TetZoo ver 3 and a Dark Day for the Dissemination of Knowledge

As most of you will know, the blog you’re reading now is the fourth iteration of Tetrapod Zoology, hence the name ‘Tet Zoo ver 4’.

 Once upon a time, you could look at blogs for free. Imagine that.

Once upon a time, you could look at blogs for free. Imagine that.

And as most of you will also know, ver 3 was hosted at Scientific American blogs where things were good for a while but ended up being not so good eventually. The reason for this short article is that an unusual and very bad thing has just happened: Scientific American blogs have just (within the last several days) switched to a ‘subscription only’ plan whereby readers will only see their blog material if they’re paid-up subscribers to SciAm’s online content. The first I knew of this was when I visited one of my ver 3 articles, only to see this…

 In the background - behind the pop-up with the hilariously appropriate feature about  money  - you should be able to see that I was trying to access my 2015 ver 3 article on cassowaries.

In the background - behind the pop-up with the hilariously appropriate feature about money - you should be able to see that I was trying to access my 2015 ver 3 article on cassowaries.

Other readers report that this does not yet affect them (and that they’re able to see ver 3 material just fine), and others say that they’re seeing messages that they “have x complimentary viewings left”. I consider this a total disaster as goes the dissemination of information and find it shameful that SciAm has gone down this route. I’m not about to argue with anyone there, since it was clear to me during my time at SciAm that decisions like this were made high up and typically by people who have no direct interaction with the team involved with blogging. But at a time when humanity needs all the science-themed communication it can get, this is really bad news.

 A montage depicting things covered in just a few of the TetZoo ver 3 articles, all of which are now safely locked away and only available to you if you own a SciAm subscription.

A montage depicting things covered in just a few of the TetZoo ver 3 articles, all of which are now safely locked away and only available to you if you own a SciAm subscription.

I have yet to dig out my SciAm contract and see exactly what the deal is as goes use of my own material (I’m going through an exceptionally difficult time as goes workload at the moment), but my recollection is that TetZoo material is mine, and that I can do what I want with it once a short (one or two month) grace period has passed. In view of that, my aim is to migrate ver 3 material to here: many thanks to those who’ve helped salvage the material concerned (I now have all the text and images, but not the comments). This takes time that I don’t have… whatever, I’ll prioritise those articles that are ‘most valuable’ as goes online presence, and herein we find the reason for this article: dear reader, which articles are ‘most valuable’? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Possibilities high on my agenda include…

  • The multi-part guide to crocodile diversity, evolution and systematics

  • The multi-part guide to Australian agamid lizards

  • Brian J Ford “I’m smarter than everyone else, all palaeontologists are idiots and all dinosaurs were aquatic” smackdown

  • Domestic horses of Africa

  • Raymond Hoser smackdown

  • The “why the world needs to ignore pseudoscientist and self-promoter extraordinaire David Peters and his Pterosaur Heresies and ReptileEvolution sites” article

  • The multi-part guide to the world’s petrels

  • On why humans and other apes are actually monkeys

  • No trunks for sauropods

  • Ornithoscelida debut

  • Piltdown man and the dualist connection

Ok, thoughts appreciated. If all of this turns out to be a mistake, and access to the articles is reverted to its previously open status, I can relax a bit. But for now, it really looks like everything has to be moved. Not good when your stated aim (my stated aim; evidently not that of SciAm) is the dissemination and sharing of knowledge, not its locking away.

 This image appeared in the very first TetZoo ver 3 article of July 2011. Oh god… you mean I have to back up  eight years worth  of old articles? Great. Good job I have nothing else to do. Image: Darren Naish.

This image appeared in the very first TetZoo ver 3 article of July 2011. Oh god… you mean I have to back up eight years worth of old articles? Great. Good job I have nothing else to do. Image: Darren Naish.

Oh – and… to those of you who immediately say “don’t worry, the articles can still be found on wayback machine” or “don’t worry, the articles can still be seen if you open them in incognito mode” or whatever… please remember that these things are not much use to those who want information quickly and will give up immediately if a page doesn’t give them what they want (viz, 99% of internet users).