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

Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? - Less Wrong

157 Post author: Yvain 27 August 2012 03:36AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (1744)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 13 September 2012 01:47:24PM 1 point [-]

I've banned all of eridu's recent comments (except a few voted above 0) as an interim workaround, since hiding-from-Recent-Comments and charge-fee-to-all-descendants is still in progress for preventing future threads like these.

I respectfully request that you all stop doing this, both eridu and those replying to him.

Comment author: fezziwig 13 September 2012 03:35:52PM 14 points [-]

I think Eridu's downvotes were mostly well-deserved.

I don't think this is a good idea.

I wonder if we could solve this problem from another direction. The issue from your perspective, as I understand it, is that you want to be able to follow every interesting discussion on this site, in semi-real time, but can't. You can't because your only view into "all comments everywhere" is only 5 items long, so fast-moving pointless discussions drown out the stuff you're interested in. An RSS feed presumably isn't sufficient either, since it pushes comments as they occur and doesn't give the community a chance to filter them.

So if I've reasoned all this out correctly, you'd prefer a view of all comments, sorted descending by post time and configurably tree-filtered by karma and maybe username. But we haven't the dev resources to build that, and measures like the ones you describe are a cheap, good-enough approximation.

Do I have that right?

Comment author: Emile 13 September 2012 04:25:05PM 6 points [-]

The issue from your perspective, as I understand it, is that you want to be able to follow every interesting discussion on this site, in semi-real time, but can't. You can't because your only view into "all comments everywhere" is only 5 items long, so fast-moving pointless discussions drown out the stuff you're interested in.

I think it's more than that - he also doesn't want other people to notice the pointless discussions, so that

1) people stop fanning the flames and feeding the trolls

2) people post in the worthwhile threads, resulting in more quality there

(and I agree with this point of view)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 September 2012 01:50:10AM 6 points [-]

Above all:

3) Newcomers who arrive at the site see productive discussion of new ideas, not a flamewar, in the Recent Comments section.

4) Trolls are not encouraged to stay; people who troll do not receive attention-reward for it and do not have their brain reinforced to troll some more. Productive discussion is rewarded by attention.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 September 2012 06:52:07AM 7 points [-]

The discussion with eridu was probably worth ending, but I saw someone say it was the best discussion of those issues they'd ever seen, and I'd said so myself independently in a location that I've promised not to link to.

I am very impressed with LW that we managed to make that happen.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 14 September 2012 08:29:32AM 7 points [-]

I am very impressed with LW that we managed to make that happen.

Did you learn something useful or interesting, or were you just impressed that the discussion remained relatively civil? If the former, can you summarize what you learned?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 September 2012 03:45:57PM 3 points [-]

I learned something that might turn out to be useful.

I got a bit of perspective on the extent to which I amplify my rage and distrust at SJ-related material (I had a very rough time just reading a lot of racefail)-- I'm not sure what I want to do with this, but it's something new at my end.

The civility of the discussion is very likely to have made this possible.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 14 September 2012 11:51:08PM 4 points [-]

I got a bit of perspective on the extent to which I amplify my rage and distrust at SJ-related material (I had a very rough time just reading a lot of racefail)-- I'm not sure what I want to do with this, but it's something new at my end.

I'm having trouble understanding this sentence. First, I guess SJ = "social justice" and racefail = "a famously controversial online discussion that was initially about writing fictional characters who are people of color"? But what does it mean to amplify your rage and distrust at some material? Do you mean some parts of the SJ-related materials made you angry and distrustful? Distrustful of who? Which parts made you feel that way? Why? And how did the eridu discussion help you realize the extent?

Comment author: wedrifid 14 September 2012 11:29:15AM 0 points [-]

Did you learn something useful or interesting, or were you just impressed that the discussion remained relatively civil? If the former, can you summarize what you learned?

I'm curious myself. I honestly didn't see anything useful said. (Perhaps I just took all the valid points for granted as obvious?)

Comment author: [deleted] 14 September 2012 03:57:50PM 5 points [-]

That discussion sucked. I was appalled at LW when I came back after a few hours and still "patriarchy" "abuse" etc hadn't been tabooed.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 September 2012 07:02:38PM 1 point [-]

You could have asked for them to be tabooed.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 September 2012 07:03:18PM *  3 points [-]
Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 September 2012 07:48:50PM *  4 points [-]

Thanks.

That's interesting-- as I recall, requests for words to be tabooed are usually at least somewhat honored.

Comment author: shminux 14 September 2012 08:00:13PM 1 point [-]

Not in my experience.

Comment author: Bugmaster 13 September 2012 04:57:13PM 6 points [-]

I dislike this solution, for several reasons.

  • I realize that we want to get rid of trolls, and I agree that this is a worthy goal, but one single person shouldn't be in charge of deciding who's a troll and who isn't.
  • Now that everyone knows that downvotes can cause a person to lose their ability to comment (I assume that's what "ban" means, could be wrong though), unscrupulous community members (and we must have some, statistically speaking, as unpleasant as that thought is) can use their downvotes offensively -- sort of like painting a target with a laser, allowing the Eliezer-nuke to home in.
  • Downvoting a comment does not always imply that the commenter is a troll. People also use downvotes to express things like "your argument is weak and unconvincing", and "I disagree with you strongly". We want to discourage the latter usage, and IMO we should encourage the former, but Eliezer's new policy does nothing to achieve these goals, and in fact harms them.
Comment author: DaFranker 13 September 2012 08:59:29PM *  4 points [-]

If the problem is differentiating between trolls and simply weak, airy, or badly formed comments/arguments, I think the obvious simple solution would be to do what has worked elsewhere and add a "Report" or "Troll-Alert" option to bring the comment/post to the attention of moderators or send it to a community-review queue.

It certainly seems easier to control for abuse of a Report feature than to control for trolling and troll-feeding using a single linear score that doesn't even tell you whether that -2 is just 2 * (-1) (two people think the poster is evil) or whether it's +5 -7 (five cultists approve, seven rationalists think it's a troll) (unless moderators can see a breakdown of this?).

Comment author: Alicorn 13 September 2012 09:50:03PM *  0 points [-]

Do you not see a Report button? There at least used to be one; I can't see because I only see a Ban button.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 13 September 2012 10:27:39PM 6 points [-]

There is a Report button when I view comments that are replies to my comments, or when I view private messages.
There is no Report button when I view comments normally.

Comment author: DaFranker 13 September 2012 10:54:40PM *  0 points [-]

Oh, you're right! Didn't remember that, but the inbox does have "Context" and "Report" links instead of the standard buttons.

Edit: I suppose a clever bit of scripting could probably fix it browser-side, then, but that's a very hacky solution and there's still value in having a built-in report button for, say, people who don't have the script or often access lesswrong from different browsers/computers.

Comment author: katydee 13 September 2012 10:10:10PM 2 points [-]

I do not see a Report button.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 14 September 2012 06:11:00AM 1 point [-]

See Issue 272. The report button was removed during a past redesign, as (I gather) redesigners didn't feel it was motivated sufficiently to bother preserving it. The issue's been in accepted/contributions-welcome mode since Sep 2011.

Comment author: Alicorn 13 September 2012 11:16:14PM 1 point [-]

Okay, if there's no longer a Report button, I at least am willing to field PMs from people who think I should consider banning specific comments.

Comment author: DaFranker 13 September 2012 10:20:31PM 1 point [-]

Nope, no report button here. Upvote/downvote on the left, Parent/Reply/Permalink on the right (+Edit/Retract when own posts).

Comment author: Bugmaster 13 September 2012 10:19:33PM 0 points [-]

I see no such button, FWIW.

Comment author: Emile 13 September 2012 05:51:17PM 0 points [-]

one single person shouldn't be in charge of deciding who's a troll and who isn't.

There are several moderators, I don't think Eliezer is the most active.

Now that everyone knows that downvotes can cause a person to lose their ability to comment (I assume that's what "ban" means, could be wrong though)

It doesn't, "ban" just means the comment is hidden.

I agree that there are downsides, they just don't seem that terrible..

Comment author: Bugmaster 13 September 2012 06:47:39PM 4 points [-]

There are several moderators, I don't think Eliezer is the most active.

I am aware of this, but Eliezer came off as being particularly invested in personally combating people whom he perceives as trolls.

It doesn't, "ban" just means the comment is hidden.

Ah, I stand corrected then, thanks for the info.

Comment author: mrglwrf 13 September 2012 08:58:20PM 0 points [-]

I agree that there are downsides, they just don't seem that terrible..

What about the never-ending meta discussions, or are you counting on those dying down soon? Because I wouldn't, unless the new policy is either dropped, or an extensive purge of the commentariat is carried out.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 14 September 2012 07:06:10AM 1 point [-]

You can't because your only view into "all comments everywhere" is only 5 items long

If you click on the recent comments link you get a longer view.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 September 2012 04:35:51PM *  12 points [-]

I've banned all of eridu's recent comments (except a few voted above 0) as an interim workaround

Is "ban" meaning "delete" a reddit-ism?

When I hear "ban" I think "author isn't allowed to post for a while".

Comment author: Wei_Dai 13 September 2012 04:50:32PM *  12 points [-]

"Ban" here means "make individual posts and comments invisible to everyone except moderators". (I agree "ban" is confusing.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 September 2012 01:54:13AM 5 points [-]

Correct. Sorry, the button I use says "Ban".

Comment author: DaFranker 14 September 2012 02:06:13AM 8 points [-]

Bad button!

Sorry, it was very tempting. =P

Comment author: anon895 14 September 2012 02:39:58AM *  9 points [-]

I (and any other casual visitor) now have only indirect evidence regarding whether eridu's comments were really bad or were well-meaning attempts to share feminist insights into the subject, followed by understandable frustration as everything she^Whe said was quoted out of context (if not misquoted outright) and interpreted in the worst possible way.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 14 September 2012 05:14:10AM 9 points [-]

Agreed. I would prefer that a negative contributor be prospectively banned (that is, "prevented from posting further") rather than retrospectively expunged (that is, "all their comments deleted from the record"), so as to avoid mutilating the record of past discussions.

For precedent, consider Wikipedia: if a contributor is found to be too much trouble (starting flamewars, edit-warring, etc.) they are banned, but their "talk page" discussion comments are not expunged. However, specific comments that are merely flaming, or which constitute harassment or the like, can be deleted.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 September 2012 06:26:44AM 5 points [-]

Agreed. In this case, what I read of the discussion which included eridu indicated that they weren't worth engaging with, but I'm actually rather impressed with what I saw of the community's patience.

Comment author: komponisto 13 September 2012 02:28:11PM 8 points [-]

charge-fee-to-all-descendants is still in progress

Once again, please don't do that. (Hiding-from-Recent-Comments is totally okay, however.)

Comment author: wedrifid 13 September 2012 04:16:03PM 13 points [-]

I've banned all of eridu's recent comments (except a few voted above 0)

Bravo. I have no idea whether that was someone pretending to be ignorant and toxic for the purpose of discrediting a group he was impersonating or whether it was sincere (and ignorant and toxic). Fortunately I don't need to know and don't care either way. Good riddance!

as an interim workaround, since hiding-from-Recent-Comments and charge-fee-to-all-descendants is still in progress for preventing future threads like these.

Is it just me or do others also find that Eliezer coming of as a tad petulant with the way he is handling people systematically opposing and downvoting his proposal? Every time he got downvoted to oblivion he just came back with a new comment seemingly crafted to be more belligerent, whiny, condescending and cynical about the community than the last. (That's hyperbole---in actuality it peaked in the middle somewhere.) Now we just keep getting reminded about it at every opportunity as noise in unrelated threads.

Comment author: thomblake 13 September 2012 04:19:22PM 12 points [-]

Is it just me

It's not just you.

I'm starting to think there should be community-elected moderators or something, and Eliezer should stop being allowed to suggest things.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 13 September 2012 04:36:03PM 10 points [-]

Mostly he's coming across to me as having lost patience with the community not being what he wants it to be, and having decided that he can fix that by changing the infrastructure, and not granting much importance to the fact that more people express disapproval of this than approval.

Comment author: wedrifid 13 September 2012 05:01:49PM *  4 points [-]

and not granting much importance to the fact that more people express disapproval of this than approval.

Those who actually don't care about such things what people think don't tend to convey this level of active provocation and defiance.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 13 September 2012 05:38:50PM 2 points [-]

Sure. I can't speak for EY, clearly, but there are many things (including what other people think) that I find myself caring about, often a lot, but I don't think are important. This is inconsistent, I know, but I find it pretty common among humans.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 September 2012 01:43:22AM 7 points [-]

Keep in mind that it's not "more people" it's more "people who participate in meta threads on Less Wrong". I've observed a tremendous divergence between the latter set, and "what LWers seem to think during real-life conversations" (e.g. July Minicamp private discussions of LW which is where the anti-troll-thread ideas were discussed, asking what people thought about recent changes at Alicorn's most recent dinner party). I'm guessing there's some sort of effect where only people who disagree bother to keep looking at the thread, hence bother to comment.

Some "people" were claiming that we ought to fix things by moderation instead of making code changes, which does seem worth trying; so I've said to Alicorn to open fire with all weapons free, and am trying this myself while code work is indefinitely in progress. I confess I did anticipate that this would also be downvoted even though IIRC the request to do that was upvoted last time, because at this point I've formed the generalization "all moderator actions are downvoted", either because only some people participate in meta threads, and/or the much more horrifying hypothesis "everyone who doesn't like the status quo has already stopped regularly checking LessWrong".

I'm diligently continuing to accept feedback from RL contact and attending carefully to this non-filtered source of impressions and suggestions, but I'm afraid I've pretty much written-off trying to figure out what the community-as-a-whole wants by looking at "the set of people who vigorously participate in meta discussions on LW" because it's so much unlike the reactions I got when ideas for improving LW were being discussed at the July Minicamp, or the distribution of opinions at Alicorn's last dinner party, and I presume that any other unfiltered source of reactions would find this conversation similarly unrepresentative.

Comment author: Yvain 14 September 2012 06:16:20PM *  13 points [-]

I will be starting another Less Wrong Census/Survey in about three weeks; in accordance with the tradition I will first start a thread asking for question ideas. If you can think of a good list of opinions you want polled in the next few weeks, consider posting them there and I'll stick them in.

Comment author: komponisto 14 September 2012 04:28:34AM 38 points [-]

Let me see if I understand you correctly: if someone cares about how Less Wrong is run, what they should do is not comment on Less Wrong -- least of all in discussions on Less Wrong about how Less Wrong is run ("meta threads"). Instead, what they should do is move to California and start attending Alicorn's dinner parties.

Have I got that right?

Comment author: wedrifid 14 September 2012 11:40:38AM 25 points [-]

Let me see if I understand you correctly: if someone cares about how Less Wrong is run, what they should do is not comment on Less Wrong -- least of all in discussions on Less Wrong about how Less Wrong is run ("meta threads"). Instead, what they should do is move to California and start attending Alicorn's dinner parties.

That's how politics usually works, yes.

Comment author: Alicorn 14 September 2012 04:34:25AM *  17 points [-]

Also, you have to attend dinner parties on a day when Eliezer is invited and doesn't decline due to being on a weird diet that week.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 14 September 2012 05:08:15AM 15 points [-]

Can we call this the social availability heuristic?

Comment author: SilasBarta 18 September 2012 11:05:16PM 4 points [-]

Don't worry, I'm sure that venue's attendees are selected neutrally.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 September 2012 11:18:07AM 0 points [-]

All you have to do is run into me in any venue whatsoever where the attendees weren't filtered by their interest in meta threads. :)

Comment author: [deleted] 14 September 2012 04:07:41PM 11 points [-]

But now that you've stated this, you have the ability to rationalize any future IRL meta discussion...

Comment author: DaFranker 18 September 2012 08:38:08PM 7 points [-]

Can "Direct email, skype or text-chat communications to E.Y." count as a venue? Purely out of curiosity.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 September 2012 08:56:06PM 0 points [-]

The problem is that if you initiate it, it's subject to the Loss Aversion effect where the dissatisfied speak up in much greater numbers.

Comment author: komponisto 19 September 2012 10:08:45AM 25 points [-]

I don't see what this has to do with "loss aversion" (the phenomenon where people think losing a dollar is worse than failing to gain a dollar they could have gained), though that's of course a tangential matter.

The point here is -- and I say this with all due respect -- it looks to me like you're rationalizing a decision made for other reasons. What's really going on here, it seems to me, is that, since you're lucky enough to be part of a physical community of "similar" people (in which, of course, you happen to have high status), your brain thinks they are the ones who "really matter" -- as opposed to abstract characters on the internet who weren't part of the ancestral environment (and who never fail to critique you whenever they can).

That doesn't change the fact that this is is an online community, and as such, is for us abstract characters, not your real-life dinner companions. You should be taking advice from the latter about running this site to about the same extent that Alicorn should be taking advice from this site about how to run her dinner parties.

Comment author: Alicorn 19 September 2012 05:45:51PM 3 points [-]

Alicorn should be taking advice from this site about how to run her dinner parties.

Do you have advice on how to run my dinner parties?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 19 September 2012 12:59:26PM -2 points [-]

since you're lucky enough to be part of a physical community of "similar" people (in which, of course, you happen to have high status), your brain thinks they are the ones who "really matter" -- as opposed to abstract characters on the internet who weren't part of the ancestral environment (and who never fail to critique you whenever they can).

Was Eliezer "lucky" to have cofounded the Singularity Institute and Overcoming Bias? "Lucky" to have written the Sequences? "Lucky" to have founded LessWrong? "Lucky" to have found kindred minds, both online and in meatspace? Does he just "happen" to be among them?

Or has he, rather, searched them out and created communities for them to come together?

That doesn't change the fact that this is is an online community, and as such, is for us abstract characters, not your real-life dinner companions. You should be taking advice from the latter about running this site to about the same extent that Alicorn should be taking advice from this site about how to run her dinner parties.

The online community of LessWrong does not own LessWrong. EY owns LessWrong, or some combination of EY, the SI, and whatever small number of other people they choose to share the running of the place with. To a limited extent it is for us, but its governance is not at all by us, and it wouldn't be LessWrong if it was. The system of government here is enlightened absolutism.

Comment author: DaFranker 18 September 2012 09:04:53PM *  4 points [-]

True. For that to be an effective communication channel, there would need to be a control group. As for how to create that control group or run any sort of blind (let alone double-blind) testing... yeah, I have no idea. Definitely a problem.

ETA: By "I have no idea", I mean "Let me find my five-minute clock and I'll get back to you on this if anything comes up".

Comment author: DaFranker 19 September 2012 02:15:06PM *  2 points [-]

So I thought for five minutes, then looked at what's been done in other websites before.

The best I have is monthly surveys with randomized questions from a pool of stuff that matters for LessWrong (according to the current or then-current staff, I would presume) with a few community suggestions, and then possibly later implementation of a weighing algorithm for diminishing returns when multiple users with similar thread participation (e.g. two people that always post in the same thread) give similar feedback.

The second part is full of holes and horribly prone to "Death by Poking With Stick", but an ideal implementation of this seems like it would get a lot more quality feedback than what little gets through low-bandwidth in-person conversations.

There are other, less practical (but possibly more accurate) alternatives, of course. Like picking random LW users every so often, appearing at their front door, giving them a brain-scan headset (e.g. an Emotiv Epoc), and having them wear the headset while being on LW so you can collect tons of data.

I'd stick with live feedback and simple surveys to begin with.

Comment author: DevilWorm 19 September 2012 08:27:33PM *  4 points [-]

it's subject to the Loss Aversion effect where the dissatisfied speak up in much greater numbers

But Eliezer Yudkowsky, too, is subject to the loss aversion effect. Just as those dissatisfied with changes overweight change's negative consequences, so does Eliezer Yudkowsky overweight his dissatisfaction with changes initiated by the "community." (For example, increased tolerance of responding to "trolling.")

Moreover, if you discount the result of votes on rules, why do you assume votes on other matters are more rational? The "community" uses votes on substantive postings to discern a group consensus. These votes are subject to the same misdirection through loss aversion as are procedural issues. If the community has taken a mistaken philosophical or scientific position, people who agree with that position will be biased to vote down postings that challenge that position, a change away from a favored position being a loss. (Those who agree with the newly espoused position will be less energized, since they weight their potential gain less than their opponents weigh their potential loss.)

If you think "voting" is so highly distorted that it fails to represent opinion, you should probably abolish it entirely.

Comment author: Nornagest 14 September 2012 04:07:16AM *  14 points [-]

I've moderated a few forums before, and with that experience in mind I'd have to agree that there's a huge, and generally hugely negative, selection bias at play in online response to moderator decisions. It'd be foolish to take those responses as representative of the entire userbase, and I've seen more than one forum suffer as a result of such a misconception.

That being said, though, I think it's risky to write off online user feedback in favor of physical. The people you encounter privately are just as much a filtered set as those who post feedback here, though the filters point in different directions: you're selecting people involved in the LW interpersonal community, for one thing, which filters out new and casual users right off the bat, and since they're probably more likely to be personally friendly to you we can also expect affect heuristics to come into play. Skepticism toward certain LW norms may also be selected against, which could lead people to favor new policies reinforcing those norms. Moreover, I've noticed a trend in the Bay Area group -- not necessarily an irrational one, but a noticeable one -- toward treating the online community as low-quality relative to local groups, which we might expect to translate into antipathy towards its status quo.

I don't know what the weightings should be, but if you're looking for a representative measure of user preferences I think it'd be wise to take both groups into account to some extent.

Comment author: Alicorn 14 September 2012 04:32:51AM 12 points [-]

You... know I don't optimize dinner parties as focus groups, right? The people who showed up that night were people who like chili (I had to swap in backup guests for some people who don't) and who hadn't been over too recently. A couple of the attendees from that party barely even post on LW.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 September 2012 12:01:10PM *  17 points [-]

You... know I don't optimize dinner parties as focus groups, right?

It is perhaps more importantly dinner parties are optimised for status and social comfort. Actually giving honest feedback rather than guessing passwords would be a gross faux pas.

Getting feedback at dinner parties is a good way to optimise the social experience of getting feedback and translate one's own status into the agreement of others.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 September 2012 03:06:27PM 7 points [-]

FWIW, I eat chili but I don't think the strongest of the proposed anti-troll measures are a good idea.

Comment author: CCC 14 September 2012 08:03:03AM 5 points [-]

If I were to guess, I'd guess that the main filter criteria for your dinner parties is geographical; when you have a dinner party in the Bay area, you invite people who can be reasonably expected to be in the Bay area. This is not entirely independant of viewpoint - memes which are more common local to the Bay area will be magnified in such a group - but the effect of that filter on moderation viewpoints is probably pretty random (similarly, the effect of the filter of 'people who like chili' on moderation viewpoints is probably also pretty random).

So the dinner party filter exists, but it less likely to pertain to the issue at hand than the online self-selection filter.

Comment author: komponisto 14 September 2012 09:08:17AM 5 points [-]

The problem with the dinner party filter is not that it is too strong, but that it is too weak: it will for example let through people who aren't even regular users of the site.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 September 2012 11:18:43AM 0 points [-]

You... know I don't optimize dinner parties as focus groups, right?

That's kinda the point.

Comment author: MBlume 14 September 2012 06:26:03PM 4 points [-]

At risk of failing to JFGI: can someone quickly summarize what remaining code work we'd like done? I've started wading into the LW code, and am not finding it quite as impenetrable as last time, so concrete goals would be good to have.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 15 September 2012 03:31:01AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: Bugmaster 14 September 2012 02:41:47AM 9 points [-]

That's fair, and your strategy makes sense. I also agree with DaFranker, below, regarding meta-threads.

This said, however, at the time when I joined Less Wrong, my model of the site was something like, "a place where smart people hold well-reasoned discussions on a wide range of interesting topics" (*). TheOtherDave's comment, in conjunction with yours, paints a different picture of what you'd like Less Wrong to be; let's call it Less Wrong 2.0. It's something akin to, "a place where Eliezer and a few of his real-life friends give lectures on topics they think are important, with Q&A afterwards".

Both models have merit, IMO, but I probably wouldn't have joined Less Wrong 2.0. I don't mean that as any kind of an indictment; if I were in your shoes, I would definitely want to exclude people like this Bugmaster guy from Less Wrong 2.0, as well.

Still, hopefully this one data point was useful in some way; if not, please downvote me !

(*) It is possible this model was rather naive.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 14 September 2012 03:08:59AM 6 points [-]

EY has always seemed to me to want LW to be a mechanism for "raising the sanity waterline". To the extent that wide-ranging discussion leads to that, I'd expect him to endorse it; to the extent that wide-ranging discussion leads away from that, I'd expect him to reject it. This ought not be a surprise.

Nor ought it be surprising that much of the discussion here does not noticeably progress this goal.

That said, there does seem to be a certain amount of non-apple selling going on here; I don't think there's a cogent model of what activity on LW would raise the sanity waterline, so attention is focused instead on trying to eliminate the more blatant failures: troll-baiting, for example, or repetitive meta-threads.

Which is not a criticism; it is what it is. If I don't know the cause, that's no reason not to treat the symptoms.

Comment author: Emile 14 September 2012 08:34:43AM 4 points [-]

This said, however, at the time when I joined Less Wrong, my model of the site was something like, "a place where smart people hold well-reasoned discussions on a wide range of interesting topics" (*). TheOtherDave's comment, in conjunction with yours, paints a different picture of what you'd like Less Wrong to be; let's call it Less Wrong 2.0. It's something akin to, "a place where Eliezer and a few of his real-life friends give lectures on topics they think are important, with Q&A afterwards".

No; you're conflating "Eliezer considers he should have the last word on moderation policy" and "Eliezer considers LessWrong's content should be mostly about what he has to say".

The changes of policy Eliezer is pushing have no effect on the "main" content of the site, i.e. posts that are well-received, and upvoted. The only disagreement seems to be about sprawling threads and reactions to problem users. I don't know where you're getting "Eliezer and a few of his real-life friends give lectures on topics they think are important" out of that, it's not as if Eliezer has been posting many "lectures" recently.

Comment author: Bugmaster 14 September 2012 06:47:00PM 2 points [-]

I was under the impression that Eliezer agreed with TheOtherDave's comment upthread:

Mostly [Eliezer is] coming across to me as having lost patience with the community not being what he wants it to be...

Combined with Eliezer's rather aggressive approach to moderation (f.ex. deleting downvoted comments outright), this did create the impression that Eliezer wants to restrict LessWrong's content to a narrow list of specific topics.

Comment author: DaFranker 14 September 2012 02:00:10AM *  7 points [-]

Sometimes AKA the "Forum Whiners" effect, well known in the PC games domain:

When new PC games are released, almost inevitably the main forums for the game will become flooded with a large surge of complaints, negative reviews, rage, rants, and other negative stuff. This is fully expected and the absence of such is actually a bad sign. People that are happy with the product are playing the game, not wasting their time looking for forums and posting comments there - while people who have a problem or are really unhappy often look for an outlet or a solution to their issues (though the former in much greater numbers, usually). If no one is bothering to post on the forums, then that's evidence that no one cares about the game in the first place.

I see a lot of similarities here, so perhaps that's one thing worth looking into? I'd expect some people somewhere to have done the math already on this feedback (possibly by comparing to overall sales, survey results and propagation data), though I may be overestimating the mathematical propensity of the people involved.

Regarding the stop-watching-threads thing, I've noticed that I pretty much always stop paying attention to a thread once I've gotten the information I wanted out of it, and will only come back to it if someone directly replies to one of my comments (since it shows up in the inbox). This has probably been suggested before, but maybe a "watchlist" to mark some threads to show up new comments visibly somewhere and/or a way to have grandchildren comments to one of your own show up somehow could help? I often miss it when someone replies to a reply to my comment.

Comment author: Bugmaster 14 September 2012 02:20:46AM 7 points [-]

Upvoted for the "watchlist" idea, I really wish Less Wrong had it.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 September 2012 10:24:28PM 4 points [-]

Each individual post/comment has its own RSS feed (below your user name, karma scores etc. and above “Nearest meetups” in the right sidebar).

Comment author: Rain 14 September 2012 02:40:55AM *  9 points [-]

I very much appreciate the attempts at greater moderation, including the troll penalty. Thank you.

Comment author: Sarokrae 14 September 2012 06:11:18AM 9 points [-]

Me too. Troll posts and really wrong people are too distracting without some form of intervention. Not sure the current solution is optimal (but this point has been extensively argued elsewhere), but I applaud the effort to actually stick one's neck out and try something.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 September 2012 11:19:51AM 5 points [-]

Thank you both. Very much, and sincerely.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 14 September 2012 05:25:39PM *  10 points [-]

Accepting thanks with sincerity, while somewhat-flippantly mostly-disregarding complaints? ...I must be missing some hidden justification?

Comment author: wedrifid 14 September 2012 05:29:59PM 5 points [-]

Accepting thanks with sincerity, while somewhat-flippantly mostly-disregarding complaints? ...I must be missing some hidden justification?

He is thanking them for their support, not their information.

Comment author: philh 14 September 2012 05:40:00PM 5 points [-]

People who agree are more likely to keep quiet than people who disagree. Rewarding them for speaking up reduces that effect, which means comments get closer to accurately representing consensus.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 14 September 2012 05:47:29PM 1 point [-]

Can you summarize your reasons for believing that people who agree are more likely to keep quiet than people who disagree?

Comment author: [deleted] 14 September 2012 06:39:32PM 4 points [-]

In case you need assurance from the online sector. I wholeheartedly welcome any increase in the prevalence of the banhammer, and the "pay 5 karma" thing seems good too.

During that Eridu fiasco, I kept hoping a moderator would do something like "this thread is locked until Eridu taboos all those nebulous affect-laden words."

Benevolent dictators who aren't afraid of dissent are a huge win, IMO.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 14 September 2012 02:16:44AM 1 point [-]

Fair enough. All I see is the vote-counts and online comments, but the real-life commenters are of course also people, and I can understand deciding to attend more to them.

Comment author: shminux 14 September 2012 02:20:59AM 0 points [-]

I think his point is that there is less selection bias IRL.

Comment author: TimS 14 September 2012 02:25:00AM 6 points [-]

But that's almost certainly false. IRL input has distinct selection bias from viewing meta threads, but not no selection bias.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 14 September 2012 02:59:38AM 4 points [-]

Yeah, exactly. Which is why I took it to mean a simple preference for considering the community of IRL folks. Which is not meant as a criticism; after all, I also take more seriously input from folks in my real life than folks on the internet.

Comment author: komponisto 14 September 2012 08:50:20AM 5 points [-]

I also take more seriously input from folks in my real life than folks on the internet.

Even when the topic on which you are receiving input is how to run an internet forum (on which the real-life folks don't post)?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 14 September 2012 01:59:47PM 3 points [-]

Well, I don't do that, clearly, since I don't run such an Internet forum.

Less trivially, though... yeah, I suspect I would do so. The tendency to take more seriously people whose faces I can see is pretty strong. Especially if it were a case like this one, where what the RL people are telling me synchronizes better with what I want to do in the first place, and thus gives me a plausible-feeling justification for doing it.

I suspect you're not really asking me what I do, though, so much as implicitly suggesting that what EY is doing is the wrong thing to do... that the admins ought to attend more to commenters and voters who are actually participating on the thread, rather than attending primarily to the folks who attend the minicamp or Alicorn's dinner parties.

If so, I don't think it's that simple. Fundamentally it depends on whether LW's sponsors want it to be a forum that demonstrates and teaches superior Internet discourse or whether it wants to be a forum for people interested in rational thinking to discuss stuff they like to discuss. If it's the latter, then democracy is appropriate. If it's the former, then purging stuff that fails to demonstrate superior Internet discourse is appropriate.

LW has seemed uncertain about which role it is playing for as long as I've been here.

Comment author: shminux 14 September 2012 02:43:00AM 0 points [-]

Then he is OK with this particular selection bias :)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 September 2012 01:57:45AM -1 points [-]

Is it just me or do others also find that Eliezer coming of as a tad petulant with the way he is handling people systematically opposing and downvoting his proposal? Every time he got downvoted to oblivion he just came back with a new comment seemingly crafted to be more belligerent, whiny, condescending and cynical about the community than the last. (That's hyperbole---in actuality it peaked in the middle somewhere.) Now we just keep getting reminded about it at every opportunity as noise in unrelated threads.

I observe that wedifrid has taken advantage of this particular opportunity to remind everyone that he thinks I am belligerent, whiny, condescending, and cynical.

(So noted because I was a bit unhappy at how the conversation suddenly got steered there.)

Comment author: wedrifid 14 September 2012 11:26:10AM 12 points [-]

I observe that wedifrid has taken advantage of this particular opportunity to remind everyone that he thinks I am belligerent, whiny, condescending, and cynical.

I notice that my criticism was made specifically regarding the exhibition of those behaviors in the comments he has made about the subject he has brought up here. We can even see that I made specific links. Eliezer seems to be conflating this with a declaration that he has those features as part of his innate disposition.

By saying that wedrifid is reminding people that he (supposedly) believes Eliezer has those dispositions he also implies that wedrifid has said this previously. This is odd because I find myself to be fairly open with making criticisms of Eliezer whenever I feel them justified and from what I recall "belligerent, whiny, condescending, and cynical [about the lesswrong community]" isn't remotely like a list of weaknesses that I actually have described Eliezer as having in general or at any particular time that I recall.

Usually when people make this kind of muddled accusation I attribute it to a failure of epistemic rationality and luminosity. Many people just aren't able to separate in their minds a specific criticism of an action and belief about innate traits. Dismissing Eliezer as merely being incompetent at the very skills he is renowned for would seem more insulting than simply concluding that he is being deliberately disingenuous.

So noted because I was a bit unhappy at how the conversation suddenly got steered there.

My suggestion is that Eliezer would be best served by not bringing the conversation here repeatedly. It sends all sorts of signals of incompetence. That 'unhappy' feeling is there to help him learn from his mistakes.

Comment author: V_V 14 September 2012 10:11:03AM 10 points [-]

If that bothers you, you may consider that whining that people find you whiny might not be the optimal strategy for making them change their mind.

Comment author: DaFranker 14 September 2012 02:22:00AM -2 points [-]

I also observe that wedrifid's opinion of you doesn't appear to be steered with equal expected posterior probability in light of how you react versus his predictions of your reactions.

I'm curious as to whether I'm on to something there, or whether I just pulled something random and my intuitions are wrong.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 September 2012 11:26:55AM *  3 points [-]

I also observe that wedrifid's opinion of you doesn't appear to be steered with equal expected posterior probability in light of how you react versus his predictions of your reactions.

I can't even decipher what it is you are accusing wedrifid of here. Apart from being wrong and biased somehow.

Comment author: DaFranker 14 September 2012 07:06:18PM *  1 point [-]

I'm referring to a specific part of bayesian updating, conservation of expected evidence. Specifically:

On pain of paradox, a low probability of seeing strong evidence in one direction must be balanced by a high probability of observing weak counterevidence in the other direction.

This rule did not seem respected in what little I've seen of interactions between you and Eliezer, and I was looking for external feedback and evidence (one way or another) for this hypothesis, to see if there is a valid body of evidence justifying the selection of this hypothesis for consideration or if that simply happened out of bias and inappropriate heuristics.

I suspect that, if the latter, then there was probably an erroneous pattern-matching to the examples given in the related blogpost on the subject (and other examples I have seen of this kind of erroneous thinking).

I don't know how to submit this stuff for feedback and review without using a specific "accusation" or wasting a lot of time creating (and double-checking for consistency) elaborating complex counterfactual scenarios.

Comment author: thomblake 13 September 2012 04:15:27PM 5 points [-]

While the discussion arguably veered off-topic with respect to the original article, I don't think we actually have a rule against that. And I don't think eridu was actually trolling, though they do seem to have an overly-dismissive attitude towards the community. I do think there's a place for social constructivist / radical feminist views to be aired where they apply on this site, and I don't think eridu was doing a particularly bad job of it.

If we have a diversity of views, then people will disagree about fundamental sorts of things and we'll end up with people thinking each other are "not even wrong" about some issues, which certainly seems downvote-worthy at the time. But we do want a diversity of views (it's one of the primary benefits of having multiple people interacting in the first place), and so banning comments which are merely unpopular is not called-for, and will simply shunt out potential members of the community.

Of course, I'm basically guessing about your rationale in banning these comments, so if you'd like to provide some specific justification, that would be helpful.

Comment author: wedrifid 13 September 2012 04:21:07PM 12 points [-]

I do think there's a place for social constructivist / radical feminist views to be aired where they apply on this site, and I don't think eridu was doing a particularly bad job of it.

Right now that sounds like one of the most brutal criticisms you could have made of radical feminism.

Comment author: thomblake 13 September 2012 04:23:27PM 4 points [-]

I should note that I'm not a fan, so that sort of thing should be expected.

Comment author: bogus 13 September 2012 04:38:58PM *  1 point [-]

While the discussion arguably veered off-topic with respect to the original article,

I disagree. It was a perfect example of how the Worst Argument In The World (rather, an especially irritating subtype of the same) is often deployed in the field.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 September 2012 06:24:23AM 0 points [-]

Minor point: Do we have evidence on eridu's gender?

Comment author: Nornagest 14 September 2012 06:38:51AM 2 points [-]

Yes, he described himself as male here. Not that it particularly matters, except insofar as it makes playing the pronoun game easier.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 September 2012 06:46:51AM 4 points [-]

Thanks. I'm impressed with the story in the link, but also more convinced that he might as well be treated as a troll because he criticized someone for being a man explaining feminism to women.

Comment author: Nornagest 14 September 2012 06:57:02AM 3 points [-]

Eh, that's a relatively minor sin of argument, all things considered. It's pretty easy to think that you're excused from such a thing thanks to greater relative knowledge or better subcultural placement.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 14 September 2012 07:03:42AM 1 point [-]

Or simply fundamental attribution error.