Summary: If you declare you’re operating by Crocker’s Rules, other people are allowed to optimize their messages to you for information, not for being nice to you. The converse of Crocker’s Rules would be asking people to optimize their messages to you for being nice to you, not for information. Both of these modes of communication are useful, and you’ll have a chance to practice both.

Tags: Repeatable, investment, highly experimental

Purpose: There are four skills. 1. Optimizing your communication to others to be informative. 2. Optimizing your communication to others to be nice. 3. Receiving communication that was not at all optimized for being nice. 4. Receiving communication that was not at all optimized for being informative. This provides an opportunity to practice each of these.

Materials: You need some kind of clearly visible marker, in at least three obviously different styles. Blue, green and red bandanas are one option. Large stickers are another, though note that people will be removing and re-applying them throughout the meetup and so those will naturally lose their adhesive. 

Announcement Text: “It may indeed be impolite; I don't deny that. Whether it's untrue is a different question. - Eleizer Yudkowsky

Crocker’s Rules, named after and framed by Lee Daniel Crocker, are a social norm you can declare that you’re using where you authorize other people to optimize their messages for  information over niceness. In other words, by saying you’re operating by Crocker’s Rules, you’re saying you want people to say true things to you even if those things would be rude, in the interests of efficient communication. 

It can be uncomfortable and strange for some people to talk to someone using Crocker’s Rules! If you’re usually a polite person who tries not to make others upset, then saying the true and rude thing feels like being mean. Speaking impolite truths is a skill, and this meetup may offer a chance to practice that skill.

There’s another skill that some who flock to Crocker’s banner are not as practiced with. The ability to be polite and abide by local etiquette is a useful practical skill as well. We’re going to hopefully have a chance to practice that as well, and while it is less of an obvious rationalist skill, it’s one that’s worth having anyway.

Description: Once people are gathered, read the text of the SL4 Crocker’s Rule post.

“Declaring yourself to be operating by "Crocker's Rules" means that other people are allowed to optimize their messages for information, not for being nice to you.  Crocker's Rules means that you have accepted full responsibility for the operation of your own mind - if you're offended, it's your fault.  Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor.  (Which, in point of fact, they would be.  One of the big problems with this culture is that everyone's afraid to tell you you're wrong, or they think they have to dance around it.)  Two people using Crocker's Rules should be able to communicate all relevant information in the minimum amount of time, without paraphrasing or social formatting.  Obviously, don't declare yourself to be operating by Crocker's Rules unless you have that kind of mental discipline.

Note that Crocker's Rules does not mean you can insult people; it means that other people don't have to worry about whether they are insulting you.  Crocker's Rules are a discipline, not a privilege.  Furthermore, taking advantage of Crocker's Rules does not imply reciprocity.  How could it?  Crocker's Rules are something you do for yourself, to maximize information received - not something you grit your teeth over and do as a favor.

"Crocker's Rules" are named after Lee Daniel Crocker.” 

- Eliezer Yudkowsky

Next, repeat the bold section. Pause. Repeat the bold section again.

Now pass out the visible markers. (This description will assume you’re using bandanas.) Make sure each person who wants one can have one. “Everyone see the bandanas? Good. Look at them. Anyone can’t tell the difference between them?” (You should get a chorus of Nos.) “Good!” 

“Here’s how this is going to work. If you want to use Crocker’s Rules, put the yellow headband on- you can tie it around your head or wrist, or just tuck it in your jacket zipper. That means that other people should communicate to you optimizing for information, not niceness. If you want to use reverse-Crocker’s Rules, put on the green headband. That means that other people should communicate to you optimizing for niceness, not information. If you’re happy to be a guide- that is, to give someone suggestions for how to be nicer or more informative, while keeping firmly in mind what headband they’re wearing- then wear a white bandana in addition to what you’re wearing. At any time, you can take off the bandana. If you’re just holding it, that doesn’t count for anything. Check whether the bandana is just held, or being worn. I hereby declare that it is always nice and it is always information to ask whether someone is wearing the bandana or just holding it.”

“Your goal is to try and talk to both Crocker and reverse-crocker people tonight. What you talk about is up to you. When you’re done, please bring the bandanas back to me!” 

When the conversation is done, collect the bandanas, and then bow to each other. Thank those who donned them for helping people learn. 

Variations: So the title of this is a joke on how “Crocker” in English sounds like it should mean something like “more crock.” Compare “Heavy, heavier, heaviest.” One thing I want to try is varying the amount of “Crock” (for lack of a better term) people are using. Perhaps the placement of the bandana indicated how much you were encouraging people to discard politeness in pursuit of efficient communication, with a bandana tied around the wrist indicating to optimize for niceness, the elbow for normal conversation, and the shoulder indicating optimizing for efficient information. In practice, this is tricky both because bandanas tend to slip downward and (harder to solve) people aren’t very good at precisely calibrating the amount of directness. The difference between 80% Crocker and 70% Crocker is hard to aim at, especially given interpersonal variation. Crocker’s Rules are an absolute- you can call someone a moron to their face and call it a favour to them!- and that’s an easier target. Still, I think it would be useful to be able to slowly turn up the amount of directness, to warm people up and give them a chance to dip their toes in.

The first incarnation of this meetup involved using the location in the room to indicate how much niceness and how much truth to optimize for. Say, have the north wall be maximum Crocker, and the south wall be maximum Reverse Crocker. The problem with this is that to go talk to someone in Maximum Crocker, you yourself have to go pretty far into the Crocker side. That’s not how this works. Likewise, having things change over time (so the event starts in normal, then gradually becomes more Nice for half an hour until it peaks, then gradually goes back to normal, then gradually becomes more Crocker for half an hour until it peaks) is going to put people who aren’t ready for Crocker’s Rules in that mode.

I do think having a way to try out Crocker’s Rules a little bit is good. Short of doing a bunch of invisible, individual work in your own head and then showing up ready to accept “full responsibility for the operation of your own mind” and either succeeding or failing and getting angry, I’m not sure how this is supposed to be taught and learned. Frustratingly, the obvious way to practice is to have someone adjust their message to you to optimize for gradually acclimating you to receiving Crocker’s Rule style messages, and that’s kind of not the thing Crocker’s Rules are supposed to mean!

Notes: See the Highly Experimental tag? That’s not there by accident, this is an untried work in progress. 

First off, suggestions for what to call the niceness>information side other than “reverse crocker” are solicited. That's just terrible nomenclature, but I don't have a better idea.

Something that almost sinks this as a possible meetup in a box is you may not have anyone willing to undergo Crocker’s Rules. You do not want to conscript someone who can’t operate with them, because that is going to be pretty unpleasant for them and it’ll probably be worse the more outnumbered they are. (One person being what-you-perceive-as-rude to you is bad. A room full of people doing that is worse, and not in a way that scales linearly or predictably.) If you are a person who is comfortable, this meetup is more feasible.

Especially taking the guide role, I think it would be useful to switch modes a few times when working with someone. Get your interlocutor used to Crocker’s Rules, not as how they always interact with you and your personal quirks, but as a kind of dialect they can code switch into and out of.

Be on the lookout for people thinking that because they are wearing the Crocker’s Rules signal, they can be rude and direct to others. They are just wrong in point of fact, and also they are the last people who can complain about you telling them they’re wrong in point of fact.

I do actually think practicing being nice to people at the expense of efficient exchange of information is a skill people could benefit from practicing. I’m not arguing here that’s an important and central rationality skill. I am arguing that it’s useful to do side by side with Crocker’s Rules, since the contrast can be informative. Also, optimizing for information is different than optimizing for hurting someone's feelings, and while calling someone a moron is explicitly allowed under Crocker's Rules, "Hey you moron you forgot to take your shoes off in the house" is not the most efficient way to send that information. That would be "You forgot to take your shoes off in the house" unless the insult is somehow helpful in a way I usually don't think it is.

Someone sure is going to try to don the mantle of Crocker's Rules when the aren't ready and get emotionally bruised. I don't know how to avoid that. Suggestions solicited for ideas on boxable encouragement and support for this workout. 

Credits: Crocker’s Rules come from Daniel Lee Crocker. The written form of them I first encountered was Yudkowsky referencing the SL4 post. The idea of having a clear signal to opt in to Crocker’s Rules (A particular sticker you could put on your nametag)  is one I personally got from the LessWrong Community Weekend in 2022. The LessWrong user who acted as a sounding board over lunch is welcome to be credited if they want to be, or may wish to avoid association with this catastrophe waiting to happen. (Edit: It's Czynski, they claimed credit. I'm playing up the catastrophe potential a little bit for humour value, but in its present form I do guess this has a higher chance of causing interpersonal hard feelings than I usually aim at for things I suggest to people.)

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The LessWrong user who acted as a sounding board over lunch is welcome to be credited if they want to be, or may wish to avoid association with this catastrophe waiting to happen.

I don't think I added anything but encouragement, but that was me. TBH if it's a catastrophe that's an interesting result itself. I wonder if it happens every time

It's very hard to predict how a previously untried activity will go, since humans adapt to situations they're in, and then adapt to the adaptations of others around them. I'd experiment on this soon with a small group. One possible failure mode would be if people told to talk about "anything they want" jump to topics that don't offer the opportunity to practice either Crocker or reverse-Crocker.

Yeah, I usually try these posted meetups two or three times before I do the writeup. The Experimental tag exists for when I haven't gotten around to doing that yet.

Not having anything unusually direct or nice to say would be a failure mode for this, and one that could be avoided by prompting topics that are more likely to have opportunities. I suspect (though have no direct evidence for this) that the temptation to say "you are just wrong about the Topical Issue of the Day" will arise given what I've seen of LessWrong or Astral Codex Ten meetups, which is where I anticipate these being used. I think it's harder to nudge people into using the affordance Crocker's Rules provide. I'll update once I've run this a few times and found out :)