It's been twelve months since the last LessWrong Survey, which means we're due for a new one. But before I can put out a new survey in earnest, I feel obligated to solicit questions from community members and check in on any ideas that might be floating around for what we should ask.
The basic format of the thread isn't too complex, just pitch questions. For best chances of inclusion, however, it's best to include:
- A short cost/benefit analysis of including the question. Keep in mind that some questions are too invasive or embarrassing to be reasonably included. Other questions might leak too many bits. There is limited survey space and some items might be too marginal to include at the cost of others.
- An example of a useful analysis that could be done with this question(s), especially interesting analysis in concert with other questions. eg. It's best to start with a larger question like "how does parental religious denomination affect the cohorts current religion?" and then translate that into concrete questions about religion.
- Some idea of how the question can be done without using write-ins. Unfortunately write-in questions add massive amounts of man-hours to the total analysis time for a survey and make it harder to get out a final product when all is said and done.
The last survey included 148 questions; some sections will not be repeated in the 2017 survey, which gives us an estimate about our question budget. I would prefer to not go over 150 questions, and if at all possible come in at many fewer than that. Removed sections are:
- The Basilisk section on the last survey provided adequate information on the phenomena it was surveying, and I do not currently plan to include it again on the 2017 survey. This frees up six questions.
- The LessWrong Feedback portion of the last survey also adequately provided information, and I would prefer to replace it on the 2017 survey with a section measuring the site's recovery, if any. This frees up 19 questions.
I also plan to do significant reform to multiple portions of the survey. I'm particularly interested in making changes to:
- The politics section. In particular I would like to update the questions about feelings on political issues with new entries and overhaul some of the options on various questions.
- I handled the calibration section poorly last year, and would like to replace it this year with an easily scored set of questions. To be more specific, a good calibration section should:
- Good calibration questions should be fermi estimable with no more than a standard 5th grade education. They should not rely on particular hidden knowledge or overly specific information. eg. "Who wrote the foundation novels?" is a terrible calibration question and "What is the height of the Eiffel Tower in meters within a multiple of 1.5?" is decent.
- Good calibration questions should have a measurable distance component, so that even if an answer is wrong (as the vast majority of answers will be) it can still be scored.
- A measure of distance should get proportionately smaller the closer an answer is to being correct and proportionately larger the further it is from being correct.
- It should be easily (or at least sanely) calculable by programmatic methods.
- The probabilities section is probably due for some revision, I know in previous years I haven't even answered it because I found the wording of some questions too confusing to even consider.
So for maximum chances of inclusion, it would be best to keep these proposed reforms in mind with your suggestions.
(Note: If you have suggestions on questions to eliminate, I'd be glad to hear those too.)