So... the longer I think about this Wiki thing, the more it seems like a really good idea - a missing piece falling into place.
Here's my proposal, which I turn over to this, the larger community that suggested the Wiki in the first place:
The Wiki should consist mainly of short concept introductions plus links to longer posts, rather than original writing. Original writing goes in a post on Less Wrong, which may get voted up and down, or commented on; and this post should reference previous work by linking to the Wiki rather than other posts, to the extent that the concepts referred to can be given short summaries. The intent is to set up a resonance that bounces back and forth between the Wiki (short concept summaries that can be read standalone, and links to more info for in-depth exploration) and the posts (which make the actual arguments and do the actual analyses).
My role model here is TV Tropes, which manages to be, shall we say, really explorable, because of the resonance between the tropes, and the shows/events in which those tropes occur, and the other tropes that occur in those shows/events. And furthermore, you know that the trope explanation itself will be a short bite of joy, and that reading the further references is optional.
There would be exceptions to the "no original research" rule for projects that were multi-editor and not easily prosecuted through comments - for example, a project to make a list of all posts with one-sentence summaries in chronological order.
There are also obvious exceptions to the "link to the wiki" rule, such as for any case where it really was futile to reference anything except the complete argument; or where you wanted to talk about part of the argument, rather than the general concept argued; or when you wanted to talk about a conversational event that happened in a particular post.
I would suggest that the general format of a Wiki entry be a short summary / definition (that can maybe gloss or list some of the arguments if there's room, or even give the argument if it can be put really briefly), with the body of this being no more than a screenful as a general rule. Then links to posts, with descriptions (for each post) of why that post is relevant or what it has to say - probably one or two sentences, as a rule. Then references to outside posts on the same topic - although if the best reference is an outside discussion, that could come first.
Summaries of whole sequences could also go on the Wiki - since it seems more like static descriptive content, rather than debatable analysis and argument, which is how the wiki/blog dichotomy is starting to shape up in my mind.
Given unlimited development resources we'd want to integrate the two userbases, have a karma requirement to edit the Wiki, and such things, but we don't have much development resources (whines for Python volunteers again). But I would still like to see a list of recent edits and/or active pages in the Less Wrong blog sidebar, and a list of recent blog posts and recent comments in the Wiki sidebar. Of course the first priority is getting the Wiki set up on Less Wrong at all, rather than the current foreign host - I'm told this is in In Progress.
Once my old posts are imported from Overcoming Bias, it would be nice if someone went through them and changed the links to posts (that reference concepts per se, rather than conversational events or parts of arguments) to links to the Wiki, creating appropriate pages and concept summaries as necessary. That is, it would be nice if I didn't have to do this myself. Anyone interested in volunteering, leave a comment - it'd be nice if you had some comments to your name, by which to judge your writing skills, and perhaps some karma. This is a large job - though 10 posts a day would get it done in two months - so don't step up if you don't have the time. It does seem like the sort of thing that should definitely get done by someone who is not me.
I've already seen at least one person call Overcoming Bias "a bigger, and far more productive, time sink than Wikipedia or even TV Tropes". Done right, it really could be more addictive than TV Tropes, for the intellectually curious, because it would seem (and be!) more productive; when you browse TV Tropes it feels like you're wasting time.
I suppose I should feel slightly nervous about this, but it still seems like something that ought to be done if feasible, even though it sounds a bit scary - and I hope I'm not just saying that because I'm tempted to break out into mad scientist laughter.
Programmers have a saying: "Any problem in computer science can be solved with another level of indirection." (It appears that this is properly attributed to David Wheeler.) That's exactly what this post is proposing, and I approve highly.
However, this post didn't appear to mention one of the biggest benefits of indirection. This post said that a Less Wrong post "should reference previous work by linking to the Wiki rather than other posts". I want to point out that this will also reference future work, when the Wiki is updated after the post. (In C++ programmer jargon, the Wiki can be thought of as a vtable.)
I believe that this is one of the strongest reasons to adopt the scheme suggested by this post. When post P links to the Wiki while mentioning dimly understood concept C, and later posts Q, R, and S appear that explore concept C, and the Wiki is updated accordingly, post P automatically becomes more useful. This addresses one of the most significant concerns that I've had about blogs (namely, that their posts can easily reference each other backwards but not forwards).
Eliezer, I don't know if you're familiar with the CIA's Intellipedia, but you seem to have hit the nail on the head.
The CIA have had huge success doing exactly what you describe here. You can read more about it in the paper here. The basic idea is that the intelligence community should harness the synergy of the blog/wiki combo.
From the paper:
Thanks for this reference. This concept is what I was going at at the IRC meetup. The main disagreement with Eliezer's model seems to be that he thinks that the blog posts still have to hold the majority of content, with wiki only referencing them with very short introductions, whereas I think that the wiki should grow into a thing in itself over time, converting the content of blog posts into wiki articles. Naturally, articles should be organized in a zoom-in manner, with few-sentences summary, then couple-paragraphs introduction, and only then full-length article. Each of the levels of detail are self-sufficient, and this is also a model implemented in Wikipedia.
The difference between Wikipedia and this CIA model you describe is that for Wikipedia, the original research is done anywhere, by the rest of the world, while for a thematic wiki, the original research is communicated and discussed on the associated blog. I'd like LW to embrace this model.
That penultimate line should say
Unambiguously. See also this follow-up comment.
Something that will help tremendously is redirecting lesswrong.com/wiki/ to the wiki. Or, possibly, wiki.lesswrong.com... or something that makes the link easier to change in the future if we bring the wiki over here.
Also, a link somewhere on the main page would be nice.
Maybe you had this in mind, but even better would be if lesswrong.com/wiki/Article_name could redirect to lesswrong.wikia.com/wiki/Article_name. That way once an official wiki is set up, no links would have to be changed. Yet another proposed feature to add to the list....
Yeah, that should be easy to do while the new wiki isn't ready.
Of course, you should consider using PBwiki to host the Less Wrong wiki. I'll be happy to make sure you guys get a complimentary license as my contribution to the cause of rationality.
I'll provisionally step up. I really should not touch this website at all over the next three weeks as I wrap up my bachelor's degree. Over the summer though, I'll have the free time this would require. My comparative advantage is in wiki rather than blog activity, and I'm eager to help out, if that isn't already evident. If someone volunteers before then, that's great.
Inspired by Andrew Hay and Rob Zahra, I began a comprehensive list of Overcoming Bias posts with title, date, author, and summary. Given the usefulness of the other resources, I could see myself referring to a list like this daily. (In three weeks, when I have time) I plan on adding 10-20 posts per day to the list. If someone has the know-how to automagically generate the list except the summaries, that would be great. I think it is a great opportunity to become reacquainted with the OB archives and generate wiki content. If no one steps up before then, I'd also be happy to populate Eliezer's posts with wikilinks at the same time.
During the last cycle of harrumphing at Hacker News over the possibility that successively larger batches of new users were diluting the quality of the discussion there, I started building a startup around an improved community discussion platform. I had some cool mathematical/algorithmic ideas WhichThisMarginIsTooSmallToContain, and I came to similar conclusions about structure.
But I differ on a big issue. I think the wiki should be outward-looking rather than inward-looking.
It seems to me that the focus in this post is on developing the wiki as a tool so that lesswrong members can read lesswrong posts more easily. That's great, of course. It's healthy for the community to articulate its goals, social mores, and world view, and a wiki is a good way to lower the barriers to participation by new members.
But I think we ought to build a section of the wiki as a resource for people who are interested in topics like rationality, "philosophy," standards of argument, and debate. Giving away useful stuff is the best recruiting we can do -- there are no accessible resources out there on these topics. What's out there now is arid.
TVTropes provides a good example of how to do this: a catalog of relatable examples, a community aesthetic, and a lot of sharp analysis in a Devil's Dictionary-like format that's fun to read. People follow a link from an online discussion, pause because the writing is witty and engaging -- they got me with unobtanium -- and leave a few days later, dazed and much more savvy about narrative entertainment than they were when they showed up.
If you thiink this is an impossibly high standard (a common objection), consider that the originators of most of the ideas to be found on that site, collectively, were the people Alan Sokal was joking about. Mention this to such a person, and he'll make a clicky, disapproving noise with his tongue and say "That's not funny."
Good discussion has a very similar role, in the average netizen's life, to good storytelling. Both are commonplace, social, and therefore inherently interesting, human experiences where the difference between "done well" and "done badly" is immediately, viscerally obvious. So if we can provide some useful information on decision and discussion -- the exact contents of the starter kit are the subject of a top-level post I've been marinating -- the world should beat a path to our door.
I'll judge the project successful when commenters in highbrow fora like LtU and Hacker News start using the lesswrong wiki to decide (or end) arguments the way they currently reference Snopes or invoke Godwin's Law.
aside -- In case it's relevant to anyone, I'm no longer working actively on this project. I'm about to start on a different startup with more funding and a shorter path to profitability.
Right. Both blog and wiki should be outward-looking, using whatever is the best for their purposes. At the same time, they play different roles: the blog is for publication of new research in the relevant area, and the wiki is authoritative reference of relevant concepts. The wiki may be a useful place to link to from the blog, by virtue of being centered on the same area of investigation as the blog, but other than that it competes with the rest of the info in the world. Likewise, the blog may be a useful place to reference in the wiki articles, but it also competes with info in the rest of the world, with standard scientific publications, with Wikipedia, etc.
For what it's worth, if you're using MediaWiki -- I'm a MediaWiki developer and would be happy to help out if anyone wants to know "how do I do X" or otherwise get assistance of some kind setting up or configuring the wiki.
Markup for referencing the wiki in comments would help a lot.
I agree with this. In particular, I would love being able to [[topic link]] from posts and comments. Is there anything else that would be useful?
As a person who's completely obsessed with the TV Tropes wiki (and has only just recently started to peruse this site), I applaud any efforts to apply that model to furthering the cause of rationality. One problem I foresee, however, is hinted at with your comment that "the trope explanation itself will be a short bite of joy" and that this promotes opening up new tabs to acquire said bite of joy. If you're trying to compare the postings themselves to the trope descriptions and the comment threads to the references, the analogy breaks down due to the length of the posts. It's simply not practical to whittle down the post lengths such that one could reasonably say "I'll open a couple more of these, I'm sure it won't add too much time to my browsing session." This sort of multiplicative effect might come into play on the LW wiki, but I fear it cannot drive traffic back here to the degree you would hope.
You should try the tree-style tabs Firefox extension, which makes it practical to manipulate browser windows with 50-100 open tabs at a time. It takes about a day of getting used to, after which time you'll wonder how you got along without it.
Thinking about it now, I realize that TVTropes was the website that convinced me I needed that functionality.
You should've seen my browser windows when I first discovered OB a year and a half ago.
Two or three weeks of continuous reading, reading, reading in awe.
I have always at least a couple of Eliezer's OB posts on my pda. Today I went through some hitherto underexplored sections of OB -- meaning I only read them once -- and I have now dozens of posts on my trusty old Acer N30.
The idea is that the wiki summary provides the short bite of joy. The blog post linked is a long bite of joy, analogous to the references and lists in TV Tropes. The comment thread... has no real analogue, it's a whole different sort of time sink. :)
I don't understand why the wiki shouldn't be both, a short summary followed by a longer article, maybe with additional stress on the short summaries being really, really stand-alone. When article is already in good health elsewhere, then wiki won't contain a longer article, but only because it's not needed. In other cases, shoot away. The difference from TV Tropes is that shows can't be themselves edited and incrementally improved on the wiki.
A hypothesis: are you talking about TV Tropes having two kinds of articles, short ones and long ones, linking to each other, analogizing short articles with LW Wiki, and long articles with LW Blog?
This is a good point. One of the features of TVTropes (helped by its wiki format) is that you can get a short explanation of any linked concept right at the top of the page. This is a good argument for why the wiki is what one should link to first, instead of the post explaining it on LW. Should wiki articles start with a short, definition-like summary?
ETA: I agree with Vladimir_Nesov below. Abstracts are key.
Ideally, long blog posts should also start with an abstract, like any other publication, and contain a systematic review of related material in one of the sections.
It was the whole point of the above proposal that wiki articles are the short, definition-like summary and the blog posts are the long, original arguments.
Then I disagree. A wiki is good because it can be rewritten and improved upon incrementally, but the blog posts should not be changed after the comments have started since they're in a sense historical. If we have a standard argument in favor of something, it should go on the wiki, even if it hasn't been so clearly or succinctly stated elsewhere.
Or maybe we're just assuming different values for 'short' and 'long'.
The idea is that the wiki summary provides the short bite of joy. The blog post linked is a long bite of joy, analogous to the references and lists in TV Tropes. The comment thread... has no real analogue, it's a whole different sort of time sink. :)
My apologies for my late reply.
My todo list is now mostly clear of time-critical projects, and I can now officially volunteer to import all relevant Overcoming Bias posts to Less Wrong.
I also volunteer to:
*create Less Wrong wiki pages for all of the LW and OB posts, including all relevant information. However, writing the short summaries of the articles is a job that I would gladly delegate to someone else. What I should probably do is to just leave a placeholder for the article summaries, with tags to mark which articles still need summaries, and let all the other users fill in the summaries after the wikipages are posted to the wiki.
*update the links in the LW articles, changing them to link to the article's wiki page, rather than the article itself
*set up the new Less Wrong wiki, hosted at LessWrong.com, importing all of the content from the current wiki
*create the dependency graphs for all of the Less Wrong articles
*set up a system to automatically generate dependency graphs for new posts to Less Wrong, by reading tags placed on the articles' wiki pages.
*set up a system to automatically generate dependency graphs for the concepts themselves, rather than the articles, by reading tags placed on the articles' wiki pages.
*update the Less Wrong forum code so that you can create links to the wiki by using the [[WikiPage]]-style links.
*set up a system to automatically monitor which pages on the Less Wrong wiki have corresponding articles on Wikipedia or on the Accelerating Future wiki, or possibly some other relevant wikis, and create the appropriate links to these other wikis.
For more ideas for future projects, see http://lesswrong.wikia.com/wiki/How_We_Can_Use_This_Wiki
I would also like to get the contact info for whoever is currently in charge of the Less Wrong website.
Some other things I have already done recently:
*setting up the Accelerating Future wiki: http://acceleratingfuture.com/wiki
*setting up the Accelerating Future forums: http://acceleratingfuture.com/forum
*upgrading the SL4 wiki to MediaWiki format, importing all relevant content from the SL4 wiki to the Accelerating future wiki
*fixing all of the broken links in the Categorized SL4 mailing list archive: http://acceleratingfuture.com/wiki/Categorized_SL4_Archive
*creating a first draft of the Scenarios Project: http://acceleratingfuture.com/wiki/The_Scenarios_Project
*creating a java applet for browsing through the dependency graphs of the Overcoming Bias posts: http://acceleratingfuture.com/lesswrong/dependencygraph/ WARNING: This is a resource-intensive java applet, and it may crash your web browser.
I thought making separate wiki pages for each article is exactly what EY is suggesting we avoid.
I could be wrong, but I don't remember Eliezer ever suggesting we avoid making a separate wiki page for each article.
In fact, his idea for "short summaries on the wiki, linking to full posts on the forum" seems to me like a recommendation to do exactly that.
What I was planning to do was:
have a script to automatically generate wiki page stubs for every new LW post have the wiki users fill in the summary for the article *have the wiki users add any appropriate category tags to the article's wiki page - if there are other articles on the same topic, then this will link to them. maybe have some way to graphically show the connections.
There was some discussion about requiring the LW forum posts to link to the wiki pages for the concepts, rather than the articles, but it looks like the best option is to go ahead and make pages for everything. Make a wiki page for each concept, and a wiki page for each article that discusses that concept. Make the concept pages link to the article pages, and vice versa. Allow the LW posts to link either to the article wikipage, or the concept's wikipage.
Also, I would recommend updating all of the pages currently on the LW forum to link to the article's wikipage, rather than the article itself.
I would also recommend considering methods to integrate the wiki content into the main LW forum. RSS feeds of recent changes is one obvious example of this sort of integration.
The script for automatically generating the wiki pages would include: Article name Author Original site Date posted Permanent link a list of the article's tags, which will become categories in the wiki a list of articles that the article refers to, used for automatically generating the dependency graph a tag indicating that the page has been automatically created, and needs someone to fill in the article's summary
I think it would be a good idea to have different kinds of tags marking the different kinds of dependencies. For example: "Required Reading" - an article that requires on a concept defined in a previous post "Side-topic" - an article that links to another article as a side-topic *"Supplementary Reading" - an article that links to another article for more details about a topic, but isn't required to understand the article
Another thing I just realized: a dependency graph could also help avoid, or at least reveal, circular dependencies. Though, on second thought, the fact that LW posts can currently only link to older posts already prevents circular dependencies.
For more discussion about the dependency graphs, and other ideas for the wiki, see: http://lesswrong.wikia.com/wiki/How_We_Can_Use_This_Wiki
I agree whole heartedly with Eliezer. Wiki articles really should be for concepts. I think there is value to summaries, but they should either be directly added to blog posts as abstracts or collected together like here.
Please don't auto-generate stubs for each article. We want Wiki pages for each concept, not each blog post.
The Wiki should prefer to link to blog posts directly - unless the short summary of a concept itself links to other concepts that are best summarized the same way. The actual meat is in the blog posts, and references to the actual meat should go directly to the blog post. Linking to a Wiki page that then links to the blog post would add an extra layer of indirection and completely change the user experience, leading them to spend more time on the Wiki and less time on the blog. This is not what we want. We want the resonance.
There is an advantage in the extra layer since articles about LW or OB posts in that they can be categorized by the Wiki software without worrying about where they are hosted. I have noticed a few of your posts are hosted on yudkowsky.net, but the wiki won't care. It would treat those the same and makes interlinking easier.
Either way works for me, but I need to know how to proceed with regards to Posts at LW. The simple question:
In the meantime, there are plenty of other things to work on, so I will just backburner that project.
(Edit) I touched up the first paragraph a bit. Also, since there seems to be an obvious push away from wiki articles for posts I will just can the whole idea until someone specifically asks for it.
Concurring with Vladimir, no. As an alternative to the page you point to, articles like this one should be developed instead. This is not a model article, but it gets to the concept of interest without being unduly inward looking.
If you are reading through the OB/LW archives, here are some ways to contribute:
From the above I'm sure that the answer to your question is a simple "No".
On creating the pages for articles: we don't study articles for their own sake, and so wiki shouldn't be about the articles. The wiki can refer to the articles to allow the reader to learn about what's relevant.
Concurring with badger, no.
Works for me. Does this sound like a better alternate plan?
I feel that there should be some sort of limit to which articles get added. Not every article posted to LW belongs because some posts have more informational value. Right now I am planning on reading through your posts specifically, so this is somewhat moot, but it would be nice to have a rough guideline. The few I can think of immediately:
I think the first makes the most sense.
Thanks for the input, by the way. I want the work to be helpful and not something that needs to be reworked because I went off and did what I thought was correct.
Yes, that is a good course of action.
I think we'll just have to play it by ear as to when LW posts should be referenced. Promotion is the easiest heuristic, although even a poor post can generate good discussion. Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to cite a post for the discussion or to cite a specific comment.
Right now, I say err on the side of inclusion. At worst, it can be deleted easily later. Even if it isn't perfectly relevant to the article it is in, a reference might inspire someone to move it to a better home.
This proposal seems sound to me.
Why are the old posts going to be imported, by the way? It seems tricky - I can't imagine porting the comments across is practical since the two blogging engines have very different ideas about comments, but if the comments are lost, why put them in a blog at all?
I see no link to the wiki anywhere on the homepage or even on this wiki-specific entry. I had to click on the tag to find an older post which linked to the wiki.
Shouldn't we have a top level Wiki link like the 'About' page?
Added: In fact, even the About page doesn't have a link to the wiki!
So far, that's been intentional. The official wiki doesn't exist yet, and there has been some discussion as to how much the temporary one should be used till then.
Ah yes, I now remember reading some discussions on those lines.
Maybe if we make the temporary wiki more visible, a permanent one will come out of it sooner. I guess this will also happen as more posts refer (and hopefully link) to the wiki as seems implied by this top level post.
LessWrong is already way too addictive for me (and that's not counting OB), but I definitely don't mind having addictions like this one.
Both LW and OB are very addictive for me too. Although I think I have learnt a lot and do not regret having spent so much time on the two sites, my work has suffered a bit. So now, instead of just silently reading, I'm making an effort to comment and participate in the discussions so that I can actually test if I'm learning anything.
A data point: intuitively, I don't see this ending well, or being useful, including the importing of old posts.
I am willing to help in this area, considering I am planning on reading it all anyway. I can create stubs, rough outlines, and categorize obvious points. I do not know everything inside and out, but I feel strong enough to start. Since the basic concept is condensing larger posts into summaries I should be okay. I am not actually adding content, just shifting it around and organizing it.
As far as time, I do not have a lot of time in any given week, but I have nothing coming up in the next few months so I should be able to stay on task. If this does not describe what you are looking for, fair enough. If it is, I can work with the wiki guys to start building templates that will make all of this much easier.
Blog posts in a directed acyclic web can't be incrementally refactored, split, or merged. If the original author isn't around, blog posts also can't be edited, so a new author who wants to write an improved standalone post on a concept has to write a post that is redundant with all previous standalone posts on the concept. They will want to not do this unless the improvement is large, and this will prevent incremental improvements.
The SL4 wiki had users writing in subdirectories under their user pages. I like this. User subdirectory pages could be left out of sidebar lists of recent edits.
Before worrying about a vanished author, worry about the intentions of still-present intentions. Usage of the wiki is related to usage of the blog, but people aren't discussing it, perhaps because they don't notice the relation or disagreement.
I think people pushing the wiki see it as having finality, while seeing blogging as more temporal. If someone writes an essay that produces comments that change the author's mind, to change the essay is to break the comments. But to change it somewhere devoted to being up-to-date would not. This is mainly relevant when only a part of the essay changes.
cf Vladimir Nesov (is there some magic way for linking lesswrong comments?)
This is going to involve a lot of retooling of one another's text -- it seems like a certain amount of copyleft might be in order.
In case it helps:
I, Michael Blume, do license everything I have written, and everything I will write using the handle MBlume at the website Less Wrong and its associated Wiki under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
(this has been my license of choice in the past -- if anyone thinks we ought to use a different one here I'd be open to that too)
Committing to a wrong copyleft license is also a danger.
I, Vladimir Slepnev, place everything I have written and will write at LessWrong in the public domain.
As do I, if anyone cares.
Why NC? Note that NC means that it's no longer an Open Source licence...
And just the other day on the TVtropes forum discussing transhumanism i pointed people towards overcoming bias.
TV Tropes is a collection of content and references to content, not links.
The Wiki should link to Less Wrong, certainly, but not substitute Less Wrong links for original content.
Every article at Wikipedia is original content that concerns and is about important content. The articles at the rationality wiki should be original content that is about important content; they should include links to original work here but not consist of links to original work here, as a rule.
Well, it depends what you mean by 'original content'. One of the Wikipedia standards is 'no original research', which I think is more what Eliezer was trying to get at here. While original articles containing stuff from LW belong on the wiki, none of the concepts, arguments, or explanations should be created whole-cloth for the wiki. Rather, anything original should be a post here which the wiki can then reference if it's relevant.
I'm not sure that a job-like approach is the right way to do this kind of work. IMO, it's best done naturally, with no time constraints, by someone genuinely interested in the topic who is is currently re-reading a particular OB sequence.
I'm sure that there are a lot of people here who plan to re-read some OB sequences (I'm one of them, but I don't have enough time) and who are good enough at writing summaries, so perhaps the work can be distributed between these people, instead of assigning a single person to it. This approach will take more time, but the resulting quality of summaries should be higher.
A couple questions
I'm not that good of a programmer or anything, but... how useful would a beginner-ish level Python person be for these purposes, or would I need to basically seriously level up before being useful in that capacity?
Next, I'm not sure how involved this would be, but if it's simple enough, one idea might be to have a wiki stub automatically generated for each post in LW, and the LW post automatically being linked to the (initially blank) wiki page for it.
Also, is it just your posts that will be imported to LW? Why not, well, the whole of OB (assuming none of the other authors (primarily Robin Hanson, presumably) object?
As far as the last bit of volunteering, I may be willing to help out a bit, but right now my self evaluation would be "no way I could do the full load... yet. But maybe some." ie, if you can't find any single person to do the whole thing, maybe it can be split up among a bunch of us that might each do a fraction of it?
Actually, for stuff that is part of larger sequences, may also be good to, say, assign a volunteer to each of the sequences? I think I'd be willing to take on the QM sequence, for instance.
Just to avoid us becoming lawyers in soup kitchens, does anyone know offhand how much it would cost to hire a python programmer?
Good question. Only reason I hinted at me helping out there was that there seemed to be a sufficient lack of offers that such help was still being begged for.
Hrm... from some initial googling, looks like average salaries for Python programmers is in the range of 60k to 80k USD. From what I gather, the needs of this site would be more toward the lower end.
Definitely. Looking at the ToDo list, I think LW could get away with a few bounties, if they were publicized widely enough. (Maybe only a few thousand or even hundred dollars.) If the codebase isn't too bad, the tasks too onerous, or the language too unpleasant, FLOSS programmers don't ask too much.
So.... is this the point at which we begin passing the hat among members? Should we attempt to determine as a community what we want the bounty to be for each task, or should we just establish the bounties and have their values go up as individual members pledge money to those they consider most important?
The second method is a method to "determine as a community what we want the bounty to be for each task", and it's more likely to produce good results than having a discussion and then someone announcing what the community has decided. However, pledging may not be the right solution, because people may doubt that enough people will honor their pledges. Perhaps actually donating, with the donations returned in X months or years if the task isn't completed by someone by then?
Fundable is a good solution to raise a set amount of money while not putting anyone on the line for the failure of others to follow through.
I know there a number of service precisely for carrying out assurance contracts like these; do you have any particular one to recommend?
Nope; never used one.