Feedback is important. It's true in Machine Learning, and it's true in writing. So when you write a cool new post on LW, you generally hope for feedback. Positive feedback, fingers crossed, but good negative feedback is also very nice for improving your writing chops and your ideas. Yet getting meaningful feedback can prove difficult on LW. This Challenge aims at starting a community trend to solve this problem.
First, I need to frame the issue. How do you get feedback on LW? Through two mechanisms: karma and comments.
- High karma (let's say above 50) show that people find your post valuable. Maybe they even find your post clear and well-written; they might even agree with you. It would be cool to have comments, but you still have valuable feedback without any.
- Low karma (The "Low Karma" filter is for less than -10, but I'll count any negative karma) show that people actively disagree with either your idea or your way of presenting it. That's a useful signal, but one that really warrants comment to understand what people disliked enough to downvote you.
- Comments (let's say at least 3 comments/comment threads from 3 different authors, all concerning the actual subject of the post instead of some other thing mentioned in the post), regardless of the karma, show an involvement of readers. Once again, they can be positive or negative; what really matters is that they interact with the subject of the post.
Okay. But what happens when none of these criteria is met? Posts with karma between 0 and 49 and less than 3 comments are not that rare: looking at last week's frontpage posts (from Monday to Sunday my time, CET), there are 18 such posts out of 47, which is about 38%. Not a majority, but still more than a third. And I'm pretty sure many of the posts that didn't make the cut could benefit from more feedback.
This is why I'm proposing the (Unofficial) Less Wrong Comment Challenge: committing to read and comment all posts in a given category, or by a given author, or with a given tag, in a specified period. The simplest example would be something like: read and comment every new frontpage post on LW for the rest of November. But the parameters allow for tweaks. For example, maybe you're free this week, but not after. And maybe you don't feel like you have the level for reading Alignment Forum posts. In that context, you could challenge yourself to read and comment every frontpage post not from the AF for the rest of the week. Or maybe you're into a specific author, and you want to read and comment all of their posts as they go along.
An obvious response to this challenge is that you don't know what to comment. Which completely overlooks the fact that half, maybe more, of the feedback signal comes from how much did you enjoy the post, found it interesting, and everything else in your experience of reading this post. No one is unqualified to share their experience. Just a "I really enjoyed this post, even if I had nothing else to say" is useful feedback. So is "I'm not sure why, but I had trouble connecting with the arguments of the post".
So you have it. This is the (Unofficial) Less Wrong Comment Challenge. I don't add any constraints on when you need to finish reading the posts of the day, because you'll probably need your own, if only for timezone reasons. If you're interested, just add a comment to this post with your own challenge, and maybe updates in the corresponding thread.
Disclaimer: this idea came to me because I'm unsatisfied with the level of feedback of my own posts. But instead of finding a solution just for me, I decided that pushing a new social norm, as hard as it was, might be more productive for the community. That being said, feel free to comment my posts, including this one.