Fine-tune your Cosmic Variance!

By Sean Carroll | January 10, 2006 2:29 pm

Someone at MetaFilter doesn’t like us. At least, some of us. Twenty percent of us, to be specific. They want to know how to read CV while — horror of horrors — excluding one of the authors. (Thanks, caek, for being too polite to say which one of us it is!)

Turns out it’s quite possible; WordPress is smarter than you think. You all know that

gives you nothing but posts by me. What you might not know, but have undoubtedly been wondering about, is that either


will give you posts by everyone but me. The second version is probably better if you just enjoy the posts by Clifford, Risa, JoAnne, and Mark; the first one is better if you like posts by almost anyone conceivable except for me, so that if we ever add authors numbered 7 and above you won’t be left out. (Author number 1 is so mysterious that they don’t exist.)

And it works for RSS feeds, as well.

lets you enjoy Sean-free blogging from the convenience of your newsreader.

  • Michael Williams

    Eek! I’m “caek” on Metafilter. It’s certainly not that I don’t like one of you! I’m just a bit overwhelmeved with reading at the moment, and I find some posts less interesting than others. Which posts I find less interesting is probably only loosly correlated with who wrote them, but it’s worth a try. Think of it as a remix ;->

    It’s nice that you get this kind of functionality to play with for free with dynamic CMSs like WordPress. I dread to think what would have been required for this on a statically-generated Movable Type site.

    And Sean, you’ll note from the fact that I saw your post that it’s not you!

  • Sean

    Michael, it’s no problem. I think we were each secretly hoping that it was us.

  • JoAnne

    In fact, now we are each going to pour through all our past comment threads and see who can claim the bragging rights….

  • Michael Williams

    Oh no! I’m making enemies so early in my academic career!

  • Dissident

    Michael, what I find truly remarkable is that you’d be willing to forfeit the priceless entertainment value of poking gentle fun at any of our five gracious hosts, all for the sake of greater focus. I’d say that bodes well for your career, though it does make you look a bit square…

  • Kasper Olsen

    Sorry, but it seems quite strange to me that someone wants to read Cosmic Variance – author#x. Is x a constant, or do you want x to vary over time? In light of the blogs Variance I’ll suggest just reading the two most recent posts every week instead – if reading all is way too much? 😉

    – Kasper

  • Elliot

    I can see the advertisements now. Just like on the radio…



  • Clifford

    Elliot… That’s the scariest thing I’ve heard all day.


  • citrine


    Doesn’t the title and author clue you in to posts that you may be less interested in reading? As long as you don’t have an ideological gripe against them why not follow most of us (I presume) and






  • Elliot


    That was, what we refer to in the business, as an example for illustrative purposes.



  • Sean

    It might also be nice to be able to skip over certain commenters. Fortunately, now we can just throw them in jail.

  • Dissident

    Woohoo! The Dissident, now wanted in all 50 states!
    But you have to catch me first… 😉

  • Plato

    Does this mean I have to drop the alias too? :(

    best regards,

    george IP x in Taiwan

  • Dissident

    Plato, if you are in Taiwan, it might be really interesting to watch lawyers try and sort out if and how such a law applies to somebody halfway around the globe.
    (BTW, for some reason I had the idea that you are French.) Is it the nationality of the reader that determines applicability, i.e. is it OK to annoy French readers but not American ones? Or is it illegal for Americans to annoy French readers, too? Or is it the location of the site that determines jurisdiction? But the “.com” TLD is international. Is it the location of the server then? But what if the site is distributed across several servers in different locations?

    This new law is a masterpiece!

  • Clifford

    Plato, you’re in Taiwan? I did not run into you in a packed bar in Taipei (more later) on December 31st did I? It was kind of crazy night, and I met lots of people… sorry if I did not say hi!


  • Michael Williams

    Skipping posts is like manually deleting spam: it’s irritating, stressful and surprisingly time-consuming. Moreover, until you do it there’s an ominously large number of unread emails to look at; a task you subconsciously defer because you know it will be boring and unpleasant.

    We have great tools to deal with spam, but identifying interesting articles is much more difficult than spotting Viagra adverts, which is why politicians have people to read the papers for them. Unfortunately, I don’t have someone to do this for me, so, for now, I’m trying out the above. YMMV.

    I want to stress again that I don’t have an ideological or personal problem with any of the authors. I’m just trying to cut down the amount of noise in my brain.

  • Elliot

    the law says “intent to annoy”. I’m sure the majority of people don’t INTEND to be annoying they just happen to be so.

    From a legal perspective this raises the bar a bit. How do you prove that someone had the intent to annoy? I think it would be hard to win a case like that.

    Anyway I guess that’s some comfort. Note also this is associated with a law prohibiting violence against women. I think the “intent” of the law is to give the authorities one more tool to go after people deliberately harrassing women. I’m all for that.


    (what I meant to say was I’m for going after people who harrass women not that I’m all for harassing women. Oh never mind….)

  • Dissident
  • Chris W.

    Would you mind including those numbers on the CV ‘Contributor’ pages? Please don’t take this the wrong way. I really don’t want to annoy anybody…

  • Plato

    okay okay!

    we know enough about IP’s and such do we not? It’s our signature, and it readily available, but using servers in other countries, the trail becomes a little confused, but non, I am not french, and the political affairs in other countries I refrain from speaking on, yet, the threads run through our countries. Those who manage this site know me. :)

    We know of what some of these threads are in terms of issues on the political scale. Sean is a patriot, as many of those that host this site. Some care about their cities, as part of the larger global network. :)

    I wonder, is a walkabout a English term? If it is, then the travel to australia, might reveal “the link” and history of this usage? What do the aborigines call it then?

    But here are scientists, mathematicians and all the like, whether you believe in a god or not. I like to learn as much as I can. I respect these divisions of boundaries, and like, the undivisiveness of learning?

    Learning to manipulate software application and methods in bloggery developement, are equally interesting as we look at the Rss feeds and such, methods to contain things, or skip over them. Jacque is well versed and created “no link follow” ?:)We’ll give a bit of ourselves along the way. Hit counters, as google bombs to increase traffic. Non!

    Ingenuity, is the neighbors way, to see another road around this and other issues, yet the freedom of the “future of the notebook” is always on my mind. Progressive.

    Allen, of Japan :)

  • allen and george

    Plato, just because you created the dialogues does not mean you can use our names. Creating names is easy, but can you capture the essence of who we are? :)

    an example too.

  • erc

    I thought Plato was in Canada, possibly Vancouver.

    I’ve been meaning to ask: where is Risa? Is she ok?

  • Sean

    Risa is fine; just a bit busy.

  • Dissident

    I love the concept of short “lists” with only one name. Ostalgia galore.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

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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