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

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

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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 5 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 0 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.


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."