Clearing An Overgrown Garden

by Anders_H2 min read29th Jan 201619 comments


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(tl;dr: In this post, I make some concrete suggestions for LessWrong 2.0.)

Less Wrong 2.0

A few months ago, Vaniver posted some ideas about how to reinvigorate Less Wrong. Based on comments in that thread and based on personal discussions I have had with other members of the community, I believe there are several different views on why Less Wrong is dying. The following are among the most popular hypotheses:

(1) Pacifism has caused our previously well-kept garden to become overgrown

(2) The aversion to politics has caused a lot of interesting political discussions to move away from the website

(3) People prefer posting to their personal blogs.

With this background, I suggest the following policies for Less Wrong 2.0.  This should be seen only as a starting point for discussion about the ideal way to implement a rationality forum. Most likely, some of my ideas are counterproductive. If anyone has better suggestions, please post them to the comments.

Moderation Policy:

There are four levels of users:  

  1. Users
  2. Trusted Users 
  3. Moderators
  4. Administrator
Users may post comments and top level posts, but their contributions must be approved by a moderator.

Trusted users may post comments and top level posts which appear immediately. Trusted user status is awarded by 2/3 vote among the moderators

Moderators may approve comments made by non-trusted users. There should be at least 10 moderators to ensure that comments are approved within an hour of being posted, preferably quicker. If there is disagreement between moderators, the matter can be discussed on a private forum. Decisions may be altered by a simple majority vote.

The administrator (preferably Eliezer or Nate) chooses the moderators.

Personal Blogs:

All users are assigned a personal subdomain, such as When publishing a top-level post, users may click a checkbox to indicate whether the post should appear only on their personal subdomain, or also in the Less Wrong discussion feed. The commenting system is shared between the two access pathways. Users may choose a design template for their subdomain. However, when the post is accessed from the discussion feed, the default template overrides the user-specific template. The personal subdomain may include a blogroll, an about page, and other information. Users may purchase a top-level domain as an alias for their subdomain

Standards of Discourse and Policy on Mindkillers:

All discussion in Less Wrong 2.0 is seen explicitly as an attempt to exchange information for the purpose of reaching Aumann agreement. In order to facilitate this goal, communication must be precise. Therefore, all users agree to abide by Crocker's Rules for all communication that takes place on the website.  

However, this is not a license for arbitrary rudeness.  Offensive language is permitted only if it is necessary in order to point to a real disagreement about the territory. Moreover, users may not repeatedly bring up the same controversial discussion outside of their original context.

Discussion of politics is explicitly permitted as long as it adheres to the rules outlined above. All political opinions are permitted (including opinions which are seen as taboo by society as large), as long as the discussion is conducted with civility and in a manner that is suited for dispassionate exchange of information, and suited for accurate reasoning about the consequences of policy choice. By taking part in any given discussion, all users are expected to pre-commit to updating in response to new information.


Only trusted users may vote. There are two separate voting systems.  Users may vote on whether the post raises a relevant point that will result in interesting discussion (quality of contribution) and also on whether they agree with the comment (correctness of comment). The first is a property both of the comment and of the user, and is shown in their user profile.  The second scale is a property only of the comment. 

All votes are shown publicly (for an example of a website where this is implemented, see for instance  Abuse of the voting system will result in loss of Trusted User Status. 

How to Implement This

After the community comes to a consensus on the basic ideas behind LessWrong 2.0, my preference is for MIRI to implement it as a replacement for Less Wrong. However, if for some reason MIRI is unwilling to do this, and if there is sufficient interest in going in this direction, I offer to pay server costs. If necessary, I also offer to pay some limited amount for someone to develop the codebase (based on Open Source solutions). 

Other Ideas:

MIRI should start a professionally edited rationality journal (For instance called "Rationality") published bi-monthly. Users may submit articles for publication in the journal. Each week, one article is chosen for publication and posted to a special area of Less Wrong. This replaces "main". Every two months, these articles are published in print in the journal.  

The idea behind this is as follows:
(1) It will incentivize users to compete for the status of being published in the journal.
(2) It will allow contributors to put the article on their CV.
(3) It may bring in high-quality readers who are unlikely to read blogs.  
(4) Every week, the published article may be a natural choice for discussion topic at Less Wrong Meetup
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