Engaging Intellectual Elites at Less Wrong

by lukeprog 1 min read13th Aug 2013136 comments

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Is Less Wrong, despite its flaws, the highest-quality relatively-general-interest forum on the web? It seems to me that, to find reliably higher-quality discussion, I must turn to more narrowly focused sites, e.g. MathOverflow and the GiveWell blog.

Many people smarter than myself have reported the same impression. But if you know of any comparably high-quality relatively-general-interest forums, please link me to them!

In the meantime: suppose it's true that Less Wrong is the highest-quality relatively-general-interest forum on the web. In that case, we're sitting on a big opportunity to grow Less Wrong into the "standard" general-interest discussion hub for people with high intelligence and high metacognition (shorthand: "intellectual elites").

Earlier, Jonah Sinick lamented the scarcity of elites on the web. How can we get more intellectual elites to engage on the web, and in particular at Less Wrong?

Some projects to improve the situation are extremely costly:

  1. Pay some intellectual elites with unusually good writing skills (like Eliezer) to generate a constant stream of new, interesting content.
  2. Comb through Less Wrong to replace community-specific jargon with more universally comprehensible terms, and change community norms about jargon. (E.g. GiveWell's jargon tends to be more transparent, such as their phrase "room for more funding.")

Code changes, however, could be significantly less costly. New features or site structure elements could increase engagement by intellectual elites. (To avoid priming and contamination, I'll hold back from naming specific examples here.)

To help us figure out which code changes are most likely to increase engagement on Less Wrong by intellectual elites, specific MIRI volunteers will be interviewing intellectual elites who (1) are familiar enough with Less Wrong to be able to simulate which code changes might cause them to engage more, but who (2) mostly just lurk, currently.

In the meantime, I figured I'd throw these ideas to the community for feedback and suggestions.

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