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ozymandias comments on LW 2.0 Strategic Overview - Less Wrong

47 Post author: Habryka 15 September 2017 03:00AM

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Comment author: ozymandias 15 September 2017 03:55:59PM *  13 points [-]

Thank you for making this website! It looks really good and like someplace I might want to crosspost to.

If I may make two suggestions:

(1) It doesn't seem clear whether Less Wrong 2.0 will also have a "no politics" norm, but if it doesn't I would really appreciate a "no culture war" tag which alerts the moderators to nuke discussion of race, gender, free speech on college campuses, the latest outrageous thing [insert politician here] did, etc. I think that culture war stuff is salacious enough that people love discussing it in spite of its obvious unimportance, and it would be good to have a way to dissuade that. Personally, I've tended to avoid online rationalist spaces where I can't block people who annoy me, because culture war stuff keeps coming up and when interacting with certain people I get defensive and upset and not in a good frame for discussion at all.

(2) Some inconspicuous way of putting in assorted metadata (content warnings, epistemic statuses, that sort of thing) so that interested people can look at them but they are not taking up the first 500 words of the post.

Comment author: Bakkot 15 September 2017 05:22:13PM 15 points [-]

I would strongly support just banning culture war stuff from LW 2.0. Those conversations can be fun, but they require disproportionately large amounts of work to keep the light / heat ratio decent (or indeed > 0), and they tend to dominate any larger conversation they enter. Besides, there's enough places for discussion of those topics already.

(For context: I moderate /r/SlateStarCodex, which gets several thousand posts in its weekly culture war thread every single week. Those discussions are a lot less bad than culture war discussions on the greater internet, I think, and we do a pretty good job keeping discussion to that thread only, but maintaining both of these requires a lot of active moderation, and the thread absolutely affects the tone of the rest of the subreddit even so.)

Comment author: ozymandias 15 September 2017 06:55:16PM *  5 points [-]

I'm not sure if I agree with banning it entirely. There are culture-war-y discussions that seem relevant to LW 2.0: for instance, people might want to talk about sexism in the rationality community, free speech norms, particular flawed studies that touch on some culture-war issue, dating advice, whether EAs should endorse politically controversial causes, nuclear war as existential risk, etc.

OTOH a policy that people should post this sort of content on their own private blogs seems sensible. There are definite merits in favor of banning culture war things. In addition to what you mention, it's hard to create a consensus about what a "good" culture war discussion is. To pick a fairly neutral example, my blog Thing of Things bans neoreactionaries on sight while Slate Star Codex bans the word in the hopes of limiting the amount they take over discussion; the average neoreactionary, of course, would strongly object to this discriminatory policy.

Comment author: Bakkot 15 September 2017 09:21:37PM 3 points [-]

I think - I hope - we could discuss most of those without getting into the more culture war-y parts, if there were sufficiently strong norms against culture war discussions in general.

Maybe just opt-in rather than opt-out would be sufficient, though. That is, you could explicitly choose to allow CW discussions on your post, but they'd be prohibited by default.

Comment author: Jiro 19 September 2017 06:04:08PM 0 points [-]

Please, no.

The SSC subreddit cultural war thread is basically run under the principle of "make the cultural war thread low quality so people will go away". All that gets you is a cultural war thread that is low quality.

Comment author: Vaniver 15 September 2017 09:22:40PM 8 points [-]

I expect the norm to be "no culture war" and "no politics" but there to be some flexibility. I don't want to end up with a LW where, say, this SSC post would be banned, and banning discussions of the rationality community that might get uncomfortable seems bad, and so on, but also I don't want to end up with a LW that puts other epistemic standards in front of rationality ones. (One policy we joked about was "no politics, unless you're Scott," and something like allowing people to put it on their personal page but basically never promoting it accomplishes roughly the same thing.)

Comment author: ozymandias 16 September 2017 01:25:38AM 7 points [-]

Sorry, this might not be clear from the comment, but as a prospective writer I was primarily thinking about the comments on my posts. Even if I avoid culture war stuff in my posts, the comment section might go off on a tangent. (This is particularly a concern for me because of course my social-justice writing is the most well-known, so people might be primed to bring it up.) On my own blog, I tend to ban people who make me feel scared and defensive; if I don't have this capability and people insist on talking about culture-war stuff in the comments of my posts anyway, being on LW 2.0 will probably be unpleasant and aversive enough that I won't want to do it. Of course, I'm just one person and it doesn't make sense to set policy based on luring me in specific; however, I suspect this preference is common enough across political ideologies that having a way to accommodate it would attract more writers.

Comment author: Vaniver 16 September 2017 01:50:37AM 3 points [-]

Got it; I expect the comments to have basically the same rules as the posts, and for you to be able to respond in some low-effort fashion to people derailing posts with culture war (by, say, just flagging a post and then the Sunshine Regiment doing something about it).

Comment author: Habryka 16 September 2017 10:54:03PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, that's roughly what I've been envisioning as well.

Comment author: philh 15 September 2017 05:25:16PM 7 points [-]

I would really appreciate a "no culture war" tag which alerts the moderators to nuke discussion of race, gender, free speech on college campuses, the latest outrageous thing [insert politician here] did, etc.

To clarify: you want people to be able to apply this tag to their own posts, and in posts with it applied, culture war discussion is forbidden?

I approve of this.

I also wonder if it would be worth exploring a more general approach, where submitters have some limited mod powers on their own posts.

Comment author: ozymandias 15 September 2017 06:42:00PM 5 points [-]

Yes, that was my intent.

I believe the plan is to eventually allow some trusted submitters to e.g. ban people from commenting on their posts, but I would hope the "no culture war" tag could be applied even by people whom the mod team doesn't trust with broader moderation powers.

Comment author: Jiro 19 September 2017 06:06:47PM 1 point [-]

What do you do to people who

1) include culture war material in their own posts, and use this to prevent anyone from criticizing them, or

2) include things in their own posts that are not culture war, but to which a cultural war reference is genuinely relevant (sometimes to the point where they are saying something that can't be properly refuted without one)?

Comment author: philh 20 September 2017 11:24:43AM 0 points [-]

Play it by ear, but my instinctive reaction is to downvote (1). Options for (2) include "downvote", "ignore", and "try to tactfully suggest that you think they've banned discussion that would be useful, and between you try to work out a solution to this problem". Maybe they'll allow someone to create a CW-allowed discussion thread for that post and then to summarise the contents of that thread, so they don't actually have to read it.

It partly depends whether their posts are attracting attention or not.

Comment author: Regex 15 September 2017 04:22:08PM 4 points [-]

How culture war stuff is dealt with on the various discord servers is having a place to dump it all. This is often hidden to begin with and opt-in only, so people only become aware of it when they start trying to discuss it.

Comment author: Habryka 16 September 2017 10:55:28PM 4 points [-]

I've also been thinking quite a bit about certain tags on posts requiring a minimum karma for commenters. The minimum karma wouldn't have to be too high (e.g. 10-20 karma might be enough), but it would keep out people who only sign up to discuss highly political topics.

Comment author: Viliam 19 September 2017 10:26:39PM *  1 point [-]

A big problem with culture wars is that they usually derail debates on other topics. At least my reaction to seeing them is often like: "if you want to debate a different topic, make your own damned thread!"

For example, I would be okay with having a debate about <insert topic>, as long as it happens in a thread called "<the topic>". If someone is not interested, they can ignore the thread. People can upvote or downvote the thread to signal how they feel about an importance of debating the topic on LW.

But when such debates start in a different topic... well, sometimes it seems like there should be no problem with having some extra comments in a thread (the comment space is unlimited, you can just collapse the whole subthread), but the fact is that it still disrupts attention of people who would otherwise debate about the original topic.

There are also other aspects, like people becoming less polite, becoming obsesses with making their faction win, etc.

And the thing that having political debates on a websites sometimes attracts people who come here only for the political debates. I don't usually have a problem with LW regulars discussing X, but I have a problem with fans of X coming to LW to support their faction.

Not sure what to conclude, though. Banning political debates completely feels like going too far. I would prefer having the political debates separately from other topics. But separate political debates is probably what would most attract the fans of X. (One quick idea is to make it so that positive karma gained in explicitly political threads is not counted towards the user total, but the negative one is. Probably a bad idea anyway, just based on prior probabilities. Or perhaps to prevent users younger than 3 months from participating, i.e. both commenting and voting in the political threads.)