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Gram_Stone comments on A Return to Discussion - Less Wrong

33 Post author: sarahconstantin 27 November 2016 01:59PM

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Comment author: Gram_Stone 27 November 2016 08:54:23PM 4 points [-]

But I would say that these disadvantages are necessary evils that, while they might be possible to mitigate somewhat, go along with having a genuinely public discourse and public accountability.

I'm often afraid of being an unwanted participant, so I've thought about this particular point somewhat. The worst case version of this phenomenon is the Eternal September, when the newbies become so numerous that the non-newbies decide to exit en masse.

I think there's something important that people miss when they think about the Eternal September phenomenon. From Wikipedia:

Every September, a large number of incoming freshmen would acquire access to Usenet for the first time, taking time to become accustomed to Usenet's standards of conduct and "netiquette". After a month or so, these new users would either learn to comply with the networks' social norms or tire of using the service.

The lever that everyone has already thought to pull is the 'minimize number of new users' lever, primed perhaps by the notion that not pulling this lever apparently resulted in the destruction of Usenet. Additionally, social media platforms often have moderation features that make pulling this lever very easy, and thus even more preferable.

But cultures don't have to leave new users to learn social norms on their own; you could pull the 'increase culture's capacity to integrate new users' lever. It makes sense that that lever hasn't been pulled, because it requires more coordination than the alternative. This post calls for a similar sort of coordination, so it seems like a good place for me to mention this possibility.

This applies not just to social norms, but to shared concepts, especially in cultures like this one, where many of the shared concepts are technical. It's easy to imagine that everyone who decreases discussion quality lacks the desire or wherewithal to become someone who increases discussion quality, but some newbies may have the aspirations and capability to become non-newbies, and it's better for everyone if that's made as easy as possible. In that way, I find that some potential improvements are not difficult to imagine.