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LW Women: LW Online

29 Post author: daenerys 15 February 2013 01:43AM

 

Standard Intro

The following section will be at the top of all posts in the LW Women series.

Several months ago, I put out a call for anonymous submissions by the women on LW, with the idea that I would compile them into some kind of post.  There is a LOT of material, so I am breaking them down into more manageable-sized themed posts. 

Seven women submitted, totaling about 18 pages. 

Standard Disclaimer- Women have many different viewpoints, and just because I am acting as an intermediary to allow for anonymous communication does NOT mean that I agree with everything that will be posted in this series. (It would be rather impossible to, since there are some posts arguing opposite sides!)

Warning- Submitters were told to not hold back for politeness. You are allowed to disagree, but these are candid comments; if you consider candidness impolite, I suggest you not read this post

To the submitters- If you would like to respond anonymously to a comment (for example if there is a comment questioning something in your post, and you want to clarify), you can PM your message and I will post it for you. If this happens a lot, I might create a LW_Women sockpuppet account for the submitters to share.

Please do NOT break anonymity, because it lowers the anonymity of the rest of the submitters.

(Note from me: I've been procrastinating on posting these. Sorry to everyone who submitted! But I've got them organized decently enough to post now, and will be putting one up once a week or so, until we're through)

 


 

 

Submitter A

I think this is all true. Note that that commenter hasn't commented since 2009.

 

Objectifying remarks about attractive women and sneery remarks about unattractive women are not nice. I worry that guys at less wrong would ignore unattractive women if they came to meetings. Unattractive women can still be smart! I also worry that they would only pay attention to attractive women insofar as they think they might get to sleep with them.

 

I find the "women are aliens" attitude that various commenters  (and even Eliezer in the post I link to) seem to have difficult to deal with: http://lesswrong.com/lw/rp/the_opposite_sex/. I wish these posters would make it clear that they are talking about women on average: presumably they don't think that all men and all women find each other to be like aliens.

 

I find I tend to shy away from saying feminist things in response to PUA/gender posts, since there seems to be a fair amount of knee-jerk down-voting of anything feminist sounding. There also seems to be quite a lot of knee-jerk up-voting of poorly researched armchair ev-psych.

 

Linked to 3, if people want to make claims about men and women having different innate abilities, that is fine. However, I wish they'd make it clear when they are talking on average, i.e. "women on average are worse at engineering than men" not "women are worse at engineering than men."

 

A bit of me wishes that the "no mindkiller topics" rule was enforced more strictly, and that we didn't discuss sex/gender issues. I do think it is off-putting to smart women - you don't convert people to rationality by talking about such emotive topics. Even if some of the claims like "women on average are less good at engineering than men" are true* they are likely to put smart women off visiting less wrong. Not sure to what extent we should sacrifice looking for truth to attract people. I suspect many LWers would say not at all. I don't know. We already rarely discuss politics, so would it be terrible to also discuss sex/gender issues as little as possible?

 

I agree with Luke here

 

*and I do think some of them are true

 

***

 

Submitter B

 

My experience of LessWrong is that it feels unfriendly. It took me a long time to develop skin thick enough to tolerate an environment where warmth is scarce. I feel pretty certain that I've got a thicker skin than most women and that the environment is putting off other women. You wouldn't find those women writing an LW narrative, though - the type of women I'm speaking of would not have joined. It's good to open a line of communication between the genders, but by asking the women who stayed, you're not finding out much about the women who did not stay. This is why I mention my thinner-skinned self.

 

 What do I mean by unfriendly? It feels like people are ten thousand times more likely to point out my flaws than to appreciate something I said. Also, there's next to no emotional relating to one another. People show appreciation silently in votes, and give verbal criticism, and there are occasionally compliments, but there seems to be a dearth of friendliness. I don't need instant bonding, but the coldness is thick. If I try to tell by the way people are acting, I'm half convinced that most of the people here think I'm a moron. I'm thick skinned enough that it doesn't get to me, but I don't envision this type of environment working to draw women.

 

Ive had similar unfriendly experiences in other male-dominated environments like in a class of mostly boys. They were aggressive - in a selfish way, as opposed to a constructive one. For instance, if the teacher was demonstrating something, they'd crowd around aggressively trying to get the best spots. I was much shorter, which makes it harder to see. This forced me to compete for a front spot if I wanted to see at all, and I never did because I just wasn't like that. So that felt pretty insensitive. Another male dominated environment was similarly heavy on the criticism and light on niceness.

 

These seem to be a theme in male-dominated environments which have always had somewhat of a deterring effect on me: selfish competitive behavior (Constructive competition for an award or to produce something of quality is one thing, but to compete for a privilege in a way that hurts someone at a disadvantage is off-putting), focus on negative reinforcement (acting like tough guys by not giving out compliments and being abrasive), lack of friendliness (There can be no warm fuzzies when you're acting manly) and hostility toward sensitivity.

 

One exception to this is Vladimir_Nesov. He has behaved in a supportive and yet honest way that feels friendly to me. ShannonFriedman does "honest yet friendly" well, too.

 

A lot of guys I've dated in the last year have made the same creepy mistake. I think this is likely to be relevant because they're so much like LW members (most of them are programmers, their personalities are very similar and one of them had even signed up for cryo), and because I've seen some hints of this behavior on the discussions. I don't talk enough about myself here to actually bring out this "creepy" behavior (anticipation of that behavior is inhibiting me as well as not wanting to get too personal in public) so this could give you an insight that might not be possible if I spoke strictly of my experiences on LessWrong.

 

The mistake goes like this:

I'd say something about myself.

They'd disagree with me.

 

For a specific example, I was asked whether I was more of a thinker or feeler and I said I was pretty balanced. He retorted that I was more of a thinker. When I persist in these situations, they actually argue with me. I am the one who has spent millions of minutes in this mind, able to directly experience what's going on inside of it. They have spent, at this point, maybe a few hundred minutes observing it from the outside, yet they act like they're experts. If they said they didn't understand, or even that they didn't believe me, that would be workable. But they try to convince me I'm wrong about myself. I find this deeply disturbing and it's completely dysfunctional. There's no way a person will ever get to know me if he won't even listen to what I say about myself. Having to argue with a person over who I am is intolerable.

 

I've thought about this a lot trying to figure out what they're trying to do. It's never going to be a sexy "negative hit" to argue with me about who I am. Disagreeing with me about myself can't possibly count as showing off their incredible ability to see into me because they're doing the exact opposite: being willfully ignorant. Maybe they have such a need to box me into a category that they insist on doing so immediately. Personalities don't fit nicely in categories, so this is an auto-fail. It comes across as if they're either deluded into believing they're some kind of mind-reading genius or that they don't realize I'm a whole, grown-up human being complete with the ability to know myself. This has happened on the LessWrong forum also.

 

I have had a similar problem that only started to make sense after considering that they may have been making a conscious effort to develop skepticism: I had a lot of experiences where it felt like everything I said about myself was being scrutinized. It makes perfect sense to be skeptical about other conversation topics, but when they're skeptical about things I say about myself, this is ingratiating. This is because it's not likely that either of us will be able to prove or disprove anything about my personality or subjective experiences in a short period of time, and possibly never. Yet saying nothing about ourselves is not an option if we want to get to know each other better. I have to start somewhere.

 

It's almost like they're in such a rush to have definitive answers about me that they're sabotaging their potential to develop a real understanding of me. Getting to know people is complicated - that's why it takes a long time. Tearing apart her self-expressions can't save you from the ambiguity.

 

I need "getting to know me" / "sharing myself" type conversations to be an exploration. I do understand the need to construct one's own perspective on each new person. I don't need all my statements to be accepted at face value. I just want to feel that the person is happily exploring. They should seem like they're having fun checking out something interesting, not interrogating me and expecting to find a pile of errors. Maybe this happens because of having a habit of skeptical thinking - they make people feel scrutinized without knowing it.

Comments (591)

Comment author: erratio 19 February 2013 04:18:58AM 20 points [-]

Brief data point: I am female and I don't have a problem with the tone as such. I don't post much because I am put off by the high standards of thinking and argumentation required, but in general I approve of those standards being there and would hate to read the warm-fuzzy version of LW where bad/boring threads proliferate because people are worried about coming across as cold.

A semi-related point is that I like the general air of emotional detachment around here because in in the real world I often see expression of negative emotional reactions used as a relatively cheap form of manipulation, and I worry that encouraging open expression of emotions here (which is definitely a component of 'warmness' as I understand it) would cause a slippery slope effect where that kind of manipulation would become much more common.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 19 February 2013 10:07:48AM 4 points [-]

I guess we need a poll to collect the data points.

Perhaps in the next article, because now here are almost 400 comments and it would be hard to see.

Comment author: Spurlock 18 February 2013 06:18:46AM 15 points [-]

Can we discuss how LW's lack-of-niceness relates to the topic of men-and-women? I feel a little confused, and this insanely long comment is my attempt to ferret out that confusion.

I expect that most people who come to LW for the first time probably find the community somewhat threatening. The karma system does make you feel like you're being judged, everyone seems extremely smart and meticulous about being right, and there's a whole lot of background knowledge to absorb before you even feel qualified to open your mouth. This is exactly what I experienced when I first came here, so I agree with the OP entirely. But I'm a male, and nothing about this seems to have anything to do with sex or gender. My response to this feeling was to read the sequences, read comments, and become knowledgeable enough (about both rationality and community norms) to participate. The OP doesn't seem to complain that the community is only cold towards women, so if there's a difference here it would seem to be at the level of how this coldness is perceived or reacted to (no, I'm not about to conclude that women are at fault for being overly sensitive).

The sort of obvious, stereotype-driven interpretation here is that women are more emotional than men, or more emotionally sensitive, and will be therefore find LW's coldness to be more off-putting than men will. I dunno if we're doing women a service or disservice by accepting this viewpoint... is it an interpretation that many feminists would approve? It seems to paint a relatively "frail and helpless, need to be protected" picture of women, which makes me think we can do better.

If we try to get more specific than just saying "emotional", Submitter B seems to be implying that women will in general need more positive feedback and "warmth" in order to feel welcome or encouraged when posting online. Or that women tend to be calibrated differently in determining what level of warmth/coldness should be interpreted as hostility. For instance, a comment that the average man would interpret as neutral, the average woman would interpret as slightly aggressive or unwelcoming. This seems at least like a less condescending interpretation than the previous one.

And shouldn't we expect self-selection effects to largely eclipse gender differences here? Reddit seems to be a predominantly male community (probably less so as time goes on and the site grows, but typical-male-bullshit still gets catapulted to the front page of the popular subs constantly). But Reddit doesn't strike me as cold at all. There's a strong sense of community identity, the comment threads are mostly just riffing off of the jokes of other commenters, and lots of warm-fuzzy "thanks for posting this!" and "you sir are a gentleman!" gets posted and upvoted all over. That last example is obviously ironic in this context, but at the same time it does demonstrate that coldness doesn't seem to be much related to maleness, which is the point I'm making

So I'm inclined to attribute LW's coldness not to it's embarrassingly male dominated demographic, but instead to some kind of apparent correlation with interest in x-rationality. To sketch another stereotype, analytical/smart/nerdy people will tend to be more cold and robotic, treating more as machines than as people, and having poor empathic skills.

It doesn't seem like a stretch to say that it will be predominantly "analytical" people who will find LW's subject matter and style of investigation interesting. So the question is how much truth there is to the stereotype that lack-of-warmth will tend to be part of the package.

I'm not sure how much to trust this stereotype. At best it's true as a rule-of-thumb with plenty of exceptions (people with great analytical minds and seemingly natural "people skills" certainly do exist). But if we run with it for a moment, doesn't it seem to screen off gender differences? That is, even if women do tend to lie further towards the "emotional" end of the emotional-analytic spectrum (again, I'm not arguing that this is even a real spectrum, just trying to hash out my confusion), this doesn't matter much because it's only the more analytical women who will give a damn about LW to begin with. The majority of men wouldn't find LW interesting for the same reason (if you think they would, I suspect you've spent too much time in this tiny corner of interest-space).

So one might naively expect that even women are more emotional than men, this difference will mostly have vanished when we shift to the groups "Men Who Like LW Stuff" and "Women Who Like LW Stuff". But apparently this isn't the case, since OP finds (and some commenters agree) that women who are on LW still tend to be more put off by the hostility. So I suppose we should conclude that the correlation between analytical-ness and empathic-shortcoming is bunk. Or possibly that the correlation between "finding LW interesting" and analytical-ness is bunk. But the Reddit example seems to show that the correlation between male-dominated-population and empathic-shortcoming is also bunk. So here I am confused how all this relates.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 18 February 2013 10:38:59AM *  13 points [-]

women who are on LW still tend to be more put off by the hostility.

Unless we have some availability bias here. Such as, people who dislike something, speak more in discussions about disliking it. And if those people are women, they are more likely to attribute their dislike to male behavior, than if they are men.

In other words, a reversed form of this. A man: "Wow, I dislike how people behave on LW." A woman: "Wow, I dislike how men behave on LW."

My personal guess is that the truth is somewhere in between. Some things that men do here, are unpleasant for women. But also, sometimes women attribute to "male behavior" something that actually is not a specifically male behavior... but because majority of LW users are male, it is very easy to assign every frustration from LW to them. For example, discussing PUA stuff and "getting women" may be really repulsive for many women. But a lack of smiling faces, disagreeing with someone's self-description, or feeling threatened by very smart people, that can be (at least partially) just a gender-independent consequence of having a website focused on rationality.

Comment author: wedrifid 18 February 2013 10:52:52AM 2 points [-]

women who are on LW still tend to be more put off by the hostility.

Unless we have some availability bias here.

Robin Hanson has also speculated about differing payoffs for complaining.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 18 February 2013 01:08:21PM *  2 points [-]

The different payoffs for complaining explain the presence of complaining. They don't explain the absence of... anti-complaining. As in: "girls, I seriously don't know what is your problem; I am a woman, and LW is the most friendly website ever". Did you ever see anything like this on LW? Me neither. (EDIT: OK, here is a rather positive comment.)

Imagine how much status on LW a women could gain by defending men. Seems like no one takes it.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 February 2013 01:45:50AM *  3 points [-]

Well, Nancy Lebovitz made a point of saying "I'm a woman and I don't have a problem with the tone".

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 20 February 2013 09:57:58PM 3 points [-]

Thanks. I was thinking about bringing that up, but on the other hand, what I said wasn't as hostile as wedifrid's suggestion of "girls, I seriously don't know what is your problem; I am a woman, and LW is the most friendly website ever", even though, as it turned out, I really didn't understand the problems a lot of people have with LW's tone.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 21 February 2013 03:00:46PM 2 points [-]

The mystery is resolved if you accept the men's rights activists claim.

No one gains status by dismissing the needs of women. Not men. Not women.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 21 February 2013 03:59:44PM *  3 points [-]

Broad claims should be reexamined for specific unusual situations (LW is an unusual social situation). Also to avoid mindkilling, it would be better just to cite the claim without saying who claims it.

Even when outright dismissing is socially impossible, there can still remain some more subtle form of feedback. As a very extreme example, even in a totalitarian regime where no one can safely contradict the leader and everyone must clap their hands when the leader says something, people who disagree clap their hands slightly differently from people who agree.

I wrote this comment before erratio wrote hers. (And I somehow missed or forgot NancyLebovitz's comment.) Now, with the new data... I stand corrected. I guess in this situation, the positive comments by erratio and NancyLebovitz are as far as a woman can go without a status loss. Whether someone did or didn't go that far, that is an evidence we can use; and now that I see the evidence, I retracted the original comment.

So, considering this evidence, now I think that the situation is mostly OK, and that the whole "LW Women" series probably suffers from availability bias and priming. The complaining women were more likely to participate, they were primed to complain ("told to not hold back for politeness"), and they were primed to focus on gender issues (by the fact that they were selected for being women).

Just to make sure, by "mostly OK" I mean that I respect the wish to talk about sex/gender issues less. I don't think we can avoid them completely, because sometimes they are strongly relevant to the topic, but we should always think twice before introducing them in a thread. Some degree of reducing emotions is necessary for a rationality debate (regardless of gender), but perhaps we are too extreme in this, and could be a bit warmer, simply because just like rationality is not a reversed stupidity, neither is it reversed emotionality. But of course we should not push people for whom that would be unpleasant. Anyone who prefers a different environment is free to lead by example, instead of blaming others for having different preferences.

Comment author: MugaSofer 19 February 2013 01:00:08PM 1 point [-]

They don't explain the absence of... anti-complaining. As in: "girls, I seriously don't know what is your problem; I am a woman, and LW is the most friendly website ever". Did you ever see anything like this on LW?

Um, yes. The very first comment I saw here was exactly that. There are even more comments saying "girls, I see your problem; I am a male, but I too have experienced X" which fits the gender imbalance here.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 18 February 2013 06:31:43AM 3 points [-]

I dunno if we're doing women a service or disservice by accepting this viewpoint... is it an interpretation that many feminists would approve?

How is this relevant? The important question is whether this interpretation is true.

So one might naively expect that even women are more emotional than men, this difference will mostly have vanished when we shift to the groups "Men Who Like LW Stuff" and "Women Who Like LW Stuff". But apparently this isn't the case, since OP finds (and some commenters agree) that women who are on LW still tend to be more put off by the hostility. So I suppose we should conclude that the correlation between analytical-ness and empathic-shortcoming is bunk.

Why? All you've shown is that this correlation doesn't fully screen off gender.

Comment author: Desrtopa 20 February 2013 07:20:11AM 2 points [-]

I'm not sure how much to trust this stereotype. At best it's true as a rule-of-thumb with plenty of exceptions (people with great analytical minds and seemingly natural "people skills" certainly do exist). But if we run with it for a moment, doesn't it seem to screen off gender differences? That is, even if women do tend to lie further towards the "emotional" end of the emotional-analytic spectrum (again, I'm not arguing that this is even a real spectrum, just trying to hash out my confusion), this doesn't matter much because it's only the more analytical women who will give a damn about LW to begin with.

I think this rather incorrectly conflates being "emotional" in the sense of being nonanalytic with being "emotional" in the sense of being sensitive to the actions and opinions of others. While people who don't have analytical inclinations are unlikely to have a place in this community as long as it continues to follow its intended purpose, I don't think that's necessarily the case for sensitive people.

To take an example who immediately comes to mind (and I hope she doesn't mind my using her as an example of such), Swimmer963 has often made references to her own social sensitivity, in the sense of being powerfully affected by what she perceives others around her to think and feel. This certainly doesn't seem to have impeded her in becoming a valuable member here. It also obviously hasn't resulted in her being driven from the community, but if a sensitive individual had a poor initial experience here, it seems very likely that they would decide not to stick around.

Comment author: MugaSofer 19 February 2013 12:55:09PM 0 points [-]

Can we discuss how LW's lack-of-niceness relates to the topic of men-and-women?

Because everyone knows women are more emotional and caring, and thus there's no possibility that the author could have had an experience shared by both sexes. There have been similar assumptions made throughout "LW Women".

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 20 February 2013 10:00:40PM 2 points [-]

It's at least interesting that the most extensive (and probably the most useful) discussion we've had about the tone here used "what are problems women have with LW?" as the entry point, even though some men have a lot of the same problems.

Is there anything to be concluded from this, other than that damned hard to find your own blind spots?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 February 2013 09:07:32PM 15 points [-]

I have suddenly acquired some sympathy for the 'keep it simple and blunt' contingent.

The transcript is incomplete, but has a fair amount about cordiality escalation and trying to decipher the possible meaning of the absence of a usual cordial signal. The audio includes a woman saying that she's apt to use an ellipsis rather than a period because she's concerned that a period is too blunt.

Comment author: army1987 15 February 2013 08:32:24PM 9 points [-]

I'm going to pre-emptively tap out from all discussions about gender of LW for a while (as I mostly used to do until a while ago) because I feel that, for a series of reasons, I'm unusually out of my depth when I participate in them.

(I'm so freakin' gender-blind that when last night I was in a flash mob against violence on women and I was the only male who actually danced and people pointed that out to me, I was like “Er... Was I? [looks around] Huh. I hoped there would be at least a couple more” and no I'm not making this up.)

Comment author: daenerys 15 February 2013 09:15:10PM 2 points [-]

I was the only male

Huh, I always thought you were a female

Comment author: army1987 16 February 2013 11:50:30AM *  6 points [-]

Well... That kind-of sort-of illustrates my point. Or does it?

Jokes aside, I've already mentioned that I am unusually psychologically feminine for a man, but I would have guessed that my frequent steelmanning of stuff that many people strawman into rape apologia (e.g. pick-up artists or a series of articles on the Good Men Project) would give my gender away. But then again, I'm always steelmanning all sorts of stuff that many people strawman; I guess that's what happens when you grow up as a Catholic (read e.g. this to get an idea of what I'm talking about).

Comment author: CronoDAS 15 February 2013 04:47:13AM *  23 points [-]

So, apparently LessWrong feels unfriendly. This is something I've heard several times, so I'll accept it as correct. (I don't get that feeling myself, but I wouldn't expect to notice it anyway.) What are some Internet forums that don't feel unfriendly, and what do they do there that we don't do on LessWrong? Talk about ourselves and our lives - "small talk", in other words?

Comment author: gwern 15 February 2013 08:51:52PM 13 points [-]

Worth noting that in my little anchoring experiment the mindless critical comments were downvoted much more harshly than the mindless positive comments.

Comment author: prase 15 February 2013 07:25:24PM 11 points [-]

The discussions on e.g. Flickr often consist solely of comments like "Awesome pic! Great colours, looking forward to your next contribution." or "I like your style, please post more!"... To me, this represents the prototype of internet friendliness - not that I would like it to see it here, not that it couldn't be easily faked, but one just cannot deny that it sounds encouraging. There is even no need to talk about ourselves or to say anyting substantial at all, just signal friendliness the most obvious way, it works.

(It's interesting to note how dramatically Flickr differs from Youtube in the commenter culture.)

Comment author: Michelle_Z 15 February 2013 08:40:28PM *  26 points [-]

It is- I've been on here for ~2 years (lurking, then signed up) and often refrain from commenting, simply because I fear being thought of as a complete idiot. I am slowly getting more comfortable, but I still feel (mildly) anxious when posting. Yes, even this post.

On another note, I have noticed that this anxiety has dropped pretty dramatically in the last two years (the thought to post barely even crossed my mind, back then), and this is due in part to being exposed to this community. I've also noticed, though this may or may not be related, that my (female) friends think I've become more "cold" (their words) in the last year or so, but my male friends say they can more easily relate to me, now. It could just be maturity, but LW has been a major influencing factor in my life.

Comment author: Adele_L 15 February 2013 09:11:29PM 13 points [-]

Yes, I have been lurking for a similar amount of time, but I still am very reluctant to make comments or posts. I think the reason for me is that I am unsure of my rationality skills, and don't like feeling the status lowering that would come from potential comments criticizing or correct me.

Yes, this is a problem with myself, but yes, more friendliness would make it easier for me to comment.

Comment author: jimmy 16 February 2013 09:00:43AM *  5 points [-]

It kinda stinks when you feel like on one hand, you "shouldn't" be afraid of commenting and should "grin and bear" any criticism because you're "supposed" to or something, but on the other hand it feels like it lowers your status and that hurts.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way. First of all, it's okay that you haven't yet mastered rationality - that's why we're here. Say you comment and make a basic rationality mistake. I'm going to have a better idea of your actual abilities (not necessarily lesser, just more precise), but no judgement or shaming - it's just an opportunity to help you along. And if you take it well and learn from it, you gain massive respect in my book - and I don't think I'm atypical in this regard.

Heck, I used to be a lot more blunt and probably seemed unfriendly to a lot of people when I'd point out mistakes. Even then no one lost points in my book for making mistakes or not knowing something. The points were all won/lost by how people respond to criticism.

I don't want to tell you that it's "a problem with you" or that you need to feel a certain way, I just want you to know that people are a lot less hostile than it can seem - especially if you're willing to own your mistakes and correct them :)

Comment author: CronoDAS 15 February 2013 08:55:40PM 9 points [-]

Thank you for speaking up.

Comment author: Michelle_Z 15 February 2013 09:08:52PM *  9 points [-]

You're welcome. Now that I've spoken I appear to be on a roll.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 16 February 2013 02:58:31AM 4 points [-]

It is- I've been on here for ~2 years (lurking, then signed up) and often refrain from commenting,

I believe that's more-or-less the desired behavior for newbies.

Comment author: juliawise 16 February 2013 08:00:46PM *  8 points [-]

What are some Internet forums that don't feel unfriendly

Ravelry, mentioned above. It primarily serves as a place for swapping info about needlework patterns. There's some criticism inherent in such a project (e.g. "I found a mistake in the pattern you posted") but it's mostly about mutual admiration and support. It's not especially comparable to LW, though, since it doesn't aim to be about writing or discussion.

I value the honest truth-seeking and argument that happens here, but I don't think that has to exclude warmth.

My first-ever LW comment was not well-thought-out, and I got a curt "That makes no sense because _" response. Currently that kind of thing wouldn't affect me as much, but at the time it stung. Someone else stepped in with the "Welcome to Less Wrong" post that made it feel friendlier, which was good.

Another early experience that had me thinking "These people are jerks" was reading the Bayesian Judo post from the Sequences, which seemed to be about how to embarrass people at parties by proving your superior intellect even after they tried to disengage from the conversation.

Comment author: Larks 15 February 2013 05:50:17PM 9 points [-]

This is something I've heard several times, so I'll accept it as correct.

Selection effects. Those who have an issue with the status quo are far more likely to complain than those who like it are to praise it.

Comment author: Desrtopa 20 February 2013 02:00:06PM 2 points [-]

On the other hand, people who're put off by the atmosphere and leave immediately (and I've spoken to a number of whom this was the case) are going to be saying far less, at least within the community, than people who stick around.

Comment author: JoshuaFox 15 February 2013 10:30:06AM 9 points [-]

I try to practice Rekcorc's Rules myself, starting sentences with "Yes, "Good," "You're right," "Thanks," and other words with little content other than an (honest) recognition of the value of the person's statement.

Comment author: Error 15 February 2013 01:39:59PM 9 points [-]

Oddly, I've been trying to break exactly that habit in real life -- too many people seize on it as surrendering all points under discussion, and then respond to further argument like you're shooting from a white flag. The reaction is something along the lines of: "What the hell is your problem? You just said I was right!"

LW seems too sane for that, thankfully.

Comment author: JoshuaFox 15 February 2013 01:56:48PM 6 points [-]

Good point [Self-referential humor wink]. But on the other hand, someone once complemented my manner at work (a very rare thing, and I think it was honest), for being respectful of other people's views using such techniques. And I assure you that after saying these politenesses, I go ahead to politely but assertively, even aggressively contradict people whenever I need to. [Douglas Hofstadter would be proud, self-referential wink #2.]

Comment author: Vive-ut-Vivas 18 February 2013 12:51:07AM 6 points [-]

I do feel like LW is cold, and I'd rather not say "unfriendly", which to me sounds explicitly hostile, but it's non-friendly. Commenting here feels like Coming to Work, not like hanging out with friends. You know, where I need to remember to mind all of my manners. Seeing the orange envelope fills me with panic, as I am sure there is someone there just waiting to chew me out for violating some community norm or just being Wrong.

Truthfully, I think it is the lack of "small talk" that makes it feel unfriendly to me. It has the air of, "we're not interested in you personally, we're here to get things done". I want things to be personal. I want to make friends.

Comment author: jooyous 15 February 2013 07:04:37AM 2 points [-]

Perhaps we should invest in a tasteful set of greenish smileys.

Comment author: daenerys 15 February 2013 07:07:12AM 3 points [-]

I was once told that someone would upvote me iff I got rid of the smiley in my comment. (or perhaps it was an "lol")

Comment author: army1987 15 February 2013 01:27:22PM *  6 points [-]

I think I once saw a comment by someone stating that they had a policy of systematically downvoting all comments containing an emoticon, except exceptionally good ones.

Comment author: prase 15 February 2013 07:32:44PM 3 points [-]

Hope that wasn't me. My dislike for emoticons has somehow waned during recent years and sometimes I even use them myself when I want to be really sure that my interlocutor doesn't misinterpret me as being serious when I am not, but I am the sort of person that has commenting policies and it's not that improbable that this was one of them.

I still hate "lol" pretty passionately, however.

Comment author: Nisan 16 February 2013 07:36:23AM 1 point [-]

I heard that there's a user who downvotes all comments that don't have emoticons.

Comment author: army1987 16 February 2013 11:32:31AM 3 points [-]

o.O

(No, the point of this comment is not to test hypotheses about karma.)

Comment author: army1987 16 February 2013 02:17:50PM *  2 points [-]

Oh, and I've just remembered this:

In Web forums, do not abuse “smiley” and “HTML” features (when they are present). A smiley or two is usually OK, but colored fancy text tends to make people think you are lame. Seriously overusing smileys and color and fonts will make you come off like a giggly teenage girl, which is not generally a good idea unless you are more interested in sex than answers.

-- Eric S. Raymond and Rick Moen

(I won't comment about that.)

Comment author: Nisan 16 February 2013 08:00:48AM 1 point [-]

An old friendly forum I used to frequent had lots of silliness and emoticons and exclamation marks.

Comment author: Michelle_Z 15 February 2013 09:06:43PM 8 points [-]

Question: What is it exactly that is meant by "warmth" or "coldness?" I've heard those terms used to describe myself, I've heard them used to describe other people, but when my brain tries searching for an example, it comes up blank. Generally, I try to be specific. (<- Yes, that was a joke.)

Comment author: orthonormal 16 February 2013 01:23:20AM 8 points [-]

"Warmth" means at least two things:

  1. The tendency to openly show one's emotional reactions to other people, whether with explicit words, or voice tone, or body language. Someone can be called "cold" if they speak in a monotone and rarely make clear facial expressions, or if they never acknowledge their emotional states.

  2. The tendency to recognize and (to some degree) reflect the emotional states of the people around oneself. The person who's usually first to ask someone else if they're all right when they're behaving oddly, for instance, is displaying warmth. A person who fails to notice that someone else is upset, or pretends to ignore it, is being cold.

Comment author: Sarokrae 16 February 2013 07:21:44PM 2 points [-]

I'd agree with this, and add a point that the interaction between 1 and 2 is also important - a little signalling of empathy injects a lot of warmth into a comment or interaction.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 16 February 2013 03:39:12AM *  8 points [-]

Your friend complains that her boyfriend forgot to get her something for Valentine's day. A cold response:

This is consistent with both your current boyfriend's previous actions and your previous boyfriends' actions. You should spend some time thinking about why you seek out romantic partners that consistently disappoint you.

A warm response:

Aww, that sucks, I'm sorry. Hug? Wanna go look at pictures of kittens on the internet?

You can find another great example of a cold response in lukeprog's rational romance post.

Comment author: Elithrion 16 February 2013 03:31:23AM 2 points [-]

It is my impression that the aforementioned terms are primarily used to describe styles of speech or writing. A more technical style which focuses exclusively on conveying the idea as precisely as possible, and which perhaps adheres to some particular well-defined style guidelines (as, for example, this sentence and the preceding one), is considered cold.

On the flip side, when you're more conversational, try to get across some sort of emotion, or just generally appeal to the person you're addressing (in a friendly way!), that's more warm.

Comment author: Zaine 16 February 2013 01:46:21AM *  2 points [-]

Example Comment: There are far too many solar flares on Sol, due to reason X. They can be reduced by measure Y, but it will cost many thousands of kangaroos, which Australians support but no other country will help in the measure's implementation.


  • Warm Critique A: I had heard of reason X as well, but I found out that actually reason X is not as logically sound as 'twas thought to be. The base premise that derives reason X was disproved in experiment Z, which you can read a summary of here: _, or read in full here: _. [Optionally insert comment intended to be slightly humorous for extra warmth, especially if the comment ends with an exclamation mark, here.]

  • Cold Critique B: There is no viable way of implementing measure Y, as shown here: _; Australia is unsupported in finding a partner for research into potential methods for the implementation of Y, and not just unsupported in the implementation itself (which is currently impossible in the first place). Australia's government probably suffer from the sunk cost fallacy due to all the resources they invested in the inevitably worthless kangaroo solution; they refuse to terminate the project.


  • Warm Response to B: Yeah, that was a prime example of the sunk cost fallacy, wasn't it? Or amusing, at least. Fortunately for Australia's government, reason X proved to have little supporting fact (see my comment here: _ for details). They were able to quit the project without much backlash in the end!

  • Cold Response to ↑: Ah, so they did. Though I'd hardly call it a prime example of the sunk cost fallacy. They did have some reason to think it a worthwhile pursuit.

  • Alternative Warm Version of ↑: Oh, I didn't know that; thanks for the update[. or !] To be fair to Australia's government, they had little reason to think the impossibility of measure Y bore poorly upon reason X; though, of course, 'tis debatable whether reason X justified the amount invested into researching alternative methods for implementing measure Y. In any regard, it's not clear to what degree they fell victim to the sunk cost fallacy, if indeed at all. [Optionally conclude with an appeal for correction if one's reasoning is mistaken, exempli gratia: "Do you think that's a reasonable account, or have I erred or overlooked something?" This tact could be taken as passive aggression, so use with care.]


Of course I could be misrepresenting the two, or am poorly calibrated. Let the alt text of the Karma score of this comment inform its perceived accuracy.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 21 February 2013 09:53:49PM *  6 points [-]

I'd rather encourage everyone to do a better job interpreting "you're wrong for these reasons" as well-intentioned, potentially correct input, than encourage everyone to beat around the bush.

Seeing examples of deeply nested obviously emotional defensiveness (especially devolving into tit-for-tat time-wasting posturing) surely makes me feel "I'd like to avoid that!" (by not participating in general).

This can be avoided not only with less aggressive "you're wrong!" deliveries, but also with more receptive/honest/vulnerable listening to how you're maybe being wrong. High-status models of the latter are rare (for obvious reasons), and I'd like to see more. The former is fine too, as long as it doesn't cost all the readers more than it saves the one person being (maybe) corrected.

Comment author: Vaniver 15 February 2013 03:31:45AM 5 points [-]

I'm curious if Submitter B has similar experiences to the "creepy behavior" that they would describe as discussions, or if every similar experience has come across as an argument. That is, the line between putting forward differing interpretations and denying the data may not be a crisp one, and there may be communication techniques both B and the people B converses with could use to make that line clearer.

One of the things that I've noticed about myself is that for quite some time, unless it was something frequently discussed so I had good calibration data (like happiness), I had the one example problem where I would model my range as the full human range. To use an example with made-up numbers, was I a punctual person or not? Well, I was on time sometimes, and late sometimes, and so I didn't see punctuality as part of my identity. But discussing it with other people helped me discover that I was on time 95% of the time, and the general population was on time 50% of the time, and so in the eyes of other people I was "punctual" because I was "more punctual than most," not because I met my own standards for punctuality.

but when they're skeptical about things I say about myself, this is ingratiating.

I suspect this sentence is missing a 'not.'

Comment author: passive_fist 15 February 2013 06:49:15AM 24 points [-]

There also seems to be quite a lot of knee-jerk up-voting of poorly researched armchair ev-psych.

Indeed, and I am sad to say that I have seen this even in the top-level posts and blog as well. I'm actually doing a write-up about evo-psych and why a rationalist community should maybe try to avoid it. I might post it to this forum if there's interest.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 February 2013 08:24:33AM 16 points [-]

Indeed, and I am sad to say that I have seen this even in the top-level posts and blog as well. I'm actually doing a write-up about evo-psych and why a rationalist community should maybe try to avoid it. I might post it to this forum if there's interest.

I'm not just interested, I'm fascinated. Please do.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 15 February 2013 07:59:18AM 4 points [-]

Alicorn wrote this post, but I for one am interested in reading more on the topic.

Comment author: ygert 15 February 2013 08:44:10AM 11 points [-]

Why Our Kind can't Cooperate is relevant here. No one else has posted a link yet, so here it is. Anyone who hasn't read it should read it before getting involved in the discussion here, as it deals with what seems to be the very same issue.

Comment author: curiousepic 15 February 2013 04:23:32PM 4 points [-]

Is anyone up to the karma of creating a good TL;DR for that article to post as summary on the wiki for frequent reference? It seems like this would be a very useful thing.

Comment author: DataPacRat 15 February 2013 03:34:23PM 4 points [-]

After reading this post, I wondered if there was anything I could do to improve the local marketplace-of-ideas, such as trying to encourage more members by being more respectful of comments. Then I recalled that one of my standard rules-of-thumb is 'stay classy', which covers trying to use an appropriate amount of respect; so I then wondered if adding even further politeness would actually reduce the signal-to-noise ratio.

At present, I'm wondering if it's at all possible to figure out, to even a single deciban of evidence, how I should update, based on what's been posted... and trying to look at myself on a meta level, all that seems to have resulted is a mild strengthening of my commitment to the 'stay classy' benchmark.

Anyone care to tell me if I'm doing this wrong, and if so, how?

Comment author: DanArmak 15 February 2013 01:55:55PM 27 points [-]

We already rarely discuss politics, so would it be terrible to also discuss sex/gender issues as little as possible?

Discussing politics is not productive. The political opinions held by most people don't affect actual politics. Discussing politics would be a waste of time even if it wasn't mindkilling. I make a point of never reading local political news and not knowing anything about my country's politics, as a matter of epistemical hygiene.

Gender relations and understanding, on the other hand, are important in everyone's lives. I can't ignore gender like I do politics, and I wouldn't want to. On the contrary, I want to become rational and virtuous about gender.

So I very much want to have discussions about gender, unless the consensus is that our rationality is too weak and we can't discuss this subject without causing net harm (or net harm to women, etc).

Comment author: h-H 18 February 2013 06:59:59AM 3 points [-]

Gender relations = politics.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 18 February 2013 08:40:12AM 3 points [-]

This seems like the noncentral fallacy.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 February 2013 02:34:54PM *  23 points [-]

From the complaints (and not just here and now) it seems obvious that there is a problem we really should solve.

This said, it seems to me that people are complaining about multiple things. I think they should be analyzed separately. Maybe not all of them are a problem, or maybe the same solution would not work for all of them. Even if they have similar patern "reading A makes person X unhappy", it is still not the same situation. (For a trivial example, some people are unhappy when they read about atheism. While we should not offend religious people unnecessarily, there is only so far we can go, and even then some people will remain offended.) Specifically, from the article and also this linked comment, women complain when men do the following:

  • talk about "getting" "attractive women";
  • make remarks about attractive/unattractive women;
  • speak of women as symbols of male success or accessories for a successful male;
  • talk about difficulty to deal with women;
  • make claims about men and women having different innate abilities, especially without saying "on average";
  • uncritically downvote anything feminist sounding, and upvote armchair ev-psych;
  • are much more likely to point out one's flaws than to appreciate what one said;
  • create an environment where warmth is scarce;
  • focus on negative reinforcement;
  • argue with one's self-description.

I see at least three different topics here (maybe more could be found in other articles and discussions) -- speaking of women as objects; unsupported or incorrect theories about differences between men and women; unfriendly environment -- and I believe each of them deserves to be discussed separately.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 February 2013 04:05:40PM *  10 points [-]

My opinions on these three topics:

1) There are two important aspects of talking about "getting women"; I guess one of them is more obvious for men and one for women, so I will write both explicitly.

a) For a typical heterosexual man, "getting women" is an important part of his utility function; perhaps so important that talking about instrumental rationality without mentioning this feels dishonest. There are tons of low-hanging fruit here (the whole PUA industry is about that); ignoring this topic would be like ignoring the topic of finding a good job or developing social skills. Seen from this perspective, I would say we speak relatively little about the topic; we already have kind of a taboo, it's just not absolute.

b) Discussing women as objects sends a strong message to women: "you do not belong here". We speak about you, but not with you. -- Ladies can describe their feelings better, I can only recommend imagining a reversed situation; a "rationalist website" with women discussing how to get handsome millionaires (or whatever would be the nearest equivalent), creating a feeling that if you are not a millionaire, you have no worth as a human being, and even if you are a millionare, your worth is exactly the money you have, nothing more. Your personal utility function is not important; the only important thing is how much utilities the discussing women can get from you.

Is there a good solution which would not ignore either of these aspects? In my opinion, there is: having both discussions about "getting women" and "getting men" on the website. And having them only in articles on a given topic, not randomly anywhere else. But even if this would be acceptable to others (which I doubt), the problem remains how to get from here to there.

I propose an experiment on how to balance the gender imbalance here. Once in a time create a "ladies first" topic, where only women would be allowed to comment during the first two days; after this time, the discussion is open to everyone. (During the two days, the announcement would be visible in the top and bottom of the article; and then it would be removed.) It could give us an idea of how the discussion would look if we had more women here. And if a man wants to contribute, waiting two days is not so difficult. The obvious disadvantage: women members who don't want to make their gender publicly known would have to avoid the discussion or create another account. -- The topics could be women-specific (getting the handsome millionaire), or even, for the sake of experiment, completely neutral, for example "ladies first" Open Thread (which after two days becomes a normal Open Thread, but the different initial dynamics could be interesting).

2) With regards to unsupported theories, I just want to note that even "politically correct" theories can be unsupported or incorrect. (Yes, that includes even feminist theories.) I would like having the same rule for both of them. If it is forbidden to write "men are statistically better than women in math", it should be equally forbidden to write "men are statistically exactly the same as women in math", if in both cases the same level of evidence is provided. Or perhaps we should have the same reaction for both of them, something like "[citation needed]" in Wikipedia.

3) I would enjoy having a more friendly discussion environment, but I don't want to make it a duty. I mean, offenses are bad, but mere "lack of warmth" is normal, although it is nice to do better than this. Among men, this is often the normal mode of speech; among women it's usually otherwise... I think it would be nice to let everyone speak in their preferred voice. We should encourage men to display more warmth (and it would be an interesting topic on how to do it without feeling awkward), but not criticize them for failing to reach the level convenient for women.

Maybe we could have in comments small icons indicating how we want to communicate (how we want other people to respond to us). Something like Crocker's rules, but with three options: nice / impersonal / Crocker's rules. (Graphically: a heart, a square, a crosshair.) A user would select an icon when making a comment, and would select the default icon in user preferences dialog. New users would automatically get the "nice" icon as a default (as a trivial incentive for more people to have this option). Of course the "nice" icon means that also the comment is nice, not only the reactions are expected to be.

Submitting...

Comment author: beoShaffer 15 February 2013 08:03:39PM 16 points [-]

I would enjoy having a more friendly discussion environment, but I don't want to make it a duty. I mean, offenses are bad, but mere "lack of warmth" is normal, although it is nice to do better than this. Among men, this is often the normal mode of speech; among women it's usually otherwise... I think it would be nice to let everyone speak in their preferred voice. We should encourage men to display more warmth (and it would be an interesting topic on how to do it without feeling awkward), but not criticize them for failing to reach the level convenient for women.

I think it would be useful for someone who finds niceness natural to do a post how the average LW can build affordance for being nice, preferably in a way that doesn't add to much noise. I also think it would be good if people were motivated to use some of these affordances due to genuine niceness/to help build the community.

On the other hand I strongly agree that having a "nice" voice should not be even quasi-required. Fake/forced niceness often feels phony in an unpleasant way, furthermore forcing people to change their conversational voice seems like making them jump though hoops. Also, I suspect that people who have a naturally nice voice underestimate how hard it is for people who don't have a naturally nice voice to talk nicely, even when they want to (this is based on super-high priors for this general form of fail happening any time the opportunity presents it self).

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 18 February 2013 04:32:46PM 7 points [-]

On the other hand I strongly agree that having a "nice" voice should not be even quasi-required. Fake/forced niceness often feels phony in an unpleasant way, furthermore forcing people to change their conversational voice seems like making them jump though hoops. Also, I suspect that people who have a naturally nice voice underestimate how hard it is for people who don't have a naturally nice voice to talk nicely, even when they want to (this is based on super-high priors for this general form of fail happening any time the opportunity presents it self).

I agree with this so strongly that a mere upvote isn't enough.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 February 2013 12:51:53PM 3 points [-]

I originally voted in favor because it sounded like an interesting experiment, but there's a difficulty, not just with people who don't think of themselves as male or female, but with people who don't want to reveal their gender.

Comment author: army1987 16 February 2013 02:23:40PM *  2 points [-]

I would vote for “Interesting idea”, if it was an option (i.e., ‘let's try this for a while and see how it goes, and switch back if it doesn't go well’).

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 February 2013 03:09:27PM *  3 points [-]

Thanks for the analysis. I'm not convinced that the topics can be kept completely separate since unfriendly environment amplifies the effects of the other two, but it's worth a try.

Comment author: Sarokrae 15 February 2013 07:24:58PM *  4 points [-]

Going to comment on each of the topics separately, as William_Bur has done:

1) I pretty much agree with the point that objectifying is fine if we objectified everyone equally - if androsexual commenters talked about unattractive men the same way gynosexual commenters talked about unattractive women, say. However statistically speaking that's not going to happen, just because there's a much higher proportion of gynosexuals on this site than androsexuals. As the current gender proportions stand, it's going to look like men are the in-group and women are the out-group, even if people objectified the objects of their desires to the same extent.

As such, I think if we fixed the other two problems and actually attracted more women to this site (more gay and bisexual male conversations about getting guys might also work, though I'm not really aware of much of a LGBT presence on LW), this one is going to fix itself. (Assuming we have sensible community norms like "mentally flip the genders in your post before you post to check this is normal objectifying rather than super-offensive objectifying", which I think we can do.)

2) I don't have much to say about this one. For me the most likely hypothesis is that people are bad at hearing evidence that don't agree with their current prejudices and vice versa, so if we already have a community that agrees with unsupported theories about evopsych (for whatever reason) then it's going to post more studies about it and agree with them.

I feel similarly when people talk about paleo diets, actually. I personally prefer to just not publicly discuss topics where I feel the evidence is insufficient.

3) Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that female geeks tend to notice/focus on niceness and social codes more than male geeks, though both in turn focus on it less than non-geeks (though in non-geeks men and women often have different social codes). There are many hypotheses as to why this could be if this were true, but I don't know well enough to speculate. There are also a lot more male geeks than female geeks. If this observation is true across the population then a website ostensibly aimed at geeks will end up with a lower level of niceness than the female geeks would like.

I'm going to be objectifying here and suggest that not being nice enough is a typical trait of low-status geeky males who've not learned the value of social codes, and that the only reason this is a problem is because we don't have enough high-status men to enforce sensible standards on it (I would normally put a ";)" as the punctuation of this sentence, but since elsewhere someone mentioned emoticons being objected to I'll verbally disclaim that the previous sentence is intended with a light-hearted tone). Politeness and compliments are not a waste of time in the same way that dressing nicely is not a waste of time - if people like you more, they're more likely to take what you say seriously. Similarly, understanding how the tone of your voice (or typed comment) comes across is an important life skill that people should put effort into learning if they don't know how to do it.

Alternative hypothesis if people believe that they do know how to be nice, they just don't do it on LW: do you act differently with all-male groups compared to mixed groups in real life? If you do, you should post as if you are in the latter if you wish LW to become the latter.

ETA: Data-gathering to calibrate the accuracy of my own hypotheses below.

Questions for men:

Are you more or less friendly on LW than you are in real life?

Do you behave differently in mixed groups compared to male only groups?

Questions for women:

Is the tone on LW more or less friendly than in male-dominated groups you are part of in real life?

Submitting...

Comment author: juliawise 16 February 2013 08:07:29PM *  17 points [-]

In some male-dominated spaces, there's a weird chivalry dynamic where I get attention for being a reasonably attractive woman but not a lot of cred for ideas, etc. I appreciate that at Less Wrong meetups, I feel my ideas are judged as ideas and not as "girl ideas which men must be polite about."

Comment author: Michelle_Z 15 February 2013 09:20:21PM *  4 points [-]

Note: Women can only see how other women voted, and men can only see how other men voted.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 February 2013 09:55:44PM 5 points [-]

My first reaction was to write my half of results here... but we don't want to prime others, do we? So I guess let's wait a week or two, and then publish the results.

(And next time, let's remember to add the option "I did not vote" to each poll. Or is there any other way to see poll results without voting? If there is, please write it here.)

Comment author: Sarokrae 16 February 2013 10:26:18AM *  3 points [-]

Oops. Polls are non-editable too... Will do better next time.

Edit - I will probably get my OH to vote on the male half so that I can at least get the desired calibration effects myself.

Comment author: hg00 16 February 2013 12:40:02PM *  2 points [-]

we don't have enough high-status men to enforce sensible standards on it

I dunno if "enforcement" is the most compassionate approach. Personally, the most effective way I've found to counter negative attitudes towards women is to have positive social and romantic interactions with them... applying self-control can prevent me from expressing my resentment, but it doesn't seem to fix the resentment itself. Maybe we could have compassion for sexually inexperienced guys (being a male virgin can really suck, although I suspect men contribute to this fact more than women do) and try to help them overcome their problem (e.g. this has been really useful for me).

Comment author: CharlieSheen 17 February 2013 03:19:56PM *  5 points [-]

uncritically downvote anything feminist sounding, and upvote armchair ev-psych;

This is frustrating to read since complaints of other groups that amount to the same thing are ignored, but then again this is to be expected.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 17 February 2013 03:18:39PM *  3 points [-]

From the complaints (and not just here and now) it seems obvious that there is a problem we really should solve.

There being a problem people complain about and it actually being worth solving are remarkably uncorrelated. Here is an argument I made on the matter in the past.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 17 February 2013 07:55:25PM 3 points [-]

The fact that some women complain, is not a big evidence per se. Some men complain, too. The evidence is that the complaining seems coherent, is persistent, and there are no women saying: "actually, I think it is completely the other way."

Also, I would agree that it is important to maximize the number of rationalists, regardless of their demographics. But I would not be surprised if a small change of rules could make this site more attractive for many women, and still attractive enough for 95% of the men which are currently here. On the other hand I also would not be surprised if we will never have enough rational women here (or anywhere else), regardless of what we will do. Sorry, my model simply does not contain the information about what kind of a website can be best for rational women (with emphasis on both of these words). To be fair, before LW I also did not know what kind of a website would be best for rational men; I could not imagine rationality surviving in a group of more than five people. More data need to be gathered by an experiment.

Comment author: MrMind 16 February 2013 12:57:26AM 1 point [-]

I see at least three different topics here (maybe more could be found in other articles and discussions) -- speaking of women as objects; unsupported or incorrect theories about differences between men and women; unfriendly environment -- and I believe each of them deserves to be discussed separately.

I think the assumption here is that LW is some sort of a sealed environment, living in a vacuum only of its own generated ideas. Needless to say, it's not like that: everybody will continue to bring here, rationality or not, basic imprinting from life AFK. This includes other-sex objectification (let's not illude ourselves with thinking that one side is less wrong than the other), incorrect thinking, etc.

I agree though that if we are not able to win on gender issues, we are doomed.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 February 2013 09:04:38AM 33 points [-]

I'm ok with the general emotional tone (lack of tone?) here. I think I read the style of discussion as "we're all here to be smart at each other, and we respect each other for being able to play".

However, the gender issues have been beyond tiresome. My default is to assume that men and women are pretty similar. LW has been the first place which has given me the impression that men and women are opposed groups. I still think they're pretty similar. The will to power is a shared trait even if it leads to conflict between opposed interests.

LW was the first place I've been where women caring about their own interests is viewed as a weird inimical trait which it's only reasonable to subvert, and I'm talking about PUA.

I wish I could find the link, but I remember telling someone he'd left women out of his utilitarian calculations. He took it well, but I wish it hadn't been my job to figure it out and find a polite way to say it.

Remember that motivational video Eliezer linked to? One of the lines toward the end was "If she puts you in the friend zone, put her in the rape zone." I can't imagine Eliezer saying that himself, and I expect he was only noticing and making use of the go for it and ignore your own pain slogans-- but I'm still shocked and angry that it's possible to not notice something like that. It's all a matter of who you identify with. Truth is truth, but I didn't want to find out that the culture had become that degraded.

And going around and around with HughRustik about PUA.... I think of him as polite and intelligent, and it took me a long time to realize that I kept saying that what I knew about PUA was what I'd read at LW, and he kept saying that it wasn't all like Roissy, who I kept saying I hadn't read. I grant that this is well within the normal range of human pigheadedness, and I'm sure I've done such myself because it can be hard to register that people hate what you love, but it was pretty grating to be on the receiving end of it.

There was that discussion of ignoring good test results from a member of a group if you already believe that they're bad at whatever was being tested. (They were referred to as blues, but it seemed to be a reference to women and math.) It was a case of only identifying with the gatekeeper. No thought about the unfairness or the possible loss of information. I think it finally occurred to someone to give a second test rather than just assuming it was a good day or good luck.

Unfortunately, I don't have an efficient way of finding these discussions I remember-- I'll grateful if anyone finds links, and then we can see how accurate my memories were.

All this being said, I think LW has also become Less Awful so far as gender issues are concerned. I'm not sure how much anyone has been convinced that women have actual points of view (partly my fault because I haven't been tracking individuals) since there are still the complaints about what one is not allowed to say.

Comment author: hg00 16 February 2013 05:16:28AM *  13 points [-]

LW was the first place I've been where women caring about their own interests is viewed as a weird inimical trait which it's only reasonable to subvert, and I'm talking about PUA.

It seems like in the best case, PUA would be kind of like makeup. Lots of male attraction cues are visual, so they can be gamed when women wear makeup, do their hair, or wear an attractive outfit. Lots of female attraction cues are behavioral, so they can be gamed by acting or becoming more confident and interesting.

As one Metafilter user put it:

If you want to understand the appeal of the PUAs, you have to remember that it does work. Mixed in with the cod psychology and jargon are some boring but sensible tips. I would say the big four are:

  1. Approach lots of women
  2. Act confident
  3. Have entertaining things to say
  4. Dress and groom well

There are quite a few guys who haven't really practiced those four things, which do take a bit of effort and experience. So when they start to follow the PUA movement, they absorb the nonsense, start doing the sensible, practical things, and find that they're getting a whole lot more sex. So they conclude that the nonsense is absolutely true.

Do you have ethical problems with any of 1-4?

Ed. - It's possible that when HughRistik said "not all PUA advice is like Roissy's", he meant "the PUA stuff we're discussing on Less Wrong is Roissy-type stuff, and not all PUA stuff is like that".

Comment author: CharlieSheen 17 February 2013 03:49:50PM *  8 points [-]

I'm actually at the point when I think it is impossible to give men useful advice to improve their sex lives and relationships because of the social dynamics that arise in nearly all societies. Actually good advice aiming to optimize the life outcomes of the men who are given it has never been discussed in public spaces and considered reputable.

Same can naturally be said of advice for women. I think most modern dating advice both for men and women is anti-knowledge in that the more of it you follow the more miserable you will end up being. I would say follow your instincts but that doesn't work either in our society since they are broken.

Comment author: army1987 18 February 2013 09:06:42PM 3 points [-]

I would say follow your instincts but that doesn't work either in our society since they are broken.

I'd go with “keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel”, i.e.¹ use the evidence that you see to update your model of the world,² and your model of the world to decide which possible behaviours would be most likely to achieve your goals. This applies to any goal whatsoever (not just dating), and ought to be obvious to LW readers, but people may tend to forget this in certain contexts due to ugh fields.


  1. This is probably not what Jim Morrison meant by that, but still.

  2. Note that the world also includes you. Noticing what this fact implies is left as an exercise for the reader.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 18 February 2013 09:48:17PM *  5 points [-]

use the evidence that you see to update your model of the world,² and your model of the world to decide which possible behaviours would be most likely to achieve your goals

I endorse this advice. Note however some consider this in itself unethical when it comes to interpersonal relations. I have no clue why.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 February 2013 02:05:37AM *  5 points [-]

Note however some consider this in itself unethical when it comes to interpersonal relations. I have no clue why.

I think I may have just figured out why. Think about the evolutionary purpose of niceness. Thinking about the nice vs. candid argument here, I suspect the purpose of niceness is to provide a credible precommitment to cooperate with someone in the future by sabotaging one's own reasoning in such a way that will make one overestimate the value of cooperating with the other person.

Comment author: hg00 19 February 2013 03:39:32AM *  5 points [-]

Advice about how to look better seems trivially useful and reputable... Overall, I find your claim that the intersection of palatable dating advice and useful dating advice is empty extremely implausible. What else would Clarisse Thorn's "ethical PUA advice" be?

At the very least there should be some reasonably effective advice that's only minimally unpalatable or whatever, like become a really good guitarist and impress girls with your guitar skillz.

Regarding PUA and evolutionary psychology: I don't see how a self-selected population that's under the influence of alcohol, and has been living with all kinds of weird modern norms and technology, has all that much in common with the EEA.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 20 February 2013 04:16:38PM 3 points [-]

Regarding PUA and evolutionary psychology: I don't see how a self-selected population that's under the influence of alcohol, and has been living with all kinds of weird modern norms and technology, has all that much in common with the EEA.

Good point that I hadn't thought of. And also, most mating in the EEA would be with people that you'd had and expect to have extended interactions with-- this is probably very different from trying to pick up strangers.

Comment author: drethelin 16 February 2013 05:34:40AM 1 point [-]

If all PUA said was those 4 things, it wouldn't be interesting or controversial, so I think it's pretty ridiculous to respond to a conversation about PUA mentioning the parts few people would disagree with. Trickery, lies, insults, treating people as things, these are the sorts of problems people have with PUA.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 17 February 2013 03:46:06PM *  17 points [-]
  1. Approach lots of women
  2. Act confident
  3. Have entertaining things to say
  4. Dress and groom well

...

If all PUA said was those 4 things, it wouldn't be interesting or controversial

This sounds reasonable until you actually think about the four points mentioned in Near mode. Consider:

  1. What does approaching lots of women actually look like if done in a logistically sound way? How does this relate to social norms? How does this relate to how feminists would like social norms to be?

  2. Observe what actually confident humans do to signal their confidence. Just do.

  3. Observe what is actually considered entertaining in a club envrionment that most PUA is designed to work in.

You know most of the things considered disreputable that PUAs advocate are precisely the result of first observing how points one to three actually work in our society and then optimizing to mimic this.

Only dressing and grooming well is probably not inherently controversial and even then pick up artists are mocked for their attempts to reverse engineer fashion that signals what they want to signal.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 February 2013 12:48:49PM 3 points [-]

I recommend Clarisse Thorn's Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser-- PUA is a divergent group of subcultures.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 February 2013 05:43:46AM 16 points [-]

Remember that motivational video Eliezer linked to? One of the lines toward the end was "If she puts you in the friend zone, put her in the rape zone." I can't imagine Eliezer saying that himself, and I expect he was only noticing and making use of the go for it and ignore your own pain slogans-- but I'm still shocked and angry that it's possible to not notice something like that.

My apologies for that! You're correct that I didn't notice that on a different level than, say, the parts about killing your friends if they don't believe in you or whatever else was in the Courage Wolf montage. I expect I made a 'bleah' face at that and some other screens which demonstrated concepts exceptionally less savory than 'Courage', but failed to mark it as something requiring a trigger warning. I think this was before I'd even heard of the concept of a "trigger warning", which I first got to hear about after writing Ch. 7 of HPMOR.

Comment author: army1987 17 February 2013 09:13:19PM *  10 points [-]

Generally speaking, I've noticed that mentioning rape tends to mind-kill people on the Internet much more than mentioning murder. I hypothesize this is due to the fact that many more people are actually raped than murdered.

Comment author: beoShaffer 17 February 2013 10:16:11PM 19 points [-]

And that people who have been raped are much (infinitely?) more likely to go one to participate in discussions on rape than people who have been murdered are likely to participate in discussions on murder. Also, that rape is more likely to bring in gender politics.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 18 February 2013 03:13:17AM 2 points [-]

And that people who have been raped are much (infinitely?) more likely to go one to participate in discussions on rape than people who have been murdered are likely to participate in discussions on murder.

What about people who have had friends or relatives murdered?

Comment author: Oligopsony 20 February 2013 05:06:12PM 2 points [-]

The murder of children, I think, tends to be intrinsically serious in the way that fictional murder in general isn't. This might be part of it.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 18 February 2013 04:29:26PM 11 points [-]

I think there's been a cultural shift-- mentions of rape are taken a lot more seriously than they were maybe 20 years ago. (I'm sure of the shift, and less sure of the time scale.)

I believe part of it has been a feminist effort to get rape of women by men taken seriously which has started to get rape of men by men taken seriously. Rape by women is barely on the horizon so far.

PTSD being recognized as a real thing has made a major contribution-- it meant that people could no longer say that rape is something which should just be gotten over. Another piece is an effort to make being raped not be a major status-lowering event, which made people more likely to talk about it.

As for comparison to murder, I've seen relatives of murdered people complain that murder jokes are still socially acceptable.

As far as I can tell, horrific events can be used as jokes when they aren't vividly imagined, and whether something you haven't experienced is vividly imagined is strongly affected by whether the people around you encourage you to imagine it or not.

Comment author: arundelo 19 February 2013 01:49:00AM 10 points [-]

I've seen relatives of murdered people complain that murder jokes are still socially acceptable.

That's the subject of the first couple minutes of This American Life episode 342.

[A]t the Parents of Murdered Children Conference, they have [a presentation on] murder mystery dinners. And the way that they always do it is they say, let's just pretend that you were going to have a rape mystery dinner and you were going to show up and the rule of the game was going to be that someone's been raped, and we're all going to find the rapist. That wouldn't go over. Nobody would do it. Everybody would feel that that was deeply distasteful.

(Transcript here.)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 February 2013 01:34:19AM 9 points [-]

As far as I can tell, horrific events can be used as jokes when they aren't vividly imagined, and whether something you haven't experienced is vividly imagined is strongly affected by whether the people around you encourage you to imagine it or not.

I'm not sure about that. It seems like in places and times where horrific events are much more common, people take an almost gallows humor attitude towards the whole thing (at least the violence part). Things like PTSD seem to happen when people in cultures where horrific events are rare temporarily get exposed to them.

Comment author: Oligopsony 20 February 2013 05:11:59PM 4 points [-]

This difference in commonality extends not only to victims but to perpetrators. A higher proportion of people who find rape funny will be rapists than those who find murder funny will be murderers; murder is much harder to get away with.

Comment author: Desrtopa 20 February 2013 02:23:18PM *  4 points [-]

There are probably many reasons involved, but I'd point out that in our media we frequently glamorize protagonists who kill people, but generally not ones who rape people.

There may be some cultural variation in this; I recall reading an African folk tale wherein, early on, the protagonist rapes his own mother. Afterwards he proceeds to navigate various perils with feats of cunning and derring-do, and I spent the rest of the story asking "how am I supposed to root for this guy? He raped his own mother! For no apparent reason, even!"

Comment author: army1987 20 February 2013 03:30:08PM *  4 points [-]

asking "how am I supposed to root for ..."

Tell me about that... Last night I was watching Big Miracle and I was like “how am I supposed to root for the whales? It'd probably cost a lot to save them, and with that much money you could save people!” Until the youngest whale was shown to be ill, then I did. I guess that illustrates the Near vs Far distinction even though that wasn't the point!

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 18 February 2013 03:11:32AM 3 points [-]

I hypothesize this is due to the fact that many more people are actually raped than murdered.

I think this has to do with the way we handle things related to sex, for example, if we were having this discussion 100 years ago, we might be talking about why portrayals of adultery are unacceptable in contexts where portrails of murder would be.

Comment author: army1987 18 February 2013 07:28:32PM 2 points [-]

I agree with your conclusion, but that particular example doesn't counterexemplify my point because I guess many more people were actually cuckolded than murdered!

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 February 2013 01:25:14AM 7 points [-]

Apology accepted. I hadn't thought about it that way, but I can see how you could have filed it under "generic hyperbolic obnoxious".

At the time, I was just too tired of discussing gender issues to be more direct about that part of the video.

Looking at the discussion a year and a half later, I was somewhat amazed at the range of reactions to the video. Apropo of a recent facebook discussion about the found cat and lotteries, there might be a clue about why people use imprecise hyperbolic language so much-- it's more likely to lead to action. I've also noticed that it doesn't necessarily feel accurate to describe strong emotions in outside view accurate language.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 February 2013 02:31:56AM 6 points [-]

There ought to be something intelligent and abstract to say about filtering mechanism conflicts, but I can't think of what it might be right now. E.g., a mention once came up of os-tans on HN, someone said "What's an os-tan?", I posted a link to a page of OS-tans, and then replies complained that the page was NSFW and needed a warning. I was like "What? All those os-tans are totally safe for work, I checked". Turns out there was a big ol' pornographic ad at the top of the page which my eyes had probably literally skipped over, as in just never saccaded there.

That Courage Wolf video probably has a pretty different impact depending on whether or not you automatically skip over and mostly don't even notice all the bad parts.

And in another ten years a naked person walking down the street will be invisible.

Comment author: lukeprog 19 February 2013 10:52:54PM 8 points [-]

Turns out there was a big ol' pornographic ad at the top of the page which my eyes had probably literally skipped over

Sometimes I fail to include NSFW tags because I use an adblocker, so NSFW ads don't appear for me.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 February 2013 03:27:12AM 2 points [-]

And in another ten years a naked person walking down the street will be invisible.

Huh?! I wonder if this is another instance of Eliezer not realizing how atypical the bay area is.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 February 2013 04:07:50AM 2 points [-]

Science fiction reference-- I think it's to Kurland's The Unicorn Girl.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 17 February 2013 08:03:01PM 4 points [-]

There was that discussion of ignoring good test results from a member of a group if you already believe that they're bad at whatever was being tested.

here

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 February 2013 10:03:46AM *  5 points [-]

My default is to assume that men and women are pretty similar.

How do you reconcile this view with the way questions of tone have become entangled with gender issues in this very thread?

There was that discussion of ignoring good test results from a member of a group if you already believe that they're bad at whatever was being tested. (They were referred to as blues, but it seemed to be a reference to women and math.) It was a case of only identifying with the gatekeeper.

It was also an extremely straightforward application of Bayes's theorem.

No thought about the unfairness

The problem is that the concept of "fairness" you are using there is incompatible with VNM-utilitarianism. (If somebody disagrees with this, please describe what the term in one's utility function corresponding to fairness would look like.)

I'm not sure how much anyone has been convinced that women have actual points of view

Where has anyone claimed they don't? At least beyond the general rejection of qualia?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 February 2013 07:08:54PM *  7 points [-]

My default is to assume that men and women are pretty similar.

How do you reconcile this view with the way questions of tone have become entangled with gender issues in the very thread?

I was surprised at how strongly some people (probably mostly women) are uncomfortable with the tone here, so I have a lot to update.

I don't like emoticons much-- I don't hate people who use them, but I use emoticons very rarely, and I'm not comfortable with them. I still find it hard to believe that if people do something a lot, there's a reasonable chance (if they aren't being paid) that they like it a lot, even though I can't imagine liking whatever it is.

I don't know what proportion of people are apt to interpret lack of overt friendliness as dislike, nor what the gender split is.

In the spirit of exploration, I took a look at Ravelry, a major knitting and crocheting blog. I haven't found major discussions there yet. I'm interested in examples of blogs with different emotional tones/courtesy rules/gender balances.

Now that I think about it, blogs that are mostly women may be more likely to have overt statements of strong friendship and support. I believe that sort of effusiveness is partly cultural-- wasn't more common for both men and women at least from the colonial era (US) to the Victorian era?

There was that discussion of ignoring good test results from a member of a group if you already believe that they're bad at whatever was being tested. (They were referred to as blues, but it seemed to be a reference to women and math.) It was a case of only identifying with the gatekeeper.

It was also an extremely straightforward application of Bayes's theorem.

That depends on how much you demand of your priors, and low quality priors is something that makes me nervous about Bayes.

For this particular case, there's no examination of how much variance on the high side people get on tests. In particular, it seems very unlikely that people will get scores much above their baseline on tests about any sophisticated subject, though various factors (illness and other distractions) could drive their scores below their baseline.

What's VHF Utilitarianism? Is there any utilitarian cost to some capable people giving up because they believe rightly that their accomplishments will be discounted?

I'm not sure how much anyone has been convinced that women have actual points of view

Where has anyone claimed they don't? At least beyond the general rejection of qualia?

My language may have been hyperbolic and/or vague. I was thinking of "creepiness = low status" which sounds to me like "it's so unfair that women don't want to spend time with men they're uncomfortable around". In this case, I was thinking "lack of point of view", but "preferences are irrelevant" might be more accurate.

Comment author: ESRogs 16 February 2013 09:07:18AM 6 points [-]

I think I've interpreted "creepiness = low status" as, "it's unfair that low-status men get labeled as creepy for behavior that high-status men would get away with."

Of course, one could respond that making people at least feel comfortable around you is an easy way to improve your status. :)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 16 February 2013 09:16:23AM 4 points [-]

Of course, one could respond that making people at least feel comfortable around you is an easy way to improve your status. :)

That's a large part of what PUA attempts to do.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 16 February 2013 09:15:08AM 4 points [-]

My language may have been hyperbolic and/or vague. I was thinking of "creepiness = low status" which sounds to me like "it's so unfair that women don't want to spend time with men they're uncomfortable around".

Well is it unfair?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 16 February 2013 03:16:12AM 4 points [-]

What's VHF Utilitarianism?

A typo, I meant VNM Utilitarianism.

Is there any utilitarian cost to some capable people giving up because they believe rightly that their accomplishments will be discounted?

Well, this depends on the exact circumstances, but this may happen to the people who got unlucky on the test anyway, and using a better predictor decreases the number of people who get mischaracterized.

Comment author: Nisan 16 February 2013 08:24:14AM 6 points [-]

Is this comment a satire?

In any case, the remark about the von Neumann-Morgenstern theorem is just wrong.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 15 February 2013 03:55:43PM 4 points [-]

How do you reconcile this view with the way questions of tone have become entangled with gender issues in the very thread?

When the difference IS the topic, that tends to amplify the relevance of the differences.

Comment author: Athrelon 15 February 2013 04:15:03PM *  3 points [-]

Then why is it that this difference, out of the many dimensions of differences that form up humankind, and the multitude of interest-group formation patterns that could have been generated, is the one that gets so much attention? It would be bizarre if an unbiased deliberation process systematically decides that one unremarkable axis (gender) is the one difference that should be discussed at great length and with very vigorous champions, while ignoring all of the other axes of diversity of human minds.

Now it is possible for one unremarkable axis to become overwhelmingly dominant in coalition formation, but that would involve some fairly unpleasant implications about the truth-seekiness and utilitarian consequences of this sort of thinking.

Comment author: MugaSofer 19 February 2013 01:40:13PM 1 point [-]

LW has been the first place which has given me the impression that men and women are opposed groups.

[...]

LW was the first place I've been where women caring about their own interests is viewed as a weird inimical trait which it's only reasonable to subvert, and I'm talking about PUA.

Could you give some examples? I'm having trouble thinking of any.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 February 2013 03:37:06AM 7 points [-]

A friend of mine read this thread-- she has long experience as a Quaker, a religion where at least a lot of people do substantial work to figure out how to deal well with each other and get work done.

Unfortunately, she doesn't want to post here because she hates scoring systems. They make her feel like she's being graded. I'm seriously hoping that other rationality blogs with different structures and populations evolve.

Anyway, she made a couple of points that I haven't seen in the discussion-- the definition of niceness that she grew up with included gifts and mutual aid. She said that women talk/post differently when they're away from men-- directly and without emoticons. I haven't spent enough time in all-women groups to have an opinion about this.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 16 February 2013 11:07:45PM 4 points [-]

women talk/post differently when they're away from men-- directly and without emoticons. I haven't spent enough time in all-women groups to have an opinion about this.

A data point: My friend often writes on a "website for mothers", and they have a lot of emoticons (and animated!) and use them often. (Here; ignore the language, just click on a few random articles and scroll down to comments.)

I would say that some women speak and write as your friend describes (simply because not all women are the same), but many women use the "feminine" way of speech/writing, and it's not only when men are present. Perhaps for some of them this is natural, and others only use it strategically in presence of men.

Comment author: drethelin 16 February 2013 09:33:40AM 1 point [-]

it's probably not good that whenever I hear about people like that I feel a flash of contempt and a thought of "Good riddance" goes through my head.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 February 2013 12:57:35PM 5 points [-]

It's at least worth finding out what the premises are behind your reaction.

I don't think her reaction makes a tremendous amount of sense, at least as she explains it. Nonetheless, she's an intelligent, interesting, and well-informed person, and I don't think the world would be a worse place if there were a rationality blog without a scoring system.

I've spent a fair amount of time in venues with and without scoring, and I don't see any correlation with the quality of the discussion.

Comment author: Vive-ut-Vivas 18 February 2013 01:00:26AM *  2 points [-]

I don't think her reaction makes a tremendous amount of sense, at least as she explains it.

I do, and I didn't have any kind of dysfunctional upbringing. I agree with your friend, and if such a place existed, I would enjoy participating there.

It's possible to be intelligent and interested in rationality, but uninterested in being constantly graded and judged.

Comment author: Bugmaster 21 February 2013 10:23:25PM *  5 points [-]

FWIW, I am a man, but I too find the Less Wrong community to be emotionally detached and unfriendly. That's why I like it. If my beliefs are wrong, then it's critical that I discover this as soon as possible, and it's refreshing to know that at least some of the thoughts I post will be combed through by unfriendly people who are determined to tear them apart -- on an intellectual rather than emotional level.

Furthermore, if I told people, "I'm more of a thinker than a feeler" (or vice versa), and they consistently responded with, "no dude, you're definitely more of a feeler" (ditto), I'd consider this valuable information, and ask to see some evidence. I know how I personally see myself, but that's just one data point, and an unreliable one at that.

Edited to add:

I should clarify that I'm speaking purely for myself here -- and not for all men, all LWers, all male LWers, or anything of the sort.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 February 2013 04:53:13AM 16 points [-]

Warning- Submitters were told to not hold back for politeness. You are allowed to disagree, but these are candid comments; if you consider candidness impolite, I suggest you not read this post

I find this warning ironic given the nature of the complaints that are subsequently expressed.

Comment author: Argency 15 February 2013 07:20:09AM 3 points [-]

I think there is an important difference between the two situations. The statements posted above were solicited by a third party, somebody who asked for candid responses, and who in turn posted a warning before releasing the statements into the community, open to all and without targeting any individual.

The coldness which these statements mention (among other things) is unsolicited, directed against individuals, and comes un-buffered by warning or apology. That seems to be why their complaint with it.

I understand that you're probably just making a light-hearted throwaway comment.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 February 2013 09:34:35AM 13 points [-]

The statements posted above were solicited by a third party, somebody who asked for candid responses,

Yes, but it was understood that the responses candor was not directed at the solicitor.

I understand that you're probably just making a light-hearted throwaway comment.

Actually I had a serious point, that the statement constituted a tacit admission of the importance of candor to a rational discussion. If the above sentence was your attempt at a disclaimer, it back-fired horribly.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 February 2013 04:47:32AM 10 points [-]

The mistake goes like this:

I'd say something about myself.

They'd disagree with me.

I agree this can be annoying, on the other hand someone with an outside view can notice things about us that we ourselves might not. Remember, the fundamental attribution error goes both ways.

Comment author: Sarokrae 15 February 2013 06:41:57PM *  9 points [-]

I agree with this. I find about 50% (very rough estimate) of the time when I say "I think this is what is going on in my head" and my OH disagrees, he's right and I'm wrong. I usually to have a strong tendency to rationalise, and I don't think I'd be close to how successful I am with Alicorn-style luminosity without that sort of outside input (though admittedly I'm still pretty bad - that stuff is hard!). I reciprocate when he introspects as well.

I do still find it annoying and instinctively argue back, but results spoke for themselves when I turned out to be wrong, and now I welcome it as an overall positive-utility interaction even though it still annoys me on an instinctive level.

Comment author: Pfft 15 February 2013 09:32:42PM 4 points [-]

I don't think I'd be close to how successful I am with Alicorn-style luminosity without that sort of outside input

This nicely dovetails with Alicorn's luminosity origin story: people in her life refused to believe claims about her own mental states, and this experience was so intolerable that she resolved to become an obvious expert on mental states. Now the circle is... complete?

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 15 February 2013 04:52:08AM 9 points [-]

I don't believe that you believe this. (See? Wasn't that annoying?)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 February 2013 09:21:49AM 22 points [-]

Actually, it was helpful. Rereading my comment I noticed it sounds like I'm trying to say that on the whole the boyfriends' behavior is positive; whereas, I meant to imply that it's mostly negative, but occasionally has redeeming features.

Comment author: atorm 15 February 2013 01:55:47PM 10 points [-]

I annoy my partner with this sort of thing regularly. Perhaps I should stop. On the other hand, there have been several times in my life when other people (therapists, relatives, friends) more accurately assessed my behavior than I did at the time. Just because this behavior is annoying doesn't mean that the person doing it is incorrect. I don't buy the "How could you possibly know me better than I know myself" argument.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 15 February 2013 06:56:47PM 5 points [-]

Just because this behavior is annoying doesn't mean that the person doing it is incorrect.

Agreed. But just because it might be correct doesn't mean it isn't annoying (which is the point I'm trying to make).

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 February 2013 03:00:52PM 3 points [-]

My tentative take is that it's less annoying if you have specific evidence rather than a general principle that people can't really be like that. Or possibly if you say something like, "I'm surprised-- what do you have in mind?".

Comment author: Rukifellth 15 February 2013 05:54:29AM *  6 points [-]

He probably did find it annoying, though I can't imagine that comment working the way you intended. His main justification for "biting the bullet" is going to be that biases could hinder a useful analysis. In this case, useful analysis is the thing that lets a person pause and think "this person isn't just against me., he's trying to tell me something". Since you didn't provide a useful analysis of why he didn't actually believe that, you managed to annoy him without actually demonstrating that annoyance is a valid response.

The disregard of annoyance as a valid response can be attributed to people at LW being encouraged to ignore their own emotions in situations like above, based on the idea that most misunderstandings are based on emotional biases that cloud proper thinking.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 15 February 2013 06:05:36AM *  3 points [-]

you managed to annoy him without actually demonstrating that annoyance is a valid response.

Disagree. When Eugine reads the first sentence of what I said above, he's going to be annoyed whether or not I follow up the sentence with an explanation. It was an annoying sentence.

It is good to try not to be affected by the emotional valence of statements, but it is also good to recognize that your statements have emotional valences (and that you can control these). We should optimize for making [helpful comments] and making [comments that give other people the opportunity to test their ability to resist letting emotional biases cloud their judgment] separately.

Comment author: Rukifellth 15 February 2013 06:15:42AM *  2 points [-]

but it is also good to recognize that your statements have emotional valences (and that you can control these).

So it was an explanation-by-demonstration.

Comment author: jooyous 16 February 2013 12:21:09AM *  2 points [-]

I agree that this happens but I think it's not nice to point it out unless the user has specifically requested it? If you think it's important to point out, then starting with questions and asking permission to offer input are more respectful and effective ways to communicate

For example, I will sometimes respond to a direct question about feelings or emotional states, and people will jump in to tell me I am rationalitying wrong. Even though I made no mention of how I handled that emotional state or what my actions were! I was just reporting on the initial situation. It's in those times that people usually just tell me to think/do what I usually do and it's arrogant and not particularly insightful. =/

Comment author: MugaSofer 20 February 2013 11:01:18AM 2 points [-]

I can't speak for your experience in this case, but this is, after all, a rationality/unbiasing site. If they think you're Doing It Wrong, then it's not exactly offtopic to point it out.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 February 2013 02:06:14PM *  6 points [-]

On Submitter A

You can expect that attractive people to get more attention from those attracted to them, including sexual attention, anywhere you go, including LW meetings.

I agree that sneering comments about those with low status, particularly status based on physical health and beauty, are unnecessary and harmful.

On male/female generalizations, just as a matter of language generalizations are generally taken as statistical generalizations, not as statements holding true for absolutely every member of the group.

I realize that's probably not so helpful, since there is no discernible difference between 51% and 99.999%. Wouldn't it be helpful if people tossed out a number to indicate an estimated sort rate of a generalization? Men are more X than women. Some kind of mutual relative entropy measure on their ranks? Area of the receiver operator curve? Jefrey's divergence! But I digress.

you don't convert people to rationality by talking about such emotive topics.

I don't think you hold the interest of people interested in rationality by saying "we like rationality, but we're not rational enough to discuss particular topics that happen to be ones you're likely to find important, so we taboo those topics".

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 February 2013 03:06:35PM 5 points [-]

I strongly agree that people who talk about differences between men and women should say something about how large the difference is and the amount of overlap. I would also welcome some mention of how much evidence they have.

Comment author: Zaine 15 February 2013 04:07:29AM 4 points [-]

I think learning how to constructively criticise whilst signalling that one intends to constructively criticise a very worthy skill. If one knows how some thing critical, and perhaps other things not critical could be said more nicely, it would be to the benefit of all for one to share their knowledge or opinion of that tact.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 15 February 2013 02:51:55AM 9 points [-]

Thanks for posting this! I agree with Submitter B that LW can be cold and unfriendly and that this seems to be a general failure mode of the kind of people who post on LW. I think people feel like they shouldn't post a comment unless it either contains an insight or a counterargument to someone else's argument and that to counter this we should cultivate a norm of upvoting nice comments.

Comment author: Vaniver 15 February 2013 03:13:42AM 20 points [-]

I think people feel like they shouldn't post a comment unless it either contains an insight or a counterargument to someone else's argument and that to counter this we should cultivate a norm of upvoting nice comments.

While I am personally actively trying to become more warm and friendly in my personal demeanor, and think that nicer comments are, ceteris paribus, more effective comments, I worry about seeking to institute niceness as a terminal rather than instrumental value. If one comes to LW for refined insights, they want to see insights and counterarguments, and posts and comments that are nice but not insightful are not particularly useful.

But it does seem like niceness as a terminal value is strongly linked to a more balanced gender ratio. Increased niceness will attract more women, and attracting more women will increase the amount of niceness.

It seems that the current population of LW undervalues niceness relative to the general population, but I can't tell if that's necessary or contingent. How would we know?

Comment author: savageorange 15 February 2013 06:19:52AM *  10 points [-]

Personally I feel quite strongly that 'niceness' is way too vague a concept to in any way promote, no matter the social context.

I'd like to talk instead about the value of comments that are specific, positive (+ hopefully warm, without gushing), and cooperative. In short, creating a norm of definite, positive, 'working together to work out what's true' attitudes. I think it is fine to make comments that only express approval, as long as it is approval of a specific behaviour / characteristics and not blanket 'good job'. These kinds of specific comments help people evaluate themselves and encourage them to continue doing what works.

LessWrong is not a debate club -- we're trying to approach the truth, not merely win the argument. That means that things which keep us working together on that are a net win, providing they do not obscure the truth.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 15 February 2013 03:48:59AM 12 points [-]

Good points! I also find it difficult to balance niceness with usefulness in textual comments.

One thing that may be on some folks' mind is that expressions of appreciation that don't also add something empirical or logical to the discussion are not likely to themselves be appreciated. If you post something I appreciate, and I comment to say merely "I'm glad you posted that!" I would expect that hardly anybody but you would be glad that I posted that.

I suppose that I could send a private message instead, but I would feel a little bit creepy sending a private message of appreciation to someone I don't know. I think I'd be more reluctant to send one to someone I thought of as a woman than someone I thought of as a man, too. (I don't endorse that behavior, but I suspect I have it.)

I wonder if the existence of voting as a way of expressing "mere" approval or disapproval disproportionately affects expressions of approval. Downvoting as an expression of mere disagreement is somewhat frowned upon; so do people upvote to agree and comment to disagree?

Comment author: Vaniver 15 February 2013 04:15:15AM 9 points [-]

I suppose that I could send a private message instead, but I would feel a little bit creepy sending a private message of appreciation to someone I don't know.

I have sent several messages like; to the best of my knowledge, they have always been taken well. Every message I've received like that has made my day; I suggest lowering your estimate of how creepy it actually is.

I do agree with you that such messages are murkier when at least one party could interpret it as romantic, and while that murkiness can be resolved it takes additional effort.

Downvoting as an expression of mere disagreement is somewhat frowned upon; so do people upvote to agree and comment to disagree?

That tends to be the pattern I notice for posts/comments that seem to be well-made; generally, more disagreeing / correcting comments than downvotes, and many more upvotes than comments that only express approval.

Comment author: lucidian 15 February 2013 05:14:27AM *  14 points [-]

I agree with your second paragraph completely, and I would be averse to comments whose only content was "niceness". I'm on LW for intellectual discussions, not for feel-goodism and self-esteem boosts.

I think it's worth distinguishing niceness from respect here. I define niceness to be actions done with the intention of making someone feel good about him/herself. Respect, on the other hand, is an appreciation for another person's viewpoint and intelligence. Respect is saying "We disagree on topic X, but I acknowledge that you are intelligent, you have thought about X in detail, and you have constructed sophisticated arguments which took me some thought to refute. For these reasons, even though we disagree, I consider you a worthwhile conversation-partner."

When I began this comment with "I agree with your second paragraph", I wasn't saying it to be nice. I wasn't trying to give fubarobfusco warm fuzzy happiness-feelings. I was saying it because I respect fubarobfusco's thoughts on this matter, to the point where I wanted to comment and add my own elaborations to the discussion.

There's not much purpose to engaging in an intellectual discussion with someone who doesn't respect your ideas. If they're not even going to listen to what you have to say, or consider that you might be correct, then what's the point? So I think respect is integral to intellectual discussions, and therefore it's worthwhile to demonstrate it verbally in comments. But I consider this completely separate from complimenting people for the sake of being nice.

It sounds like part of what Submitter B is complaining about is lack of respect. The guys she dated didn't respect her intellect enough to believe assertions she made about her internal experiences. I suspect this is a dearth of respect that no quantity of friendliness can remedy.

(For what it's worth, I'm female, albeit a rather distant outlier. I'd emphatically prefer that "niceness" not become a community norm. For me, it takes a lot of mental effort to be nice to people (because I have to focus on my internal model of their feelings, as well as on the discussion at hand), and I get annoyed when people are gratuitously nice to me. This post makes me wonder if I'm unusual among LW females in holding this opinion.)

Comment author: Vaniver 15 February 2013 05:39:02AM 7 points [-]

It sounds like part of what Submitter B is complaining about is lack of respect. The guys she dated didn't respect her intellect enough to believe assertions she made about her internal experiences. I suspect this is a dearth of respect that no quantity of friendliness can remedy.

That's a good interpretation, but I wonder if status is a simpler lens. Defining people and their traits is a high-status thing; the guy retorting that she's a thinker moves power from her to him in a way that suggesting wouldn't.

Respect also seems subjective; I have basically stopped stating opinions around a friend whose rationality I do not respect because I don't think discussing contentious subjects with them is a good use of either of our times. If they say that they're a good judge of character, and I can think of three counterexamples, I'll only state those counterexamples if I respect them enough to think they can handle it.

I also wonder about how much respect is subject-specific, and how much it's global. I can easily imagine someone who I trust when it comes to mathematics but don't trust when it comes to introspection.

Comment author: Error 15 February 2013 02:06:03PM 3 points [-]

If they say that they're a good judge of character, and I can think of three counterexamples, I'll only state those counterexamples if I respect them enough to think they can handle it.

This made me think of something irrelevant to your post, but relevant to the topic. I've been told that women are socialized not to overtly disagree with or otherwise oppose men. (this usually comes up in the context of careful date non-refusals) I tend to interpret such things as vaguely insulting, along the lines of saying I can't handle the truth. (or refusal)

Is this interpretation shared by anyone here? What do the women here think of it?

Comment author: Vaniver 15 February 2013 05:52:04PM 2 points [-]

I've been told that women are socialized not to overtly disagree with or otherwise oppose men.

Avoiding overt disagreements is solid advice for anyone who wants to be well-liked, because they are often a social cost to the disagreer, and primarily benefit the person they're disagreeing with.

It's not clear to me that the advice to not overtly disagree with men is as specific as it sounds, since it seems like overt female-female disagreements are also discouraged. To the extent that it is specific, I do suspect it is due to the physical risks involved.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 15 February 2013 05:37:02AM 9 points [-]

Your comment has me wondering whether some folks expect niceness and respect to correlate. I've noticed some social contexts where fake niceness seems to be expected to cloak lack of respect. I wouldn't be surprised if some people around here are embittered from experiences with that.

It sounds like part of what Submitter B is complaining about is lack of respect. The guys she dated didn't respect her intellect enough to believe assertions she made about her internal experiences. I suspect this is a dearth of respect that no quantity of friendliness can remedy.

No kidding.

(And I'm having difficulty responding to the rest of this without using unhelpful words such as "normals" or "mundanes", so I'll leave it at that.)

Comment author: Plasmon 15 February 2013 07:03:09AM *  2 points [-]

The human brain is fallible. That includes assertions made about internal experiences - such assertions may be wrong. If person A has reason X to believe that the result of person B's introspection is wrong, which is the more respectful course of action?

  • person A : person B, your account of your internal experiences may be wrong because of X.
  • person A : meh, person B can't handle the truth, I'll just shut up and say nothing.
Comment author: fubarobfusco 15 February 2013 07:37:54AM *  8 points [-]

How about a third option:

  • Person A : Person B, my model predicted Y because of evidence X. But your experience sounds like ~Y, so I was surprised and want to update. Tell me more about your ~Y experiences!

In other words, consider that the other person possesses evidence that you do not, and invite them to update you instead of trying to update them.

A non-gender example:

Atheist: Pentecostal, my model predicted that people would go home from church feeling bored, guilty, or self-righteous, because former church people I know talk about those experiences, and church people who are active in politics seem to be big on guilt and self-righteousness. But your experience sounds like church is a fun party, that you go home from feeling giddy and high. I was surprised and want to update. Tell me more about your religious experiences!

Comment author: Plasmon 15 February 2013 11:11:56AM 2 points [-]

Indeed I agree that it is possible, and probably desirable, to phrase the argument less bluntly than I did. However, it seems to me that submitter B is arguing against making such arguments at all, not arguing to make them in a more polite fashion.

Furthermore, here of all places, "If you (think you) posses evidence that I do not, show it and update me!" should be a background assumption, not something that needs to be put as a disclaimer on any potentially-controversial statement.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 15 February 2013 02:43:02PM 3 points [-]

I rather doubt that submitter B would have had a problem with, "Really? Why? I ask because from out here it seems like you're a thinker."

Certainly the cited reasons for the actual statement being objectionable do not apply to this modified form.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 February 2013 01:00:58PM 4 points [-]

In other words, consider that the other person possesses evidence that you do not, and invite them to update you instead of trying to update them.

My communicating my differing perception to the other person in Option 1 is my invitation to have them update me.

Going through the song and dance of your third option is not required with some people, making them more efficient partners at finding the truth. I find people who require constant ego stroking in this manner, or who give it, literally tiresome in an intellectual endeavor.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 15 February 2013 02:41:01PM *  4 points [-]

It seems to me that flat contradiction without any communication of being open to being convinced is a strongly suboptimal invitation to update the speaker. This is especially so in cases of strongly asymmetric information (either direction).

'Song and dance' appears to me to be a dysphemism (perhaps unintentional) for 'communicating what you mean' as opposed to 'indicating something in the general vein and hoping the receiver figures out what you meant'.

Edited to add: option A is much more reasonable than I credited it, so while I'll stand by my first paragraph above, it's not particularly relevant to the post above. And yes, option 3 could be streamlined.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 February 2013 03:16:02PM *  5 points [-]

It seems to me ...

It works just fine with a lot of people.

without any communication of being open to being convinced

For me, you can take that I'm open to being convinced as the null hypothesis. Most civilized people are. Aren't you?

dysphemism

Thank you! I've been looking for that word forever.

'Song and dance' appears to me to be a to be a dysphemism (perhaps unintentional) for 'communicating what you mean'

Not really, because 'communicating what you mean' was not what I meant. I was referring to kabuki dance of your ritualized formula for disagreement to stroke a person's ego so that he doesn't feel a threat to his status by my disagreeing with him.

I don't think the fellow is really confused about whether I'm open to being convinced of the error of my ways. If I say "I think you're wrong because of X", does not the human impulse to reciprocity sanction and invite him to respond in kind?

Does that fellow really need it explained to him that if I disagree with him on when the bus is coming, that he is free and invited to disagree with me right back? I don't think so.

He: The bus is coming at 3:00.
Me: No, it's coming at 3:10; that's when I caught it yesterday.
He: But yesterday was Friday. Saturday has a different schedule.

That seems like an everyday, ordinary human conversation to me, that no one should get all excited or offended about.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 15 February 2013 10:47:56PM *  3 points [-]

My communicating my differing perception to the other person in Option 1 is my invitation to have them update me.

Well, except that you would not be actually stating an invitation or request for more information. You would be assuming that the other person will interpret contradiction as an invitation for further discussion rather than as a dismissal, insult, threat, or other sort of speech act.

(Humans use language for a lot of other purposes besides the merely indicative, after all.)

If you say, "I'm having a party on Saturday," some people in some situations will take this to mean that you are thereby inviting them to come to the party. Others will think that you are merely stating a fact about your own social life. Still others will think that you are excluding them, just as if you had added, "... and you're not invited, you disgusting worm!"

Some people hear an invitation. Some hear a statement of fact. Some hear an exclusionary insult.

If you want to make it clear that you are inviting them, you say, "I'm having a party on Saturday, would you like to come?" or "... and you're invited!"

This is not bullshit song-and-dance ego-stroking. It is clear communication, and in particular a way to address people's differing priors about what your communication could mean. It probably depends on recognizing that people have different priors, and that they arrived at those priors legitimately.

(For that matter, if expressing curiosity about other people's experiences is an effective way to get data from them, then rationalists should practice doing it a lot until it is automatic and cheap System 1 behavior!)

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 February 2013 11:19:32PM *  2 points [-]

You would be assuming that the other person will interpret contradiction as an invitation for further discussion rather than as a dismissal, insult, threat, or other sort of speech act.

Yes. In this context, and most contexts, that's my null hypothesis. Isn't it yours? People are here to discuss, and not dismiss, insult, or threaten.

Do you think I'm here to dismiss, insult, or threaten people? Do you think a large percentage of people here are? Do you think that anyone who says "you're wrong" is? That strikes me as a bizarre and thoroughly inaccurate prior. Or I certainly believe and hope it is.

Am I wrong? Is it just foolish innocence on my part to think that people are here to discuss, and not stomp on other people to social climb or satisfy sadistic impulses? It wouldn't be the first time. In other contexts, yeah, there's a lot of that going on. And it admittedly took me a long time to figure that out. But I don't see it here. The trouble is, if it were, most of the people who know aren't going to tell you.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 February 2013 10:33:51PM 2 points [-]

After the discussion, I think I've got a more concise option that achieves this end.

Option 4:
I disagree, because blah blah blah.

Concise, and makes it about my differing perceptions and evaluations. Better than my original "you're wrong, because blah blah." I doubt that this entirely satisfies the nice camp, but I think it's a baby step in their direction.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 15 February 2013 02:57:31PM *  3 points [-]

I think you are framing the question in order to presuppose a conclusion. This is an error that is just as endemic on LessWrong as it is everywhere else.

If person A has reason X to believe that the result of person B's introspection is wrong, which is the more respectful course of action?

  • person A : person B, your account of your internal experiences may be wrong because of X.
  • person A : meh, person B can't handle the truth, I'll just shut up and say nothing.

The first alternative is designed to look nice, respectful, and false, and the second to look nasty, disrespectful, and true. The bottom line is "Niceness is dishonesty", and the example was invented to support it.

Compare this with an example from the original post:

For a specific example, I was asked whether I was more of a thinker or feeler and I said I was pretty balanced. He retorted that I was more of a thinker.

This does not fall into either of those categories. It looks like this:

  • person A: no you're not!

Which is what person A would say if they spoke honestly while thinking "meh, person B can't handle the truth, I'll just shut up and say nothing." Person A appears to be running an internal monologue that goes: "I know the truth. You do not know the truth. I have reasons for my beliefs, therefore I am right. Therefore your reasons for your beliefs must be wrong. Therefore you should take correction from me. If you don't, you're even more wrong. You can't handle the truth. I can handle the truth. Therefore I am right. (continue on auto-repeat)"

That, at least, is what I see, when I see those two alternatives.

The real problem here is what person A is actually thinking, and the invisibility of that process to themselves. For it is written:

The way a belief feels from inside, is that you seem to be looking straight at reality.

As long as A is running that monologue, how to express themselves is going to look to them like a conflict between "niceness" and "truth". And however they express themselves, that monologue is likely to come through to B, because it will leak out all over.

Comment author: Plasmon 15 February 2013 04:50:26PM 2 points [-]

I was not arguing about the specific example given in the OP, where he (the person with whom submitter B was arguing) was apparently unable or unwilling to provide evidence for his assertion that she was mistaken about herself. You, and submitter B, may be entirely correct about the person she was arguing with.

Perhaps I am overestimating the sanity of this place, but I do hope (and expect) that if similar arguments occur on this forum, evidence will (should) be put forward. In this place dedicated, among other things, to awareness of the many failure modes of the human brain, to how you (yes you. And I, too) may be totally wrong about so many things, in this place, the hypothesis "I may be mistaken about myself; I should listen to the other person's evidence on this matter" is not a hypothesis that should be ignored. (note how submitter B does not consider this hypothesis in her example, and indeed she may have been correct to not consider it, but as stated I'm arguing in general here).

I am the one who has spent millions of minutes in this mind, able to directly experience what's going on inside of it. They have spent, at this point, maybe a few hundred minutes observing it from the outside, yet they act like they're experts.

The homeopath who has treated thousands of patients, should listen to the high-school chemistry student who has evidence that homeopathy doesn't work. The physics crackpot who has worked on their theory of everything for decades should listen to the student of physics who points out that it fails to predict the results of an experiment. And the human, who has spent all their life as a human in a human body, should listen to the student of psychology, who may know many things about themselves that they are yet ignorant of.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 February 2013 12:52:16PM 2 points [-]

Respect is saying "We disagree on topic X, but I acknowledge that you are intelligent, you have thought about X in detail, and you have constructed sophisticated arguments which took me some thought to refute. For these reasons, even though we disagree, I consider you a worthwhile conversation-partner."

Those are all things I'd have to discover about you. There are some here I consider worthwhile conversation partners because I recognize their usernames and have formed opinions of them.

I don't expect respect from people who don't know me, and I don't even expect it from those that do know me. I am not due respect from anyone, I have to earn it, by their lights.

Comment author: jdinkum 15 February 2013 07:40:50AM 4 points [-]

I believe the real issue that B. raised of LW being cold won't be effectively improved by posting "I agree!" replies, but requires some emotional involvement. A response that offers something to the OP, that gives something back.

Like, why do you agree? What are the implications of you agreeing? Or, what thoughts or emotions does the content of the post bring up for you? The response doesn't have to be long, but it should be personal and thoughtful.

A little bit more of that may go a long way towards developing community.

Comment author: jooyous 15 February 2013 07:27:39AM *  8 points [-]

I've posted a lot of messy examples all over this thread, but I think I've finally gathered my thinking now.

I would like to make a simple case that niceness clarifies communication. This is because not all disagreements are perfectly rational and sometimes contain defensiveness and other stuff that is difficult to filter out. Furthermore, even disagreements that are balanced and rational often fail to engage the original comment, and thus they come off as dismissive -- therefore, they unintentionally communicate "I don't respect you" or "I don't like you." Therefore, if it is difficult to predict whether your comment will unintentionally communicate "I don't like" you to the other person, then adding "but nevertheless I still like you" into what you said in some socially accepted way does increase the likelihood that what you wrote is perceived as what you meant to write.

Sometimes, this can be as small as a smiley. Or an exclamation mark. It doesn't have to be a crazy stream of niceties and smalltalk and hugs that them mundanes engage in on a daily basis in conversations of no substances because they're not cool like we are.

Comment author: lucidian 15 February 2013 08:13:50AM *  11 points [-]

Hmm, so I'm thinking about smileys and exclamation points now. I don't think they just demonstrate friendliness - I think they also connote femininity. I used to use them all the time on IRC, until I realized that the only people who did so were female, or were guys who struck me as more feminine as a result. I didn't want to be conspicuously feminine on IRC, so I stopped using smileys/exclamation points there.

It never bothered me when other people didn't use smileys/exclamations. But when I stopped using them on IRC, everything I wrote sounded cold or rude. I felt like I should put the smileys in to assure people I was happy and having a good time (just as I always smile in person so that people will know I'm enjoying myself). But no one else was using them, and they didn't strike me as unfriendly, so I decided to stop using them.

Until I saw this comment, I had forgotten that I had adjusted myself in this way! In light of this, I may have to take back some of my earlier comments, as it really does seem like culturally enforced gender differences are getting in the way here, and that LW has little tolerance for people who sound feminine (perhaps because of an association between femininity and irrationality, which I'll admit to being guilty of myself).

Do other people associate smileys and exclamations with feminity, or is it just me?

(EDIT: Now I'm thinking that smileys vs. lack thereof might also be a formality thing. I also limit the amount of smileys/exclamations that I put in work emails, because they seem overly friendly/informal for a professional context. LW feels more like a professional environment than a social gathering to me, I think.)

Comment author: jooyous 15 February 2013 08:21:50AM *  11 points [-]

Do other people associate smileys and exclamations with femininity, or is it just me?

Apparently! I started talking to someone about this and he just told me this exact thing independently of you. He said men can only use smileys with women because it's flirting. (??) Which is weird to me because I've met men who are WAY more animated than I am in meatspace. Do they also not use exclamation marks? I don't think I'd be able chat with them online if they didn't; my brain would explode.

But actually, I think this whole issue comes up because we subconsciously communicate a lot of those "I still like you! I'm not hostile! I'm still having a good time!" messages in meatspace through non-verbal things like smiles and pats and vocal tone, etc. So people that resist adding those into their text think they're being asked to do something extra that they never do, but I think, they do do it and just don't realize it because it comes more naturally.

Comment author: magfrump 15 February 2013 09:26:54PM 3 points [-]

I agree with you, but:

they do do it and just don't realize it because it comes more naturally.

I might suspect that for many people on Less Wrong this does not come as naturally as it does to most people :P

Comment author: mstevens 17 February 2013 10:08:43PM 5 points [-]

Okay, after threatening, I had a go at hacking up a smiley gender detector for lesswrong irc.

Looking at the counts of smileys-per-message by nick, no obvious pattern.

Looking at averages:

male avg 0.015764359871 female avg 0.0194180023583

The dataset I'm using is so male dominated I don't think the results can be particularly meaningful.

Comment author: daenerys 18 February 2013 12:52:01AM 3 points [-]

Also, the fact that LW itself isn't smiley friendly. An interesting project would be to gather data from the real life facebook pages of both males and females on LW and see if a discrepancy shows up there. People would have to volunteer their facebooks for you to look at which might cause a bit of a selection effect. (The less trusting/interpersonal types might be less likely to both volunteer their fb, and to use smileys)

The reason I say this, is because I severely limit my smiley usage on LW.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 18 February 2013 01:57:44AM 2 points [-]

How are you determining gender of users?

Comment author: mstevens 18 February 2013 10:29:26AM 4 points [-]

The number of female users is so small I just hardcoded known female nicks.

As I say, I don't think the results are particularly meaningful.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 15 February 2013 03:08:19PM *  3 points [-]

My associations... Well, first I check if the smiley significantly clarifies the tone of the comment. If so, I take that as the explanation.

Beyond that, I associate youth, extroversion, being hip to tech, and emotional openness.

This last has a tendency to be associated as feminine, though not particularly by me.

Comment author: jooyous 15 February 2013 08:43:17AM *  3 points [-]

RE: smileys in formal settings. I grew up speaking Russian, which is a language that has a formal-you pronoun, and I spent most of my school life feeling really weird writing "you" to adults in emails, because it felt too friendly and rude and presumptuous. Badly-raised child! I generally don't use smileys in professional emails unless the other person has used them first or I really want to make a nerdy joke. But sometimes that policy feels weird if your co-workers in meatspace are fun, joking, informal people. Why would you limit yourself with people if you know you don't have to?

Also, I will add this link to a relevant post you might find interesting, mostly because I didn't notice this until the author pointed it out but also because I'm proud that I managed to hunt it down. (It is unfortunately not that well-written and touches on a lot of mind-killer topics.)

Comment author: mstevens 15 February 2013 10:04:25AM 4 points [-]

we must create a smiley based gender detector! for science!

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 15 February 2013 04:35:42AM 2 points [-]

I worry about seeking to institute niceness as a terminal rather than instrumental value.

Rest assured we are in agreement about this. But I don't think a comment has to directly serve my terminal values to be worth upvoting.

Comment author: Vaniver 15 February 2013 05:10:10AM 2 points [-]

But I don't think a comment has to directly serve my terminal values to be worth upvoting.

Agreed, and I may be overbroadening "terminal value" by applying it as "things worth upvoting." A comment being "nice" makes it more likely that comment will be "helpful," and I think "helpful" comments are worth upvoting; do I think comments that are nice but not helpful are worth upvoting? Not really, and a policy to upvote for niceness alone won't capture that value judgment.

But it could be that niceness is the best cause or proxy for desired consequence, and thus is worthwhile.

Comment author: Konkvistador 15 February 2013 11:18:37AM *  22 points [-]

I think people feel like they shouldn't post a comment unless it either contains an insight or a counterargument to someone else's argument

Users who feel this way are one of the best features of the community.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 February 2013 08:14:11AM 5 points [-]

Describing what is good about something you like is an insight. It might even be an insight that's more challenging to achieve because in general there's more criticism than praise.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 17 February 2013 03:14:36PM *  6 points [-]

Schelling point for metacontrarian replies of the sort I currently don't feel like making but probably need to be made despite bad signalling.

Comment author: jooyous 15 February 2013 06:38:13AM *  3 points [-]

I would like to second the "clamoring for demonstrating awesomeness" attitude. I've had a few

What is your subjective experience?

It is this.

Psh, that's because you are clearly rationalitying wrong. You should rationality like this.

exchanges. Sometimes the original question wasn't even about overcoming brainflaws! I would love to see people be more okay with others demonstrating flaws/vulnerability -- that's friendliness!

Comment author: Larks 15 February 2013 03:35:59AM 3 points [-]

A bit of me wishes that the "no mindkiller topics" rule was enforced more strictly, and that we didn't discuss sex/gender issues ... We already rarely discuss politics, so would it be terrible to also discuss sex/gender issues as little as possible?

I agree - I think the weakening of the taboos against discussing politics and gender has been a seriously bad thing. The arguments used to establish these taboos are in retrospect unsatisfying (for example, the explicit argument used for the politics taboo did not support nearly as strong a taboo as we in practice actually had), so people can easily come up with plausible accounts of how we can avoid the ill the taboo prevented without needing the full force of the taboo. However, I think these accounts are poorly motivated; there are deeper reasons against discussing the mindkillers. Whilst a particular style of conversation might avoid the particular danger that attention was brought to, the underlying issue is still there, so other damage will be wrought instead.

I don't see much way to enforce this though, as it's a tragedy of the commons. My best guess is to persuade enough people to just reflexively downvote anything to do with object-level politics or gender (including posts masquerading as meta-level).

If I try to tell by the way people are acting, I'm half convinced that most of the people here think I'm a moron.

Perhaps comments suggest this (though I admit I generally find LW a very freindly place, so maybe we just read comments in a different mental tone of voice), but I think it's clear this is not true of karma. If your comments are being upvoted then, at least by the origional states interpretation of karma, people "want more of" your comments.

In general, in fact, most comments are upvoted; only the very worst are downvoted. Indeed, it tends to be the freindly, jokey comments, rather than serious ones, that get upvoted the most. This encourages people to post more and more, as they get the positive reinforcement, but the money-illusion (karma-illusion?) means they don't realise the currency is being debased.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 15 February 2013 03:39:28PM *  3 points [-]

Indeed, it tends to be the freindly, jokey comments, rather than serious ones, that get upvoted the most.

Not as far as I see. Funny gets upvoted a moderate amount, but they're overwhelmed by even the slightly upvoted serious contributions on account of their much greater frequency.

The best are comments which have serious implications presented with style - and, yes, sometimes with a touch of humor.

I don't see anything wrong with that.

Moreover, if people are self-censoring their only-decent humor but not their only-decent serious comments, that would produce the effect described.

Comment author: DaFranker 15 February 2013 09:27:31PM 3 points [-]

This comment is slightly off-topic, but...

I don't see much way to enforce this though, as it's a tragedy of the commons. My best guess is to persuade enough people to just reflexively downvote anything to do with object-level politics or gender (including posts masquerading as meta-level).

I just reflexively downvote anything which encourages reflexive and automatic downvoting of any pattern-matching filter. Oh wait, I can't downvote myself.

(note: I don't actually do this. I just really think it's a very silly thing to do to reflexively downvote for any broad subject. Downvote trolls and bad comments, not topics you don't like.)

Comment author: fubarobfusco 15 February 2013 03:59:22AM 2 points [-]

I agree - I think the weakening of the taboos against discussing politics and gender has been a seriously bad thing.

I currently do participate in politics discussions on LW and would endorse (and comply with) a return to the politics taboo.

Gender may be somewhat more difficult given that a few of the recent discussions have highlighted gender-essentialism problems in the sequences, which are unlikely to change. The connection between gender essentialism and the more pop-psych, status-quo-justifying emanations of evolutionary psychology is also hard to break. (This is an interesting current discussion of that subject.) So I don't think I can endorse tabooing gender issues, since it would taboo discussing some problems with the sequences which a lot of LWers take as background material.

Comment author: Vaniver 15 February 2013 05:05:56AM *  8 points [-]

I am of two minds about a taboo on gender issues. On the one hand, it seems tiresome and ineffectual to try and fix other people's mistaken conclusions on empirical questions if they hold them for political reasons. If someone thinks that the height distributions for men and women are equal because that's what they feel is the morally correct answer, then it seems unlikely that showing them the evidence will change their mind. They could have found it themselves if they had been interested, and so discussing it on-site is likely going to be a waste of the time of everyone involved. (For example, I wrote a long takedown of the piece you mentioned, which I've deleted and relegated to a few sentences at the end of this comment.)

But on the other hand, part of the reason why the politics taboo is helpful is because it extends into other parts of life. If you're an Apolitical Alan, you can be happier and focus your attention on more important things. One of the things that excited me when I first came to LW was that here was a bunch of fun things to think and talk about with a bunch of clever people, and those things were more exciting and useful than politics. If the politics taboo is just a "let's not talk about this at the dinner table, because it will interfere with our digestion," that's very different from a "politics is a suboptimal subject to spend your time and energy on. Here are some things you might prefer, and if you insist on continuing to talk about politics, do it elsewhere."

And so if we have a gender taboo, I would much rather it be a "your opinion on gender politics really doesn't matter, and to the extent you have one, you should be curious rather than idealistic" than a "let's not talk about gender politics because it might upset X." The first is dissolving politics; the second is surrendering to X.

This is an interesting current discussion of that subject.

Her claim that the biggest problem with evo psych is that it matches stereotypes doesn't seem very empirical. Notice that none of the examples that she gives in the meat of her article directly tie into her primary point that smashing stereotypes is desirable for science. Yes, lots of science is bad, psychology is worse than average, and evolutionary psychology is probably worse than psychology's average. But the primary substance of her claim should have been about the epistemic role that stereotypes should play as evidence. If some thing is true on average (say, men being taller), we should assign higher probability to the popular stereotype being that men are taller than to the popular stereotype being that men are shorter. Indeed, we find that stereotypes are mostly accurate, as outlined in this book.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 February 2013 01:16:08PM 16 points [-]

Technically, if we had a "taboo on gender issues", then even this article would not be allowed.

Which would be a pity. I like having information I would have problems getting otherwise, even if I don't know how to act on that information. I agree with descriptions of the problems. I just disagree with typical solutions, which seem to involve one-sided taboos (e.g. linking to PUA articles or speaking about differences between men and women is taboo, because that's political, but linking to non-radical feminist articles or asserting that there are no differences is OK, because that's, uhm, a consensus of some people).

Comment author: fubarobfusco 15 February 2013 05:46:49AM 4 points [-]

And so if we have a gender taboo, I would much rather it be a "your opinion on gender politics really doesn't matter, and to the extent you have one, you should be curious rather than idealistic" than a "let's not talk about gender politics because it might upset X." The first is dissolving politics; the second is surrendering to X.

Thing is, given the gender stuff in the sequences previously mentioned, it seems to me that communications intended to say the former would be likely to come across as "let's not talk about gender politics — and therefore, Eliezer's stuff about verthandi, boreana, catgirls, and the like, and various folks' side comments on ev.psych, are all allowed to stand unquestioned."

But the primary substance of her claim should have been about the epistemic role that stereotypes should play as evidence.

Eh? That seems rather unrelated.

Comment author: Vaniver 15 February 2013 06:12:03PM *  5 points [-]

it seems to me that communications intended to say the former would be likely to come across as

I think that gender is on topic when discussing fun theory, self-modification, and CEV, in ways that politics are on topic when discussing those things. I do agree that it might be worthwhile to try and rewrite articles that are problematic; the last I heard, the sequences were being edited to become a book, and that seems like a good time to attempt those changes.

Eh? That seems rather unrelated.

Is good science more likely to match or smash stereotypes? If you believe that stereotypes are Bayesian evidence for the ground truth, then good science is more likely to match stereotypes, and thus, science that smashes stereotypes is less likely to be good science. Now, this is still just Bayesian evidence, and enough studies that are done well can outweigh the hastily-made impressions of the public. The neat thing about this is that we can quantify the amount that we should believe in stereotypes; the linked article suggests anti-believing in stereotypes, without explicit justification as to why.

When someone encourages science to smash stereotypes, they need to be clear what methodological principle they have in mind. Without that, it reads like a political rallying cry, supplemented with ammunition used to kill enemy soldiers, rather than a serious suggestion by an empiricist.

For example, consider this study, and its rapid promotion by feminists. It was a single study, which was sprinkled with warnings that a single study doesn't prove anything, and that this was, to the best of the authors' knowledge, the only time this result had ever been observed, despite widespread experimentation. Glancing at it briefly, I found several components of their results that looked odd, and warranted investigation.

Separating what one wants to be true and what one believes to be true is a very important rationality skill, which should be applied to gender just as much to the rest of life.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 16 February 2013 07:12:50AM 2 points [-]

If you believe that stereotypes are Bayesian evidence for the ground truth, then good science is more likely to match stereotypes, and thus, science that smashes stereotypes is less likely to be good science.

Depends on what you mean by "stereotype".

If everyone says that Welsh corgis weigh less than one ton, that is good evidence that they do weigh less than one ton.

However, if a group of loud Greens says that Blues are whiny, I am not so sure that this is good evidence that Blues are whiny. I think it is more likely to be something other than evidence — for instance, a rhetorical tactic to encourage Greens to steal Blues' stuff and discourage Blues from complaining about it.

I expect there to be plenty of low-quality motivated search. That is not surprising. I also expect that if Greens hold a stereotype about the lived experience of Blues that is contrary to Blues' reports of their own lived experience, the Greens' stereotype is screened off as evidence by the Blues' experience.

Comment author: jdinkum 15 February 2013 07:14:32AM 3 points [-]

It feels like people are ten thousand times more likely to point out my flaws than to appreciate something I said. Also, there's >next to no emotional relating to one another.

I'm sorry, that sucks. I think you're right and hope this changes. I don't post very often, but when I do in the future, I'll be more aware of this.

Comment author: MugaSofer 19 February 2013 12:50:51PM 3 points [-]

A lot of guys I've dated in the last year have made the same creepy mistake. I think this is likely to be relevant because they're so much like LW members (most of them are programmers, their personalities are very similar and one of them had even signed up for cryo), and because I've seen some hints of this behavior on the discussions. I don't talk enough about myself here to actually bring out this "creepy" behavior (anticipation of that behavior is inhibiting me as well as not wanting to get too personal in public) so this could give you an insight that might not be possible if I spoke strictly of my experiences on LessWrong.

The mistake goes like this: I'd say something about myself. They'd disagree with me.

For a specific example, I was asked whether I was more of a thinker or feeler and I said I was pretty balanced. He retorted that I was more of a thinker. When I persist in these situations, they actually argue with me. I am the one who has spent millions of minutes in this mind, able to directly experience what's going on inside of it. They have spent, at this point, maybe a few hundred minutes observing it from the outside, yet they act like they're experts. If they said they didn't understand, or even that they didn't believe me, that would be workable. But they try to convince me I'm wrong about myself. I find this deeply disturbing and it's completely dysfunctional. There's no way a person will ever get to know me if he won't even listen to what I say about myself. Having to argue with a person over who I am is intolerable.

This may well be me overgeneralizing from the example, but that sounds to me like they saw you as choosing the less prestigious option, and were essentially trying to compliment you (maybe sincerely, maybe out of affection or whatever.) At least, that's how I would model myself saying something like that.

I've thought about this a lot trying to figure out what they're trying to do. It's never going to be a sexy "negative hit" to argue with me about who I am. Disagreeing with me about myself can't possibly count as showing off their incredible ability to see into me because they're doing the exact opposite: being willfully ignorant. Maybe they have such a need to box me into a category that they insist on doing so immediately.

I find all these "possibilities" quite insulting and, frankly, objectifying of men in the worst sense. We're not all PUA robots.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 21 February 2013 02:02:24PM 7 points [-]

What strikes me is that the straightforward (to me) interpretation never enters her mind - that he thought she was mistaken and said so.

It's quite interesting to see the thought process and compare it to my own. It reinforces my belief that just like Haidt's different moral modalities, there are different truth modalities, mainly epistemic versus social. When I'm talking, I'm mainly just sharing my model of reality. When many others talk, it's a "speech act", aimed at "handling" the listener.

When others talk, I'm listening for the model, because I'm modeling their behavior and intent using myself as a model (biggest mistake ever), and assuming they're trying to communicate their model. I think she is making the same mistake but from the social speech acts perspective, modeling his behavior and intent using herself as a model.

Maybe I should be doing that Harry thing more often, and developing a Social Person in my head, to at least query every now and again.

Comment author: Desrtopa 22 February 2013 10:34:00PM 4 points [-]

What strikes me is that the straightforward (to me) interpretation never enters her mind - that he thought she was mistaken and said so.

It doesn't seem to me like that possibility didn't occur to her, she's saying that it's absurd to draw that conclusion with as little data as they have, and offensive that they try and press it when she says otherwise.

I'd use an analogy of a physicist talking to yet another person who "has a theory" about quantum mechanics or relativity or whatever, which countless people think they're qualified to speculate on despite being fairly ignorant in physics. They explain it to the physicist, who tells them "Sorry, that's just not right." And their response to the physicist is "No, see, look..."

The physicist knows a hell of a lot more than they do about the subject, and it's trivializing the gap in their amounts of knowledge to press on and explain why they think they're right and the physicist is wrong without stopping to ask "How do you know that it's incorrect?"

Comment author: shminux 22 February 2013 11:17:47PM 6 points [-]

I am quite familiar with the physicist example, but the situation might be different here. People are notoriously bad at introspection, which lowers the difference between an amateur and an expert. Additionally, daenerys and the guy might be interpreting the question differently: she describes how she feels, he describes how she appears.

Comment author: Desrtopa 22 February 2013 11:33:25PM 3 points [-]

People do tend to be pretty bad at introspection, but if you feel that you're in a much better position to make a judgment than someone else, and they insist that you're wrong anyway, it's liable to feel pretty insulting.

A difference in interpretation seems like it should have been pretty easy to recognize, if the conversation carried on long (ordinary people can hammer out a confusion for ages, but I'd expect a Less Wrong member to be better at noticing "hey, it seems like we're talking about completely different things here.")

Comment author: buybuydandavis 23 February 2013 01:30:38PM 3 points [-]

She said:

I've thought about this a lot trying to figure out what they're trying to do.

She doesn't mention "he thought she was mistaken and said so" in her list of possibilities. If she thought of the obvious answer, why did she have to spend so much time pondering other motives for their actions?

Yes, she's saying it's absurd for others with limited knowledge of her to think they have knowledge about her that she doesn't. And she supposes no one does absurd things?

But I think her opinion that a stranger couldn't see something about someone else that the person themselves does not see is absurd in itself. A lot of people are not very self aware. And even people reasonably self aware are likely unaware of things a stranger would see in minutes. Some business school taped classroom interactions to show the students how they looked in the third person. The general take was that the class was both appalling and transformative, bringing things about themselves to their awareness that they had no clue about. Is there anyone who likes listening to their own message on their answering machine?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 February 2013 12:28:57PM *  1 point [-]

I have a few links that just keep giving on two prevalent and contrasting forms of discussion, often labeled as male/female styles, starting from a LW discussion that brought them up.

The comments about tone, friendliness, sharing yourself, etc., from Submitter B are what I would expect of people with the "female" mode in a forum dominated by the "male" mode.

http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/fvf/link_two_modes_of_discours

http://alastairadversaria.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/of-triggering-and-the-triggered-part-4/

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2012/12/intellectual-discourse-taking.html