Petition: Off topic area

by [anonymous]1 min read13th May 201243 comments

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Petition: LW should introduce a dedicated off topic area

 

Why?

 

1) I want to discuss various topics with people who are both intelligent and rationalist, and i know of no other place where to do it.

 

2) If find that rationality is getting boring in itself. I need to use it on something.

 

3) As stated in this comment http://lesswrong.com/lw/btc/how_can_we_get_more_and_better_lw_contrarians/6e3p

the narrow set of topics might actually hurt LW by driving good rationalists away.

43 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 10:59 PM
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[-][anonymous]9y 22

This has been discussed before.

Why I think it is a bad idea:

I don't think you understand why I don't like the idea of LW becoming a forum. LessWrong is less a collection of cool people than it is a particular niche in online discussion. By changing that niche, you change the demographics, and probably increase the raw number of participants. Besides this reducing the signal to noise ratio, you are relying on the core seed group to step up their gardening, something I see very little evidence might actually happen. You also implicitly rely on them not changing their standards and expectations. People generally behave differently in different on-line venues.

Even putting these concerns aside, Karma systems have very different dynamics with different scales and the effects are nonlinear.

Something that might make this less of a problem, if it does get implemented, is having two separate karma systems for the two areas. This way, standards for main/discussion sections can be maintained, while we can have the alternate discussions elsewhere (with a karma system of its own).

or just not having karma in the off topic area.

also having a higher karma threshold to join the off topic discussion will cut down on random garbage.

also having a higher karma threshold to join the off topic discussion will cut down on random garbage.

I like this. Since quality is potentially a very serious problem with off-topic area, make something like 500 Karma points earned on LW Main a requirement for commenting in the off-topic area.

Agreed. After all, the point of the off-topic area would be to discuss "off" topics with people from LW.

It would amuse me if this were done, and (as seems a likely consequence) LW participants who dislike the average level of quality in the Main and Discussion sections started having their rationality discussions in the Off-Topic section, where the discussion exclusively comprised people who have a track record of making comments the community finds (on balance) valuable.

It would stop amusing me if this were done, and (as seems a likely consequence) LW participants who feel deprived of their presumed right to participate in the Off-Topic section despite lacking such a track record start gaming the karma system so they can defeat the mod-boss and advance to the next level.

We are the reason we can't have nice things.

Ah, but perhaps there a simple fix for this: posts that would be on-topic for LessWrong are off-topic for the Off-Topic section. (edit: didn't see komponisto's comment)

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Another idea: Don't keep separate Karma records between Main/Discussion and Off-Topic, but only count negative Karma earned in the off-topic area towards the total.

Then why not for example just make a LW subreddit on Reddit or something? I thought the off topic section was a good idea as an initial response, but Konk has a good point.

I also approve of an off topic board, but for opposite reasons:

2b) I'm less interested in the other topics (singularity, technology, ...) that people discuss here, preferring to keep LessWrong for rationality discussion.

3b) The broad range of topics we discuss at the moment attracts sci/tech enthusiasts who care less about rationality and so lower the quality of discussion.

Seconded, I would also like to separate the futurism from the rationality. Both are interesting, but the point of this forum is discussing rationality- yet threads about the singularity seem to be vastly more popular than, say threads about how to perform Bayesian inference in specific real situations.

I strongly support this. I'll try to make it happen.

Can you give some examples of such topics?

Indoor rock climbing, mechanical keyboards, vacationing in Brazil, Lisp programming, and varieties of apples come to mind.

[-][anonymous]9y 20

intellectual property, polyamory, liberalism vs libertarianism; the kind of stuff that robin hanson posts on OB; tech/science/philosophy

[-][anonymous]9y 11

Nearlly everything you mentioned will not get downvoted in discussion section. Indeed direct discussion of polyamory for example has even been seen on Main. The only one I can see downovoted "liberalism vs. libertarianism" (what no one remembers us reactionaries running around here?), but that is because of the "politics is the mindkiller" norm. If you think we can preserve high quality of discussion on OT when it comes to politics, why haven't we been able to do so when wearing our rationalist hats (see any gender/sex/feminism/PUA thread ever)?

Huh? I thought you were a conservative, not a reactionary, seeing as you're generally cautious about change and not really advocating the superiority of some historical social arrangement. With the sole exception that you're for dictatorship and against democracy, but there's plenty of quite modern dictatorships, as you recently pointed out.

[-][anonymous]9y 3

I was being humorous.

Yes I guess conservative is a better word, since while we disagree on some things you generally seem to grok my positions well. Since we are on this subject I hope I always approach your arguments in good faith and competently since you've earned quite some intelectual respect from me in our public and PM exchanges.

The reason I put it there is that I don't see myself having much in common with conservative politics in nearly any relevant country, though other people are probably a better judge of this than me. While I do agree with at least a few of the people one finds on say a site like Unqualified Reservations. I try very hard not to let such labels influence my self-conception, my identity so to speak, but I do unfortunately need one word summaries of my current positions.

As to democracy and dictatorship... I do think we are biased in favour of democracy and that it probably isn't as good as we seem to think it is. I think there exist better social and governmental arrangmenets than those found in modern Western countries. These might be some kinds of dictatorship or they might not. I'm certainly not discounting the possibility that we may be just plain mistaken about our actual preferences and that many of us might prefer life in a existing "technocratic city state" as I think you recently termed it. It is actually my conservative streak that still leads me to prefer living in a regular social democracy than to say a experimental neocameralist or futarchist state.

But again it was a throwaway line I didn't mean to start a discussion on politics.

But again it was a throwaway line I didn't mean to start a discussion on politics.

Yeah, sure, I should've guessed you were ironic; the reason I asked was simply that it's the first time I remember you applying any political label to yourself. I'm not overly concerned or distressed by your (or anyone's) ideas about the relative merits of political systems, seeing as in my mind it's inevitably largely a "red herring", disguising other factors of a society's nature. E.g. I think that the formal dissolution of the USSR, the adoption of a new constitution, Putin's (much-criticized and now rolled-back) electoral reforms and other post-Soviet political rearrangements were not among the factors that seriously impacted life in Russia, with the exception of the severed links with other Soviet republics and the effects of those.

(Of course, when e.g. I'm arguing about the merits of liberal vs. restrictive laws, or censorship, or whatever, I'm usually genuinely concerned - as I always try to be when it's about real people's lives.)

[-][anonymous]9y 0

intellectual property, polyamory

Man, I'd love to hear some thoughts from you on these topics - preferrably in a form and tone optimized for Less Wrong, and not copypasted from your website.

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Artificial intelligence, if "on-topic" is "refining the art of human rationality".

trading recipes, advice on product purchases, small lifehacks, questions about everyday interactions, optimizing various hobbies.

If you download the LW source code, then design, code and test your suggestions, you might get a tiny chance of getting them rolled out.

It's a matter of setting up a new subreddit.

I don't think its that simple. On Reddit there is a single karma number. Setting up a subreddit and calling it X lets karma bleed across from X into the main part of the site. In terms of karma transfer X is on topic whatever we call it.

If the off-topic part of the site is to be karma-separated, this will take coding.

To put it bluntly, HPMoR threads contribute a very non-trivial fraction of karma GDP. Shouldn't you be worried about that?

I suggest the most effective way to deal with karma is to ignore it as a consideration in site design. It only matters to accumulate ten or twenty points to post - apart from that it's a video game score in the top-right corner.

It's harder than that because of the implicit design considerations.

I agree. How can we make this happen? Can someone who admins LW give us a reply?

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Thats excellent thanks.

Something to indicate when an old post is getting a lot of discussion would be good (like reddit's 'hot'). As an old post with 100 replies today is listed below a more recent post with very little attention.

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If you want to make an off topic area, there had to exist the topic in the first place. What is actually on topic at LW?

I am not sure whether I support your plan. Perhaps you should write the "off topic" discussion post you want to write, not caring too much about its topicality?

[+][anonymous]9y -6