Here's what I've observed of / my experience with the chatroom so far:

  • It is always running on a pomodoro schedule. I have been around for 25/5 and 50/10.
  • Microphones are set to push-to-talk, and I've yet to hear anyone actually push and talk.
  • When I enter, I usually say hi (using text chat) and someone else returns a friendly greeting, and informs me how much time is currently left on the pomodoro.
  • It is not good form to chat while everyone is on a pomodoro. You will be chided.
  • People usually wait until the end of a pomodoro to leave.
  • Those people with a side-view camera usually have it turned on during work time, and then put the face-view camera on during break time. I find this optimal, but I only have one camera, so people get to see my lovely face for as long as I'm there.
  • I and at least one other person felt awkward when first starting to work with webcam feeds on our computer screens. However, at least for me, it was easy to habituate to, and didn't make me work less efficiently while I was still getting accustomed to it. Sometimes when I'm working on my computer during the pomodoro, I have the chat window covered.
  • On breaks, people have been very friendly, and it makes me feel a lot happier both while on breaks and while working.
  • It feels like a shorter and quieter version of this when everyone gets back down to working again. It's a good feeling.

Mind you, I have used this for one hour yesterday and one afternoon today. This could all be a placebo. I will report back again in 2 weeks, and maybe in a few months, if I'm still using it then. All I know is that, today, my happiness level is much higher than normal, and my productivity level has been slightly higher than normal.

Something I've observed is that camera usage varies quite a bit - a lot of people prefer not to use one.

I personally like to turn mine on, because realizing that people can see me causes me to feel more awareness about whether or not I am actually staying focused on my work.

Co-Working Collaboration to Combat Akrasia

by ShannonFriedman 2 min read9th Mar 201399 comments


Before I was very involved in the Less Wrong community, I heard that Eliezer was looking for people to sit with him while he worked, to increase writing productivity. I knew that he was doing important work in the world, and figured that this was the sort of contribution to improving humanity that I would like to make, which was within the set of things that would be easy and enjoyable for me.

So I got a hold of him and offered to come and sit with him, and did that once/week for about a year. As anticipated, it worked marvelously. I found it easy to sit and not talk, just getting my own work done.  Eventually I became a beta reader for his "Bayes for Everyone Else" which is really great and helped me in my ability to estimate probabilities a ton. (Eliezer is still perfecting this work and has not yet released it, but you can find the older version here.)

In addition to learning the basics of Bayes from doing this, I also learned how powerful it is to have someone just to sit quietly with you to co-work on a regular schedule.

I’ve experimented with similar things since then, such as making skype dates with a friend to watch informational videos together. This worked for awhile until my friend got busy. I have two other recurring chat dates with friends to do dual n-back together, and those have worked quite well and are still going.

A client of mine, Mqrius, is working on his Master’s thesis and has found that the only way he has been able to overcome his akrasia so far is by co-working with a friend. Unfortunately, his friend does not have as much time to co-work as he’d like, so we decided to spend Mqrius’s counseling session today writing this Less Wrong post to see if we can help him and other people in the community who want to co-work over skype connect, since this will probably be much higher value to him as well as others with similar difficulties than the next best thing we could do with the time.

I encourage anyone who is interested in co-working, watching informational videos together, or any other social productivity experiments that can be done over skype or chat, to coordinate in the comments. For this to work best, I recommend being as specific as possible about the ideal co-working partner for you, in addition to noting if you are open to general co-working.

If you are specific, you are much more likely to succeed in finding a good co-working partner for you. While its possible you might screen someone out, its more likely that you will get the attention of your ideal co-working partner who otherwise would have glossed over your comment.

Here is my specific pitch for Mqrius:

If you are working on a thesis, especially if it’s related to nanotechnology like his thesis, and think that you are likely to be similarly motivated by co-working, please comment or contact him about setting up an initial skype trial run. His ideal scenario is to find 2-3 people to co-work with him for about 20 hours co-working/week time for him in total. He would like to find people who are dependable about showing up for appointments they have made and will create a recurring schedule with him at least until he gets his thesis done. He’d like to try an initial 4 hour co-working block as an experiment with interested parties.   Please comment below if you are interested.

[Mqrius and I have predictions going about whether or not he will actually get a co-working partner who is working on a nanotech paper out of this, if others want to post predictions in the comments, this is encouraged.  Its a good practice for reducing hindsight bias.]


An virtual co-working space has been created and is currently live, discussion and link to the room here.