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How did you come to find LessWrong?

5 Post author: quanticle 21 November 2011 03:32PM

I was reflecting the other day about how I learned about LessWrong. As best as I can recall/retrace, I learned about LessWrong from gwern, who I met in the #wikipedia IRC channel via an essentially chance meeting. I'm wondering how typical my experience is. How did you come to LessWrong?

EDIT: Optional follow-up question: Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong? If not, what do you think could be done to increase awareness of LessWrong amongst potential rationalists?

Comments (75)

Comment author: KatieHartman 25 November 2011 06:17:05PM 7 points [-]

I met Jesse Galef last year, and we became fast friends - at which point he practically begged me to read Methods of Rationality and LW. Good on you, Jesse!

This year I was the organizer for Skepticon, a conference that has traditionally concerned itself with the atheist movement. Eliezer, Julia Galef, Richard Carrier, and Spencer Greenberg were kind enough to come speak on topics more pertinent to the rationalist community (Bayes' theorem saw lots of love, and LW was plugged in several of the presentations!). Attendance was just over 1,100, and many of the attendees I spoke with were overjoyed to see more than just the "yes, there are probably no gods" spiel. I overheard one of them tell Eliezer that she felt like his talk had revealed a "next step" in her personal growth as a freethinker.

The whole experience has left me with the suspicion that the atheist community might not be as tapped for rationalism as it could be - and that just might be one of the better places to go looking. Lately, there's been a huge upsurge in atheist/secular activism at the college level, and as far as I know, these groups aren't being particularly targeted.

Comment author: steven0461 22 November 2011 01:30:27AM 4 points [-]

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong?

I'm not sure whether we should be going more for quantity or for quality, but I think we're either not doing enough to bring in new users or not doing enough to make sure the users we bring in are the right ones.

Comment author: wallowinmaya 22 November 2011 10:00:35AM *  0 points [-]

I think we're either not doing enough to bring in new users or not doing enough to make sure the users we bring in are the right ones.

How can we change that? Do you have any particular strategies in mind?

Comment author: Pavitra 21 November 2011 10:41:05PM 3 points [-]

Someone in Agora Nomic made a Three Worlds Collide reference, and when I googled to find out what the reference was, I found myself here.

An indeterminate number of weeks later, I emerged from my room having read most of the archives.

Comment author: cata 21 November 2011 08:00:59PM 3 points [-]

Since OB, which I think I may have found via Hacker News.

Comment author: Mercurial 21 November 2011 05:53:41PM *  6 points [-]

How did you come to LessWrong?

Through cryonics, oddly enough. I went to a "Teens & Twenties" cryonics meetup in January 2009 and met Eliezer there. He kept bringing up the rationality stuff and kept trying to encourage everyone to look at Less Wrong. I could well be the only cryonicist from that meetup who looked up Less Wrong afterwards as far as I know.

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong? If not, what do you think could be done to increase awareness of LessWrong amongst potential rationalists?

I'm a little concerned that the desire to inflate the tribe might not be well-connected to the purpose of Less Wrong. If the goal is to make the whole world more rational, getting everyone to join Less Wrong might not be the best way to do that. If there's some other goal, I'm not aware of it and can't comment on whether the community is "doing enough" since I don't have a metric for what "enough" means.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 22 November 2011 06:31:52AM 4 points [-]

Was going crazy studying econ and feeling like I must be insane to reach the conclusions about the world I was reaching. Then I found Robin Hanon's blog. From there I read lots of Eliezer, Mencius Moldbug, and Nick Szabo and realized everyone else was insane.

Comment author: Oligopsony 22 November 2011 07:00:50AM 0 points [-]

Reading authors like those has convinced me of the insanity of many as well.

Comment author: shminux 21 November 2011 06:45:13PM 4 points [-]

Came across this site before on occasion, but never spent any time here until MoR.

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong?

I am not convinced that proselytizing is a worthwhile goal, to begin with.

Comment author: Rain 28 November 2011 07:18:31PM *  2 points [-]

The FireFox add-on StumbleUpon took me to EY's FAQ about the Meaning of Life on 23 October 2005, along with Max More, Nick Bostrom, Alcor, Sentient Developments, the Transhumanism Wikipedia page, and other resources. They filled a large gap in my general philosophy: what to do next. From there, to further essays, to the sl4 mailing list, to SIAI, to OB, to LW.

Comment author: Ezekiel 26 November 2011 10:29:22PM 2 points [-]

HPMOR was recommended to me by a friend, and from there to here. Frankly, this stuff is more interesting.

Somewhat ironically, I'm pretty sure the guy who recommended HPMOR to me in the first place is still religious, whereas I became atheist (largely) as a result of reading the stuff here. (That's "largely as a result of", not "largely atheist".)

Comment author: fortyeridania 21 November 2011 11:34:00PM 2 points [-]

I think I was reading up on cognitive biases, which led me to Overcoming Bias, which led me to Less Wrong.

Comment author: MileyCyrus 22 November 2011 02:58:41AM 0 points [-]

Same here.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 21 November 2011 09:22:46PM *  2 points [-]

"What's the state of AI these days?" (on a whim, Feb 2007 IIRC) -> Goertzel's agi list -> SL4 -> OB -> LW

Comment author: peter_hurford 21 November 2011 05:35:05PM 2 points [-]

Via LukeProg's CommonsenseAtheism blog

Comment author: Goobahman 22 November 2011 10:28:54PM 1 point [-]

me too :)

I follow Luke around everywhere tbh.

Comment author: peter_hurford 23 November 2011 01:17:34AM 0 points [-]

I pretty much do too.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 February 2012 11:52:54AM 0 points [-]

Same!

Comment author: Zetetic 21 November 2011 05:20:16PM 2 points [-]

First through Scott Aaronson's blog, I looked over a couple of things but didn't come back. Then a friend encouraged me to check out the sequences, so I started reading them and was hooked.

Comment author: kilobug 21 November 2011 04:53:18PM 2 points [-]

HPMoR for me too (pointed to a it by a geeky friend).

Comment author: Raemon 21 November 2011 05:24:16PM 1 point [-]

Likewise.

Comment author: Xachariah 21 November 2011 04:27:21PM *  2 points [-]

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Oh, I'd been to LessWrong before. I'd read a bunch of Eliezer's stuff here and on his personal site. It was all cogent, important stuff that made perfect since; I'd read a page and understand that the insights would be important to remember for the rest of my life. And then I would close the browser and absolutely forget about it.

It wasn't until I read HPMoR that I truly felt what LessWrong was like. I came back to LessWrong and started devouring the sequences. Every page or two, parts of my worldview would click into place. There were some things I agreed with lots and others not so much, but the good far outweighed the bad.

Been here ever since.

Comment author: Grognor 21 November 2011 06:59:42PM *  2 points [-]

Discovered Graham's Number. Realized how fucking huge it was. Googled around for a coherent explanation. Found this. Thought, "This guy is a motherfucking genius. Too bad he disappeared from the internet." Months later, I came back to this essay and started thinking about how messed up it was. (2005, really?) I found Eliezer Yudkowsky's homepage and it was like "WOAH, THIS GUY IS A MOTHERFUCKING GENIUS! FUN THEORY? WHAT'S THAT?" Then BAM, he's talking about shit and I'm not getting it and I conclude "I will never understand any of this."

Cue September 2011. Rediscover Less Wrong. Realize that fun theory is one of the last in a series of interdependent sequences. Begin reading the sequences sequentially.

Fuck.

As for attracting new people to Less Wrong, man, I don't know. Eliezer and Luke both seem to want lots of people here, but there aren't all that many people here, and I'm not sure it would really help all that much.

I've personally tried to get people interested in Less Wrong to no avail. It's not easy, so there's that.

Comment author: ParagonProtege 22 November 2011 02:00:30AM *  1 point [-]

I learned about LessWrong through a google search about half a year ago or so. One of EY's posts came up as a result, and that day I read through one of the sequences. I was slowly hooked from there. It was recently that I made an account and started posting.

I'm not sure if the community is doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong. I don't think I have enough data about or experience with LW to make an accurate assessment.

I do, however, run a Youtube channel where I discuss rationality, cog sci, and such. While I don't actively promote LW through my videos, I do bring a lot of the core ideas to my (extremely limited) audience and try to give credit where it is due. For example, I just did a video that discussed the Parable of Sound. While it wasn't my intention when making the channel, can I see how it can indirectly get people into LW.

I don't know if this is germane, but you can find my channel at <www.youtube.com/ParagonProtege>. If you think what I am doing could be helpful, I'd love to get some feedback on how my channel and content could be improved. It's very new, so constructive criticism is needed.

Comment author: LauralH 07 February 2013 12:54:03AM 1 point [-]

I used to read overcomingbias.com, a friend of mine often linked to it on Delicious, and I noticed I preferred EY's posts in general.

I got out of the habit after I caught up with all his posts in 2009 or so (before this site came to be), but someone linked to chapter 5 of HPMoR and I was all WAIT A MINUTE THIS SOUNDS BLOODY FAMILIAR.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 24 November 2011 03:21:38PM 1 point [-]

Cognitive biases, reading up on -> Overcoming Bias (not sure which specific link led there), reading it on and off -> Came back after one of the off periods, realized LW had split, followed to LW, now reading that on and off.

Comment author: Dan_Moore 22 November 2011 07:11:08PM 1 point [-]

I was googling something to do with utility functions.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 22 November 2011 09:40:28AM 1 point [-]

Wikipedia article for technological singularity -> Finnish IRC channel about transhumanism -> Finnish Transhumanist Assocation -> Staring into the Singularity -> SL4 -> OB -> LW.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 22 November 2011 08:38:02AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Sniffnoy 22 November 2011 08:20:48AM 1 point [-]

JoshuaZ's blog -> Gene Expression -> LW (I recall this was the first post I read). Read sequences, made account so I could correct Eliezer on this entry. Eventually started reading the rest of the site.

Comment author: Vladimir_Golovin 22 November 2011 06:19:42AM 1 point [-]

Boredom -> Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" -> naturalism & reductionism -> the singularity -> Kurzweil -> Yudkowsky -> OB -> LW.

Comment author: EvelynM 22 November 2011 06:06:41AM 1 point [-]

EconTalk -> Overcoming Bias -> LessWrong

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 22 November 2011 04:37:15AM 1 point [-]

MarginalRevolution and econ blogs in general -> OB -> LW

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 22 November 2011 03:14:46AM 1 point [-]

A friend saw the recommendation for Methods of Rationality on TvTropes.org and thought I'd like it, so ey passed it on to me. I got to LW through the link in EY's profile.

Comment author: windmil 22 November 2011 03:13:06AM 1 point [-]

I probably took an odd route to get here. About two years ago I was just happily reading some Dresden Codak, and saw he went to a Singularity Summit. He commented briefly on some of the things presented, and I followed links to the websites of various speakers. Really though, Eliezer Yudkowsky's site caught me the most. I started with The Simple Truth and over the next few months read through the sequences.

Haven't really posted much here, though I come back and read a few things from time to time.

Comment author: magfrump 22 November 2011 08:32:20AM 2 points [-]

One more Dresden Codak follower right here!

Comment author: Kevin 22 November 2011 03:03:07AM 1 point [-]

Hacker News -> Overcoming Bias

Comment author: DanielLC 21 November 2011 11:45:43PM 1 point [-]

It was linked to a few times from felicifia.org .

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 21 November 2011 10:13:54PM 1 point [-]

I probably found it by way of OB, and I'm not sure how I ended up there.

One thing that would probably help is for Eliezer's book on rationality to get published, but I don't have any idea what a reasonable schedule for that is.

Other than that, I recommend that LWistas recommend any articles they especially like on their blogs and on social media.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 21 November 2011 09:42:33PM 1 point [-]

Someone pointed me to HPMOR -> 3worldscollide -> started reading the OB archives -> hung around.

I don't think "we" are particularly doing much to bring in new users, but I also think that what "we're" doing is enough.

Comment author: Utilitarian 01 January 2012 01:36:16AM 0 points [-]

Three friends independently pointed me to Overcoming Bias in fall/winter 2006.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 25 November 2011 07:41:26PM 0 points [-]

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Comment author: Desrtopa 25 November 2011 03:45:58PM 0 points [-]

I followed a link from the Koala Wallop forums, back when they still hosted Dresden Codak, and the sequences were still being posted on Overcoming Bias. I didn't start commenting regularly until years later when I started talking to Alicorn on OkCupid.

Comment author: atorm 23 November 2011 04:22:20AM 0 points [-]

StumbleUpon kept throwing up Less Wrong articles, and I finally started looking around the site.

Comment author: Kutta 22 November 2011 09:39:47AM 0 points [-]

2008: Life extension -> Immortality Institute -> OB

Comment author: Cthulhoo 22 November 2011 08:56:09AM 0 points [-]

I discovered the blog by chance, following some link (I really don't remember the original source) to the QM section. I was interested in the foundations of QM at the time, and at some point Eliezer's sequence popped up. Since the blog posts were infested by links to other blog posts, I quickly found myself reading all the Sequences, then the other top level posts, then the discussions and then... I joined the community.

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong? If not, what do you think could be done to increase awareness of LessWrong amongst potential rationalists?

I'm inclined to say no to the first one. I stumbled upon the site almost by chance, and could have easily completely missed it. I honestly don't know what to answer to the second.

Comment author: magfrump 22 November 2011 08:30:27AM 0 points [-]

I was reading Dresden Codak, from there read some Kurzweil, then got into an Internet argument with User:ZackM.Davis who used to live across the hall with me in the dorms, in which he linked me to Eliezer's home page and OB around the time of the split. I followed link trails until I had read most of the sequences.

Comment author: ata 22 November 2011 03:27:14AM *  0 points [-]

I had read Overcoming Bias, very sporadically, and without really keeping track of authors or reading things in sequence, for a couple years before I found LW through it around July or August 2009 (at which point I started reading it more systematically).

Earlier in 2009 I had read "The Singularity Is Near", which was my first interaction with transhumanism/singularitarianism, and I was an excited Kurzweilian for a bit, which probably primed me to be particularly interested when I found out that the most prolific blogger on these awesome blogs of victory was the cofounder of something called the Singularity Institute.

Comment author: beoShaffer 22 November 2011 02:03:47AM 0 points [-]

I was googling some stuff related to decision theory and pascal's wager/mugging.

Comment author: tgb 22 November 2011 02:03:22AM 0 points [-]

To give you some context: I just registered this account after lurking for a time and reading much of the sequences.

I saw Eliezer's Bayes' Theorem article about four years ago, read it, learned some, and moved on. A year ago I came upon a link in a forum poster's signature to HPMoR which I got into immediately (I had heard of it once before, but dismissed it as "fan fiction") and then ended up here. The point where I knew I would stay was the quantum mechanics article which was a hundred times more insightful than any of the popular science treatments of it I had read before.

I had been reading similar ideas, presented much more casually, in places such as the webcomic Dresden Codak. Particularly in the very humorous article at the bottom of this page, I have used this article a couple of times to try to introduce friends to the ideas of the singularity. This short story was another that got me truly interested in topics of a similar nature to the singularity. This short story is another good way to introduce people to some unusual thinking. For a Bayes's theorem introduction, this New Scientist piece was the first time it really clicked for me.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 November 2011 01:56:40AM *  0 points [-]

From a link at HackerNews.

Comment author: ahbwramc 22 November 2011 01:54:45AM 0 points [-]

Through HPMoR, like many others, although it was quite delayed. After being referred to Methods of Rationality from another forum and falling in love with it, I thought, hey, why not check out this guy's other stuff? I started with The Simple Truth, and to be honest it didn't grab me. So for months and months I just had a bookmark for this site and an idea that I should probably check it out, maybe, someday, eventually. Finally, for no reason that I can remember, I went back to the site and started reading the "How to Change Your Mind" sequence. From then on, I was hooked.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 November 2011 02:10:02AM 1 point [-]

I started with The Simple Truth, and to be honest it didn't grab me.

Yes, I found that story completely unreadable. It frankly reads a lot like a frustrated rant (while I can understand his frustration with relativists, it doesn't make the story any more readable). Specifically, it seem like he puts every stupid argument he's ever herd into the mouth of the priest, and it turns out that reading what is essentially an argument with a troll is extremely annoying.

Comment author: Dorikka 22 November 2011 01:09:47AM 0 points [-]

This data should be useful to people who are trying to publicize LW, though the question would be better put in a survey to reach the section of the audience that read the Sequences but doesn't read Discussion much. A bit late for that, though. :(

Genji Press->Orac->Neuroskeptic->FunTheory Sequence.

At least that's how I remember it. Funny that Genji Press is primarily an anime/Japanese media blog, given where the links have lead me.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 22 November 2011 09:46:46AM 0 points [-]

Neuroskeptic has referenced the fun theory sequence? That's interesting. Do you remember where?

Comment author: Dorikka 22 November 2011 01:53:13PM 0 points [-]

Not at all, considering it was so long ago. Could have been NeuroLogica as well.

Comment author: Nick_Roy 21 November 2011 11:56:08PM 0 points [-]

I ran across OB while being horribly akrasic on Reddit a few years ago.

Comment author: daenerys 21 November 2011 09:27:47PM 0 points [-]

HPMoR. Pointed to it from an OKC profile.

Comment author: steven0461 21 November 2011 09:18:02PM 0 points [-]

transhumanism -> SL4 -> OB -> LW

Comment author: Psychosmurf 21 November 2011 08:44:03PM 0 points [-]

Someone recommended HPMOR on another forum. Then I found LessWrong by googling the author's name.

Comment author: mindspillage 21 November 2011 07:45:59PM 0 points [-]

Heard of Overcoming Bias through the Extropy Institute discussion list, which I've been lurking on for a billion years. (Or a dozen. One of those.)

The main way people in my social circle who were not familiar with LW have become interested in the site is through getting links to specific essays that were of particular interest to them, or of interest to people involved in whichever activity we have in common. (I don't know how many of the HPMoR readers have converted to LW readers, though at least a few.) Just saying "there's this site about rationality and cognitive biases" will get a "yeah, that's cool, whatever" unless the post on the front page is unusually compelling.

Comment author: scientism 21 November 2011 08:08:33PM 0 points [-]

Same here. Extropians since ~1996 -> Overcoming Bias -> LessWrong.

Comment author: kitimat 21 November 2011 07:37:58PM 0 points [-]

Via Google. I was searching for a more in-depth discussion on cognitive biases. Found Overcoming Bias first then I found Less Wrong. Presently I'm working my way through the sequences.

Comment author: amcknight 21 November 2011 07:02:16PM 0 points [-]

StumbleUpon kept showing me metaethics and quantum mechanics articles and I finally realized that most of the good ones were from the same two sites (OB and LW).

Comment author: Morendil 21 November 2011 05:51:48PM 0 points [-]

Randomly chanced across a Twitter link to the Zombies post, which led me to the MWI posts, was hooked at that point.

Comment author: prase 21 November 2011 05:44:13PM 0 points [-]

Link from daylightatheism.com (now defunct?) to Overcoming Bias, then transition from OB to LW when the latter split from the former.

Comment author: Konkvistador 21 November 2011 05:06:26PM 0 points [-]

Eliezer Yudkowsky's Babyeaters fiction. I had before that occasionally read some posts at Overcoming Bias, but I wasn't active when the migration to LW took palce.

Comment author: lavalamp 21 November 2011 04:43:24PM 0 points [-]

I cannot remember, and really wish I could. It was definitely pre-HPMoR. It may have been post-OB.

Comment author: RobertLumley 21 November 2011 04:35:09PM 0 points [-]

HPMoR. Like most recent-comers.

Comment author: XFrequentist 21 November 2011 04:03:50PM *  0 points [-]

Via Eliezer's Bayes tutorial. Started reading, couldn't stop. Still can't!

Comment author: [deleted] 21 November 2011 05:47:39PM 0 points [-]

(checks personal logs...) Looked for new / better keyboard in spring 2010, found Tim's awesome keyboard site, read some of his meme stuff, followed links over course of next weeks, found LW, read major sequences in about 2 days, lurked a bit, did a lot of thinking, returned winter 2010 and decided to get active.

"That person is cool, let's internet-stalk them and find everything they read/write." is still my most-used technique to find good content.

Comment author: XiXiDu 21 November 2011 05:15:28PM *  0 points [-]

How did you come to find LessWrong?

Orion's Arm -> Kurzweil -> Singularity Institute -> Overcoming Bias -> Less Wrong

I found out about Orion's Arm (forgot how), checked out their links, references and book recommendations, learnt about Kurzweil and came across a link to the Singularity Institute. I believe there was a link to Overcoming Bias on the SI blog which later turned into LW. I then pretty much ignored OB (later LW) until 2010 (reason: lots of incredibly boring posts about rationality ;-).

Comment author: gwern 21 November 2011 04:15:56PM 0 points [-]

Boring story; I've always been here since OB and then SL4. (Ironically, I think I originally came to the SIAI site way back in 2003 or 2004 via StumbleUpon.)

Comment author: billswift 21 November 2011 08:10:00PM *  0 points [-]

Likewise, I was following OB, which I started reading about a month after it started; I have no memory of how I found OB.

Comment author: komponisto 21 November 2011 09:02:36PM *  0 points [-]

I found OB around the same time via Scott Aaronson's blog -- which in turn I had originally discovered by typing "googol" into Google (leading me to this).