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How/would you want to consume shortform posts?

by Raemon1 min read2nd Jul 20198 comments

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The LessWrong team might be putting more work into the shortform concept in the next couple weeks. I wanted to check in about what specific features people might want for that.

Right now, some users set up "shortform feed" posts, which are a hacky way to give yourself a more casual space for off-the-cuff writing. In the past few weeks we've seen an uptick of people creating feeds for themselves.

It seemed useful to make this a bit more official (i.e. there's just a "create shortform post" button you can click instead of navigating to a post and writing a comment).

But there's several open questions about the best way to consume shortform content. Right now most shortform comments appear in Recent Discussion and then quickly disappear, which is very low-discoverability.

Possible considerations include:

  • Some people like low-discoverability. Sometimes what you want is a low-visibility place where you can write up thoughts without people immediately judging you for it, to help flesh out early stage ideas. For those people, the status quo is sorta fine.
  • Some people want more visibility. I know I personally would prefer my shortform feed to get maybe 5x the visibility it currently gets – I care less about the visibility and more about the vibe of "low effort casual space."

There's a few possible routes to more visibility:

  • Treating shortform more as a special case, where new shortform posts get displayed at the top of recent discussion, or potentially each day listing on the Daily/AllPosts page. (This might include entire comments, or might include a quick list of which shortform feeds got updated recently)
  • More generally improve the visibility of comments on old posts, with shortform just being one type of old post. This has the benefit of making commenting on old posts feel less like shouting into the void.
  • Creating a special shortform feed view page, and/or create a setting on Recent Discussion where shortform becomes the primary thing you're skimming, rather than a mixture of post-discussion.

There might be entirely different frames or ideas I haven't thought of.

Anyone have preferences on how to consume shortform?

(Also relevant would be if you find shortform actively annoying and would want to make sure it didn't get too much in your way)

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4 Answers

I'd like to be able to subscribe to individual Shortform feeds via RSS.

I'd suggest initially making short-form a seperate section of the site as my suspicion that if it really is a compelling feature it should be able to succeed on its own without homepage integration. Otherwise, it likely doesn't provide enough value to make up for the loss of nuance.

A few plausible plans we're been thinking about:

  • Add a separate shortform feed page
  • On the Daily/AllPosts page, for each "day", show an abridged list of new shortform posts
  • On the frontpage, fine-tune the Recent Discussion somewhat so that it shows denser content (you can already see this if you turn on the experimental features option). This helps with a more general problem of "posting a comment on an old thread feels a bit like shouting in the void."

Curious if any of those sound actively bad.


The current, hacky solution to shortform is: you make a post named "[Name]'s Shortform Posts", and write comments on it.

We're planning to promote this to a first-class site feature; we're going to make some UI that auto-generates a post like that for you, and gives the comments on it visibility on a special shortform page and on the All Posts page.

Seems like it could just go on the All Post page and have a filter for it, off by default. But it would seem that what really makes sense is something like a newsfeed, like that seen in Facebook or Twitter, and ways to filter or prioritize what shows up in it. Newsfeed would work especially well if the "short" aspect was enforced or strongly encouraged in some way.

When you say 'go on All Post page' what are you imagining? Would you rather see a list of posts (i.e. 'Gordon's Shortform Feed', or a list of comments (perhaps heavily truncated)? The former is the most straightforward thing to implement on AllPosts but also not really "the thing."

One concern is that the solution needs to not be something tucked-out-of-the-way — it needs to be something that a reasonable number of site visitors will see by default, so that users starting their shortform feed aren't just shouting into the void.

2G Gordon Worley III2ySo assuming this works by creating a new "short form" post type (similar to the way there are regular posts, questions, events, etc.), my thought was you could add a filter on All Posts like the existing ones under the gear icon popout. So: would get a "Short" option to show the new short form type. It could be turned on by default, sure, and then people could choose to turn it off. Although if All Posts is going to contain lots of short content in the future I'd like it to look more like a newsfeed then and less like a list of articles.
2Raemon2yRight now shortform posts are more like comments than posts (i.e. on the offchance you haven't seen it, see my shortform feed [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/jL7uDE5oH4HddYq4u/raemon-s-shortform-feed]). In particular, they don't have titles (which seems sort of important to enable them to be more off-the-cuff, without necessarily having a clear encapuslation). The current plan is to continue using the current system (wherein users get to have a post called "Gordon's Shortform" or some such), just in a more automated fashion, and possibly slightly tweaking the styles on shortform pages to look somewhere in-between posts and comments. But, one of the open questions is whether they actually warrant full backend support for a new content type.