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Lesswrong Potential Changes

17 Elo 19 March 2016 12:24PM

I have compiled many suggestions about the future of lesswrong into a document here:


It's long and best formatted there.

In case you hate leaving this website here's the summary:


There are 3 main areas that are going to change.

  1. Technical/Direct Site Changes


    1. new home page

    2. new forum style with subdivisions

      1. new sub for “friends of lesswrong” (rationality in the diaspora)

    3. New tagging system

    4. New karma system

    5. Better RSS

  2. Social and cultural changes

    1. Positive culture; a good place to be.

    2. Welcoming process

    3. Pillars of good behaviours (the ones we want to encourage)

    4. Demonstrate by example

    5. 3 levels of social strategies (new, advanced and longtimers)

  3. Content (emphasis on producing more rationality material)

    1. For up-and-coming people to write more

      1. for the community to improve their contributions to create a stronger collection of rationality.

    2. For known existing writers

      1. To encourage them to keep contributing

      2. To encourage them to work together with each other to contribute

Less Wrong Potential Changes


Why change LW?

How will we know we have done well (the feel of things)

How will we know we have done well (KPI - technical)

Technical/Direct Site Changes




Karma system



RSS magic

Not breaking things

Funding support

Logistical changes


Done (or Don’t do it):


General initiatives

Welcoming initiatives

Initiatives for moderates

Initiatives for long-time users

Rationality Content

Target: a good 3 times a week for a year.

Approach formerly prominent writers

Explicitly invite

Place to talk with other rationalists

Pillars of purpose
(with certain sub-reddits for different ideas)

Encourage a declaration of intent to post

Specific posts

Other notes

Why change LW?


Lesswrong has gone through great times of growth and seen a lot of people share a lot of positive and brilliant ideas.  It was hailed as a launchpad for MIRI, in that purpose it was a success.  At this point it’s not needed as a launchpad any longer.  While in the process of becoming a launchpad it became a nice garden to hang out in on the internet.  A place of reasonably intelligent people to discuss reasonable ideas and challenge each other to update their beliefs in light of new evidence.  In retiring from its “launchpad” purpose, various people have felt the garden has wilted and decayed and weeds have grown over.  In light of this; and having enough personal motivation to decide I really like the garden, and I can bring it back!  I just need a little help, a little magic, and some little changes.  If possible I hope for the garden that we all want it to be.  A great place for amazing ideas and life-changing discussions to happen.

How will we know we have done well (the feel of things)


Success is going to have to be estimated by changes to the feel of the site.  Unfortunately that is hard to do.  As we know outrage generates more volume than positive growth.  Which is going to work against us when we try and quantify by measurable metrics.  Assuming the technical changes are made; there is still going to be progress needed on the task of socially improving things.  There are many “seasoned active users” - as well as “seasoned lurkers” who have strong opinions on the state of lesswrong and the discussion.  Some would say that we risk dying of niceness, others would say that the weeds that need pulling are the rudeness.  

Honestly we risk over-policing and under-policing at the same time.  There will be some not-niceness that goes unchecked and discourages the growth of future posters (potentially our future bloggers), and at the same time some other niceness that motivates trolling behaviour as well as failing to weed out potential bad content which would leave us as fluffy as the next forum.  there is no easy solution to tempering both sides of this challenge.  I welcome all suggestions (it looks like a karma system is our best bet).

In the meantime I believe being on the general niceness, steelman side should be the motivated direction of movement.  I hope to enlist some members as essentially coaches in healthy forum growth behaviour.  Good steelmanning, positive encouragement, critical feedback as well as encouragement, a welcoming committee and an environment of content improvement and growth.

While at the same time I want everyone to keep up the heavy debate; I also want to see the best versions of ourselves coming out onto the publishing pages (and sometimes that can be the second draft versions).

So how will we know?  By trying to reduce the ugh fields to people participating in LW, by seeing more content that enough people care about, by making lesswrong awesome.

The full document is just over 11 pages long.  Please go read it, this is a chance to comment on potential changes before they happen.

Meta: This post took a very long time to pull together.  I read over 1000 comments and considered the ideas contained there.  I don't have an accurate account of how long this took to write; but I would estimate over 65 hours of work has gone into putting it together.  It's been literally weeks in the making, I really can't stress how long I have been trying to put this together.

If you want to help, please speak up so we can help you help us.  If you want to complain; keep it to yourself.

Thanks to the slack for keeping up with my progress and Vanvier, Mack, Leif, matt and others for reviewing this document.

As usual - My table of contents

Request for Advice: Unschool or High School?

6 Brendon_Wong 09 September 2013 05:43AM

I have not made significant progress in my life since I started reading Less Wrong. I was always really enthusiastic to improve myself, especially after I learned about all these new ideas and projects several months ago.

However, I didn't seem to be able to get myself to work on anything useful.

I believed my inability to get things done was the major contributing factor to my lack of success until recently. Akrasia is still a big problem in my life, but I noticed an interesting trend: every day I was effortlessly working on projects that would make me more effective with no problems, but I had severe procrastination when I had to do homework.

I realized that I was not really procrastinating because I did not want to work on my goals, rather I wanted to work on my goals but I knew I was "supposed" to finish my academic work first. I procrastinate on homework, which takes up time, and that stops me from working on my goals.

I could be wrong, but that made since, especially after I cut my main projects like reading The Sequences once school started although I had plenty of time.

I currently want to create a large positive impact on the world, but I did not wake up one morning and decide that school was the best way to accomplish that goal. Instead, like most students, I was never given a choice and instead shoved into the system. I never thought there could be a different way even though I really disliked school. Attempts to share the idea of unschool were met with strong resistance. Learning about Less Wrong and the Effective Altruism community was the push I needed to break out of my beliefs of how to become successful and influence the world.

I would still be willing to subject myself to what I see as unhelpful and inefficient activities if it helps me help others later on in life, as unappealing as it seems. My question is: Is staying in high school the best way to improve the world while still having financial stability, or is unschooling during high school then applying to a top college a better way to learn useful skills and get all the benefits of college admissions, or is dropping out all together and working on Your Most Valuable Skill 24/7 the best way to get on the path of world improvement? A significant obstacle to unschooling is that unfortunately my parents will not tolerate an idea as risky as that.

I'm not sure what to do...

But I am ready to go beyond tsuyoku naritai and Make an Extraordinary Effort. May the wisdom of Less Wrong lead me to take the best course of action!

Edit: Please choose one option and support your answer:

1. High school and then admission to a top college

2. Unschool during high school, hope to get into a good college (is it likely?)

3. Drop out completely, work only on useful world saving skills