I decided to write this because I thought my experience could be an interesting or useful data point, in particular for understanding the results of Good Heart Week: Extending the Experiment.


I happened to discover LessWrong just before April 1st. Initially, it captured my attention through the UI design—I have an impression that many platforms focused on thinking itself, scientific research, and similar topics have a really outdated look that demotivates me from interacting with them (which itself is likely to be caused by the fact that I have to interact with some other, unrelated platforms with outdated looks); but LessWrong's is quite modern, while still retaining simplicity that allows one to focus on the content.

When it comes to content, I was impressed by the range of topics that can be (and are being) discussed here. Coming from platforms that are focused on specific topics and where you're discouraged from going off-topic in threads, this platform felt very different. I guess this comes from the fact that it's about thinking itself and how it can be applied to various topics, whereas these "various topics" could be anything[1].

I decided to read more of the actual content. I started by reading some posts that are about (or at least mention) some things that I'm very familiar with and found them to be quite interesting.

I also thought of some post ideas and realized that some of the things I think about regularly could be a good fit here, but I decided to actually write them sometime later.


When I visited LessWrong on April 1st, I was slightly confused at first when I saw the colored names of post authors—it seemed like a new feature that highlights moderators or staff more than anything else. Even now, when I know what it is, it still feels more like a special user highlight rather than being based on Good Heart Tokens.

Then I saw Replacing Karma with Good Heart Tokens (Worth $1!)... and actually fell for it[2]. Before this, I had stumbled upon LessWrong is providing feedback and proofreading on drafts as a service and was impressed by the fact that such a service is provided for free. The idea of Good Heart Tokens felt somewhat similar to that, so at first I thought this was also "an actual feature announcement"... However, once I actually got to read the post and started reading the "Why are we doing this?" section, I did realize it was an April Fool's joke. At that point, I finished my daily visit and decided to check the site out later instead.

When I opened it on April 2nd, I was surprised to read Good Heart Week: Extending the Experiment, since I have decided that it was just a joke[2]. At this point, given such an incentive, I started actually thinking of what I could write about. I ended up writing the question How to openly maintain a single identity while keeping it private? as my first post.

Had it not been for this experiment, I might have not posted that question at all or it would at least be a while before I did. One of the reasons why is that, ideally, I would like to get more familiar with the site itself, how it works, and perhaps some of the foundational posts before I post my own, and the FAQ says as much. But the short length of this experiment didn't really allow for much of this, so I just had to post right away.

I'll find out whether or not I do end up reaching the minimum of $25 a little later, but I would like to think that, in any case, I've made a few worthwhile contributions.


After that, I decided to check out more of the content. Through definitions of tags, where I arrived by checking out interesting words on the Concepts page (or looking for specific words I've noticed in posts or comments), I have discovered a few terms that quite accurately describe how I sometimes (irrationally?) think. If I hadn't discovered LessWrong, I'm not positive I would learn about these words anytime soon.

Before diving deeper, I was slightly afraid of the fact that learning more about rational thinking would somehow negatively affect my intuition. I thought of posting a question about this, but while writing it I ended up repeatedly coming back to the fact that I've not read many posts yet, and that such a question, being more generic than the How to openly maintain a single identity while keeping it private? I asked and more directly relevant to rationality, has a large chance of being already covered somewhere. Indeed, from Intuition, I found Your intuitions are not magic, which has slightly clarified the confusion I had.


I don't have much of an overall personal impression of how Good Heart Week affected the site in terms of post quality or volume, because I spent most of the time here during it. Another factor that may be contributing to why I don't have a personal impression is that, at least at first, I often didn't notice the date/age of the posts, so some posts on the front page seemed to me like they were posted a while ago[3]—I guess they really are timeless.

In any case, I'm looking forward to at least reading some more posts and maybe posting some other thoughts in the future.

 

  1. ^

    It looks like this is covered in the FAQ, which admittedly I've not read in full yet.

  2. ^

    Ironically, later I found out that it appears to have been true even for April 1st, so this was quite a roller coaster!

  3. ^

    I just noticed it literally says "Latest" in the heading of that front page section... I guess I missed that all this time.

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Through definitions of tags, where I arrived by checking out interesting words on the Concepts page (or looking for specific words I've noticed in posts or comments), I have discovered a few terms that quite accurately describe how I sometimes (irrationally?) think.

I’d be curious for an example or two that stood out to you?

Rationalization is probably the one that was the most enlightening. I tend to sometimes (knowingly) think in that way, but didn't necessarily view it as a negative thing (and didn't know the term) before reading the tag description here. Confirmation Bias seems like it's related to (or could be a part of) rationalization as well. Another one that stood out was Akrasia.

These are the ones that stood out to me initially. Looking now at the Concepts page again, I feel like I should at some point check out all of the terms at least by hovering over them, because there are a lot of ones that look interesting or may have a deeper meaning than they might seem to at first sight.

Had it not been for this experiment, I might have not posted that question at all or it would at least be a while before I did. One of the reasons why is that, ideally, I would like to get more familiar with the site itself, how it works, and perhaps some of the foundational posts before I post my own

I'm really excited by how much Good Heart week is making people reduce their barrier to posting content. It's very tempting to think things like "before I do X, I should prepare by doing Y..." and there are of course contexts where that's appropriate. But I think a philosophy of "do first, then iterate is highly underrated, and often gets better results even in the short term. (Here's a relevant post that I love.)

Today I brought up an idea to lsusr and John Wentworth (who were both delightfully at the Lightcone Office at the same time) of having one such Good Heart week dispersed randomly throughout every year. They thought this was a bad idea (in part because people would hoard posts for it), but an interesting alternative John suggested was randomly throughout the year decide that the previous week had been Good Heart week, and allocate accordingly.

I am hoping you guys do this again!

I really don't think you have to worry much about people hoarding posts. Like... it's not that much money, people didn't go wild this week. I'm pretty sure it induces more quality content than it would hold back. And if it was done post facto, then I can't imagine people being motivated all year to post stuff just in case.

Maybe do one random week out of the year that's 'pay people for the next week', and a different random week out of the year that's 'pay people for the previous week'?

I think there's something good about both ideas, and I'm imagining that if it happens multiple times per year and is sometimes retrospective, then it will feel less tempting to hold out for the next prospective week.

Or, you could announce it halfway through the week! So you'd retroactively pay for the last half week then they didn't know, and then also pay them for the upcoming half week while they do know.

Data point: I can see it influencing my own decisions of when to post. Not sure to what extent, but the effect would be there. It could even be in the form of less urgency to finish a post cause "oh well, not finishing it quickly might actually be a good thing, if it makes me post it in a good heart week instead". But making it retrospective does seem to solve the problem.

To give you a related anecdatapoint;

The first thing I posted during Good Heart week was from a conversation I had with someone a couple weeks ago. While saying it, I had the fleeting thought that it could make a good LW post, but I didn't even write that thought down. GH week caused me to remember that and actually write the post. The second thing came from me deliberately deciding to write another post for GH week, so I looked up a list I keep of possible LW post ideas, and pulled my favorite one from there.

In contrast, I've been working on what I hope will become a major post or a sequence for a few weeks, and I didn't even try to push any of it out during Good Heart, because getting it right is too important to me.

Sweet, glad to hear it!

(For redundancy: getting datapoints like this is a key part of how I make decisions re: the site, thanks for your comment.)

I've posted on LW before, but I posted again here after a long hiatus because of recent AI news, and entirely unaware of the good heart thing; then made several comments after reading the original post, but thinking it was a joke. Now I understand why the site was so strangely active.