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One of the most valuable services the Less Wrong community has to offer are the meetup groups. However, it strikes me that there isn't a lot of knowledge sharing between different meetup groups. Presumably there's a lot that the different groups could learn from each other -- things that can be done, experiments that have or haven't worked out, procedural and organisational tips. Hence this post. Please go ahead and write a summary about your local less wrong meetup below:
- What meetups do you run?
- What's worked?
- What hasn't?
- How is the group organised?
Tl;dr: we seem to (naively?) compound parsimony with other heuristics.
There was a quote from R. Burton, provided by JQuinton, offering an amusing exercise. The reader had to guess if an excerpt of text was nonsense or merely a rambling presentation of something, and what that could be. Upon learning a single word of explanation, it became difficult to read it as anything than the object's description, even if the reader was told there were other possible answers (beyond 'ridiculous.')
Here's an example:
> Reconstruction probably won't even account for all that escaped the initial search. Of course it doesn't have as much lead as the stained variety. Please don't follow 'old traditions' again, it's a cultural thing anyway. The little ones are easily lost in water. The dog won't know how to find them, but the problem is rather that it won't know how to avoid them. The high singing note I will miss. Be careful not to step on it. It was to harmony what it is to ruin. A different brand is used in electron microscopy, to make 'em smooth and even. There's plenty under the bench in the park. I had cherished it since my wedding.
(I'm not a writer, so that was rather clumsy. Please post better examples in comments.)
But what if we are offered to brainstorm before answering, and to try viewing the excerpt as a collection of true facts, just not necessarily a coherent story? Here are some of our possible approaches (heuristics):
- it's a picture;
- it's an instruction;
-it's paraphyletic (e.g., it is about a single thing which has more than one cause);
- it's alive!
- it's dangerous!
- it's an advertisement;
- it's a single thing better described by more than one word, though still recognizable from the best match;
- it's a compilation of distant phenomena related to whatsitname, the everyday thing;
- it's all true, BUT there are qualifiers (which could make it more plausible-sounding);
- it's just not a physical body;
- it's an extreme case etc.
...and then we try to guess again.
The number of hypotheses now should be more than one, but why? What changed?
I think we start out with expectations nearest to 'picture' and most removed from 'qualifiers', and maybe it was useful in ancestral environment, but I would not expect them to be most fruitful. Maybe if enough people played such scenarios out, we would experimentally obtain a set of more useful ones?
Is there a way to prove that one and only one interpretation is true (allows for all statements to be true)? What would you expect such excerpts (sets?) have in common?
And more importantly: is there any way to weaken priming's hold on us?
(I am not a native speaker, so if there are any mistakes, please point them out to me. Thank you.)
I'm interested in gauging interest in a LessWrong group at UM -- probably a Facebook group, as opposed to an official University club.
I'd like to gauge interest in an (english-language) Tokyo area meetup - given Tokyo's size, if a couple people are interested, it would be good to pick a location/day that's convenient for everybody. Otherwise I will announce a date and time and wait in a cafe with a book hoping that somebody will turn up.
I have been to several LW gatherings and have met consistently awesome and nice people, so if any Tokyo lurkers are reading this, I can assure you it's totally worth it to come! Please make yourself heard in the comments if you are interested.
I've been travelling around the US for the past month since arriving from Australia, and have had the chance to see how a number of different Less Wrong communities operate. As a departing organiser for the Melbourne Less Wrong community, it has been interesting to make comparisons between the different Less Wrong groups all over the US, and I suspect sharing the lessons learned by different communities will benefit the global movement.
For aspiring organisers, or leaders looking at making further improvements to their community, there already exists an excellent meetup organisers handbook, list of meetups, and NYC case study. I'd also recommend one super useful ability: rapid experimentation. This is a relatively low cost way to find out exactly what format of events attracts the most people and are the most beneficial. Once you know how to win, spam it! This ability is sometimes even better than just asking people what they want out of the community, but you should probably do both.
I'll summarise a few types of meetup that I have seen here. Please feel free to help out by adding descriptions of other types of events you have seen, or variations on the ones already posted if you think there is something other communities could learn.
Public Practical Rationality Meetups (Melbourne)
Held monthly on a Friday in Matthew Fallshaw's offices at TrikeApps. Advertised on Facebook, LessWrong, and the Melbourne LW Mailing List. About 25-40 attendees. Until January, were also advertised publicly on meetup.com, but since then the format has changed significantly. Audience was 50% Less Wrongers, and 50% newcomers, so this served as our outreach event.
6:30pm-7:30pm Doors open, usually most people arrive around 7:15pm
7:30pm sharp-9:00pm: Content introduced. Usually around 3 topics have been prepared by 3 separate Less Wrongers, for discussion in groups of about 10 people each. After 30 minutes the groups rotate, so the presenters present the same thing multiple times. Topics have included: effective communication, giving and receiving feedback, sequence summaries, cryonics, habit formation, etc.
9:00pm - Late: Unstructured socialising, with occasional 'rationality therapy' where a few friends get together to think about a particular issue in someone's life in detail. Midnight souvlaki runs are a tradition.
Monthly Social Games Meetup (Melbourne)
Held in a private residence on a Friday, close to central city public transport. Advertised on Facebook, LessWrong, and the Melbourne LW Mailing List. About 15-25 attendees. Snacks provided by the host.
6:30pm - Late: People show up whenever and there are lots of great conversations. Mafia, (science themed) Zendo, and a variety of board games are popular, but the majority of the night is usually spent talking about what people have learned or read recently. There are enough discussions happening that it is usually easy to find an interesting group to join. Delivery dinner is often ordered, and many people stay quite late.
Large public salons (from Rafael Cosman, Stanford University)
Held on campus in a venue provided by the university. Advertised on a custom mailing list, and presumably facebook/word of mouth. Audience is mostly unfamiliar with Less Wrong Material, and this event is has not yet officially become associated with Less Wrong, but Rafael is in the process of getting a spin-off LW specific meetup happening.
7pm-7:30pm: Guests trickle in. Light background music helps inform the first arrivals that they are indeed at the right place.
7:30pm-7:45pm: Introductions, covering 1. Who you are 2. One thing that people should talk to you about (e.g. "You should talk to me about Conway's Game of Life" 3. One thing that people could come and do with you sometime (e.g. "Come and join me for yoga on Sunday mornings"
7:45pm-9:30pm: Short talks on a variety of topics. At the end of a presentation, instead of tossing it open for questions, everyone comes up to give the speaker a high-five, and then the group immediately enters unstructured discussion for 5-10 minutes. This allows people with pressing questions to go up and ask the speaker, but also allows everyone else to break out to mingle rather than being passive.
Still to come: New York, Austin, and the SF East and South Bay meetup formats.
I'd like to start a LW meetup group in Buffalo, NY and would like to get an idea of how many people may be interested in attending. I'm hoping to get meetups started sometime in January. If you're interested, email me at BuffaloLW@gmail.com (and comment below). Anyone who sends me an email will receive a link to the event on Doodle.com to try and work out a time and day of the week that works for most people.
Also, where would you like the first meeting to be held?
1. Private Residence (my house, or you can offer yours if you like)
2. Public Space (like Spot Coffee?)
3. Don't Care
Edit: I realized based on Alicorn's interest that there may be decent amount of people traveling to the area for the holidays who are interested in meeting during the holiday break. If you are one of these people, comment below because I would love to host you.
There is already a post related to this meetup but it concerns a discussion which took place after I had left so I will write about the games of Werewolf. Please post your thoughts too and correct any inaccuracies.
- Most people said that this was very good fun and I suspect those that didn't still really enjoyed it.
- Each game lasted about 20 minutes.
- I was late and observed the first game. I remember Ai was given a werewolf card but she didn't realise so the game was played with her as a villager.
- When Douglas suggested people give reasons for lynching Thomas one that stood out was "he talks too much". This seems to go with Douglas' later observation that the game is all about information, whether that is obtained by careful choice of sheriff/lynching to maximise what is learned next round or by picking up on what people have said, how they have said it, and how much they have said. Personally I played it very much on instinct and watching for tells, letting others do the logical reasoning (!).
- Jon left after game one. There was some discussion about whether he was coming back. "His body language seemed dismissive like 'nah, I'm not into this'", "Really? I didn't get that impression!", "I disagree with your analysis. Past evidence of Jon leaving suggests he will return", "I think he would have said goodbye if he wasn't coming back. Since he didn't I assume he is returning". I found it interesting how we applied rationality principles to this.
- Generally the sheriff/lynching discussions would begin with sincere considerations of outcome trees then as soon as anyone said "but that's what you'd say if you were a werewolf!" or "she seemed a little quick to agree with that!" or "he's swallowing a lot while talking!" it switched to accusations and double bluffs.
- There were quite a few pieces of reasoning relating to proximity to people. e.g. "I'm sure I heard movement next to me 'last night'". My immediate instinct was that this is outside of the rules and unsporting, but obviously that isn't the case with this game!
- Something I found especially inspired was Alexey (as a werewolf) in game two claiming to be the seer after Thomas (the actual seer) had already told everyone that he himself was. Alexey argued that he had withheld the information to see who would try to pretend to be the seer and then he would know who one of the werewolves was. Most people weren't convinced but it was very entertaining.
- We decided, on Alexey's suggestion, that a coin toss is acceptable to decide a tied vote. Jonathan remarked that British coins land on heads 53 times out of 100. Does anyone have a link for that?
- Douglas did a great job giving the game some life with the storytelling style of delivery. I don't know what the proper term for this is, or whether you're traditionally supposed to play werewolves that way (I suspect you are), but it was cool. As was Thomas' replication of it when he was GM.
- Ramana spent the most time dead and made the point that it's very different watching from the outside compared to playing. He said you can perceive much better what people are trying to do and who is gullible.
- Douglas explained that for the villagers it is always best to lynch someone because otherwise the next day you'll just be in the exact same position with one less villagers' vote against the same number of werewolves' votes. This seems definitely true, but oddly counter-intuitive given that you're more likely to lynch a villager by mistake, the more of them you have.
- Between games three and four there was a false start because someone had forgotten they had a werewolf card and then suddenly and noisily realised they were supposed to have their eyes open. Oops!
- I hadn't played before but was familiar with the concept and had been meaning to try it with friends for a long time. If you're in a similar position, then bump it up your priority list. It's awesome!
The Singularity Institute is preparing a booklet for LessWrong meetup organizers called How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup Group.
Right now what we need are your photos of LessWrongers doing things and having fun! If you have photos you don't mind us potentially using in How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup Group, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my favorite aspects of Less Wrong is that every time I go to a new city (Oxford, Boston, Philadelphia and New York soon!), I know there’s a group of people who will be happy to discuss rationality and welcome me into their community.
It would be really cool if more Less Wrongers could have these experiences by traveling cheaply from city to city, meeting up with other smart, interesting people to have fantastic conversations, go to meetups/conferences/summits in new cities, and make friends in real life!
Unfortunately, while traveling to different meetups (and conferences/summits) is intellectually and emotionally rewarding, hotels can be prohibitively expensive. In order to make traveling more affordable, the Less Wrong community could implement a system where community members can stay at each others houses (in guest rooms, on sofas, or on floors) for free/extremely affordable rates.
Benefits of this system:
1) The traveler gets a free/affordable place to stay.
2) The host gets guaranteed company and (hopefully) some great conversation.
3) Less Wrong community bonds will be strengthened through real life interactions between members.
4) The value of meetups, which largely derives from the chance to meet other LWers, will increase as the pool of people attending grows.
5) People can be friends in real life!
6) Implementing this system is super easy. We just add a google maps page to Less Wrong.
1) LW could create a google map where people interested in hosting put down a place marker in their general location (no need to list their actual address) and tag it with their username.
2) In their LW profiles, hosts could write a short description of what kind of accommodations they'll be providing (room/sofa/floor), what kind of guest they want to host (eg., male vs. female, people who are willing to talk a lot, etc.), how they want to be compensated by their traveler (e.g., conversation, a meal, a chore, a small monetary gift, etc.) and usernames of at least two other Less Wrong members who would be willing to serve as "references" to the host's non-creepiness.
3) Likewise, travelers should have a section in their LW profile that list at least two other Less Wrong members who are willing to serve as references as well as how they're willing to compensate their hosts.
4) A potential traveler would look at the map, find a suitable location, and then send a potential host a message asking if they can come over.
5) The host could then look at the traveler's posts to see how long they've been a member and read their posts (a fantastic measure of how interesting or obnoxious the potential traveler may be).
How to encourage people to host:
While the benefits are obvious for the travelers, benefits for hosts are slightly less tangible. Here are some ways to incentivize hosting.
1) Traveling etiquette states that the traveler offers their host a gift. (E.g., buys or cooks the host a meal, does a house chore, goes to a museum with their host, etc.).
2) Much like how LW keeps track of number of posts, up votes and down votes, there will also be a scoreboard for how many travelers people have hosted. Hopefully, this will make being a popular host a badge of pride.
The surveys from my [first post](http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/5rz/lesswrongers_from_the_germanspeaking_world_unite/) indicate that
1. the favorite city is Munich,
2. around 3-10 people would attend, (?)
3. the favorite month is August.
Ok, ignoring [the usual advice](http://lesswrong.com/lw/ka/hold_off_on_proposing_solutions/), to get the ball rolling, here is my proposal:
(Let's meet in Munich in August 5th, maybe at a restaurant or a pub.)
ETA: Um, I changed my mind: Munich is still the place to be, but let's meet some time in September!
But if you disagree, please voice your opinion! I'm open to suggestions.
I will add surveys in the comment-section.
Oh, and everyone, including ultimate newbies, is welcome. Yes, *YOU* too!
ETA: [Here you can tell us your favorite date.](http://www.doodle.com/u49xxi6z4zqbihqa)
Next non-official London meetup is scheduled for this Sunday at Cargo:
83 Rivington Street,
As always, we'll have a picture of an extra-swirly paperclip on the table so you can find us.
See you there :)
Over this summer, I will be going to Europe to attend a pair of mathematics conferences. Because they are close together, I'm planning to spend the intervening time (most of the month of July) in Europe.
It is my first time going to Europe. I am very excited. I am certain that I will have fun.
I am equally certain that I will have more fun if I consciously attempt to maximize the amount of fun I will have.
However I know absolutely nothing about Europe; I have never been, I have few if any friends or family there.
So my question is, what should I do in order to have the best possible time in Europe?
I appreciate information that is useful for me specifically, as an American graduate student who has never been to Europe, who will be in Rome in early July and need to be in Barcelona by the end of July; the best ways to get around, benefits to being a student, events happening in July, visas that I might need. I intend to look for Less Wrong meetups occurring during my stay.
I would also appreciate general Europe information, such as excellent sight-seeing locations, the best way to buy food (I hear buying groceries in France is cheap and restaurants are very expensive), how difficult it is to move between different countries, the advantage to staying in one place for some time versus taking more of a tour of the continent.
There are certain types of information that I am not particularly interested in, but that I think would be appropriate to discuss in the same context. For example, what is the best way to find the cheapest flights or choose when to go on vacation (my flights are reimbursed and my timing is determined); what would make Europe an ideal vacation location, as opposed to Australia, Asia, South America, etc.
If people are interested in more details of my specific situation, I am happy to give them in the comments or private messages.
I propose adding Meetups to the navigation bar and only adding them to "PROMOTED" when they are especially significant; for example have a special speaker and might draw attention from people who are out of town.