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Comment author: sdr 26 April 2017 04:46:31AM *  3 points [-]

Thank you for posting this. I agree, that growing negotiation skills is hard under best of circumstances; and I agree that certain types of newbies might self-identify with the post above.

There is a qualitative difference between people who are negotiating (but lack the proper skill), and the parasites described above:

  • Beginner negotiators state their request, and ask explicitly (or expect impliedly) for price / counter

  • More advanced negotiators start with needs/wants discovery, to figure out where a mutually beneficial deal can be made; and they adjust as discussion proceeds

  • These parasites, in comparison, attempt to raise their request against explicitly stated, nebulous things (or nothing at all): "Would you like to do free translation for me?" - "Cause X is very important, and therefore you, specifically, should do something about it" - "Would you like to build my full website for me in exchange of 1% shares?"

For the record:

  • I have attempted education in some cases (1-on-1, no social standings on the line on either parties, being discreet, etc), to no effect, and only resentment from the other party.

  • I observe that this parasitic strategy works some of the time, which incentivize existing parasitic behavior to grow until saturation. These are the reasons why I brought this up here in the first place.

  • Kindly note, that while there were a lot more evidencing going into this than described above, I am hesitant to disclose more specificities about any of these cases, because the Bay is small (-> personal identification), and discussion isn't reflective-complete (parasites read this, too; the more I disclose here, the more they can shift their strategies)

Comment author: k_ebel 26 April 2017 06:33:33PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for your reply and the additional clarification of your original point.

I certainly am not seeking additional identifying information. For one, it would do me no good as I don't have the local context knowledge to map it to anything anyway. Secondly, the gist of my initial comment was really more responding to the sense that taking a few examples and generalizing them to a larger group of people seemed inadvisable to me.

Along those same lines, I'm still really hesitant to get behind a statement that strongly implies that all well-intentioned newbies will start poorly negotiating in only one way (or one set of ways), and that anyone who starts negotiating poorly in a different or particular way (or set of ways) is obviously doing so from a place of poor intentions. The more visibility and reach this community has, the more diversity we're going to see in the new people who are finding it. And in the ways of communication they've learned are effective and acceptable. Additionally, not every newbie who comes into the community is ready or able to identify culture differences as the source of the problems they're encountering. Troubleshooting is its own skillset.

It also feels really important to me to point out that - if we're going to encourage people to ask and to practice asking (both of which are necessary in order to actually improve our asking and negotiating skills) then it creates some counter productive incentives if we then turn around and say things like "oh but folks who are asking in these particular ways are clearly a parasite."

While I agree that the examples you give of how a parasite might ask for something (or the scenarios they propose) don't look like particularly good deals... I still don't understand how this particular kind of ask is an indication of some sort of inherent parasitic nature the part of the asker. If we're going to create or maintain a culture where asking is an OK thing to do, then part of the underlying assumptions that go into it are that the other person is free to say "No."

To be completely fair, this is a legitimately difficult situation. In your initial comment you pointed out that one of the indicators you were looking at was the fact that these asks are primarily going towards newer folks (who may not be comfortable with ask/tell culture and who may feel obligated to say yes.) Which makes me think that perhaps the educational thrust I suggested initially was lacking in some key areas.

Perhaps - in addition to offering resources to new folks who want to learn how to ask effectively and responsibly - it would also be a really good idea to also include resources on things like how to say No/ how to be comfortable saying No, and - also really important for those coming from guess cultures - how to gracefully receive No.

I don't know that this is so much a solution for any particular individuals who are already here as it is a set-up for new people coming in that seems to give space for folks to learn the skills needed to not fall into a pattern of behavior that might be read as parasitic - before passing judgement on whether or not they are parasites.

Comment author: sdr 02 April 2017 01:49:31AM *  17 points [-]

Fellow Hufflepuff / startupper / business getting-stuff-done-er / CFAR / Bay-arean here. Can we talk about the elephant in the room?

  • Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution <- describes the idea of the role of parasites in subculture evolution; specifically, that once group-surplus achieves a threshold, it is immediately soaked up by parasites funneling it to agendas of their own
  • There are, by my count, at least 3 such parasites in the Bay community; and specifically they position themselves as the broken stair step right at onboarding, making the community feel "impenetrable and unwelcoming". The way how this happens operationally, is when I admit to some level of operational surplus (language skills, software development, business building), from these specific persons I get immediately asks of "Would you like to do free translation for me?" / "Would you like to build $website-idea$ for me?" / "Would you like to donate to $my-cause$?". I also notice that they don't do it this overtly to long-term members.
  • Note, the problem here isn't the ask. We do asks in entrepreneur-topia all the time. The problem is the lack of dealcraft: the asks are asymmetrically favouring the asker, and only offer vague lipservice-waving-towards-nice-things as return.
  • Presence of these parasites, and lack of dealcraft by these people reached equilibrium at having 'a strong culture of “make sure your own needs are met”, that specifically pushes back against broader societal norms that pressure people to conform.' , because people who have been valuepumped hard enough can not sustain themselves in the Bay.

You are attempting to increase the group-surplus of the community. This is very cool. My pre-mortem says, that any such surplus created by the sweat of your brow will be soaked up by this parasitic behavior, and hence fail to achieve long-term changes in admitted competence of the community.

There might be several ways to work around this problem. I want to be upfront about the evaluation criterias for it:

  • not talking, or taking action about this problem will not make it go away;
  • parasites' aim is value-pumping: that is, closing deals in which they get the maximum amount of value with the least amount of work on their own;
  • parasites participate in the culture like everyone else; for this reason, any plan you might come up with must be reflection-complete: that is, it needs to work, even if everyone in the community knows that such plan is in motion.

A few candidate solutions which sticks out:

  • Level up dealcraft: cultivate, and enforce a culture of mutually beneficial asks.
  • Level up quantitiy of dealcraft: elicit members -all members- of their goals / objectives / needs, and focus on coincidence of wants. There's a pretty cool model of this in the book Wishcraft: "Barn-raising"
  • Systematically post-mortem newbs, elicit list of parasites ("was there someone who made you uncomfortable, and describe the exact specificities of the situation"), and systematically intervene in the onboarding process.

Edit note: originally, this post used the word "sociopath", incorrectly -thanks for Viliam's comment below for pointing it out- fixed.

Comment author: k_ebel 26 April 2017 01:20:40AM *  1 point [-]

"Note, the problem here isn't the ask. We do asks in entrepreneur-topia all the time. The problem is the lack of dealcraft: the asks are asymmetrically favouring the asker, and only offer vague lipservice-waving-towards-nice-things as return."

I want to talk about this just a bit. If I've missed a comment that also addresses the same point, I apologize.

So, yes, asks are super common in the culture you're in. But in other cultures - specifically those that are more guess oriented - it's actually really difficult to grow negotiation skills. I'd caution strongly against taking a lack of ability in these areas as some sort of strong indication of a person being a "parasite" or having some other baked-in personality type issue. Which isn't to say that it's not a problem, just that I don't know that this piece of evidence is especially strong given how rare it is to find good examples of tell (or even ask) culture in large portions of the country/internet.

If you're concerned with the lack of dealcraft that comes from newbies, then knowing good resources to point them towards - or offering to be a source of practice in short, low-cost scenarios - may be a more effective way of dealing with this. This will also give you an opportunity to observe how folks respond to those opportunities, which may give you stronger evidence to use to actually identify the parasites/moochers/insert-preferred-term-here that do filter in (because I agree that this is also a thing that happens).

In response to comment by gwern on Morality is Awesome
Comment author: Fronken 24 January 2013 09:13:36AM 0 points [-]

There's not really any benefit from fixing that bias, though.

In most people Eugenics (even the good ones) is evil Nazi stuff and this can count even helpful GM as evil.

The best I can think of is it makes for an interesting sort of critical thinking or bias test: give someone a writeup of, say, Nazi animal welfare policies & reforms, and see how they react. Can they emit a thoughtful reply rather than canned outrage?

But we fail the test thus our sanity waterline could be raised :(

Comment author: k_ebel 18 February 2016 03:43:00PM *  0 points [-]

I realize this is super belated and may not actually be seen, but if I get an answer, that'd be cool:

If we see the horns effect in how people talk about Nazis as evidence that our sanity waterline could be raised, wouldn't trying to fight the thing you're calling "bias against the poor Nazis" be like trying to treat symptom of a problem instead of the problem itself?

Examples I can think of that might illustrate what I mean:

Using painkillers instead of (or before?) finding out a bone is broken and setting it.
Trying to teach a martial arts student the routine their opponent uses instead of teaching them how to react in the moment and read their opponent.
Teaching the answers to a test instead of teaching the underlying concept in a way that the student can generalize.

It seems to me that doing that would only lead to reducing the power of the "Nazi response" as evidence of sanity waterline.

sidenote: I'm finding this framing really fascinating because of how I see the underlying problem/topic generalizing to other social biases I feel more strongly affected by.

Comment author: k_ebel 26 January 2016 09:43:59PM 2 points [-]


I'm getting into the Bay area this afternoon for the CFAR workshop starting tomorrow. I'm looking for advice on how to spend the time and also where might be a good place to look for affordable lodging for one evening.

I'd initially thought about crashing at the Piedmont house hostel as it's cheap and close enough that I could visit CFAR before heading over tomorrow, but it appears to be sold out. I figured there are probably folks here who know the area or have visited, so I didn't see any harm in asking for info, or checking to see if anyone was getting up to anything.

:) Kim

Comment author: shanen 20 March 2015 12:56:31AM 1 point [-]

I was actually looking for an errata page for the minor mistake on page 119, where it says "three billion" for "three million". The notes are clear, but it still stuck a thumb in my eye.

For what it's worth, I rate the book as good, though a bit drier than The Willpower Instinct. Also, this book seemed less focused on specific things to do.

Comment author: k_ebel 21 January 2016 04:53:14PM 0 points [-]

I've read this book in the past and am looking at "The Willpower Instinct" right now. Since you seem to have read both, I'd love to hear any other thoughts you might have on the comparative pros/cons of each of them.

Comment author: k_ebel 20 October 2015 04:06:27PM 0 points [-]

As a possible point of clarification:

The underwear itself really just happened to be the first time I recognized an example of aspects of my thinking that I'd been having trouble with. Specifically, that I tend to go about tackling problems in an exceedingly round-about way.

I posted it to this group because I found myself able to express the actual orientations and order of operations that my thoughts went through. It was a relatively isolated example, in that it didn't reference interactions with other people or processes. As such, it seemed ideal for exploring with the specific intent of generating alternative approaches that might generalize to other processes.

It appears that I might have missed a couple of factors in my choice of example. I hadn't considered the likelihood that such a common activity might encourage responses/solutions outside of the (I see now less-than-clearly) specified areas of focus. I also somewhat habitually underestimate the pull to judge examples deemed silly or unimportant.

FWIW, I have found quite a few pieces of useful information in the responses I've gotten, and you all have my appreciation and gratitude for coming with me on this little journey. :)

Clothing is Hard (A Brief Adventure into my Inefficient Brain)

-3 k_ebel 12 October 2015 01:44AM

This is an active solicitation for suggestions on how to train it differently.


Apparently, this morning I put on my underwear wrong.  

Upon noticing that they were on incorrectly, I took them off by turning them inside out on the Z axis (top of head to bottom of feet), and then rotating them 180degreees along the Y axis (belly button to back, travelling through the spine). 

I noted the degrees of off-ness on the two axes, intending to remember them for the next time this happens.  Yes, this happens often enough that I'll probably use the information again.  Sometimes, even clothing is hard.


It was only then that I realized that the easier way to understand what happened would be to say that they were 180degrees off on the X axis (L shoulder to R shoulder, by travelling across the back).   




Ultimately, how this seems to play out is that I get ahead of myself in some rather strange ways.   I tend to think of things in motion before I fully understand them in their static forms.   In the example above, it would have meant that I was trying to store larger chunks of more complex data, when a simpler notation would have done just as well.   I also find that it can distract me from recognizing the context around whatever I'm observing.


I'm only just beginning to be able to identify when that's happening.   

Obviously, I want to address this.  I just don't know how to go about figuring out what needs to be done.  From how to gather more information, to what to do with it.   







Comment author: Vladimir_Golovin 24 August 2015 07:27:42AM *  3 points [-]

Haha, thanks, but I already specced out and outsourced Stage 1 of the MVP :)))

Anyway, here's what I find lacking in other personal Todo apps:

1. Recurring Task Fragility

I rely on recurring / repeating tasks a lot, I use them to automate my life. The problem is, in most todo apps recurring tasks are too brittle.

For example, I have a task on 15th of each month. One month I decide to do it earlier, on 12th of the month. The natural way would be to just reassign the due date from 15th to 12th, but doing that would change the recurrence condition of the task: it will now recur on 12th of each month! And God forbid I delete the task because I don’t need it this month -- this would delete all future recurrences!

Because of all this, I’m forced to walk on eggshells around recurring tasks. I’m afraid to treat them as normal tasks. I can’t rename them, can’t delete them, can’t move them to another list, can’t change the due date.

This happens because most todo apps conflate the recurring task instance with the definition of recurring task. I want to de-conflate these concepts. In my app, the recurrence logic is defined by a Schedule Item, which ‘spawns’ recurring task instances that can be deleted, modified, renamed etc. You won’t accidentally change the recurrence settings of a task by editing it in the task list. If you want to modify the recurrence settings, go to Schedule and do that explicitly.

(As a bonus, in the above system all recurring tasks will be visible in one place, the Schedule. This is essentially my life program, my human crontab. I like the ability to edit my life in one place.)

(And there’s another bonus to this system: forward visibility of recurring tasks. Most todo apps don’t display recurring tasks in forecast views. My app will. When you define a Schedule Item in Schedule, the recurring tasks ‘spawned’ by it will be visible across the entire future timeline. That is, you can literally look at the day Sep 1st 3215 and see that you have to walk the dog, buy the groceries and arrange a check up with the doctor.)

2. Due Date Pollution

My personal productivity system is closer to Autofocus than to GTD, so when I have a task in my list, and don’t want or cannot do it at the moment, I want it to temporarily disappear from my list until I’m ready to do it.

The only way to “disappear” a task in most todo apps is to set its Due Date to Tomorrow or such, but if I do this to a dateless task, it would become dateful! Why the hell must I make my dateless tasks dateful just to dismiss them for a while?

A Due Date should only be used on tasks that must be done on that specific date, so it doesn’t make any sense on dateless tasks. Which brings us to the next topic, Dismiss:

3. Proper Dismiss.

So, to combat Due Date Pollution, I need a proper Dismiss Until command that hides the task until some condition is met without making the task dateful. For example, Dismiss Until Tomorrow Morning, or Dismiss Until September 1st, 2015. I would like this function to be easily accessible, for example via the swipe-away gesture on list items.

Now, Dismiss Until Tomorrow is nice, and Dismiss Until Evening is great, but I also want Dismiss until I’m at Work, Dismiss until I’m in Boston, Dismiss until I’m near Bob Smith, or even Dismiss Until (NASDAQ:AAPL < 100) AND (Weather in Moscow is Good). Which brings us to our next topic, Contexts and Triggers:

4. Contexts and Triggers

For example, I have a task which I want to do only on workdays, in the evening and outside of work. When these conditions are met, I want the task to be visible in my list, and otherwise it should stay hidden.

To implement this, my app will have an Active When field, which can specify activation conditions for the task. For the above task, that would be something along the lines of @workday AND @evening AND (NOT @work).

@work, @evening and @workday are Triggers. The terminology is not final, and I don’t yet know how to call them, but essentially Triggers are boolean functions that can be incorporated into tasks in order to activate them when certain events happen.

Triggers can also be used in Dismiss Until command, and I plan a version of Schedule based on Triggers. That is, you can specify conditions, and when these conditions are met, a specified task will appear in your task list.

5. Multi-line Todo Items.

I need multi-line todo items in order to word my tasks properly. A task titled “Widgets!” is much less meaningful than a task “Decide which Widget to buy. Ask Bob, he’s the expert on Widgets.” This may sound trivial, but many popular todo apps display todo items as single-line -- and Wunderlist is among them!

I’m not worried about the screen real estate occupied by multiline items. The primary way to consume a todo app these days is mobile, and scrolling on mobile is effortless.

So, to sum up, this is a hybrid of a todo app and IFTTT / Tasker for humans. I don’t think that there’s currently anything on the market that offers that. Anyway, the work is already underway, and the MVP should be ready by the end of the year. I’ll announce it here on Lesswrong.

Comment author: k_ebel 24 August 2015 05:19:17PM 1 point [-]

I run into some of the same problems you listed above in my own use of productivity apps. I look forward to hearing more about your project! If you have a blog or some place you post progress, I'd be interested in following you there as well.

Comment author: Elo 24 August 2015 04:49:56AM 1 point [-]

I know of a project to start building a list of related groups; but even that will be limited to "explore and find out to confirm". Without us explicitly knowing what "lesswrongers" are; other than people who hang around lesswrong.com; its quite hard to find others quite like our little in-group.

Comment author: k_ebel 24 August 2015 04:46:59PM 1 point [-]

Do you know if the project intends to address that lack of definition in what attributes we see as being similar (in groups and individuals)? I could see how even just having a list of characteristics for a person/group might be an excellent place to start in evaluating choices for where to spend social/networking capital.

Comment author: k_ebel 16 July 2015 05:42:24PM 1 point [-]

Do you still need volunteers to help with the SF event?

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