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Rationalist Wiki

11 Post author: badger 06 April 2009 12:19AM

Some (including myself) have suggested that a rationality wiki would be a useful supplement to this site. In the spirit of getting things done, I set one up here: http://rationality.tiddlyspot.com/ The password to save edits is omega.

The TiddlyWiki framework it uses is very lightweight and won't be satisfactory as a long-term solution. I do think it has potential as a minimalist beginner's guide though, and could serve us well for the time being. I am not very knowledgable about wiki software in general, but TiddlyWiki has served me well for multiple personal wikis. I planned on developing it a little further before revealing it to the community, but other commitments demand my attention. Please feel free to contribute.

Comments, suggestions? Is it better to start with something that can handle a significant user base and future growth, or should it stay small and self-contained to remain accessible to beginners?

Update: I think it's becoming clear this can't serve as more than a short-term hack, even for a minimalist beginner's guide. At least it is provoking discussion. I'm still hoping for contributions so we have a leg up once an official solution emerges. If you do contribute, please try to keep markup to a minimum to facilitate a future conversion.

Comments (22)

Comment author: MBlume 06 April 2009 12:23:10AM 8 points [-]

One of the things I'm coming to enjoy most about LW is the pronounced lack of bystander effect. Thank you for continuing that trend =)

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 06 April 2009 12:40:58AM 1 point [-]

Hear, hear.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 April 2009 12:25:51AM 5 points [-]

A rationality wiki seems like a nice thing to have, but I wonder if the current wiki framework is sufficient unto the task. I would like to see comments with threading and voting on the wiki page, and be able to publish the wiki page as though a blog post - which might be a small task of integration, or might be a very large one. I tried to build a wiki earlier, on a certain subject that may not be named, and it sorta petered out. I'd love to have the rationalist equivalent of TVTropes but I'm not entirely sure how to go about getting it - it might require a larger audience to start with, for one thing.

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 06 April 2009 12:46:43AM 4 points [-]

I agree we'll want something better when we can get it, but what do you think of me going ahead and adding content now? I'd really like to be building something more cumulative and newcomer-accessible (because more organized or less tangled) than LW. Should I start contributing and expect the content to be later ported somewhere better, or should I wait?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 April 2009 12:50:43AM 4 points [-]

See the question about scraping - though I guess so long as the text is in standard wiki format, we could port it manually in the worst case.

I could wish for better integration with LW, but the developers are busy... sure, go ahead.

Comment author: MBlume 06 April 2009 12:27:11AM 4 points [-]

The question is, would such a wiki have the mind-sucking powers of TVTropes?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 April 2009 12:43:28AM 8 points [-]

"Overcoming Bias is a serious trip, particularly if you’ve let yourself get intellectually lazy. It’s a bigger, and far more productive, time sink than Wikipedia or even TV Tropes." - http://ricketyclick.com/blog/index.php/2008/06/12/quote-of-the-day-wearing-the-clown-suit/

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 06 April 2009 12:49:23AM 3 points [-]

Mind-sucking seems to be a general property of wikis, not just TVTropes. Even the original wiki is a huge potential time sink.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 06 April 2009 04:46:36AM *  1 point [-]

We'll make sure of it. :)

Comment author: badger 06 April 2009 12:36:35AM 1 point [-]

I'll know we have succeeded once we have a rationalist equivalent to TVTropes.

My goal with this small wiki was something a beginner could refer to see short descriptions, find the canonical references on the topic, and learn any jargon. I'd also love to see any reading lists or syllabi that are developed be put on there.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 April 2009 12:46:37AM 1 point [-]

Hmm... can we scrape the data out of the Wiki easily if we want to make it official LW content? Is there a "dump database" option?

Comment author: badger 06 April 2009 01:01:04AM *  1 point [-]

I'm fully ready to admit this is not my area of expertise, which is why I thought I'd throw this idea out before putting too much effort into it. I don't think there is a built-in export function, but all the posts are stored as XML in a single file, so it shouldn't be hard to scrape the content if desired.

I also confess ignorance as to how standard the markup language is. Perhaps any contributions should stick to plain text if possible to aid future conversion.

Comment author: insaneabd 07 April 2009 05:06:59PM 1 point [-]

The markup is more or less standard. Some adjustments will, however, need to be made before porting. The posts can be extracted pretty easily.

However, I would not recommend this, except as a very basic start up, because the single file in which everything is stored grows in size pretty fast.

Comment author: badger 07 April 2009 05:21:38PM 1 point [-]

Ciphergoth took the initiative and set up a Wikia account, so the semi-official wiki is now at http://lesswrong.wikia.com

Comment author: ciphergoth 06 April 2009 08:32:52PM 3 points [-]

I've created a new wiki on Wikia.

badger, would you be so good as to edit your post to add a pointer to mine? Thanks!

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 06 April 2009 07:09:23AM 3 points [-]

Could we maybe make the wiki questions-first, or questions-indexed, instead of topics-first? So that one walks into the wiki and sees the questions with which we are engaged (each linked to the partial progress we've made to date, and the open sub-questions on which we'd particularly appreciate new contributions)? Questions, or problems for which we want solutions, could make for a more motivating, curiosity-arousing, this-is-why-we're-bothering approach to a table of contents. (And then new posts could be added to the appropriate question, and newcomers could find that new post fairly naturally as they follow out their questions. Also, writers might see how certain potential posts might add to a common project.)

I'd be happy to make a first draft questions list in that direction if people think it a good idea.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 06 April 2009 01:29:06AM 3 points [-]

Another significant question for hypothetical wiki entries: A lot of the wiki material will be summarizing or collecting ideas from posts on OB and LW. What kind of policy do the authors of said material want to see about putting material into the wiki? Is, say, direct copying of key paragraphs okay to flesh out the wiki, or is rewording preferred?

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 06 April 2009 01:14:02AM *  1 point [-]

Does TiddlyWiki have any functionality for tracking revisions and/or reverting to previous versions, a la MediaWiki? I expanded one of your stub entries, but didn't see any way to view the previous version.

Comment author: badger 06 April 2009 01:18:40AM 1 point [-]

There are stored backups, but revisions are not tracked per entry.

http://rationality.tiddlyspot.com/backup/

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 06 April 2009 01:23:06AM 1 point [-]

I'm glad there's backups of some sort.

Still seems suboptimal though, in the case of, for instance, two people possibly editing the same entry simultaneously.

Comment author: ciphergoth 06 April 2009 07:54:51AM *  2 points [-]

Yes, I think this isn't going to be up to the job.

I'll see if I can get MediaWiki installed on my server later this week - or we could see if Wikia will host us.

EDIT: I've made a Wikia request. (EDIT link fixed, thanks CronoDAS)

Comment author: CronoDAS 06 April 2009 02:00:55PM 1 point [-]