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grumphrey comments on Project Hufflepuff: Planting the Flag - Less Wrong

35 Post author: Raemon 03 April 2017 06:37PM

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Comment author: grumphrey 02 April 2017 11:25:50PM 9 points [-]

I can trace an arc, over the past ten years, of my attitude towards communities:

  • "Yay communities! Let's all share event invites and do everything together and everything will be great!"
  • "Hm, I'm organizing events for people but I'm not really enjoying them, and it doesn't really make me feel fulfilled"
  • "Inviting people to events doesn't seem to cause them to reciprocate by sending me invites back"
  • "I think the people in my community actually are having a lot of events, they're just not inviting me to most of them"
  • "I seem to have more fun interacting with people who aren't in my community. What's up with that?"
  • "Communities are okay but friends are better."

I never found a solution for how to get people to invite me to things. I think the problem is that I personally am really picky about the sorts of events I enjoy (ie, I don't like drinking or sports), so if I want to have an event that I will enjoy I have to make it myself.

But I did find a solution for how to have good events: make sure that all the people that I invite to my event are people who specifically want to do that event. Don't invite people because "they're part of the community" or "I want to make sure they're not lonely"; the risk is that they might show up because it's their only social outlet, and then they might not participate in the way that I wanted.

Nowadays I think of communities as places to meet people who could be my friends.

Comment author: Zvi 05 April 2017 01:10:32PM 6 points [-]

I think that almost everyone vastly underestimates the importance of friends, and especially the importance of a few close friends. In terms of not being lonely, of having good times and good events, or even of having a good time at the events that the community organizes, a few close friends are the key. I started enjoying group events far more when I realized that there is no need to try and 'make the rounds' of the 20-100 people there - find the handful that interest you tonight, and spend the night with them.

Raemon's response is key too, though. Communities are still super important because they provide anchors around which things can be organized, friends can coordinate and new friends can be found. What you do not want is for smaller groups to be only friendships and withdraw from their communities, or for some outside community to steal the best community members, because then the original community stops drawing in new people (or stop drawing in good new people) and slowly dies.

A great question, and one I hope is asked at the conference, is "how do we encourage more formation of close friendships?"

Comment author: Raemon 02 April 2017 11:38:23PM 3 points [-]

I endorse this as a healthy transition, with the caveat that what seems to happen, in practice, is that people clump off and form friendships, and then the community-mechanism by which people were able to form those friendships fades, so that future generations are not able to form friendships of their own. (Also, it seems like people end up not forming especially close friendships because people are too busy)

Comment author: Viliam 03 April 2017 12:37:18PM 1 point [-]

Don't invite people because "they're part of the community" or "I want to make sure they're not lonely";

Yeah; "taking care that people are not lonely" can in a proper context be a valuable project in itself, but it usually doesn't mix well with other projects, so you have to decide what kind of project are you going to do today.

For example, you could have a separate project of providing social opportunities for e.g. old people in your community. And that would be a great project. But in such project, you would clearly distinguish between the organizers and the target audience. Which does not mean that the old people can't contribute to the project -- for example, if an old lady offers to bring home-made cookies for the party, you would include her as a specialist organizers. But you would expect that in general the two groups are distinct. And more importantly, it wouldn't create any negative feelings in you, because you would see that as how things are supposed to be.

On the other hand, when I e.g. organize a local LW meetup, it is very simple to make a mistake and assume that the target audience wants to (and should) become organizers at some moment. Maybe not all of them, but... well, more than zero would be nice, right? Nope, that's an unrealistic assumption. There is no law saying that if you have dozen audience members, at least one of them must be an organizer in disguise.

Comment author: bogus 03 April 2017 11:47:24AM *  0 points [-]

I can also trace a similar arc, over the past fifteen years or so:

  • "Um, what do you mean, 'communities'? A community is a physical group of people out there in the real world, who share needs for physical safety, thriving, a favorable ecology, etc. Sure, many of these things are quite applicable in a real-world meeting, but an online social group is nothing like that! This 'virtual community' business is dangerous nonsense that's going to promote groupthink, get in the way of actual useful work (like writing blogposts, editing wikis, creating media content and writing free/open source software!) and empower authoritarian personalities who'll want to enforce their arbitrary rulesets and codes of petty etiquette, and/or force the social group to compromise towards their own preferred values!"

Needless to say, I haven't changed my opinion this far. Nowadays I still think that physical meetups, "unconferences" and the like can be exceedingly useful to inspire and coordinate useful work that mostly happens online; but that attitudes and concerns associated with these, such as written "codes of conflict" - a very predictable and needed development in any physical community larger than about 150 members! - should be kept separate and not be allowed to infect the "online" side of things like some sort of parasitic "virtual community" ideology.