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LW 2.0 Open Beta Live

23 Vaniver 21 September 2017 01:15AM

The LW 2.0 Open Beta is now live; this means you can create an account, start reading and posting, and tell us what you think.

Four points:

1) In case you're just tuning in, I took up the mantle of revitalizing LW through improving its codebase some time ago, and only made small amounts of progress until Oliver Habryka joined the project and put full-time engineering effort into it. He deserves the credit for the new design, and you can read about his strategic approach here.

2) If you want to use your current LW account on LW2.0, we didn't import the old passwords, and so you'll have to use the reset password functionality. If your LW account isn't tied to a current email, send a PM to habryka on lesswrong and he'll update the user account details on lesserwrong. He's also working on improving the site and sleeping and things like that, so don't expect an immediate response.

3) During the open beta there will be a green message in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. This is called Intercom, and is how you can tell us about issues with the site and ask other questions.

4) The open beta will end with a vote of users with over a thousand karma on whether we should switch the lesswrong.com URL to point to the new code and database. If this succeeds, all the activity from the open beta and the live site will be merged together. If the vote fails, we expect to archive LW until another team comes along to revive it. We currently don't have a date set, but this will be announced a week in advance.

LW 2.0 Open Beta starts 9/20

24 Vaniver 15 September 2017 02:57AM

Two years ago, I wrote Lesswrong 2.0. It’s been quite the adventure since then; I took up the mantle of organizing work to improve the site but was missing some of the core skills, and also never quite had the time to make it my top priority. Earlier this year, I talked with Oliver Habryka and he joined the project and has done the lion’s share of the work since then, with help along the way from Eric Rogstad, Harmanas Chopra, Ben Pace, Raymond Arnold, and myself. Dedicated staff has led to serious progress, and we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.


So what’s next? We’ve been running the closed beta for some time at lesserwrong.com with an import of the old LW database, and are now happy enough with it to show it to you all. On 9/20, next Wednesday, we’ll turn on account creation, making it an open beta. (This will involve making a new password, as the passwords are stored hashed and we’ve changed the hashing function from the old site.) If you don't have an email address set for your account (see here), I recommend adding it by the end of the open beta so we can merge accounts. For the open beta, just use the Intercom button in the lower right corner if you have any trouble. 


Once the open beta concludes, we’ll have a vote of veteran users (over 1k karma as of yesterday) on whether to change the code at lesswrong.com over to the new design or not. It seems important to look into the dark and have an escape valve in case this is the wrong direction for LW. If the vote goes through, we’ll import the new LW activity since the previous import to the new servers, merging the two, and point the url to the new servers. If it doesn’t, we’ll likely turn LW into an archive.


Oliver Habryka will be posting shortly with his views on LW and more details on our plans for how LW 2.0 will further intellectual progress in the community.

[Link] Don't Shoot the Messenger

9 Vaniver 19 April 2017 10:14PM

[Link] The Quaker and the Parselmouth

6 Vaniver 20 January 2017 09:24PM

[Link] Announcement: Intelligence in Literature Prize

8 Vaniver 04 January 2017 08:07PM

Community needs, individual needs, and a model of adult development

12 Vaniver 17 December 2016 12:18AM

Sarah Constantin wrote:

Specifically, I think that LW declined from its peak by losing its top bloggers to new projects. Eliezer went to do AI research full-time at MIRI, Anna started running CFAR, various others started to work on those two organizations or others (I went to work at MetaMed). There was a sudden exodus of talent, which reduced posting frequency, and took the wind out of the sails.

One trend I dislike is that highly competent people invariably stop hanging out with the less-high-status, less-accomplished, often younger, members of their group. VIPs have a strong temptation to retreat to a "VIP island" -- which leaves everyone else short of role models and stars, and ultimately kills communities. (I'm genuinely not accusing anybody of nefarious behavior, I'm just noting a normal human pattern.) Like -- obviously it's not fair to reward competence with extra burdens, I'm not that much of a collectivist. But I think that potentially human group dynamics won't work without something like "community-spiritedness" -- there are benefits to having a community of hundreds or thousands, for instance, that you cannot accrue if you only give your time and attention to your ten best friends.

While I agree that the trend described in the second paragraph happens (and I also dislike the effects), I have another model that I think more tightly explains why the first paragraph happened. I also think that it's important to build systems with the constraint in mind that they work for the individuals inside those systems. A system that relies on trapped, guilted, or oppressed participants is a system at risk for collapse.

So in order to create great public spaces for rationalists, we don't just need to have good models of community development. Those can tell us what we need from people, but might not include how to make people fill those slots in a sustainable way.

To explain why lots of top bloggers left at once, let me present a model of adult development, drawn from George Vaillant’s modification of Erik Erikson’s model, as discussed in Triumphs of Experience. It focuses on 6 different ‘developmental tasks,’ rather than ‘stages’ or ‘levels.’ Each has success and failure conditions associated with it; a particular component of life goes either well or poorly. They’re also not explicitly hierarchical; one could achieve the “third” task before achieving the “second” task, for example, but one still notices trends in the ages at which the tasks have been completed.

Triumphs of Experience is the popsci treatment of the Harvard Grant Study of development; they took a bunch of Harvard freshmen and sophomores, subjected them to a bunch of psychological tests and interviews, and then watched them grow up over the course of ~70 years. This sort of longitudinal study gives them a very different perspective from cross-sectional studies, because they have much better pictures of what people looked like before and after.

I'll briefly list the developmental tasks, followed by quotes from Triumphs of Expertise that characterize succeeding at them. The bolded ones seem most relevant:


  • Identity vs. Role Diffusion: “Live independently of family of origin, and to be self-supporting.”
  • Intimacy vs. Isolation: “capacity to live with another person in an emotionally attached, interdependent, and committed relationship for ten years or more.”
  • Career Consolidation vs. Role Diffusion: “Commitment, compensation, contentment, and competence.”
  • Generativity vs. Stagnation: “assumption of sustained responsibility for the growth and well-being of others still young enough to need care but old enough to make their own decisions.”
  • Guardianship vs. Hoarding: The previous level covered one-on-one relationships; this involves more broad, future-focused sorts of endeavors. Instead of mentoring one person, one is caretaker of a library for many.
  • Integrity vs. Despair: Whether one is graceful in the face of death or not. [1]


As mentioned before, they're ordered but the ordering isn't strict, and so you can imagine someone working on any developmental task, or multiple at once. But it seems likely that people will focus most of their attention on their earliest ongoing task.

It seems to me like several of the top bloggers were focusing on blogging because something was blocking their attempts to focus on career consolidation, and so they focused on building up a community instead. When the community was ready enough, they switched to their career--but as people were all in the same community, this happened mostly at once.

I think that “community-spiritedness” in the sense that Sarah is pointing at, in the sense of wanting to take care of the raising of new generations or collection and dissemination of ideas, comes most naturally to people working on generativity and guardianship. People work on that most easily if they’re either done with consolidating their career or their career is community support (in one form or another). If not, it seems like there’s a risk that opportunities to pursue earlier needs will seem more immediate and be easily able to distract them.

(In retrospect, I fell prey to this; I first publicly embarked on the project of LW revitalization a year ago, and then after about a month started a search for a new job, which took up the time I had been spending on LW. If doing it again, I think the main thing I would have tried to do differently is budgeting a minimally sufficient amount of time for LW while doing the job search with the rest of my time, as opposed to spending time how it felt most useful. This might have kept the momentum going and allowed me to spend something like 80% of my effort on the search and 20% on LW, rather than unintentionally spending 100% and 0%.)


1. I interpret the last task through the lens of radical acceptance, not deathism; given that one is in fact dying, whether one responds in a way that helps themselves and those around them seems like an important thing to ask about separately from the question of how much effort we should put into building a world where that is the case later and less frequently than the present.

[Link] Contra Robinson on Schooling

4 Vaniver 02 December 2016 07:05PM

Downvotes temporarily disabled

17 Vaniver 01 December 2016 05:31PM

This is a stopgap measure until admins get visibility into comment voting, which will allow us to find sockpuppet accounts more easily.


The best place to track changes to the codebase is the github LW issues page.

Articles in Main

3 Vaniver 29 November 2016 09:35PM

Hi all,

We shut off Main back in February to force everything into Discussion, and I still think the Main/Discussion split should be replaced (by better use of the tagging system, or by different subreddits based more about the style of interaction that people are looking for than the content, or so on), but (as mentioned then) we're going to be using Main for posts we want to make sure get into the RSS feed.

This is awkward because everything else is in Discussion, and Main is still a weird visibility zone, where stuff in Main that isn't Promoted is sort of in limbo. There are ways to improve this long-term, but in the short term, it looks like there are some easy options:

1. Open Thread comments linking to new promoted Main posts

2. Linkposts that point to new promoted Main posts

3. Something else?


(As said before, this should hopefully be a temporary measure; if we add promoted posts in Discussion to the site RSS (github issue), then those posts will show up in Discussion and in the RSS and everything is great.)

Linkposts now live!

27 Vaniver 28 September 2016 03:13PM


You can now submit links to LW! As the rationality community has grown up, more and more content has moved off LW to other places, and so rather than trying to generate more content here we'll instead try to collect more content here. My hope is that Less Wrong becomes something like "the Rationalist RSS," where people can discover what's new and interesting without necessarily being plugged in to the various diaspora communities.

Some general norms, subject to change:


  1. It's okay to link someone else's work, unless they specifically ask you not to. It's also okay to link your own work; if you want to get LW karma for things you make off-site, drop a link here as soon as you publish it.
  2. It's okay to link old stuff, but let's try to keep it to less than 5 old posts a day. The first link that I made is to Yudkowsky's Guide to Writing Intelligent Characters.
  3. It's okay to link to something that you think rationalists will be interested in, even if it's not directly related to rationality. If it's political, think long and hard before deciding to submit that link.
  4. It's not okay to post duplicates.

As before, everything will go into discussion. Tag your links, please. As we see what sort of things people are linking, we'll figure out how we need to divide things up, be it separate subreddits or using tags to promote or demote the attention level of links and posts.

(Thanks to James Lamine for doing the coding, and to Trike (and myself) for supporting the work.)

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