?

    Finally, I’m wondering, should it be monthly? If we go for it and there’s not enough material for monthly editions, we could consider running it bimonthly.

  11. ed adams Says:

    I was thinking of hosting AW before this current hiatus. How about sending stuff to Geology Happens by March 26. I will be gone in early April.

    The subject: What am I working on now.

    What do you think?

  12. lockwooddewitt Says:

    notanester- blogging turned out to be much easier and more intuitve than I expected. On Blogger and WordPress, it’s free. I gather you’re a student with access to the web: jump in! Blogging connects you with lots of people with similar interests, it polishes your writing skills- which will get you better grades and is much more important for employment than you can understand as a student- it’s a lot of fun, and for me at least, serves as wonderful on-line scrapbook. Don’t worry that you’re not enough of an “expert.” By most measures, I’m not either!

    Tuff Cookie- The more I think about it, the more I like that idea too. As I just responded to Callan at a comment on the cross-post at my own blog, I think mixing up the approaches to how we do the AW has some real potential for reviving it. Have fun in Guatemala, and take plenty of juicy volcano pictures to share when you get back!

    BrianR- I know the life of grad students is crammed and hectic; thanks for the commitment.

    Kyle- Do you have a time or month you’d like to do it? I’m up for it, but also see my response to Dave below.

    Dave- re. the crunch of daily life- I’m sure that’s a huge aspect, but asking in all sincerity, is there some reason that students and professionals in geology have more demanding and hectic lives than those in other disciplines? As I pointed out in the body of the post, other science blog carnivals appear to be doing pretty well. Perhaps there are just fewer of us; I honestly don’t know, and I think that’s been part of my frustration. re: simpler questions- I think that’s an important point in a round-about way. I know that there have been several wedges where I’ve had a really tough time narrowing the field between many competing choices, which has led me to procrastinate. My own post on Basin and Range for the Time Warp AW is a case in point. Due date was Saturday, and I still wasn’t positive what topic I was going to address when I hit the “new post” button early Saturday afternoon. I think we need to find ways to make participating in the AW less demanding, which is one of the reasons Anne’s suggestion has been looking better and better to me. Once I get started, I have a great time, but it’s frequently difficult for me to get started. re: book- I agree. I need to write back to the editor, who has her own blog, and invite her to post a piece on the book, which could then be docked into an AW. But the idea of putting up a new edition for the primary purpose of promoting a commercial product just seems counter to the spirit of the thing.

    Chris- (i) I’m willing to take one of those spots, but as I indicated above, I do not want to dominate this forum. I was sort of envisioning a six month break between rehosting by any particular blogger, and perhaps should have stood up for November, six months after my May debut. My sense, though, is that apart from me, nearly everybody in the geoblogosphere is too busy to make a commitment of that nature. (ii) I’m really beginning to like these ideas of differing approaches to the format of the AW. I’m against abandoning themed editions entirely, but open to trying different kinds of editions that might be easier or more inviting. I’m open to (a) research blogging edition(s), but I wouldn’t be able to host or participate. I’m too out of date. (iii) I’ve had a number of hits coming from twitter on my blog’s geology posts over the last few days, but it’s not a feature I really want to get involved in… I’m already drowning myself in RSS. We’ll see how this Google Buzz thing works out. My initial impression was not very positive- more of an irritant than anything else. But first impressions sometimes don’t mean much… I hated some of what is now favorite music the first time I heard it.

    Silver- I think I’ve suggested or asked before if it would help if we had a page (like “Who’s hosting the next AW”) for “suggested topics.” I know I’ve wondered whether potential hosts just don’t feel like they have a good idea for a topic. I have no trouble with skipping periods when most people are busy. And I’ll add a couple of my own ideas and comments after I finish responding. And thanks! I have noticed and appreciated your regular participation.

    Miguel- I am in awe of geobloggers who make the effort to blog in a non-native language. There are quite a number of you out there, and I can’t express my apprecition deeply enough for bringing unfamiliar parts of the world to my attention. Even more so with respect to participating in the AW. With respect to timing of the wedges, pondering through the various comments, I have a number of ideas and suggestions that I’ll lay out when I finish responding to them individually.

    Ed- Thanks for the offer. Callan, in a comment to this post on my home blog has also offered to host, but his proposed date is unclear. I’m open to March 26… how about others? And I think your proposed topic would be fairly easy for most to at least settle on an answer.

    My Thoughts: The idea of breaking with a purely themed format sits better and better with me the more I think about it. My initial response to Anne’s comment was based on a concern that we might mostly switch from the rich format that has been the convention to a format that, as I indicated, has generally seemed kind of dry and unengaging to me. I’m particularly unhappy with the idea of AW devolving into a list of links.

    But what I’m sensing here is a need for rejuvenation, of experimenting with different approaches to expressing our fascination with the geosciences, and our determination to share that fascination. And, yes, that may even involve simple link lists. I enjoy the themed posts, but sometimes I enjoy stuff I find in lists. I think one issue is that we’ve allowed the Wedge to become too formal, with a number of conventions we may not even be aware of, with a resultant loss of fun, spontaneity and a willingness to experiment. We each bring a unique perspective and history to this table, and like a classroom, what works well for some doesn’t work as well for others. I fear we may be chasing the others away. In his comment on the cross-post, Callan said, “Is it okay if it’s sporadic, like the memes we occasionally all jump on board with?” I think that raises an interesting idea: do we really need to run this thing on a pre-ordained schedule? Could we mix it up a little? We got some good suggestions regarding ways to do that in the comments above. As a variation on Anne’s idea of choosing a favorite post from your blog over the past month, we could do one on choosing an outstanding post from someone else’s blog during the past month, or week or whatever. This could have the fringe benefit af accreting other geobloggers who might not even be aware of the wedge.

    In short, I think there are quite a few things we can do, not just to bring AW off life support, but to rejuvenate it and invigorate it.

    Thanks for your comments and watch for a new idea to appear as a new AW post shortly…

  13. Callan Bentley Says:

    I like the idea of a “best of” AW, perhaps as a backup when more specific themes don’t present themselves, and I also like it because it would allow geoblog READERS to participate, in addition to the usual geoblog AUTHORS. The more we can open up participation, probably the healthier and robust the carnival will be.

  14. fj Says:

    I’d also like it if themes would be a bit more flexible or “relaxed”. As others have already said, it’s often hard to write a post “on demand” for the AW, esp. in a foreign language. That’s one reason why I have only participated twice up to now. (The other reason is that I’m no “real” geologist and therefore just could not contribute anything sensible and worthwhile to the AW topics.)

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