Bloggy B. Blog McBlog

By Sean Carroll | December 17, 2005 2:17 pm

It’s the time of the year when the liberal blogosphere takes a breather from waging the War on Christmas to pause and hand itself some awards. The Koufax awards, in particular — named after one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time. The reason for separate awards for the liberal blogosphere is simply that, a couple of years ago when blogs became popular enough to start giving awards to each other, the sphere as a whole had a decided rightward tilt, and conservative blogs would always win all the awards. Liberals have by now caught up, and the recent Weblog Awards witnessed lefty blogs dominating in all the interesting categories. But it’s still fun to pal around with our friends here in the attractive and friendly half of the blogosphere, so the Koufax awards are continuing to go strong.

The awards are run by the selfless folks at Wampum; anyone can submit nominations, just by visiting Wampum and looking for the most recent “Koufax nominations post.” Here are my own nominations. I am too shy and self-effacing to nominate CV for anything, although in principle we would fit into various categories: Best Blog, Best Expert, Best Group Blog, Best New Blog. (Nothing to stop anyone else from nominating us, I suppose.)

None of my entries for “Deserving wider recognition” have a snowball’s chance, with the possible exception of 3 Quarks; the others are just my idiosyncratic favorites. I largely agree with Ezra’s take on the whole affair; the winner is determined by who funnels in the most votes, not necessarily which blogs are actually the best. But it’s very fruitful to peruse the nominations, as you might uncover some hidden gems. The blogosphere is (happily) by now so large that there are just too many good blogs out there, and even those of us who read quite a few of them basically find some favorites and stick to them. I’m chagrined to see that I didn’t have any worthy nominations for the “Best New Blog” category. Feel free to make nominations in the comments.

Speaking of good blogging, you probably know that Daily Kos is the most popular blog on all the internets, with somewhere between 500,000 and a million hits per day. (We’re not at that level yet, but we’re young.) In addition to Kos himself, there are numerous diarists on the site, and every year a handful are chosen to be front-page posters. This year promises to see a significant uptick in the science content (!) of Daily Kos, as DarkSyde of Unscrewing the Inscrutable fame has been chosen as one of the front-pagers. He’s already instituted a “Science Friday” feature, and the first installment is a well-written tour through the powers of ten.

Finally, if you find all these blogs kind of overwhelming (and you don’t already use an RSS reader such as Bloglines), you can get a collection of physics blog content all in one place at Mixed States. I have mixed feelings about these things (although I use Bloglines myself) — on the one hand, it’s a vastly more efficient way to read multiple content sources; on the other, you lose the individual presentations of the sites themselves. It’s the wave of the future, though.

  • CW

    “self-effacting”, “hidden jems”? Interesting; somehow these seem to differ from the run-of-the-mill typo.

    (Also, could you please stop referring to “the internets” as opposed to “the internet”? It really grates. On the other hand, if the Chinese government has its way I suppose we will end up, in essence, with two or more internets. And then there is Internet 2…)

  • Sean

    Typos fixed. “Internets” is likely to stay forever.

  • Lubos Motl

    If you dedicated an article to old liberal physics blogs, I hope that you will dedicate another article to neo-liberal physics blog(s), too. 😉 Mixed States included neo-liberal physics blogs into the same ensemble as the left-wing blogs.

    Even after those years, I still find it kind of funny that the word “liberal” is used as an equivalent of “socialist” – because it means just the opposite in Central Europe.

  • Jeff Hodges

    Warning: absurdly enormous comment following.

    Sean: When I first ran into the idea of Planets, I was also hesitant. The fear of losing the individuality of presentation was in my head, along with other fears such as “How do I know who commenting on the posts?”. But these fears were assuaged as I used them.

    I was confounded by how easily commentary arose between authors on the planets and how much easier and quicker I discovered new trends and ideas. I found that it was the text that mattered the most and that, as long as the presentation did not distract, the blogs I enjoyed reading the most were the ones where the text outshined any of the decoration. The best website designs are those that let the reader easily read. (I think Mixed States could be much improved in this regard. David Hogg emailed me an aspect of this issue a while ago and I have crafted some new solutions that I have some time to finish now that that classes are out.)

    And I found that when I was interested enough in a post to comment on it, clicking a link to find out was not a chore. I would love for feeds to come with a link to a comments section for each post along with a number of comments made, but this is not a standard, yet, and it pales in comparison to what is gained.

    It was not until I became a maintainer of a planet that I truly realized how it broadened my experience. I began running into blogs and people showing me vast new worlds of intriguging elegance and enticing inelegance where I had not thought to look before. We all find ourselves seeing only our own little realms and lose sight of the greater picture at some point in our lives. Seeing Big Physics from the inside, the surprisingly swift evolution of quantum information theory, the startling immensity of astronomy and the continuous reorganization of string theory all together has made me (to swipe an old cliché) made me fall for physics all over again. The running dialogues have pushed my mind in ways I never expected but will always love.

    Try it for a few weeks and I think you’ll find yourself liking it more than you expect and maybe, if I did this well, loving it. Its been banking roughly

    (Oh, and an easier to remember URL for Mixed Stats is )

    Lubos: I’ve tried not to discriminate based on my political views when constructing Mixed States. I take a very old-school liberal/utilitarian line of reasoning when it comes to such matters. It was, at times, difficult to include them in something that was “my work” (as much as it could be as an aggregate) because I so vehemently disagreed with almost everything some of the authors at Mixed States would write.

    Everyone Who Slogged Through This Comment: Sorry for the unwieldy amount of text. I’m sure I could shorten it but it would require a few more hours of work.

  • Moshe

    Jeff, one small comment if I may. One thing that will make things more readable for me is some sorting by topic. What I mean is maybe trying to filter science content from more general content that is written on science blogs. It could be excellent for me to have for example list of physics (or biology or whatever) content appearing in blogs. I appreciate this is a lot of work, maybe with some cooperation from bloggers (who often have categories to their posts) this could be automated. Just a thought.

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  • Jeff Hodges

    Moshe, that is an intriguing idea. It would be quite a lot of work if I did it manually, and much less in the long term if we found a way to automate it. Before I dive in here, I should say I do not want Mixed States from displaying physics-only posts by default. As I stated in my introduction, I believe that Mixed States place the interplay of ideas beyond physics highly without removing physics as its core. However, your request strikes me strongly of a good idea.

    [edit, edit]

    I started writing another huge comment here, but decided against it (how much page space can a person take in a comment area that is not his own?) and instead posted my response on Something Similar. Would love to hear your comments on it.

  • Sean

    Jeff, thanks for commenting (and I’ve fixed the URL for Mixed States). I do appreciate the greater convenience of a “planet” (although I didn’t know they were called that), and I am a regular reader of Mixed States myself. Like you say, the biggest benefit is discovering things you might not otherwise find, which is something I was lamenting in the post itself. But still I miss the look and feel of truly well-designed individual sites, like Feministe or 3 Quarks Daily. (I note, of course, that neither of these is a physics blog.)

    By the way, I notice that you’re using a truncated feed for Cosmic Variance. If you go to our Feedburner feed, you get the entire post.

    As to the physics-only idea: this does sound like work. Perhaps an alternative (which may be just as much work, I don’t know) is to automatically display only the first paragraph of posts, and have the entire post appear if you click on the title. I don’t mean that you go to another page, but that the post is hidden from view until you click; that’s what we do with the blogrolls on our sidebar, or what Crescat Sententia does with its longer posts. Then people could zoom through the posts on topics they weren’t interested in, only expanding the ones that caught their fancy.

  • Jeff Hodges

    Sean, thanks for the proper link. Mixed States will be updated. Also, I cannot believe I didn’t think of the “click for more” idea. Jeez. I’ll start working on that one. The sorting code would be much more difficult. “click for more” is one of the easiest things to do, and can satisfy many of the readers requirements. Thanks!

  • Jeff Hodges

    Ok, added the “Click to read more” functionality. Too many blind alleys and too much time spent actually learning JavaScript. Annnd.. its 7:20am. Whew. Time for bed.

  • citrine615


    The links to Feministe and 3 Quarks Daily in your post #8
    need to be switched.

  • Sean

    Thanks, citrine. Fixed.

  • erc

    Pharyngula has the option of reading only the science content on the blog. Maybe he could help implement Moshe’s suggestion.

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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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