Upcoming: Open Questions

by Raemon1 min read24th Nov 20187 comments


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(note: everything in this post is still subject to change)

I wanted to give people some sense of our next priorities (and why you've seen fewer public-facing features lately). The LessWrong team's current project is Open Questions (or "Q&A" for short)

This will be a new format for posts, and probably a new section of the site. Users can post questions, or respond to them with detailed answers, similar to sites such as Quora, StackExchange or MathOverflow.

Many different types of questions will be fine (ranging from noob questions, to open problems in AI alignment, to just trying to understand a given phenomena).

The aspiration here is to aim for rigor in our question-answers (a la a place like MathOverflow), but to encourage questions in somewhat murkier domains, where the answer may not be clear cut, and "progress" on a question may look more like refactoring into a different question, or breaking it up into small chunks and hacking away at the edges.

Goals for Open Questions

1. Develop more "demand driven" content on LessWrong. Right now, people basically come up with ideas for posts based on their own curiosity or interest, but they don't have much sense of how much other people will care. With Open Questions, you know that at least one person actually cares about understanding something (and if their question is highly upvoted, many other people do as well).

2. Tweak the site to focus more explicitly on intellectual progress. Right now, people show up on LessWrong with a vague desire to learn, but not a clear goal. This means that the default discussions often end up feeling more like "nerds hanging out on the internet" than "nerds gaining skills, learning or solving interesting problems."

Q&A will aim to:

  • Add a new common, default activity that's a bit more goal directed than typical LW discussion.
  • Help us notice when there are longstanding important, confusing questions unresolved. And, more excitingly, help us notice when we've made significant progress on them.

Ultimately, we'd like to Q&A section to not just be useful for answering one-of questions but for laying out actual research agendas. (Possibly with a higher-level organization that groups questions together, similar to how sequences group posts).

3. Create a lower-barrier-to-entry action for new users.

We intend for "asking a question" to feel a bit more accessible than making a post.

What Counts as Answered?

This is going to be a bit trickier, since we're intentionally having this focus on domains where answers are less clear-cut, and people may realistically disagree. Our current guess is that the question-author gets to mark the answer that best fits the paradigm-in-which-they-intended-the-question.

(But, questions should also be as well defined as possible, such that it's more clear what should count as an answer).

This seems like something we're likely to reconsider as we think more and get more user feedback.

Any questions?

We're still in the process of hammering out the exact implementation details, both on how an individual question+answers page will work, and how they will fit into the rest of the site. Right now we're wrapping up a basic prototype. We don't have an exactly timetable for this, but it seemed good to keep people in the loop.

We're interested in people's thoughts on the idea so far. Any questions about Open Questions?

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