Silly Rules (found in Alignment Newslesser) are rules that do not have functional value in themselves.

Silly rules help groups adapt to uncertainty about the stability of social order by enriching the information environment. They help participants in these groups track their beliefs about the likelihood that violations of important rules will be punished and thus the likelihood that important rules will be violated. These beliefs are critical to the incentive to invest resources in interaction.

Examples:

  • wearing a head covering in public
  • standing for the anthem
  • using the fork with the left and the knife with the right hand

What formal or informal rules can people use online where things like hats don't work?

One thing that I have come up with since I read this post is

Emoticons. :-)

Reacting to posts with suitable emoticons shows who pays attention and who smiles toward whom - something that is an important signal offline but hard to replicate online. 

What are your suggestions?

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I think a lot of work is being done by the phrase "have functional value" in your description.  Wearing head covering keeps God happy, standing for the anthem keeps you from being harassed in the press.  Is all signaling, or all group-membership-signaling silly?  Ok, probably yes.  And really, for group distinction, the sillier the better.

But this means that almost all online social behavior is silly.  Huh, now that I write it, I see how valid the description is.

Yeah, "functional value" is too simplistic. The original article defines silly rules as  

rules with no discernible direct impact on welfare. [] silly rules render a normative system both more robust and more adaptable 

But I see this as distinct from status signaling. Maybe we need a typology of signaling.

4Dagon4mo
Ah, I hadn't read the link. I still think this is pretty much signaling of conformity/membership and not anything more. I think the author undervalues many people's desire to belong, though. The idea that people care significantly more about property rights than dress codes can easily be disproven by shoplifting a candy bar, then attempting to purchase one while naked.
6Measure4mo
You're comparing a minimal property rights violation with a maximal dress code violation.
2Gunnar_Zarncke4mo
That's what it feels from the inside. There is competition between genes promoting exploitation (free-loading) and genes preventing being exploited (promoting conformity). Humans are Adaptation Executors [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/XPErvb8m9FapXCjhA/adaptation-executers-not-fitness-maximizers] so this is not about understanding what is better game-theoretically but feeling (having some instinct, drive, affect) something that leads to the adaptive behavior. Belonging is a feeling related to promoting collaboration and somehow that includes the willingness to follow even silly rules.

Using in-group jargon indicates that you are a loyal member of the group , but is actually counter productive to the group 's stated aims of brining its message to the world at large.

And this applies to most groups. Country-specific languages are the extreme case of this.

1TAG4mo
I wasn't making a general point.
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My approach to understanding conformit has always been that comformity is an act of respect to others, or that humans evolved conformity to avoid catching contagious brain-harming parasites whose only visible symptom is preventing people from conforming (e.g. homeless person who walks like a rabid animal).

I like your description a lot better. I think I'll take conformity more seriously from now on.

I wasn't thinking so much about conformity (defined as, e.g., "everybody has to adhere to a strict codex") but as a lightweight means of detecting free-loaders and non-cooperators. But it is good to remind me that such means can go wrong. 

There are quite a few claims made in this post without any supporting evidence. I think in the context of a site like this that it would be courteous to share at least some of the evidence that led you to believe them. (Is this a silly rule?)

Is it in fact true that silly rules help groups adapt to uncertainty about the stability of social order? If so, is it in fact true that they do so by enriching the information environment? What evidence supports it? Is there any evidence against?

Is it in fact true that they help participants in these groups track their beliefs about the likelihood that violations of important rules will be punished and thus the likelihood that important rules will be violated?

Is it in fact true that these beliefs are critical to the incentive to invest resources in interaction?

I think in the context of a site like this that it would be courteous to share at least some of the evidence that led you to believe them. (Is this a silly rule?)

No, it is not a silly rule, because the rule has an impact on welfare.

Is it in fact true that silly rules help groups adapt to uncertainty about the stability of social order?

The simulations indicate that.

If so, is it in fact true that they do so by enriching the information environment?

The simulation is built on hidden information which one could paraphrase in aggregate as "enriching the information environment."

Is it in fact true that they help participants in these groups track their beliefs about the likelihood that violations of important rules will be punished

Again, in the scope of the simulation, yes.

I agree that the simulations can't answer what goes in people's heads. It can only help guide an intuition via analogy between the model and reality. This is not a social study and I would like to see a study of silly rules in practice. One could, for example, compare the life-time of Slack groups with or without high usage of emoticons.

Is it in fact true that these beliefs are critical to the incentive to invest resources in interaction?

That sounds like it is changing from the group dynamic to the individual incentives which is not relevant here.

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