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Great rationality posts by LWers not posted to LW

28 Post author: lukeprog 16 February 2013 12:31AM

Ever since Eliezer, Yvain, and myself stopped posting regularly, LW's front page has mostly been populated by meta posts. (The Discussion section is still abuzz with interesting content, though, including original research.)

Luckily, many LWers are posting potentially front-page-worthy content to their own blogs.

Below are some recent-ish highlights outside Less Wrong, for your reading enjoyment. I've added an * to my personal favorites.

 

Overcoming Bias (Robin Hanson, Rob Wiblin, Katja Grace, Carl Shulman)

Yvain (now moved here)

Comments (55)

Comment author: Wei_Dai 16 February 2013 06:52:10AM *  30 points [-]

Why don't these writers post or at least cross-post on LW? I would really prefer that they did, for these reasons

  • It would give their posts more visibility and hence more comments and discussions. (I often learn more from the comments sections of a LW post than the post itself.)
  • I don't have to learn a new commenting system (get a new login and learn the markup/formatting, threading, and voting schemes).
  • I think the LW commenting system is generally better than that of any other blog I've seen.
  • If I comment on their posts, my comments can be backed up and searched along with all of my other LW comments.
  • I'm more motivated to comment (and to spend more effort on my comments) since my comments will be seen by more people, and I'm less worried about my comments disappearing when their blogs stop getting maintained.

Does it also have something to do with identity and affiliation? If so, maybe that's another reason to try to make people think of LW in less identity-related ways, or perhaps make the LW identity smaller / more inclusive somehow? (I don't know and I'd very much like to hear from one or more of these writers.)

Comment author: Yvain 16 February 2013 10:16:42AM *  42 points [-]

Less Wrong requires no politics / minimal humor / definitely unambiguously rationality-relevant / careful referencing / airtight reasoning (as opposed to a sketch of something which isn't exactly true but points to the truth.) This makes writing for Less Wrong a chore as opposed to an enjoyable pastime.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 17 February 2013 12:29:41AM *  19 points [-]

If LW feels like work then it's creating an ugh field. I've noticed this when I saw someone treating reading HPMOR like homework instead of as reading for pleasure.

The main/discussion split was supposed to help alleviate this but I feel like too many are treating discussion as only appropriate for rough drafts of main material.

How can we fix this?

Comment author: jimmy 17 February 2013 08:35:56PM 3 points [-]

If LW feels like work then it's creating an ugh field.

Not necessarily.

Posting to my own blog is kinda the same way for me sometimes. It hasn't created an ugh field and I have no problem thinking about it but I end up with a huge backlog of posts with the main idea spelled out but not understandable to others.

A couple partial solutions come to mind:

1) When you see a post that looks like it belongs on LW, tell the author. This gets rid of a lot of the uncertainty about whether LW would appreciate it or whether it's too off-topic/speculative/whatever.

2) If there are posts (or even unwritten posts) that aren't yet LW ready but sound promising, offer to help edit it. This takes a lot of the burden off the author to do all the work, and often an extra perspective makes the process more efficient.

3) Make it somehow more rewarding. Make sure to upvote posts you like, make sure you don't shame people whose posts you don't like if they sincerely thought they were contributing something you'd like, make sure you treat them how you'd treat a friend that did you a favor rather than a paid worker, etc.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 18 February 2013 09:52:21AM 8 points [-]

When you see a post that looks like it belongs on LW, tell the author. This gets rid of a lot of the uncertainty about whether LW would appreciate it or whether it's too off-topic/speculative/whatever.

This. Being invited feels good.

Alternatively, if an author is not sure whether their article is a LW material, they can ask in the Open Thread.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 17 February 2013 05:23:53PM 9 points [-]

Less Wrong requires no politics / minimal humor / definitely unambiguously rationality-relevant / careful referencing / airtight reasoning

I agree with the "no politics" bit, but I don't think the rest are correct. I've certainly had "sketch of something that isn't quite true but points in the right direction" posts with no references and unclear connections to rationality promoted before (example), as well as ones plastered with unnecessary jokes (example).

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 09 April 2013 01:30:20AM *  2 points [-]

I agree. The overwhelming LW moderation focus seems to be on stifling bad content. There's very little in place to encourage good content. Even the thumbs-up works against good content. Before the thumbs-up, on OB, people would leave appreciative comments. It's much more rewarding to read appreciative comments than it is to look at your post's number (and probably compare it unfavorably to other recent posts' numbers...)

On social media sites like Digg or reddit, it's not a big deal to submit something that people don't end up liking 'cause it'll get voted down/buried and consequentially become obscure. On LW, submitting something people don't like amounts to publicly making a fool of yourself. Since it's hard to predict what people will like, folks err on the side of not posting at all.

I think the ideal solution is probably something more like Huffington Post or Daily Kos. I'm not 100% sure how those systems work but they obviously work pretty well.

Comment author: someonewrongonthenet 10 April 2013 11:32:46PM *  1 point [-]

I agree that it is pretty rewarding to get appreciative comments, but it unfortunately also lowers the signal/noise ratio, since everyone ends up having to read said appreciative comments (rather than the target recipient).

I'd actually argue that in most cases. keeping signal noise ratio high is much more important than increasing the sheer number of good posts. Ideally of course we could do both...

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 11 April 2013 12:17:34AM 0 points [-]

I agree that it is pretty rewarding to get appreciative comments, but it unfortunately also lowers the signal/noise ratio, since everyone ends up having to read said appreciative comments (rather than the target recipient).

Yeah, this is a downside.

I'd actually argue that in most cases. keeping signal noise ratio high is much more important than increasing the sheer number of good posts.

Why's that? Right now, for instance, it's easy to create an arbitrarily high-signal version of LW by going to http://lesswrong.com/prefs/ and changing the thresholds for minimum post/comment scores. Wouldn't it make more sense to let users use this mechanism to decide their own signal/noise threshold rather than enforcing one sitewide? (With a sensible default for non-logged-in users.)

If the absolute number of good posts goes up, that's more knowledge for LW's collective consciousness, that we can link to or mention to one another at times when it seems relevant. LW covers a wide variety of topics, so a greater number of absolute posts also means a greater number of posts that discuss topics relevant to any particular user.

As far as I can tell the sequences have a high number of good posts but a pretty low signal/noise ratio. My guess is that to get good posts, writing a lot and then seeing what sticks works well.

On the other hand, the current LW might work well for people who want to make important but difficult-to-understand points.

Comment author: someonewrongonthenet 11 April 2013 12:57:34AM *  1 point [-]

Right now, for instance, it's easy to create an arbitrarily high-signal version of LW by going to http://lesswrong.com/prefs/ and changing the thresholds for minimum post/comment scores.

Uh, did not know that. Thank you!

I still have a caveat about posts which are extremely good at getting upvotes having a tendency to be shallow in content, but I think that overall, you are correct.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 February 2013 09:10:40PM 1 point [-]

I was going to argue with you about humor until I noticed who'd posted the comment.

One-liners and wisecracks go over well here, but perhaps subtle long form humor doesn't?

Comment author: Kawoomba 16 February 2013 05:57:01PM 0 points [-]

Very subtle, I like understated humor. :)

Comment author: paulfchristiano 18 February 2013 02:30:08AM 5 points [-]

I wanted to make a few posts on my blog before linking other people to it (in case I bailed early, as part of the general pattern of doing things before talking about doing them, etc.) but I intend to cross-post most of my posts to LW discussion. (And I did link the blog itself to LW.)

Comment author: Tripe 17 February 2013 04:30:55AM 4 points [-]

I rather like the idea of people creating separate locations without cross-posting. I'd hate to see the rationality community become tied to a single possible point of reputational failure.

Comment author: ESRogs 16 February 2013 09:55:42AM 8 points [-]

I think people like having a space where they can develop their own identity / brand. Maybe just encouraging the posting of links w/ block quotes to the discussion section of LW would be an adequate solution?

Comment author: gwern 17 February 2013 02:24:15AM 7 points [-]

I think people like having a space where they can develop their own identity / brand.

Internalizing gains is desirable, so it's not a surprise if people (such as me) might principally locate their posts on their personal sites or blogs and not post them here.

But it doesn't necessary explain why they don't cross-post. I haven't found that to be much of an obstacle.

Comment author: beoShaffer 17 February 2013 01:35:44AM 3 points [-]

I find it interesting that several comments in the LW for Women threads, particularly those by Nancy Lebovitz indicate support for a wider range of rationality venues.

Comment author: Epiphany 16 February 2013 08:25:09AM 0 points [-]

It's also better for community cohesion if we all post in the same place.

Due to the fact that they could easily post here and receive all the benefits you listed and more, my perception of the problem is not that they do not realize that there are multiple benefits in posting on LessWrong rather than their own blogs, but that there's something about LessWrong that makes it an undesirable place to post.

My top guess on that, based on the talk that I've seen going on around the place, is fear of criticism / rejection / negative karma. See also.

Comment author: Tripe 17 February 2013 04:26:24AM 0 points [-]

Is community cohesion something to aim for? Ideally, rationality should be the baseline, not the marker of our particular community. As recent threads on gender have suggested, there's room for quite a few different communities which share core principles. Ideally, lesswrong would be one of many places where rationalists of different stripes feel comfortable. Of course, the question is whether it's better off huddling together for the moment in hopes of reaching critical mass or if we're already past that phase.

Comment author: Epiphany 18 February 2013 01:28:23AM *  0 points [-]

Community cohesion may be critical to the success of the rationalist movement.

That was a good question. The reason cohesion is important is because one wants to avoid a "divide and conquer" circumstance. If nobody feels comfortable posting on LessWrong and goes and posts on 100 other blogs instead, it's possible that the movement will simply die out.

Of course it is also possible for that to have a benefit, too: If 100 blog authors successfully advertise their blogs, it's possible that they'd get a lot more readers than if they were to post solely on LessWrong.

I also have a deeper point to make about community cohesion which I think will be hard to see due to two kinds of bias. To make the point easier to see, I will briefly mention those biases. The first is optimism bias. The second is mind projection fallacy.

Why optimism bias is relevant here:

Not only are people known to believe more optimistic things than they should, they also find it hard to adjust their perspective when their optimism is confronted, especially when it would be emotionally devastating to do so. This may be one of those ideas with the potential for devastation. Therefore, it might be especially hard to overcome optimism bias in this case and view the following point objectively.

Why mind projection fallacy is relevant here:

If you, yourself, have X ability level with something, you are likely to assume that most others have X ability as well, and may even find it hard to imagine or believe that most others do not have X ability level. Most people have not thoroughly researched the abilities of the average person, and have no idea what those are. I've met countless gifted people who, for instance, upon encountering someone with less ability than themselves in some area, frequently mistake that ignorance for laziness or malice or simply assume that the specific person was unusually stupid. This happens frequently, with gifted people, at times when the person in question actually has normal abilities. It's likely that the average LessWronger is gifted. It's also likely that something like half of them do not even realize they are gifted.

For those two reasons, a lot of people in this movement are likely to be vastly overestimating the average person's ability to become rational and their interest level in doing so. To some extent, interest in rationality and ability to wield it are things that can be increased. However, it would be illogical to assume that just because interest level and ability can be increased that they'll be able to be increased adequately in a large enough section of the population for rational thought to become the norm. The stated goal of "raising the sanity waterline" is, of course, both feasible and worthwhile - but part of that is because the phrasing implies no specific amount. Making rationality the norm is a completely different goal. It is extremely worthwhile, but is many times more difficult.

I am not aware of any studies that have been done to specifically determine the average person's capacity for developing rationality. Nor am I aware of any studies on methods to teach rationality that are designed to determine how much difference the best teaching strategies make to one's capacity for and interest in rationality. I doubt anybody knows where the average person's limits are. I think it would be hard for most members of LessWrong to imagine having a brain that hurts when you try to think rationally because it is too hard, having no interest in rationality whatsoever, or being too irrational to even understand why rationality is good, but (as a person who has read a lot about psychology) I'm sure that all of those things do happen and that they're fairly common. It would be folly, in my opinion, to assume that the average human:

1.) Has a brain capable of thinking rationally.

2.) Has a brain that learns rationality easily enough that the benefits outweigh the costs.

3.) Has a brain that rewards them for rational thought. (Mine rewards me for rational thought, but it seems to punish me for doing math, and it took about a decade for me to get to the point where it quit hurting when I attempted to spell correctly.)

4.) Has adequate time, energy, resources, discipline, sanity, opportunity, etc. to put themselves through the rigorous mental training it requires to achieve adequate results.

5.) Has the mental stamina capacity to reach a state of constant performance. I bet most are able to do things like detect a bias a single time, when asked, just like most can lift a five pound dumbbell, a single time, when asked. But to be rational requires detecting most biases most of the time, and that is quite another matter. It may be that it takes the mental equivalent of an Olympic champion to be able to develop the stamina to lift those weights all the time.

The reason I bring this up is not because I'm a cantankerous misanthrope. It's because of what I know about human abilities due to the developmental psychology research I've done. For a quick glimpse into my perspective:

Learning language is not a trivial task, but we have been doing that since before civilization without schooling or a movement. Humans are prodigious among animal species when it comes to language development. Almost all of us gets to enjoy a huge vocabulary with many thousands of words. It's just natural for our brains to learn a language. Language is a great example of what happens with humans when our brains are designed to do a particular task. We say things like "Humans are different because they're capable of rational thought." Then why don't we learn to be rational as readily as we learn language? If it's natural for all of us, why didn't we learn to be rational most of the time thousands of years ago?

Some abilities are attributed to "humanity" because we don't see any, or many, examples of them in other species... but that's different from saying that they're common to humans. Rocket science, for instance, is an ability that no animals have, but that most humans do not have, either. We say that humans are different because of things like rational thought, but rationality may still be similar to rocket science in that many humans are not able to do it.

[Edited to remove a certain paragraph.]

I don't know whether this obstacle is best identified as "lack of interest" or "it's unnatural to learn because a lot of people's brains aren't designed for it", but there is obviously some obstacle that has been holding humanity back the entire time we've existed. There may be lots of different obstacles. It is quite possible, in my view, that the average human will find the obstacles insurmountable without something like brain augmentation or genetic engineering.

In the event that there are a limited number of people who will be both interested in and successful at attaining a rational state, the last thing we want to do is have them divided up all over the place. To have the greatest possible impact, we need to stick together.

That's why community cohesion is likely to be critical to the rationalist movement.

  • For archival purposes, the paragraph was:

Even with ethics - which is something that most people can learn - it has taken thousands of years of civilized living just to get to the point where slavery is abolished, women can vote and gay people have begun making progress on getting rights. I am not even sure that thinking rationally most of the time is a state that is attainable to most people, but even if it is, it's possible that establishing a norm of rational thought among humans would require a time period similar to that of mass ethical behavior...

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 18 February 2013 09:59:42AM *  6 points [-]

Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Some people will dislike LW for various reasons. For example, they don't like talking about superintelligent machines and Singularity, because it feels cultish. Or they thing that rational talking is cold; or that the LW environment is hostile to women. Or whatever else. So these people will ignore LW and everything that is here. So it would be nice if the good ideas are also available somewhere else.

(For similar reasons I think separating SI/MIRI and CFAR was a good idea. It you want to convince people about usefulness of rational thinking, starting with singularity is often not a good strategy.)

Comment author: Epiphany 18 February 2013 10:01:38AM *  1 point [-]

I agree, but make a distinction between thinking it's bad that too few people are posting on LessWrong while many are posting in a billion other places instead versus thinking that there should not be multiple groups of rationalists.

I am all for multiple groups of rationalists. What I am not for is this community scattering across 100 different blogs.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 18 February 2013 06:22:51AM 1 point [-]

Re: ethics.

The problem with judging ethical progress, is that we have no independent way of verifying we're progressing rather than regressing.

Comment author: Epiphany 18 February 2013 07:31:27AM *  1 point [-]

My interpretation of the article is not that he's saying that gauging moral progress is impossible, but that you can't gauge it by comparing the past with the present. It has to be gauged against an ideal, but the ideal has to be carefully chosen or else the ideal may be useless or self-defeating. I'm sure such an ideal can be constructed (maybe someone has already constructed one that's widely considered to be acceptable - in that case I'd be interested in finding out about it) but since I'm not aware of a widely accepted ideal against which progress can be gauged at the moment, I'd like to focus on other parts of this. [Edited last statement to remove a source of potential conversational derailment.]

This does inspire me to bring up interesting questions, though, like:

Do I know enough about our past history to know whether it was previously better or worse? What if most native American tribes respected women and gays and abhorred slavery before they were killed off by the settlers? Not to mention the thousands of civilizations that existed prior to these in so many places all over the world.

Might we be causing harm in new ways as well as ceasing to cause harm in other ways, moving backward overall? Even though Americans can't keep slaves, they do get a lot of their goods from sweatshops. The prejudice against gays may be lessening, but has the prejudice against Middle Easterners increased to the point where it cancels out that progress? Women got the right to vote, but shortly before that, children were forced into the school system. The reason I view this school system as unethical are touched on (in order) here and here.

I wonder if anyone has done thorough research to determine whether we're moving forward or backward. I would earnestly like to know. It's a topic I am very interested in. If you have a detailed perspective on this, I'd be interested in reading it.

  • For archival purposes, the source of potential conversational derailment was:

One ideal against which we could gauge moral progress without it being useless or self-defeating if taken to the extreme would be "Causing less suffering and death is good."

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 18 February 2013 08:25:24AM *  2 points [-]

One ideal against which we could gauge moral progress without it being useless or self-defeating if taken to the extreme would be "Causing less suffering and death is good."

Well, the most straightforward way to judge success along this metric is to compare the amount of suffering. The problem with this metric is that the contribution of technological progress will dominate any contribution from ethical progress.

Might we be causing harm in new ways as well as ceasing to cause harm in other ways, moving backward overall? Even though Americans can't keep slaves, they do get a lot of their goods from sweatshops. The prejudice against gays may be lessening, but has the prejudice against Middle Easterners increased to the point where it cancels out that progress? Women got the right to vote, but shortly before that, children were forced into the school system.

Furthermore, it's not a priori obvious that the contribution to less suffering is what you think it is any of the examples you listed. It's possible that the people working in "sweatshops" are better off there than wherever they were before, this in fact seems likely since they chose to work there. It's possible that our modern attitude towards gender roles and sexuality is causing more unhappy marriages and children growing up in bad homes and thus increases suffering; conversely, maybe our attitudes towards gender are correct and our prejudice towards (Muslim) Middle Easterners is encouraging them to adopt it and thus our prejudice is reducing suffering on net. As for the right to vote, well there's a slight positive effect from making the women feel empowered, but the main effect is who wins elections, and whether they make better or worse decisions, which seems hard to measure.

My point is that doing these types of calculations is much harder than you seem to realize.

Edit: Also, what wedrifid said.

Comment author: Epiphany 18 February 2013 09:44:37AM *  0 points [-]

My point is that doing these types of calculations is much harder than you seem to realize.

I do realize that making these calculations is difficult. To be fair, when I first brought this up, I was talking about a completely different subject, in a comment that was already long enough and absolutely did not need a long tangent about the complexities of this added in. Then, I began exploring some of the complexities, hoping that you'd expand on them and you instead chose to view my limited engagement in the topic as a sign that doing these kinds of calculations is harder than I realize. This is frustrating for two reasons. The first reason is that no matter what I said, it would not be possible for me to cover the topic in entirety, especially not in a single message board comment. The second reason is that instead of continuing my discussion and adding to it, you changed the direction of the conversation each of the last two times you replied to me.

It might be that you'd make an excellent conversation partner to explore this with, but I am not certain you are interested in that. Are you interested in exploring this topic or were you just hoping to convince me that I don't realize how complicated this is?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 February 2013 12:50:24AM 2 points [-]

Then, I began exploring some of the complexities, hoping that you'd expand on them and you instead chose to view my limited engagement in the topic as a sign that doing these kinds of calculations is harder than I realize.

Sorry about that, your examples pattern matched to what someone who wanted to question contemporary practices without actually questioning contemporary ethics would write.

Comment author: Epiphany 19 February 2013 01:12:40AM *  0 points [-]

Thanks, Eugine. I can see in hindsight why I would look like that to you, but before hand, I didn't expect anyone to jump on examples that weren't elaborated upon to the degree you appear to have been expecting. I'm interested in continuing this discussion for reasons unrelated to the comment that originally spurred this off, as I've been thinking a lot lately about how to measure the ethical behavior of humans. I'm still wondering if you're interested in talking about this. Are you?

Comment author: wedrifid 18 February 2013 08:17:19AM 2 points [-]

One ideal against which we could gauge moral progress without it being useless or self-defeating if taken to the extreme would be "Causing less suffering and death is good."

I'm afraid once you take even that ideal to the extreme you will get something horrific. An effective way to minimize suffering and death is to minimize things that can experience suffering and death. ie. Taking this ideal to the extreme kills everyone!

Watching what happens when a demigod of "Misguided Good" alignment actually implements this ideal forms the basis of the plot for Summer Knight, where Harry Dresden goes head to head against a powerful Fey who is just too damn sensitive and proactively altruistic for the world's good.

Comment author: Epiphany 18 February 2013 09:37:55AM *  -1 points [-]

An effective way to minimize suffering and death is to minimize things that can experience suffering and death. ie. Taking this ideal to the extreme kills everyone!

Um if you didn't happen to notice, killing everyone qualifies as "death" and is therefore out of bounds for reaching that particular ideal.

Comment author: wedrifid 18 February 2013 10:16:28AM *  3 points [-]

Um if you didn't happen to notice, killing everyone qualifies as "death" and is therefore out of bounds for reaching that particular ideal.

Out of bounds? The ideal in question ("Causing less suffering and death is good") doesn't seem to have specified any bounds. That's precisely the problem with this and indeed most forms of naive idealism. If you go and actually implement the ideal and throw away the far more complex and pragmatic restraints humans actually operate under you end up with something horrible. While all else being equal causing less suffering and death is good, actually optimizing for less suffering and death is a lost purpose.

Almost any optimizer with the goal "cause less suffering and death" that is capable of killing everyone (comparatively) painlesslessly will in fact choose to do so. (Because preventing death forever and is hard and not necessarily possible, depending on the details of physics.)

Comment author: Epiphany 18 February 2013 10:20:48AM 1 point [-]

I was not talking about this in the context of building an optimizer. I was talking about this as a simple way to as humans gauge whether we had made ethical progress or not. I still think your specific concern about my specific ideal was not warranted:

Since killing everyone qualifies as "death" I don't see how it could possibly qualify as in-bounds as a method for reaching this particular ideal. Phrased differently, for instance as "Suffering and death are bad, let's eliminate them." the ideal could certainly lead to that. But I phrased it as "Causing less suffering and death is good."

I used the wording "cause less" which means the people enacting the ideal would not be able to kill people in order to prevent people from dying. You could argue that if they kill someone that might have had four children, that four deaths were saved - however, I'd argue that the four future deaths were not originally caused by the particular idealist in question, so killing the potential parent of those potential four children would not be a way for that particular person to cause less deaths. They would instead be increasing the number of deaths that they personally caused by one, while reducing the number of deaths that they personally caused by absolutely nothing.

It does not use the word "eliminate" which is important because "eliminate" and "lessen" would result in two totally different strategies. Total elimination practically requires the death of all, as the only way for it to be perfect is for there to be nobody to experience suffering or death. "Lessen" gives you more leeway, by allowing the sort of "as good as possible" type implementation that leaves living things surviving in order to experience the lessened suffering and death.

Can you think of a way for the idealist to kill everyone in order to personally cause less death, without personally causing more death, or a reason why lessening suffering would force the idealist to go to the extreme of total elimination?

Comment author: Morendil 16 February 2013 09:30:20AM 11 points [-]

The Discussion section is still abuzz with interesting content

Suggested editorial policy: move more posts from Discussion to Main.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 20 February 2013 09:46:09PM 2 points [-]

Or more people should use http://lesswrong.com/r/all

Comment author: handoflixue 22 February 2013 12:53:24AM 0 points [-]

It would probably help if there was an easy to find link to that somewhere. I've always alternated between Main -> Show All (which is already an annoying two-step process) and "Discussion"

Comment author: jkaufman 16 February 2013 03:31:38PM 4 points [-]

Then I won't see them.

Comment author: shminux 18 February 2013 03:33:40AM *  7 points [-]

I tend to agree with Yvain, one has to write specifically for the LW audience in order for a post to be well received. I don't have my own blog, but I do have half a dozen post drafts on this forum which will likely never see the light of day because they are not in a shape acceptable for posting here.

Comment author: David_Gerard 19 February 2013 10:06:41PM 1 point [-]

Most of Yvain's stuff would go straight into Discussion with no problems. Post them here?

Comment author: Epiphany 16 February 2013 08:39:42AM 7 points [-]

Note to Luke: If you suggest that the readers of this post invite the authors of blog entries they enjoyed to post them on LessWrong, the positive reinforcement may motivate more of them to post here.

Comment author: Epiphany 16 February 2013 08:04:53AM *  3 points [-]

It seems to me that there are lots and lots of people who want to post on LessWrong but they're concerned about whether those posts will be received well. I keep seeing people saying things along those lines. I've read, also, that when surveyed about their worst fear, more people respond with "public speaking" than "death". I don't know if that's true, but I can't help but wonder if fear of rejection is a major inhibiting factor at LessWrong. I have three ideas for this:

Karma Prediction Tool

If people could get at least a rough prediction of how much karma their post would get (for instance, if it was at least able to tell you whether the karma was likely to be positive or negative) that may assuage their fears and get them posting. I previously wrote an outline for this idea:

Karma Prediction Tool Idea

A LessWrong Writer's Group

I also had another idea: What if we started a LessWrong writer's group where members could ask each other for feedback on topic ideas, get friendly advice and constructive critiques before being exposed to the karma-monster, trade skills, collaborate, co-author, and generally be supportive and inspiring to one another?

I'd seriously consider doing these myself except that I'm in the middle of some other major projects at the moment. For now:

Do you think a writer's group would help you post more?

Petition writers to re-post specific entries on LessWrong

With some compliments and encouragement, I bet a lot of the writers in Luke's list would warm up to the idea of posting more frequently here. There may be a need for more positive reinforcement.

Submitting...

Comment author: Elithrion 16 February 2013 09:42:37PM 1 point [-]

Relevant data: I actually have completed 70% of a post that's fairly suitable to front page and I'm sure would go positive (my expectation is 10-40 karma, but high uncertainty), and 90% of a post suitable to discussion (expected karma ~3-10), and then after having them close to done I thought about the prospect of posting them and realised that I'm not sure whether they're "valuable enough" and whether actually posting them is worth the potential stressfulness (I really dislike losing even slightly). As you can see, a karma prediction tool wouldn't really do anything for me, while a writer's group might be helpful.

Comment author: Epiphany 17 February 2013 03:30:00AM *  0 points [-]

"I really dislike losing even slightly"

I wonder if a way to post anonymously or as part of a group would help with this. Example: Say you submitted a piece to the writer's group, instructing them to post it anonymously for you, and they reviewed it and posted it under the account "Writer's Group" - then there would be no risk of you losing karma. Would an arrangement like that be desirable?

Comment author: Elithrion 17 February 2013 04:23:55AM *  4 points [-]

Not especially - while it removes the disincentives to posting, it also removes the incentives. If I write something, half my motivation is to increase my status and be appreciated (the other half being altruistic - and I'm not sure it's actually "half"). Unless, of course, the writer's group was exclusive in membership and belonging to it were already high-status, but that's probably not the ideal direction to go.

Comment author: Epiphany 17 February 2013 11:14:37PM 0 points [-]

I figured you'd probably say that, but I didn't want to assume my guess was correct. I don't have much inhibition about posting, myself, so I am not entirely sure I understand other's inhibitions.

Comment author: Epiphany 17 February 2013 03:25:22AM *  0 points [-]

What exactly is it about the writer's group that would do the trick? Maybe it's having other people read it first and confirm that it's good?

Comment author: Elithrion 17 February 2013 04:33:27AM *  0 points [-]

Ideally, the benefit would be receiving feedback at multiple stages of the writing process.

At idea conception, I'd like good feedback on whether an idea is interesting and worth pursuing further or obviously flawed or already covered (there are way too many posts for someone who's not been here for years to be aware of all of them, and search is only sometimes helpful). After that, it may be good to get quick comments on an outline or choice of style (e.g. "you should try to make it less dry" or "you need to spend more time explaining the importance"). Once the post is completed, it would be valuable to know whether the end result is good/salvageable/how it can be improved (e.g. I have one post up, and I recall that after posting it, there was instantly a comment at like +10 saying "this pair of sentences is stupid" and then I realised that it was indeed stupid and I shouldn't have included them - having someone point that out before I posted would've helped). All of this preferably without even potential karma losses to avoid creating ugh fields or even general worries.

Comment author: Epiphany 17 February 2013 11:18:39PM 0 points [-]

I agree that it would be nice to have feedback on whether a concept has already been written about. Searching isn't perfect. I have some friends that I've asked for feedback a few times, and that has stopped me from posting topics that were already covered. I also desire to have someone read my post to find any communication glitches I may not have noticed.

Comment author: Vaniver 20 February 2013 11:48:41PM 0 points [-]

The ability to invite people to see drafts would be an interesting one, that would make this sort of writing group much easier to do. (Basically, posting a draft to discussion without posting a draft to discussion.)

Comment author: Epiphany 21 February 2013 01:35:41AM 1 point [-]

Yes, but then we'd also need a place to discuss them... and the discussions wouldn't be appropriate because not only do people hate meta threads but it would also give away the content of the post and defeat the purpose of limiting exposure to refine the piece first. Also, from what I gather, it's relatively hard to get changes made to the website. The best route is apparently to just make them and then hope that Luke or somebody likes them enough to implement.

What would be much easier in this case is to simply throw a private open source message board and hidden Wordpress install onto some web space specifically for the writer's group to discuss various things, both related to their specific pieces, and to writing in general.

Then, if LessWrong ever does create a framework for the group, the database can be imported. Until then, progress does not have to be hindered.

I am seriously dying to start this writer's group, but I have major projects to finish right now. Making the site would be easy (and I could do it myself). It's leading the group that I don't have time for - they need somebody who is willing to read and give feedback on each piece, organize, and advertise for the group.