The Case for a Bigger Audience


How do people feel like LW 2.0 is going? I'm impressed with the number and quality of posts that are being made, especially relative to the baseline of what LW 1.0 was like right before the relaunch. But I miss the lively discussions in the comments from the "Golden Age" of LW 1.0. Consider the Craft and Community sequence, written right when Eliezer transitioned from writing for Overcoming Bias to writing for Less Wrong. Here are six posts from that sequence which were especially memorable. On average, they have 179 comments. Looking at the "Curated Content" on the homepage right now, the 3 curated posts average only 19 comments, even though they've all been up for at least 2 months.

A big audience lets your posts to have a greater impact. (Have any posts from LW 2.0 generated new conceptual handles for the community like "the sanity waterline"? If not, maybe it's because they just aren't reaching a big enough audience.) Sometimes your audience generates interesting new ideas you hadn't thought of. And there's a virtuous cycle: People will write more comments if they have a justified expectation of comment readership and replies.

I think the biggest risk to LW 2.0 at this point might be that authors who invest in making posts find that they don't seem to be getting significant readership, making a significant impact, or generating useful feedback. There are a lot of people making posts right now, but there's a risk those people will drift away. If we can get the virtuous cycle going, that risk is lessened.

There's always the fear of Eternal September, but I think the rest of the internet has gotten more addictive since LW 1.0, so just being a website where longform essays are posted already gets you an audience that's selected for having a long attention span. And of course, countering Eternel September is a huge part of the motivation for the new voting system.

Some promotional ideas to consider:

  • Make use of the Less Wrong Facebook and Twitter feeds to highlight new content. (Is there still an RSS feed going? If anyone is still using RSS, it's probably the rationalist crowd.) The Twitter account hasn't posted since 2016; could probably benefit from a relaunch tweet.
  • Send a one-time email to old LW 1.0 users with high karma who haven't logged in since the relaunch, announcing LW 2.0's launch and reminding them that their high karma puts them at the top of the heap.
  • Get Scott Aaronson to mention the fact that LW 2.0 is a real-life instance of eigendemocracy in one of his "announcements" posts. The credit is his for inspiring the new voting system.
  • Back in the old days of LW, Louie Helm made use of a program where Google offered free Adwords credits to nonprofits in order to drive traffic to LW. I don't remember which keywords he used, but I can ask if you like.
  • Advertise on the sidebar of Scott Alexander's blog. I'm not sure whether he charges money to nonprofits which advertise or not.

Mods, let us know if you're looking for more promotional ideas and we can spend more time brainstorming.