Open Thread April 2018

by Gunnar_Zarncke1 min read6th Apr 201825 comments


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If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one (use search for Open Thread <year>).

2. Let's discuss further installments in a separate comment thread.

25 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 6:38 PM
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More data:

Less Wrong posts: comment count vs. karma

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Edit: Here’s the same thing on a log-log scale:

Less Wrong posts: comment count vs. karma (log scale)

Distribution of comments across posts:

Less Wrong comment count by post

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Looks like the usual sort of power law graph to me—no surprises here.

Some interesting data:

Comments per day on Less Wrong

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Nice! I think this is interesting to contrast with the number of visits for the site:

An important reminder that traffic doesn't equal engagement.

Btw, I would be happy to give basically anyone access to our Google Analytics account, who would be interested in writing up some of the stuff they find there.

me. I have the old one. It's important to compare it here because the jump is not a jump it's just a combination of the old traffic and the new.

Oh, yes. Definitely. The jump is just about the URL switch and combining the traffic. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. It's still interesting that all the additional traffic is not converted into other forms of engagement.

The tall ones are weekends right? Or also comments would follow posts. Possibly posts by higher karma users would have more comments? Those might be interesting graphs too.

What is the best place to donate to right now? Previously my choice has been Miri, but Eliezer mentioned that they are no longer bottlenecked on funding but on talent. On the other hand, donations would be matched right now.

More data, because data is fun:

Posts per day on Less Wrong

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What happens if we plot comments against posts? Will we see that increased comment volume is driven by more posts—that is, by more discussions taking place—or will we see that comment volume is largely uncorrelated with post volume (which we might expect if comment volume is driven largely by a few controversial posts)?

Posts and comments per day on Less Wrong

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The latter model seems to be operative here. The following stats seem consistent with it:

  • In the period from Jan 1, 2018 to Apr 11, 2018 (inclusive), a total of 6,846 comments were posted, across 531 posts.
  • The top 10 most-commented posts (i.e., less than 2% of all posts) accounted for 1,395 of the total comments, or just under 20% of the total comment volume.
  • 67 posts (13% of all posts) received no comments whatsoever.
  • Another 268 posts (50% of all posts) received less than 10 comments.
  • Average number of comments posted per day (from Jan 9, 2018 through Jan 11, 2018) was 75.
which we might expect if comment volume is driven largely by a few controversial posts

Another explanation might be that comments are driven by traffic only, i.e. that some users are just bored and will comment on whatever posts they find. Case in point, I'm quite bored right now, and I'm posting a comment.

And yet more data. Whose posts have generated the most discussion? Let’s find out:

Less Wrong: whose posts generate discussion? (total)

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The leader, by a large margin, is alkjash, although Valentine and Raemon give him a run for his money.

However, suppose we want to adjust for the fact that some authors have made many posts, while others have posted only a handful of times. Here’s the same graph, with average instead of sum:

Less Wrong: whose posts generate discussion? (on average)

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This time Unreal (whose one and only post in 2018 was also the post which generated more commentary than any other) leads by an overwhelming margin, Valentine takes a distant second place, and everyone else trails far behind.

was going to ask this specifically.

I think MIT’s new AlterEgo headset still falls into the category "Devices and Gadgets" of When does technological enhancement feel natural and acceptable? But it's still a pretty nice step forward.

The device, called AlterEgo, can transcribe words that wearers verbalise internally but do not say out loud, using electrodes attached to the skin.
“Our idea was: could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?”

Propose this structure for the main text:

Open Thread. Sat Apr 7 - Fri Apr 20

This is the fortnightly open thread.

If it’s worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here. Ask a lesswronger.

Notes for future OT posters:

Tags are not here yet. When they get here please add the ‘open_thread’ tag.

Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one. (Immediately before; refresh the list-of-threads page before posting.)

Fortnightly Open Threads should start on Saturday, and end on a Friday.

Post to front page.

I don't think fortnightly will work. That's why I left that out. Adding a tags rule without tags makes no sense either.

Ask a lesswronger.

That's a bit difficult if there is no place to ask. I like the posts on LW 2.0 but I miss the open discussions.

Any progress on this bug that was seemingly leading to a number of LW1 ("legacy") accounts getting locked out of the site? LW developers?

Ah, sorry you're still dealing with that. We debugged similar bugs to this with a bunch of people. The most common cause was people using a password manager, and that password manager storing their password for the old URL, while they had changed their password on

We then improved the error messages that you get if you enter the wrong password to be more useful, and that then got rid of most reports of broken accounts, so that made me reasonably confident that the password transition worked fine, for at least the vast majority of accounts. If you are still running in to this problem, it would be good to ping us on Intercom, or Discord, which makes it easier to check a bunch of things.

Did you run into any problems just trying to request a password reset email? That should still work fine (though you have to be logged out when clicking on the password reset link).

Well, since I have now created a new account, this is not a problem in any real sense to me. The biggest problem is that the recovery email for my LW1 account was never properly set as such on LW2, which means the otherwise foolproof "ask for a password reset" does not work. It should be easy to spot whether there are any other accounts with the same issue (legacy accounts w/ no password recovery email set, even though there is one in the LW2 "Email" field) with some sort of database query, and maybe even fix them up semi-automatically.

An interesting though somewhat bizarre prediction on the difficulty of building AI by Scott Adams in a recent Periscope session of him (paraphrased from memory):

"The perception that building human intelligence seems so difficult results from a perceptual distortion. Namely that human intelligence is something great when in fact we humans do not possess superior rationality. We only think we do. We just bounce around randomly and try to explain that as something awesome after the fact. Building artificial intelligence then is hard because we try to build something that doesn't exist. On the other hand building e.g. a robot that moves around arbitrarily based on some complex inner mechanism and generates explanations why it does so would be easy and appear very intelligent."

The thing is that this is a testable approach and prediction. I want to document it here partly because he claims that he has said that for some years now.

In what way is this testable?

The idea that a robot that moves around randomly and generates explanations would appear intelligent to onlookers might be true, but not very interesting.

The idea that there is nothing more to human intelligence than that is just silly. Besides randomly bouncing around, humans play chess, predict the weather, build bridges, and make long term plans in general. Those are not so easy to reproduce. By the way, as I recall Scott Adams saying himself, it's best not to take a cartoonist seriously.

i also heard about the same as silver, would appreciate if someone might come with some answers. i can't do it all myself as i need to buy steroids for my health issues right nwo. also thanks for everything i found here, found some good information!