LW Women: LW Online

by daenerys5 min read15th Feb 2013596 comments


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Standard Intro

The following section will be at the top of all posts in the LW Women series.

Several months ago, I put out a call for anonymous submissions by the women on LW, with the idea that I would compile them into some kind of post.  There is a LOT of material, so I am breaking them down into more manageable-sized themed posts. 

Seven women submitted, totaling about 18 pages. 

Standard Disclaimer- Women have many different viewpoints, and just because I am acting as an intermediary to allow for anonymous communication does NOT mean that I agree with everything that will be posted in this series. (It would be rather impossible to, since there are some posts arguing opposite sides!)

Warning- Submitters were told to not hold back for politeness. You are allowed to disagree, but these are candid comments; if you consider candidness impolite, I suggest you not read this post

To the submitters- If you would like to respond anonymously to a comment (for example if there is a comment questioning something in your post, and you want to clarify), you can PM your message and I will post it for you. If this happens a lot, I might create a LW_Women sockpuppet account for the submitters to share.

Please do NOT break anonymity, because it lowers the anonymity of the rest of the submitters.

(Note from me: I've been procrastinating on posting these. Sorry to everyone who submitted! But I've got them organized decently enough to post now, and will be putting one up once a week or so, until we're through)




Submitter A

I think this is all true. Note that that commenter hasn't commented since 2009.


Objectifying remarks about attractive women and sneery remarks about unattractive women are not nice. I worry that guys at less wrong would ignore unattractive women if they came to meetings. Unattractive women can still be smart! I also worry that they would only pay attention to attractive women insofar as they think they might get to sleep with them.


I find the "women are aliens" attitude that various commenters  (and even Eliezer in the post I link to) seem to have difficult to deal with: http://lesswrong.com/lw/rp/the_opposite_sex/. I wish these posters would make it clear that they are talking about women on average: presumably they don't think that all men and all women find each other to be like aliens.


I find I tend to shy away from saying feminist things in response to PUA/gender posts, since there seems to be a fair amount of knee-jerk down-voting of anything feminist sounding. There also seems to be quite a lot of knee-jerk up-voting of poorly researched armchair ev-psych.


Linked to 3, if people want to make claims about men and women having different innate abilities, that is fine. However, I wish they'd make it clear when they are talking on average, i.e. "women on average are worse at engineering than men" not "women are worse at engineering than men."


A bit of me wishes that the "no mindkiller topics" rule was enforced more strictly, and that we didn't discuss sex/gender issues. I do think it is off-putting to smart women - you don't convert people to rationality by talking about such emotive topics. Even if some of the claims like "women on average are less good at engineering than men" are true* they are likely to put smart women off visiting less wrong. Not sure to what extent we should sacrifice looking for truth to attract people. I suspect many LWers would say not at all. I don't know. We already rarely discuss politics, so would it be terrible to also discuss sex/gender issues as little as possible?


I agree with Luke here


*and I do think some of them are true




Submitter B


My experience of LessWrong is that it feels unfriendly. It took me a long time to develop skin thick enough to tolerate an environment where warmth is scarce. I feel pretty certain that I've got a thicker skin than most women and that the environment is putting off other women. You wouldn't find those women writing an LW narrative, though - the type of women I'm speaking of would not have joined. It's good to open a line of communication between the genders, but by asking the women who stayed, you're not finding out much about the women who did not stay. This is why I mention my thinner-skinned self.


 What do I mean by unfriendly? It feels like people are ten thousand times more likely to point out my flaws than to appreciate something I said. Also, there's next to no emotional relating to one another. People show appreciation silently in votes, and give verbal criticism, and there are occasionally compliments, but there seems to be a dearth of friendliness. I don't need instant bonding, but the coldness is thick. If I try to tell by the way people are acting, I'm half convinced that most of the people here think I'm a moron. I'm thick skinned enough that it doesn't get to me, but I don't envision this type of environment working to draw women.


Ive had similar unfriendly experiences in other male-dominated environments like in a class of mostly boys. They were aggressive - in a selfish way, as opposed to a constructive one. For instance, if the teacher was demonstrating something, they'd crowd around aggressively trying to get the best spots. I was much shorter, which makes it harder to see. This forced me to compete for a front spot if I wanted to see at all, and I never did because I just wasn't like that. So that felt pretty insensitive. Another male dominated environment was similarly heavy on the criticism and light on niceness.


These seem to be a theme in male-dominated environments which have always had somewhat of a deterring effect on me: selfish competitive behavior (Constructive competition for an award or to produce something of quality is one thing, but to compete for a privilege in a way that hurts someone at a disadvantage is off-putting), focus on negative reinforcement (acting like tough guys by not giving out compliments and being abrasive), lack of friendliness (There can be no warm fuzzies when you're acting manly) and hostility toward sensitivity.


One exception to this is Vladimir_Nesov. He has behaved in a supportive and yet honest way that feels friendly to me. ShannonFriedman does "honest yet friendly" well, too.


A lot of guys I've dated in the last year have made the same creepy mistake. I think this is likely to be relevant because they're so much like LW members (most of them are programmers, their personalities are very similar and one of them had even signed up for cryo), and because I've seen some hints of this behavior on the discussions. I don't talk enough about myself here to actually bring out this "creepy" behavior (anticipation of that behavior is inhibiting me as well as not wanting to get too personal in public) so this could give you an insight that might not be possible if I spoke strictly of my experiences on LessWrong.


The mistake goes like this:

I'd say something about myself.

They'd disagree with me.


For a specific example, I was asked whether I was more of a thinker or feeler and I said I was pretty balanced. He retorted that I was more of a thinker. When I persist in these situations, they actually argue with me. I am the one who has spent millions of minutes in this mind, able to directly experience what's going on inside of it. They have spent, at this point, maybe a few hundred minutes observing it from the outside, yet they act like they're experts. If they said they didn't understand, or even that they didn't believe me, that would be workable. But they try to convince me I'm wrong about myself. I find this deeply disturbing and it's completely dysfunctional. There's no way a person will ever get to know me if he won't even listen to what I say about myself. Having to argue with a person over who I am is intolerable.


I've thought about this a lot trying to figure out what they're trying to do. It's never going to be a sexy "negative hit" to argue with me about who I am. Disagreeing with me about myself can't possibly count as showing off their incredible ability to see into me because they're doing the exact opposite: being willfully ignorant. Maybe they have such a need to box me into a category that they insist on doing so immediately. Personalities don't fit nicely in categories, so this is an auto-fail. It comes across as if they're either deluded into believing they're some kind of mind-reading genius or that they don't realize I'm a whole, grown-up human being complete with the ability to know myself. This has happened on the LessWrong forum also.


I have had a similar problem that only started to make sense after considering that they may have been making a conscious effort to develop skepticism: I had a lot of experiences where it felt like everything I said about myself was being scrutinized. It makes perfect sense to be skeptical about other conversation topics, but when they're skeptical about things I say about myself, this is ingratiating. This is because it's not likely that either of us will be able to prove or disprove anything about my personality or subjective experiences in a short period of time, and possibly never. Yet saying nothing about ourselves is not an option if we want to get to know each other better. I have to start somewhere.


It's almost like they're in such a rush to have definitive answers about me that they're sabotaging their potential to develop a real understanding of me. Getting to know people is complicated - that's why it takes a long time. Tearing apart her self-expressions can't save you from the ambiguity.


I need "getting to know me" / "sharing myself" type conversations to be an exploration. I do understand the need to construct one's own perspective on each new person. I don't need all my statements to be accepted at face value. I just want to feel that the person is happily exploring. They should seem like they're having fun checking out something interesting, not interrogating me and expecting to find a pile of errors. Maybe this happens because of having a habit of skeptical thinking - they make people feel scrutinized without knowing it.


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I'm ok with the general emotional tone (lack of tone?) here. I think I read the style of discussion as "we're all here to be smart at each other, and we respect each other for being able to play".

However, the gender issues have been beyond tiresome. My default is to assume that men and women are pretty similar. LW has been the first place which has given me the impression that men and women are opposed groups. I still think they're pretty similar. The will to power is a shared trait even if it leads to conflict between opposed interests.

LW was the first place I've been where women caring about their own interests is viewed as a weird inimical trait which it's only reasonable to subvert, and I'm talking about PUA.

I wish I could find the link, but I remember telling someone he'd left women out of his utilitarian calculations. He took it well, but I wish it hadn't been my job to figure it out and find a polite way to say it.

Remember that motivational video Eliezer linked to? One of the lines toward the end was "If she puts you in the friend zone, put her in the rape zone." I can't imagine Eliezer saying that himself, and I expect he was only noticing and making u... (read more)

Remember that motivational video Eliezer linked to? One of the lines toward the end was "If she puts you in the friend zone, put her in the rape zone." I can't imagine Eliezer saying that himself, and I expect he was only noticing and making use of the go for it and ignore your own pain slogans-- but I'm still shocked and angry that it's possible to not notice something like that.

My apologies for that! You're correct that I didn't notice that on a different level than, say, the parts about killing your friends if they don't believe in you or whatever else was in the Courage Wolf montage. I expect I made a 'bleah' face at that and some other screens which demonstrated concepts exceptionally less savory than 'Courage', but failed to mark it as something requiring a trigger warning. I think this was before I'd even heard of the concept of a "trigger warning", which I first got to hear about after writing Ch. 7 of HPMOR.

[-][anonymous]8y 16

Generally speaking, I've noticed that mentioning rape tends to mind-kill people on the Internet much more than mentioning murder. I hypothesize this is due to the fact that many more people are actually raped than murdered.

And that people who have been raped are much (infinitely?) more likely to go one to participate in discussions on rape than people who have been murdered are likely to participate in discussions on murder. Also, that rape is more likely to bring in gender politics.

2Eugine_Nier8yWhat about people who have had friends or relatives murdered?
2Oligopsony8yThe murder of children, I think, tends to be intrinsically serious in the way that fictional murder in general isn't. This might be part of it.
2gwern8yPresumably there's as many such relatives as for the rape victims. (Unless lonely orphans are singled out by murderers? In order to inherit the family fortune, if I've learned anything about the real world from false made-up stories...)
6Eugine_Nier8yThis could be due to media filters, but I hear about people traumatized by the murder of their friends and family much more often than people traumatized by the rape of others.
0[anonymous]8y...or people who survived attempted murder, for that matter. (Still probably many fewer of them in the average internet discussion than people who survived rape or attempted rape.)

I think there's been a cultural shift-- mentions of rape are taken a lot more seriously than they were maybe 20 years ago. (I'm sure of the shift, and less sure of the time scale.)

I believe part of it has been a feminist effort to get rape of women by men taken seriously which has started to get rape of men by men taken seriously. Rape by women is barely on the horizon so far.

PTSD being recognized as a real thing has made a major contribution-- it meant that people could no longer say that rape is something which should just be gotten over. Another piece is an effort to make being raped not be a major status-lowering event, which made people more likely to talk about it.

As for comparison to murder, I've seen relatives of murdered people complain that murder jokes are still socially acceptable.

As far as I can tell, horrific events can be used as jokes when they aren't vividly imagined, and whether something you haven't experienced is vividly imagined is strongly affected by whether the people around you encourage you to imagine it or not.

I've seen relatives of murdered people complain that murder jokes are still socially acceptable.

That's the subject of the first couple minutes of This American Life episode 342.

[A]t the Parents of Murdered Children Conference, they have [a presentation on] murder mystery dinners. And the way that they always do it is they say, let's just pretend that you were going to have a rape mystery dinner and you were going to show up and the rule of the game was going to be that someone's been raped, and we're all going to find the rapist. That wouldn't go over. Nobody would do it. Everybody would feel that that was deeply distasteful.

(Transcript here.)

2NancyLebovitz8yThat's definitely a place I've heard it.

As far as I can tell, horrific events can be used as jokes when they aren't vividly imagined, and whether something you haven't experienced is vividly imagined is strongly affected by whether the people around you encourage you to imagine it or not.

I'm not sure about that. It seems like in places and times where horrific events are much more common, people take an almost gallows humor attitude towards the whole thing (at least the violence part). Things like PTSD seem to happen when people in cultures where horrific events are rare temporarily get exposed to them.

6Desrtopa8yThere are probably many reasons involved, but I'd point out that in our media we frequently glamorize protagonists who kill people, but generally not ones who rape people. There may be some cultural variation in this; I recall reading an African folk tale wherein, early on, the protagonist rapes his own mother. Afterwards he proceeds to navigate various perils with feats of cunning and derring-do, and I spent the rest of the story asking "how am I supposed to root for this guy? He raped his own mother! For no apparent reason, even!"
4[anonymous]8yTell me about that... Last night I was watching Big Miracle and I was like “how am I supposed to root for the whales? It'd probably cost a lot to save them, and with that much money you could save people [http://www.raikoth.net/deadchild.html]!” Until the youngest whale was shown to be ill, then I did. I guess that illustrates the Near vs Far distinction even though that wasn't the point!
0[anonymous]8yBTW (continuing along the rape vs murder thing), have you read (say) Crime and Punishment, and if so, were you able to root for the protagonist? (I was.)
0Desrtopa8yNo, I've never read it.
5Oligopsony8yThis difference in commonality extends not only to victims but to perpetrators. A higher proportion of people who find rape funny will be rapists than those who find murder funny will be murderers; murder is much harder to get away with.
3Eugine_Nier8yI think this has to do with the way we handle things related to sex, for example, if we were having this discussion 100 years ago, we might be talking about why portrayals of adultery are unacceptable in contexts where portrails of murder would be.
1[anonymous]8yI agree with your conclusion, but that particular example doesn't counterexemplify my point because I guess many more people were actually cuckolded than murdered!

Apology accepted. I hadn't thought about it that way, but I can see how you could have filed it under "generic hyperbolic obnoxious".

At the time, I was just too tired of discussing gender issues to be more direct about that part of the video.

Looking at the discussion a year and a half later, I was somewhat amazed at the range of reactions to the video. Apropo of a recent facebook discussion about the found cat and lotteries, there might be a clue about why people use imprecise hyperbolic language so much-- it's more likely to lead to action. I've also noticed that it doesn't necessarily feel accurate to describe strong emotions in outside view accurate language.

There ought to be something intelligent and abstract to say about filtering mechanism conflicts, but I can't think of what it might be right now. E.g., a mention once came up of os-tans on HN, someone said "What's an os-tan?", I posted a link to a page of OS-tans, and then replies complained that the page was NSFW and needed a warning. I was like "What? All those os-tans are totally safe for work, I checked". Turns out there was a big ol' pornographic ad at the top of the page which my eyes had probably literally skipped over, as in just never saccaded there.

That Courage Wolf video probably has a pretty different impact depending on whether or not you automatically skip over and mostly don't even notice all the bad parts.

And in another ten years a naked person walking down the street will be invisible.

Turns out there was a big ol' pornographic ad at the top of the page which my eyes had probably literally skipped over

Sometimes I fail to include NSFW tags because I use an adblocker, so NSFW ads don't appear for me.

2Eugine_Nier8yHuh?! I wonder if this is another instance of Eliezer not realizing how atypical the bay area is.
3NancyLebovitz8yScience fiction reference-- I think it's to Kurland's The Unicorn Girl.

LW was the first place I've been where women caring about their own interests is viewed as a weird inimical trait which it's only reasonable to subvert, and I'm talking about PUA.

It seems like in the best case, PUA would be kind of like makeup. Lots of male attraction cues are visual, so they can be gamed when women wear makeup, do their hair, or wear an attractive outfit. Lots of female attraction cues are behavioral, so they can be gamed by acting or becoming more confident and interesting.

As one Metafilter user put it:

If you want to understand the appeal of the PUAs, you have to remember that it does work. Mixed in with the cod psychology and jargon are some boring but sensible tips. I would say the big four are:

  1. Approach lots of women
  2. Act confident
  3. Have entertaining things to say
  4. Dress and groom well

There are quite a few guys who haven't really practiced those four things, which do take a bit of effort and experience. So when they start to follow the PUA movement, they absorb the nonsense, start doing the sensible, practical things, and find that they're getting a whole lot more sex. So they conclude that the nonsense is absolutely true.

Do you have ethical problems ... (read more)

I'm actually at the point when I think it is impossible to give men useful advice to improve their sex lives and relationships because of the social dynamics that arise in nearly all societies. Actually good advice aiming to optimize the life outcomes of the men who are given it has never been discussed in public spaces and considered reputable.

Same can naturally be said of advice for women. I think most modern dating advice both for men and women is anti-knowledge in that the more of it you follow the more miserable you will end up being. I would say follow your instincts but that doesn't work either in our society since they are broken.

Advice about how to look better seems trivially useful and reputable... Overall, I find your claim that the intersection of palatable dating advice and useful dating advice is empty extremely implausible. What else would Clarisse Thorn's "ethical PUA advice" be?

At the very least there should be some reasonably effective advice that's only minimally unpalatable or whatever, like become a really good guitarist and impress girls with your guitar skillz.

Regarding PUA and evolutionary psychology: I don't see how a self-selected population that's under the influence of alcohol, and has been living with all kinds of weird modern norms and technology, has all that much in common with the EEA.

5NancyLebovitz8yGood point that I hadn't thought of. And also, most mating in the EEA would be with people that you'd had and expect to have extended interactions with-- this is probably very different from trying to pick up strangers.
4[anonymous]8yI'd go with “keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel”, i.e.¹ use the evidence that you see to update your model of the world,² and your model of the world to decide which possible behaviours would be most likely to achieve your goals. This applies to any goal whatsoever (not just dating), and ought to be obvious to LW readers, but people may tend to forget this in certain contexts due to ugh fields. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. This is probably not what Jim Morrison meant by that, but still. 2. Note that the world also includes you. Noticing what this fact implies is left as an exercise for the reader.
4CharlieSheen8yI endorse this advice. Note however some consider this in itself unethical when it comes to interpersonal relations. I have no clue why.
6Eugine_Nier8yI think I may have just figured out why. Think about the evolutionary purpose of niceness. Thinking about the nice vs. candid argument here, I suspect the purpose of niceness is to provide a credible precommitment to cooperate with someone in the future by sabotaging one's own reasoning in such a way that will make one overestimate the value of cooperating with the other person.
2[anonymous]8yHmm, yeah. Causal decision theory doesn't work right in several-player games and you shouldn't defect in the Prisoner's Dilemma, but that was one of the things I alluded to in Footnote 2; “would” in my comment was intended to be interpreted as explained in Good and Real.
0[anonymous]8yEr... How the hell do those people think they learnt their own native language???
4drethelin8yIf all PUA said was those 4 things, it wouldn't be interesting or controversial, so I think it's pretty ridiculous to respond to a conversation about PUA mentioning the parts few people would disagree with. Trickery, lies, insults, treating people as things, these are the sorts of problems people have with PUA.
  1. Approach lots of women
  2. Act confident
  3. Have entertaining things to say
  4. Dress and groom well


If all PUA said was those 4 things, it wouldn't be interesting or controversial

This sounds reasonable until you actually think about the four points mentioned in Near mode. Consider:

  1. What does approaching lots of women actually look like if done in a logistically sound way? How does this relate to social norms? How does this relate to how feminists would like social norms to be?

  2. Observe what actually confident humans do to signal their confidence. Just do.

  3. Observe what is actually considered entertaining in a club envrionment that most PUA is designed to work in.

You know most of the things considered disreputable that PUAs advocate are precisely the result of first observing how points one to three actually work in our society and then optimizing to mimic this.

Only dressing and grooming well is probably not inherently controversial and even then pick up artists are mocked for their attempts to reverse engineer fashion that signals what they want to signal.

6NancyLebovitz8yI recommend Clarisse Thorn's Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007I5HRQU/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=clarthor-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B007I5HRQU] -- PUA is a divergent group of subcultures.
6Eugine_Nier8yHow do you reconcile this view with the way questions of tone have become entangled with gender issues in this very thread? It was also an extremely straightforward application of Bayes's theorem. The problem is that the concept of "fairness" you are using there is incompatible with VNM-utilitarianism. (If somebody disagrees with this, please describe what the term in one's utility function corresponding to fairness would look like.) Where has anyone claimed they don't? At least beyond the general rejection of qualia?

My default is to assume that men and women are pretty similar.

How do you reconcile this view with the way questions of tone have become entangled with gender issues in the very thread?

I was surprised at how strongly some people (probably mostly women) are uncomfortable with the tone here, so I have a lot to update.

I don't like emoticons much-- I don't hate people who use them, but I use emoticons very rarely, and I'm not comfortable with them. I still find it hard to believe that if people do something a lot, there's a reasonable chance (if they aren't being paid) that they like it a lot, even though I can't imagine liking whatever it is.

I don't know what proportion of people are apt to interpret lack of overt friendliness as dislike, nor what the gender split is.

In the spirit of exploration, I took a look at Ravelry, a major knitting and crocheting blog. I haven't found major discussions there yet. I'm interested in examples of blogs with different emotional tones/courtesy rules/gender balances.

Now that I think about it, blogs that are mostly women may be more likely to have overt statements of strong friendship and support. I believe that sort of effusiveness is partly cul... (read more)

9ESRogs8yI think I've interpreted "creepiness = low status" as, "it's unfair that low-status men get labeled as creepy for behavior that high-status men would get away with." Of course, one could respond that making people at least feel comfortable around you is an easy way to improve your status. :)
4Eugine_Nier8yThat's a large part of what PUA attempts to do.
4Eugine_Nier8yWell is it unfair?
2NancyLebovitz8yI wouldn't say so. What do you think?
4Eugine_Nier8yI'm trying to figure out what you mean by "fairness". I don't see why this isn't unfair but adjusting the test scores based on priors is.
4Eugine_Nier8yA typo, I meant VNM Utilitarianism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility#Additive_von_Neumann.E2.80.93Morgenstern_utility] . Well, this depends on the exact circumstances, but this may happen to the people who got unlucky on the test anyway, and using a better predictor decreases the number of people who get mischaracterized.

Is this comment a satire?

In any case, the remark about the von Neumann-Morgenstern theorem is just wrong.

8Luke_A_Somers8yWhen the difference IS the topic, that tends to amplify the relevance of the differences.
3Athrelon8yThen why is it that this difference, out of the many dimensions of differences that form up humankind, and the multitude of interest-group formation patterns that could have been generated, is the one that gets so much attention? It would be bizarre if an unbiased deliberation process systematically decides that one unremarkable axis (gender) is the one difference that should be discussed at great length and with very vigorous champions, while ignoring all of the other axes of diversity of human minds. Now it is possible for one unremarkable axis to become overwhelmingly dominant in coalition formation, but that would involve some fairly unpleasant implications [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fmc/lw_women_minimizing_the_inferential_distance/7won] about the truth-seekiness and utilitarian consequences of this sort of thinking.
4Luke_A_Somers8yI dunno about this. It seems that the difference between those concerned with an intelligence explosion and those concerned with other scenarios has gotten way more attention here than gender. I wasn't surprised on the occasions when questions of differences in tone between the two camps flared up when discussing that topic. I would have been shocked almost beyond belief if, when discussing that topic, questions of tone differences between men and women had arisen. The idea is, almost every topic, men and women are very similar, because the differences aren't relevant. When you begin looking at the differences, then you get amplifying effects. In particular, each participant being what they are and completely unable to change that means: * that the topic isn't going to be to convert people from one camp to the other or otherwise influence their choice as in the example above, but it's going to have to be about something about that. This added layer of meta makes things much less stable. Imagine having a discussion about how we ought to talk about the differences between intelligence explosion and other scenarios, while universally acknowledged that no one was going to change their position on the actual subject. It'd be all over the place. * that empathy is harder to achieve. And in particular looking at the difference from one end gives exactly opposite perspectives on the issue. When you 'normalize' the differences, it's maximally different.
0MugaSofer8yThis. By definition, those on either side have different experiences with regard to the difference, and thus are vastly more likely to hold different opinions.
2handoflixue8yWe have a population of 200 weasels, 100 blue and 100 red. 90% of blue weasels are programmers, and 10% of red weasels are programmers. If we design a perfect test-of-being-a-programmer, we will have a pool of 100 programmers (90 blue, 10 red). If our pool of programmers does NOT follow that distribution, it suggests that we're probably doing something wrong in our screening, like de-facto excluding all of the red weasels due to bigotry. This HURTS us, because we now have fewer programmers in our pool, and/or we have non-programmers in our pool. If you go out and test all the weasels, and 50% of them pass, and it's 90% blue and 10% red, I don't see any rational reason to assume that the blue weasels are going to be superior to the red weasels, or that the red weasels are more likely to be because of test variance. Now, if you get a pool that's 80 red weasels and 20 blue weasels, you're right to be suspicious that maybe this is not a very accurate test. But given the real-world job market, we should expect such outliers to occur. If everyone else is getting 90 blue and 10 red weasels from this test, you should assume you're such an outlier, since you have plenty of evidence towards the test being accurate. And if we're getting that 90-10 ratio that we expect, there's no reason to assume that the red weasels are any less competent. If 10% of all weasels are super-programmers, we should expect 10% of our blue programming weasels and 10% of our red programming weasels to be super-programmers (so, on average, 9 blue super-programmers and 1 red super-programmer). Seriously, where is this anti-red-weasel bias coming from? Nothing in the math seems to suggest it, unless you're using a seriously crappy test >.>
3gwern8yI don't follow. Just because your test happened to result in a split that superficially resembles the underlying frequencies, why do you then assume that your imperfect test turned in exactly the right result in all 200 cases? The same logic of an imperfect test leading to shrinking estimates to the mean seems to still apply. Did you follow my and Vaniver's thread on this topic? The effect holds unless the test is perfectly accurate.
2handoflixue8yWARNING: Rambly, half-thought-out answer here. It's genuinely not something I've fully worked through myself, and I am totally open to feedback from you that I'm wrong. The tl;dr version is that the effect is going to be small unless you have a very inaccurate test, and it's suspicious to focus on a small effect when there's probably other, larger effects we could be looking at. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hmmm. Is that actually true? If we know the test has a 10% false positive rate for both red and blue weasels, doesn't that suggest we should have 9 non-programmer blue weasels and 1 non-programmer red weasel? Like, if I have a bag with 2 red marbles, and 2 white marbles, the odds of drawing a red marble are 50/50. But if my first draw is a red marble, I can't claim that it's still 50/50, and I can't update to say that drawing one red marble makes me MORE likely to draw a second one. The new odds are 33/66, no matter what math you run. The only correct update is the one that leaves you concluding 33/66. It seems like there is such a test that the test results... already factor in our prior distribution? I'm not sure if I'm being at all clear here :\ -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Absolutely, this isn't always the case - if you just know that you have a 10% false positive, and it's not calibrated for red false positives vs blue false positives, you DO have evidence that red false positives are probably more common. BUT, you'd still be a fool to exclude ALL red candidates on that basis, since you also know that you should legitimately have red candidates in your pool, and by accepting red candidates you increase the overall number of programmers you have access to. It all depends on the accuracy of your test. If your test is sufficiently accurate that red weasels are only 1% more likely to be false positives, then this probably shouldn't affect your actual
5gwern8yYes, the effect is small in absolute magnitude - if you look at the example SAT shrinking that Vaniver and I were working out, the difference between the male/female shrunk scores is like 5 points although that's probably an underestimate since it's ignoring the difference in variance and only looking at means - but these 5 points could have a big difference depending on how the score is used or what other differences you look at. For example, not shrinking could lead to a number of girls getting into Harvard that would not have since Harvard has so many applicants and they all have very high SAT scores; there could well be a noticeable effect on the margin. When you're looking at like 30 applications for each seat, 10 SAT points could be the difference between success and failure for a few applicants. One could probably estimate how many by looking for logistic regressions of 'SAT score vs admission chance', seeing how much 10 points is worth, and multiplying against the number of applicants. 35k applicants [http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/record-applications-to-harvard-college/] in 2011 for 2.16k spots. One logistic regression [https://www.princeton.edu/~tje/files/webAdmission%20Preferences%20Espenshade%20Chung%20Walling%20Dec%202004.pdf] has a 'model 7' taking into account many factors where going from 1300 to 1600 goes from an odds ratio of 1.907 to 10.381; so if I'm interpreting this right, an extra 10pts on your total SAT is worth an odds ratio of ((10.381 - 1.907) / (1600-1300)) * 10 + 1 = 1.282. So the members of a group given a 10pt gain are each 1.28x more likely to be admitted than they were before; before, they had a 2.16/35 = 6.17% chance, and now they have a (1.28 * 2.16) / 35 = 2.76 / 35 = 7.89% chance. To finish the analysis: if 17.5k boys apply and 17.5k girls apply and 6.17% of the boys are admitted while 7.89% of the girls are admitted, then there will be an extra (17500 * 0.0789) - (17500 * 0.0617) = 301 girls. (A boost of mor
4Vaniver8yWe can check this interpretation by taking it to the 30th power, and seeing if we recover something sensible; unfortunately, that gives us an odds ratio of over 1700! If we had their beta coefficients, we could see how much 10 points corresponds to, but it doesn't look like they report it. Logistic regression is a technique that compresses the real line down to the range between 0 and 1; you can think of that model as the schools giving everyone a score, admitting people above a threshold with probably approximately 1, admitting people below a threshold with probability approximately 0, and then admitting people in between with a probability that increases based on their score (with a score of '0' corresponding to a 50% chance of getting in). We might be able to recover their beta by taking the log of the odds they report (see here [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logistic_regression#Definition]). This gives us a reasonable but not too pretty result, with an estimate that 100 points of SAT is worth a score adjustment of .8. (The actual amount varies for each SAT band, which makes sense if their score for each student nonlinearly weights SAT scores. The jump from the 1400s to the 1500s is slightly bigger than the jump from the 1300s to the 1400s, suggesting that at the upper bands differences in SAT scores might matter more.) A score increase of .08 cashes out as an odds ratio of 1.083, which when we take that to the power 30 we get 11.023, which is pretty close to what we'd expect. Two standard deviations is generally enough to get you into 'gifted and talented' programs, as they call them these days. Four standard deviations gets you to finishing in the top 200 of the Putnam competition, according to Griffe's calculations [http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math.htm], which are also great at illustrating male/female ratios at various levels given Project Talent data on math ability. I'll also note again that the SAT is probably not the best test to use for this; i
4gwern8yThanks for the odds corrections. I knew I got something wrong... G&T stuff, yeah, but in the materials I've read 2sd is not enough to move you from 'bright' or 'gifted and talented' to 'genius' categories, which seems to usually be defined as >2.5-3sd, and using 3sd made the calculation easier.
0Vaniver8yEh. MENSA requires upper 2% (which is ~2 standard deviations). Whether you label that 'genius' or 'bright' or something else doesn't seem terribly important. 3.5 standard deviations is the 2.3 out of 10,000 level, which is about a hundred times more restrictive.
4gwern8yI'd call MENSA merely bright... You need something in between 'normal' and 'genius' and bright seems fine. Genius carries all the wrong connotations for something as common as MENSA-level; 2.3 out of 10k seems more reasonable.
0Douglas_Knight8yOnly if Harvard cares a lot about SAT scores. According to this graph [https://i.imgur.com/Ys3iBAJ.png], the value of SATs is pretty flat between the 93rd and 96th percentiles. Moreover, at other Ivies, SAT scores are penalized in this range. source, page 7(8) [https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=601105] This graph is not a direct measure of the role of SATs, because they can't force all else to be equal. The paper argues that some schools really do penalize SAT scores in some regimes. I do not buy the argument, but the graph convinces me that I don't know how it works. Many people respond to the graph that it is the aggregation of two populations admitted under different scoring rules, both of which value SATs, but I do not think that explains the graph.
0gwern8yYour graph doesn't show that the average applicant won't benefit from 10 points. It shows that overall, SAT scores make a big difference (from ~0 to 0.2, with not even bothering to show anyone below the 88th percentile). The paper I cited earlier for logistic regressions used models controlling for other things. Given the benefits to athletes, legacies, and minorities, benefits necessary presumably because they cannot compete as well on other factors (like SAT scores), it's not necessarily surprising if aggregating these populations can lead to a raw graph like those you show. Note that the most meritocratic school which places the least emphasis on 'holistic' admissions (enabling them to discriminate in various ways) is MIT, and their curve looks dramatically different from, say, Princeton.
0Douglas_Knight8yYes, if large SAT changes matter, then there must be some small changes that matter. But it is possible that other points on the scale where they don't, or are harmful. I'm sorry if I failed to indicate that I meant only this limited point. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If a school admits two populations, then the histogram of SATs of its students might look like a camel. But why should the graph of chance of admission? I suppose Harvard's graph makes sense if students apply when their assessment of their ability to get in crosses some threshold. Then applying screens off SATs, at least in some normal regime.* But at Yale and especially Princeton, rising SATs in the middle regime predicts greater mistaken belief in ability to get in. Legacies (but not athletes or AA) might explain the phenomenon by only applying to one elite school, but I don't think legacies alone are big enough to cause the graph. Here are the lessons I take away from the graphs that I would apply if I had been doing the regressions and wanted to explain the graphs. First, schools have different admissions policies, even schools as similar as Harvard and Yale. Averaging them together, as in the paper, may make things appear smoother than they really are. Second, given the nonlinear effect of SATs, it is good that the regression used buckets rather than assuming a linear effect. Third, since the bizarre downward slope is over the course of less than 100 points, the 100 point buckets of the regression may be too coarse to see it. Fourth, they could have shown graphs, too. It would have been so much more useful to graph SAT scores of athletes and probability of admission as a function of SAT scores of athletes. The main value of regressions is using the words "model" and "p-value." Fifth, the other use of the regression model is that it lets them consider interactions, which do seem to say that there is not much interaction between SATs and other
0gwern8ySure, there could be non-monotonicity. Imagine that Harvard lets in equal numbers of 'athletes' and 'nerds', the 2 groups are different populations with different means, and they do something like pick the top 10% in each group by score. Clearly there's going to be a bimodal histogram of SAT scores: you have a lump of athlete scores in the 1000s, say, and a lump of nerd scores in the 1500s. Sure. 2 equal populations, different means, of course you're going to see a bimodal. Now imagine Harvard gets more 10x more nerd applicants than athletic applicants; since each group gets the same number of spots, a random nerd will have 1/10 the admission chance as an athlete. Poor nerds. But Harvard kept the admission procedure the same as before. So what happens when you look at admission probability if all you know is the SAT score? Well, if you look at the 1500s applicants, you'll notice that an awful lot of them aren't admitted; and if you look at the 1000s applicants, you'll notice that an awful lot of them getting in. Does Harvard hate SAT scores? No, of course not: we specified they were picking mostly the high scorers, and indeed, if we classify each applicant into nerd or athlete categories and then looked at admission rates by score, we'd see that yes, increasing SAT scores is always good: the nerd with a 1200 better apply to other colleges, and the athlete with 1400 might as well start learning how to yacht. So even though in aggregate in our little model, high SAT scores look like a bad thing, for each group higher SAT scores are better. Reminds me of Simpson's paradox [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson%27s_paradox]. Yes, I don't think we could make a conclusive argument against the claim that SAT scores may not help at all levels, not without digging deep into all the papers running logistic regressions; but I regard that claim as pretty darn unlikely in the first place. They could be self-delusive, doing it to appease a delusive parent ('My Johnnie Yu mus
0Douglas_Knight8ySure, maybe you can make a model that outputs Harvard or Princeton's results, but how do you explain the difference between Harvard and Princeton? It is easier to get into Princeton as either a jock or a nerd, but at 98th SAT percentile, it is harder to get into Princeton than Harvard. These are the smart jocks or dumb nerds. Maybe Harvard has first dibs on the smart jocks so that the student body is more bimodal at other schools. But why would admissions be more bimodal? Does Princeton not bother to admit the smart jocks? That's the hypothesis in the paper: an SAT penalty. Or maybe Princeton rejects the dumb nerds. It would be one thing if Princeton, as a small school, admitted fewer nerds and just had higher standards for nerds. But they don't at the high end. What's going on? Here's a hypothesis: Harvard (like Caltech) could admit nerds based on other achievements that only correlate with SATs, while Princeton has high pure-SAT standards. I don't think an SAT penalty is very plausible, but nothing I've heard sounds plausible. Mostly people make vague models like yours that I don't think explain all the observations. The hypothesis that Princeton in contrast to Harvard does not count SAT for jocks beyond a graduation threshold at least does not sound insane. I take graphs over regressions, any day. Regressions fit a model. They yield very little information. Sometimes it's exactly the information you want, as in the calculation you originally brought in the regression for. But with so little information there is no possibility of exploration or model checking. By the way, the paper you cite is published at a journal with a data access provision.
0gwern8yDunno. I've already pointed out the quasi-Simpsons Paradox effect that could produce a lot of different shapes even while SAT score increases always help. Maybe Princeton favors musicians or something. If the only reason to look into the question is your incredulity and interest in the unlikely possibility that increase in SAT score actually hurts some applicants, I don't care nearly enough to do more than speculate. I have citations in my DNB FAQ on how such provisions are honored mostly in the breach... I wonder what the odds that you could get the data and that it would be complete and useful.
0VincentYu8yAren't odds ratios multiplicative? It also seems to me that we should take the center of the SAT score bins to avoid an off-by-one bin width bias, so (10.381 / 1.907) ^ (10 / (1550 - 1350)) = 1.088. (Or compute additively with log-odds.) As Vaniver mentioned, this estimate varies across the SAT score bins. If we look only at the top two SAT bins in Model 7: (10.381 / 4.062) ^ (10 / (1550 - 1450)) = 1.098. Note that within the logistic model, they binned their SAT score data and regressed on them as dichotomous indicator variables, instead of using the raw scores and doing polynomial/nonparametric regression (I presume they did this to simplify their work because all other predictor variables are dichotomous).
0gwern8yYeah; Vaniver already did it via log odds. Which is higher than the top bin of 1.088 so I guess that makes using the top bin an underestimate (fine by me). Alas! I just went with the first paper on Harvard I found in Google which did a logistic regression involving SAT scores (well, second: the first one confounded scores with being legacies and minorities and so wasn't useful). There may be a more useful paper out there.
0handoflixue8yI'd understood the question to be "given identical scores", not "given a 10 point average difference in favor of the blue weasel". i.e. we take a random sample of 100 men and 100 women with SAT scores between 1200-1400 (high but not perfect scores). Are the male scores going to average better than the females? My intuition says no: while I'd expect fewer females to be in that range to begin with, I can't see any reason to assume their scores would cluster towards the lower end of the range compared to males.
4Vaniver8ySo, first let's ask this question, supposing that the test is perfectly accurate. We'll run through the numbers separately for the two subtests (so we don't have to deal with correlation), taking means and variances from here [http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/TotalGroup-2012.pdf] . Of those who scored 600-700 on the hypothetical normally distributed math SAT (hence "HNDMSAT"), the male mean was 643.3 (with 20% of the male population in this band), and the female mean was 640.6 (with 14.8% of the female population in this band). Of those who scored 600-700 on the HNDVSAT, the male mean was 641.0 (with 14.9% of the male population in this band), and the female mean was 640.1 (with 13.7% of the female population in this band). When we introduce the test error into the process, the computation gets a lot messier. The quick and dirty way to do things is to say "well, let's just shrink the mean band scores towards the population mean with the reliability coefficient." This turns the male edge on the HNDMSAT of 2.7 into 5.4, and the male edge of .9 into 1.8. (I think it's coincidental that this is roughly doubling the edge.) That's because you're not thinking in bell curves. The range is all on one side of the mean, the male mean is closer to the bottom of the band, and the male variation is higher.
2gwern8yMy point was that 'suppose that the true shrinkage leads to an adjusted difference of 10 points between the two groups; how much of a gift does 10 extra points represent?' By using the nominal score rather than the true score, this has the effect of inflating the score. Once you've established how much the inflation might be, it's natural to wonder about how much real-world consequence it might have leading into the Harvard musings. Depends on the mean and standard deviations of the 2 distributions, and then you could estimate how often the male sample average will be higher than the female sample average and vice versa. The question should be 'if we retest these 1200-1400 scorers, what will happen?' The scores will probably drop as they regress to their mean due to an imperfect test. That's the point.
0handoflixue8yAhhh, that makes the statistics click in my brain, thanks :) Do you know if there is much data out there on real-world gender differences vis-a-vis regression to the mean on IQ / SAT / etc. tests? i.e. is this based on statistics, or is it born out in empirical observations?
0gwern8yI haven't seen any, offhand. Maybe the testing company provides info about retests, but then you're going to have different issues: anyone who takes the second test may be doing so because they had a bad day (giving you regression to a mean from the other direction) and may've boned up on test prep since, and there's the additional issue of test-retest effect - now that they know what the test is like, they will be less anxious and will know what to do, and test-takers in general may score better. (Since I'm looking at that right now, my DNB meta-analysis offers a case in point: in many of the experiments, the controls have slightly higher post-test IQ scores. Just the test-retest effect.)
0handoflixue8yFirst off, I have to say, just asking this sets off a serious, serious troll alert. So, we have 5 players, and 50 utilions to divide between them. Players all value utilions equally, and utilions have linear value (i.e. 5 utilions is five times better than 1). Fairness says we give each player 10 utilions. Let's make our unfair distribution 8, 8, 10, 12, 12. How to express this mathematically? You could have a factor in your utility equation that is based on deviation from the mean (least-square immediately strikes me as elegant), or one which values the absolute difference between best and worst, or which averages against the lowest value. For the first technique, the distribution 8,8,10,12,12, has 2^2 = 4 x 4 = -16 utility compared to ideal. For the second technique, you lose -4 utility (12-8) For the third technique, the utility for each player is 8, 8 (10+8/2 = 9), (12+8/2 = 10), (12+8/2 = 10), for a total penalty of -5 against ideal. And that's all assuming that fairness is a terminal value, not something that generates utility. That's all assuming we're playing with Platonic Utilions with linear value, rather than money (which seems to fall in value the more you get). I mean this sincerely: if you're not a troll, I am genuinely and deeply confused how you could possibly think this is the slightest bit incompatible with VNM utilitarianism.
0Eugine_Nier8yOk, let's apply these functions to a different scenario: There are two people A and B, A has utility 5 and B has utility 10. We have no way of increasing their utilities but we can make thinks worse for them. Your term suggests we should lower B's utility as a deadweight loss to make things more fair. This seems wrong.
0handoflixue8yTechnique C already handles this: 10+5/2 = 7.5. 5+5/2 = 5. So clearly going from 10->5 is bad, but having both of them be at 7.5 would be better, and having both of them at 10 would be even better still. For technique B, yes, you will get results that say power imbalances are unfair and should be destroyed. The simplest example I could give is a world where Hitler has a million soldiers and everyone else has 100,000 combined. That power imbalance is dangerous, because Hitler can leverage that advantage to gain an even larger advanage, and so, over time, that inequality gets worse, and it can even reduce net utility (after the war, Hitler has 950,000 soldiers and everyone else has 50,000 - 100K people died, and the world is more unfair!) One of the big stumbling blocks for me with social justice was understanding that power imbalances can be bad in and of themselves. It's not just soldiers, either. This happens rather vividly with money and many other resources ("spoons" seem to work this way, if you're familiar with "spoon theory" [http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/wpress/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/] )
5Douglas_Knight8yhere [https://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/08/variance-induce.html]
0NancyLebovitz8yThanks, but I'm pretty sure that isn't it. The one I remember had an allegory and originated at LW.
5Douglas_Knight8yHow about this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/666/how_not_to_move_the_goalposts/4c6e?context=1#4c6e]?
5NancyLebovitz8yThanks. That's at least a plausible candidate-- not an exact match for what I remember, but awfully close. How did you find it?
7Douglas_Knight8ylike this [https://www.google.com/search?q=link%3Ahttps%3A%2F%2Fwww.overcomingbias.com%2F2008%2F08%2Fvariance-induce.html]
2NancyLebovitz8yCool. I'd been wondering about how to search for links.
3Epiphany8yCommenting to state a disagreement with a LW narrative (you're okay with the emotional tone / lack thereof) on a LW narratives thread will chip away at anonymity. If enough LW women were to do that, then people may figure out who wrote which narratives by process of elimination. I acknowledge that it would be way infeasible for all of us to memorize all the narratives and never say something that disagrees, and that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm saying that adding a comment on the LW narratives thread itself that's in clear disagreement with one of the narratives is poor anonymity strategy.
0MugaSofer8yCould you give some examples? I'm having trouble thinking of any.
0NancyLebovitz8yThe general idea that women not being attracted to men who are attracted to them is just some arbitrary wrongness in the universe that any sensible man should try to get the women to ignore.

The general idea that women not being attracted to men who are attracted to them is just some arbitrary wrongness in the universe that any sensible man should try to get the women to ignore.

Fixing the man (as opposed to confusing the woman) seems like a good intervention, if it's possible to a sufficient extent. The difficulty is that behavior and appearance are important aspects of a person, so fixing someone might involve fixing their behavior and appearance, which will be superficially similar to changing their behavior and appearance with the goal of confusion/deception. This apparently inescapable superficial similarity opens benevolent self-improvement in this area to the charge of deception, and it looks like it's often hard for both sides to avoid mixing up the categories.

0MugaSofer8yo.O Seriously? I mean, everyone wants to be more attractive, but ... that's a very, well, psychopath-y way of looking at it. I think I've somehow managed not to run into this, do you have any links?

We already rarely discuss politics, so would it be terrible to also discuss sex/gender issues as little as possible?

Discussing politics is not productive. The political opinions held by most people don't affect actual politics. Discussing politics would be a waste of time even if it wasn't mindkilling. I make a point of never reading local political news and not knowing anything about my country's politics, as a matter of epistemical hygiene.

Gender relations and understanding, on the other hand, are important in everyone's lives. I can't ignore gender like I do politics, and I wouldn't want to. On the contrary, I want to become rational and virtuous about gender.

So I very much want to have discussions about gender, unless the consensus is that our rationality is too weak and we can't discuss this subject without causing net harm (or net harm to women, etc).

3h-H8yGender relations = politics.
3Eugine_Nier8yThis seems like the noncentral fallacy [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/].

From the complaints (and not just here and now) it seems obvious that there is a problem we really should solve.

This said, it seems to me that people are complaining about multiple things. I think they should be analyzed separately. Maybe not all of them are a problem, or maybe the same solution would not work for all of them. Even if they have similar patern "reading A makes person X unhappy", it is still not the same situation. (For a trivial example, some people are unhappy when they read about atheism. While we should not offend religious people unnecessarily, there is only so far we can go, and even then some people will remain offended.) Specifically, from the article and also this linked comment, women complain when men do the following:

  • talk about "getting" "attractive women";
  • make remarks about attractive/unattractive women;
  • speak of women as symbols of male success or accessories for a successful male;
  • talk about difficulty to deal with women;
  • make claims about men and women having different innate abilities, especially without saying "on average";
  • uncritically downvote anything feminist sounding, and upvote armchair ev-p
... (read more)

My opinions on these three topics:

1) There are two important aspects of talking about "getting women"; I guess one of them is more obvious for men and one for women, so I will write both explicitly.

a) For a typical heterosexual man, "getting women" is an important part of his utility function; perhaps so important that talking about instrumental rationality without mentioning this feels dishonest. There are tons of low-hanging fruit here (the whole PUA industry is about that); ignoring this topic would be like ignoring the topic of finding a good job or developing social skills. Seen from this perspective, I would say we speak relatively little about the topic; we already have kind of a taboo, it's just not absolute.

b) Discussing women as objects sends a strong message to women: "you do not belong here". We speak about you, but not with you. -- Ladies can describe their feelings better, I can only recommend imagining a reversed situation; a "rationalist website" with women discussing how to get handsome millionaires (or whatever would be the nearest equivalent), creating a feeling that if you are not a millionaire, you have no worth as a huma... (read more)

I would enjoy having a more friendly discussion environment, but I don't want to make it a duty. I mean, offenses are bad, but mere "lack of warmth" is normal, although it is nice to do better than this. Among men, this is often the normal mode of speech; among women it's usually otherwise... I think it would be nice to let everyone speak in their preferred voice. We should encourage men to display more warmth (and it would be an interesting topic on how to do it without feeling awkward), but not criticize them for failing to reach the level convenient for women.

I think it would be useful for someone who finds niceness natural to do a post how the average LW can build affordance for being nice, preferably in a way that doesn't add to much noise. I also think it would be good if people were motivated to use some of these affordances due to genuine niceness/to help build the community.

On the other hand I strongly agree that having a "nice" voice should not be even quasi-required. Fake/forced niceness often feels phony in an unpleasant way, furthermore forcing people to change their conversational voice seems like making them jump though hoops. Also, I suspec... (read more)

7NancyLebovitz8yI agree with this so strongly that a mere upvote isn't enough.
4Epiphany8yAfter two days, a discussion will die down to the point where it barely gets any responses. If you're going to make it ladies only, make it ladies only permanently. Make an identical male only counterpart. That would solve the problem "Where will the men post?" and give you a nice undiluted control for your observations about the women. It will also help keep things organized (Otherwise can you imagine the overhead in going through the thread trying to figure out who was male and who was female, and reading each time stamp to determine who was who? It's much much easier to make two threads.) If women know that men will reply to their comments later, this may inhibit them from saying certain things the same way that it will inhibit them if men are there right away. If they know the men are never supposed to reply to that comment, that would help maximize the women's comfort.
6[anonymous]8yCounterpoint: I don't think gender segregation of posts will break down any communication barriers; if anything it will cause divisiveness as in an 'us-versus-them' mentality.
1Epiphany8yThat would be a hypothesis for which we'd have to complete an experiment.
5Viliam_Bur8yIf two days is too long (and it probably is), then let's make it one day, or 12 hours, or 6 hours, or whatever value will work best. I didn't want to make " separate but equal [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separate_but_equal]" thread, but to use the time bonus for ladies as a way to approximate how LW would look like if we had more balanced gender ratio. (An artificial tool to amplify the "women's voice".) So the best value would be the one which on average results in equal number of comments by men and women when the discussion is over. And I am not interested which specific comments are written by whom. (So I would ignore the timestamps while reading. Also, women are allowed to write later, too.) I just want to know how the whole discussion would feel like if it was gender-balanced. Then those women would probably be also inhibited from saying those things in a gender-balanced environment. I would prefer an environment where everyone is as comfortable as possible, not an environment optimized for one gender's comfort only. (More technically, a cooperate/cooperate solution, not male-cooperate/female-defect solution.)
1Epiphany8yReducing the amount of time the women have to comment may mean that no women comment at all. Considering that only a little over a third of the posts on page two of discussions have enough comments to (statistically speaking) contain at least one comment from two different women (the post would need to have 20 comments, as LW is about 10% female), if you don't absolutely maximize the number of comments from women in your experiment post, you're likely to see no discussions between females. It would probably have the best chance of working if you asked the women to agree to comment on the thread before hand. If you ask, also, for male volunteers, you'll then be able to control the male to female ratio by asking non-volunteers not to respond at all because it is an experimental thread. Also, what conversational differences will you look for and how will you know that you found them?
1Viliam_Bur8yI emphasised a word in my original proposal, just to avoid a possible misunderstanding. Women would have all the time to comment. Only the first day or two it would be exclusive time, and later the discussion would be open to everyone. I agree that if we already don't have enough women here, they may be unable to make a longer-than-epsilon discussion. But I feel bad about asking someone specifically to comment on a post. I know I probably wouldn't like to be asked to comment on a topic which may not interest me naturally, just because I happen to have some trait. A lack (or just less) of whatever women complain about in articles like this. Whether the complaints are about form or content. During the protected time period those things should not happen at all. (Unless some complaining women are wrong about the cause of their complaint. We could possibly find out that e.g. rationalist women do also naturally produce "less warm" discussions than is usual for women discussing outside LW.) And later, the discussion should already be primed. (I know it does not stop anyone from introducing e.g. the topic of PUA. But even if that happens, the discussion will already have a lot of threads without this topic, so this topic is unlikely to become dominant in the discussion.)
3Desrtopa8yThis does not strike me as a good solution; assuming each type of discussion is valuable to members of the gender engaged in it, but offensive to members of the gender under discussion, then this provides men and women both with a topic of discussion, but also a source of offense. I think those assumptions are more favorable to the proposition than the reality is though. Women on Less Wrong could have been writing articles on "getting men" all along, but haven't, and I don't think that they're likely to start because of an official policy statement that "this is allowed." It always has been. This is a behavior that some women engage in, but I doubt it's a significant enticement to the women who're actually members here, or would want to be. So if that's the case then the assumption that both men and women are getting something valuable in exchange for the source of offense wouldn't hold. We already know that the level of offense many prospective female members are facing is considerable; if we as a community are going to keep that source of offense, and offer them something in exchange, it would have to be something they really want. I think it's also worth noting that we don't have many typical heterosexual men here; the member base of Less Wrong is overwhelmingly atypical. I don't know how many are atypical in this particular respect, but I can attest that I personally don't talk about "getting women," not because I'm observing a taboo, but because it makes me uncomfortable. I'd like a satisfying relationship, but treating finding a partner like an acquisition of goods feels distasteful. Is the tendency of the sort of men who treat "getting women" as an inalienable part of their utility function something innate and unalterable? I don't know, it feels implausible to me given how hard it is for me to personally relate to it [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/]. But given that this is a community specifically focused on adjusting our own
3NancyLebovitz8yI originally voted in favor because it sounded like an interesting experiment, but there's a difficulty, not just with people who don't think of themselves as male or female, but with people who don't want to reveal their gender.
2Viliam_Bur8yIf someone does not want to reveal their gender, or does not think of themselves as female, the solution is easy: discuss only after the time limit, when the discussion is open for everyone.
2[anonymous]8yI would vote for “Interesting idea”, if it was an option (i.e., ‘let's try this for a while and see how it goes, and switch back if it doesn't go well’).
9Sarokrae8yGoing to comment on each of the topics separately, as William_Bur has done: 1) I pretty much agree with the point that objectifying is fine if we objectified everyone equally - if androsexual commenters talked about unattractive men the same way gynosexual commenters talked about unattractive women, say. However statistically speaking that's not going to happen, just because there's a much higher proportion of gynosexuals on this site than androsexuals. As the current gender proportions stand, it's going to look like men are the in-group and women are the out-group, even if people objectified the objects of their desires to the same extent. As such, I think if we fixed the other two problems and actually attracted more women to this site (more gay and bisexual male conversations about getting guys might also work, though I'm not really aware of much of a LGBT presence on LW), this one is going to fix itself. (Assuming we have sensible community norms like "mentally flip the genders in your post before you post to check this is normal objectifying rather than super-offensive objectifying", which I think we can do.) 2) I don't have much to say about this one. For me the most likely hypothesis is that people are bad at hearing evidence that don't agree with their current prejudices and vice versa, so if we already have a community that agrees with unsupported theories about evopsych (for whatever reason) then it's going to post more studies about it and agree with them. I feel similarly when people talk about paleo diets, actually. I personally prefer to just not publicly discuss topics where I feel the evidence is insufficient. 3) Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that female geeks tend to notice/focus on niceness and social codes more than male geeks, though both in turn focus on it less than non-geeks (though in non-geeks men and women often have different social codes). There are many hypotheses as to why this could be if this were true, but I don't know well

In some male-dominated spaces, there's a weird chivalry dynamic where I get attention for being a reasonably attractive woman but not a lot of cred for ideas, etc. I appreciate that at Less Wrong meetups, I feel my ideas are judged as ideas and not as "girl ideas which men must be polite about."

4arborealhominid8yI'm nonbinary (that is, I do not identify with either gender), and I feel that my social experience is somewhat in-between that of most men and that of most women. Would it be acceptable for me to vote on these questions, or would that distort the data?
4Sarokrae8yI'm happy for you to vote on one, both or neither depending on whether you think your experiences are relevant to the question.
1arborealhominid8yThank you! I voted on both.
4Michelle_Z8yNote: Women can only see how other women voted, and men can only see how other men voted.
6Viliam_Bur8yMy first reaction was to write my half of results here... but we don't want to prime others, do we? So I guess let's wait a week or two, and then publish the results. (And next time, let's remember to add the option "I did not vote" to each poll. Or is there any other way to see poll results without voting? If there is, please write it here [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Comment_formatting#Polls].)
4Sarokrae8yOops. Polls are non-editable too... Will do better next time. Edit - I will probably get my OH to vote on the male half so that I can at least get the desired calibration effects myself.
1hg008yI dunno if "enforcement" is the most compassionate approach. Personally, the most effective way I've found to counter negative attitudes towards women is to have positive social and romantic interactions with them... applying self-control can prevent me from expressing my resentment, but it doesn't seem to fix the resentment itself. Maybe we could have compassion for sexually inexperienced guys (being a male virgin can really suck [http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/z4t1o/my_mates_are_considering_surprising_our/c61kyv9] , although I suspect men contribute to this fact more than women do) and try to help them overcome their problem (e.g. this [http://yourbrainonporn.com] has been really useful for me).
1[anonymous]8yFrom a cursory glance, that appears to be about overcoming porn addiction, which is not exactly the same issue (for example, I very seldom watch porn but I'm still involuntarily celibate, and I bet there are plenty of people who watch lots of it while in relationships); am i missing something, and if so can you link to somewhere more specific that the front page of the site?
2hg008ySure, sorry. This may prove useful: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201001/was-the-cowardly-lion-just-masturbating-too-much [http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201001/was-the-cowardly-lion-just-masturbating-too-much] http://www.reddit.com/r/nofap [http://www.reddit.com/r/nofap] has lots of reports of men quitting porn + masturbation and experiencing increased confidence.
0[anonymous]8yOkay, thanks.
0[anonymous]8yI voted “no”, but “ADBOC”/“it depends” would be more accurate. The male-only groups I'm likely to be found in are usually unusual in ways other than the absence of women, and for any two groups A and B such that A is a subset of B, A doesn't contain women, and I'm non-negligibly likely to be in either of them, there's no substantial difference between the way I behave in A and the way I behave in B.
0pragmatist8yMost feminists believe that the objectification of women is harmful not merely because it is objectification per se, but because is embedded in/contributes to a culture in which objectification is heavily asymmetric between genders, both in its frequency and in its impact. If this is right, then mentally flipping genders in a post isn't a reliable guide to whether the objectification in that post is a problem.
6CharlieSheen8yThis is frustrating to read since complaints of other groups that amount to the same thing are ignored, but then again this is to be expected [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fmc/lw_women_minimizing_the_inferential_distance/7wve].
4CharlieSheen8yThere being a problem people complain about and it actually being worth solving are remarkably uncorrelated. Here is an argument I made on the matter in the past [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dky/worldviewnaturalismcom_a_landing_page_for/7193].
7Viliam_Bur8yThe fact that some women complain, is not a big evidence per se. Some men complain, too. The evidence is that the complaining seems coherent, is persistent, and there are no women saying: "actually, I think it is completely the other way." Also, I would agree that it is important to maximize the number of rationalists, regardless of their demographics. But I would not be surprised if a small change of rules could make this site more attractive for many women, and still attractive enough for 95% of the men which are currently here. On the other hand I also would not be surprised if we will never have enough rational women here (or anywhere else), regardless of what we will do. Sorry, my model simply does not contain the information about what kind of a website can be best for rational women (with emphasis on both of these words). To be fair, before LW I also did not know what kind of a website would be best for rational men; I could not imagine rationality surviving in a group of more than five people. More data need to be gathered by an experiment.
4NancyLebovitz8yThanks for the analysis. I'm not convinced that the topics can be kept completely separate since unfriendly environment amplifies the effects of the other two, but it's worth a try.
3MrMind8yI think the assumption here is that LW is some sort of a sealed environment, living in a vacuum only of its own generated ideas. Needless to say, it's not like that: everybody will continue to bring here, rationality or not, basic imprinting from life AFK. This includes other-sex objectification (let's not illude ourselves with thinking that one side is less wrong than the other), incorrect thinking, etc. I agree though that if we are not able to win on gender issues, we are doomed.

There also seems to be quite a lot of knee-jerk up-voting of poorly researched armchair ev-psych.

Indeed, and I am sad to say that I have seen this even in the top-level posts and blog as well. I'm actually doing a write-up about evo-psych and why a rationalist community should maybe try to avoid it. I might post it to this forum if there's interest.

Indeed, and I am sad to say that I have seen this even in the top-level posts and blog as well. I'm actually doing a write-up about evo-psych and why a rationalist community should maybe try to avoid it. I might post it to this forum if there's interest.

I'm not just interested, I'm fascinated. Please do.

4John_Maxwell8yAlicorn wrote this post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ss/babies_and_bunnies_a_caution_about_evopsych/], but I for one am interested in reading more on the topic.

So, apparently LessWrong feels unfriendly. This is something I've heard several times, so I'll accept it as correct. (I don't get that feeling myself, but I wouldn't expect to notice it anyway.) What are some Internet forums that don't feel unfriendly, and what do they do there that we don't do on LessWrong? Talk about ourselves and our lives - "small talk", in other words?

It is- I've been on here for ~2 years (lurking, then signed up) and often refrain from commenting, simply because I fear being thought of as a complete idiot. I am slowly getting more comfortable, but I still feel (mildly) anxious when posting. Yes, even this post.

On another note, I have noticed that this anxiety has dropped pretty dramatically in the last two years (the thought to post barely even crossed my mind, back then), and this is due in part to being exposed to this community. I've also noticed, though this may or may not be related, that my (female) friends think I've become more "cold" (their words) in the last year or so, but my male friends say they can more easily relate to me, now. It could just be maturity, but LW has been a major influencing factor in my life.

Yes, I have been lurking for a similar amount of time, but I still am very reluctant to make comments or posts. I think the reason for me is that I am unsure of my rationality skills, and don't like feeling the status lowering that would come from potential comments criticizing or correct me.

Yes, this is a problem with myself, but yes, more friendliness would make it easier for me to comment.

4jimmy8yIt kinda stinks when you feel like on one hand, you "shouldn't" be afraid of commenting and should "grin and bear" any criticism because you're "supposed" to or something, but on the other hand it feels like it lowers your status and that hurts. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way. First of all, it's okay that you haven't yet mastered rationality - that's why we're here. Say you comment and make a basic rationality mistake. I'm going to have a better idea of your actual abilities (not necessarily lesser, just more precise), but no judgement or shaming - it's just an opportunity to help you along. And if you take it well and learn from it, you gain massive respect in my book - and I don't think I'm atypical in this regard. Heck, I used to be a lot more blunt and probably seemed unfriendly to a lot of people when I'd point out mistakes. Even then no one lost points in my book for making mistakes or not knowing something. The points were all won/lost by how people respond to criticism. I don't want to tell you that it's "a problem with you" or that you need to feel a certain way, I just want you to know that people are a lot less hostile than it can seem - especially if you're willing to own your mistakes and correct them :)

Thank you for speaking up.

You're welcome. Now that I've spoken I appear to be on a roll.

3Eugine_Nier8yI believe that's more-or-less the desired behavior for newbies.

The discussions on e.g. Flickr often consist solely of comments like "Awesome pic! Great colours, looking forward to your next contribution." or "I like your style, please post more!"... To me, this represents the prototype of internet friendliness - not that I would like it to see it here, not that it couldn't be easily faked, but one just cannot deny that it sounds encouraging. There is even no need to talk about ourselves or to say anyting substantial at all, just signal friendliness the most obvious way, it works.

(It's interesting to note how dramatically Flickr differs from Youtube in the commenter culture.)

Worth noting that in my little anchoring experiment the mindless critical comments were downvoted much more harshly than the mindless positive comments.

I do feel like LW is cold, and I'd rather not say "unfriendly", which to me sounds explicitly hostile, but it's non-friendly. Commenting here feels like Coming to Work, not like hanging out with friends. You know, where I need to remember to mind all of my manners. Seeing the orange envelope fills me with panic, as I am sure there is someone there just waiting to chew me out for violating some community norm or just being Wrong.

Truthfully, I think it is the lack of "small talk" that makes it feel unfriendly to me. It has the air of, "we're not interested in you personally, we're here to get things done". I want things to be personal. I want to make friends.

What are some Internet forums that don't feel unfriendly

Ravelry, mentioned above. It primarily serves as a place for swapping info about needlework patterns. There's some criticism inherent in such a project (e.g. "I found a mistake in the pattern you posted") but it's mostly about mutual admiration and support. It's not especially comparable to LW, though, since it doesn't aim to be about writing or discussion.

I value the honest truth-seeking and argument that happens here, but I don't think that has to exclude warmth.

My first-ever LW comment was not well-thought-out, and I got a curt "That makes no sense because ___" response. Currently that kind of thing wouldn't affect me as much, but at the time it stung. Someone else stepped in with the "Welcome to Less Wrong" post that made it feel friendlier, which was good.

Another early experience that had me thinking "These people are jerks" was reading the Bayesian Judo post from the Sequences, which seemed to be about how to embarrass people at parties by proving your superior intellect even after they tried to disengage from the conversation.

0Desrtopa8yI worry sometimes that I may be reinforcing this sort of problem. I can be welcoming when I'm mindful, but a number of times I've found myself posting comments (such as here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/8g8u?context=1#comments] ,) which would be culturally acceptable in an exchange between established members, but may be too hard on someone who can't fall back on the knowledge that they're still accepted and respected as a community member. On the one hand, we don't want to drive down our standards as a community, but on the other hand, if we expect newcomers to be up to at least the average level of established members here, we'll be filtering out a lot of the people who stand to actually learn from participating.

I try to practice Rekcorc's Rules myself, starting sentences with "Yes, "Good," "You're right," "Thanks," and other words with little content other than an (honest) recognition of the value of the person's statement.

Oddly, I've been trying to break exactly that habit in real life -- too many people seize on it as surrendering all points under discussion, and then respond to further argument like you're shooting from a white flag. The reaction is something along the lines of: "What the hell is your problem? You just said I was right!"

LW seems too sane for that, thankfully.

9JoshuaFox8yGood point [Self-referential humor wink]. But on the other hand, someone once complemented my manner at work (a very rare thing, and I think it was honest), for being respectful of other people's views using such techniques. And I assure you that after saying these politenesses, I go ahead to politely but assertively, even aggressively contradict people whenever I need to. [Douglas Hofstadter would be proud, self-referential wink #2.]

This is something I've heard several times, so I'll accept it as correct.

Selection effects. Those who have an issue with the status quo are far more likely to complain than those who like it are to praise it.

4Desrtopa8yOn the other hand, people who're put off by the atmosphere and leave immediately (and I've spoken to a number of whom this was the case) are going to be saying far less, at least within the community, than people who stick around.
4Nisan8yAn old friendly forum I used to frequent had lots of silliness and emoticons and exclamation marks.
2jooyous8yPerhaps we should invest in a tasteful set of greenish smileys.
4daenerys8yI was once told that someone would upvote me iff I got rid of the smiley in my comment. (or perhaps it was an "lol")
8[anonymous]8yI think I once saw a comment by someone stating that they had a policy of systematically downvoting all comments containing an emoticon, except exceptionally good ones.
3Nisan8yI heard that there's a user who downvotes all comments that don't have emoticons.
4[anonymous]8yo.O (No, the point of this comment is not to test hypotheses about karma.)
2prase8yHope that wasn't me. My dislike for emoticons has somehow waned during recent years and sometimes I even use them myself when I want to be really sure that my interlocutor doesn't misinterpret me as being serious when I am not, but I am the sort of person that has commenting policies and it's not that improbable that this was one of them. I still hate "lol" pretty passionately, however.
3NancyLebovitz8yI'm ok with LOL, unless it's someone LOLing at their own jokes.
3Desrtopa8yI don't like lol, but I don't mind it too badly when it's being used where the person would genuinely be laughing out loud. When people use it as a placeholder or punctuation, which is often the case, I regard it as I would someone who actually laughs at inappropriate points in a conversation. Not positively to say the least.
3[anonymous]8yI'm noticing that I like capital LOL more than lowercase lol: this is either because LOL is an acronym, or because I've just been primed by the two of you.
2jooyous8yThat ... confuses me so much. Did you do it?

Did you do it?


I will openly second that the LW style feels rude to me, and the style that I've learned to write in while posting on here also feels rude.

For the person who asked for an example of a "nice" forum: The comments on TED talks always struck me as nice but instructive.

1[anonymous]8yOh, and I've just remembered this: -- Eric S. Raymond and Rick Moen [http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html] (I won't comment about that.)
0Desrtopa8yWhile I favor more mindfulness of being welcoming and considerate here, I am heavily opposed to the use of smilies. The person daenerys is referring to in her comment is not me, but I just don't like them.
0jooyous8yYeah, I noticed that smileys are apparently pretty controversial. Is there anything specific you dislike about smileys? Are there things that make you tolerate some smileys more than others? I generally don't like smileys that are too yellow and too big so they stretch out lines of text and don't match the color scheme and sometimes are animated and boingy, which is why I specified tastefulness and greenishness. We could also have some sort of policy where you can only use one in a row so people don't just spam smileys. But that's just my preference!
2Desrtopa8yIt's hard for me to say exactly what I dislike about smilies. My best approximation is that I try to parse text as if it were speech, mentally inserting things like tone and facial expression where appropriate. Smilies don't parse as speech, and I'm already mentally inserting the elements of tone that they're supposed to stand in for. The way it affects me is rather like a person ending a sentence with "Fweeeee!" And when I ask "Why did you make that sound?" they say "So you can tell I'm enthusiastic!" If I had been taught to read in a context where smilies were effectively punctuation marks used to denote tone, I might not feel any differently about them than, say, exclamation marks. But I wasn't, and as is I can't help thinking of them as unnecessary and annoying additions to a text that should be expressive enough on its own, the way I can't help thinking of wordless emotive noises tacked on the ends of sentences as extraneous and annoying.
4jooyous8yThat makes a lot of sense. Smileys aren't very natural for text within paragraphs because paragraphs can convey tone as a whole entity. But for those of us who learned to type in chat/IM environments, smileys make a huge difference because you don't have a whole entity to reference in that situation. A conversation is a stream of statements, so if someone says "you stupid jerk!" in IM, you're expected to reply -- but in a conversation it would be clear that they really mean "you stupid jerk! =P" through tone and facial expression. So that's how people naturally become smiley-dependent.

Brief data point: I am female and I don't have a problem with the tone as such. I don't post much because I am put off by the high standards of thinking and argumentation required, but in general I approve of those standards being there and would hate to read the warm-fuzzy version of LW where bad/boring threads proliferate because people are worried about coming across as cold.

A semi-related point is that I like the general air of emotional detachment around here because in in the real world I often see expression of negative emotional reactions used as a relatively cheap form of manipulation, and I worry that encouraging open expression of emotions here (which is definitely a component of 'warmness' as I understand it) would cause a slippery slope effect where that kind of manipulation would become much more common.

6Viliam_Bur8yI guess we need a poll to collect the data points. Perhaps in the next article, because now here are almost 400 comments and it would be hard to see.

Warning- Submitters were told to not hold back for politeness. You are allowed to disagree, but these are candid comments; if you consider candidness impolite, I suggest you not read this post

I find this warning ironic given the nature of the complaints that are subsequently expressed.

9[anonymous]8yI think there is an important difference between the two situations. The statements posted above were solicited by a third party, somebody who asked for candid responses, and who in turn posted a warning before releasing the statements into the community, open to all and without targeting any individual. The coldness which these statements mention (among other things) is unsolicited, directed against individuals, and comes un-buffered by warning or apology. That seems to be why their complaint with it. I understand that you're probably just making a light-hearted throwaway comment.

The statements posted above were solicited by a third party, somebody who asked for candid responses,

Yes, but it was understood that the responses candor was not directed at the solicitor.

I understand that you're probably just making a light-hearted throwaway comment.

Actually I had a serious point, that the statement constituted a tacit admission of the importance of candor to a rational discussion. If the above sentence was your attempt at a disclaimer, it back-fired horribly.

2[anonymous]8yI had actually intended to write another whole paragraph explaining that maybe you were making a throwaway comment and maybe you were making a serious argument, but either way I felt I should present my rebuttal for one reason or another. Unfortunately, I got called away to work in a hurry and had to truncate my post mid-sentence and unedited. That said, it reads to me like a relatively minor piece of awkward/socially inept phrasing that I would have probably ignored if I'd been on the receiving end. Have I missed some piece of LW social etiquette, or is this just one of those moments when I sound like a complete berk and don't notice it until it's pointed out? My point, though, was that it is possible, and often optimal, for both candor and sensitivity to coexist. After all, if maintaining pleasant relations and high-spirits allows individuals to perform at a higher intellectual level, then there is appreciable utility to making sure your honesty doesn't grate on people. This doesn't mean one has to be dishonest, just that sometimes it's better to take precautions like the ones taken in the original post. I suppose another example of that sort of caution is apologizing when you sound like a berk, so: sorry. :)
1magfrump8yBased solely on observing this post without context or inferrence, I think the statement constitutes a tacit admission of the importance of candor to getting people on LessWrong to listen to you rather than its importance to "rational discussion."
4jooyous8yI think the submitters were frustrated. Can we just all acknowledge that we occasionally get frustrated?
3DanArmak8yThat's dismissive of their complaints without actually addressing anything. Do you think the complaints are wrong?

I have suddenly acquired some sympathy for the 'keep it simple and blunt' contingent.

The transcript is incomplete, but has a fair amount about cordiality escalation and trying to decipher the possible meaning of the absence of a usual cordial signal. The audio includes a woman saying that she's apt to use an ellipsis rather than a period because she's concerned that a period is too blunt.

Can we discuss how LW's lack-of-niceness relates to the topic of men-and-women? I feel a little confused, and this insanely long comment is my attempt to ferret out that confusion.

I expect that most people who come to LW for the first time probably find the community somewhat threatening. The karma system does make you feel like you're being judged, everyone seems extremely smart and meticulous about being right, and there's a whole lot of background knowledge to absorb before you even feel qualified to open your mouth. This is exactly what I experienced when I first came here, so I agree with the OP entirely. But I'm a male, and nothing about this seems to have anything to do with sex or gender. My response to this feeling was to read the sequences, read comments, and become knowledgeable enough (about both rationality and community norms) to participate. The OP doesn't seem to complain that the community is only cold towards women, so if there's a difference here it would seem to be at the level of how this coldness is perceived or reacted to (no, I'm not about to conclude that women are at fault for being overly sensitive).

The sort of obvious, stereotype-driven interpretation he... (read more)

women who are on LW still tend to be more put off by the hostility.

Unless we have some availability bias here. Such as, people who dislike something, speak more in discussions about disliking it. And if those people are women, they are more likely to attribute their dislike to male behavior, than if they are men.

In other words, a reversed form of this. A man: "Wow, I dislike how people behave on LW." A woman: "Wow, I dislike how men behave on LW."

My personal guess is that the truth is somewhere in between. Some things that men do here, are unpleasant for women. But also, sometimes women attribute to "male behavior" something that actually is not a specifically male behavior... but because majority of LW users are male, it is very easy to assign every frustration from LW to them. For example, discussing PUA stuff and "getting women" may be really repulsive for many women. But a lack of smiling faces, disagreeing with someone's self-description, or feeling threatened by very smart people, that can be (at least partially) just a gender-independent consequence of having a website focused on rationality.

1wedrifid8yRobin Hanson has also speculated about differing payoffs for complaining [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2006/11/thank_you_maam_.html].
4Viliam_Bur8yThe different payoffs for complaining explain the presence of complaining. They don't explain the absence of... anti-complaining. As in: "girls, I seriously don't know what is your problem; I am a woman, and LW is the most friendly website ever". Did you ever see anything like this on LW? Me neither. (EDIT: OK, here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fmt/lw_women_lw_online/8hie] is a rather positive comment.) Imagine how much status [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2pv/intellectual_hipsters_and_metacontrarianism/] on LW a women could gain by defending men. Seems like no one takes it.
4Eugine_Nier8yWell, Nancy Lebovitz made a point of saying "I'm a woman and I don't have a problem with the tone".
3NancyLebovitz8yThanks. I was thinking about bringing that up, but on the other hand, what I said wasn't as hostile as wedifrid's suggestion of "girls, I seriously don't know what is your problem; I am a woman, and LW is the most friendly website ever", even though, as it turned out, I really didn't understand the problems a lot of people have with LW's tone.
0buybuydandavis8yRight. You didn't dismiss their discomfort, you just said that you didn't share it yourself.
3buybuydandavis8yThe mystery is resolved if you accept the men's rights activists claim. No one gains status by dismissing the needs of women. Not men. Not women.
2Viliam_Bur8yBroad claims should be reexamined for specific unusual situations (LW is an unusual social situation). Also to avoid mindkilling, it would be better just to cite the claim without saying who claims it. Even when outright dismissing is socially impossible, there can still remain some more subtle form of feedback. As a very extreme example, even in a totalitarian regime where no one can safely contradict the leader and everyone must clap their hands when the leader says something, people who disagree clap their hands slightly differently from people who agree. I wrote this comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fmt/lw_women_lw_online/8he1] before erratio wrote hers [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fmt/lw_women_lw_online/8hie]. (And I somehow missed or forgot NancyLebovitz's comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fmt/lw_women_lw_online/8h55].) Now, with the new data... I stand corrected. I guess in this situation, the positive comments by erratio and NancyLebovitz are as far as a woman can go without a status loss. Whether someone did or didn't go that far, that is an evidence we can use; and now that I see the evidence, I retracted the original comment. So, considering this evidence, now I think that the situation is mostly OK, and that the whole "LW Women" series probably suffers from availability bias and priming. The complaining women were more likely to participate, they were primed to complain ("told to not hold back for politeness"), and they were primed to focus on gender issues (by the fact that they were selected for being women). Just to make sure, by "mostly OK" I mean that I respect the wish to talk about sex/gender issues less. I don't think we can avoid them completely, because sometimes they are strongly relevant to the topic, but we should always think twice before introducing them in a thread. Some degree of reducing emotions is necessary for a rationality debate (regardless of gender), but perhaps we are too extreme in this, and could be a bit warmer, simply becaus
2MugaSofer8yUm, yes. The very first comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fmt/lw_women_lw_online/8hie] I saw here was exactly that. There are even more comments saying "girls, I see your problem; I am a male, but I too have experienced X" which fits the gender imbalance here.
0OnTheOtherHandle8yI'd be curious if women actually did complain more than men do, or if that's a myth, or if women are more likely to express displeasure in ways that are labeled "complaining" (as opposed to "arguing" or "debating")? I know that the plausible-sounding and widely believed claim that women talk more than men do but the effect seems to be either very small or nonexistent [http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003420.html]. It'd be interesting to see a study on this using a similar soundbite capturing device to find out if women did actually complain more. Even though there'd be issues with defining "complaining," it could be useful. I'd predict that Hanson is coming up with an explanation for an effect that doesn't really exist.
0buybuydandavis8yHanson momentarily hovered around the explanation a men's rights activists would give. Women express their needs because people care about women's needs and act to satisfy them. Men don't because no one cares what a man needs. If he needs something, it's his problem. This is particularly true with complaints of hurt or injury.
5Desrtopa8yI think this rather incorrectly conflates being "emotional" in the sense of being nonanalytic with being "emotional" in the sense of being sensitive to the actions and opinions of others. While people who don't have analytical inclinations are unlikely to have a place in this community as long as it continues to follow its intended purpose, I don't think that's necessarily the case for sensitive people. To take an example who immediately comes to mind (and I hope she doesn't mind my using her as an example of such), Swimmer963 has often made references to her own social sensitivity, in the sense of being powerfully affected by what she perceives others around her to think and feel. This certainly doesn't seem to have impeded her in becoming a valuable member here. It also obviously hasn't resulted in her being driven from the community, but if a sensitive individual had a poor initial experience here, it seems very likely that they would decide not to stick around.
2buybuydandavis8yI think a lot of things are getting conflated on the "emotional" side. 1 The ability to sense the emotion of others. 2 The ability to feel the emotions of others in yourself. 3 The likelihood of feeling an emotional reaction to the statements of others. 4 The people skills to effectively manipulate the emotions of someone else. Psychopaths are very good on 1 and 4 but not on 2 and 3.
0Eugine_Nier8yI would argue that being sensitive is something one has to at least partially overcome in order to be rational, i.e., one has to be able to ignore the social pressure to conform to popular irrational beliefs.
0Desrtopa8yThere may be a correlation between them, but I think the tendencies to feel the pressure to conform to others' beliefs and to be emotionally affected by the feelings and actions of others are separate. As Spurlock points out, Yvain also describes himself as being highly sensitive in the latter sense, but having read through the archives of his blog, I don't get the impression that the former is something he's had similar issues with.
0Spurlock8yYeah you're right. I think part of what I was wondering was whether it does make sense to group those 2 things under one heading, or just how strongly they're correlated. Now that you mention it, I seem to recall reading on Yvain's blog that he's also hyper-sensitive to negative criticism, so there's another data point for it not being tied all that strongly to gender. Edit: Aforementioned Yvain blogpost [http://squid314.livejournal.com/346011.html]
0Eugine_Nier8yIn that case he's good about not showing it.
4Eugine_Nier8yHow is this relevant? The important question is whether this interpretation is true. Why? All you've shown is that this correlation doesn't fully screen off gender.
1Spurlock8yFair point. I think I was using this as a proxy for truth, the same way you might ask "do economists believe X?" instead of "is X true about the economy?". But also I was up late. True. It is possible that empathic ability is affected by both gender and analytical disposition directly, rather than gender by-way-of analytical disposition. Or more realistically, that empathic ability is affected by analytical-ness as well as other, orthogonal personality traits, and that these might be gender-correlated as well. This interpretation seems messy from a complexity standpoint, but such is the subject matter. I wonder what other personality traits we'd have to account for before we could explain the gender difference. Also, there's the question of just how much of the difference is left over once we've screened off however much analytical disposition screens off. Again, I'm just hashing out confusion here, not claiming to have solutions.
0OnTheOtherHandle8yI think this is very important for putting questions like "Why aren't there more women interested in X?" into context. Even restricting it to people who regularly participate in online communities as opposed to using the Internet solely for Wikipedia and Google and funny YouTube videos and Facebook (maybe 15% of the population?), how many people total would be interested in LW? Maybe 0.1% of the men, and maybe 0.05% of the women? There's no reason to expect those people to be typical along any given dimension, even gender dynamics.
0buybuydandavis8yI think that's certainly part of it - they have different priors for the relationship of intent and associated comments. Theirs is probably more common in general. To put it differently, nerdy people have different habitual goals in speech. They're trying to communicate facts, not interact/handle/manipulate people. They may have empathic skills, but they're not always applying them. I wonder how much of the perceived distinction between male/female styles correlates to time spent in ideologically heterogeneous communities. If you're only used to discussions with an in group, the out group will feel very jarring and hostile. This is probably more of an issue for progressive posters, as libertarians rarely have the choice to be in an ideologically heterogeneous community. Also, I suppose anyone with any religious impulse would find the atmosphere rather hostile as well. And almost all emotional queues are lost online. For people who habitually make emotional evaluation a prime part of their mental focus in a discussion, it must be rather disorienting, while nerds will be perfectly comfortable and at home. Nerds were made for the net, the net was made for nerds.

FWIW, one of the things that caught my attention about this community, and encouraged me to stick around, was the emphasis on valuing accuracy and precision (which I value) without the "barbs are part of the fun/putting relish into a debate" style you describe here (which I dislike intensely).

There are lots of "nice is more important than true" spaces on the net, and lots of "being unpleasant to people is part of the fun" spaces; and an astonishing number of spaces that are both. A space that manages to even approximate being neither is rare.

They have their place in certain forums, LW isn't one of those forums.

From what I've read, women are apt to do more housework and childcare than their spouses, so there might be a matter of total work hours-- or that one might be balanced out by men taking jobs with longer commutes.

I find it interesting that you site evidence that is exactly what traditionalist theories of gender would predict, and not even mention them as a possible explanation.

Why Our Kind can't Cooperate is relevant here. No one else has posted a link yet, so here it is. Anyone who hasn't read it should read it before getting involved in the discussion here, as it deals with what seems to be the very same issue.

4curiousepic8yIs anyone up to the karma of creating a good TL;DR for that article to post as summary on the wiki for frequent reference? It seems like this would be a very useful thing.

I don't think I've seen that on LW, but I also haven't looked for it.

The version of the argument I'm familiar with boils down to 'regression to the mean.' Because tests provide imperfect estimates of the true ability, our final posterior is a combination of the prior (i.e. population ability distribution) and the new evidence.

Suppose someone scores 600 on a test whose mean is 500, and the test scores and underlying ability are normally distributed. Our prior belief that someone's true ability is 590 is higher than our prior belief that their true ability is 600, which is higher than our prior belief that their true ability is 610, because the normal distribution is decreasing as you move away from the mean. If the test was off by 10, then it's more likely to overestimate than underestimate. That is, our posterior is that it's more likely that their real ability is 590 than 610. (Assuming it's as easy to be positively lucky as negatively lucky, which is questionable.)

The same happens in the reverse direction: abnormally low scores are more likely to underestimate than overestimate the true ability (again, assuming it's equally easy for luck to push up and down). Depending on the pre... (read more)

6NancyLebovitz8ySo the better a woman does, the less you believe she can actually do it. At what point do you update your prior about what women can do? This is reminding me of How to Suppress Women's Writing [http://books.google.com/books/about/How_to_Suppress_Women_s_Writing.html?id=wXO2MAIJN4YC] .

So the better a woman does, the less you believe she can actually do it.

Not quite. (Saving assumptions for the end of the comment.) If a female got a 499 on the Math SAT, then my estimate of her real score is centered on 499. If she scores a 532, then my estimate is centered on 530; a 600, 593; an 800, 780. A 20 point penalty is bigger than a 7 point penalty, but 780 is bigger than 593, so if by "it" you mean "math" that's not the right way to look at it, but if by "it" you mean "that particular score" then yes.

Note that this should also be done to male scores, with the appropriate means and standard deviations. (The std difference was smaller than I remembered it being, so the mean effect will probably dominate.) Males scoring 499, 532, 600, and 800 would be estimated as actually getting 501, 532, 596, and 784. So at the 800 level, the relative penalty for being female would only be 4 points, not the 20 it first appears to be.

Note that I'm pretending that the score is from 2012, the SAT is normally distributed with mean and variances reported here, the standard measurement error is 30, and I'm multiplying Gaussian distributions as discus... (read more)

7NancyLebovitz8yThanks for the details. Can you see how this sort of thing, applied through a whole educational career, would tend to discourage learning and accomplishment? Even if it's true (at least until transhumanism really gets going) that the best mathematicians will always be men, it's not as though second rank mathematicians are useless.
6Vaniver8yYes. In general, I recommend that people try to do the best they can with themselves, and not feel guilty about relative performance unless that guilt is motivating for them. If gatekeepers want to use this sort of effect in their reasoning, they should make it quantitative, rather than a verbal justification for a bias. It's not clear how desirable accurate expectations of future success are. To use startups as an example, 10% of startups succeed, but founders seem to put their chance of success at over 90%, and this may be better than more realistic expectations and less startups. For clever women, though, there seems to be a significant amount of pressure to go into STEM fields followed by high rates of burnout and transfer away from STEM work. What rate of burnout would be strong evidence for overencouragement? I'm not sure.
6NancyLebovitz8yHaving to deal with biased gatekeepers isn't the same thing as feeling guilty about relative ability, even if some of the same internal strategies would help with both. How likely is this?
3Vaniver8yAgreed; that phrase was more appropriate in an earlier draft of the comment, and became less appropriate when I deleted other parts which mused about how much people should expect themselves to regress towards the population mean. They have a lot of private information about themselves, but it's not clear to me that they have good information about the rest of the population, and so it seems easier to judge one's absolute than one's relative competence. On topic to dealing with biased gatekeepers, it seems self-defeating to use the presence of obstacles as a discouraging rather than encouraging factor, conditioned on the opportunity being worth pursuing. Since the probability of success is an input to the calculation of whether or not an opportunity is worth pursuing, it's not clear when and how much accuracy in expectations is desirable. I don't know enough about the population of gatekeepers to comment on the likelihood of finding it in the field, but I am confident in it as a prescription.
1Eugine_Nier8yAs this sort of think becomes more common, it will be necessary to take into account the fact that others are also doing this when making these calculations. And once transhumanism gets going it will be the case that the best mathematicians will be the people who received intelligence upgrade "Euler" as children. My point is that if you're hoping for transhumanism because it will solve problems with inequality of ability, you should be careful what you wish for.
0blashimov8yIt seems to me that, given people are already sexist, and given that telling someone their group has a lower average directly lowers their performance, such a re-weighting should never ever be used.
3gwern8yI'm not sure you're using the right numbers for the variability. The material I'm finding [http://core.ecu.edu/psyc/wuenschk/stathelp/Regression2Mean_Expected.doc] online [http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/regrmean.php] indicates that '30 points with 67% confidence' is not the meaningful number, but simply the r correlation between 2 administrations of the SAT: the percent of regression is 100*(1-r). The 2011 SAT test-retest reliabilities [http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/Test-Characteristics-of%20-SAT-2012.pdf] are all around 0.9 (the math section is 0.91-0.93), so that's 10%. Using your female math mean of 499, a female score of 800 would be regressed to 800 - ((800 - 499) 0.1) = 769.9. Using your male math mean of 532, then a male score of 800 would regress down to 800 - ((800 - 532) 0.1) = 773.2.
1Vaniver8yHmm. You're right that test-retest reliability typically refers to a correlation coefficient, and I was using the standard error of measurement. I'll edit the grandparent to use the correct terms. I'm not sure I agree with your method because it seems odd to me that the standard deviation doesn't impact the magnitude of the regression to the mean effect. It seems like you could calculate the test-retest reliability coefficient from the population mean, population std, and standard measurement error std, and there might be different reliability coefficients for male and female test-takers, and then that'd probably be the simpler way to calculate it.
1gwern8yWell, it delivers reasonable numbers, it seems to me that one ought to employ reliability somehow, is supported by the two links I gave, and makes sense to me: standard deviation doesn't come into it because we've already singled out a specific datapoint; we're not asking how many test-scorers will hit 800 (where standard deviation would be very important) but given that a test scorer has hit 800, how will they fall back?
1Vaniver8yNow that I've run through the math, I agree with your method. Supposing the measurement error is independent of score (which can't be true because of the bounds, and in general probably isn't true), we can calculate the reliability coefficient by (pop var)/(pop var + measurement var)=.93 for women and .94 for men. The resulting formulas are the exact same, and the difference between the numbers I calculated and the numbers you calculated comes from our differing estimates of the reliability coefficient. In general, the reliability coefficient doesn't take into account extra distributional knowledge. If you knew that scores were power-law distributed in the population but the test error were normally distributed, for example, then you would want to calculate the posterior the long way: with the population data as your prior distribution and the the measurement distribution as your likelihood ratio distribution, and the posterior is the renormalized product of the two. I don't think that using a linear correction based on the reliability coefficient would get that right, but I haven't worked it out to show the difference.
1gwern8yThat makes sense, but I think the SAT is constructed like IQ tests to be normally rather than power-law distributed, so in this case we get away with a linear correlation like reliability.

So the better a woman does, the less you believe she can actually do it.

Yes; "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but ordinary claims require only ordinary evidence." If a random person tells me that they are a Rhodes Scholar and a certified genius, I will be more skeptical than if they told me they merely went to Harvard, and more skeptical of that than if they told me they went to community college. And at some level of 'better' I will stop believing them entirely.

At what point do you update your prior about what women can do?

To go back to the multilevel model framework: a single high data point/group will be pulled back down to the mean of the population data points/group (how much will depend on the quality of the test), while the combined mean will slightly increase.

However, this increase may be extremely small, as makes sense. If you know from the official SAT statistics that 3 million women took the SAT last year and scored an average of 1200 (or whatever a medium score looks like these days, they keep changing the test), then that's an extremely informative number which will be hard to change since you already know of how millions of women have done in the past: so whatever you learn from a single random woman scoring 800 this year will be diluted like 1 in 3 million...

0gwern8yNifty: I've found an explanation [http://dl.dropbox.com/u/85192141/1977-efron.pdf] of Stein's paradox [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stein%27s_example], and it turns out to be basically shrinkage!
0wedrifid8yAhh... "Expect regression to the mean ".
8drethelin8yThe funny thing is this kind of discrimination can lead to (or appear to lead to)the average elite woman being MORE [http://skepchick.org/2013/02/proving-and-quantifying-sexism/] qualified than the average man at a similar level.
3bogdanb8yIt occurs to me that from Vaniver's explanation one could also derive the sentence "So the better a man does, the less you believe he can actually do it." As far as I can tell, the processes of drawing either of the two conclusions are isomorphic. For that matter, the same reasoning would also lead to the derivation "So the worse a woman does, the more you believe she is actually better." (With an analogous statement for men. This is explicitly pointed out in the explanation.) The difference between the men and the women is point where we switch from "better/less" to "worse/more", and the magnitude of the effect as we get further away from that point. (That is, the mean and the standard deviation.) I can't figure out a way of saying this without making me sound bad even to myself, but it seems... I don't know, annoying at least, that you picked a logical conclusion that aplies exactly the same to both genders, but apply that to women, don't mention at all what appears to be the only factual assertion of an actual difference between the abilities of women and men (and which I haven't seen actually contested in neither this nor the earlier discussion on the subject), did not in fact criticise Vaniver's explanation---which, by the way, as far as I can tell from his post, is just an explanation for beo's benefit, I can't deduce from its text that he's actually endorsing using the procedure---and at the same time you manage to make both him and me, even before I participate, seem that we should be ashamed of ourselves, by sort of implying that he'll also do something else not mentioned by him, and not logically implied by the explanation, and that would have a bad consequence if done very badly. (Well, it feels that way to me, I can't tell if Vaniver took umbrage nor if I'm actually reading correctly the society around me with respect to which the shame relates.) I'm not sure if I have a point, exactly, I'm sort of just sharing my feelings in case it generates some i
2Nornagest8yShouldn't it be possible to estimate the magnitude of this effect by comparing score distributions on tests with differently sized question pools, or write-in versus multiple choice, or which are otherwise more or less susceptible to luck?
2gwern8yThe regression to the mean adjustment can be seen as a limited form of hierarchical [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierarchical_Bayesian_model]/ multilevel models [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multilevel_model] with a fixed population mean, so any one score gets shrunk toward the population mean. (I was reading about them because apparently the pooling eliminates multiple comparison problems [https://plus.google.com/103530621949492999968/posts/FTP7aq9mhc6], and Gelman is a big fan of them.)

Question: What is it exactly that is meant by "warmth" or "coldness?" I've heard those terms used to describe myself, I've heard them used to describe other people, but when my brain tries searching for an example, it comes up blank. Generally, I try to be specific. (<- Yes, that was a joke.)

"Warmth" means at least two things:

  1. The tendency to openly show one's emotional reactions to other people, whether with explicit words, or voice tone, or body language. Someone can be called "cold" if they speak in a monotone and rarely make clear facial expressions, or if they never acknowledge their emotional states.

  2. The tendency to recognize and (to some degree) reflect the emotional states of the people around oneself. The person who's usually first to ask someone else if they're all right when they're behaving oddly, for instance, is displaying warmth. A person who fails to notice that someone else is upset, or pretends to ignore it, is being cold.

3Sarokrae8yI'd agree with this, and add a point that the interaction between 1 and 2 is also important - a little signalling of empathy injects a lot of warmth into a comment or interaction.

Your friend complains that her boyfriend forgot to get her something for Valentine's day. A cold response:

This is consistent with both your current boyfriend's previous actions and your previous boyfriends' actions. You should spend some time thinking about why you seek out romantic partners that consistently disappoint you.

A warm response:

Aww, that sucks, I'm sorry. Hug? Wanna go look at pictures of kittens on the internet?

You can find another great example of a cold response in lukeprog's rational romance post.

5Zaine8yExample Comment: There are far too many solar flares on Sol, due to reason X. They can be reduced by measure Y, but it will cost many thousands of kangaroos, which Australians support but no other country will help in the measure's implementation. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- * Warm Critique A: I had heard of reason X as well, but I found out that actually reason X is not as logically sound as 'twas thought to be. The base premise that derives reason X was disproved in experiment Z, which you can read a summary of here: , or read in full here: . [Optionally insert comment intended to be slightly humorous for extra warmth, especially if the comment ends with an exclamation mark, here.] * Cold Critique B: There is no viable way of implementing measure Y, as shown here: _; Australia is unsupported in finding a partner for research into potential methods for the implementation of Y, and not just unsupported in the implementation itself (which is currently impossible in the first place). Australia's government probably suffer from the sunk cost fallacy due to all the resources they invested in the inevitably worthless kangaroo solution; they refuse to terminate the project. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- * Warm Response to B: Yeah, that was a prime example of the sunk cost fallacy, wasn't it? Or amusing, at least. Fortunately for Australia's government, reason X proved to have little supporting fact (see my comment here: _ for details). They were able to quit the project without much backlash in the end! * Cold Response to ↑: Ah, so they did. Though I'd hardly call it a prime example of the sunk cost fallacy. They did have some reason to think it a worthwhile pursuit. * Alternative Warm Version of ↑: Oh, I didn't know that; thanks for the update[. or !] To be fair to Australi
2Larks8yThis seems like a reasonable set of examples, though I'm not someone who was concerned by a lack of warmth, so not ideal to judge who well you've understood their critique. My only concern is that you might have been unfair to the warmth side, as your cold responses look much better - I'd much rather have them, efficient, information dense and clear as they are.
1bogdanb8yI upvoted you for giving the examples. Though, given that I mostly share Michelle's... let's say difficulty with the concepts, I can't quite tell if they're correct examples :-) Hmm, I kind of agree with Larks, I think I tend to prefer "colder" discussions (in general, not just your examples). I like jokes, and the occasional affectation (like the "'twas" you used there), and I love people mixing seriousness and funny stuff as long as the serious part remains mostly correct (like that formal ecological analysis of the prey-predator dynamics in Buffy that circulated at one point on the net), but few people can keep that up all the time, and I get really off-put when things become wordy just to avoid "touchy-feely"(x) people getting offended. (x: I don't mean that deprecatingly, that's just the label my brain attaches to some things. It's weird, I sort of theoretically agree with what (seems to me) is the general-population idea that coldness is bad and warmth is nice, it's just that in practice it often annoys me. Though I'm also annoyed by intentional cold comments (acid sarcasm and the like), which get the "bad touchy-feely" label.) I can't tell what practical lessons to draw from this. Personally, other than adding a smiley or an exclamation mark now and then I don't really know how to make myself not sound cold.
1Zaine8yI thought this a warm response, probably due to the use of words that convey emotion: "I ... share" ; "I think" ; "I like" ; "I love". Also, I find intentional colloquialism and qualifiers warm as well (excluding slang, though I think that a personal quirk): "... stuff" ; "that's just ... some things" ; "It's weird" ; "sort of" ; "it's just" ; "Hmm" ; "kind of". Caveat: Overuse of qualifiers can become grating.
2Elithrion8yIt is my impression that the aforementioned terms are primarily used to describe styles of speech or writing. A more technical style which focuses exclusively on conveying the idea as precisely as possible, and which perhaps adheres to some particular well-defined style guidelines (as, for example, this sentence and the preceding one), is considered cold. On the flip side, when you're more conversational, try to get across some sort of emotion, or just generally appeal to the person you're addressing (in a friendly way!), that's more warm.

The mistake goes like this:

I'd say something about myself.

They'd disagree with me.

I agree this can be annoying, on the other hand someone with an outside view can notice things about us that we ourselves might not. Remember, the fundamental attribution error goes both ways.

I don't believe that you believe this. (See? Wasn't that annoying?)

Actually, it was helpful. Rereading my comment I noticed it sounds like I'm trying to say that on the whole the boyfriends' behavior is positive; whereas, I meant to imply that it's mostly negative, but occasionally has redeeming features.

I annoy my partner with this sort of thing regularly. Perhaps I should stop. On the other hand, there have been several times in my life when other people (therapists, relatives, friends) more accurately assessed my behavior than I did at the time. Just because this behavior is annoying doesn't mean that the person doing it is incorrect. I don't buy the "How could you possibly know me better than I know myself" argument.

7Qiaochu_Yuan8yAgreed. But just because it might be correct doesn't mean it isn't annoying (which is the point I'm trying to make).
4NancyLebovitz8yMy tentative take is that it's less annoying if you have specific evidence rather than a general principle that people can't really be like that. Or possibly if you say something like, "I'm surprised-- what do you have in mind?".
6Rukifellth8yHe probably did find it annoying, though I can't imagine that comment working the way you intended. His main justification for "biting the bullet" is going to be that biases could hinder a useful analysis. In this case, useful analysis is the thing that lets a person pause and think "this person isn't just against me., he's trying to tell me something". Since you didn't provide a useful analysis of why he didn't actually believe that, you managed to annoy him without actually demonstrating that annoyance is a valid response. The disregard of annoyance as a valid response can be attributed to people at LW being encouraged to ignore their own emotions in situations like above, based on the idea that most misunderstandings are based on emotional biases that cloud proper thinking.
5Qiaochu_Yuan8yDisagree. When Eugine reads the first sentence of what I said above, he's going to be annoyed whether or not I follow up the sentence with an explanation. It was an annoying sentence. It is good to try not to be affected by the emotional valence of statements, but it is also good to recognize that your statements have emotional valences (and that you can control these). We should optimize for making [helpful comments] and making [comments that give other people the opportunity to test their ability to resist letting emotional biases cloud their judgment] separately.
4Rukifellth8ySo it was an explanation-by-demonstration.

I agree with this. I find about 50% (very rough estimate) of the time when I say "I think this is what is going on in my head" and my OH disagrees, he's right and I'm wrong. I usually to have a strong tendency to rationalise, and I don't think I'd be close to how successful I am with Alicorn-style luminosity without that sort of outside input (though admittedly I'm still pretty bad - that stuff is hard!). I reciprocate when he introspects as well.

I do still find it annoying and instinctively argue back, but results spoke for themselves when I turned out to be wrong, and now I welcome it as an overall positive-utility interaction even though it still annoys me on an instinctive level.

6Pfft8yThis nicely dovetails with Alicorn's luminosity origin story [http://alicorn24.livejournal.com/45838.html]: people in her life refused to believe claims about her own mental states, and this experience was so intolerable that she resolved to become an obvious expert on mental states. Now the circle is... complete?
2jooyous8yI agree that this happens but I think it's not nice to point it out unless the user has specifically requested it? If you think it's important to point out, then starting with questions and asking permission to offer input are more respectful and effective ways to communicate For example, I will sometimes respond to a direct question about feelings or emotional states, and people will jump in to tell me I am rationalitying wrong. Even though I made no mention of how I handled that emotional state or what my actions were! I was just reporting on the initial situation. It's in those times that people usually just tell me to think/do what I usually do and it's arrogant and not particularly insightful. =/
0MugaSofer8yI can't speak for your experience in this case, but this is, after all, a rationality/unbiasing site. If they think you're Doing It Wrong, then it's not exactly offtopic to point it out.
1NancyLebovitz8yOn the other hand, people who offer correction (and offering correction can be a very strong motivation) should consider how much evidence they're got that they're addressing a real problem.
1jooyous8yOr that they're addressing it in a way that is likely to motivate the person to correct it!

Hi, I am Berna, and I am a 'people pleaser', a.k.a. a wuss. You're too right, it does mean you're in for a rough time to have this almost pathological need to be liked. Conflict, in any way, shape or form, scares me terribly. I often wish I didn't need to be nice all the time. You know, I really like being nice, but occasionally I'd like to have a choice about it. I'd like to be nice because, well, it's nice, not because I'm scared not to. And yet, I dare to comment on LessWrong sometimes, isn't that amazing?

I am a woman, and until now, I've always thought LW was just fine. Sure, when I comment here, I am even more careful than anywhere else I write, because the standard of writing here is so high. And sometimes, when I write something that I think might in the least be controversial, I wonder if I really don't have time to read LW just now, or is it that I might have gotten downvotes? But that's all about me, it isn't a problem with LW.

LW is a haven of sanity and civility to me. Just compare it to the comments on YouTube, or any news site, the WoW forums... well, just about anywhere on the Internet. I was seriously amazed when I discovered this place a few years ago.

4CronoDAS8yThat is high praise. Thank you.
2buybuydandavis8yHi, Berna. I've asked before "what's so wrong about being judged?", so if you don't mind, I'd like to get you to elaborate on this. I wonder whether in fact you need to be liked, and whether it's the results of conflict, the conflict itself, or the anticipation of conflict that's so painful. And is it conflict, or judgment? An Aside Back to our discussion My guess is that you don't run around town needing to make more and more people like you, so that "needing to be liked" isn't the most accurate expression of your need. Or maybe it is. But one can have conflict with someone one likes, so those are really two different issues. In fact, that makes a pretty good test case. When you know someone is on your side and likes you, do you still fear conflict with them? What if you already know they dislike you? More fear? Less? When you send in a post, are you worried about the responses you will receive? If you receive a negative one, does it really upset you? How long do you remain upset? Is it different if the exchange appears to be over, or if ongoing? After the thread is done, does your perception that the person doesn't like you still bother you if you thinj of it weeks later? I'd like to get a better sense of what the issue really is.
6bbleeker8yOh man, those are hard (but good) questions. I've had this window open for days now, and I'm still not sure how to respond. I think it isn't really conflict I fear, but negative judg(e)ment - rejection of me as a person. (I'll be cast out into the cold and dark forever!) And I dare to post here, because I think the chance of that is small; people here tend to react to what you actually say, and not to straw men they make up in their minds, like what happened in a newsgroup I used to be in long ago. Someone posted something, and I thought that could be misinterpreted, so I posted something along the lines of "someone could interpret what you say like [blabla]", and they (and someone else) responded like I'd written \"I* think you [blabla]". They made it clear they thought I was a horrible person for writing that, and I felt so crushed I didn't even attempt to correct their impression, thinking it'd probably just make things even worse, and I just left that group - I could have continued reading it without posting, but I was too ashamed. Writing this now, I feel ashamed too. No doubt you all think I'm a pathetic loser, and the only reason I'm not downvoted into negative karma is because most people don't even care enough to click the downvote button. (Please don't hit me, I'm down already!) So whenever I post here, I feel scared and ashamed (more or less, depending on how controversial I think it is). And then I usually feel relieved, when I see people don't hate me but just disagree with me. Or even give me upvotes! Yay! :-) And I know, your next question is going to be why I would feel ashamed. After all, I did my best, and if someone misinterprets me, all I did wrong was to not write clearly enough. Dunno. I guess my subconscious thinks that where there is smoke, there is fire. If I write something so bad that it makes people hate/dislike me, then it must have been a bad thing to say, and I must be bad for even thinking of it...
[-][anonymous]8y 12

I'm going to pre-emptively tap out from all discussions about gender of LW for a while (as I mostly used to do until a while ago) because I feel that, for a series of reasons, I'm unusually out of my depth when I participate in them.

(I'm so freakin' gender-blind that when last night I was in a flash mob against violence on women and I was the only male who actually danced and people pointed that out to me, I was like “Er... Was I? [looks around] Huh. I hoped there would be at least a couple more” and no I'm not making this up.)

4daenerys8yHuh, I always thought you were a female
7[anonymous]8yWell... That kind-of sort-of illustrates my point. Or does it? Jokes aside, I've already mentioned that I am unusually psychologically feminine for a man, but I would have guessed that my frequent steelmanning of stuff that many people strawman into rape apologia (e.g. pick-up artists or a series of articles on the Good Men Project) would give my gender away. But then again, I'm always steelmanning all sorts of stuff that many people strawman; I guess that's what happens when you grow up as a Catholic (read e.g. this [http://squid314.livejournal.com/337475.html] to get an idea of what I'm talking about).
0[anonymous]8yAnother example: I can't see anything obviously womanly about “Infinity is just an eight that fell down because of depression”, and yet when I shared it (in Italian) on Facebook, it was liked by seven females and zero males, so I guess I'm missing something. (Granted, six of them are in STEM fields, so it's not very surprising that they would enjoy nerdy humour, but I have plenty of male Facebook friends in STEM fields as well.)

Even if your emotional reaction to online discussions is generally better than that of thin-skinned people, it doesn't matter for purposes of this discussion.

Thin-skinned people exist. Some of them can write things worth reading. Some of them are interested in rationality. Some of them will become thicker-skinned, but it's a slow process. You don't have to like them, but they're part of the situation you're living in. It looks to me as though your focus is on how you'd like them to be different rather than the fact that they (as a category rather than as individuals) just aren't going to be different.

2David_Gerard8yIt took me until my early twenties to realise that not everyone was going to become thick-skinned, and that didn't mean they were defective or lacking an ability - that it was okay.
3Bugmaster8yI think it depends on how thin-skinned we're talking. Consider a hypothetical person who is thin-skinned to the point of being unable to update one's beliefs at all, or to take any criticism at all under advisement. IMO, such a person could definitely be described as lacking an important ability.
0buybuydandavis8yIt's not whether mine's better or worse than theirs, it's whether they have a better way available to them. As I've said, I have my own trust issues. I've closed many opportunities for myself thereby. When I see people doing the same thing, I point it out. If someone was pounding their face into a wall, I'd point out that was unnecessary too. Why are their options That Which Must not be Named? And it's not whether I'd like them to be different, it's whether they'd like themselves to be different. They're not participating in a venue they'd like to participate in. I am. If they're waiting around for the forum to change in tone, they're waiting for a train that's a long way off. Whether they change really isn't a burning issue for me. It's too bad if they don't participate. But the world is full of people who aren't participating. I live in the world that is, and there are plenty of discussions for me to have in that world. I supplied links on modes of discussion. I've discussed the political dynamic of people with different preferences sharing a commons. I've explained how my saying "you're wrong, and here's why" is intended as an invitation for further discussion on my part. I've discussed suggestions of ways in which I might be different, and I have shared my perceptions of the trade offs involved. I've asked things like "why is it so horrible to be judged?", so that I might understand the attitude better, and thereby more effectively deal with it. I've also asked what's with the attitude that one can't even suggest that the nicies change, since it seems to me the most incongruent aspect of the conversation. I've discussed that those offended have inaccurate priors on the hostility of others, and offered evidence for update. Isn't that what we do around here, share evidence to update our priors? Why is that off limits here?
0[anonymous]8yI don't prima facie see anything wrong with suggesting that unusually thin-skinned people should stop being so thin-skinned. That being said (and I'm not necessarily suggesting that you disagree with this or vice versa, I'm just saying it because I think it should be said, either way) given that the world does contain people of differing skin thicknesses, I'd argue that it isn't optimal to just expect people to change their ways and not modulate one's own behaviour. Applied generally, that course of action is guaranteed to cause some emotional hurt to some people. There are easy ways to moderate this hurt which don't involve significant sacrifices in other areas. As long as it doesn't prevent rational discussion, or force people to append big, circuitous apologies to their arguments, courtesy is a net positive in most social forums. I also think that courtesy is beneficial in that it often eases the skin-thickening process, but that's another conversation, and I don't have any numbers to back that up.
4buybuydandavis8yIt isn't optimal for anyone to do that. The problem is that we have a fundamental disagreement over what behavior qualifies as courteous, at least in theory. That's the other problem. Lots of talk in generalities, with few concretes. We're talking about trade offs without elaborating on the specifics of the trade off, but it's the specifics that determine the balance.
2[anonymous]8yYou're right, I should have used a better term than courtesy, but I didn't want to over complicate the sentence. I should have instead said, "making concessions to other people's ideas of courtesy (and since this is an open forum, that sets quite a high upper bound for the possible politeness-expectations of the audience)". What I'm getting at is: the only real cost of softening one's tone is a slight reduction in efficiency. You can still say all the same things, it just requires a little extra footwork to steer around offending people by adding fluff like, "I don't mean to offend you, but I want to convince you that..." in front of the words, "you are wrong." Or whatever. That's a very trivial example. Obviously it's too much to hope for that one could avoid offending anyone ever - the effort required would outweigh the benefits. But there has to be an optimal point on the curve between "offending too many people for lack of fluff" and "drowning in fluff and not getting anything accomplished". And ultimate point I'm trying to make is that it isn't enough for one to just maintain a softness of tone that is comfortable for oneself - one also has to put some effort into determining where one sits on the overall scale of politeness-expectation, and accommodating those who are higher up the scale, regardless of whether or not their expectations would be optimal in a world where nobody's feelings ever got hurt. EDIT: in fact, this is one of the things I mean by the word courtesy, but I can see that that might not be a widely accepted element of the definition. Again, I'm not necessarily suggesting that you personally need to correct your behaviour - I haven't been following your conversations. This is just a general principle that I wanted to voice.
0buybuydandavis8yI've discussed the costs elsewhere. I'd add the game theoretic costs of getting into a "I'm offended, you have to change" game. The costs of annoying and/or offending someone who doesn't appreciate being emotionally handled. The cost of not conveying your actual personality in the conversation. The non trivial cost of always maintaining two channels in every conversation - topic and niceness. Even if "only a little" niceness is required, the mental attention required likely has some floor. I think that's reasonable. In the case of a shared space, some tradeoff and consideration is expected on all sides.
3David_Gerard8yIt's that you then think of them as lesser or failed humans. This is an error I eventually realised was an error.
2[anonymous]8yWell, sure, if you do go on to think of them that way then you're doing it wrong. I'm not suggesting that anyone change how thin-skinned they are, though.

The von Neumann-Morgenstern theorem has nothing to do with utilitarianism, and it's not about what you "should" do. Those words don't appear in the statement of the theorem. The theorem does state that a VNM-rational agent has a preference ordering over lotteries of outcomes. In fact it can have any preferences over outcomes at all and still satisfy the hypotheses of the theorem. In particular, it can prefer fair outcomes to unfair outcomes for any definition of "fair".

If you want to argue that one shouldn't pursue fairness, you don't want to use the VNM theorem.

2Eugine_Nier8yAgreed, unfortunately a lot of people around here seem to interpret it this way. I would argue that fairness is a property of a process rather than an outcome, e.g., a kangaroo court doesn't become "fair" just because it happens to reach the same verdict a fair trial would have.

I assume she doesn't trust people to be benevolent.

I'm not going into the details of her emotional background, but I strongly recommend you read some of the Dysfunctional Family material at Making Light.

It's a good short course (or medium length course) in the variety of how people's families can affect their reactions to other people. Aliefs about how you're going to be treated are strong stuff.

A friend of mine read this thread-- she has long experience as a Quaker, a religion where at least a lot of people do substantial work to figure out how to deal well with each other and get work done.

Unfortunately, she doesn't want to post here because she hates scoring systems. They make her feel like she's being graded. I'm seriously hoping that other rationality blogs with different structures and populations evolve.

Anyway, she made a couple of points that I haven't seen in the discussion-- the definition of niceness that she grew up with included gifts and mutual aid. She said that women talk/post differently when they're away from men-- directly and without emoticons. I haven't spent enough time in all-women groups to have an opinion about this.

4Viliam_Bur8yA data point: My friend often writes on a "website for mothers", and they have a lot of emoticons (and animated!) and use them often. (Here [http://nanicmama.sme.sk/]; ignore the language, just click on a few random articles and scroll down to comments.) I would say that some women speak and write as your friend describes (simply because not all women are the same), but many women use the "feminine" way of speech/writing, and it's not only when men are present. Perhaps for some of them this is natural, and others only use it strategically in presence of men.

On Submitter A

You can expect that attractive people to get more attention from those attracted to them, including sexual attention, anywhere you go, including LW meetings.

I agree that sneering comments about those with low status, particularly status based on physical health and beauty, are unnecessary and harmful.

On male/female generalizations, just as a matter of language generalizations are generally taken as statistical generalizations, not as statements holding true for absolutely every member of the group.

I realize that's probably not so helpful, since there is no discernible difference between 51% and 99.999%. Wouldn't it be helpful if people tossed out a number to indicate an estimated sort rate of a generalization? Men are more X than women. Some kind of mutual relative entropy measure on their ranks? Area of the receiver operator curve? Jefrey's divergence! But I digress.

you don't convert people to rationality by talking about such emotive topics.

I don't think you hold the interest of people interested in rationality by saying "we like rationality, but we're not rational enough to discuss particular topics that happen to be ones you're likely to find important, so we taboo those topics".

8NancyLebovitz8yI strongly agree that people who talk about differences between men and women should say something about how large the difference is and the amount of overlap. I would also welcome some mention of how much evidence they have.

Thanks for posting this! I agree with Submitter B that LW can be cold and unfriendly and that this seems to be a general failure mode of the kind of people who post on LW. I think people feel like they shouldn't post a comment unless it either contains an insight or a counterargument to someone else's argument and that to counter this we should cultivate a norm of upvoting nice comments.

[-][anonymous]8y 33

I think people feel like they shouldn't post a comment unless it either contains an insight or a counterargument to someone else's argument

Users who feel this way are one of the best features of the community.

I think people feel like they shouldn't post a comment unless it either contains an insight or a counterargument to someone else's argument and that to counter this we should cultivate a norm of upvoting nice comments.

While I am personally actively trying to become more warm and friendly in my personal demeanor, and think that nicer comments are, ceteris paribus, more effective comments, I worry about seeking to institute niceness as a terminal rather than instrumental value. If one comes to LW for refined insights, they want to see insights and counterarguments, and posts and comments that are nice but not insightful are not particularly useful.

But it does seem like niceness as a terminal value is strongly linked to a more balanced gender ratio. Increased niceness will attract more women, and attracting more women will increase the amount of niceness.

It seems that the current population of LW undervalues niceness relative to the general population, but I can't tell if that's necessary or contingent. How would we know?

Good points! I also find it difficult to balance niceness with usefulness in textual comments.

One thing that may be on some folks' mind is that expressions of appreciation that don't also add something empirical or logical to the discussion are not likely to themselves be appreciated. If you post something I appreciate, and I comment to say merely "I'm glad you posted that!" I would expect that hardly anybody but you would be glad that I posted that.

I suppose that I could send a private message instead, but I would feel a little bit creepy sending a private message of appreciation to someone I don't know. I think I'd be more reluctant to send one to someone I thought of as a woman than someone I thought of as a man, too. (I don't endorse that behavior, but I suspect I have it.)

I wonder if the existence of voting as a way of expressing "mere" approval or disapproval disproportionately affects expressions of approval. Downvoting as an expression of mere disagreement is somewhat frowned upon; so do people upvote to agree and comment to disagree?

I agree with your second paragraph completely, and I would be averse to comments whose only content was "niceness". I'm on LW for intellectual discussions, not for feel-goodism and self-esteem boosts.

I think it's worth distinguishing niceness from respect here. I define niceness to be actions done with the intention of making someone feel good about him/herself. Respect, on the other hand, is an appreciation for another person's viewpoint and intelligence. Respect is saying "We disagree on topic X, but I acknowledge that you are intelligent, you have thought about X in detail, and you have constructed sophisticated arguments which took me some thought to refute. For these reasons, even though we disagree, I consider you a worthwhile conversation-partner."

When I began this comment with "I agree with your second paragraph", I wasn't saying it to be nice. I wasn't trying to give fubarobfusco warm fuzzy happiness-feelings. I was saying it because I respect fubarobfusco's thoughts on this matter, to the point where I wanted to comment and add my own elaborations to the discussion.

There's not much purpose to engaging in an intellectual discussion with... (read more)

Your comment has me wondering whether some folks expect niceness and respect to correlate. I've noticed some social contexts where fake niceness seems to be expected to cloak lack of respect. I wouldn't be surprised if some people around here are embittered from experiences with that.

It sounds like part of what Submitter B is complaining about is lack of respect. The guys she dated didn't respect her intellect enough to believe assertions she made about her internal experiences. I suspect this is a dearth of respect that no quantity of friendliness can remedy.

No kidding.

(And I'm having difficulty responding to the rest of this without using unhelpful words such as "normals" or "mundanes", so I'll leave it at that.)

1Plasmon8yThe human brain is fallible. That includes assertions made about internal experiences - such assertions may be wrong. If person A has reason X to believe that the result of person B's introspection is wrong, which is the more respectful [http://www.gwern.net/On%20Disrespect] course of action? * person A : person B, your account of your internal experiences may be wrong because of X. * person A : meh, person B can't handle the truth, I'll just shut up and say nothing.

How about a third option:

  • Person A : Person B, my model predicted Y because of evidence X. But your experience sounds like ~Y, so I was surprised and want to update. Tell me more about your ~Y experiences!

In other words, consider that the other person possesses evidence that you do not, and invite them to update you instead of trying to update them.

A non-gender example:

Atheist: Pentecostal, my model predicted that people would go home from church feeling bored, guilty, or self-righteous, because former church people I know talk about those experiences, and church people who are active in politics seem to be big on guilt and self-righteousness. But your experience sounds like church is a fun party, that you go home from feeling giddy and high. I was surprised and want to update. Tell me more about your religious experiences!

3buybuydandavis8yMy communicating my differing perception to the other person in Option 1 is my invitation to have them update me. Going through the song and dance of your third option is not required with some people, making them more efficient partners at finding the truth. I find people who require constant ego stroking in this manner, or who give it, literally tiresome in an intellectual endeavor.
8Luke_A_Somers8yIt seems to me that flat contradiction without any communication of being open to being convinced is a strongly suboptimal invitation to update the speaker. This is especially so in cases of strongly asymmetric information (either direction). 'Song and dance' appears to me to be a dysphemism (perhaps unintentional) for 'communicating what you mean' as opposed to 'indicating something in the general vein and hoping the receiver figures out what you meant'. Edited to add: option A is much more reasonable than I credited it, so while I'll stand by my first paragraph above, it's not particularly relevant to the post above. And yes, option 3 could be streamlined.
6buybuydandavis8yIt works just fine with a lot of people. For me, you can take that I'm open to being convinced as the null hypothesis. Most civilized people are. Aren't you? Thank you! I've been looking for that word forever. Not really, because 'communicating what you mean' was not what I meant. I was referring to kabuki dance of your ritualized formula for disagreement to stroke a person's ego so that he doesn't feel a threat to his status by my disagreeing with him. I don't think the fellow is really confused about whether I'm open to being convinced of the error of my ways. If I say "I think you're wrong because of X", does not the human impulse to reciprocity sanction and invite him to respond in kind? Does that fellow really need it explained to him that if I disagree with him on when the bus is coming, that he is free and invited to disagree with me right back? I don't think so. He: The bus is coming at 3:00. Me: No, it's coming at 3:10; that's when I caught it yesterday. He: But yesterday was Friday. Saturday has a different schedule. That seems like an everyday, ordinary human conversation to me, that no one should get all excited or offended about.
6Mickydtron8yI strongly suspect that tone and body language are a key component in whether the statement "that's not right" is interpreted as "I disagree, let's talk about it" or "shut up and think what I think". I further suspect that a tendency to interpret ambiguous or missing subtext in a negative or overly critical way correlates strongly with being "thin-skinned". This is partly based on having both of these characteristics myself. A potential counter-argument here is that it is not "rational" or useful to always assume the worst in personal interactions if you have evidence to follow instead (Have people generally meant the worst things possible when I have been unsure in the past?), but the important thing to remember here is that we are not dealing with people who have had time to be trained in that way. A martial arts master does not go all out against a beginner knowing that they will one day be able to handle it. It would be unwise to alienate a group of potential rationalists if there is a relatively simple way to avoid it. If it would cripple the discourse or otherwise be quite detrimental to implement any sort of fix, then I would not advocate that course of action. However, I believe that to not be the case. At this time, I would like to agree with RichardKennaway's observation that Plasmon's option A was quite different from the situation posited by Submitter B, and further agree with his hypothesis that even option A is some sort of improvement (largely due to the word "may"). My conclusion is that a few changes of word choices would be a low-cost, medium-reward first step in the right direction. This would include using words such as "may", particularly in the context of someone's perceived domain of expertise or cherished belief. Also, explicitly starting an evidence based conversation while voicing your disagreement. Example: I disagree with your statement that "Most civilized people are [open to being convinced]". As (anecdotal) evidence, I submit
6Luke_A_Somers8yIf one considers sufficiently impersonal topics like bus schedules? Yes, for the most part. Microcultures with strong elements of authority will have a much harder time with this assumption, even in horizontal interactions. I would not call all of these uncivilized, though I'm not a fan of them. It's not complicated to frame a conversation as a search for truth as opposed to a vs. argument. Many people go overboard in this. I agree that this is obnoxious. I maintain that a flat contradiction is in many cases insufficient, especially in those cases where the matter at hand is contentious or personal, or there is any degree of hostility or unease between the conversants.
5fubarobfusco8yWell, except that you would not be actually stating an invitation or request for more information. You would be assuming that the other person will interpret contradiction as an invitation for further discussion rather than as a dismissal, insult, threat, or other sort of speech act. (Humans use language for a lot of other purposes besides the merely indicative, after all.) If you say, "I'm having a party on Saturday," some people in some situations will take this to mean that you are thereby inviting them to come to the party. Others will think that you are merely stating a fact about your own social life. Still others will think that you are excluding them, just as if you had added, "... and you're not invited, you disgusting worm!" Some people hear an invitation. Some hear a statement of fact. Some hear an exclusionary insult. If you want to make it clear that you are inviting them, you say, "I'm having a party on Saturday, would you like to come?" or "... and you're invited!" This is not bullshit song-and-dance ego-stroking. It is clear communication, and in particular a way to address people's differing priors about what your communication could mean. It probably depends on recognizing that people have different priors, and that they arrived at those priors legitimately. (For that matter, if expressing curiosity about other people's experiences is an effective way to get data from them, then rationalists should practice doing it a lot until it is automatic and cheap System 1 behavior!)
1buybuydandavis8yYes. In this context, and most contexts, that's my null hypothesis. Isn't it yours? People are here to discuss, and not dismiss, insult, or threaten. Do you think I'm here to dismiss, insult, or threaten people? Do you think a large percentage of people here are? Do you think that anyone who says "you're wrong" is? That strikes me as a bizarre and thoroughly inaccurate prior. Or I certainly believe and hope it is. Am I wrong? Is it just foolish innocence on my part to think that people are here to discuss, and not stomp on other people to social climb or satisfy sadistic impulses? It wouldn't be the first time. In other contexts, yeah, there's a lot of that going on. And it admittedly took me a long time to figure that out. But I don't see it here. The trouble is, if it were, most of the people who know aren't going to tell you.
1David_Gerard8yYou're talking intentions, they're talking effects. This leads to you defecting by accident [http://lesswrong.com/lw/372/defecting_by_accident_a_flaw_common_to_analytical/] .
2Plasmon8yIndeed I agree that it is possible, and probably desirable, to phrase the argument less bluntly than I did. However, it seems to me that submitter B is arguing against making such arguments at all, not arguing to make them in a more polite fashion. Furthermore, here of all places, "If you (think you) posses evidence that I do not, show it and update me!" should be a background assumption, not something that needs to be put as a disclaimer on any potentially-controversial statement.
4Luke_A_Somers8yI rather doubt that submitter B would have had a problem with, "Really? Why? I ask because from out here it seems like you're a thinker." Certainly the cited reasons for the actual statement being objectionable do not apply to this modified form.
1buybuydandavis8yAfter the discussion, I think I've got a more concise option that achieves this end. Option 4: I disagree, because blah blah blah. Concise, and makes it about my differing perceptions and evaluations. Better than my original "you're wrong, because blah blah." I doubt that this entirely satisfies the nice camp, but I think it's a baby step in their direction.
3RichardKennaway8yI think you are framing the question in order to presuppose a conclusion. This is an error that is just as endemic on LessWrong as it is everywhere else. The first alternative is designed to look nice, respectful, and false, and the second to look nasty, disrespectful, and true. The bottom line [http://lesswrong.com/lw/js/the_bottom_line/] is "Niceness is dishonesty", and the example was invented to support it. Compare this with an example from the original post: This does not fall into either of those categories. It looks like this: * person A: no you're not! Which is what person A would say if they spoke honestly while thinking "meh, person B can't handle the truth, I'll just shut up and say nothing." Person A appears to be running an internal monologue that goes: "I know the truth. You do not know the truth. I have reasons for my beliefs, therefore I am right. Therefore your reasons for your beliefs must be wrong. Therefore you should take correction from me. If you don't, you're even more wrong. You can't handle the truth. I can handle the truth. Therefore I am right. (continue on auto-repeat)" That, at least, is what I see, when I see those two alternatives. The real problem here is what person A is actually thinking, and the invisibility of that process to themselves. For it is written [http://lesswrong.com/lw/on/reductionism/]: As long as A is running that monologue, how to express themselves is going to look to them like a conflict between "niceness" and "truth". And however they express themselves, that monologue is likely to come through to B, because it will leak out all over.
4Plasmon8yI was not arguing about the specific example given in the OP, where he (the person with whom submitter B was arguing) was apparently unable or unwilling to provide evidence for his assertion that she was mistaken about herself. You, and submitter B, may be entirely correct about the person she was arguing with. Perhaps I am overestimating the sanity of this place, but I do hope (and expect) that if similar arguments occur on this forum, evidence will (should) be put forward. In this place dedicated, among other things, to awareness of the many failure modes of the human brain [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Bias], to how you (yes you. And I, too) may be totally wrong about so many things, in this place, the hypothesis "I may be mistaken about myself; I should listen to the other person's evidence on this matter" is not a hypothesis that should be ignored. (note how submitter B does not consider this hypothesis in her example, and indeed she may have been correct to not consider it, but as stated I'm arguing in general here). The homeopath [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopath] who has treated thousands of patients, should listen to the high-school chemistry student who has evidence that homeopathy doesn't work. The physics crackpot [http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html] who has worked on their theory of everything for decades should listen to the student of physics who points out that it fails to predict the results of an experiment. And the human, who has spent all their life as a human in a human body, should listen to the student of psychology, who may know many things about themselves that they are yet ignorant of.
9Vaniver8yThat's a good interpretation, but I wonder if status is a simpler lens. Defining people and their traits is a high-status thing; the guy retorting that she's a thinker moves power from her to him in a way that suggesting wouldn't. Respect also seems subjective; I have basically stopped stating opinions around a friend whose rationality I do not respect because I don't think discussing contentious subjects with them is a good use of either of our times. If they say that they're a good judge of character, and I can think of three counterexamples, I'll only state those counterexamples if I respect them enough to think they can handle it. I also wonder about how much respect is subject-specific, and how much it's global [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lj/the_halo_effect/]. I can easily imagine someone who I trust when it comes to mathematics but don't trust when it comes to introspection.
7Error8yThis made me think of something irrelevant to your post, but relevant to the topic. I've been told that women are socialized not to overtly disagree with or otherwise oppose men. (this usually comes up in the context of careful date non-refusals) I tend to interpret such things as vaguely insulting, along the lines of saying I can't handle the truth. (or refusal) Is this interpretation shared by anyone here? What do the women here think of it?
2NancyLebovitz8yI agree it's insulting. I also believe that when people are rationally frightened of a group, the fear can take generations to fade even when conditions get better.
1Vaniver8yAvoiding overt disagreements is solid advice for anyone who wants to be well-liked, because they are often a social cost to the disagreer, and primarily benefit the person they're disagreeing with. It's not clear to me that the advice to not overtly disagree with men is as specific as it sounds, since it seems like overt female-female disagreements are also discouraged. To the extent that it is specific, I do suspect it is due to the physical risks involved.
2buybuydandavis8yThose are all things I'd have to discover about you. There are some here I consider worthwhile conversation partners because I recognize their usernames and have formed opinions of them. I don't expect respect from people who don't know me, and I don't even expect it from those that do know me. I am not due respect from anyone, I have to earn it, by their lights.

I suppose that I could send a private message instead, but I would feel a little bit creepy sending a private message of appreciation to someone I don't know.

I have sent several messages like that; to the best of my knowledge, they have always been taken well. Every message I've received like that has made my day; I suggest lowering your estimate of how creepy it actually is.

I do agree with you that such messages are murkier when at least one party could interpret it as romantic, and while that murkiness can be resolved it takes additional effort.

Downvoting as an expression of mere disagreement is somewhat frowned upon; so do people upvote to agree and comment to disagree?

That tends to be the pattern I notice for posts/comments that seem to be well-made; generally, more disagreeing / correcting comments than downvotes, and many more upvotes than comments that only express approval.

4fubarobfusco8yWhat I was wondering was a bit different: Imagine a forum with no upvotes and downvotes. (It might still have a "report as spam/abuse" button, moderation, and the like — I don't mean that it's completely unfiltered.) It will have some level of people posting comments of agreement and ones of disagreement. Now, imagine a forum identical to that one, but with upvotes and downvotes added. Some people who otherwise would comment on others' words, instead use a vote button. (And some do both.) In the second forum, there may be fewer total comments — because many people who would post "I agree!" or "Me too!" or "No way!" or "Shut up!" will instead use the voting mechanism. But does the addition of a voting mechanism absorb proportionately more expressions of approval than disapproval? (It may be that what I'm thinking of here is the old Usenet annoyance at people who posted merely to agree with another poster — "posting 'me too' like some brain-dead AOLer", as Weird Al put it. Voting mechanisms let us tell people not to post "me too" posts, but maybe some "me too" posts are more rewarding for the person they're responding to.)

I've long wanted a 'me too!' facility in forum posts - where you actually get to put your name down as agreeing, rather than just voting. It'd be compact enough to avoid the waste of devoting an entire post to it, and would lend the personal touch of knowing who approved.

It could even coexist with votes, being reserved for cases of total agreement - 'I'd sign that without reservation"

5Pentashagon8yMe too. In seriousness, I was thinking that allowing us to see who has upvoted our comments/posts would probably be helpful and encouraging, although hiding who has downvoted would help protect the voter's integrity and help avoid downvotes being taken as a personal insult. The risk would be the development of identifiable cult followings, undeserved reciprocation of upvotes, and similar.
3jdinkum8yI think it'd be helpful to have a small textbox to add a short comment to a poster where I can put "I agree!" or "Fallacious reasoning" or "inappropriate discussion" that only shows up in the poster's view so there is some feedback besides Up/Down, yet doesn't clog up the thread. I've never seen that function in a forum though, so perhaps the programming is simple.
2Mickydtron8yI have seen other forums that use this mechanism. They list which users "liked" the post right underneath the post itself. Those forums did not have a karma system, though, and it might seem that the systems are somewhat redundant, but I, for one, would process the two types of feedback differently in my meat-brain. In short, I sign the above comment without reservation.
6beoShaffer8yOne of my first reactions to the relevant part of the OP was thinking of this phenomena and feeling some sympathy for the Usenet old hands. I've been on forums were "me too" posts are common, and while they can sometimes be nice I also think that they can get annoying/distract from useful comment.

Usenet old hand speaking: Me too!

The norm I've noticed around here is to upvote for agreeing and general warm fuzzies, but not to downvote for disagreement alone. Downvoting seems to be reserved for thoughts that are not merely incorrect, but broken in some way. (logically fallacious, for example)

For my own posts, I find I appreciate an upvote as if it were explicit encouragement. I'm wondering if this mental reaction is common, and if so, whether it's limited to the males here. (as a pseudo-"score", I could see this being the case) Perhaps the karma system produces more warm fuzzies for the average man and little-to-nothing for the average woman. With karma being the primary form of social encouragement, that could make for a very different experience between genders.

Request for anecdotal evidence here.

For my own part, I like the karma system precisely because it provides a way to indicate appreciation without cluttering threads with content-free approval posts. That is probably the usenetter in me speaking. (tangent: I miss the days when usenet was where all the interesting conversations happened. Oh well.)

9NancyLebovitz8yI may be a somewhat atypical woman, but I appreciate upvotes. I do find it frustrating if I post something I think is substantial and it only gets upvotes. I'm here for conversation, not just approval.
1Error8yHrm. I think I agree on the frustration bit, but I'm unsure what to do about it. Datapoint: I almost didn't post this because it felt too me-too-ish. If you hadn't been responding to me, I probably wouldn't have.
3jdinkum8yI just don't understand the downvote/upvote thing, especially if the norm is/should be for broken thoughts. When I get downvoted (or upvoted), I often don't get a comment explaining why. So it's unclear where I'm broken (or what I'm doing right). That's frustrating and doesn't help me increase my value to the community. It'd be nice to have downvoters supply a reason why, in order to improve the original.
2drethelin8yA downvote without explanation can basically be translated as "Lurk Moar, Noob" When I downvote without explanation it's because I want less of what I'm downvoting AND I don't want the forums to be cluttered with explanations of what should be obvious.
0Luke_A_Somers8yI sometimes downvote without explanation if the post was highly upvoted and I thought it was merely decent.
3bbleeker8yI'm a woman, and I feel exactly as you do, so it isn't limited to males.
4Vaniver8yI think so, and the evidence I was providing was an estimate of what percentage of 'negative' responses (including corrections as negative) were comments vs. downvotes, and what percentage of 'positive' responses were comments vs. upvotes. Note that there are strong alternatives to the absorption model, since the activation energy is lower to vote than comment.
5jdinkum8yI believe the real issue that B. raised of LW being cold won't be effectively improved by posting "I agree!" replies, but requires some emotional involvement. A response that offers something to the OP, that gives something back. Like, why do you agree? What are the implications of you agreeing? Or, what thoughts or emotions does the content of the post bring up for you? The response doesn't have to be long, but it should be personal and thoughtful. A little bit more of that may go a long way towards developing community.

Personally I feel quite strongly that 'niceness' is way too vague a concept to in any way promote, no matter the social context.

I'd like to talk instead about the value of comments that are specific, positive (+ hopefully warm, without gushing), and cooperative. In short, creating a norm of definite, positive, 'working together to work out what's true' attitudes. I think it is fine to make comments that only express approval, as long as it is approval of a specific behaviour / characteristics and not blanket 'good job'. These kinds of specific comments help people evaluate themselves and encourage them to continue doing what works.

LessWrong is not a debate club -- we're trying to approach the truth, not merely win the argument. That means that things which keep us working together on that are a net win, providing they do not obscure the truth.

1Vaniver8yI appreciate the specificity of this breakdown; each of those three is something that I would endorse as directly useful most of the time.

I've posted a lot of messy examples all over this thread, but I think I've finally gathered my thinking now.

I would like to make a simple case that niceness clarifies communication. This is because not all disagreements are perfectly rational and sometimes contain defensiveness and other stuff that is difficult to filter out. Furthermore, even disagreements that are balanced and rational often fail to engage the original comment, and thus they come off as dismissive -- therefore, they unintentionally communicate "I don't respect you" or "I don't like you." Therefore, if it is difficult to predict whether your comment will unintentionally communicate "I don't like" you to the other person, then adding "but nevertheless I still like you" into what you said in some socially accepted way does increase the likelihood that what you wrote is perceived as what you meant to write.

Sometimes, this can be as small as a smiley. Or an exclamation mark. It doesn't have to be a crazy stream of niceties and smalltalk and hugs that them mundanes engage in on a daily basis in conversations of no substances because they're not cool like we are.

Hmm, so I'm thinking about smileys and exclamation points now. I don't think they just demonstrate friendliness - I think they also connote femininity. I used to use them all the time on IRC, until I realized that the only people who did so were female, or were guys who struck me as more feminine as a result. I didn't want to be conspicuously feminine on IRC, so I stopped using smileys/exclamation points there.

It never bothered me when other people didn't use smileys/exclamations. But when I stopped using them on IRC, everything I wrote sounded cold or rude. I felt like I should put the smileys in to assure people I was happy and having a good time (just as I always smile in person so that people will know I'm enjoying myself). But no one else was using them, and they didn't strike me as unfriendly, so I decided to stop using them.

Until I saw this comment, I had forgotten that I had adjusted myself in this way! In light of this, I may have to take back some of my earlier comments, as it really does seem like culturally enforced gender differences are getting in the way here, and that LW has little tolerance for people who sound feminine (perhaps because of an association bet... (read more)

Do other people associate smileys and exclamations with femininity, or is it just me?

Apparently! I started talking to someone about this and he just told me this exact thing independently of you. He said men can only use smileys with women because it's flirting. (??) Which is weird to me because I've met men who are WAY more animated than I am in meatspace. Do they also not use exclamation marks? I don't think I'd be able chat with them online if they didn't; my brain would explode.

But actually, I think this whole issue comes up because we subconsciously communicate a lot of those "I still like you! I'm not hostile! I'm still having a good time!" messages in meatspace through non-verbal things like smiles and pats and vocal tone, etc. So people that resist adding those into their text think they're being asked to do something extra that they never do, but I think, they do do it and just don't realize it because it comes more naturally.

2magfrump8yI agree with you, but: I might suspect that for many people on Less Wrong this does not come as naturally as it does to most people :P
2jooyous8yYou know, I was just about to make a poll about this! But I'm on an iPad, so that's a bad idea. Do you think a lot of LW people are bad at those cues in real life? Do you think they actively resent having to be good at them in real life as well? I figured LW-ers would recognize the utility of these messages out in meatspace, but it might have just not crossed their mind.
3magfrump8yI'd rather not speculate about "a lot of LW people," since I am just one person and I'm not making observations about myself, per se. But I have at least one friend in real life who struggles with social cues and I think she'd be pretty excited to find an environment where she didn't have to deal with them. So I'd imagine there are people with different perspectives on it, some of them actively against it, some passively supportive of the current setup, and some unaware that there's a decision being made, and I have no idea how to distinguish how many of each. I guess a poll would be appropriate.
1jooyous8yI sort of assumed that even people who struggle with social cues would understand their instrumental value, at least on an intellectual level. But there's definitely a typical mind component in that thinking because I know nothing about the social lives of most LW-ers or the average LW-er and how much they interact with humans in meatspace and how they feel about it. So I thought more about this poll and realized I would need one of those "strongly agree -- strongly disagree" matrices to get any good results. Which is an even heftier undertaking.
9mstevens8yOkay, after threatening, I had a go at hacking up a smiley gender detector for lesswrong irc. Looking at the counts of smileys-per-message by nick, no obvious pattern. Looking at averages: male avg 0.015764359871 female avg 0.0194180023583 The dataset I'm using is so male dominated I don't think the results can be particularly meaningful.
3daenerys8yAlso, the fact that LW itself isn't smiley friendly. An interesting project would be to gather data from the real life facebook pages of both males and females on LW and see if a discrepancy shows up there. People would have to volunteer their facebooks for you to look at which might cause a bit of a selection effect. (The less trusting/interpersonal types might be less likely to both volunteer their fb, and to use smileys) The reason I say this, is because I severely limit my smiley usage on LW.
0mstevens8yOne user who's part of the female dataset has already reported cutting out the smileys deliberately. As I say, I don't put much faith in the results. I did consider scraping lesswrong.com for data, but a) I wasn't sure of the etiquette b) I don't have a list of female users (maybe I can get them from the survey?) c) it's a lot more coding.
2Eugine_Nier8yHow are you determining gender of users?
8mstevens8yThe number of female users is so small I just hardcoded known female nicks. As I say, I don't think the results are particularly meaningful.
5mstevens8ywe must create a smiley based gender detector! for science!
4jooyous8yRE: smileys in formal settings. I grew up speaking Russian, which is a language that has a formal-you pronoun, and I spent most of my school life feeling really weird writing "you" to adults in emails, because it felt too friendly and rude and presumptuous. Badly-raised child! I generally don't use smileys in professional emails unless the other person has used them first or I really want to make a nerdy joke. But sometimes that policy feels weird if your co-workers in meatspace are fun, joking, informal people. Why would you limit yourself with people if you know you don't have to? Also, I will add this link to a relevant post you might find interesting [http://www.thegloss.com/2012/11/12/career/bullish-life-men-are-too-emotional-to-have-a-rational-argument-994/] , mostly because I didn't notice this until the author pointed it out but also because I'm proud that I managed to hunt it down. (It is unfortunately not that well-written and touches on a lot of mind-killer topics.)
3Luke_A_Somers8yMy associations... Well, first I check if the smiley significantly clarifies the tone of the comment. If so, I take that as the explanation. Beyond that, I associate youth, extroversion, being hip to tech, and emotional openness. This last has a tendency to be associated as feminine, though not particularly by me.
1curiousepic8yI am male, don't associate smileys with femininity, and often use them in most text conversations and also posts online if I would smile in meatspace when saying what I'm typing (which usually is not the case in work emails). It can occasionally put me on edge if I type with someone who does not use them, in a conversation where I would expect them to smile in meatspace.
2Qiaochu_Yuan8yRest assured we are in agreement about this. But I don't think a comment has to directly serve my terminal values to be worth upvoting.
2Vaniver8yAgreed, and I may be overbroadening "terminal value" by applying it as "things worth upvoting." A comment being "nice" makes it more likely that comment will be "helpful," and I think "helpful" comments are worth upvoting; do I think comments that are nice but not helpful are worth upvoting? Not really, and a policy to upvote for niceness alone won't capture that value judgment. But it could be that niceness is the best cause or proxy for desired consequence, and thus is worthwhile.
7NancyLebovitz8yDescribing what is good about something you like is an insight. It might even be an insight that's more challenging to achieve because in general there's more criticism than praise.
[-][anonymous]8y 10

EDIT: wait, some people don't join the community because of that?

Well, Yvain of all people said he doesn't post very much because of that...

Like, if someone wanted to mock this website, that's exactly what they'd write.

You're probably thinking that a utility function can't prefer "fair" lotteries. But it can prefer fair outcomes, which is what's relevant here.

A positive affirmation has almost no generalized information content useful for the reader.

With the important exception that it reinforces the behavior in question, which is actionable and useful information. The trouble is that this is mostly useful for the recipient, and not as useful for bystanders, and it is much more useful if the affirmation identifies the specific behavior it seeks to reinforce.

Schelling point for metacontrarian replies of the sort I currently don't feel like making but probably need to be made despite bad signalling.

It's at least worth finding out what the premises are behind your reaction.

I don't think her reaction makes a tremendous amount of sense, at least as she explains it. Nonetheless, she's an intelligent, interesting, and well-informed person, and I don't think the world would be a worse place if there were a rationality blog without a scoring system.

I've spent a fair amount of time in venues with and without scoring, and I don't see any correlation with the quality of the discussion.

6Vive-ut-Vivas8yI do, and I didn't have any kind of dysfunctional upbringing. I agree with your friend, and if such a place existed, I would enjoy participating there. It's possible to be intelligent and interested in rationality, but uninterested in being constantly graded and judged.
0buybuydandavis8yWhat do you find so unpleasant about being judged?

This is one of the big reasons that niceness annoys me. I think I've developed a knee-jerk negative reaction to comments like "good job!" because I don't want to be manipulated by them. Even when the speaker is just trying to express gratitude, and has no knowledge of behaviorism, "good job!" annoys me. I think it's an issue of one-place vs. two-place predicates - I have no problem with people saying "I like that" or "I find that interesting".

If I let my emotional system process both statements without filtering, ... (read more)

Sorry, I should have been more specific — I can tell because you're asking a question that would only make sense in a different context. My probabilities about whether you intend to be threatening are are not at issue here.

At issue in this thread is that some portion of the audience are not sticking around — and are forming negative conclusions about LW — because the words here come across as hostile, unfriendly, cold, and so on. This is a danger to LW's goals.

This is a matter of instrumental rationality, not only epistemic rationality. We want to accompli... (read more)

3Eugine_Nier8yWell, failing at epistemic rationality because we prioritized PR over truth-seeking is an even bigger danger to LW's goals.
2buybuydandavis8yMaybe I missed it; did you give the same speech about how empowering it is to focus on what you can change about yourself to those who are taking offense at the speech of others? You understand you could have, right? Not if it's true. If it's true, knowing the truth strengthens me. Just because I think it's true, doesn't mean I can't choose to adjust my speech to them. And yes, when someone has a false impression, and wants to have an accurate one, you can often change their minds by offering evidence for them to update on. And assuming that I've mispoken does weaken me. It assumes I can "fix" the situation by speaking differently. Ok, compared to what have I misspoken? Compared to preemptively changing my speech patterns so that those with extremely high priors of hostile intent from me are less likely to take offense? Do I have a better alternative? As a first cut, I'm better off talking to people who don't assume hostility from my style of speech, who can talk to me 'as is' in a productive manner. Seems to be a number of such people. To the extent that they're similar to me, they will be annoyed and possibly offended by speech acts which seem aimed at managing their potential hurt feelings over my disagreements with their opinions. But even removing these emotional factors from the equation, my attempts to manage their feelings take time and effort from me, and wastes time and effort for them on issues extraneous to the topic at hand. At best, altering our styles will waste our time, and at worst, annoy the hell out of each other. That's a cost. I'm to bear that cost, for what? To talk to others who find my manner hostile? Should I unilaterally cave to every demand that I change my manner when they say they feel hurt or offended? On a game theoretic basis alone, that seems like a bad idea. I am to be malleable to their preferences. Ok, I willing to look at that. I have been having discussions on adjusting my speech patterns to avoid impressions of hosti
8NancyLebovitz8yI was the person who said going from "You're wrong" to "I disagree" was an important step. I'm glad it registered. Becoming less thin-skinned takes time and sometimes a good bit of work. You don't know where any particular person is in that process. You might be in a Pareto's Law situation-- it's not that you need to avoid offending the most fragile people, a small amount of effort might lead to not offending 85% of thin-skinned people.
5fubarobfusco8y"Offended or hurt" doesn't enter into it. This isn't about hazy feelings; it's about hard practical effects of actions: do we accomplish what we want to accomplish? Let's say you and your interlocutor disagreed about your intention in saying that they were wrong (about whatever). Your interlocutor believes that your intention was for them to shut up and go away, but actually that wasn't what you meant at all; you meant to invite more discussion. They are wrong about you. And you want them to have a correct belief about you. But ... how can you cause your interlocutor to possess a correct belief about your intention? You could lecture them about how wrong they are to have misinterpreted you. But that won't work if they will take your lecturing as meaning "shut up and go away" ... and may very well do so. That's all I'm saying. You can't force people to understand you, or to want to understand you. If you really want to get your ideas across (because you care about those ideas — not because you're trying to find people who will easily like you) then you use the try harder which probably involves restating them in a way that doesn't repel people. Or ... well, you could say that you never really cared about that kind of person's understanding, and really you never wanted a discussion with that kind of person. But in that case ... they weren't wrong about you, were they?
2buybuydandavis8yThere are plenty of people who would be correct in concluding that I would bear them hostility if I knew what they were like. They would be incorrect to conclude that the priors I assign to that type of person among LW is very high, and incorrect to assume that my asserting that someone is wrong indicates I have concluded the person is that type of person, so that my comment indicates hostile intent. Perhaps I've given you an incorrect impression. While I have proselytizing tendencies, that's not my fundamental goal, particularly in a forum disagreement. Given my limited resources of me, my proselytizing attitude is to sing to those with the ears to hear. People who are assuming that I am hostile are not the low hanging fruit in that regard. But people who assume I am hostile can be perfectly fine partners in a disagreement. In a disagreement, I am primarily hoping to change my own mind, whether in correcting an error, or clarifying hazy positions of my own. They might even be better, in that they won't cut me slack when I am sloppy. People who dislike you can be perfectly useful in a discussion. The enemy of my enemy (our ignorance) is my friend. But I find it strange that you think I should find it hopelessly futile to try to change a person's assumptions about my intent, but a productive use of my time to try to change their minds about some other fact of reality.

Hmm, I definitely see where you're coming from, and I don't (usually) want my comments to hurt anyone. If my comments were consistently upsetting people when I was just trying to have a normal conversation, then I would want to know about this and fix it - both because I actually do care about people's feelings, and because I don't want to prevent every single interesting person from conversing with me. It would take a lot of work, and it would go against my default conversational style, but it would be worth it in the long run.

However, it sounds more li... (read more)

Personally, I find the niceness-padding to be perfectly well-calibrated for dealing with disagreements because people are thoughtful and respectful. I find it to be insufficient when dealing with people talking past each other. It's really frustrating! This is a community full of interesting, intelligent people whose opinion I want to know ... that sometimes aren't bothering to carefully read what I wrote. And then not bothering to read carefully when I politely tell them that they misread what I wrote and clarify. So then I start thinking that this isn't a coincidence, so maybe they don't want to read what I write... ? So then I feel like they don't like me even though I like them. Nooooo, sadness.

Currently, the community has a low-niceness-padding standard, which is great for people who prefer that style of interaction, but which sucks for people who would prefer more niceness-padding, and those people are either driven away from the community or spend much of their time here feeling alienated and upset.

Here is how I see the difference: the people who think there's too much niceness-padding feel annoyed that they have to sift through it. The people who think there is insufficient niceness-padding are getting hurt.

This makes me personally err on the side of niceness. And while I understand that excessive niceness turns into clutter, I think that even the lowest of the four levels that you demonstrated doesn't happen as often as it should in some discussions.

4Mickydtron8yAlso, it's much productive to have a higher community standard of niceness-padding, and then take it off when you know the recipient doesn't want or need it, than to adopt more padding when it seems called for, if the goal is a vibrant and expanding community. I liken this to a martial arts dojo, where the norm is to not move at full speed or full intent-to-harm, but high level students or masters will deliberately remove safeguards when they know the other person is on their level, more or less. If they went all-out all of the time, they would have no new students. This is not a perfect analogy.
1jooyous8yYep, I agree! But I also want to clarify that, unlike a martial arts dojo, the safeguards aren't unnecessary when you get good at rationality. They become unnecessary when you trust the person ... Which is kind of an orthogonal thing.
3Larks8yYou're making the wrong comparison; comparing the impact on one group ("hurt") with the other group's emotional reaction to the impact on them "annoyed". What you want to compare is "hurt" to "have one's time wasted", which is a form of harm.
3jooyous8yIf you start reading something and feel like your time is being wasted, you can just stop reading the rest of it. (For example, the complaint about the crappy evopsych doesn't bother me because I just don't read it.) You can also get good at skimming over niceties. If someone feels hurt they're going to have to do extra work to get themselves back to their previous state, which is a slightly different form of harm. It's harder to predict when the next thing you're going to read has that kind of effect on you.
1Larks8yIf you start reading something and feel like you're going to be hurt, you can just stop reading the rest of it. You can also get good at being tolerant of the direct mode of communication. If someone's time is wasted, it's literally impossible for them to get that time back. Also, whilst it's easy to skip many potentially offensive topics (don't read anything tagged gender), it's much harder to know which random new commentators will have worthwhile contributions. i.e. I don't think you've identified a significant distinction here.
1jooyous8yIf you get hurt, you also have to take time (and other resources) to get unhurt so that you feel okay to participate in discussion again. And then your question might still be left unanswered. Pretty counter-productive, if you want to think of it in those terms.
1Larks8yI don't think you've answered my argument. * You proposed a distinction between A and B, saying R(A), S(B). Supposedly these facts suffice to show that A and B are relevantly different. * I pointed out S(A) and R(B) were also true, so the properties R and S do not actually allow us to tell that A and B are relevantly different. * Re-iterating that S(B) doesn't change anything, as even granting that for the sake of argument, S also applies to A, so doesn't indicate a significant difference.
2jooyous8yI agree that when you read top-level articles about touchy subjects, then you're about as able to predict when you're going to get hurt than when you're going to get bored. I do not agree that it is easy to predict when someone you're having a perfectly reasonable conversation with will suddenly (and often accidentally) say something hurtful -- and this will do more harm and damage in terms of lost time and resources than if the person used a little bit of padding to avoid being accidentally hurtful in most cases.
1ahartell8yI wonder if your niceness padding has led to people missing your point and to you being frustrated by their failure to understand you.
1jooyous8yRight, because words like "sorry" and "thank you" and occasional exclamation marks make my writing completely incomprehensible.
4buybuydandavis8yYes, any niceness level will involve a trade off between the two preferences. I prefer a leaner and meaner LW.
3NancyLebovitz8yThe ideal might eventually be a two or more track LW. I'm willing to bet that we're losing some people whose thinking we'd want, but who find the courtesy level too polite or too harsh. I'd also bet that, while it seems that the courtesy level here isn't friendly enough for a lot of women, there are also men who'd like a friendlier version.
7Mickydtron8yI cannot agree with this enough. I also want to be clear that I do not think that this requires putting niceness padding on every statement and interaction. Just enough padding on enough interactions that a new person can believe that they will get a padded response instead of seeing no alternative but that they will receive an unpadded response.
7buybuydandavis8yIt's Rattler's and Eagles all over again, but probably worse. It's not evaporative cooling, it's cluster dissociation with actual differences from the start. The general behavior of each group shifts toward their new means - away from each other. The best answer is hard. We continue to talk about this in a productive manner until our preferences, behavior, perceptions, and trusts shift. Some behaviors change. Some interpretations change. Some reactions change. I don't know that it will make such a big difference. The preferences may start biologically, and are likely reinforced in other parts of our lives regardless. But this could at least improve information and separate real preferences from habitual unexamined behaviors.
3Elithrion8yI don't think I've ever heard of anyone leaving because the discussion was too polite or too nice for their tastes! I may be biased in this, but my intuition is that people who are against encouraging niceness really overestimate how much noise it would actually add, and maybe even how few hedons they'd get from receiving it (but I may well be wrong on this second part). And I definitely agree that niceness isn't an attractor to just women. I think a better way of looking at it is that there is a distribution of prioritising niceness in each gender, so the current level might be too low for something like 70% of women and 20% of men (I find myself on the fence about whether I want to bother engaging with the community, for example, and a higher level would probably push me over towards the engagement side).
6NancyLebovitz8yMy impression is that there are people who really like the freedom to be insulting. I agree with the rest of your points.
1coffeespoons8yI think I get better responses even on Less Wrong if I put effort into sounding friendly when I write my comment.
1Nornagest8yTo add a single data point: I left one other community largely because it was developing (and enforcing) social norms that had me jumping through too many hoops before I could voice criticism or disagreement; and I had serious issues with a second one for similar reasons, although different things drove me away in the end. I'm happy with LW's current culture, but there's a fairly wide range of preferences and I don't think I'm on the extreme aggressive end of the spectrum.
4Elithrion8yI actually completely agree that being able to express criticism freely is valuable, I just think there are many non-censorious approaches to niceness we can use. For example, if the top 20 posters (by recent post karma) decided to all be nicer, I'd expect that that would shift community norms towards niceness looking high-status and consequently the whole community trying to be nicer as a result. Alternatively, adding something like "Please consider [above poster's name] feelings before hitting 'Comment'!" above the comment field would probably increase niceness (not that I recommend this specifically, since it would sound overly silly, but maybe a similar injunction to "imagine yourself as having their point of view" appearing 1 time in 5 could be viable). I'm sure there are other options as well that would promote niceness without feeling particularly restrictive or censorious. (Hopefully I'm interpreting your objections correctly!)
2Nornagest8ySure, it's possible to encourage niceness without deleting anything that wouldn't be deleted in a less nice regime, but I don't think censorship was my true objection -- or at least my only serious objection -- in either of the cases I mentioned. Thing is, nice is costly. "Don't be a jerk" is a fairly low bar to clear, but if you have expectations beyond that -- if you're actually treating apparent agreeableness as a terminal value w.r.t. post quality, to put it in LW-speak -- then that implies putting effort into optimizing for it. Which then implies less effort going into optimizing for insight or clarity, since most of us don't have an unlimited amount of effort budgeted for composing LW posts. To make matters worse, niceness in Anglophone culture generally implies indirection: avoiding direct reference to potentially sensitive points, and working around that with a variety of more or less standardized circumlocutions. Which of course directly reduces clarity. It might be another story if English had a richer formal register, but it doesn't. I recognize that others might have more unpleasant emotional responses to direct language than I, and I further recognize that that links into a variety of heuristics which affect exactly the same clarity considerations I've been talking about. But, and speaking only for myself here, I'd rather run the risk of occasionally being chafed if it means I have a better chance of integrating what's being said.
1ahartell8yI would tend towards the last two, I think, and wouldn't find the forth to be rude (though it might depend on the nature and scale of the clarifications, with this method being most apt for smaller ones). However, I am one of those who likes the style of discussion on lesswrong.

I'm curious if Submitter B has similar experiences to the "creepy behavior" that they would describe as discussions, or if every similar experience has come across as an argument. That is, the line between putting forward differing interpretations and denying the data may not be a crisp one, and there may be communication techniques both B and the people B converses with could use to make that line clearer.

One of the things that I've noticed about myself is that for quite some time, unless it was something frequently discussed so I had good calib... (read more)

I'd rather encourage everyone to do a better job interpreting "you're wrong for these reasons" as well-intentioned, potentially correct input, than encourage everyone to beat around the bush.

Seeing examples of deeply nested obviously emotional defensiveness (especially devolving into tit-for-tat time-wasting posturing) surely makes me feel "I'd like to avoid that!" (by not participating in general).

This can be avoided not only with less aggressive "you're wrong!" deliveries, but also with more receptive/honest/vulnerable list... (read more)

So let's apply Eliezer's "murder pill" thought experiment to this:

If I offered people a pill to make not care about being treated unfairly would they take it?

If the answer is no, that means they care about fairness beyond the bad feeling it generates.

2drethelin8yI'd have to think about it but if I didn't think it would involve being severely taken advantage of to the point where it impacts what I want to do I'd probably take it.

After reading this post, I wondered if there was anything I could do to improve the local marketplace-of-ideas, such as trying to encourage more members by being more respectful of comments. Then I recalled that one of my standard rules-of-thumb is 'stay classy', which covers trying to use an appropriate amount of respect; so I then wondered if adding even further politeness would actually reduce the signal-to-noise ratio.

At present, I'm wondering if it's at all possible to figure out, to even a single deciban of evidence, how I should update, based on wha... (read more)

2David_Gerard8yIt's probably the best possible start. "Am I being a dick?"
2NancyLebovitz8yDataPacRat is asking about going beyond not being a dick. I haven't followed DPR's posts enough to have an opinion about whether it would be good for them to add more friendliness, but a community norm of saying more about what you like about what you've read is probably a good idea.
2Eugine_Nier8yTaboo "being a dick".
1David_Gerard8yIn terms of how human minds have evolved to interact with other humans, I think it can usefully be treated as a primitive. Are you actually claiming not to understand what it means, or is this an exercise?
3Eugine_Nier8yDifferent people have different ideas about what constitutes "being a dick" and I was wondering what you mean by it.
0David_Gerard8yI do in fact mean running it past your inbuilt "actually, am I being a dick?" evaluator, as a start. (I'm assuming most people [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/] have something that does that job.) This in no way guarantees anyone else will agree you're not being a dick, as you note, but I find this method useful in practice for screening off my bursts of dickishness - when I remember to apply it - and so I offer it as a simple thing that may work. I find it also makes my responses calmer in a heated argument.
1Eugine_Nier8yI'm still not sure which inbuilt evaluator you're talking about.

A bit of me wishes that the "no mindkiller topics" rule was enforced more strictly, and that we didn't discuss sex/gender issues ... We already rarely discuss politics, so would it be terrible to also discuss sex/gender issues as little as possible?

I agree - I think the weakening of the taboos against discussing politics and gender has been a seriously bad thing. The arguments used to establish these taboos are in retrospect unsatisfying (for example, the explicit argument used for the politics taboo did not support nearly as strong a taboo as... (read more)

5fubarobfusco8yI currently do participate in politics discussions on LW and would endorse (and comply with) a return to the politics taboo. Gender may be somewhat more difficult given that a few of the recent discussions have highlighted gender-essentialism problems in the sequences, which are unlikely to change. The connection between gender essentialism and the more pop-psych, status-quo-justifying emanations of evolutionary psychology is also hard to break. (This [http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/context-and-variation/2013/02/11/5-ways-to-make-progress-in-evolutionary-psychology-smash-not-match-stereotypes/] is an interesting current discussion of that subject.) So I don't think I can endorse tabooing gender issues, since it would taboo discussing some problems with the sequences which a lot of LWers take as background material.

I am of two minds about a taboo on gender issues. On the one hand, it seems tiresome and ineffectual to try and fix other people's mistaken conclusions on empirical questions if they hold them for political reasons. If someone thinks that the height distributions for men and women are equal because that's what they feel is the morally correct answer, then it seems unlikely that showing them the evidence will change their mind. They could have found it themselves if they had been interested, and so discussing it on-site is likely going to be a waste of the time of everyone involved. (For example, I wrote a long takedown of the piece you mentioned, which I've deleted and relegated to a few sentences at the end of this comment.)

But on the other hand, part of the reason why the politics taboo is helpful is because it extends into other parts of life. If you're an Apolitical Alan, you can be happier and focus your attention on more important things. One of the things that excited me when I first came to LW was that here was a bunch of fun things to think and talk about with a bunch of clever people, and those things were more exciting and useful than politics. If the politics taboo is j... (read more)

Technically, if we had a "taboo on gender issues", then even this article would not be allowed.

Which would be a pity. I like having information I would have problems getting otherwise, even if I don't know how to act on that information. I agree with descriptions of the problems. I just disagree with typical solutions, which seem to involve one-sided taboos (e.g. linking to PUA articles or speaking about differences between men and women is taboo, because that's political, but linking to non-radical feminist articles or asserting that there are no differences is OK, because that's, uhm, a consensus of some people).

And so if we have a gender taboo, I would much rather it be a "your opinion on gender politics really doesn't matter, and to the extent you have one, you should be curious rather than idealistic" than a "let's not talk about gender politics because it might upset X." The first is dissolving politics; the second is surrendering to X.

Thing is, given the gender stuff in the sequences previously mentioned, it seems to me that communications intended to say the former would be likely to come across as "let's not talk about gender politics — and therefore, Eliezer's stuff about verthandi, boreana, catgirls, and the like, and various folks' side comments on ev.psych, are all allowed to stand unquestioned."

But the primary substance of her claim should have been about the epistemic role that stereotypes should play as evidence.

Eh? That seems rather unrelated.

6Vaniver8yI think that gender is on topic when discussing fun theory, self-modification, and CEV, in ways that politics are on topic when discussing those things. I do agree that it might be worthwhile to try and rewrite articles that are problematic; the last I heard, the sequences were being edited to become a book, and that seems like a good time to attempt those changes. Is good science more likely to match or smash stereotypes? If you believe that stereotypes are Bayesian evidence for the ground truth, then good science is more likely to match stereotypes, and thus, science that smashes stereotypes is less likely to be good science. Now, this is still just Bayesian evidence, and enough studies that are done well can outweigh the hastily-made impressions of the public. The neat thing about this is that we can quantify the amount that we should believe in stereotypes; the linked article suggests anti-believing in stereotypes, without explicit justification as to why. When someone encourages science to smash stereotypes, they need to be clear what methodological principle they have in mind. Without that, it reads like a political rallying cry, supplemented with ammunition used to kill enemy soldiers, rather than a serious suggestion by an empiricist. For example, consider this study [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7fk/gender_differences_in_spatial_reasoning_appear_to/] , and its rapid promotion by feminists. It was a single study, which was sprinkled with warnings that a single study doesn't prove anything, and that this was, to the best of the authors' knowledge, the only time this result had ever been observed, despite widespread experimentation. Glancing at it briefly, I found several components of their results that looked odd, and warranted investigation. Separating what one wants to be true and what one believes to be true is a very important rationality skill, which should be applied to gender just as much to the rest of life.
6fubarobfusco8yDepends on what you mean by "stereotype". If everyone says that Welsh corgis weigh less than one ton, that is good evidence that they do weigh less than one ton. However, if a group of loud Greens says that Blues are whiny, I am not so sure that this is good evidence that Blues are whiny. I think it is more likely to be something other than evidence — for instance, a rhetorical tactic to encourage Greens to steal Blues' stuff and discourage Blues from complaining about it. I expect there to be plenty of low-quality motivated search. That is not surprising. I also expect that if Greens hold a stereotype about the lived experience of Blues that is contrary to Blues' reports of their own lived experience, the Greens' stereotype is screened off as evidence by the Blues' experience.
0MugaSofer8yThat ... really doesn't follow.
0Vaniver8ySuppose G is a binary variable of the ground truth, S is a binary variable of the stereotype, and E is a binary variable of the result of an experiment. If stereotypes are Bayesian evidence for the ground truth, that means P(S|G)>P(S|~G) and P(~S|G)P(E|~G) and P(~E|G)=P(E|~S), and P(~E|S)<=P(~E|~S). (If you don't see why this is, I recommend opening up a spreadsheet, generating some binary distributions which are good evidence, and then working out the probabilities through Bayes.) It's not guaranteed to be the case, because stereotypes and the results of experiments are probably not independent once we condition on the ground truth. The important thing about using this as a criticism is noting that stereotypes prevalent in academia and stereotypes prevalent in the general population may be rather different. Looking at the suggested results in the linked article, you'll note it's saying "hey, you should conform to my stereotypes, even when the ground truth is probably the other way" under the guise of "smash stereotypes."
3Larks8yDo you mean the failed utopia? Otherwise, I've read all the Sequences, and off hand I can't think of any other cases where they go much into gender. It's my recollection that you could get at least as much out of the sequences while ignoring evo psyc as you could if you ignore quantum, which a great many people do.
3DaFranker8yThis comment is slightly off-topic, but... I just reflexively downvote anything which encourages reflexive and automatic downvoting of any pattern-matching filter. Oh wait, I can't downvote myself. (note: I don't actually do this. I just really think it's a very silly thing to do to reflexively downvote for any broad subject. Downvote trolls and bad comments, not topics you don't like.)
2Luke_A_Somers8yNot as far as I see. Funny gets upvoted a moderate amount, but they're overwhelmed by even the slightly upvoted serious contributions on account of their much greater frequency. The best are comments which have serious implications presented with style - and, yes, sometimes with a touch of humor. I don't see anything wrong with that. Moreover, if people are self-censoring their only-decent humor but not their only-decent serious comments, that would produce the effect described.

Yes, but I didn't want to finger you as the culprit.

I'm actually very fond of being told I was right. (I only figured that out when a friend mentioned that he's very fond of other people admitting they were wrong.)

It's true that there's currently a belief that it's very bad to tell people they should be less thin-skinned. People generally want a social environment which suits their preferences, and while it's not likely that anyone will get a total victory, it's certainly possible to push the balance towards your preferences.

Thin-skinned people are apt ... (read more)

2bbleeker8yIMO when you write, you should be asking yourself: "What's the worst way someone could interpret this?", because surely, someone will interpret it that way. And when you read, you should ask yourself: "What's the nicest way I could interpret this?", because that's probably the way they meant it.
0[anonymous]8yPostel's law FTW!

You don't know how many black female authors they've got, and you haven't read any of her work.

Who are they supposed to have learned that from? They sure as hell didn't learn that from me. And every man I know wishes women were more to the point. The stereotype criticism is "blah blah blah", not abruptness. If you're in charge, make decisions, and give orders. I'll salute, and we'll get something done.

No citations, but I've heard a lot of times that women in business positions are punished for being assertive or aggressive in situations where men are expected to do the same. I don't know if this is true (I think it probably is), but either way I've definitely heard it enough times that it doesn't surprise me that women would think they should try not to seem abrupt or bossy.

2buybuydandavis8yBut are they sure that the men aren't similarly punished, even when expected to be aggressive? For example, people may expect men to be aggressive. But other men are expected to be aggressive back. So you can be punished, while still doing what's expected. Basically, it's called losing in a competitive environment. But there is a problem with our discussion. We're talking an undefined categorical situation. Everyone reading it can insert their own scenario as a prototype, leaving no one talking about the same thing. This thread on "hostile unfriendly tone" is suffering from a severe lack of concrete details. Without concretes, we're just projecting the situations we find problematic onto the schema.
3ahartell8yI don't know if they're sure. Mostly I was just responding to the "who are they supposed to have learned that from?". I think there are a lot of social, gender expectation-y things that would lead to women thinking that they were "supposed" to be less assertive.

I feel like "pander" implies doing something you specifically wouldn't do of your own accord with the sole aim of getting people to like you. In contrast, being dismissive, acknowledging that someone probably felt bad as a result of something you did and then not doing anything about it -- that's not even insensitive.

"Ow, you stepped on my foot."

"I acknowledge that your foot probably hurts, but I find that tiresome and inconvenient."

You're definitely not expected to get along with everyone, and if you could accurately predict... (read more)

I feel like part of this is not acknowledging that quite a few people will experience non-fuzzy or anti-fuzzy feelings if they are disagreed with in a dismissive way. Or maybe when they feel like they are disagreed with in a dismissive way.

I think that showing respect can stop disagreements from seeming like dismissals.

I wish LW had a bit more of a handshake culture where we try to converge to a common phrasing to describe a topic before we actually try to discuss it. Something like

Do I understand you are saying [paraphrase]?

Sort of, but I also mean [original paraphrase with additional, necessary detail].

[ ... ]

I was going to say that [initial phrase] demonstrates [this tricky bias] but since you pointed out [necessary detail] then I guess it could have been [this other thing].

This allows the first person to demonstrate their reasoning about what they initially wa... (read more)

you have strong enough belief that the submitter was wrong about her own mind, and her programmer boyfriend was right

No, no, certainly not, I made it clear that I was arguing in general and could not comment on the specific example given (come on, I say this twice in the post you quote).

that you'll compare her to frauds and crackpots whose ideas have vanishingly small probability. Where do you get that probability mass from?

Let me repeat the argument she made

I am the one who has spent millions of minutes in this mind, able to directly experience

... (read more)

To be honest, I'm surprised by the hostility of your comments here. I was bringing a hypothesis to your attention so that you could evaluate it. I suppose I could have read all of your comments but I don't really care that much I guess. "I wonder" was meant to identify this as a passing thought. And in my second comment I updated away from the hypothesis, so I'm not sure why this tone would be present.

I might be misreading it, but your last sentence sounds sort of fake-nice and passive aggressive due to the rest of the comment. I normally wouldn't make an entire comment just about tone, and I actually like the tone on Lessswrong, but this conversation is sort of about it, and like I said, I was surprised.

4jooyous8ySee, this is where the whole thing gets confusingly meta, but a lot of what you're saying contributes to my overall point. You're right, my comment was written in a pretty hostile tone (and I apologize), but it was also pretty sparse and direct, and ... how else do you respond to someone who claims that your writing is too cluttered with niceness? It's kind of difficult to balance. This is where I'm not sure what the overall stance on writing things is in the LW community. It seems like there are sequence posts [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jc/rationality_and_the_english_language/] that urge people to pay attention to the effect of their writing and how it will be interpreted by others. So I go in with the assumption that most people have read them and are also paying attention to tone and word choice. Which leads me to assume that if their tone is hostile then it's intentionally so. When someone says "I wonder," it's not clear if they're asking a question or if they're just ... content to wonder. And because I personally find it awkward to start offering up answers when someone doesn't want any, it starts feeling like the comment was designed to not have a response. Add in the large, scary-sounding opposition claiming that they come here to talk about intellectual things and don't need to care about people's feelings, and if feels like your stand-alone comment was just going to attract mind-killer-ed people from the other camp even if it wasn't intended to. I also apologize that the last part sounded passive-aggressive, but I also feel like that demonstrates the extent to which the community is intolerant of flawed, biased humans that make mistakes. I really wish we had more of a culture that pointed out a bias, and then responded with a *patpat*, "happens!" (like sneezes!) rather than "you are a bad rationalist, go feel bad now." (Which I'm sure no one ever actually said, but culture gets constructed through things people don't say as well?)

LW with no politics talk > LW with diverse political views expressed > LW with only Moldbuggery expressed.

It's a coordination problem. I'm willing to cooperate if the other folks do.

[-][anonymous]8y 5

I've noticed that women and girls tend to use more emoticons than men and boys, too. It also seems to me that the emoticons used by women are more likely to be noseless -- such as :) as opposed to :-) -- than those used by men, but it's not like I did stats on this so I'm not very confident about this. So, as a compromise between having people misunderstand my tone and looking too effeminate, I do use emoticons when I need to, but I give them noses.

As for exclamation marks, I used to almost always use ellipses to terminate sentences in contexts where a f... (read more)

5jooyous8yI never thought the smileys with noses were inherently manly, but I do think that smileys without noses result in a cuter face, which may explain that correlation if we assume that cuteness ideals are shared by most people. These confessions of textual insecurities are enlightening and endearing. =] I had no idea guys worried about this stuff until yesterday. We should do this more often!
1NancyLebovitz8yWhen I use a smiley, it's noseless, but it's because I don't think the hyphen adds information. How geeky!
0bbleeker8yI use smileys with a nose, but that's probably just because I'm old, and that's how I first learned them. :-)

Call that politics if you like, but I'd consider it an abuse of the term.

On your view, what ought "politics" refer to?

8buybuydandavis8yWhatever it is, it's not "all human interaction". La wik I think the more than 2 people involved is key. If you and I are just talking, maybe we're just exchanging information. "What time is the bus coming?" "At 4". "Thanks". It's just misuse of language to call that political. And even if I want you to like me, so I try to influence your opinion of me, that still strikes me as non political. Politics most clearly comes in a 3+player game with alliances.
4TheOtherDave8yOK, thanks for clarifying.

FWIW, I am a man, but I too find the Less Wrong community to be emotionally detached and unfriendly. That's why I like it. If my beliefs are wrong, then it's critical that I discover this as soon as possible, and it's refreshing to know that at least some of the thoughts I post will be combed through by unfriendly people who are determined to tear them apart -- on an intellectual rather than emotional level.

Furthermore, if I told people, "I'm more of a thinker than a feeler" (or vice versa), and they consistently responded with, "no dude, y... (read more)

Well, if nothing else comes out of this exchange, at least I can now relate to the OP that much better.

0bogdanb8yWeird. I read Eugine's "better proxies" comment as an obvious joke, and had to think for at least five seconds to realize what your reply meant. I can't tell for sure if I would have taken it as criticism if it were directed at me, but I can see how it could be unpleasant if I had. Priors to update: I can't tell if a comment is unpleasantly critical as well as I thought I did.

I'm expecting that more and better plasticity for adults will also get developed.

Well, unconstrained self-modification can have even more unpleasant results.

How are you coding "I'm sorry, that sucks"? To me, it comes off as supportive, if somewhat impersonal.

I generally use the phrase in the following circumstance:

Bob comes to me with a complaint about his life ("I lost my job."). Rather than tell a parallel story that deflects attention to me ("I once lost my job, and that was terrible"), I use that phrase to acknowledge the emotion Bob is feeling.

The key point is that redirecting the conversation away from the complainer onto oneself is not generally supportive of the pers... (read more)

2Eugine_Nier8yThis is probably caused by differences in how "I'm sorry, that sucks" is used in Sarokrae's vs, your RL social circles.

I would like to second the "clamoring for demonstrating awesomeness" attitude. I've had a few

What is your subjective experience?

It is this.

Psh, that's because you are clearly rationalitying wrong. You should rationality like this.

exchanges. Sometimes the original question wasn't even about overcoming brainflaws! I would love to see people be more okay with others demonstrating flaws/vulnerability -- that's friendliness!

It's at least interesting that the most extensive (and probably the most useful) discussion we've had about the tone here used "what are problems women have with LW?" as the entry point, even though some men have a lot of the same problems.

Is there anything to be concluded from this, other than that damned hard to find your own blind spots?

I was referring to Dan's argument:

Discussing politics is not productive. The political opinions held by most people don't affect actual politics.

2MugaSofer8yOh, so you were, sorry. Upvoted.

It's good to hear these complaints. I'm not sure if they'll stop soon, though. Most of the objectionable gender-related material is collecting dust deep in the LW archives... it feels like we've gotten better since then to me, probably as a result of complaints like these, but that stuff is going to be an ongoing karma leak as people stumble across it. (Maybe link to the LW Women series at the top and make it clear that it's there for historical purposes only? Or link to the series from here or the sequences page or something? If we aren't linking to ... (read more)

7NancyLebovitz8yI've seen Roissy recommended as though anyone would be delighted by reading him. He's a very sneery fellow. On the other hand that was a year or more ago, which is several eternities in internet time. On the other hand, the perceived friendliness issues are ongoing. A possibly useful distinction: courtesy vs. cordiality. Courtesy means a moderate level of respect which includes saying "I disagree" rather than "You're wrong". Cordiality means giving positive indications of liking. They blur into each other. I would read "Thank you" as mostly courteous and "Thank you!" as cordial. I can sympathize with your desire to not offend-- I'm like that about race. However, reading is cheaper than making mistakes in public, and can be fairly educational.

The numbers ("95%", "50%" in your example) are good to illustrate the differences. But sometimes hard to obtain.

Indeed, which is why I made them up! :P

Problem is I can't even provide a good estimate for myself.

I can think of one time when this happened to me and was annoying, about 2 months ago. Every other time that I can remember when someone has contradicted one of my self-assessments, I've responded positively, because I enjoy getting feedback about myself.

I'm sorry: for reasons I do not understand, I misunderstood what you were referring to with 'option A'. Your response made perfect sense and mine did not.

I think learning how to constructively criticise whilst signalling that one intends to constructively criticise a very worthy skill. If one knows how some thing critical, and perhaps other things not critical could be said more nicely, it would be to the benefit of all for one to share their knowledge or opinion of that tact.

You're getting close to denial there. The geek social fallacies are fallacies. You can wish for human interaction not to work like it does, and angrily declaim that it damn well shouldn't work like it does, but it still does.

Firstly, just because something is Bayesian evidence, it doesn't follow that it's strong enough to overcome the prior probability.

Ah, that's the issue: I don't mean that it's more likely than not, or P(E|S)>P(~E|S), just that it's more likely than it would be otherwise, or P(E|S)>P(E)>P(E|~S).

I suspect you may be using a more general definition of "stereotype"

Quite possibly. What I mean by 'stereotype' is generally 'the general population noticing results from a distributional tendency.' Suppose the population holds an opinion of... (read more)

Nono, you're right. But I think it's not just rude but also a failure to wait before proposing solutions, which is all sorts of useful in general. This is a good context to practice in!

The general idea that women not being attracted to men who are attracted to them is just some arbitrary wrongness in the universe

Well, if they were attracted to the men attracted to them this would increase total utility. One of the less pleasant implications of utilitarianism.

This is only an implication of utilitarianism to the extent that forcibly wireheading everyone is an implication of utilitarianism. However, given some of your other remarks about unpleasant truths conflicting with social conformity, I doubt if you intended your comment as an argument against utilitarianism, but rather as an argument for PUA. Am I reading the tea-leaves correctly here?

0Eugine_Nier8yWell, one can deal with wireheading by declaring that wireheads don't count towards utility and/or have negative utility. That approach doesn't work in this case since we don't want to assign negative utility to the state of two people being attracted to each other. Why can't I do both? After all, the correct Bayesian response to discovering that two ideas seem to contradict is decrease one's confidence in both.
2RichardKennaway8yOne can deal with any counterexample by declaring that it "doesn't count". That does not make it not count. Wireheads, by definition, experience huge utility. That is what the word means, in discussions of utilitarianism. We might very well want to assign negative utility to the process whereby that happened, for the same reasons as for forcible wireheading. That is just a way of not saying what you do. Do, you, in fact, do both, and how much of each? The correct rational response is to resolve the contradiction, not to ignore it and utter platitudes about the truth lying between extremes. Dressing the latter up in rationalist jargon does not change that.
0Eugine_Nier8yThat's my point, you need to assign utility to processes rather than just outcomes. I am in fact doing both, in this case mostly against utilitarianism. There is a difference between assuming the truth lies between two extremes, and assigning significant probability (say ~50%) to each of the two extremes. I'm trying to do the latter.

Is this comment a satire?

Is yours?

A simple "no" would have sufficed. Downvoted.

0handoflixue8yDownvoted Eugine for the same reason, and upvoted MugaSofer back to positive. I value honest feedback, and see no reason to downvote 'em for providing it.

I was not arguing about the specific example given in the OP

After reading just what was presented in the anecdote, you have strong enough belief that the submitter was wrong about her own mind, and her programmer boyfriend was right, that you'll compare her to frauds and crackpots whose ideas have vanishingly small probability.



It doesn't seem like that would be the case, no. I expected your alterations to have been deeper than that, including stuff like softening your disagreement.

I attempted a few searches with things like "test results, luck, lucky, group, prior, blues, gatekeeper, good day, second test", etc.

Found nothing that fits what you were describing, unfortunately. Perhaps a few less-common terms from the discussion if you remember any, or even better any sentence / specific formulation used there, might help when combined together.

Negative affirmations (for example) are also noise. But more unpleasant noise.

Assume I'm not familiar with the meaning of the word. If I remember correctly where I was growing up 'dick' was little more than a generic insult, also I'm not a native English speaker.

2David_Gerard8yAh, OK. Does Don't be a dick [https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_be_a_dick] get the idea across a bit?
2Eugine_Nier8yOk, looking at the articles much of it talks about how being a dick is not related to being right or being polite and how bad it is to be a dick. As far as talking about what being a dick actually is here is all the article says: (..) (..) Ok, ignoring the line about how attempting to get your views across constitutes being a dick, the idea appears to be a combination of not acting/arguing in good faith and using techniques that are low on Paul Graham's hierarchy of disagreement [http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html]. Is this about right? Also, I suspect the whole "don't be a dick" thing seems like an attempt to create a virtue ethics from scratch by people who never learned traditional virtue ethics.
2fubarobfusco8yWell, no, it also says: We can translate this from the negative to the positive:
0David_Gerard8yThat's probably close enough to be workable.

Of course technique C doesn't address the weasel example.

Have you considered using full thoughts... ooooh.

I'm not sure how to read this. I'm leaning towards, "I don't have a counter argument so I'm going to resort to insults."

To get back to the point, the problem with technique C is that it doesn't address the case of adjusting test scores based on demographic priors, since the lowest utility (the people not accepted) is the same either way.

What the hell is with all the trolls these days?

You're the one who just dropped the discussion t... (read more)

4handoflixue8yYou have a repeated pattern of not offering real responses: "Is this a parody?" "Is this?" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fmt/lw_women_lw_online/8h1n] being the biggest red flag I've encountered in this thread. You are correct that I didn't have a refutation, because "I don't see how this ties in to the weasels" doesn't give me enough information to try and resolve your confusion. In short, lately you seem to be putting near-zero effort in to your replies: you're not attempting to explain your position, just offering pithy one-sentence objections that don't seem to contribute anything. Given you have 2K karma and a few +50 rated comments, I'm willing to assume you've just had a bad week and actually explain this, but I still see no point in actually continuing the conversation, since your replies are all "taxing" me the same way a troll does: you put in minimal effort, and force the other person to hold it all afloat. It's the very definition of skilled trolling, to force other people to spend paragraphs defending themselves while you resort to easily misinterpreted one-sentence replies that do nothing to advance actual discourse. The idea that I must maintain quality discourse, or even that it's more productive, is a trap that ends up with a bunch of well-fed trolls.
0Eugine_Nier8yIt's as real a response as the question it's a response to and I give a substantive response to Nisan's more substantive sentence. You could give some indication of what addition information would help. Here are some possibilities: 1) You didn't get what the weasels [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/fmt/lw_women_lw_online/8hqg] were referring to. Arguably I should have linked to this comment in the great-grandparent, but since the comment in question is yours, I assumed you'd get the reference. 2) You think the technique does in fact address the weasel example, in that case you could have said so as well as possibly how you think it applies. 3) Something I haven't thought of.

One of the good things which contributes to the tone here is people reliably getting credit for saying they've changed their mind for some good reason. I can't think of any other site where that's in play.

0buybuydandavis8yIsn't it peculiar that most people are otherwise? Way back when, I remember discussing exactly that point on the Extropians list. In many ways a similar group to here. But some very smart guys were arguing that it was a huge loss of face to admit you were wrong, and better to deny or evade (I'm sure they put it more convincingly than that). When someone is wrong, graciously admitting and accepting it scores major points with me. Thinking about it, maybe I can make a better argument for denial. There are two issues, being wrong, and whether one admits being wrong. If admitting being wrong is what largely determines whether you are perceived as being wrong, then denying the error maintains status. For people driven by social truth, which is likely the majority, truth is scored on attitude, power, authority, popularity, solidarity, fealty, etc. The validity of the arguments don't matter much. For people driven by epistemic truth, the arguments are what matters, so denying the plain truth of them is seen as a personality defect, while admitting it a virtue. The thing is, it's not that the deniers are aliens. I am. I and my kind. For us, in an argument, it's the facts that matter, and letting other considerations intrude on that is intruding the rules of the normals into the game. That's largely what this whole thread is about. One side says we'll be more effective playing the normals game. It's a game my kind strongly prefers not to play. Having to behave as normals is ineffective for us, and the opportunity to play by our rules is extremely valuable to us.
0Risto_Saarelma8yJosh Waitzkin's book The Art of Learning describes his various encounters with unsporting conduct and cheating in chess tournaments and competitive tai chi. He wrote that he'd developed the approach to just work so hard at developing his own skill at the game that he was able to ignore the distractions the opponent was trying to pull and proceed to win anyway. He claimed that the opponents would generally become agitated and careless once they noticed that they couldn't get any sort of upset out of him. Discussions aren't games with rules, but you might still get something out of the idea that social gamesmanship is basically just compensating poor skill with cheating, and you need to work hard enough on your epistemic skills that it won't stop you even when it does get thrown in your way.
2buybuydandavis8yWell, I'd say that social gamesmanship isn't cheating, it's playing a different game. Being very good with your epistemic skills has mileage socially too, and importantly, mileage with people with personal properties you're more likely concerned about. And refraining from the usual types of social gamesmanship earns you points with those people as well.

A lot of guys I've dated in the last year have made the same creepy mistake. I think this is likely to be relevant because they're so much like LW members (most of them are programmers, their personalities are very similar and one of them had even signed up for cryo), and because I've seen some hints of this behavior on the discussions. I don't talk enough about myself here to actually bring out this "creepy" behavior (anticipation of that behavior is inhibiting me as well as not wanting to get too personal in public) so this could give you an i

... (read more)
8buybuydandavis8yWhat strikes me is that the straightforward (to me) interpretation never enters her mind - that he thought she was mistaken and said so. It's quite interesting to see the thought process and compare it to my own. It reinforces my belief that just like Haidt's different moral modalities, there are different truth modalities, mainly epistemic versus social. When I'm talking, I'm mainly just sharing my model of reality. When many others talk, it's a "speech act", aimed at "handling" the listener. When others talk, I'm listening for the model, because I'm modeling their behavior and intent using myself as a model (biggest mistake ever), and assuming they're trying to communicate their model. I think she is making the same mistake but from the social speech acts perspective, modeling his behavior and intent using herself as a model. Maybe I should be doing that Harry thing more often, and developing a Social Person in my head, to at least query every now and again.
6Desrtopa8yIt doesn't seem to me like that possibility didn't occur to her, she's saying that it's absurd to draw that conclusion with as little data as they have, and offensive that they try and press it when she says otherwise. I'd use an analogy of a physicist talking to yet another person who "has a theory" about quantum mechanics or relativity or whatever, which countless people think they're qualified to speculate on despite being fairly ignorant in physics. They explain it to the physicist, who tells them "Sorry, that's just not right." And their response to the physicist is "No, see, look..." The physicist knows a hell of a lot more than they do about the subject, and it's trivializing the gap in their amounts of knowledge to press on and explain why they think they're right and the physicist is wrong without stopping to ask "How do you know that it's incorrect?"
9shminux8yI am quite familiar with the physicist example, but the situation might be different here. People are notoriously bad at introspection, which lowers the difference between an amateur and an expert. Additionally, daenerys and the guy might be interpreting the question differently: she describes how she feels, he describes how she appears.
3Desrtopa8yPeople do tend to be pretty bad at introspection, but if you feel that you're in a much better position to make a judgment than someone else, and they insist that you're wrong anyway, it's liable to feel pretty insulting. A difference in interpretation seems like it should have been pretty easy to recognize, if the conversation carried on long (ordinary people can hammer out a confusion for ages, but I'd expect a Less Wrong member to be better at noticing "hey, it seems like we're talking about completely different things here.")
3buybuydandavis8yShe said: She doesn't mention "he thought she was mistaken and said so" in her list of possibilities. If she thought of the obvious answer, why did she have to spend so much time pondering other motives for their actions? Yes, she's saying it's absurd for others with limited knowledge of her to think they have knowledge about her that she doesn't. And she supposes no one does absurd things? But I think her opinion that a stranger couldn't see something about someone else that the person themselves does not see is absurd in itself. A lot of people are not very self aware. And even people reasonably self aware are likely unaware of things a stranger would see in minutes. Some business school taped classroom interactions to show the students how they looked in the third person. The general take was that the class was both appalling and transformative, bringing things about themselves to their awareness that they had no clue about. Is there anyone who likes listening to their own message on their answering machine?
2David_Gerard8yAll human interaction is politics, and there is no such thing as no politics - even if you intend there not to be.
0Viliam_Bur8yThis would explain why some people recommend starting sentences with "I think..." etc. to reduce conflicts. In a model-sharing mode that does not make much sense. Sentences "I think X" and "X" are equivalent. (The only exception would be if I discussed a model of myself, where "I think X" would mean "so this model of myself is thinking X at this moment of model-time".) But in the listener-handling mode, it could reduce the impact. It could mean "I am not asking you to change your opinion or suffer the social consequences now; I am just giving you my model as an information". If the listener-handling mode is the standard speech mode, the exceptions need a disclaimer. For most people this seem to be so, and the rest of us need to be aware of the fact that we don't speak the same language.
3buybuydandavis8yI think it can. You're on to something with analyzing the meaning of statements in different modes. You can speak in model sharing mode with self awareness of the mode. So when I'm thinking about sharing my model, I'm aware that it's my model, and not yours. So , "I think", "you think" maintains the awareness of which model one is speaking of, and an awareness of the situation you are in - two people with different models. Earlier, I concluded that "I disagree" was better than "You're wrong" and "That's wrong". Maybe I'm seeing a principle emerge. Discuss the topic in language that you could both agree on (that doesn't automatically conflict with the person you're talking to). We can both agree that "I disagree", but not that "You're wrong". With conscious of abstraction, and consciousness of our differing abstractions, we can jointly model our disagreement in a shared and consistent language. That helps to "handle" the situation in terms of properly framing it as a clash of models, in terms that we can both agree on, but that's a joint "handling", coming to a common ground for discussion. Though that likely changes our emotional reactions, that seems to me different than a direct attempt to handle your emotional state. It's primarily about coming up with an efficient language for our discussion. I would guess that the general semantics crowd has analyzed discussions in similar terms but greater depth. What I'm saying here rings a lot of bells on readings from GS. Too bad I don't have concrete citations.
2Gastogh8yI think it does make sense, even in model-sharing mode. "I think" has a modal [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_modality] function; modal expressions communicate something about your degree of certainty in what you're saying, and so does leaving them out. The general pattern is that flat statements without modal qualifiers are interpreted as being spoken with great/absolute confidence. I also question the wisdom of dividing interpersonal communication into separate "listener-handling" and "model-sharing" modes. Sharing anything that might reasonably be expected to have an impact on other people's models is only not "listener-handling" if we discount "potentially changing people's models" as a way of "handling" them. Which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me.
0drethelin8yI constantly use I think etc. in model-sharing mode because certainty can be poisonous both to your own knowledge and that of who you're talking to. In pure information conveying mode I think X and X are identical but it's so rare that you can know BOTH of you are in that mode that it feels way more comfortable to hedge. Examples: What's bob's phone number? It's 555-1421! Where is your car? it's in the driveway Where is bob? I THINK he's at work. What temperature does water boil at? I'm pretty sure it's 212f. Why are people often disingenuous? I think it's because our brains view conversation differently than our culture does. Why am I giving examples? Because I think there is a continuum, not just two modes. If you can stay conscious of it, placing yourself wholeheartedly in one mode or the other can be very effective, but it's easiest to maintain a middle ground.

Are you saying that his suggestion that we can solve these issues by discussing them is overly optimistic?

Yes, that's basically it. If we think we can solve this LW's issue by simply discussing within LW boundaries, I believe then that we are assuming a sealed environment. Which is not, and which will lead any of such discussions to a jumbled failure (insofar and in the future).

0ESRogs8yAh, thanks for the clarification.

And when I do manage to get it sincere, it sounds "creepy" since that's what "doing social conventions wrong" sounds like.

Oh! I think that's where a lot of my confusion comes from. I read "creepy" as not-trying-to-comply with social convention (aka entitled), while you meant it as trying-but-failing to comply.

I can totally see how one could read the post we are discussing as trying-but-failing. In person, it would be quite a bit awkward. But the interpretive conventions are a little different for an online comment - and it read as supportive on the conventions I apply to interpret online comments.

What are the odds?

Also, do you apply a downwards adjustment to your evaluation of a woman's original mathematics?

As randomness* would have it, I just ran into an example of women doing that to a woman for her fiction.

*On the radio as I was catching up on the thread.

I'm both emotionally more inclined to be smiling and thus typing smileys when chatting with someone I'm attracted to AND occasionally consciously aware of smileys and that I might want to toss one in to be extra-friendly. I don't think it's a known notion that smileys are flirtatious or about attraction so I don't really use them that way, though maybe I should.

2jooyous8yNono, I don't think you should! I think this is actually where that "smileys are flirty" impression originated. ... ^_^

It feels like people are ten thousand times more likely to point out my flaws than to appreciate something I said. Also, there's >next to no emotional relating to one another.

I'm sorry, that sucks. I think you're right and hope this changes. I don't post very often, but when I do in the future, I'll be more aware of this.

I'm a young female and like some other women in the comments, I'd like to say that I in general approve of high barriers to entry for a community like Less Wrong. Well, that might be too much of a simplification - I prefer optimal barriers of entry, and in the case of LW, I think it should be pretty high, and if that can be achieved purely psychologically, then that's great. But I think warmth/fun/kindness (which we're seeing a lot more of recently and which Eliezer always had to begin with IMO) isn't going to bring down that barrier enough to justify bein... (read more)

While I would encourage civility at every turn, I don't think any amount of friendliness will ever completely remove the negative emotional jolt when pointed out you're wrong. Positive punishment* is important, and I'd rather preventively experience it in a safe place such as this (or in a relationship, for that matter), than in the real world.

I don't know of a more civil discussion forum than lesswrong, so from my perspective some people are setting the bar unrealistically high.

For some people the positive punishment seems to be associated with commenting in general instead of just being wrong. I wonder if anything can be done about that...

*I really wish the connotation was something else...

5Kawoomba8yFYI: Negative reinforcement is the wrong term. Negative reinforcement is the taking away of an aversive stimulus to increase certain behavior or response. A negative emotional jolt when pointed out you're wrong wouldn't be negative reinforcement, it would be positive punishment: the adding of an aversive stimulus to decrease a certain behavior or response.
1hyporational8yThanks, edited.

Agonizing over a period versus an ellipsis? I recoil in horror at the thought of having such feelings routinely intrude into my consciousness.

It's always interesting to see how the other half lives, even when it's appalling.

I'm not sure who exactly "the other half" is here, but I'll note that this is a completely relatable experience to me. If I'm writing a message where I expect the recipients to be highly connotation-sensitive, in a context where I have anything important riding on the impression I create, I'll agonize over getting exactly ... (read more)

1buybuydandavis8yYes. "the recipients to be highly connotation-sensitive ...anything important riding on the impression ...agonize... don't do it because I prefer it that way". Yes, a very unpleasant situation. Wouldn't you also consider it a horror to have to endure on a routine basis? The discussion in the article did not seem to be about rare important events, but routine email communications. But instead of "connotation sensitive", I'd say "connotation reactive" to better identify the situation. If someone is extremely sensitive to reading fine nuance in connotation, they will accurately read small variations on your connotations as small variations, not large ones. It's the high gain to those small variations, making mountains out of molehills, that it becomes an issue. And those reactive people may or may not be "sensitive" at all, in the sense of being precisely accurate in their assessments. It's when a small input on your part results in a large one on theirs that it becomes worthwhile to try to finely control your output. Even when there isn't a lot on the line, though not agonizing, it's still unpleasant, to deal with highly reactive people. I've thought of them like lamps with an electrical short - you just never know when you're going to get zapped. They feel zapped too, when talking to me. I understand that. We're electrically incompatible. But I'd say that I have a broader and more effective range of operation than they do. With perfect reading of a person's connotations, highly reactive people could get along fine with themselves. They could turn their own speech connotations down to counteract the reactive gain. But without perfect reading, they are subject to large perturbations subject to the noise inherent in their own interpretations. You can't make that work well, even assuming a homogeneous group of reactives. When tit for tat is employed, it's way too have a large perturbation from noise spiral out of control into a feud. Meanwhile, unreactives, whe
0Desrtopa8yI do. Situations like that aren't uncommon for me at all.
0buybuydandavis8yMy condolences. For me, not so routine, but too frequent for my taste. I've been trying to figure out how I can avoid that. I'd like to be a part of an organization of nonreactives who were getting things done. Seems like we don't have the numbers, and the positions of power (see "important riding on the impression"), to have a lot of spaces of our own.

In the early days of martial arts in America, most schools hardly taught children anyway; it was more or less taken for granted that the training was too harsh for kids. The idea that the martial arts were an appropriate way to teach kids positive values like discipline, restraint, self respect, etc. didn't have much currency; it was more like boxing, where you might encourage an unruly and violent child to get into it to channel and redirect their energy, but encouraging a normal kid to get into it would be unnecessary and somewhat cruel.

Parents' values ... (read more)

2jooyous8yI was mostly speaking from anecdata, but that's really interesting. Though I can't say it's very surprising, because I think this relates to the various sneaky connotations of the word "hurt". I expect modern parents to be more horrified if a child got punched in the face than if the child passed out from too much training, even if the latter did way more physical damage.
1Desrtopa8yThat sounds plausible; it may relate to the same sort of consideration that comes into play in trolleylike dilemmas, "who do I assign responsibility for this?" If a kid blows out their elbow from being made to pitch too many balls without adequate rest, that feels like something that just happened to them, but if a kid gets their nose bloodied being punched in the face, that's something someone did to them, which makes it seem worse and more in need of prevention despite being comparatively trivial.
0jooyous8yYep, and right before their elbow blows out, it's "training" or "work" and not "a fight". Afterwards it's an "accident." You know, I kinda want to have a more general discussion about when the "responsibility" model falls apart. It seems to be really useful for some situations and then just lead to a guilt-riddled, counter-productive blame game of awfulness. It would be nice to generalize those so we can just run an analysis of the situation and stop talking about responsibility if the analysis says it's useless. Also, your earlier point is why I refused to talk about the Olympics with people. I kept insisting that it wasn't relevant to me personally what the superhuman athletes were doing. Just because they happened to be from my country doesn't mean we have anything in common and cheering for them doesn't make me any more gifted at sports or them any more absurdly good at things they're already absurdly better at than everyone else in the world. I guess I should have been saying "Imagine how awful their life was when they were children?"

when you write, you should be asking yourself: "What's the worst way someone could interpret this?"

When dealing with people, habitually searching for only the worst that can happen is a very bad habit, in my experience.

Ah, but that wasn't what I meant. I just meant to say that you should be careful when writing, because even when 99%+ of people won't have any problems with what you write, someone is sure to misinterpret it, if it possibly can be. Communication is hard, and written communication even more so.

I agree with you that the underlying good will or lack of it is a crucial factor. I'm still trying to figure out what tends to build good will or damage it.

From what I've read, repeated trauma is a good way of predicting PTSD, so lack of familiarity with trauma wouldn't be a good explanation.

1MugaSofer8yOh, right. I interpreted it as saying that horrific events are only traumatic when you're from a culture where they're rare, not that repeated traumatic events somehow lower one's levels of PTSD. That would be nonsense, obviously.
9Eugine_Nier8yRight. One idea I had is that what causes PTSD is not so much the traumatic experience as being surrounded by people who can't relate to it. A more Hansonian version is that exhibiting PTSD is a strategy to gain attention and sympathy and that this strategy won't work if everyone around has also suffered similar experiences. Another possibility is that in cultures where traumatic events are common, people who can't deal with them without suffering PTSD are likely to get killed off by the next one.

I was referring more to the comment thread, which is filled with detailed writing in support of sending blunt communication while ignoring that such behaviour ends up losing in practice. If you haven't actually read that article and its comment thread, you really should.

0buybuydandavis8yI read the article, but not the thread. Losing, in what game? Are you sure EY knows the game everyone is playing? I think he is making implicit assumptions about motivations that are incorrect. I disagree with his strategic analysis. In some contexts I would consider it correct. Yes, I knuckle under and be what "normal people" want me to be, to avoid the costs of being myself, just as all those normal people are busy being what they think other people want them to be. But where I can, I seek to escape that mutual cage. Internet forums are a place where escape is possible, because the normals no longer have an overwhelming majority, or might not even have a majority at all, and the cost of anyone's disapproval online is less. Dale Carnegie teaches you to be the person other people want you to be; I'd rather find the people who like who I want to be, and want to be who I like. An anecdote from my dissertation adviser. He was having much the same discussion with me, telling me how professors in Asia were allowed less direct intellectual confrontation. Perhaps EY would be proud. But the discussion went on to the joy of moving to the US, exemplified by another professor he knew, who responded to someone else in a discussion by gleefully retorting "I Disagree! I Disagree! I Disagree!" Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last! Free to be honest, free to be open, free to be who you are. I want to sit at the table where they're dealing that game. It seems like there are enough people of my ilk at this party for us to have a few tables. If the cool kids don't want to sit at the nerd tables, that's fine, and hardly anything new.

Apparently, RationalWiki scores surprisingly well on friendliness to women compared to large chunks of the skepticsphere of late. I was both surprised and pleased, and somewhat disconcerted that the bar was quite so low. Here's an excerpt from the post that says that (written by a female regular contributor, and RWF board member - two women on the board out of six):

Go to any site that hosts modern intellectual discussions, especially around the sciences, atheism, skepticism, and freethought, and one topic that will be shared across all of them is “the ro

... (read more)
1OrphanWilde8y"Mansplaining"? Personally, I don't want whatever group the author represents, which isn't women in general.
0Manfred8yShe presumably represents, like everyone, a whole raft of groups - herself quite well, people very like her less so, and all of humanity to a still pretty good degree. Out of that raft, the one I'd guess you mean is "people who display ingroup/outgroup signals I am emotionally averse to like saying 'mansplaining'." We can probably afford to give people a little more attention as people than that.

(For example, would this discussion be worse if your comment was absent or crafted more carefully?)

Would you care to expand on that?

0beoShaffer8yI feel like I have a better grasp of several related world views that are rather different than my own. I also feel like I'm better able to recognize certain types of behavior and what causes them. Also, why your friend is unwilling to visit LW.

That sounds like an improvement.

More generally, I think that if you focus on a single interpretation of someone's motives when you don't have a lot of information, and the interpretation makes you angry, then you're probably engaging in an emotional habit. I admit I'm mostly generalizing from one example on this.

Imagining people speaking aloud in order to guess their intent in written communication seems risky unless you've heard them speak before. Your references could be giving you too much confidence in some random direction.

If it helps, I got "sincerely, as if for the very first time, empathetic" (like Johnny 5 realizing that things can die). :-)

0Sarokrae8yThanks for the other data points. I always hear comments sort-of-out-loud though, the same way reading happens sort-of-out-loud-in-my-head. I don't think it's something I can switch off. I always hear tone and it would confuse me not to, even though I do sometimes get it wrong. In fact, I get confused if people I'm close to type without punctuation, since an absence of tone just registers as "the tone of being distant and brusque".
0Jonathan_Graehl8yPerhaps you could write filmable dialogue, then. A friend of mine impresses me with his. He's also prone to brooding over ambiguous social interactions where it's not feasible to directly inquire (imagining their tone, fleshing out their character in his imagination).

I took your "apt" at first to mean "more able to"!