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

Comment author: MrHen 21 April 2009 04:51:19AM *  42 points [-]

(Note) This mostly has to do with karma with a minor rant/point at the end. If that doesn't sound interesting, it probably won't be.

Because I really do honestly think that if you want to downvote a comment that seems low-quality... and yet you hesitate, wondering if maybe you're downvoting just because you disagree with the conclusion or dislike the author... feeling nervous that someone watching you might accuse you of groupthink or echo-chamber-ism or (gasp!) censorship... then nine times of ten, I bet, nine times out of ten at least, it is a comment that really is low-quality.

Some of the most interesting things I have registered about LessWrong thus far have to do with the karma game. I am convinced that there are huge swaths of information that can be learned if the karma data was opened for analysis.

If I had to guess at the weaknesses of the karma system I would peg two big problems. The first is that (some? most? many?) people are trying to assign an integer value to a post that is something outside of the range [-1,1] and then adjust their vote to affect a post's score toward their chosen value. This seems to have the effect that everything is drawn toward 0 unless it is an absolutely stellar post. Then it just drifts up. I think the highest comment I have seen was in the high teens. I know there are more than twenty people visiting the site. Do they not read comments? Do they not vote on them?

The second problem spot is that I find it hard to actually use the feedback of karma. I have no way of knowing how well I am doing other a number. I have noticed that my karma has jumped lately and this leads me to believe I have made a change for the better. Unfortunately, I have no easy way of seeing which comments did well and which did poorly. Was it my tone? Did I get wiser? Are my comments more useful? Since I am new, my comment level is low and I can dig through what is there and learn, but this will simply get harder as time goes on. The karma system seems to work well on a comment by comment basis but not so much as a teaching tool. I see this as a problem because this is exactly what I need and I feel like I am squeezing a square peg into a round hole. It makes me think I am not using it correctly.

I find both of the above problems frustrating to me personally. I see a comment get voted down and think, "Okay, that was bad." If I ask for clarification, it goes back up, which just makes it confusing. "Uh, so was it bad or not bad?" The difference between the highest rated comment of mine and the lowest is less than 10. I think the highest is 5 and the lowest was at -2 before I deleted it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not complaining that my super-great-excellent posts are not voted to 20 karma in a single weekend. I am complaining that my crappy posts are all sitting at 0 and -1. I just started posting here and already have over 50 karma and the dark secret is that I am a complete poser. I barely even know the terms you guys use. I have not read much of Overcoming Bias and if you gave me a test on key points of rationality I would probably limp through the guessable stuff and start failing once the questions got hard. I can pick apart the logic within a given post, but the only real contributions I have made are exposing flaws in other comments. How in the world am I succeeding? I do not know.

To put this back into the original point, if people are shy about telling me my posts are low quality I can (a) never learn the difference between "mediocre" and "bad" and (b) any fool can limp by with comments that just repeat basic logic and use key terms in the right order. The chances of that being fun are low. One of my great paranoias is that I am the fool and no one pointed it out; I am the elephant in the room but have no mirror. I don't want to trample on your garden and smush the roses. I want to partake in what seems to be a really awesome, fun community. If I don't fit, kick me out.

(To be a little less harsh on myself, I do not consider myself a fool nor am I trying to play the role of a fool. If I am one, please let me know because I apparently have not figured it out yet.)

Comment author: MorgannaLeFey 21 April 2009 11:18:58AM 7 points [-]

I know there are more than twenty people visiting the site. Do they not read comments? Do they not vote on them?

I usually don't vote because I don't feel comfortable enough in my own understanding of these discussions to have an opinion about the relative value of a particular comment. Probably if I saw something that gave me an immediate and strong reaction, I'd be more likely to vote one way or another.

I know someone else who reads posts but seldom reads the comments.

In response to Spreading the word?
Comment author: MorgannaLeFey 20 April 2009 11:03:22AM 1 point [-]

I'm not entirely clear on what you're hoping to accomplish. Get more people reading this particular blog/forum? Get more people to think rationally in general? Yes to both?

I think you realize that this blog simply will not gain in popular appeal. The posts are too long, too complicated, fairly dry, very academic-sounding, and very connected to a complex series of other posts that require too much research and link following/retracing in order to puzzle out what one does not understand or with which one does not have much experience.

I think it might be more fruitful to focus on ways of introducing rationality in other venues, or sneaking it out there through other means, rather than trying to get more people to come here and read these posts.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 April 2009 09:46:31AM 0 points [-]

Anyone who reads science fiction is probably already going to be reasonably receptive to our ideas; what would really make a difference would be promoting rationality in other genres of fiction.

Comment author: MorgannaLeFey 20 April 2009 10:54:07AM 3 points [-]

I think it's time for rationality to find its way into romance novels. (I'm not just being glib.)

Comment author: MorgannaLeFey 17 April 2009 02:39:38PM *  2 points [-]
  • Handle: MorgannaLeFey
  • Name: Siobhan
  • Location: Central Vermont (via Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, and Alaska)
  • Age: At this point, I'm 43. I expect that to change.
  • Occupation: database and web applications developer
  • Education: I studied theatre arts and communications (no degree). Eleven years later I studied psychology, women's studies, and community development (primarily online and non-academic). Again, no degree.

When I registered I didn't consider that my handle might not be the most apt for this community, it is simply who I have been online for over fifteen years (though I have been participating in online communities since 1983). The original reasons for my handle have faded, but my attachment to the name has remained. So please, don't read more into my handle than my having a preference for the way it sounds.

I was pushed away from mathematics and the sciences from an early age by the limitations of our public school system, though I had the ability to excel in both. I was not encouraged to develop the habits of intellectual discipline that would have carried me beyond those limitations. I was content to glide through my classes, doing only the minimum necessary to maintain my A average without bothering to push much beyond that. My social life, outside activities, and connections were more important to me. This isn't something I have any regrets over, I bring it up to somewhat explain my intellectual inertia and lack of familiarity with certain standard concepts found here.

The immediate circumstance that led me to LW is that a close friend found this site and forwarded the link to my husband. My husband forwarded the link to me. However, the path that led me here started much earlier. I was of a skeptical nature from an early age, though I have only come to realize this in the course of years of self-examination. I go through periods of studying things, then leaving them behind in favor of other, less stringent pursuits. Yet, as I age my brain gets mushy more easily, so I've been looking for ways to stave that off. In researching the issue, I found that the effects of aging on the brain can be mitigated through intellectual exercise. Not much of a surprise, really. So that has me poking around for ways to exercise my brain.

There is, of course, so much more to the story of how I got here. I could fill pages that I suspect most would find uninteresting. So I'll stop here.

Comment author: Jack 16 April 2009 04:50:31PM 4 points [-]
  • Handle: Jack
  • Location: Washington D.C.
  • Age: 21
  • Education: Feeling pretty self-conscious about being the only person to post so far without a B.A. I'll finish it next year, major is philosophy with a minor in cognitive science and potentially another minor/major in government. After that its more school of some kind.

I wonder if those of us on the younger end of things will be dismissed more after posting our age and education. I admit to be a little worried, but I'm pretty sure everyone here is better than that. Anyway, I was a late joiner to OB (I think I got there after seeing a Robin Hanson bloggingheads) and then came here. I'm an atheist/materialist by way of Catholicism- but pretty bored by New Atheism. I was raised in a pretty standard liberal/left wing home but have moved libertarian. I'm very sympathetic to the "liberaltarian" idea. Free markets with direct and efficient redistribution are where its at.

Comment author: MorgannaLeFey 17 April 2009 01:47:59PM 0 points [-]

I was sitting here thinking "Wow, I think I'm older than anyone here" and wondering if I might be dismissed in some way. Funny, that.

Comment author: MorgannaLeFey 16 April 2009 02:28:47PM *  11 points [-]

I've only just come into contact with this place, and normally I avoid commenting the day I start somewhere, but this post was compelling considering how I found LW.

A very good friend of ours sent a link to LW to my husband, but not to me. Usually he will send links to both of us he believes we'll both be interested in, and links only to me that he feels I'll be interested in but not my husband, and vice versa.

So clearly he felt I wouldn't be interested in this place, despite knowing that I am fond of rational discourse. Fortunately, my husband knew I would, and so I am here. I just found it an interesting data point in the context of this particular conversation.

Edit: Though this makes me wonder, why didn't I come across LW myself? Why didn't I bother searching for such things?