Skepchick, FtB, Now The Orbit? A Blog Drama FAQ

Oh, when people try to instigate blogger drama.

It is a truth universally recognized among SJWs that when a group of people whose most visible members are not cis and/or straight and/or white and/or men, those people will be defined by assholes by the most proximate cis hetero white man.

This was demonstrated yesterday in a most, dare I say, unfriendly way:

I’m speculating here, but I suspect at least some of the Orbit writers are heading to the new site in part to get out from under [PZ’s] shadow and away from his burn-all-bridges reputation. Maybe I’m wrong.

Aside from the statement being at least somewhat internally contradictory (wouldn’t leaving a whole blog network exclusively due to a single person be burning your bridges with him?), it betrays a lack of imagination and understanding that I find is relatively common among those those unfamiliar with how blog networks work (or who feign ignorance in service of ulterior motives).

As someone who has been a significant contributor at Skepchick and Freethought Blogs as well as is among the co-founders of this site, I want to clarify some things that aren’t always clear to outsiders, whether they are sea lions or not.

Don’t Freethought Blogs and Skepchick already exist?

Comparing Skepchick to Freethought Blogs as though they were interchangeable is the first mistake here. Both are platforms, have an atheo-skepto-secular focus, participate in CONvergence, had me on as a contributor at some point, were initially founded without a complete intersectional social justice focus, and have evolved into places where certain social justice issues are advocated for and discussed. Neither can realistically replace a full-time job unless you have a patron by way of a Patreon or partner or parent or what have you. There, the similarities mostly end, as their basic structures and approaches are very different.

Skepchick was started as the personal skepticism and science blog for Rebecca Watson. Today, it is a group blog, which means that multiple people are contributors on a single blog with Rebecca as the main admin. As befits her role as founder, she is essentially the benevolent dictator of the network. She doesn’t approve posts and encourages people to do their thing, but she retains ultimate control of the network (I called her Best Internet Bosslady when I was a Skepchick). Skepchick is also the first and most visible blog in the Skepchick network, which includes seven other English-language and three non-English blogs (which is why there exists a Spanish translation of smut I’ve written) with their own respective admins, contributors, and focuses. Socially, there is a lot of fairly regular intragroup communication that members are expected to at least skim.

Freethought Blogs was founded as a Science Blogs spin-off, meaning that its initial blogging cohort included exclusively scientists and science writers. It is a blog network where people have their own platforms rather than share a single one. Respective blogging focuses range from science-only posts to opinion pieces to poetry. No level of communication is required after the contributor has accepted the blogging terms.

At my time of departure from the network, PZ Myers, formerly along with Ed Brayton, handled a lot of the business side while others handled the tech side. That, along with the fact that PZ is highly visible with a fairly strong readership base, is the extent of his power over the network. He is not the malevolent dictator his detractors attempt to paint him to be, or even a benevolent dictator like my former Internet Bosslady. He always encouraged the strong voices and presences at the network. I, like Stephanie who said it better than I ever could, know that something like The Orbit couldn’t exist without FtB having existed first, and am grateful to all who made it so, especially PZ and Ed.

So why another blog network?

Because we want to and we can and we are. Period.

No, seriously. There exist multiple secular and atheist and skeptical orgs and ventures. Some of them overlap incredibly significantly in terms of donors and board members and speakers and causes, yet I don’t hear calls for them to all merge into a super-org. Indeed, the concern and sea-lioning and drama-mongering happens when they do merge. Differences that aren’t glaring and readily apparent from the outside do matter to those with a significant stake in the day-to-day and the meta.

The majority of current Orbiters are seasoned activists and bloggers with a lot of lessons learned and experience hard-won, meaning that we can approach and design this with an incredibly conscientious approach. The Orbit is different because it is, from the outset, aggressively democratic and collectivist in organizational structure and intragroup social approach, more explicitly focused on atheism and writing and social justice than on skepticism and science (though those in the latter set will make an appearance, just as those in the former set show up at FtB and Skepchick), staggeringly diverse on many fronts, and obnoxiously post-aughts in its name and design (think of how we call ourselves a collective of writers rather than a blog network in our About section).

Future endeavors that we are planning will continue to demonstrate our value-add as far as our very existence. This is something special to all of us.

Jeez, how many blogs are you going to be on?!

I left Skepchick because I wanted my own platform and to build my own name and brand as myself as well as blog about things that didn’t fit Skepchick. I left FtB to co-found The Orbit for the reasons enumerated above.

And this was all within just half a decade.


I’m young yet. I’ve got decades of causing antis to try to make it about blogger drama ahead of me.

What about Atheism+ / A+?

A+ is an idea that started with Jennifer McCreight and led to a set of forums and an unofficial community. It is not nor ever was a blog network. Some of us, including even people like me who were initially enthusiastic about the term, have moved on from it for a host of reasons. Bringing it up is a red herring of the most scarlet sort often perpetuated by the very people who made it hard for us to keep using the term. Funny, that.

Main image by starmanseries

Skepchick, FtB, Now The Orbit? A Blog Drama FAQ
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13 thoughts on “Skepchick, FtB, Now The Orbit? A Blog Drama FAQ

  1. 1

    So say we all.


    Excellently said, top to bottom. You rock!

    To everyone at the Orbit, now and to come: kick ass and take names. Well, okay, and educate and change the world. But those are not mutually exclusive.

  2. 4

    Isn’t Hemant supposed to be in favor of the “pick up the phone” approach? What a hypocrite.

    I’m sorry about the context, but this post was in fact informative. The blogger collective structure sounds neat, and helps me understand more of what The Orbit might be like.

    1. 4.1

      He did email us about it, but it was before launch and he only became aware of us through less-than-savory channels. I’m glad he waited to post about it until we’d launched, though.

  3. 6

    I have very little commentary to bring to bear on this topic – I’m just using this comment as an excuse to subscribe to your newsletter. Good luck with the orbits, keep your periapsis up. 🙂

    1. 7.1

      Thanks. I actually noticed I had problems with other blogs, too, outside of The Orbit, so I’d guessed it was an issue on my end. I’ve done a funny little dance with wordpress, so hopefully the emails I get from posting this comment will actually let me subscribe. (If not, I’ll just find some other way to follow – I don’t want to flood this place while trying to fix my wordpress dealies.)

  4. 8

    I feel bad. I’ve missed your writing but that was my own fault because I didn’t keep up with you on FtB as I should have. (Nothing against FtB, it just fell off my radar.) I apologize. But YAY! I like what I’ve seen of The Orbit over the past few days, I’ve bookmarked it so I won’t lose you or anyone else here again. 🙂

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