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We are happy to announce the LessWrong Community Weekend 2016! From September 2 to September 4 awesome people from all across Europe are coming to Berlin to meet, exchange ideas, and start projects together.
The event will happen at Jugendherberge Wannsee which features several seminar rooms for talks, workshops, and discussions, as well as comfortable open spaces to socialize and relax. It also provides on-site accommodation (shared rooms, 4 beds) for everyone.
Costs are €150. This includes accommodation for two nights, meals and snacks, and a welcome lunch on Friday.
Like the last two years the event will have some long-form talks, workshops and group activities. However, the weekend is largely participant-driven: There’ll be lots of free space for offering talks and activities of your own. (examples from last year: lightning talks, workouts before meals, improv singing, acrobatics, swimming in the lake, stargazing, …) Providing a space that’s suitable for forming bonds between people and reconnecting with friends is a major focus.
You don’t need to be able to speak German to attend. Nearly all talks and discussions will be in English.
Last time a number of people stayed a couple of days longer to explore Berlin, go bouldering etc. That was super fun and we invite you to plan for it. We will coordinate couch-surfing opportunities to avoid the need for boring hotels.
To sign up, fill out this form.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward to seeing you there,
Nino, Christian, Marcel, Daniel, J*, Alexander, Irina
LessWrong Deutschland e.V.
The Berlin meetup group is organizing the LessWrong Community Weekend 2015. From June 12th to 14th awesome people from all across Europe are coming to Berlin to meet, exchange ideas and start projects. The focus is on forming new and strengthening existing ties between our local communities. In addition to being a vibrant social event, it’s also about sharing your world-improvement projects as well as about teaching and learning valuable skills.
If you are already attending a local meetup, you might find this to be similar in the way it mixes a social event with workshops and talks. And if you don’t have a meetup nearby, this is a great opportunity to get in touch with the community.
Our 2014 event had an unexpectedly huge turnout. This time we have planned for a larger number of participants yet might still be underestimating the size of the community and its growth since last year. So sign up quickly if you want to be sure to get in.
Building on our experience and the feedback from the last event we are making this event even more awesome: The new location offers several seminar rooms for parallel workshops, activities and discussions in smaller groups. Combined with shorter and more efficient talks this leaves more space for structured social time and activities.
Participants are encouraged to share their knowledge in workshops, tutorials and talks as well as exchange experiences in informal settings. Featured topics include practical rationality, self improvement, world improvement and other rationality related areas.
Giving a workshop or talk is a great way to introduce yourself to other attendants and start a discussion about a topic you care about. If you're unsure if the topic is valuable or a good fit, please err on the side of including it! The more content offers we get, the easier it will be to create a balanced, yet diverse program.
Next to the talks, there is plenty of opportunity to get to know your fellow participants better in structured and less structured social settings. The chosen location provides many opportunities to spend off-time outside, whether you'd rather take a few companions on a morning hike in the nearby forest while discussing AI, receive a tutorial in proper stone-skipping technique at lake Wannsee or if you'd prefer a game of ultimate frisbee on the premises. Which specific activities will be offered during the weekend depends on the participants themselves, so make sure to tell us on the signup form if there's a skill you can share or an activity you'd like to offer.
The event begins on Friday June 12th, 12:00 with our shared lunch. Then we will move to our main location, Jugendherberge Berlin-Am Wannsee that provides us with seminar rooms and on-site accommodation (shared rooms, 4 beds) as well as access to the nearby lake and forest. The next days will be filled with workshops, talks, discussions and many other activities. We’ll say goodbye on Sunday June 14th at 15:00.
Costs are €150 including accommodation for two nights, the welcome reception and lunch on Friday and all the other meals till lunch on Sunday.
The European LW community is pretty scattered at the moment. This event is our chance to reach out and build lasting bonds and friendships across cities and borders. Are you looking for allies for your world-optimization plans, or for new methods to improve yourself and your model of the world? Do you want to teach others what you have learned? Or are you looking forward to a relaxing weekend around like-minded people?
The community weekend can offer all those things and more, and you can help make it the event that you want it to be!
Looking forward to seeing you
Alexander, Anne, Christian, John, Marcel, Matthias and Tristan
P.S.: If you have any questions about the event you can reach us at email@example.com.
Edit: 80 attendants have signed up, which means we have reached capacity! The signup has been closed.
So finally - with two weeks distance to the first European LessWrong Community Weekend - we want to share the organizers’ perception of the event, including a short overview of what went well, what did not and what exceeded our expectations.
First and foremost we thank all the participants and speakers for helping us in making this such a great weekend. We had an incredible time and are very happy everything worked out as well as it did. In our opinion the event was a great success! Meeting everyone was excellent and we look forward to running a similar yet improved event in the future.
The Berlin Meetup Group is organizing the first European community meetup. We are planning a fun weekend with a focus on bringing the LessWrong community closer together. As a treat, some participants offer rationality exercises and workshops.
If you like your local meetup we hope you will like this too. It is similar, but bigger: You will get to meet and exchange ideas with a diverse set of awesome people from all across Europe. And if you don’t have a meetup nearby or didn’t get around to participating yet, this is a great opportunity to get in touch with the rest of the community.
The community weekend will take place April 11-13, from Friday evening to Sunday early afternoon, in the Odyssee Hostel in Berlin. The cost is 70 € including accommodation and breakfast. A conference room with a projector and wifi will also be available during daytime.
Always wanted to run a Less Wrong meetup, but been unsure of how? The How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup booklet is here to help you!
The 33-page document draws from consultations with more than a dozen Less Wrong meetup group organizers. Stanislaw Boboryk created the document design. Luke provided direction, feedback, and initial research, and I did almost all the writing.
The booklet starts by providing some motivational suggestions on why you'd want to create a meetup in the first place, and then moves on to the subject of organizing your first one. Basics such as choosing a venue, making an announcement, and finding something to talk about once at the meetup, are all covered. This section also discusses pioneering meetups in foreign cities and restarting inactive meetup groups.
For those who have already established a meetup group, the booklet offers suggestions on things such as attracting new members, maintaining a pleasant atmosphere, and dealing with conflicts within the group. The "How to Build Your Team of Heroes" section explains the roles that are useful for a meetup group to fill, ranging from visionaries to organizers.
If you're unsure of what exactly to do at meetups, the guide describes many options, from different types of discussions to nearly 20 different games and exercises. All the talk and philosophizing in the world won't do much good if you don't actually do things, so the booklet also discusses long-term projects that you can undertake. Some people attend meetups to just have fun and to be social, and others to improve themselves and the world. The booklet has been written to be useful for both kinds of people.
In order to inspire you and let you see what others have done, the booklet also has brief case studies and examples from real meetup groups around the world. You can find these sprinkled throughout the guide.
This is just the first version of the guide. We will continue working on it. If you find mistakes, or think that something is unclear, or would like to see some part expanded, or if you've got good advice you think should be included... please let me know! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A large number of people have helped in various ways, and I hope that I've remembered to mention most of them in the acknowledgements. If you've contributed to the document but don't see your name mentioned, please send me a message and I'll have that fixed!
The booklet has been illustrated with pictures from various meetup groups. Meetup organizers sent me the pictures for this use, and I explicitly asked them to make sure that everyone in the photos was fine with it. Regardless, if there's a picture that you find objectionable, please contact me and I'll have it replaced with something else.
As I mentioned in the above posts, Latter-day Saints communities organize committees to accomplish specific tasks, like serving the outside community or making sure new members get friends.
The question is, what tasks should rationalist communities organize committees or assign individuals to accomplish?
The easy answer: whatever its members want. But there are some collective roles and activities which are better for community-building than others.
Consider the following jury-rigged contraption, which I'll call Bhagwat’s community-building ratio:
- group project goodness = U(project) / E(social friction),
that is, task goodness equals task utility divided by the expected amount of resulting social friction. For example:
- U(task): medium. Many LW-goers do express a desire to improve social skills.
- E(social friction): high. This seems to alienate many (most?), though not all, women. And LW meetups need more women, both to function better now and because it would facilitate future meme propagation.
- U(task): medium-to-high. This also helps to improve social skiils, especially assertiveness. More simple and widely applicable than PUA; easy to do without a mentor.
- E(social friction): low. This is a multi-gender activity.
So rejection therapy would likely make a better group task then PUA.
What are the most high-utility, low-social-friction tasks?
The lowest-hanging fruit I know of is to make people feel welcome.
Whenever someone comes to the group for the first time, the group leader should make sure to meet them personally and make them feel welcome. They should get their contact info and afterwards send them a brief e-mail/text, sincerely thanking them for coming.
As people are starting to come for the first few weeks, the group leader should get to know them personally and understand what they’re looking for and why they came. Maybe there’s a particular book or Less Wrong sequence they would like. Maybe they’re trying to improve some skills and would appreciate follow-up. Maybe there’s some skill they know that other Less Wrongians want to learn – and they could teach them!
If you’re able to personalize their experience, you will improve your score on Bhagwat’s Law of Commitment: “The degree to which people identify with your group is directly proportional to the amount of stuff you tell them to do that works."
This task is fairly delegatable. The main requirement is good social skills – you need to be able to have a reasonable conversation with anyone, and the ability to express gratitude sincerely. Otherwise, people might come off as insincere or weird, and that would create social friction.
What are the benefits?
The first three church units I served in were mediocre at befriending new attendees and integrating new members; the last church unit was excellent. Around seventy percent more people joined this last church unit; and of those who joined, retention rates were around 80 to 90 percent, compared to 50 percent elsewhere.
As Less Wrong meetup membership in a given area becomes reasonably dense, and meeting size expands, subgroups can form around common interests.
An Improving Social Skills group. Or an Actually Learning in College group. Or a startup where a bunch of LW people work together…wait, somebody is already doing that.
Mini-meetings would also be good for introducing people to the Less Wrong community. People coming for the first time are generally more comfortable in smaller environments. Latter-day Saint churches with 50-100 weekly attendance grow three or four times faster than churches with 200+ weekly attendance, according to a statistic I read somewhere and can't track down.
There’s a final benefit to having clearly-defined roles held by community members.
All groups, as they evolve, give individuals distinct roles. Class clown, teacher’s pet, whatever. If these roles are positive, people’s identification with and commitment to the group will increase. They will know that the group needs them.
Most people in Latter-day Saint communities have specific, definite roles because of their calling – perhaps they are teaching a class every Sunday, or are responsible to visit a particularly troubled family. This is an unambiguous way to tell them, “We need you.”
The same could be true in rationalist communities.
 In Latter-day Saint communities, this is primarily done by the Missionary and Fellowship committees described in my last post.
Related to: Building rationalist communities, Lessons from Latter-day Saints, Holy Books (Or Rationalist Sequences) Don't Implement Themselves, Designing rationalist projects, Community roles: teachers and auxiliaries.
The ultimate question I’m trying to answer is: what should be the roles in a rationalist community?
In the previous post and this one, I outline the roles in Latter-day Saint communities along with some implications for rationalist communities. In the following posts, I will elaborate the analysis of implications.
Good sets of rules resemble programs; once developed, they can be made to run everywhere, with local modifications.
In the previous post, I discussed the role of teachers and auxiliaries. Teachers are the ones who speak, teach and lead discussions in Sunday church meetings. Auxiliaries are responsible for ensuring the well-being of the various segments of the congregation – men, women, and children.
In this post, I will discuss committees and leadership.
Committees are in charge of specific important tasks – planning activities, giving service, and so on. The general leadership appoints people to each of the positions, provides personal counseling, and plans the curriculum.
In smaller groups, the leaders and more-committed members often wear multiple hats.
I'm beginning a new subseries of posts, trying to answer the following question: what should be the roles in a rationalist community?
In this post and the next one, I will outline the roles in Latter-day Saint communities. In the following posts, I will draw more conclusions as to which roles would be ideal for rationalist communities.
I should note that these sets of responsibilities are designed to function in congregations where 100 to 150 people come to church every week. They are slimmed down when the congregations are smaller. I’m going to outline all the roles, and as I go, I’ll note which ones are the most important.
The Main Roles
There are four main groups of “callings,” responsibilities in the church. I will discuss the first two groups in this post.
First, there are the teachers, who speak, teach and lead discussions in Sunday church meetings.
Second, there are auxiliaries, responsible for ensuring the well-being of the various segments of the congregation. In each congregation, there is a women’s organization, a men’s organization, as well as young women’s, young men’s, and children’s organizations.
In smaller groups, the leaders and more-committed members often wear multiple hats.
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