Currently, LWers get +1 karma for a comment upvote, and +10 karma for a main post upvote. But clearly, there are other valuable things LWers could do for the community besides writing comments and posts. Writing isn't everyone's forte. Why not award karma for doing productive non-writing things? It's probably not optimal that karma and the community status that comes with it are awarded only for the thing that myself and a few other people are good at. For example, I really wish LW could award karma to programmers for improving LW.
The challenge is doing it fairly, in a way that doesn't alienate too many people. But there might be a workable way to do this, so let's explore.
Perhaps tasks could be assigned karma award amounts by LW editors (Nesov, Eliezer, Louie, etc.), or even just one person who is appointed as the Karma Genie.
- Write a 5-page document describing how to use the Less Wrong virtual machine to hack new features into Less Wrong. 900 points.
- Add a Facebook 'Like' button to the left of the up-down vote buttons on every post. 700 points.
- Collect PDFs for every paper on debiasing thinking error X, upload the ZIP file to mediafire. 700 points.
- Write a single-page introduction to The Sequences that makes them easier to navigate and see the value of. 800 points.
- Launch a new LessWrong meetup group and hold at least three meetings. 1200 points.
Another possibility is to do what what.cd
does with upload ratio. The more you upload, the better your upload ratio. But, you can trade in megabytes of your 'uploaded data' count for 'requests'. For example, if you wish somebody would upload RareAlbumX, you can trade in 500 megabytes of your uploaded data count. This lowers your upload ratio, which can be rebuilt by uploading more, and incentivizes someone to upload RareAlbumX. If somebody uploads RareAlbumX, the 500 megabytes (minus a small tax) is added to their 'uploaded data' count, which raises their status and privileges in the community.
A what.cd-inspired system for LW would look like this: People could write a paragraph or two outlining the project they'd like to see done. Then, people could 'donate' karma to the project's karma award amount. If I really wanted to see somebody add the Facebook 'Like' button to LW, I could donate 2000 of my karma points to the award, and other people could donate some of their karma to that project, too. Maybe the award would eventually rise to 5000 karma points - a pretty damn good reason for some programmer on LW to write the code and make it work.
In this scenario, editors would not dictate how valuable certain projects are, but would instead merely verify that the completed work met the specifications of the project. Editors would also have 'veto' power on projects. So, if somebody proposed a project to add a dancing Barney GIF to the front page, but LW editors decided they didn't want this, they would kill the project and any karma already donated to it would be returned to the original donors. Or better yet, projects would have to be approved before they showed up on the site.
One difficulty here is that karma ranking boards still wouldn't optimally reflect status. Suppose PersonA did a ton of good work on Less Wrong and got 10,000 karma, and then donated all of that karma toward making some great project highly incentivized. This person has done two wonderful things - all the wonderful work and incentivizing more wonderful work - but they have 0 karma to show for it. On the other hand, it may be fair enough that people who accumulate karma can have more power over which particular good things are likely to happen as a result of karma incentivization.
Also, there should probably be more incentives for gaining karma in general, as there are incentives for gaining upload ratio on what.cd. Rising through the karma ranks should give users special privileges that are actually desired.
Basically, there are tons of useful projects that people could be doing, and LessWrong cannot possibly be currently optimized for incentivizing those projects. So... what's the best solution we can come up with?