Making LessWrong notable enough for its own Wikipedia page

by VipulNaik1 min read13th Mar 201433 comments

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LessWrong is a great resource. It gets a fair amount of traffic (800,000 pageviews per month back when pageview-counting was working properly), has a large number of people identifying as part of the online community (2013 survey results), and has a number of lurkers including high school students (see this post). And yet, it doesn't have a Wikipedia page of its own. LessWrong on Wikipedia currently goes to Eliezer Yudkowsky's page, which has a sentence devoted to LessWrong.

The main reason for the absence of the page is that LessWrong hasn't received enough coverage in the media, so it wouldn't pass Wikipedia's notability criteria. Even if one of us created a page on LessWrong, it would get speedily deleted because there wouldn't be any reliable sources to cite.

So, question: any ideas on how to generate media coverage for LessWrong, enough that it passes the notability criteria of Wikipedia and can be given its own page? The media coverage will help directly in addition to being useful to creating a Wikipedia page. The Wikipedia page itself will help portray LessWrong as "legit" and also provide information to people that'll help them decide if the site is suitable for them.

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I mentioned LessWrong in this article in Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/ten-things-you-should-learn-from-lesswrongcom-2011-7

My book Singularity Rising also cites LessWrong.

The flipside of this is that the page will not necessarily say things about LW that we would want it to say about LW; rather, it will say about LW what can be cited, which means that you would have to somehow wrangle positive coverage from the mundane media. This seems a rather quixotic goal, at best.

Yeah, let's have a Wikipedia page when we are famous for doing something awesome... instead of basilisks and polyamory. Otherwise the Wikipedia page will inevitably be about basilisks and polyamory. (Nothing wrong with polyamory per se, it's just not the defining trait of LW.)

The Wikipedia-quality third-party coverage of LW is mostly horrible. Having a WIkipedia article is a curse. This is a real case of "be careful what you wish for."

If MIRI thinks a marketing push is in order, generating enough press for a Wikipedia article would be relatively straightforward. But you have to work out what you want from this, in detail.

I'd be quite cautious about seeking greater media coverage without a plan to deal with an "Eternal September" on Less Wrong.

This. In particular, significant media coverage that portrays LW as high-status ("this is where all the smart people hang out!") is likely to end badly.

Hacker News had a semi-joking strategy, "everyone post articles on Haskell internals*" on days following media exposure. It actually seemed to work pretty well--but I don't know if we have enough posting volume, and enough un-posted articles on the mathematical side of decision theory and anthropics to use a similar strategy.

*(edit: it was Erlang internals; gjm's memory is better than mine).

I thought it was Erlang (see also). (It might be Haskell if they did it again now. I think Haskell has grown trendier and Erlang less so among the HN crowd.)

EDITED to add: PG's response to the Erlang storm, the top comment here: Hacker News community as UFAI!

I just want to mention an immediate thought that I had as soon as I read this. Note that I don't actually endorse this thought, but I still think there is something to it.

First, I was surprised that LessWrong doesn't currently have a Wikipedia article. Then I immediately thought, "How cool is it that I'm part of this large subculture of smart people that is so out of the mainstream that it doesn't even have a Wikipedia article! We should never get enough media coverage to pass the notability criteria."

What I gleaned from this intuition is that some of the appeal of LW is that it is non-mainstream.

This would be interesting to see. I sense LW's content has already become very deluded over time—presumably as a result of it's growing mainstream-ish popularity.

With more coverage, would LW become more like, say, reddit?

Do you mean diluted?

It is said: "Correlation does not imply causation."

Someone has to say it: a significant majority of the external coverage I've seen of LessWrong has been focused on Ebxb'f onfvyvfx (warning: it's a potentially hazardous topic), so if there was a LessWrong Wikipedia article it would undoubtedly cover the matter, possibly extensively. No reporter writing about the community could fail to mention it.

I am pretty sure that LW would pass the notability test, as it is linked from many online sources, including dozens of unaffiliated blogs and in passing from an occasional news media article. To start, one could add LW sections to the EY's wiki entry or that of MIRI. Certainly Google search considers LW worthy of extra links.

Another good starting step would be to create a "what others wrote about us" page at LessWrong wiki, and collect things written about us there. (Without the things written by obvious haters. Things which are merely misleading should probably be mentioned there too, with our comment on how specifically they are misleading. They still add to notability.) We will have a better idea of our notability, and if necessary, we could use it as a proof if there is a debate later at Wikipedia.

Collecting positive reviews by others is a good idea even without Wikipedia. It's a social proof.

My intuition is based on my experience writing stuff for Wikipedia (and having some of it deleted). In cases where a topic just barely passes the notability threshold, stuffing a lot of links can backfire. See for instance the discussion related to the deletion of Cal Newport's Wikipedia page, which I created with loads of references: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Cal_Newport

Of course, you (or anybody else) is welcome to draft stuff that could go into Wikipedia about LessWrong. I'd love to be disproved :).

As I said, I'd start by adding a LW section to the other two pages. This should not be a problem, since the notability standard is not nearly as strict for the content. Once the section grows large enough, you can add a notice suggesting a separate entry and see how it is received.

I cited lesswrong in a paper once.

Please give the source, in case someone wants to try writing that page.

If someone starts a meetup in a small town, it would not be difficult for them to get a newspaper article talking about the event. Though I'm not sure Wikipedians would consider little-tiny-newspaper to be adequate coverage...

Congratulations. There is now a page on Wikipedia about how weird we all are, with the basilisk and our "weird and unconventional" ideas being front and center on it, since there's little in the way of secondary sources for anything else about the site.

Which, of course, is what I and several other people warned would happen, several months ago. Nice going.

[-][anonymous]7y 2

As I said a few days ago regarding getting LW in circulation... Similar idea, less re-inventing the wheel, already paid for, already existing large infrastructures, more spreading of desired discussions: if any of us are in an existing class, incorporate LW topics. Whatever the class, there are ways to make it less wrong. Rather than continuing to talk to each other, we talk to not-each-other (with the added invaluable bonus that outsiders sometimes have criticisms overlooked / suppressed by insiders).

Heck, even Civfanatics has its own (very detailed) Wikipedia page.

A little bit of searching on news.google.com turns up this russian source: http://www.pcweek.ru/idea/blog/idea/6351.php

The same link to LessWrong can be found in this Huffington Post article and this NY Times blog post.

The Wikipedia page itself will help portray LessWrong as "legit" and also provide information to people that'll help them decide if the site is suitable for them.

I don't really buy that. There are plenty of organisations that have Wikipedia articles that aren't legit. If you look at the RationalWiki page, I don't think it helps people seeing LW as legit.

As far as making the decision whether an webforum is suitable for someone, that decision is usually made by reading the webforum and seeing whether it's content interests you enough to stick around.

If you look at the RationalWiki page, I don't think it helps people seeing LW as legit.

Do you mean the RationalWiki page about LessWrong, or the Wikipedia page about RationalWiki?

If you mean the former: RationalWiki pages don't carry the same legitimacy as Wikipedia pages, so I don't see this as strong evidence.

If you mean the latter: there's no Wikipedia page about RationalWiki (the RationalWiki page redirects to Conservapedia).

If you mean the former: RationalWiki pages don't carry the same legitimacy as Wikipedia pages, so I don't see this as strong evidence.

The RationalWiki page on Lesswrong does illustrate the kind of things you can say about LW by quoting media.

I just went ahead and made the wikipedia page (as a stub article with no content except a sentence, a link to LW and a link to establish notability). Please feel free to add content to it.

Please feel free to add content to it.

Please don't, then maybe it can get speedily deleted. There is nothing that gets Wikipedians more up in arms than other sites doing clueless advocacy campaigns like this one. It's viewed on a par with the way certain countries view human rights advocates discussing their "matters internal to their country", and with much better justification for doing so.

Remember that as soon as you add positive content to this page, you are simply creating the opportunity for other people to say negative things, backed up by even more citations than you had for the positive things. Then where are you? Smack dab in the middle of arguments-as-soldiers territory, that's where.

Repeat after me: if I live in a world where LessWrong is positively notable by Wikipedia's standards (not LessWrong's standards), then I want to know that. But if I live in a world where it isn't, then I want to know that, too.

Guess which world we actually live in?

Would we want WIkipedians to come over here and tell us what they think should be considered quality content on LessWrong? I don't think so.

I expanded the page somewhat. There's a good chance it'll get deleted, so I kept a copy in my userspace: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Vipul/LessWrong