Call for volunteers: Publishing the Sequences

by wedrifid1 min read28th Jun 201242 comments

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Rationality A-Z (discussion & meta)
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The Singularity Institute is in the process of publishing Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Sequences of rationality posts as an electronic book. The Sequences are made up of multiple hundreds of posts. These are being downloaded and converted to LaTeX for publishing programmatically and that’s where the human tasks begin. These will entail:

  • Verifying that all the content has all been transferred, including all text, equations and images.
  • Proofreading for any typographical errors that may have escaped attention thus far.
  • Verifying that all external links are still alive (and replacing any that are not).
  • Creating a bibliography for all material referenced in the chapters (posts).

The recent document publishing efforts at SIAI would not have been possible without the assistance of dedicated volunteers. This new project is the perfect opportunity to help out lesswrong while giving you an excuse to catch up on (or revisit) your reading of some foundational rational thinking material. As an added bonus every post reviewed will save the world with 3.5*epsilon probability.

We need volunteers who are willing to read some sequence posts and have an eye for detail. Anyone interested in contributing should contact me at cameron.taylor [at] singinst [dot] org.

For those more interested in academic papers we also have regular publications (and re-publications) that need proofreading and editing before they are released.

42 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 10:37 PM
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Titling the collection "The Sequences" doesn't seem optimal.

Titling the collection "The Sequences" doesn't seem optimal.

I'm inclined to to agree. What do you suggest as alternative? Think of a good one and persuade Luke and Eliezer!

A template that seems more reasonable goes like this: Main title: ("Essays on Human Rationality", say); Subtitle: .

Alternatively, publish the sequences as separate volumes of the same "Yudkowsky's blog posts collection", and title each volume with the name of the respective sequence.

I would personally avoid the word "blog", since it immediately makes me down-rank the book from "ooh, rationality!" to "oh, some blogger feels he's so important he's going to publish an eBook, eeew!"

(Title)The Sequences (Subtitle)Essays on Human Rationality

seems good to me, mostly because I can't think of a better title, but it definitely needs a subtitle to tell me what it is. (I actually like "The Sequences" as a title - it has a bit of an air of mystery, yet also a nice formal, logical sound - it feels like it will teach me something secret, in a coherent manner :))

Main title: ("Essays on Human Rationality", say); Subtitle: .

That sounds pretty decent. Except possibly for the tautological oxymoron "human rationality" (tautological because it cannot be applied to animals, and AI is presumed to be rational (or at least logical) by definition, and an oxymoron because I'm yet to see a perfectly rational human being). Maybe "applied rationality" or even "Science and art of rationality".

Maybe "applied rationality" or even "Science and art of rationality".

I'd prefer the former. The posts in question contradict science (in some details). There is even a post or two directly contrasting the two types of reasoning.

Glad you're doing this and sorry that I do not currently have time to proofread a batch of them myself.

This might be the only time ever that I can mention this without automatically sounding like an asshole, so here goes: Eliezer, whose writing is generally amazingly consistent and well-proofread with respect to style and punctuation, has the habit of using a hyphen, surrounded by single spaces, in place of a dash. He's far from alone in doing this, and it's an entirely reasonable habit to have given that the hyphen is an ASCII character but dashes aren't. However, it doesn't look good even on the web, and looks a lot worse in nicely typeset text. I'd strongly recommend replacing these space-enclosed hyphens with one of the two standard, correct dash usages: either an em (long) dash without spaces, or an en (short) dash enclosed in single spaces.

My apologies if this kind of advice isn't welcome or, of course, if you and your proofreading team already thought of it!

Absolutely. The " - " issue occurs in all of Eliezer's work (and to be fair most work by folks working with an ascii-like medium). We've recently prepared a manuscript for the first 17 chapters of Methods of Rationality to be sent off to be published as hard copy. In that source I performed the substitution :s/ - /---/g across the board.

I'll have to be a little more careful with some of the sequence conversion---that particular character combination also occurs in equations that we'll be manually converting to the LaTeX equation environment.

Bugs like this could be found in LaTeX source using regular expressions.

If a thing like this happens, it probably happens more than once in a long text. So when humans find a first example, computer could detect all remaining examples of the same pattern. (I don't recommend automatical fixing of these bugs, only reporting them.)

[-][anonymous]9y 4

Oh dear. Attempting to parse LaTeX with regexes is only slightly more insane than attempting to parse HTML with regexes.

On the other hand, an interactive regexp search-and-replace is quite reasonable. Any good text editor should support such functionality...

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Sure, and any good (human) editor should have a macro package for working in such a way. I'm saying that LaTeX just makes it much harder to work like that, effectively.

Sure, and any good (human) editor should have a macro package for working in such a way. I'm saying that LaTeX just makes it much harder to work like that, effectively.

It sure does. LaTeX is kind of a ridiculous hack. The semantics aren't even consistent. I kind of wish there was a mature publishing system based of DRYML.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

You and I both. Unfortunately any competing system has a nearly insurmountable barrier to entry. Kind of "Worse is Better" taken to insane extremes.

Unfortunately any competing system has a nearly insurmountable barrier to entry.

The best approach would be to build something completely backwards compatible. That is, it allows easy embedding of LaTeX code and optionally compiles out to .tex.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

I think I disagree, but it would depend on implementation details.

One possibility I can see is that you keep around a copy of the LaTeX distribution to parse these easily embedded LaTeX fragments, something like LuaTeX might someday turn out to be. In that case, you're still stuck supporting LaTeX's monstrosity of a toolchain. In that case, there's still e.g. no LaTeX on the iPad.

Another possibility is that you rewrite the LaTeX engine ... ah, nevermind, this isn't a possibility.

Well, I volunteer to try.

if ($text =~ m/\s+-\s+/) print "Hyphen in place of a dash.\n";

If this line could find dozen bugs, it's worth using. Even if it won't find all instances.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Congratulations. You've just triggered a false positive on almost every minus sign in existence. (e.g., $1 - 1 = 0$.)

I would love it if what you suggest were possible, but it just isn't. Not when packages feel free to roll their own DSLs for anything.

Congratulations. You've just triggered a false positive on almost every minus sign in existence. (e.g., $1 - 1 = 0$.)

Yes, but in each false positive all it does is print a message. Since there are rather few instances of minus signs compared to intended em dashes this doesn't seem like much a problem. Ignoring the irrelevant messages also doesn't introduce more than a trivial amount of work. Given that all equations need to be converted to the math environment (probably manually) and the time it takes a human to do the conversion (even when it just means adding $ around them) is orders of magnitude greater than the time taken to not do anything while reading that particular message we can merrily ignore the false positive issue as not worthy of optimisation.

I would love it if what you suggest were possible, but it just isn't.

It's almost exactly what I will do. It would be difficult to make a utility that got everything perfectly right every time without human intervention---that requires implementing comprehension skills and common sense. However, it is trivial to get something that does it well enough for our purposes with only minimal human intervention required.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Congratulations. You've just triggered a false positive on almost every minus sign in existence.

Every minus sign in the Sequences? What, all three of them?

it's an entirely reasonable habit to have given that the hyphen is an ASCII character but dashes aren't

Hmm. I wonder if markdown should convert hyphens surrounded by spaces to dashes.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

for some stupid reason, LW posts aren't markdown.

It would have to figure out which were minus signs in equations. Maybe doubled hyphens?

I've been contacted by ten volunteers so far, thanks for the rapid response! There are about 30 sequences in total so we'll of course welcome any additional editors.

As a preview of what we're producing I've edited the post to include the front cover design:

Excuse the large size in the comment version - markdown is limited!

I like that image.

The tagline in the image looks like you're pointing out on the map where Eliezer is. A bit at sea, it looks like.

Where is this a map of, and what is the significance?

Where is this a map of, and what is the significance?

I presume it is a map-territory reference with a bay in a convenient location.

If I found this place on a world map, and went and dived where the little circle is, I would expect to find the text of the legendary Lost Sequences in a waterproof bag. And that text would read:

By coming here, you have confused the map with the territory. Pay closer attention to the pattern of bits printed inside the circle on the First Edition hardcover.

I think you are being very silly. On the other hand, now I wish one of the SFers would go and establish a geocache at/near that spot...

Agree with TheOtherDave, that's a very nice cover.

Also, I'm sure that those who designed it know what they are doing, but are there any intellectual property issues using Google Maps? (Assuming that the map is actually GMaps.)

Yes, I think there might be, as the overhead images of that level of detail are generally taken by corporations which are subcontracted to fly planes out and take pictures, and they usually retain copyright. This is why in the corner of Google Earth there's often a (c) Terremark (or similar) remark in the corner and/or on the main map. You would have to contact those corporations in order to buy the rights.

Alternatively, find someone on LW who parachutes, and have them take a picture of a suitable area from several hundred feet up. (This remark is 70% serious)

As to the actual drawn-up map part, assuming OpenStreetMap has a good enough level of detail for one's area, that might be easier to get rights for.

Volunteered.

As an aside, the trivial inconvenience of sending an email makes it generally less likely that I will sign up for things like this. I would much prefer an option of "post your email address in a coment on this thread".

Sending a private message with your email may be better for spam and privacy reasons:

http://lesswrong.com/message/compose/?to=wedrifid

Volunteered.

Great. I have you down as covering "Math is Subjectively Objective" in accord with your preference.

As an aside, the trivial inconvenience of sending an email makes it generally less likely that I will sign up for things like this. I would much prefer an option of "post your email address in a coment on this thread".

Oh, of course. That would work too. I suppose it just didn't occur to me to enumerate all the options.

I volunteer.

Corey

P.S. The line below the one specifying the proofreading task contains a duplicate word ("still still"). Typo, or deliberate check for proofreading skill?

Well spotted Corey! This is why we need proofreaders. I did proofread that myself. Twice. Totally missed it.

we also have a regular publications

Pluralisation error, plz fix typograhpy.

(I sent an e-mail offering to volunteer about 24h ago - no reply so far?)

Shouldn't the title give some indication of the book's contents to people who don't already know what it is? Or at least have some sub-title for this purpose? "Thinking for dummies"? "Rational thought in theory and practice"?

I sent an e-mail offering to volunteer about 24h ago - no reply so far?

I just replied to the last few volunteers. Do let me know (with your name or email) if you still haven't got a reply.

Shouldn't the title give some indication of the book's contents to people who don't already know what it is? Or at least have some sub-title for this purpose? "Thinking for dummies"? "Rational thought in theory and practice"?

Hopefully something along the lines of Vladimir's suggestions catches on.

[-][anonymous]9y 2

I take it the job search for a LaTeX guru hasn't gone well?

I take it the job search for a LaTeX guru hasn't gone well?

That would be me. And Malo, Chris and Stan - we all do various LaTeX tasks remotely, part time. The LaTeX side of things is covered. What we are in particular need of volunteers for is proofreading, editing and creating bibliographies - the process of taking a rough .tex source through to a polished final product.

What happened to the intent of this post? Do you still need proofreaders? Count me in, in that case.