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

Peter_Twieg comments on Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism - Less Wrong

105 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 April 2009 02:44AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (311)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Peter_Twieg 21 April 2009 03:06:19PM 3 points [-]

"Don't believe in yourself! Believe that I believe in you!"

If you're trying to quote Gurren-Lagann here, I believe you botched the quote. "Believe in me who believes in you!" But maybe it was dubbed differently. In any case, I do find some amusement in your approvingly quoting a show which was more or less premised on a rejection of rationality. "Throw away your logic and kick reason to the curb!" I'll have to remember that for the next anti-rationalism quotes thread.

But anyways, I did like this post, although as you implicitly concede it's just one narrative of community development among many. I'm sure that there have been as many communities to have fallen due to despotic moderation or impoverished by rigid ideological guidelines as there have been ruined in the ways described in the OP. Oftentimes the "idiots" who "ruin" the comm are actually the lonely voices of reason. It's a fine line to walk, and I look forward to someday seeing a modern-day Machiavelli write a tract on "The Internet Community Moderator". Because it really is that tricky.

Comment author: William 22 April 2009 02:55:47AM 7 points [-]

On the other hand, "lonely voices of reason" are unlikely to overrun a community of idiots the way idiots can overrun a more intelligent community.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 April 2009 05:26:13AM 11 points [-]

Unless LWers got together and staged an invasion... wouldn't that make for an interesting day at some forum...

Comment author: sketerpot 24 April 2009 05:47:44AM 5 points [-]

I've seen it happen, actually. I went to a Christian youth forum looking for some shooting-fish-in-a-barrel debating fun, and over time I noticed that a handful of rationalists gradually came to dominate discussion, to the point where the majority would avoid making ridiculous statements in order to avoid being called out on it.

A few bright, articulate people who can type fast are surprisingly effective. If LW ever invades some other forum, that forum will either get out the banhammer or be overrun.

Comment author: MBlume 24 April 2009 05:52:43AM 10 points [-]

If LW ever invades some other forum, that forum will either get out the banhammer or be overrun.

OK, that sounds like a lot of fun. Which would be exactly the wrong reason for us to do it.

That being said, what would be the result of a coup like that? If we could actually expect to change a few minds in the process, it might be worth trying.

On the other hand, reputation is a valuable commodity. What would such an act do to our visibility and reputation?

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 05:09:04PM 2 points [-]

Oftentimes the "idiots" who "ruin" the comm are actually the lonely voices of reason.

Could you give an example where you've seen this? In 20 years online I've seen it once, maybe.

Comment author: Peter_Twieg 21 April 2009 05:39:09PM 9 points [-]

I can't think of a specific example that a broad audience might know about, but it's relatively easy to see how this could arise. Take a community of "idiots", by whatever criteria we'd use to apply the term to the lone troll. Many of them exist which espouse all sorts of nonsense. Throw in someone who actually understands the topics which these people purport to discuss. Unless that person is incredibly subtle and eloquent, they will be denounced as an idiot in any number of ways.

I can speak here from my own experience as an economist who's tried to make arguments about public choice and decentralized knowledge to a general (online) audience in order to defend free markets. A lot of crowds really will have none of it. I think this is a frustration which even the best libertarian-leaning individuals have run into. But given persistence, one can gain ground... and subsequently be accused of "ruining" a safe space which was reserved for the narrow worldview which you challenged. In face, any community with "safe space" disclaimers is probably extremely vulnerable to this - I just doubt you've engaged with many.

Comment author: ciphergoth 22 April 2009 11:11:36AM 4 points [-]

OK, yes, that's a counterexample. However, in all those instances, the community itself is screwed in a fundamental way, and the fix is not for people to welcome the "idiots": the fix is to leave the community and go somewhere more sensible. Is there an example of a community good enough that you would recommend anyone to join, but which would have been improved by taking the criticism of unpopular members more seriously? It doesn't have to be a well-known example, and you don't have to link to it; even anecdotal evidence would be enlightening here.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 20 October 2011 06:10:08PM 0 points [-]

Damaging such a broken community might be a good thing, much as tearing down a dangerously decrepit building can be better than letting squatters stay in it until it collapses on them.

(I think that analogy as gone about as far as it should go)

Comment author: Annoyance 22 April 2009 03:46:37PM -1 points [-]

"Could you give an example where you've seen this? In 20 years online I've seen it once, maybe."

Are you aware of the famous advice regarding poker games and suckers?

Comment author: thomblake 22 April 2009 03:54:55PM 0 points [-]

This comment is a great example of how torn I am sometimes when allocating votes. At first glance, it seems like you're just saying something insulting and possibly mean, and adding little to the conversation - verdict: downvote.

Then, I realize that this is actually a good counterargument, once the time is taken to unpack it. Clearly it would be the case that a participant in the community would think that the "idiots" aren't the lonely voices of reason, if they actually were. If this happens frequently, then such a person would not notice the phenomenon at all.

Now I must decide whether to leave it neutral or upvote it. Since I had to do the work to get at the point of the comment, rather than having it spelled out in the comment (preferably with references where applicable), I would think it's not worth an upvote. On the other hand, the act of working out something like this is itself valuable (as we see in Zen stories), so maybe it is worth an upvote.

YMMV.

Comment author: ciphergoth 22 April 2009 04:18:33PM 2 points [-]

On the other hand, the act of working out something like this is itself valuable (as we see in Zen stories), so maybe it is worth an upvote.

I see quite a different perspective:

If this were a koan the teacher would be chasing you out of the temple with a stick, thwacking you as you run.

Comment author: soreff 22 April 2009 12:28:22AM *  1 point [-]

There is something related (albeit about an industry, rather than a community) in http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/

"Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors."

Comment author: gwern 21 April 2009 04:29:29PM 1 point [-]

I don't think Gurren Lagann is meant to be taken seriously; it struck me, when I was watching it, as a reductio of the old-style mecha genre (a loving one, one done by fans of it, but still a reductio). It's a funny quip because it's so contradictory to the usual believe-in-yourself spiel, is all.