Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Elithrion comments on LW Women: LW Online - Less Wrong Discussion

29 [deleted] 15 February 2013 01:43AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (590)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 February 2013 02:54:50PM 1 point [-]

The ideal might eventually be a two or more track LW. I'm willing to bet that we're losing some people whose thinking we'd want, but who find the courtesy level too polite or too harsh. I'd also bet that, while it seems that the courtesy level here isn't friendly enough for a lot of women, there are also men who'd like a friendlier version.

Comment author: Elithrion 16 February 2013 02:09:45AM 1 point [-]

I'm willing to bet that we're losing some people whose thinking we'd want, but who find the courtesy level too polite or too harsh.

I don't think I've ever heard of anyone leaving because the discussion was too polite or too nice for their tastes! I may be biased in this, but my intuition is that people who are against encouraging niceness really overestimate how much noise it would actually add, and maybe even how few hedons they'd get from receiving it (but I may well be wrong on this second part).

And I definitely agree that niceness isn't an attractor to just women. I think a better way of looking at it is that there is a distribution of prioritising niceness in each gender, so the current level might be too low for something like 70% of women and 20% of men (I find myself on the fence about whether I want to bother engaging with the community, for example, and a higher level would probably push me over towards the engagement side).

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 February 2013 02:20:15AM 3 points [-]

My impression is that there are people who really like the freedom to be insulting.

I agree with the rest of your points.

Comment author: Nornagest 16 February 2013 02:27:21AM *  1 point [-]

I don't think I've ever heard of anyone leaving because the discussion was too polite or too nice for their tastes!

To add a single data point: I left one other community largely because it was developing (and enforcing) social norms that had me jumping through too many hoops before I could voice criticism or disagreement; and I had serious issues with a second one for similar reasons, although different things drove me away in the end. I'm happy with LW's current culture, but there's a fairly wide range of preferences and I don't think I'm on the extreme aggressive end of the spectrum.

Comment author: Elithrion 16 February 2013 02:46:23AM *  1 point [-]

I actually completely agree that being able to express criticism freely is valuable, I just think there are many non-censorious approaches to niceness we can use.

For example, if the top 20 posters (by recent post karma) decided to all be nicer, I'd expect that that would shift community norms towards niceness looking high-status and consequently the whole community trying to be nicer as a result. Alternatively, adding something like "Please consider [above poster's name] feelings before hitting 'Comment'!" above the comment field would probably increase niceness (not that I recommend this specifically, since it would sound overly silly, but maybe a similar injunction to "imagine yourself as having their point of view" appearing 1 time in 5 could be viable). I'm sure there are other options as well that would promote niceness without feeling particularly restrictive or censorious.

(Hopefully I'm interpreting your objections correctly!)

Comment author: Nornagest 16 February 2013 08:13:18AM *  2 points [-]

Sure, it's possible to encourage niceness without deleting anything that wouldn't be deleted in a less nice regime, but I don't think censorship was my true objection -- or at least my only serious objection -- in either of the cases I mentioned.

Thing is, nice is costly. "Don't be a jerk" is a fairly low bar to clear, but if you have expectations beyond that -- if you're actually treating apparent agreeableness as a terminal value w.r.t. post quality, to put it in LW-speak -- then that implies putting effort into optimizing for it. Which then implies less effort going into optimizing for insight or clarity, since most of us don't have an unlimited amount of effort budgeted for composing LW posts. To make matters worse, niceness in Anglophone culture generally implies indirection: avoiding direct reference to potentially sensitive points, and working around that with a variety of more or less standardized circumlocutions. Which of course directly reduces clarity. It might be another story if English had a richer formal register, but it doesn't.

I recognize that others might have more unpleasant emotional responses to direct language than I, and I further recognize that that links into a variety of heuristics which affect exactly the same clarity considerations I've been talking about. But, and speaking only for myself here, I'd rather run the risk of occasionally being chafed if it means I have a better chance of integrating what's being said.

Comment author: coffeespoons 21 February 2013 01:09:18PM 0 points [-]

I think I get better responses even on Less Wrong if I put effort into sounding friendly when I write my comment.