Nov 17, 2008
Robin plans to cut back posting shortly, after he and I have our long-awaited Disagreement about AI self-improvement. As for myself - I'm not finished, but I'm way over schedule and need to move on soon. I'm not going to stop posting entirely (I doubt I could if I tried) but I'm not going to be posting daily.
There are three directions that Overcoming Bias could go from here:
First, we could find enough good authors to keep going at a post per day. Say, seven people who can and will write one post per week. We can't compromise on quality, though.
Second, we could try to shift to a more community-based format. Our most popular post ever, still getting hits to this day, was not written by Robin or myself or any of the recurring editors. It's "My Favorite Liar" by Kai Chang, about the professor who inserted one false statement into each lecture. If one-tenth of our readers contributed a single story as good as this... but neither Robin nor myself have time to vet them all. So one approach would be to have a community forum where anyone could post, readers voted the posts up and down, and a front page to which the editors promoted posts deemed worthy. I understand that Scoop has software like this, but I would like to know if our readers can recommend better community software (see below).
Third, we could close OB to new submissions and keep the archives online eternally, saying, "It had a good run." As Nick put it, we shouldn't keep going if it means a slow degeneration.
My own perspective: Overcoming Bias presently gets over a quarter-million monthly pageviews. We've built something that seems like it should be important. It feels premature, but I would like to try to launch an online rationalist community.
At this point, I'm advocating a hybrid approach: Keep OB open with fewer posts of the same gravitas, hang out a sign for new authors, and also try starting up a community-based site with user submissions and more frequent shorter posts. I've got plenty of light stuff to post, links and the like.
But: What software should we use to support a rationalist community?
The Oxford Future of Humanity Institute and the Singularity Institute have volunteered to provide funding if necessary, so we aren't limited to free software.
And obviously we're not looking for software that lets our users throw sheep at one another. The Internet already offers enough ways to waste time, thank you. More like - how people can find each other geographically and meet up; something Reddit-like for upvoting and downvoting posts, links, and comments; better comment threading; ways to see only new comments on posts you've flagged - that sort of thing. You know, actually useful stuff. A lot of Web 2.0 seems to be designed for people with lots of time to waste, but I don't think we can assume that fact about our readership.
Even if you don't know the name of the software, if there's a community site you visit that does an exceptional job - letting users upvote and downvote to keep the quality high, threading discussions while still giving busy people a fast way to see what new comments have been posted, making it easy for both newcomers and oldtimers - go ahead and say what we should be looking at.