[META] Open threads (and repository threads) are underutilized.

by Adele_L1 min read11th Jul 201324 comments


Open Threads
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Recently, issues with the way open threads currently work were brought up. Open threads aren't very visible and get crowded with comments quickly. This causes people to post things that belong in open threads in r/discussion, to not post in open threads more than a few days old, or to ignore/be unaware of new comments in open threads. I think we can do better.

Some possible solutions that were pointed out, or that I thought of are:

  • Put the most recent open thread at the top of the 'Recent Comments' sidebar.
  • Having open threads more often.
  • Put a link to it on the main page.
  • Make a new subreddit for open threads.
  • Create a new medium for open threads.

Note that not all of these are orthogonal.

Having them more often has the advantage of being especially easy to implement. Adding new links seems to be relatively easy to implement as well. As far as I know, making a new subreddit isn't too difficult, but making a new medium would probably be a waste of development resources.

Personally, I like the idea of having a new subreddit for open threads. It  would increase visibility, not get overcrowded, and have the right atmosphere for a casual open thread. My evidence for believing this comes from being familiar the way Reddit works. It seems like there is some resistance to creating new subreddits here, so I don't expect this to be implemented. I would like to see the reasoning for this attitude, if it indeed exists.


There are similar issues for the repository threads. For repositories, having them more often defeats the purpose of having one place for a certain type of idea, and a different subreddit doesn't seem right either. Giving them their own wiki pages might be a better medium, with new threads to encourage new ideas every once in a while. The main problem for this is the trivial inconvenience of going to the wiki, and logging in. It would be nice if there was a unified log-in for this part of the site and the wiki, but I realize this may be technically difficult. I might organize a wiki page for some of the repositories myself if people think this is a good idea but no one else feels like doing it (depends on if I feel like doing it too :p ).




Open Threads1
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24 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:49 PM
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Is there a way to sticky the current open thread to the top of discussion? (and if not, would it be difficult to implement?)

That would be an ideal solution for a person with similar LW browsing habits to me.

Are the open threads important enough that they should always be the top link?

They're pretty important as a place for less relevant to the whole community topics.

Regarding a sticky for the OT: Even if it will increase clutter and decrease the visibility of other posts very slightly by being always on top it should more than make up for that by decreasing the number of 'unworthy for discussion' posts that are made in Discussion instead of in the Open Thread (where they belong). If someone has the time to analyze whether there are less 'unworthy for discussion' posts on the 1st to 3rd and 15th to 18th of the month, that'd be good for convincing purposes but it seems almost obvious that it s the case. Additionally, given that OT is the overflow for a lot of topics it kind of sucks that you get significantly less replies to your comments there at the end of the month/half-month and this will probably change if the current OT is always at the top.

It's a tradeoff between "do we need OT as the top link?" and "do we need articles that should be posted as comments in OT?". Therefore, if putting the OT as the top link prevents creation of at least two new articles per month, it has paid its price.

First choice: sticky thread. (May require coding.)
Second choice: weekly rather than twice a month. (Does not require coding.)

I'm for either Tim's suggestion, or for increasing the frequency of the open threads to once a week.

I was going to suggest both.

I think the solution that forums adopted is a good one - giving at least some weight to activity in a topic in the default ordering of discussion posts. This would solve the open thread problem probably.

Collection threads definitely seem like a wiki-integration problem.

[-][anonymous]8y 4

Why not just have a "light"(lite?) subreddit, and put anything that would be a top-level open thread post in there? If we are going to make a new subreddit just for that, wouldn't it make sense to start titling them by topic rather than by date range? (Perhaps a links topic would still be useful.)

If we don't go that route, I think stickying is lightweight and would be effective.

That's exactly what I had in mind with the subreddit idea! And just having a more casual place for LWers to hangout might be good for community building, even if every post isn't directly related to rationality.

Weekly open threads require no work from the site admins and may get us a long way to where we need to be. Let's try that before we propose anything more complicated.

I might organize a wiki page for some of the repositories myself if people think this is a good idea but no one else feels like doing it

This wiki page seems relevant, but it's currently more for pointing the current place to put things than a repository of everything that's ever been put there.

I think sticky threads or automatically recurring threads are good implementations.

I understand coding resources are limited, but I might as well mention that my dream implementation of this would be rather different from the normal LW implementation of posts. For example, intro posts are awesome to have- but it's not obvious to me that it's good to have them clustered in a normal post. There's a limit to the number of comments that can be displayed at once, which has a few odd effects (in particular, it might be wise to discourage discussion on introductory threads). Similarly, the LW user display threads are currently not set up well to show comments oldest-first, which is where many introductory comments will be. (Suppose someone feels strongly about being referred to with particular pronouns, and mentions that in their introductory comment. Most people won't see it that way; that's something they would probably be better off advertising on their user page, but it's not obvious to them that's possible.)

But we have the code support already for user pages from the wiki. If you have a wiki account but nothing on your user page yet, it's ugly and blank (like mine is right now). It might be worthwhile to push people from writing introductory posts to writing their user pages. (One downside of this approach is that it's not currently possible to upvote users or their profiles, whereas many newcomers now get a positive karma score just for saying hi.)

With rationality quotes, it seems like it would work better as a tagged database than as collections of monthly comments. Again, karma support seems like a must-have, as it makes it easier to sort comments by quality, as well as rewarding finding good comments. But it seems like instead of monthly threads stretching back to 2009 (and a handful from earlier), it would be neat to have them all in one place (like the ongoing collections of Best of Rationality Quotes), and more than that, to be able to look at them by focus rather than just by karma score.

I've posted the new open thread marked as being for one week. Let's see what happens.

I'd like to have a listing of open thread sub-threads which have the highest total karma, or possibly highest average karma per comment. I realize this would take coding, so it's more of a wish list item.

More frequent open threads and quotes threads would be handy.

More frequent open threads and quotes threads would be handy.

Dorikka_sleepy disagrees with the quotes bit. Open threads are where active discussions take place and are often better places for people to put their contribution than as a new thread in discussion, where quotes threads function more as repositories. While it would be good for repositories to be more easily accessible, I'm not sure that making a new repository thread more often would have a positive impact.

Discussions break out fairly often on the quotes threads, and threads are unwieldy if they're longer than three or four hundred comments, or if there's there's a deep enough stack of comments that the "continue this thread" link appears.

I agree that there's a problem.

If we did open threads more often (once a week, say), I think it would fix the issue. Looking at the current page 1 of the Discussion section, posts from July 4 are still visible.

I agree that the Reddit format would probably work, but it seems inefficient to use another site to be able to operate this one.

[-][anonymous]8y 4

I think people are talking about creating another "subreddit" on this site, not an actual subreddit on reddit. I would certainly be opposed to the latter. Forgive me if I've misinterpreted you.

Why can't we implement subreddits here? Seems like it would be super useful, for this and for other problems like the fact that philosophy, AGI, life extension/transhumanism and rationality all get mixed into the same discussions section.

In general, I think there's too high of a bar for what's considered worth posting. The vibe of LW discussion is something like "post something you've written or a link to an article and we will discuss/appraise it", but I think it might be nicer and foster a more active community to have more of a "chatting" sort of vibe, where people can freely bring up minor questions, topics only tangentially related to rationality, etc.

I think this would be best done by introducing a third "subreddit" with a low importance threshold for posting that serves the same function the open threads currently do. So essentially, there would be three subreddits: a high threshold one (Main), medium threshold one (Discussion), and a low threshold one (this new subreddit). I'm not sure if that was what you meant by introducing a new subreddit, or if you meant introducing a new subreddit merely to hold a bunch of individual Open Threads. The former seems like a more natural solution to me.

Anyway, poll:


I kept the subreddit idea underspecified to make it more appealing and flexible. But this is the direction that I hoped it would go in. It would be really nice to have a more casual discussion place for rationalists, besides the meetups. The idea doesn't seem to be very popular though.

The poll isn't very useful because some of the ideas are orthogonal, and the consensus is pretty clearly for a sticky thread plus with threads more often if necessary.

The idea doesn't seem to be very popular though.

I wonder why. There's tons of subjects where I feel like I could gain utility just from chatting with other rationalists about them. I might go to a meetup soon, but hanging out with a bunch of strangers much older than me is something I don't do that often.

It is likely that there would be people within a few years from your age at your local meetup (especially if it is a bigger one). And I thought you were all about minimizing your identity? Seems like you don't want to go to a meetup because you are not the kind of dude to hang out with a bunch of strangers much older than you.

Also there is #lesswrong

Make a new subreddit for open threads.

How much resources would it take to make this new subreddit and move the latest Open Thread there (or create the next Open Thread there)? In worst case, how much resources would it take to return to the original state?

Seems to me this has the best "cost : possible benefit" ratio.