LW Study Hall - 2 Month Update

by Lachouette 2 min read12th May 201320 comments


Comment reposted from (link) for exposure


Two months have passed and I’m glad to say the LW Study Hall on tinychat is still active and alive. Since judging from the comments it kind of looks like we’ve moved on from tinychat, a review like this might be useful for anyone who hasn’t been there yet.

My first sessions on the chat were driven more by curiosity than anything else since I didn’t believe it would be really effective for me – I’ve felt that I procrastinate too much, but it never occurred to me that working together with other people might make me more effective. I was proven wrong.

Since those first sessions I’ve been online almost every day and got to see different people come and go, and some people stay. It didn’t take long for me to feel like a part of the “chat community”, and to feel motivated to work to see the regulars more often, some of which I might even consider friends now. The atmosphere is friendly, people make an active effort to integrate newcomers in the “community” and I have yet to see an argument that isn’t constructive. Though the breaks are a bit flexible, people usually don’t overstretch it and it’s generally good practice not to chat during a working phase. More introverted people can participate without taking part in the chat much and without broadcasting video.

So, what makes this chat so effective in combating procrastination? Pomodoros are the “flow” of the chat. Since you’re working with other people, you are much more likely to stick to the pomodoro cycle than if you set those constraints for yourself. That doesn’t just mean you keep the breaks relatively short, but you also don’t work too long. I find that if I work alone, I tend to keep at it for longer than I can keep concentrated. When I do take a break I don’t really have anything else to do, so I might start to procrastinate, leading to a work cycle where the “breaks” can be as long as the working phases. This has been my main issue with structuring my working day, and I was more surprised than I probably should have been to see that problem solved by working in a group. Judging from my own experiences and those of others I believe everyone struggling with akrasia should at least try if it works for him/her. For those who struggle with akrasia more, it might be useful to combine several techniques such as precommitting to fixed working dates, showing your screen on camera or finding someone on the chat who will remind you (e.g. via skype) to show up again if you’ve been absent for longer (or any number of other methods like beeminder).

There are a few issues with the chat, especially that tinychat isn’t always stable. The limited options have also been subject of complaints, but it’s so far the best thing we’ve found. I’m optimistic that a better option will be found or created in the long term – the more people frequent the chat, the more likely it gets. Covering all time slots hasn’t worked out perfectly, but we usually have good “coverage” during the UTC afternoon/evening, so that is probably a good time to try. In case the chat is empty, don’t be discouraged, just try again later. I will try to put as many of my working hours in the precommitment schedule (link on top of the chat window) and hope others will do so more often too, so it’s possible to sync up working time.

Over these two months the lesswrong chat has become a substantial part of my life that I really want to keep, ideally for much longer. While it is no longer an experiment for me, I want to invite you to try it, if you haven’t already. I’d be glad to welcome you on the chat anytime. :)