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OB Status Update

3 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 January 2009 09:34AM

Followup toWhither OB?

Overcoming Bias currently plans to transition to a new format, including a new and more open sister site, tentatively entitled "Less Wrong".  The new site will be built out of Reddit's source code, but you won't be limited to posting links - the new site will include a WYSIWYG HTML editor as well.  All posts will appear on Less Wrong and will be voted up or down by the readers.  Posts approved by the chief editors will be "promoted" to Overcoming Bias, which will serve as the front page of Less Wrong.

Once the initial site is up and running, the next items on the agenda include much better support for reading through sequences.  And I'll organize more of my old posts (and perhaps some of Robin's) into sequences.

Threaded comments and comment voting/sorting are on the way.  Anonymous commenting may go away briefly (it's not built into the Reddit codebase) but I suspect it's important for attracting new participation.  So I do hope to bring back non-registration commenting, but it may go away for a while.  On the plus side, you'll only have to solve a captcha once when signing up, not every time you post.  And the 50-comment limit per page is on the way out as well.

Timeframe... theoretically, one to two weeks of work left.

I've reserved a final sequence on Building Rationalist Communities to seed Less Wrong.  Also, I doubt I could stop blogging completely even if I tried.  I don't think Robin plans to stop completely either.  And it's worth remembering that OB's most popular post ever was a reader contribution.  So don't touch that dial, don't unsubscribe that RSS feed.  Exciting changes on the way.

PS:  Changes also underway at the Singularity Institute, my host organization.  Although no formal announcement has been made yet, Tyler Emerson is departing as Executive Director and Michael Vassar is coming on board as President.  I mention this now because Michael Vassar is usually based out of the East Coast, but is in the Bay Area for only the next couple of days, and any Bay Area folks seriously interested in getting significantly involved might want to take this opportunity to talk to him and/or me.  Email michael no space aruna at yahoo dot com.

Comments (36)

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Comment author: Andrew_Ducker 27 January 2009 10:32:06AM 1 point [-]

Any chance of supporting OpenID for logging in?

Comment author: Andrew_Ducker 27 January 2009 10:49:42AM 0 points [-]

Of course anything that didn't mean waiting for a moderator to approve a comment would be good and increase the chances of discussion in the comments.

Comment author: aj 27 January 2009 11:16:51AM 0 points [-]

I almost voted for .com, just because of the rhyme.

PS: Don't waste your time with OpenID, save your effort for something that will help the community.

Comment author: Robin_Hanson2 27 January 2009 01:21:46PM 0 points [-]

To be clear, Eliezer is developing a new website and will tentatively use his editor status here and there to promote some posts there to here; whether and how long that continues will depend on the quality and relevance of those posts.

Comment author: Umwelt 27 January 2009 01:40:10PM 4 points [-]

Any chance getting Michael Vassar to blog?

Comment author: Ben_Jones 27 January 2009 02:03:15PM 1 point [-]

Or indeed Marcello Herreshoff?

Exciting stuff. Looking forward to having the OB back catalogue sorted into sequences. That'll make it much easier for me to badger everyone I know to get reading.

Comment author: Gwern_Branwen 27 January 2009 02:56:03PM 0 points [-]

aj: I voted for LessWrong.com not for its sound but because it's easier to remember OvercomingBias*.com* and LessWrong.com

Comment author: michael_webster2 27 January 2009 02:56:37PM 0 points [-]

Could become the new model to replace peer reviewed paper journals.

Comment author: Ian_C. 27 January 2009 03:35:30PM 0 points [-]

How are we meant to interpret the name? At first blush, I would take it to mean "Posts here are less wrong than average, but still wrong," which is not really encouraging for potential posters...

Also a workaround for anonymous posting might be to make an actual account called "anonymous" and publicize the password.

Comment author: dzot 27 January 2009 03:38:54PM 1 point [-]

I really hope you've thought this through. Every open social news site in history has rapidly devolved into a useless clusterf--k. You will get a semi-obsessed sub-culture of users with a few shared biases who effectively take over.

Comment author: Caledonian2 27 January 2009 03:59:15PM -3 points [-]

"you will get a semi-obsessed sub-culture of users with a few shared biases who effectively take over"

Of course! That's the point of the exercise.

The hope is that the shared biases will be ones that the site owner considers valuable and useful, and that the prospective audience for the site wants to read. A completely unbiased user culture would view anything that was posted (or not posted) as equally valuable. What use is that?

Besides, the site as it stands is already dominated by two people's biases... and as Eliezer seems to do most of the moderation, it's effectively one person. If that were a problem, why are you here?

Comment author: dzot 27 January 2009 05:27:19PM 1 point [-]

"The hope is that the shared biases will be ones that the site owner considers valuable and useful..."

Then perhaps the name this site should be Overcoming (some) Bias. Or maybe Overcoming Bias (except mine). Or how about Overcoming (your) Bias?

;-)

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 27 January 2009 05:27:47PM 0 points [-]

"Less wrong" gets 47 million hits. I think it's too google-stupid, words should be more unique. To compare, overcoming bias gets only 248 thousand hits, and who knows how much of that is about this blog.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 27 January 2009 06:32:38PM -2 points [-]

How do you plan to avoid the downward drag of democracy?

Comment author: Daniel_Franke 27 January 2009 06:36:19PM 0 points [-]

The URL for the site ought to be community.overcomingbias.com. That doesn't have to be its title; you can still title it "Less Wrong".

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 January 2009 08:44:09PM 0 points [-]

dzot, the Hacker News website seems to be doing fine. (We may adopt some of their hacks regarding karma thresholds.)

Caledonian, I look forward to being able to downvote your comments instead of deleting them.

Google actually hates duplicate content, so we have to make promoted posts vanish from LW and reappear on OB - keeping all comments of course, and the same integration of tags/sequences/categories. But if we don't get good posts from the readership, we (Robin/Eliezer/Nick) may split off OB again. But it's not like we have to promote anything we don't like, and it doesn't seem likely that adding a voting system will result in *worse* comments here.

Comment author: anon23 27 January 2009 09:40:15PM 0 points [-]

How about this: instead of focusing on the minutea of who gets to see who's comments on a blog frequented by maybe 50 people, do something substantive to advance your cause. This is simply an excuse to satisfy your deep-seated love of censoring and rejecting people.

Comment author: Constant2 27 January 2009 09:43:44PM -1 points [-]

Seconding the expectation of a "useless clusterf--k."

The hope is that the shared biases will be ones that the site owner considers valuable and useful

The obvious way to do that is for the site owner to make some users more equal than others.

the Hacker News website seems to be doing fine.

Security through obscurity. Last I checked, it confirmed my impression, gathered from Digg and Reddit, that as long as the site remains sufficiently unpopular, it will not deteriorate.

Comment author: Mike_Blume 27 January 2009 09:50:54PM 0 points [-]

Ian: A public password anonymous account is good, but that account cannot be able to delete or edit its own posts, or you can have chaos. On Reddit once, a guy started a thread for interesting confessions, and created an account for the occasion, whose password he made public. Some good stories went up, and then were deleted by a random vandal a few hours later.

Comment author: Michael_G.R. 27 January 2009 10:27:23PM 0 points [-]

Eliezer, could we get a status update on the books that will (I hope) come out of all this material you've been writing?

Is it still part of the grand plan, or did that change?

Comment author: back40 27 January 2009 11:21:23PM 0 points [-]

"What should the new website be named?"

lessEliezer.nu

Comment author: Z._M._Davis 27 January 2009 11:26:30PM 0 points [-]

Eliezer: " But if we don't get good posts from the readership, we (Robin/Eliezer/Nick) may split off OB again."

I'm worried that this will happen. If we're not getting main post submissions from non-Robin-and-Eliezer people now, how will the community format really change things? For myself, I like to comment on other people's posts, but the community format doesn't appeal to me: to regularly write good main posts, I'd have to commit the time to become a Serious Blogger, and if I wanted to do that, I'd start my own venue, rather than posting to a community site.

Comment author: John_Maxwell 28 January 2009 12:19:33AM 0 points [-]

>Once the initial site is up and running, the next items on the agenda include much better support for reading through sequences. And I'll organize more of my old posts (and perhaps some of Robin's) into sequences.

Great! This is an excellent excuse to further put off my sequence-reading!

Comment author: John_Maxwell 28 January 2009 12:25:17AM 0 points [-]

>A completely unbiased user culture would view anything that was posted (or not posted) as equally valuable. What use is that?

I think your definition of "unbiased" resides on the opposite side of the galaxy from mine.

I also like Daniel Franke's idea.

Comment author: Caledonian2 28 January 2009 04:52:04PM 2 points [-]

"Caledonian, I look forward to being able to downvote your comments instead of deleting them."

What, the software forces you to delete my comments? Someone's holding a gun to your head?

I look forward to your forming a completely closed memetic sphere around yourself, instead of this partially-closed system you've already established.

Comment author: Ben_Jones 28 January 2009 07:05:20PM 0 points [-]

Thirding D Franke's idea.

Eliezer, a thought occurs. I'm sure the new setup will be great for everyone who wants to make sure they're using the right priors and calculating the correct odds about whether to bet on Obama or not. Or indeed, trying their utmost to eliminate every source of bias from their life and turn into a giant lookup table or something. But I've much preferred reading your assorted ramblings on things like quantum mechanics, timeless physics, and especially low-level AI theory. Wrong motives? Meh, maybe. I'm sure the answer is 'the elimination of bias and mind projection is the first step along the Way,' and that's fine, and I'm going to get involved. But I guess I just want to know whether or not you'll be writing in the same vein as over the last couple of years, which have opened a huge number of doors for me and how I think.

Caledonian, I don't think you realise just how much you do seem to look forward to that. If Eliezer's so far beyond saving, what's your rationale here?

Comment author: Richard_Hollerith2 28 January 2009 07:42:24PM 3 points [-]

Eliezer seems to do most of the moderation

It does not seem that way from where I am standing: although I comment more on posts by Eliezer than on posts by Robin and although I am one of the most persistent critics of Eliezer's plans and moral positions, none of my comments on Eliezer's posts were unpublished, but 3 of my comments on Robin's posts were.

Note that I do not think Robin did anything wrong. Contrary to what many commentators believe, unpublishing comments is necessary IMHO to keep the quality of the comments high enough that busy thoughtful people continue to read them. (In fact, if I thought there was a chance he might agree to do it, I would ask Robin to edit or moderate my own posts on my own blog.)

Comment author: Aron 28 January 2009 07:59:54PM 1 point [-]

Sounds like a reasonable experiment. Nothing lasts forever. If Robin does indeed shut down, we've already lost the old OB. I suspect Eli wants a child that will actually grow up and leave the home. I predict the first sign of decay will be the upvoting of humor.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil3 28 January 2009 11:21:58PM 0 points [-]

keeping the signal to noise ratio in a community is easy. Just make sure to wright long detailed posts about obtuse subjects (we have that covered) and don't respond to trolls. Any commoner that stumbles upon it will get bored and leave. This seems to have worked with Hacker News so far.

Comment author: jrn 29 January 2009 12:45:03AM 0 points [-]

Good idea. I stumbled upon an idea the other day in a debate but I didn't know how to submit it or whether I should. It was basically taking the near/far bias and applying it to concepts of justice. In that justice among peers seems to follow the retributive justice concept of fairness while those more advanced looking down take a utilitarian stand. eg. children's view of bully vs parents.

Comment author: no2 29 January 2009 12:52:49AM 3 points [-]

The non-transparent deletion of comments leads to false beliefs, eg, about frequency. It was quite eye-opening to me when Eliezer left Caledonian's comments on one post (with commentary on what he would cut).

Comment author: Richard_Hollerith2 29 January 2009 02:42:48PM 1 point [-]

--and making deletions transparent to anyone interested in seeing them is not hard. For example, if a registered user of the open-source software behind Hacker News sets the SHOWDEAD bit in his or her profile, then from then on he or she will see unpublished submissions and comments in the place where they would have appeared if they had not been unpublished.

Comment author: Caledonian2 29 January 2009 06:43:45PM -2 points [-]

[bored now. comment deleted.]

Comment author: Benja_Fallenstein 31 January 2009 01:10:46AM 0 points [-]

Any chance you'd consider installing jsMath? (Client-side library rendering LaTeX math. Formatting math in plain HTML won't kill you, but there are other things you can do with the same amount of effort that will make you stronger still :-))

Comment author: Zubon2 31 January 2009 07:56:34AM 0 points [-]

Notion of a model for selecting/sorting rationality quotes: http://bash.org/?top

Comment author: nick9 02 February 2009 08:04:46PM 0 points [-]

Another domain suggestion... OnLifeEtc.com/net I think the name sounds like it hits on most of the stuff discussed here on OB. I own both domains and would be willing to donate them if there is any interest.