[Poll] Method of Recruitment

by daenerys1 min read6th Feb 201293 comments


Personal Blog

In another thread, we have been discussing how people (especially female people) have come to find out about LessWrong. Instead of just guessing, I figured I would make a poll.

I remember in recent history there was a thread on the subject, but the answers were mainly "I got here from HPMoR" or "I've been here since OB". However, the question I want answered is:

How did you find HPMoR or OB in the first place?

Were you referred by a friend? Were you searching the internet for keywords like "rationality"? Were you linked from some other site you read?

Please answer! Even if you are a lurker; ESPECIALLY if you are a female reader! (There is a question where you can say you are a lurker, if you like!)


Click here to take the poll!



ETA- female *reader* and female *people*

93 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:17 AM
New Comment
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

I've been here since OB. I found OB by accident, I think, when I was procrastinating instead of writing my thesis. My memory is fuzzy and, I think, has possibly been overwritten when I tried to reconstruct it, but as I recall my first article was The Parable of the Dagger. I remember that at the time I was pleased with the neat logic puzzle involved in the article, and shared the puzzle with some friends. Unfortunately I don't remember how I came upon OB in the first place.

After solving the angry frog puzzle I discovered a whole pile of rather excellent po... (read more)

Update- I will most likely be closing the poll sometime tonight, so if you haven't submitted yet, please do so today. I'll write up a report on the results, and make the data public probably within a day or two.

As of right now, 16% of the responders have been female readers, the majority of which were lurkers or only occasional commenters, who I don't think would have replied if not specifically asked to. So I would like to thank the vast majority of you who understood my reasoning for asking specifically for responses by female people.

I came via MoR which was posted in an IRC chat by [random internet person] for [random unrelated activity]. I've since gotten at least three others (two females, one male) to read MoR, of whom one female (my SO) has come to an LW meetup but doesn't read LW itself much, and one other may start reading the Sequences in the somewhat near future.

[-][anonymous]10y 4

Discovered OB through Ben Casnocha's blog. I'm not sure how I found Ben.

Discovered HPMOR separately, through a link on Hacker News. With no context about what it was or who had written it, I got through the first two chapters before suddenly going, "Wait. Why does this person's writing style feel so familiar?"

Random Wikipedia browsing -> Wikipedia article for Technological Singularity -> saying "hey hey this thing seems pretty neat" on IRC -> referred to the IRC channel of the Finnish Transhumanist Association -> finding their website -> finding SL4 -> eventually hearing about Overcoming Bias -> LW.

I found HPMoR from this thread on the message board ReadAndFindOut.

I read a lot of fanfiction, so I likely would have found it eventually if that thread hadn't been posted.

Found Less Wrong through MoR, found MoR through TV-Tropes, found TV-Tropes via XKCD. I don't remember how I found XKCD.

I've been here since OB, and I came to OB through someone's blogroll, but I don't remember whose.

Note: of users who are now known as "Account: Deleted", two are women. The other is Roko. I do not know if this is of any relevance.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
4komponisto10yThere are more than three. (Also, Roko's original account still exists; it's just that all comments but one were deleted.)
2J_Taylor10yIndeed. After searching, I discovered at least one account which I had forgotten. Also, thank you for the correction.

I've been here since OB and I found OB thanks to it being linked on some forum a long time ago-- I think maybe the Dresden Codak forums, back when those still existed. Does anyone else come from the same source?

1Desrtopa10yI did, and I think sketerpot [http://lesswrong.com/user/sketerpot/] did (at least, I recognize him from Koala Wallop.) I didn't start actively participating until after the transfer to Less Wrong though.
0katydee10yInteresting. Do you know if s_p has an account here? I think he was the one who originally posted the links.
0Desrtopa10yNo, I don't, but if he does it's not under that name.

I've been here since sometime in 2009, although I lurked until late 2010. I honestly don't remember where I followed the link from; most likely some blog that's anonymous in my memory. My impressions were later reinforced by links from tvtropes, among other places, but I'm about 90% confident that I discovered LW independently, such as that is.

MoR came later, as did OB.

What is the end goal here ? Just idle curiosity, or are you trying to develop some sort of a subtle social networking strategy to attract more women to the site, or is it something else ?

There was another thread about this. I answered the poll, but see what you can do about extracting useful information from that post (without double counting, if at all possible).

0daenerys10ysee discussion here [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9ta/how_can_people_be_actually_converted/5uc4] for why that thread doesn't quite work.
[-][anonymous]10y 1

Please answer! Even if you are a lurker; ESPECIALLY if you are a female!

I dislike this.

7daenerys10ySURVEY Regarding the comment Summary- This comment may make males feel unwelcome. It may make females more likely to participate in the survey. If EITHER the majority of people OR at least 15 people want the comment removed, I will remove it.

Vote Here for:

I would NOT like this comment removed OR indifference

Vote Here for:

I would like this comment removed

4Rain10yThis thread makes up 77 percent of the comments on this topic.
0daenerys10yThis thread has caused me to develop an "ugh field" around writing the follow-up to the poll. I will hopefully do it over the weekend (by which point I will have some free time and expect the ugh field to have cleared)
2Rain10yThere's a little 'minimize' button in the upper right corner of each comment which I use in such situations.
4siodine10yDislike what, exactly? And why? Are we supposed to read your mind? Are you communicating something meaningful that I'm missing?

I personally find calling people "a female" or "a male" (adjectives used as nouns) to come across as somewhat depersonalizing, as if implying that this were the only significant fact about the person. I would say the same goes for these examples:

  • Racial categories: "He is a black" (noun) vs. "he is black" (predicate adjective)
  • Nationalities: "He is a Chinese" vs. "he is Chinese"
  • Sexual orientations: "He is a gay" vs. "he is gay"

The choice of "female" vs. "woman" (and "male" vs. "man") also seems significant to me. "Female" and "male" sound more clinical and biological — the sort of thing one would expect on a lab report or an autopsy — while "woman" and "man" sound more social or casual. As a male, I have testicles; as a man, I am often expected to be interested in football, porno, and books about war.

5Maelin10yI agree broadly with this. I'd suggest that "if you are a female reader" feels less depersonalising than "if you are a female". It feels to me like it is conveying the relevant criteria without oversimplifying people to just their gender.
5daenerys10yThanks! Updated OP to "female reader".
1Oscar_Cunningham10yThe use of "females" in the first line might as well be changed too. I'd just change it to "female people", if I were you.
6[anonymous]10yThat's even worse IMO. WTH is wrong with women? (Except that it can be taken to exclude children, but I don't think there are many 10-year-olds reading LW anyway.)
0[anonymous]10y* "a female." instead of "a female something", it primed me as if the post was searching for any female whatsoever, rather than trying to encourage LessWrong posters who happen to be female to fill out the form. * implicitly exclusionary language towards those who consider themselves male or other. * The general effort to include group X without any real evidence there is low hanging fruit in such targeted recruiting that will result in more new people on the path to rationality than otherwise. Or that the opportunity cost of this is outweighed by great benefits to refining the art.
1siodine10yI agree with your first point, but I'm not sure its significant enough to even comment on. It seems trivial. To your second point, I don't see anything wrong with exclusionary language in this case; why do you? Your third point is interesting. I mean, it's true that ideally you'd want to know the effects any of this would have. But, honestly and practically, I don't know if that's doable. It looks it could lead to paralysis by deliberation. I think just going out and doing things, and often failing and learning, might more beneficial than that level of deliberation.
5[anonymous]10yThe thing is I've seen many different kinds of organizations go on these sorts of quests. First they are seldom effective, secondly, and this is much worse, they never seem to give up. I have no problem LW trying this as an experiment. I just find it extremely unlikely, considering the idealogical demographics we will ever disengage, regardless of effectiveness.
2TimS10yThere's lots to dislike. But this sentence is likely to cause some lurkers to post who might not have otherwise. And there's reason to believe that analyzing the arrival paths of those lurkers will say interesting things about the formation of intellectual communities like LessWrong. Is that benefit outweighed by the costs that justify your dislike? You think yes, daenerys thinks no. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Anyway, I found MoR from the David Brin link.
4daenerys10yYes, I think the benefit outweighs the costs. I am interested in the differences between what drew males v. females to this site. There are much fewer females, so I need more of them to reply. This seems to have worked too, as the 2011 survey held 8% females, whereas this one seems to be holding steady at a 13% females. (The other option is that the percentage of females on LW has grown by over 50% in the past 4-ish months. This seems less probable)
7TimS10yIn case it wasn't clear, I agree with you. There are costs to regret in your approach, but I think the value of the data you might generate substantially outweighs those regrets.
0[anonymous]10yDo we know that more women has answered this poll and not just less men?
1dbaupp10yThere are almost certainly going to be fewer men who have answered this poll, given 972 people identified as male on the other one. Is that what you were meaning?
1[anonymous]10yNo, that is not what I meant. daenerys concluded that the message encouraging women to reply must have worked because 5 % more women answered this poll. But this could just as well have happened if the same women answered again while less men did. Therefore I wanted to know if more women actually answered this one.
2dbaupp10yThe answer to that question is no: 92 women responded to the census. We can't say anything about "more women answering" or "fewer men answering" when we are comparing to a survey that has both more women and more men than this one. (If you weren't talking about absolute numbers, then all we have is the 8% vs. 13% which only tells us that at least one of "more women" and "fewer men" is true.) A better comparison would be to one of the other polls with a similar number of responders (i.e. one in Discussion), but I couldn't find one that recorded gender. (a list of "polls" [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/tag/poll/] and of "surveys" [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/tag/survey/])
1daenerys10yThe big 2011 survey is pretty much like the census of LW. It runs for about a month, posted on the main page, and is one of those "Everyone who even looks at this site, please answer this survey" type deals. As far as I know only 2 have been done in the history of LW. I would not at all expect 1000 people to answer this poll. I did a quick search for "poll" here to see how many results other polls returned. The first three that I could easily find results for: one was in the 70s, one was in the 80s, and one was in the 110s. Each of those ran for longer than a day. Conversely, the poll that I posted has only run for a day, and has garnered 102 responses. For this reason (because 102 responses in one day compares favorably to the other Discussion polls I saw), I believe that the high percentage of female responses (currently 19% of poll respondents are women) is due to MORE women responding, NOT due to LESS men responding.
0dbaupp10yThis survey is (basically) a subset of the census, and there are ~100 female responders to that one. So, unless there is a big surge of female responses to this survey, the results you described here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/9ta/how_can_people_be_actually_converted/5uf5] are likely to be more representative/reliable (since absolute numbers, not relative numbers, are important). However, I think this post is still useful for the discussion it has generated. Although, that said, the breakdown of the referred-by-friend category (into platonic vs. romantic) could be interesting. I predict that more women than men will be referred by a date, given at least 85% of the LW population is attracted to women, but at most 20% are attracted to men. I would lean towards more romantic then platonic referrals for both genders, but most people have more platonic friends than romantic ones (only 13% of LW is definitely polyamorous), so I'm not sure.
3Oscar_Cunningham10y"Woman" is preferred to "female", when used as a noun. Either is grammatically fine (though I do think it sounds more normal to use "woman"), but some women dislike being called females [http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/02/i-write-letters_28.html].
4Bugmaster10yAgreed; when I hear "male" or "female", I tend to think of animal husbandry, not human participation. What's wrong with "man" and "woman" ?
4Desrtopa10yI'd hesitate to use "woman" if only because a not insignificant fraction of our members are still in their teens.
1Oscar_Cunningham10yI think that you've mistaken which comment of yours I'm replying to (because you don't use the word "female" anywhere upthread of me). I was giving an example of something to dislike about the sentence "Even if you are a lurker; ESPECIALLY if you are a female!" in the OP.
0TimS10yRather than recite the standard arguments about affirmative action based on sex, I'll let you google them. If that's not what Konkvistador meant, then sorry [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i9/the_importance_of_saying_oops/].
2TimS10yHere's what I took Konkvistador's point to be: Don't underestimate the mental/social barrier between lurking and posting, which is approximately as strong as the mental/social barrier between posting and writing Discussion posts or Main posts.
1siodine10yIn this case at least, that's definitely not true for me, and I don't have any evidence showing that it's true for others. So, why have you concluded that it's broadly true, or worth avoiding the possibility, for others in this case? Honestly, that whole line of reasoning seems entirely silly given the background knowledge. I think it's widely known that women aren't represented here as much as most of us would like, and so we need to find a way to reach out to women, and so asking the existing women how they got here makes perfect sense.
9steven046110yOther than the relative usefulness of marginal male and female LWers, there's two other effects here that you have to weigh: * On the assumption that men and women respond equally to outreach effort, the absence of women proves that less outreach effort has been spent on them, and marginal outreach effort directed at women picks lower-hanging fruit than marginal outreach effort directed at men. * On the assumption that equal outreach effort has been spent on men and women, the absence of women proves that women respond less to outreach effort, and outreach effort directed at men has greater returns than outreach effort directed at women. (Of course, these assumptions can't both be true, and are likely to both be substantially false.)
1siodine10yI don't think there's been an outreach effort for men or women, and I'm doubtful that men or women would respond significantly differently to outreach. My point is that we need to find a way to outreach to women given their small representation here, and asking the women that already comment (or lurk) on LW how they got here has potential for finding a way to outreach to women. E.g., women on LW typically come from X, then begin to focus on X.
[-][anonymous]10y 10

My point is that we need to find a way to outreach to women given their small representation here

Why does group X being under-represented somewhere automatically warrant efforts to increase their representation?

5siodine10yI don't think a group being underrepresented automatically warrants effort. It's trivial that there are cases where that might result in a worse outcome. However, like I implied in a previous comment in this thread, it's more to do with wanting more women in this community. Why? This community predominantly white, male, and nerd-like, and that makes it easily ignored by outsiders. I think if one of goals of LessWrong is to spread rationality, it's in its interest to diversify its culture and population.
3[anonymous]10yYou are proposing we expend effort in order to provide gain. Have you asked yourself the following questions: * What would be the cost of doing this? * Instead of what? If not, is there any evidence this is a cost effective strategy for "not being ignored"?
3siodine10yYes, for example, if we find that many female LW converts come from a My Little Pony forum, then I wouldn't mind some spending time talking about rationality and how perhaps the characters in the show relate to it (that's what I've heard anyway). I might spend time doing that, instead of reading articles from google reader. Or, if we find that many of the converts come from HPMoR, I might try recommending it to fans of Harry Potter that I know. And so on. The costs seem trivial.
-1[anonymous]10yWe are typing words on the internet. All costs are trivial. Except the most important one, how smart people spend their time matters a lot.
2siodine10yWe all spend time on stupid or meaningless things. I haven't seen many people that can spend 8-12 hours of their day working on a difficult problem without needing a cognitive break. Some people watch anime, others read interesting but irrelevant articles, and so on. I don't see a problem with do something trivial (with the potential for being meaningful) in one of those cognitive breaks. Actually, it would seem to be a better use of time.
1[anonymous]10ySo we are seeking for ways to spend our down time, that happen to produce some externalities that we like? Considering there is a wide variety of ways to spend one's down time, the same logic applies, only that now we need to optimize for restfulness, entertainment and other functions that down time serves as well. Also remember that for most people nearly everything we do on this site is leisure time. That happens to have positive externalities (or so we like to think). In any case isn't this shifting the goalpost slightly from where we where a bit back? I understood our conversation as being about how wanting more women is an intuition we should act upon, perhaps changing norms and expending effort in planned way, because of the pay-offs of better signalling.
2siodine10yYes, if you want more women in the community, or if you just want to diversify the culture, or if you want to contribute to better signaling for your community. Have you found a way to optimize for any of those? And is it more useful to spend time optimizing for those factors than just going with your immediate desires? No, I don't it's shifting the goalpost. Wanting more women is not intuitional, it's a desire. A desire that should be ignored if it's dangerous, but I don't see that it is. Otherwise, I say satisfy those desires in your cognitive breaks (e.g., watching anime). Also, I think, however, that that kind of desire leads to satisfying the goal of spreading rationality. So, we all have desires. We all have spare time that spend satisfying more trivial desires. I believe one of the goals in this community is to spread rationality. Some people have taken up that goal. If you desire more woman in this community, it's not unreasonable (maybe not optimal, but I doubt any of us spend our leisure time optimally, so that's a bit of a red herring) ask the existing women how they got here, so that you may try to persuade more women to join this community through similar channels. This satisfied the spreading rationality goal and desire, or it may just satisfy the goal of spreading rationality in that strengthens the community and its appearance. I'm arguing for the weaker justification because I don't have sufficient evidence for the latter case.
1[anonymous]10yI think I agree [http://lesswrong.com/lw/9ug/poll_method_of_recruitment/5ujo] with the weaker justification.
2CharlieSheen10ySo white nerd-like males tend to generally get ignored in Western society? I haven't seen much difference in the amount of attention female nerds tend to get (except among male nerds). Mostly female groups of nerds or subcultures don't seem to attract even male nerd attention. Groups of non-white nerds also don't seem to do better attention wise. Otakus aren't taken seriously in Japan. Weaboos even less. Mayybe, just maybe, could it perhaps be the nerd-like thing? Might we be better off working on that?
1siodine10yI see your point now, and I think might agree. Although, there are different more widely accepted versions of nerd culture (I think someone like Jonah Lehrer exemplifies that more acceptable culture), while the other versions are seen as populated by hopeless losers (e.g., the typical trekkie that's laughed at in sitcoms). So, if you were to fight against LW nerd culture, I think you could keep a lot of it out in the open. You'd have to treat your love of Star Trek, for example, as sort of a guilty pleasure and laugh it off. And you could never mention that you like anime unless it's by Miyazaki. But you could profess your love of books, science, and philosophy while gaining status for doing so.
0CharlieSheen10yActually now that I think of it combating nerd-like behaviour is probably one of the easier ways to make LessWrong less white and less male (if for some reason you want to do that - since some white people are perfectly ok human beings, some of my best friends are white males). For example it can be coherently argued that in the US at least nerd culture is basically hyperwhite [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/magazine/29wwln-idealab-t.html] culture.
1siodine10yI don't have anything against nerd culture or white males; I'm all of the above. I'm also not arguing that we should dissuade or combat whiteness, maleness, or nerdliness.
0siodine10yI'll happily answer your question if you engage in some basic reciprocity by answering my question to you.
0[anonymous]10yAh, sorry I see which post you mean. I missed that one.
0[anonymous]10yI'm pretty sure they would.
1TimS10yMaybe? But she didn't. I think that omission was justifiable. The nature of social principles of construction is that making your disagreement with them explicit is unlikely to be effective because (1) you won't always be believed, (2) you might look like you are signalling a belief rather than holding that belief, and (3) noting that a particular social convention doesn't apply in this circumstance can function to reinforce that the convention does and should apply in most circumstances. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Also, I owe you a bit of an apology. All of this was really obvious to me in reading Konkvistador's comment, and I erroneously assumed a short inferential distance. My semi-snarky reply to you assumes the short inferential distance. That is, I didn't assume your question was in good faith, and I should have. Sorry.
0TimS10yI'm not sure that all feminists would acknowledge any negative impact at all (consider Mary Daly). That's bad mental hygiene. I guess I wrote what I did as part of my personal project to convince feminism-skeptics that not all feminism is inherently unhealthy for mental hygiene.
0daenerys10yI in no way mean to make males feel unwelcome in this survey. All voices are welcome. However, I do feel that it is worthwhile to specifically encourage females to answer. Here is my reasoning below Say 100 people respond to the survey. At only 8% female users, we are only going to have 8 female answers. If we want to know how females came to find the site, this isn't a very good sampling size. I understand that this may upset some readers, and am sorry for this fact. I have set up a survey above, and if either the majority of respondents OR at least 15 people are upset by this, I will take down the phrase referring to gender in the OP.
4Raemon10yEdit: Okay, my sarcastic tone was anti-productive. Rephrase: I googled "affirmative action based on sex" and a few variants. None of them produced an obvious set of concerns that are relevant to the situation at hand - increasing female interest on a community blog (and more importantly, the ideas therein), which is not the same thing at all as hiring people for a limited number of paid positions. I appreciate not wanting to rehash out arguments that HAVE been done to death on Less Wrong, but it's not clear what you think Konkvistador's concern was. And if Konkvistador himself is tired of repeating the same arguments, it'd have been better to at least link to an older post rather than a simple, vague "dislike."
0TimS10yI thought that Konkvistador's point was quite clear. [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9ug/poll_method_of_recruitment/5ucs]. And I didn't want to rehash the argument about whether it is reasonable to think that zero-sum is a useful approach to thinking about selective invitation. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kudos for noticing that tone detracted from the argument. Konkvistador can tell you about my recent experience here about how hard that is to recognize from the inside.
0buybuydandavis10yI didn't take it as affirmative action as much as proper statistical sampling.
-1[anonymous]10yWhy in the world do you expect a forum dedicated to refining the art of human rationality to conform to such sampling? Unless you haven't noticed this is a rather niche interest associated with even more neiche memes. And may I ask what exactly are the benefits of such sampling? Has it been demonstrated, in any endeavour whatsoever, that the efforts expended on it give greater returns in terms of achieving stated goals than other options? Sounds like a silly rationalization for a soft-headed "diversity" applause light.
3Desrtopa10yDaenerys has said that the poll has so far [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9ug/poll_method_of_recruitment/5uci] gotten a response of 13% female, compared to 8% in the Less Wrong survey a few months ago. I also think it's unlikely that the proportion of female members has grown by more than 50% in the last four months.
1[anonymous]10yYou mean the poll that specifically asked female posters to participate? From a set of people that already read LessWrong.
7Desrtopa10yYes. Daenerys is trying to find out how people who're on Less Wrong came to be here, particularly female members, and since we have considerably fewer female members, it's harder to get a significant sampling. She made a particular push for female members to participate, and it seems to have worked. So what is it that you're objecting to?
7[anonymous]10yAh I see, I thought we where talking about the general desirability of making LW representative of something or other (college educated people, the global population, France, hypothetical perfect society, ect.) not this particular drive to get data from LessWrong users who are female. Sorry for the misunderstanding!
4Desrtopa10yWell, Daenerys has expressed an interest in getting more female participation in Less Wrong. Whether or not we should expect proportional representation on this site, I don't think it's particularly contentious that we could be attracting more, and I do think our demographic homogeneity is a meaningful status concern. Every action has opportunity costs, but given that we have members who're interested in bringing in more female members, I think that by doing so they will probably be doing more for the community than they would otherwise be doing.
6[anonymous]10yThis is an excellent point and I have no problem at all with such added activity. However as soon as they start changing norms or trying to convince other existing LessWrong users to change their behaviour, a cost-benefit analysis needs to be done. If they decline to provide it, or if I am unconvinced I simply will not conform to the new norms (and other users are of course free to vote on my conduct).


[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply