Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Rationalist wiki, redux

13 Post author: ciphergoth 06 April 2009 07:24PM

This site is very likely impenetrable to the newcomer. You one-box and defect on the True Prisoner's Dilemma, but is that just because of a cached thought, or is it your Tsuyoku Naratai?  So I've created the LessWrong Wiki on Wikia. I'd like this to become a respository of useful definitions and links: it can support our discussions here, and create something lasting from the ephemerality of a blog.

badger already created a Wiki, but as you can see in the updates to that article badger and others pretty quickly concluded that TiddlyWiki wouldn't be up to the job. MediaWiki, the software Wikipedia and Wikia use, is the monster of them all, and will give us good support for practically anything we want to do, including mathematical notation. I've ported across a couple of articles from the old wiki onto the new, but many more are needed. The "download" link in TiddlyWiki and a text editor may help.

EDIT: Usernames are global across all of Wikia, so you may not be able to use the same name there as here. Sorry.

Comments (29)

Comment author: ThoughtDancer 06 April 2009 09:38:40PM 3 points [-]

I'm completely new to LessWrong, and so I could make a decent usability tester if you want one. I've also done usability testing and taught elements of it, so I could also help create / refine the usability procedures if there's an interest in creating such.

Comment author: ciphergoth 06 April 2009 10:25:27PM 1 point [-]

Please feel free to use this thread as a good place to ask for articles and glossary entries that need to exist and don't!

Comment author: ThoughtDancer 07 April 2009 10:19:52AM *  3 points [-]

I will. My main advice to SoullessAutomaton was having a clear statement of context/purpose right at the top of the page, preferably followed by a table of contents. Wikipedia's format is the inspiration here, and it is a good one: the format is familiar and it handles the immediate question "what is this?" that is likely to be first on a new person's mind.

But, if I'm going to be a usability tester, I may be of more use if I leave the wiki alone until you all feel it's ready for a usability tester. I'm far less likely to be biased/predisposed to unhelpful reactions if I've not been watching the development process.

Comment author: MBlume 06 April 2009 09:43:39PM 1 point [-]

Welcome aboard! May I ask how you found our merry band of rationalists?

Comment author: ThoughtDancer 06 April 2009 09:54:59PM 3 points [-]

I live with one of that merry band, and a series of comments came up that inspired him to ask me about the content. (I gather you all stumbled onto and into the concepts of a rhetorical analysis, kairos, and pathos appeals the hard way.) So I'm going to lurk, learn, and see if there's a place for a PhD in Rhetoric to add her two cents.

Comment author: MBlume 06 April 2009 10:31:06PM 1 point [-]

I gather you all stumbled onto and into the concepts of a rhetorical analysis, kairos, and pathos appeals the hard way.

Could you expand on this? I'm afraid I'm not certain what you mean.

Comment author: ThoughtDancer 07 April 2009 10:07:00AM 3 points [-]

I've tried to find the thread that inspired SoullessAutomaton to chat with me about the thread, and I can't find it. I gather that the thread occurred a few weeks ago. So I don't have that context.

A rhetorical analysis assess the persuasiveness of a text/speech/communication act. Rhetorical analyses use the rhetorical concepts (ethos/logos/pathos, for instance, or concepts from Burke's Grammar of Motives, or any of the rest of the tools of the trade) to pick apart the communicative act to see how it makes its meaning (both the substance and style). I gather that somewhere on one of the previous threads, a subset of you were attempting to make such an assessment, but no one happened to know those tools of the trade. I could have given pointers to resources for making that sort of analysis and for keeping the terms used clear for everyone involved.

I specifically remember from my conversation with SoullessAutomaton that the parties involved in the thread were trying to understand some element of the kairos of the communicative act (kairos is best translated as "situatedness", which is not the same as being only "situated"--"situatedness" assumes that the context is impacted by the text, not merely having the text be impacted by the context).

I also gather that there was some discussion between that communication act's kairos and the logos involved (logic and truth tied together--verity and veracity as a single unit). I also gather that somewhere in the discussion, someone may have implied some thoughts about the relationship between the kairos and the communicative act's pathos (appeals to emotion--we get the word "pathetic" from it for a reason, in my mind ;-) ).

But I don't know the details, and I was receiving the information through someone who was not a direct participant in the original thread. (I also believe that my conversation with SoullessAutomaton occurred after a glass and a half of wine, so my memory is a bit blurred by alcohol, as well as by time.)

Nevertheless, if you all do need to pick apart a communicative act to see how it creates the impacts it creates, I can certainly point you towards useful ideas/tools for doing it consistently.

Comment author: MBlume 07 April 2009 10:31:52AM 1 point [-]

I've tried to find the thread that inspired SoullessAutomaton to chat with me about the thread, and I can't find it. I gather that the thread occurred a few weeks ago. So I don't have that context.

That sounds like it may well have been one of Yvain's posts. Was it this one, this one, this one or this one, by any chance?

Comment author: ThoughtDancer 07 April 2009 02:42:41PM *  3 points [-]

Got it in one. I remember SoullessAutomaton saying that rhetoric was called one of the "Dark Arts" in the originating post, so it had to have been this one.

I should chat with Yvain sometime: it sounds like he? she? knows the old myth of Rhetorica as the dark sister of the goddess Philosophy. Yes, Rhetoric is very much one of the "Dark Arts"--for, unlike Philosophy--Rhetorica looks to derive her knowledge by paying attention to what actually works in the observed world. Her light sister Philosophy derives her knowledge from some great "Truth"--be it a deity, Plato's Forms, or such. Or so one can read the myth.

Not to say that Rhetoric hasn't fallen prey to the great truths repeatedly over the centuries--St Augustine, for instance, was a trained rhetor before he converted, and one of his major treatises is his attempt to Christianize rhetoric so that it would reify the "great truth" of his religion.

Yet as I read the history of Rhetoric, I find that it fits very nicely with Science, thank you very much. Yes, Rhetoric is the study of how to persuade, but that study assumes that all comers can learn the techniques, and so they can learn to disregard those techniques when the substance of a communicative act necessitates it. And Rhetoric has mostly been using observed results to establish its knowledge, not imposing philosophical ideals onto the perceived world.

(Well, mostly. We do go through periods when Rhetoric is subsumed by some of those groups that believe deeply in "great truths"--right now the political "truths" of a particular stripe has Rhetorica in chains. And don't get me started on that soapbox of mine.)

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 April 2009 02:51:55PM *  1 point [-]

See Dark Side Epistemology for the origin of the term in this community.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 07 April 2009 12:50:40AM 2 points [-]

We have at least the beginnings of six real articles written so far on the wiki, plus a few other very short articles and collections of links to relevant OB/LW posts.

If anyone else wants to pitch in some ideas on structure, priorities, tone, formatting, or bikeshed color, now might be a good time to do so.

Comment author: badger 07 April 2009 01:48:37AM *  2 points [-]

I created a forum for discussion of conventions and policies:
http://lesswrong.wikia.com/wiki/Forum:Conventions_and_Policies

Comment author: outlawpoet 08 April 2009 12:44:17AM 1 point [-]

Is it possible to do some processing of posts and comments to automagically add links to the wiki for technical terms(possibly any word or phrase with it's own page?).

I'm thinking of the annoying ad-word javascript that some sites do. I've always thought it would be useful to do that linking without the author needing to(but possibly being able to override), but most wikis require you to make links manually, because of ambiguity. Given the specialist nature of this wiki, shouldn't that be less of a problem?

Comment author: ciphergoth 08 April 2009 07:59:24AM 1 point [-]

I think doing it automagically would be bad, but if we could make [[square brackets]] work, that would be wonderful.

Comment author: gjm 06 April 2009 09:20:19PM 1 point [-]

Ick. Gratuitously requires (a little) personal information -- with an explanation consisting entirely of weaselling --, and also "gjm" isn't available. ciphergoth, what variety of sorting-out were you proposing to do for people whose usernames are already taken?

Comment author: ciphergoth 06 April 2009 10:16:42PM 1 point [-]

Sadly it looks like usernames are global across Wikia, which I hadn't realised, so I can't sort any such thing out. Looks like we should move to hosting this ourselves ASAP.

Comment author: gjm 07 April 2009 12:38:07AM 1 point [-]

Oh, that's a shame. Thanks for clarifying. You might want to tweak the wording in the main post, which does say "Usernames are global across Wikia" but not that this means you can't do anything about it. (For all I know, you could have been a Wikia admin with Awesome Godlike Powers there, or there might be some hack to allow names to be namespaced, or something.)

Comment author: ciphergoth 07 April 2009 07:35:47AM 1 point [-]

Gah! I struck out the bit that said "use the same name, I can fix it", and the strikeout was visible in the rich text editor but not in the final article. Re-edited now.

Comment author: gjm 07 April 2009 11:09:50AM 1 point [-]

Perfectly clear now; thanks.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 April 2009 08:17:51PM 1 point [-]

Redux I ask: If we want to set up a MediaWiki that's part of Less Wrong itself at some point, can we dump the database? Can we forward the links?

Comment author: ciphergoth 06 April 2009 08:35:48PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: badger 06 April 2009 08:13:59PM *  1 point [-]

I'll happily port over what little work I had done. The username "badger" was taken on wikia, so I registered as "BJR" there.

Now the question is what is our plan of attack? I see the wiki as fulfilling three purposes:

  • Reference guide to OB and LW
  • Repository for syllabi and beginner study guides
  • List of questions that are currently or should be investigated (per AnnaSalamon's suggestion on the last thread)

We will need to resolve what our policy of quotation from OB and LW is.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 06 April 2009 08:59:52PM *  1 point [-]

We will need to resolve what our policy of quotation from OB and LW is.

To be honest this is largely a matter of getting Eliezer's opinion because something like 80% of the material that's quotable enough for rewording to be a shame is his. Robin's drier writing style is more amenable to paraphrased summaries, and everyone else is a small fraction of the total material.

Of course, a general policy would be nice.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 April 2009 09:21:41PM 1 point [-]

Well you can totally quote me.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 06 April 2009 07:34:53PM 1 point [-]

The links don't seem to work for me.

Digging in the source code, the linked site is http://lesswrong.wikia.com/wiki/LessWrong_Wiki .

Comment author: ciphergoth 06 April 2009 08:08:30PM 1 point [-]

Fixed, sorry about that. I should stop using the rich text editor altogether.

Comment author: AlexU 06 April 2009 11:28:42PM 0 points [-]

Is a wiki really needed? Why not just a simple page linking to all the relevant OCB posts as well as Wikipedia entries? It's all in there anyway. This seems unnecessarily duplicative.

Comment author: gwern 07 April 2009 11:53:52PM 3 points [-]

Not necessarily. Think of FAQs for mailing lists as an example. A wiki for a blog, even a group blog, is a bit unusual (at least, I can't think of any), but I don't see why the principle couldn't work. Each LW post is a work by a single author, idiosyncratic and focused on a single aspect. It'd not be surprising if a comprehensive wiki article - which draws on and summarizes/synthesizes each relevant post - could be very useful.

Comment author: badger 07 April 2009 01:54:37AM 1 point [-]

I would also like to keep the articles very minimal and focused primarily collecting references to the relevant OB and LW posts. I think the sheer amount of work that alone will take requires a wiki though. I don't think a single page could cut it, and the sites are hard enough to navigate for someone like me that has followed OB since the beginning.