To judge quotes on their own merits, if without some context, I propose an experimental thread in which the original authors of quotes are somehow hidden.

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24 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:48 PM

That sounds interesting. If there are quotes that are sources of usable insight from people who are not otherwise rational, hiding the source could lead to more attention being focused on the quote, instead of the author.

Pessimist that I am, I was more concerned with the opposite scenario.

I think more quotes are currently wrongly accepted than wrongly rejected, but the beauty of the proposal is that it creates a neutral format divorced from personality - it ought to be just as appealing to optimists as to pessimists.

Excellent point. Upvoted.


For what it's worth, I've seen some quite highly upvoted quotations from people who aren't generally (and aren't generally regarded here as being) paragons of rationality. (I suspect we may even be overgenerous in RQ threads to people who aren't generally very rational, but I'm not sure about that.)

I suspect we may even be overgenerous in RQ threads to people who aren't generally very rational


but I'm not sure about that.

Even more so, exactly!

There's a couple of web forums I use that support a way of hiding any part of what you post. The relevant markup is recognised and automatically replaced with a graphic that indicates there is something hidden. It is revealed, on one site by mousing over the graphic, and on the other by clicking on it.

It's quite useful, but I don't know how much work it would be to implement it here.

That's an excellent suggestion. I'll look at it in a month if it's not already done by whoever's been working with the LW code (I've yet to look at it).

I know that some reddits (for example /r/gaming) do this using links. You write [something goes here](/spoiler) to get something goes here. It should be fairly easy to adapt to LW, since LW is based on reddit. In fact, it is just a matter of changing the stylesheet:

a[href$="/spoiler"] {
    background: #888 !important;
    color: #888 !important;
a[href$="/spoiler"]:hover {
    background: #bbb !important;
    color: black !important;

As an alternative that you can use right now, put the spoiler in the tooltip of a link: [spoiler](/"something goes here"), i.e. spoiler.

Basic reddit code -- unlike the /r/gaming 'hack' -- supports the following syntax: [text goes here]( "hovertext goes here") which gets you: text goes here . :-)

Basic reddit code

Indeed, basic markdown code!

Correct, even though Reddit (and by proxy Lesswrong) uses Discount rather than traditional markdown. The syntax remains the same.

Yes. This works quite well.

Actual example on reddit


Try out a hidden-name system in two weeks, weeks away from the regular quotes threads, as a trial run.

As an experimental run, begin a quotes thread with the following title and text:


Rationality Quotes Thread With Hidden Attributions and Voting


This thread has an experimental format for posting rationality quotes. Here is the format:

For those posting quotes:

Post the quote, but not the author, original language translated from, or other information.

As a reply to your comment, reply with the author and any other relevant information. This will be downvoted to -3 until it is hidden to users using the default setting of -3 downvotes. As another reply to your comment, comment with the single word "dynamo" and this comment will be voted up to +3, to offset downvotes from the other comment.

As a reply to the author's name, comment with the word "evaluate".

For those judging quotes:

Do not vote on the quote itself. Express your approval or disapproval by voting on the "evaluate" tab hidden within the tab containing the author's information and context. Author's names are downvoted to hide both them and the votes received by each quote. Ideally, every individual's first impression and interpretation of a quote will be unaffected by its author or knowledge of how others on LW have responded to it.

For this experimental thread only:

Please post quotes that appeared in an LW quote thread no more recently than one year ago. Feel free to choose quotes that would be interesting out of context.

I think the sub-proposal is too complex and involves too many trivial inconveniences. I up-voted the original proposal.

Thank you for the feedback.

I think a much more important voting bias is whether the voter agrees with the conclusion that the quote argues for.

I agree that seeing the communal effect matters, and that is partly based on things like what you mentioned. Another thing that matters is one's first perception upon reading a quote, that's more amenable to being fixed.

I say to go for it.

Perhaps in two weeks, between regular monthly quotes threads?

Actually, I wouldn't create more quotes threads -- it's inconvenient to search through two similar threads in the timespan of a month rather than one. I'd just encourage people posting quotes to do this on a regular basis.

I agree it would be inconvenient. However, I think the cost of experimentation is worth it to see how people like a different format. One way to minimize the cost is to distance it as much as possible from the regular quotes thread.

If you see my more detailed proposal, it is for the experimental thread to only include quotes that have appeared in quotes threads already. This is so people can ignore the new thread without necessarily missing anything


I think this is a good idea and an interesting experiment. I also thought of a possible technical concern with rot13ing the names that I wanted to share. This may be obvious, but I felt it was probably safer to say it anyway.

Rationality Quote 1, posted on October 1st.

  • Ryvrmre Lhqxbjfxl

Rationality Quote 3, posted on October 1st.

  • yhxrcebt

Rationality Quote 6, posted on October 1st.

  • Nyvpbea

If you upvoted these three quotes, checked who the sources of your favorites are, and promised yourself that you would not change my opinion or upvote them after looking, and you then check back in the thread tomorrow, you might see:

Rationality Quote 10, posted on October 2nd.

  • Ryvrmre Lhqxbjfxl

Think that it is really a good quote, and then realize you remember who Ryvrmre Lhqxbjfxl is before you made your voting decision because you checked him yesterday.

I didn't want to just find a problem and leave it there because it is an interesting experiment, so I thought of a number of ways to avoid this particular problem:

1: Tell people not to check in the middle in case they remember a particular encryption-decryption on a later check. 2: Disallow duplicate quotes. 3: Use a system that doesn't have encryption-decryption pairs. 4: Have all names linked externally so there is no accidentally readable encryption decryption pair.

As far as I can tell, 4 is probably the best. It's unlikely that you will accidentally click and read a link you didn't mean to click, but you might happen to accidentally derot13 something mentally if you see it multiple times. As long as the link offers no hints as to the author, it should be a secure system.

3 is rather complex for this type of experiment, although it would also be secure. 2 is no fun, because sometimes there are multiple quotes from a single person that you want to share. 1 is also a possible idea, but it seems like it might be more frusturating than 4. However, it would be easier to implement.

This is admittedly a not a very substantial problem and will probably not have changed the results, and if it did would probably have not changed the results by very much, but since you were interested in an experimental idea I liked, I wanted to discuss possible ways to help the experimental protocol.


An improvement on 4 would be to link to the actual source of the quote, when possible -- that is, to some webpage that lists the quote along with the author. When this is not possible, can accept short phrases (such as an author name) in the URL itself: e.g.

There is an ugly hack: people could post the name of the author as a reply to the quote, (along with a karma dynamo,) and people could downvote the name (and upvote the dynamo). Downsides:

1) The first few people to see the quote would still see the name.

2) People who have changed their options from the default to not hide sufficiently downvoted comments would still see the name.

3) wedrifid would be deprived of the opportunity to participate fully in the communal project along with the rest of us, as would anyone else awesome enough to live on the edge of using up all their downvote ammunition.

Bonus: voting on the value of the quote could be on a tab within the downvoted thing, so one would not even know the LW hive vote upon first reading.

This would cease to be an ugly hack if it were possible to add comments that would automatically be compressed without being downvoted.