In the next month, the administrators of Less Wrong are going to sit down with a professional designer to tweak the site design. But before they do, now is your chance to make suggestions that will guide their redesign efforts.

How can we improve the Less Wrong user experience? What features aren’t working? What features don’t exist? What would you change about the layout, templates, images, navigation, comment nesting, post/comment editing, side-bars, RSS feeds, color schemes, etc? Do you have specific CSS or HTML changes you'd make to improve load time, SEO, or other valuable metrics?

The rules for this thread are:

  • One suggestion per comment.
  • Upvote all comments you’d like to see implemented.


BUT DON’T JUMP TO THE COMMENTS JUST YET: Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and write down your own ideas before reading others’ suggestions. Less contamination = more unique ideas + better feature coverage!

Thanks for your help!

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582 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:48 AM
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One thing I'd really like to see: make the total number of upvotes and downvotes visible separately instead of just the difference. That way controversial posts and comments will stand apart from uninteresting ones.

Perhaps a collapsible "karma details" section, so that users still have the option to see a single number for each comment?

Might be easier to add "show upvotes/downvotes" & "show total score only" radio buttons to user configurations. That way those of us who want to see upvotes & downvotes in general don't have to click a collapsible link for lots of comments.

Provide a solution for polling in posts and comments. Something more elegant than using multiple comments + a karma sink.

An +/- agree button partially fixes this.
Polling seems (IMHO) to work very well given the current tech. Unpack "elegant" for me.

It should be possible to put an entire poll in one comment, with machine-readable distinctions between different replies; and poll responses should not interact with pollster karma. (It might be nice if one got a karma point for answering a poll, to incentivize participation, but that's not so much an elegance matter.)

6RHollerith12y -- example of how polls work on Hacker News.

Here's another proposal for dealing with meetups: some sort of prominent widget that will show (only upcoming) meetups in chronological order, with links:

Upcoming Meetups

And what happens when we have a regular weekly or monthly meetup in every English-speaking city of more than two million? I've noticed that the regular meetups (LW/NYC, LW/Bay Area, LW/London, et cetera) don't bother to announce every meeting. New users have to know to look at the wiki page. Maybe this proposed widget should include these regular meetups (with links to the relevant wiki page) for all events within the next three weeks.
Do geolocation or enter a postal code, and see only the ones nearby? Edit - please disregard this post

I don't trust geolocation.

Also, there's an advantage in a new user seeing all the meetups, since it accurately tells them how active we are.

And what about people who travel a lot and might check out a meetup in another city if they were reminded about it?

Geolocation usually works. The cost of a miss is low. If the user had defined their location in their user profile, we'd use that instead.
This would be better if it also used geocoding based on IP address to filter so it shows only nearby groups by default.
The most straightforward way to have this would be to have a new database table with the following fields: date, location, and hyperlink. A set of trusted users (including one or two from each regular group) could add, edit, or delete records. Periodically, records with dates more one day in the past will be automatically purged. There's no need to automate this, since maintaining it takes a small amount of effort relative to the effort of organizing the meetup.
I also posted about this a while ago. My recommendation is that there be a user preference menu shown when signing up (and editable later): -=Menu=- [ ] Show all upcoming meetups [ ] Show only meetups in my area (reveals form for inputting area) [ ] Don't show upcoming meetups
I'd be willing to code up a meetup-calendar site, though: * it'd take me a long time to get done * I'd need the ability to authenticate LW accounts (could have separate ones, but that's annoying for users) * What are the odds I could make something nontrivially integratable into LW's hosting?

Make a prominent "next" button on the sequence pages so you can easily go from one sequence post to the next post. There's currently a button but it is difficult to find and requires two clicks.

Get the green score-bubbles to cover the entire karma score, so that all the digits are visible.

Reason: I found myself less motivated to comment on LW after I got a fifth digit to my score. I think this is because it feels (to some low-level part of my brain) as though my karma now increases ten times as slowly. If this is true for others with five-digit karma scores, we might be pulling motivation from good contributors.

Why do we have tenfold karma for front-page posts, anyway, as opposed to say threefold?

ETA: yes, front-page posts draw in newbies in a way that is probably undercounted with onefold karma, but it's my impression that the collection of LW's comments is a lot better than the collection of LW's top-level posts (at least post-Eliezer), and so maybe we should just be directing potential new users immediately to the (good) comments instead, somehow. It seems to me that by having length as a de facto requirement for top-level posts, we encourage posts that take a long time to make their point and that go off on long chains of independent steps that have mistakes in them that could be corrected if they were presented in smaller chunks.

Maybe do a weird scoring rule that turns upvotes into karma points? Like, a 1 upvote comment is 1 karma, but a 5 upvote comment is 15 or something.
I reflexively select-all whenever I load a page on LW.
In the mean time, those suffering from this can check the "top contributors" sidebar.
There's a delay!
I voted up even though anything that demotivates other posters at the low end of top-10 karma works to my advantage in this somewhat arbitrary race.
Maybe it would be useful to show a frequency score (karma points per week/day) on the main page next to your username, rather than your overall score. You can still get your overall score on your profile page.
The 10x karma inflation for front-page posts may be similarly demotivating many people.

Please, please keep the color scheme. It is restful.

EDIT: removed other suggestions to put in their own comments.

Make colors user customizable perhaps?
While I mostly like the color scheme, I think the gray on the sides looks kind of sad. I'd like to see it a bit darker.
I like it too, but think that just a bit more contrast would be good. Not a lot, but a little. As it is, it feels bland.
There's a lot of stuff in here I'd like to upvote, but as the OP mentioned, it would be best to split up suggestions into their own comments.

Make a Welcome section that's clearly visible to first-time lurkers, and more helpful to them than the About page. PLEASE.

I think that the welcome threads are an important boon to new users, but unfortunately they're impossible to find as a lurker- the current fashion is to hope that someone notices that commenter X is new and says "Welcome to Less Wrong- check out the welcome thread!"

Unfortunately, there's a lot on the welcome thread that I think would be really helpful for someone to check out before they get to that point; and worse, much of the time a person's first comment is something that will get downvoted heavily for a reason they'd have known if they'd seen the welcome thread, and instead they end up in a flamewar and depart in a huff. THIS IS BAD.

I might expand on this idea with the general idea of, add a better "old-style website" portion to LW. Currently everything on LW is organized either blog-style or Reddit-style, which is not so great when you have things like important core pages you want everyone to be aware of - e.g. not only the sequences, but single-purpose threads (like the "best textbooks" thread) which, in the current blog-style format, might eventually be forgotten about and redone from scratch. Have a prominent "site map" style page that links to such things - the pages themselves can stay as blog posts, that's not a problem. Perhaps Eliezer and the other editors can have the ability to mark a thread for inclusion on this automatically, so people don't have to hand-code it in whenever there's something that merits inclusion.

To some extent the wiki acts as this, actually, but it's right now it's very hidden, not what a new user will automatically encounter. What if the wiki were the main page?

As an added incentive. I have committed to donating $50 to the hedonism fund (strictly enforced) of whoever's design gets used as the Welcome Page.

I also propose that the content be voted on. I think a lot of us have something to say about how the site is presented to newcomers and I'd rather it not be left to a single person. Perhaps a competition like the one for rational philanthropy, or even proper A/B testing.
Excellent idea!

In top-level posts, automatically replace "div" tags (which screw up the rest of the HTML) with "p", strip out all the font-specification crap that Microsoft Word and similar apps try to stuff in (the original font is good enough for everyone), and in general auto-simplify the HTML. This will save editors some work.

I request that we don't have a 'half HTML' markup language. If it is html that doesn't allow font formatting or layout handling then it basically is just not HTML and shouldn't pretend to be. A far better alternative is to make the posts use full markdown syntax and a WYSIWYG editor.

I want a preference (or a per-page button) to turn off collapsing when there are a lot of comments on a page. I don't care if it takes twice as long - I'd rather wait a minute than click "load more comments" 512 times so I can do a thorough Find for whatever I seek.

A "load all comments" button? That'd save bandwidth for most users but save you the time on those occasions you wanted to search content.
Yes, exactly.

I hate when unpopular comments get deleted, and all the replies lose their context. One alternative: a "Retract" button that marks your comment as retracted (maybe changes the text to a lighter color), stops the karma loss, automatically contracts the comment and its replies (like a comment below score threshold does), but doesn't delete the content for those who are curious?

I can think of problems with this proposal, so I'm open to other suggestions as well.

It's better to just forbid deleting comments that have replies. There is a ticket for that on the issue tracker.

Minimal, fast, lots of white space - like the current design. I worry that a new design would add lots of clutter and hurt the site's speed.

There's a lot of stuff that could be removed to improve the site - the "new", "top", "top comments" and "saved" links under the header, the top contributor and links to recent OB posts in the sidebar, useless choices in the comment-sorting menu ("Popular" and "Controversial"), the "Report" links on comments, etc.
Best suggestion on the page.
+ as many points as I could. Busy = not improvement. Especially for the already-distraction prone.

An option for shared authorship on posts, showing the names of both users and splitting the karma gains between them. The karma could be either split equally or in a manner specified by the user posting it. E.g. Morendil could have tagged me as 20% responsible for his post on status, and I'd have gotten 2 karma points for each upvote.

Make it easier to skip around in user comment history - by month, for instance.

Yes, please. (Since Eugine declined to spell it out, the bug makes it way too easy to accidentally post a draft when you intend to save it for later- in fact, the only way I know not to have it posted is to click "Hide".)

Indeed -- I had to independently figure that out the other day when a Discussion draft went lived. it also happened to a new poster who was being helped HERE. Even without fixing the bug... a simply bit of text could go under the save button for the discussion template that says, "Save in the Discussion section = post! Copy this post and start a draft from the top level!" or something like that. Or just fix the bug :)

Have a second karma bubble, that only sums the upvotes and downvotes you've given that person.

Interesting idea, I'll up-vote it though it is not a top wish of mine. If implemented I would like to see it implemented as a rollover on the karma bubble. Though interesting I don't think it justifies taking up real-estate.

Add LaTeX support (I mean inline LaTeX, not this thing).

EDIT: Based on comments below, I think I misused the word "inline". What I meant was simply the ability to type LaTeX directly into comments and posts. How it gets rendered doesn't matter much to me; some legitimate objections have been raised, but I don't feel like hard math gets used enough on the site that this would get out of hand. Restricting its use to posts rather than comments might be a good compromise.

MathJax is one good option for implementing that.

Yes, definitely. MathJax gives really nice-looking output, scales with screen resolution, and can be added to the site without much effort. The only downside is that it's a bit of a large download, but that's what caches are for. If you include the JavaScript file at the end of the HTML body, rather than in the head, it will download after the page is rendered, so the loading time shouldn't be noticeable. I'm pretty excited about this.
I am skeptical of this claim. Does your browser never become unresponsive at unpredictable times? Mine (Firefox 3.6) does.(Firefox 4 is much worse, BTW.) Since I use Flashblock, I tend to believe that the main cause of these lapses is javascript though I am willing to listen to arguments to the contrary. MathJax requires memory for one thing (after it has been running a while, Firefox uses about 500 megs of my memory) which would tend to cause delays when something needs to be paged out or in. And can you assure me that all of the memory leaks in Firefox have been plugged? I do know that (about 2.5 years ago) when this community was on Overcoming Bias, which at the time was hosted on Typepad, its responsiveness improved drastically on my admittedly very slow (P III) machine when I started using Adblock Plus to prevent Google Analytics's JavaScript from running. I am also concerned about the administrative demands of MathJax since what technical talent Less Wrong had available to it has not always responded quickly to spam on the site and has not implemented simple uncontroversial changes that have very broad support (such as a place to put meetup announcement to keep them off the front page). I do welcome more math here, but I am skeptical that the benefits of MathJax or similar solutions would outweigh the negatives on this site. I know that a lot of the web is heavy with JavaScript, but then a lot of the web kinda sucks, and I get the impression that JavaScript is a big part of the cause of the suckiness. ADDED. Those in favor of MathJax: do you want it for comments or just for top-level posts?
Alright, let me qualify my statement. The HTTP request/response time to fetch the .js file will happen after the page is loaded, as will the parsing and execution of it. This is an improvement over putting it in the head of the page. The time you're concerned about is the time for actually running the math typesetting code. Because the browser's JavaScript execution model is blocking and single-threaded (at least until we get web workers widely supported), a non-trivial computation can cause a hiccup in initial page performance. This is mitigated somewhat if you tend to open new pages in a background tab and look at them later (as I do), and you use a browser like Chrome which runs a separate process per tab, since by the time you look at the page it will have settled down. On my machine, the MathJax web site loads very quickly, and the math is processed almost instantly after the script is in the browser cache. This does not noticeably affect the site's speed or responsiveness. As for memory usage, according to my informal benchmarks, the memory cost of loading some JavaScript code is actually very small. It's dwarfed by the memory cost of rendering the HTML and images and such.
Yesterday I found myself composing a reply to LW in one tab while using 2 other tabs to look up text and URLs so I could paste them into my reply. If I understand what you want correctly, MathJax would have run in all 3 of the tabs (even with Chrome's process-per-tab architecture) and the delays and pauses in things like scrolling would have had a chance to interrupt my train of thought. Also, some of us have tried Chrome and after consideration, decided it is worse than what we are currently using. Google's motive in introducing Chrome was to neutralize the threat to its revenue stream posed by Microsoft's Bing and other Microsoft initiatives by undermining Office and desktop software sales in general, which is very different from my main motivation for using a web browser, which is to have a quick and reliable and non-glitchy and non-crash-prone way read words (and math symbols) written by many others and write words (and math symbols) that will be read by many others. There is no upper bound on the memory cost or time cost of loading a file of JavaScript, as is true of any Turing-complete programming language. With this particular JavaScript file, I worry about time cost more than memory cost because I can imagine that it converts LaTeX to images in the browser and doing that conversion in an interpreted language seems time-intensive. In summary, what you write leads me to believe that although a few LWers might like MathJax here, you do not really know whether it will have adverse effects on the majority of LWers. Note that these adverse effects might be diffuse (meaning they worsen the user experience of many people just a little) and difficult for the average LWer to attribute to MathJax -- just as it was difficult for me to attribute my frustration to Google Analytics's JavaScript until I made the experiment of preventing it from loading. ADDED. I would be interested in your answer to my question bottom of grandparent. Moreover, I am curious as to the s
How old is your machine? My computer is aging and creaky, and it can easily handle MathJax running in several tabs without any slowdown that I've been able to notice. In particular, any slowdown on page load is so slight that I haven't been able to see it. I was referring to the memory cost of loading the code itself, not of the heap memory which the program may allocate, which obviously will vary from minuscule to infinite depending on the program. No, it doesn't produce images. It generates HTML and CSS, which looks better and is a lot nicer for people wanting to increase the font size. You mean this one? It must have slipped my mind: I want it for both comments and top-level posts. Why not?
I am guessing that you, sketerpot, are in the habit of reading a lot of formulae produced by LaTeX and writing a lot of LaTeX. Is that so?
I am using a first-gen MacBook, the model that was introduced May 2006, with 1 gig RAM. When someone else wrote yesterday that Math Overflow "has LaTeX support" I went there and looked at a random page with math on it -- but maybe MO does not use MathJax, so it would help the conversation for you to provide URL of a page that uses MathJax.
MathOverflow does use MathJax, actually; math.stackexchange as well.
For a specific example, try this question on Math Overflow. It has quite a bit of LaTeX math.
It looks like you've expanded your post after I replied, so here's an addendum. I'm used to reading and writing LaTeX, yes. The source of my enthusiasm for it comes in two parts: 1. Because occasionally I want to be able to write math in comments, and the LaTeX syntax for this is the least horrible (and most widely known) that I know of. Simple ASCII formatting is better than nothing, but only goes so far. 2. I'm sure other people would also like to be able to write math in comments, with formatting that doesn't suck. For my part, I would like to be able to read their math with decent formatting. Pretty straightforward motives, I would think.
This, this, a thousand times this.
We have that hack for when someone needs it, and in actuality, people don't write any significant amount of math here. If it was needed, I expect there would be some use of the hack. Since there is almost no use made of it, I conclude that it's not particularly needed. So it's a nice thing to have, but very low priority.
Though it's possible people don't use much math because the hack isn't very well known. Perhaps the best idea is to not add MathJax or anything, but just to make more prominent in the help section how to do this. If people then actually make use of it, then perhaps we should add MathJax or something.
Does LaTeX support mean using LaTeX to generate images which are "transcluded" (inlined) into the text? This is better than using Unicode's math symbols? Really? Does Math Overflow have LaTeX support?
Yes; so do math.stackexchange and Wikipedia. Almost certainly not for small things. If we do add this we should also add notes telling people not to abuse it, and point out the existence of . (Unfortunately, one can't use HTML entities in comments...)
I though you conceded two and a half hours ago that HTML entities are unecessary. "Nevermind; this is unecessary after all," is pretty unambiguous, or so it seemed until I saw parent.
Haha, good point. They are unnecessary, because of the existence of tools like unicodelookup. I guess I was still thinking in terms of "people are familiar with HTML entities so we could just stick a note telling people to use those if possible" (and thus they would be convienient, but not necessary). Of course if we go ahead and actually link to unicodelookup this is even easier for those who aren't familiar with them! I guess I didn't think that through; linking to unicodelookup does seem to be the better solution. In any case, the point is that if we implement a LaTeX thing we should stick in a note providing an alternative for when such power isn't needed. EDIT: Also there's a good chance I wasn't much thinking at all and just mimicking MO/ which all do suggest using HTML entities as simpler system...
I should clarify that I am not opposed to HTML entities. They've been around long enough for the bugs to have been ironed out, and unlike JavaScript, they do not cause memory leaks or infinite loops or other challenges to the efficient management of computational resources if the people who maintain my browser did not do everything exactly right. Just trying to understand your position.
Right - to be explicit, then, I agree they are not strictly necessary, still think they would be convenient as things are currently, but also that if the help included a link to unicodelookup or a similar utility (which, if LaTeX is implemented, it should do as part of a "please don't abuse this feature" note), this advantage mostly goes away and they become pointless after all.
I don't really care how it renders, I mainly just want to be able to type LaTeX code directly into comments and posts.
That's a good point. Images would not be an improvement.
If only I had the ability to upvote about 10x...

I hope the aim will be to preserve the beautiful simplicity (and color scheme) of the current site. Honestly I don't think it needs a graphic redesign at all.

One of my friends took a quick look at this site a while ago, and said that it looked like a cartographer community because of the banner. Edit - please disregard this post
The banner must represent the map and the territory. I'm sure there's other imagery from the sequences that could be represented, possibly in rotation.
"Cartographer" was at one time considered as a synonym or replacement for "rationalist".
I just thought that people would be interested in the first reaction of a non-LW person to the site. Edit: I totally want to bring that thread back from the dead and suggest 'intentional rationalist', but since it was two years ago it's probably lots too late. Edit - please disregard this post
I disagree; the current site design is decent enough, but falls over in terms of fitting on screens. See my comments and screenshot in So I'd like to suggest the graphic redesign make LW a little more visually compact. It doesn't have to be optimized for cellphones or as compact as a random page on , but it'd be nice if it didn't take 2 screens to see one permalinked comment.
I agree that the single comment view has more boilerplate up top, but otherwise I'd say it usually fits on screens without any trouble. I was curious about your comment so I took a look at the screenshot. You say in the bug report that you're using a "fairly small font" setting but the font is being rendered much larger for you than I see using default IE9 and FF4 settings. Plus your picture shows the page with a serif font while the CSS specifies sans-serif. I'm not sure if it's a browser issue or if you're using custom settings, but in a 1600x900 view (as your screenshot size is), I can see the full comment without scrolling. Mostly I'd like to know if other people "take 2 screens to see one permalinked comment" because I agree that reasonably short comments should be visible without scolling.
You don't know the (physical) pixel size of gwern's display. Personally, I can see the first 2 lines of a comment without scrolling; over 2/3rds of the visible space below the site logo is haphazardly filled with links and buttons. It would be nice if it could be reduced to just the main site header, the "You are viewing a comment permalink..." line, then the comment itself.
Oh, certainly, but I was referring to the aesthetic, not the code/layout.
Whatever graphic design changes are performed, users should be able to revert to something resembling the old layout.

Threaded PM conversations. And received PMs appearing on a separate page in addition to the generic inbox that contains comment replies.

Have some way of seeing the most recent comments to a post even if they are answers to another comment (i.e. not just sorting top level comments) - something like the recent comments thread but for a single post.

There is a way: click where it says, "RSS feed for this page," then follow the directions to subscribe to the feed in whatever RSS reader you are in the habit of watching.

Do something about the "Help" link when writing comments.

A specific suggestion, change the link so it says "comment formatting", but definitely do something to make it clearly where to find the formatting help.

The "Help" link should open a wiki page in a new window, rather than showing some hard-coded stuff in a box under the comment. That way, it can be as long as it needs to be, and anyone can add to it. (I also agree that it should be renamed to Comment Formatting)
Eh. I kind of like it how it is. I don't want to switch back and forth between tabs, and there's such little markup for comments that I don't see the need for a separate page unless it's purely for spelled out, explicit (or maybe complex) examples.

Karma Bounties

LW seems to reward actually doing things disproportionally little compared to talking about them. My suggestion for this are "bounty" pools for doing various things, and when anyone does them they are rewarded the karma in the pool.

More info here:

Example: someone points out a problem with the LW Source, but rather than nothing happening unless some hero does it by themselves, there is a consensus reached in the comments and someone ends up proposing a bounty, then many people who might not otherwise have been interested give a bit of karma, and the pool ends up much larger than could be expected to gain from just commenting out after the problem was solved and asking for it. This motivates someone to do the change, then an admin verifies it and the pool is given to the person who fixed the problem.

I have a visceral negative reaction to all the random things people want to use "karma" for. Also I have no idea what The Nebulous Community (TM) wants to use karma for. It seems to be a "numbers go up people get happier" + anti-spam + anti-troll + "posts and comments have numbers why don't we sum them" metric. Do I have that about right?

I tend to treat it as an automated implementation of the Status system humans have but doesn't work well here due to Dunbars number type problems.
Tentatively-- a separate count of accomplishment points which are given for posts and comments about getting something done.

Add functionality to allow previewing of posts and comments. This would allow people to play with formatting without having to post horrible-looking things and then edit them while others might be reading and responding.

Posts, of course, can be previewed by saving them as a 'draft' before publishing to the discussion area or the articles area.
I had that issue a couple times. What I did was put this at the top of the comment:

Have the possibility to watch certain topics (posts or comments) to get an orange letter when someone replies. This would be especially useful for top level posts you write (you don't get any notifications of answers, and have to go check), but would also be useful for special threads like the location (if I want to be notified when someone else says he's in France or something).

Upvoting the need for a notification when someone makes a top-level comment to a post you created.

RSS for the comment page can do that. Same for recent comments on a post. Still, actual html would be nice.

The ability to sort my own comments/posts by recent vote activity. That is, if I suddenly get a 20-karma bump or drop in my overall score, I want to know what caused that.

Use case: If upvotes and downvotes reflect "I want more of this" and "I want less of this" reactions, it is helpful to notice when they happen and know what posts/comment people want more/less of.

Maybe have a markdown option for toplevels - this one throws new posters off regularly.

Provide an ambient visual cue on how old a comment is. First idea is to add a subtle color tint to the background of each comment, that goes by the logarithm of the comment's age from reddish ("hot", written in the last couple of hours) to bluish ("cold", written several months or more ago).

Old threads occasionally get new comments and get readers in via them, and the date strings in the comments require some conscious parsing compared to being able to tell between "quite recent" and "very old" comments in the same thread by glance.

2Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
Awesome idea!

Make it possible to search a single user's posts.

A prediction market in which you bet karma.

Could you spell out what you mean by this?
See Prediction market. Presumably the currency would be your current karma score. He might not intend a full blown market, possibly just a system of organized betting. Robin Hanson is quite fond of this sort of system since it does a good job of tracking who is making good predictions and who is not, and aggregates the collective intelligence of markets to get better estimates on possible events. I'm not sure how well this would work given that karma is being constantly added into the system.
Yeah, I know what prediction markets are, but I'm not sure what James' proposal is, exactly.
There are lots of ways of setting up a prediction market, here is the simplest: Imagine that it will soon be objectively determined whether X=1 or X=0. There would be a separate section in LessWrong for karma bets. In this section you could offer a bet, i.e. I give you 20 karma if X=1 and you give me 10 karma if X=0. One would click on this bet to accept. The sum total of all your karma bets couldn't, at the time you made a bet, exceed your total karma. An administrator would have to decide what events could be bet on, and which side won each bet. I would be happy to do this, although of course Robin Hanson would be the best person for this job. I don't have the skills to help you with the programming.
Gotcha, thanks.
Great one. I was thinking the same thing :) It should be noted though that this is a significant programing project though and probably out of the scope of a re-design. It is a project in itself. Still nice idea.

It's possible this was already suggested, in which case I apologize, but: the ability to sort my own comments/posts by descending vote total ("popularity"), ascending vote total ("reverse popularity"), and descending (upvotes + |downvotes|) total ("controversial"?).

Use case: If upvotes and downvotes reflect "I want more of this" and "I want less of this" reactions, it is helpful to notice when they happen and know what posts/comment people want more/less of.

(EDIT: Split into two suggestions)

You gave more than one suggestion-- they're both reasonable, but I've been wanting to track recent karma changes for my posts/comments for a long time.

Also, please actually pay attention to these requests, and don't add stuff that you don't know the community wants without talking about it first. In my experience, site redesigns can easily lead to large amounts of drama over very minor issues. If we're trying to be rationalist we should keep that in mind and proceed cautiously.

This rationalist wants you to have a little faith in him :)
Faith earned.

What sort of changes are on the table here, and in particular, does this include nontrivial programming? The person you linked to appears to be a graphic designer, which would seem to imply that this project is limited to or at least focused on stylistic changes, ie changes to the CSS and the HTML templates.

While there are certainly improvements to Less Wrong that would make sense, I don't think any of them are HTML or CSS changes. I don't think changing the visual style of Less Wrong is a good idea, especially if it costs money that could be spent elsewhere.

Trike's behind this effort, so non-trivial programming is on the table… but, we (I) need to be convinced that the benefit is worth the programming effort. Your votes here are strongly persuasive but not decisive.

Public tagging, possibly with a karma restriction for who's allowed to do it.

This helps develop consistent tags which can be very useful for searching. This works well for stackoverflow/stackexchange.
And on that note, I wonder if the discussion section would benefit from Stack Overflow-like suggestions of related posts. I love how ominous it is asking questions there: "Are you suuuuuuuurrre you think you've reeeaaaallly got something unique to ask?" Since a lot of new people post in Discussions, it might be neat to use such a tool to show similar/related posts. At worst they get to read some other views on something similar, at best it might prevent redundant topics that someone thinks is unique.
This is an editor power. I haven't spotted an opportunity to deploy it yet - anything you think should be tagged differently?
I just checked the most recent top-level non-meetup posts, and most of them only have one tag. It seems to me that people's classification systems are sufficiently varied that letting people tag would accommodate the way they remember articles.

Ask the designer to find a solution to multidimensional "karma". I think the two most common axes requested are "more like this / less like this" and "agree / disagree".

Agreed. Maybe they can come up with some convenient way to say "I agree with this and have nothing to add" that isn't anonymous like an upvote (see Agreement button).
I would make a poll to determine the dichotomy, not leave it up to this (graphic?) designer.

More details in the markdown help. Currently it only says how to do five things, so even people who find it aren't informed about how to do things like
skip only one line between paragraphs, or whatever.

In particular, numbered lists are a problem, and iirc, so are linebreaks for poetry.
+ in the WYSIWYG editor?
The "Help" text should link to the Comment formatting wiki page that can give further instructions.
Any chance of adding [[Jargon]] to the wiki sidebar, or to the front of the FAQ?
It could be included in the FAQ as one of the "questions". You can edit the sidebar yourself.
The markdown code Less Wrong uses is kind of a nightmare. It probably wouldn't be too hard to cruft on some new features, but it would be scary.

Comment preview.
Seeing the comment as it will appear before you submit would be very helpful.

My workaround for this missing feature (when I care enough) is to PM myself with a URL like

Add controls at the bottom of subthreads for collapsing the subthread, jumping to the top of it, or both. This makes it easier to navigate to the parent or above-sibling of a given comment without counting nested borders.


Some way to handle extensive footnotes, as luke noted. I'm fine with making them collapsible (and probably collapsed by default).

I recently added some nifty JS to my own site to deal with extensive footnotes by floating them when the mouse hovers on a footnote link; eg. the footnotes in my Terrorism is not about Terror essay. Of course, this Jquery stuff requires the footnotes to be actual hyperlinks to footnotes, which is a Pandoc Markdown extension, so this may not be a very practical suggestion, but would go well with a hidden/collapsed footnote/reference section.
Neat, but not very keyboard-friendly and a bit fickle for long footnotes. I kinda like to think of footnotes as parallel text and use them that way myself, but I haven't yet seen a decent way to implement this. Platypope (link to random article to demonstrate it) embeds them into the sidebar, which kinda works, but again has length constraints.
Oh man, I need to figure out how Platypope is doing that so I can steal the code. (Mouseover notes serve a comparable purpose.)
It's no less friendly than it was without that JS; it's 'progressive enhancement' which builds on the existing textual hyperlinks, which means it ought to render fine (like before) in text browsers (like ELinks, which I use from time to time). Mm, not fond of using that much horizontal space. Wouldn't work on LW because we are already using that sidebar for a ton of stuff. Might be able to fit it on the left though.

Simplify the top bar - I never use "Comments" or "Saved", and clicked maybe once on "top comments" and "top" by curiosity. Those kind of special links are good to have but don't need to be at such a prominent place, they could be at the bottom of sidebar (a bit like the "special" buttons in the wikipedia sidebar, random page and the like.

You could even have the "Recent Comments" and "Recent Posts" headers in the sidebar clickable, so you don't need those links in the top bar any more.

So the links at the top could only be "Main Page", "Discussion", "Wiki", "Sequences" and "About", reducing clutter a bit.

They already are clickable.
I am ashamed to not have checked this.
Dammit. Well, um, they aren't obviouly clickable which for now makes having the same links in the top bar justifiable.
He he. That is for sure. Moreover, clicking on "Recent Posts" leads to a different style of presentation than any of the links in the header leads to.
I use "Comments" regularly.
... actually, so do I. Hmm, serves me right for writing posts in a hurry, I must have been thinking of "New" or something.
This is obviously brilliant. Yay!

Allow users to read their own and others' comment histories more easily. This could be accomplished either by adding links to each page of a user's comments (rather than just the very limited "next" and "previous"), or by getting rid of the unpredictably-valued "after" parameter to allow easier URL hacking.

Example of the latter method: links correctly to the second page of my comments. redirects to the first page of my comments.

the unpredictably-valued "after" parameter

That's a database performance trick, which means that getting rid of it will increase database load.

What's happening is that, in order to jump a set number forward, databases have to perform the same query each time, but retrieve more and more records. It's like "jump to the start of this user's stuff, and read 10. Now go to the start, read 20, and give me the last 10. Now go to the start, read 30, and give me the last 10...." So performance gets worse and worse as you page through it, because each time the reads are repeating, and getting longer each time.

The "after" trick basically makes it so that every page is "jump to the spot given by the after tag, and read the next 10". Performance doesn't degrade as you get further into the list.

Alicorn's suggestion (of browsing by date) is probably easier to implement, in that the site could probably look up what "after" value to use, based on the date.

There's another reason we want this: Otherwise paging back through recent comments could end up skipping comments if new ones were posted in the meantime!
Ah, I see. Thank you for the explanation.

Spoiler tags, or maybe black-text-on-black-highlight tags, to replace the current fallback of rot-13.

Or built-in rot-13 switching in Markdown. (e.g. "%this text should be rotated%" -> "guvf grkg fubhyq or ebgngrq"). If this were deployed one could possibly even turn off spoiler hiding, and all text rot-13'd with this format would just display the original.
It should be easy to add built-in rot13 conversion as well: Whenever you mouse over a rot13 section of text, it's highlighted in some way and the mouse becomes a hand. Clicking it will instantly rot13 it in place (and of course, clicking it again turns it back, since rot13 is symmetric anyway).
This is especially important because QuickRot isn't available for Firefox 4.

I find the nesting of comments within threads too subtle. I can't "see" the nesting and have to work at it.

In the context of programming languages the research (quoted in Steve McConnell's books I think) seems to suggest that indenting by 3 characters optimizes the ability to "see" the nesting. Currently it's one character only.

Increasing the nesting characters is not free of course as it leads to very deep indentation. But there are ways of displaying very deep nesting though eg displaying ! for every ten levels.

Agree that the comment nesting is a bit too subtle, though of course we still want deep nesting to be possible, which means the main content well on the site should remain fairly wide.

I wonder if it would be easier to keep track if there were one or two more quiet pastel colors in the cycle.

Absolutely, so many parallel lines get insane. What about something like Disqus where you click reply to someone and it creates a link to the post you're replying to? Maybe that'd be cumbersome. Brainstorming...
Do you mean something different from the "Parent" link beneath each post?
Yes -- Disqus does essentially the same thing, but instead of "Parent," it says, "In reply to AstroCJ" -- and that hyperlinks to the comment. Not a vast difference, but if you've been reading through a string of comments that's, say, 30 comments long. There's a top thread, 5 second level threads, and the rest of the 24 comments are between 3-6 levels deep as people respond to each other. I just thought it might be helpful to re-see the name of the parent thread as you go down that deep. Maybe it's just me, but I sometimes forget which higher-level comment started all the commotion and have to go back up to look. If I saw the name, I might not even have to click it -- that'd be enough to remind me.

A decent search system-- I'd very much like to be able to do searches which combine date range and/or poster and/or post/poster being replied to and/or string.

Many sites have a hard time with this. It may be that it is just a hard thing to do.
I find very useful for searching Hacker News. Specifically, switching the results page to "sort by date posted" to find submissions and comments that were posted within the last week or 2. The source code for searchyc however is not freely redistributable (open source).
The google groups advanced search would work as a starting template. I'd add choices for main vs. discussion and post vs. comment.

It's now possible to check a preference to make your votes public. Currently all this does is collect your disliked and liked posts into two pages reachable only from your userpage; you cannot tell by looking anywhere on a post who publicly likes/dislikes it, and there is no support of the feature for comments. I would like this feature extended for people who prefer it.

I have mixed feelings about this-- public voting has a lot of possibilities for drama. On the other hand, possibility for drama = chance to work on rationality.
And it's an option. One can remain anonymous, currently and under the proposal above. If one finds it too dramatic to go public, one can unpublicize.
I meant that there could be drama between participants about what votes have been given. If there hasn't been, it either speaks well for rationality levels here, or means that most people haven't found that feature.

I strongly recommend that people talk about what they like, so that there's some information about what shouldn't be changed.

At this point, there's favorable comment about the general appearance (and I like it very much myself) but there may be other things to hang onto as well.

When getting a link to an individual comment, instead of just showing the comment above, show the whole damn thread (or at least, all the parents). I'm tired of having to click on "Parent" a dozen times to understand the context of a comment.

You can append "?context=100" to the comment permalink.
It would be better if this wasn't necessary!
We looked at doing this last year, but it's tricky due to another site feature - when a post's comment count gets large low vote comments threads get collapsed to "load more comments" links. It wasn't obvious (in the small time we put into it) how to make sure the comment you were permalinking actually appeared on the main post in its default state. (It's obviously possible - just trickier than trivial.)

I'd like the expand/contract [-] button to be at the far left of the post such that they are left-aligned and you don't need to move your mouse far when closing a bunch of them. Someone suggested this for Reddit and they made the change that same day.

I had never even noticed the [-] button until you just pointed it out.

I don't expect many people know this, but the font for the logo is called "Minion".

Given the accusations about us being EY's cult, I strongly feel that the irony is too wonderful to give up, and request that this be left unchanged.

I'll vote to that... mostly because I love Minion/Myriad Pro...

An option to display average karma not just total karma. This should probably count main page posts as 10 posts for this purpose.

Also, it would be nice to have a preview option for comments.

By the way, this could be done entirely in JavaScript with something like showdown.js, which is a mere 2.46 KB when minified and gzipped.

I would like my saved articles to be in a collapsed format of just the titles.

I want to be able quickly navigate my saved articles, and see what I may have saved a long time ago, rather than going through multiple pages.

If other people prefer having a few paragraphs to remind them, then a "collapse, expand" button could be added.

Have a "show all comments" option on posts which displays all of the comments hidden by "load more comments."

Drop the little skyline/boat grayscale image (mini-landscape.gif) that appears at the bottom of each top-level post. Original mention. Seems to have no purpose, and doesn't really fit the design theme.

It was an early draft of the map vs territory theme that became the site header, which we intended to finish but forgot about and published without further thought. Whoops.

As a new reader, I would very much like to have a method for marking how far through the sequences I am. A dot next to read articles, or possibly a timestamp of last access could work, as could a button at the bottom of the article labeled "Mark as read" that would display the article title differently in the main sequence page. I feel lost when I hop around on different computers as to what articles I've read and where I have seen them before, and simply saving read articles every time is unsuitable for this.

EDIT TO ADD: Based off of what other commenters have said, I feel like a clarification is in order. What I'm looking for is a way to mark the sequence pages I've read, so that when they're linked to in the newer articles I can tell right away if I've read that particular post. Hopefully, this would work for both backward-linking sequences AND new posts that also link to sequence pages. Perhaps a way to store the URL of a read page, link it to my account, and when that URL is displayed again within LW a new graphic could show up to the side of the link to show that it has already been read.

Trailmeme for the sequences has approximately what you want, I believe.
That's really cool! This will really help with my journey through the sequences. Thank you!
That seems useful. It might be good to have a notes-to-self field, too.
I like this idea. I started making comments in a separate file per sequence with the goal that after I've finished all of them I'd go back and see if my viewpoint changed or if issues that were fuzzy at the time cleared up.
2Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
This is an awesome idea! I've been reading LessWrong for years, but I still fairly frequently click on links within articles that look interesting, read the first few paragraphs of the article linked to, only to realize that I've read it before (sometimes a few times before!) This might be too hard to implement, but here is the system I would like: a way to mark articles as 'unread', 'in progress', or 'read'. This information would be saved and links to articles that you marked 'read' would change colour. (Of course, maybe I'm the only one absentminded enough to need this!)
Exactly! My problem is that I read an interesting article, and when I come to a link I open it in a new tab to pick up the context before continuing. When I haven't read the article I learn something new, but when I've already seen the linked-to article I can't tell until I'm into the second paragraph or so. Then, I have to re-read the original to get back to where I was. Perhaps better reading comprehension techniques would fix this for me, but I suspect that a lot of new readers run into this problem.

Remove DV links from a person's "past comment" page unless viewed in context.

(After the recent comment thread dfranke sparked, I lost a large number of upvotes from my past comments, which were previously almost uniformly weakly positively ranked. I assume my previous posts had not suddenly reduced in quality, and that someone had simply decided to go through and punish me. Making people view a comment in context - one more mouse click - would make this unconstructive action less convenient and less likely.)

If we do that, we might want to remove upvote option from that as well.
I recently attended a talk by Alexis Ohanian, one of the Reddit founders, in which he led the audience to believe that, on Reddit, votes on past comments out of context only appear to work, but actually have no effect. I have not tested this on either Reddit or LessWrong.
I recently attended a talk by Alexis Ohanian, one of the Reddit founders, in which he led the audience to believe that, on Reddit, votes on past comments out of context only appear to work, but actually have no effect. I have not tested this on either Reddit or LessWrong.

Provide separate discussion areas (subreddits?) for geographic subcommunities.

Google Groups and are currently used for this purpose by some, but this is not the most elegant solution. It sprawls LW content beyond the main site, requires learning how to use different interfaces, and puts us at the mercy of outside companies. The possibility of karma would also encourage more discussion among these groups.

Originally this was a separate comment; it's basically a rehash of childofbaud's comment though, so I moved to a reply: Much stronger meet-up integration. Mailing lists shouldn't be offsite, they should be part of the site. Something like discussion section, but you put your location in as part of signing up, and gain access to a 'Location' section that operates the way that Discussion operates. Details are unimportant; the main part is that meet-ups need a more integrated system, the tools that meetup threads use (mailing lists, schedule-matching) need to be available on LessWrong, and being part of your geographically local group of LessWrongers needs to be opt-out, not opt-in.
I don't disagree about the benefits of integration and improvements to meet-up threads, but opt out is a fairly obnoxious way to manage anything. I don't see anything in those other benefits that requires (or even is improved by) opt out. I may be missing something though and am interested to hear why opt out improves them. Any new arrangement should not be confined to one's profile location - consider travellers wanting to see if there's a meet-up coinciding with their travel.
The standard argument for opt-out is that it avoids the problem whereby newcomers don't realize the option is there, which seems relatively salient in this case. Especially if the "Make it go away please" option is clearly labeled, I'm content with opt-out (speaking as one of the uninterested folk).
Hmm. I agree re. utility of drawing newcomers' attention to it. I'm still not sure opt-in is the best way to do that, when there are other measures that achieve this and bring other benefits (such as an improved "newcomer experience" - i.e. some kind of tutorial or page with suggestions) without any opt-out problems. Put another way, if the goal is to draw newcomers' attention to something, then actually drawing their attention to it seems to me a better approach. FWIW I don't feel strongly about participating in meet-ups either, but opt-out seems to be done wrong by so many organisations that I set the bar pretty high for what I'll agree is a reasonable justification. When all the purported benefits of an opt-out arrangement don't actually depend on it being opt-out, I am sceptical. :)
Sure. And I endorse skepticism in general. A "newcomer experience" or "how to use this site" kind of approach through which all the bells and whistles are explained, so they don't have to be default-visible to get attention, seems like a fine thing. Upvoted that.

An easily accessible toggle to show/hide all karma.

Isn't this already implemented, as the Anti-Kibitzer in the preferences section?
I suppose so, though I was envisioning a more convenient and instantaneous toggle for certain situations times when you think karma might be heavily affecting your judgement. Not a big priority.

When you receive a reply to a comment, you get a notification. But when someone posts a comment on a top-level or discussion post you made, you get no notification. It would be nice if you could at least choose whether or not you'd be notified when someone posts a new comment on a top-level post you created, I usually stop checking mine after a week.

Good request. Current workaround: Google Reader and the RSS feeds of any post you wish to follow. I have a folder full of lesswrong feeds. (Most of them are obviously inactive so invisible.)
This issue was indirectly addressed before by Emile, and commented on specifically in a reply to the previous by jwhendy. But it's probably an important enough usability problem to warrant its own top-level comment. Currently the parent should have at least +6 extra upvotes going by that second link, possibly more, assuming the same people didn't upvote both. (I rescinded my vote from before, and I am now upvoting this.)

Provide the option to "follow" or "unfollow" any topic, so that you get all of the comments posted to it into your inbox. (Yes, there are RSS feeds for individual topics, but adding something to an RSS reader is an inconvenience and clutters the reader.)

Display negative karma when present for posters as well as posts.

I think that used to be the case and was changed in order to discourage trolls, but I may be wrong.

I think the search box has trouble with deeply nested comments. That is bad.

Provide optional notification of nested comment replies to the parent comment's author (beyond the initial reply).

Currently, if there is a reply to one of my comments, I receive a notice. However, if there is a reply to the reply, and so on, I don't. These grandchildren replies are often still relevant and of interest to me, however. Having the option of being notified of them would be nice.

(Alternately, this suggestion would solve the problem also, though that solution would require an additional step from the author.)

It would be really convenient to have a superior searching method for comments. I have frequently wanted to refer to a previous comment of mine from months before but have found it difficult to find (as I would need to remember the post it was on, search for that, then search for the comment, or go back page by page through my summary).

I second this.

Stop improperly presenting controls which immediately perform actions (Vote up, Vote down) as hyperlinks.

Anonymisation of user names in the Anti-Kibitzer instead of hiding them. Not seeing any identificator of the author makes it difficult to follow longer exchanges, and I often switch off the AK because of that. So, instead of seeing something like this

  • I think that X.
  • I disagree with your claim.
  • Why do you think so?
  • Actually I have changed my opinion.

which may be confusing if you don't know who has posted especially the last reply, it may look like

  • User_1: I think that X.
  • User_2: I disagree with your claim.
  • User_3: Why do you think so?
  • User_2: Actually I have changed my opinion.

The AK could simply number all participants in a thread starting from 1 each time the page is reloaded.

Provide some sort of view showing the source of your most recent karma losses/gains, something like the notifications on Facebook. It's annoying when somebody votes up/down ten of your 2-year-old posts and you register a karma change, but have no idea of knowing where it came from.

Possibly dangerously addictive, though.

Get rid of the "Report" link under comments and posts. Some possibilities, in decreasing order of preference:

  • Just remove it completely, and handle spam and other crap by giving the moderators a page where they can easily see the recent comments that got a lot of downvotes (if they don't already have one)

  • Rename it "Flag" so it doesn't get confused with "Reply" (I bet that happens more often than people reporting spam)

  • Remove it for any post or comment older than a day, or for any post/comment that has positive karma.

  • Give users an option in their preferences (on by default) to hide the link.

A vote for the flag rename.
It's good to have an option for the "something is going on here that probably shouldn't, a human moderator should take a closer look" case, even if it's not needed that often. I've used it on some spammers and an occasional drive-by gibberish trolling. Calling it "flag" instead of "report" would help with the confusion with "reply", but on the other hand it's less clear what "flag" means. Since most users can safely ignore the option anyway, this is probably a smaller problem than confusion with "reply", so supporting this one.
Since the site opened I have found the need for the Report button a total of zero times. And that is hardly due to lack of participation. I certainly wouldn't mind it gone.
I may have used it two or three times on spammers selling jewelry or pandora shoes, but that problem eventually got solved by different karma rules.

Have exactly the same markup for top level post than for comments (with possibly an option for editing the raw HTML or something).

Edit html of comments or top level? You can edit the raw html of top-level posts, but maybe you knew that.

Make it easier to read on a small device. This can be accomplished by making the width of the main column defined as a "max-width" in CSS and setting the viewport meta tag in the HTML.

Seconded. About the only way to make LW readable on my phone is by abusing the RSS feed, which is unfortunate because text-heavy content is otherwise a good match for small devices.
Thirded. The site is utterly unusable on my phone. (BlackBerry 9300 using the OS 6 browser. It renders the CSS and all okay, but then gives me a 320px-wide viewport on the huge wide page you've defined.)

Provide a free-form text box for users to enter "user profile" type data.

People who care a lot about what pronoun gets used to refer to them can say so; people who prefer to be handled via Crocker's Rules can say so; people who have particular interests can say so; etc.

Variant suggestion: Merge LW and wiki.LW account systems so that each user's wiki user page can be their profile page.

Excellent idea! Get people to actually edit the wiki!
Yes, that too. The need to create a separate account on the wiki is an unnecessary technical barrier to casual contributions.

A lot of the suggestions here would require changes to the server software, but I have one that might be fixable by only HTML and CSS changes (e.g. by switching to a good old HTML TEXTAREA element).

Less Wrong has a bug that makes it almost impossible for someone in the habit of reading Less Wrong with large type to compose a comment without temporarily decreasing text size. The bug has definitely decreased the rate of my contributions. Specifically, at the larger text sizes, the rightmost part of the box into which the person types "goes under" a... (read more)

The dropbox file you linked to is not generally accessible. I can't access it.
It works now if you're willing to click on the thumbnail after clicking on my link.

Automatic flattening of linear segments of discussion. A comment that is the only reply to its parent should be placed at the same depth as its parent. This will make long mostly-linear discussions easier to read and avoid unnecessary shifting-to-the-right-and-beyond (i.e. hiding and extension to a separate page).

(This probably shouldn't apply to comments whose parent comments have siblings, to more clearly separate sub-discussions.)

Yes, but the boxes around the comments should line up directly instead of being separated by a gap as different comments of the same level are.
Perhaps without color alternation (as is currently implemented for the last and second to last comments displayed on a page such that you have to click through for more) during these segments?
I'd prefer to keep the color alternation, actually. It makes it easier to differentiate one comment from another, which makes it easier to skim, among other things.

A micro-payment system so readers could contribute real money to an author as the ultimate sign of approval.

1gwern12y is especially relevant since it is a micro-payment oriented news aggregator site using Bitcoin. I've used it. It's not too great (low traffic, lowbrow content), but it demonstrates that the concept isn't too terrible.
Like Flattr, or did you have something else in mind?
I've never used Flattr but from a brief reading of their webpage it seems what I had in mind.
Upvoted, this would also encourage people to contribute (lower the threshold of actually beginning to write a post).

Make the Article Navigation controls less a buried add-on and more a coherent part of the overall site navigation facilities, since they are so irreplaceable for e.g. the important Sequences.

Ability to hide all comments from a user. I want to be able to put people on ignore and just as importantly I want people to be able to put me on ignore. Arguing on the internet is often pointless and the cost of avoiding said pointlessness is not negligible.

I worry about the effect this would have on understanding threaded conversations with many participants, or I'd be in favor.
My thought was make ignored comments do the same thing as highly downvoted comments. You can click on them if you really want to. It is certainly a more viable option than attempting to implement the ignore feature inside the brain of the person you wish to ignore. That doesn't seem to work to well.
Yeah, the implementation on that one is very buggy. (Although I'm working with a variant of an outright ignore, which your feature wouldn't strictly improve on.)
I like to save my mind hacking energies for features that can't be coded in greasemonkey. ;)
I assume this would work the same way that heavily donwnvoted comments are handled, in which case that shouldn't be a problem.

Allow comments and posts to be edited by other users, with restrictions, as in Stack Exchange. Build the expectation that this is used strictly to repair formatting and improve linking. It bugs me when someone posts malformed hyperlinks and they're there forever because the original poster doesn't fix them.

I'm not sure I want everyone to have this power. It could be a mod or editor power (editors can already edit toplevels and we have sworn to use this power for good, not evil).
The Stack Exchange conditions are that you have to be over a certain amount of “reputation” (karma) or have the edit approved by someone who is (or perhaps the original author — I don't know). I mainly think we should borrow the latter “suggested edit” mechanism — perhaps the original author or the site moderators would be allowed to approve edits.
I think this would be a good compromise.
At least, allow people to post "Community Wiki" posts.

As far as I can tell, the "Show more comments above" link currently shows the parent, and all sibling threads. I would like it to give the option of showing more ancestors, so that after I've gone to a comment I can see the entire discussion leading up to it.

Example: "Show more comments above: 1, 2, 5, All."

Be able to edit posts from looking at your own comment page.

Cycle comment thread background colours through at least three distinguishable colours; unobtrusive colours like pale blue, grey would be preferable.

(In the current system we alternate between two colours, and active sub-threads can have many branches; it's difficult to follow visually. Clicking "parent" links is something of a workaround, but breaks the flow.)

(Edit: cf Nancy's reply below)

Save the history of edited posts and comments, like a wiki; that would make it less of a problem to allow moderators or even high karma posters to edit comments (to fix broken links and formatting etc.), and would also reduce the occasional problem where a reply doesn't make sense any more after a comment is edited.

Also, don't allow deletion of a comment with replies.
If you allow editing someone can edit the comment to "(deleted)" or "(withdrawn)" or something like that.
Yes, there is a reason my "don't allow deletions" suggestion was made as an enhancement to Emile's "save editing history" suggestion, rather than stand alone. Though a lot of comments get deleted by people who aren't aware that they just received a reply.

Tentative: people get credited with a small percentage of the karma from the comments to their posts and comments. It would be a way of getting karma for inspiring good discussion.

This would have an interesting, and quite possibly net-positive, effect on discussions with trolls. I'm not sure how well it would actually work in practice, but I'd kind of like to try it.

Add an option to un-thread the comments, to allow them all to be sorted by karma or timestamp regardless of parentage.

Add a how to use the site section.

It's possible that most of the difficult bits will be fixed, but on the other hand, new problems may be created. Perhaps the how-to should be a wiki.

Whatever the redesign is, I think it would be helpful if clearly marked section were added which consists of basic instructions on how to use the site's functions and what those functions do.

I would have found such a quick reference handy when I first started browsing the site.

Have a way to show a specific comment without showing any replies to it.

I wanted to email someone a link to a comment today, and realized that they would most likely be distracted by the ensuing conversation rather than contemplating the comment itself. This feature would be useful in such situations.

Canonicalize URLs: at the moment, there are several different URLs referring to most pieces of content on Less Wrong. Sometimes it's as simple as one URL having a slash at the end and the other one not; in other cases you have a post that was actually posted in Discussion, but due to (I think) a glitch where Discussion posts as listed on userpages actually link to the post via /lw instead of /r/discussion/lw, and the former works anyway, causing two copies to be indexed in search engines, and the same for every comment posted on them. Preferably, every suc... (read more)

The top banner is way too big. When scrolled to the top, content begins halfway down my netbook screen. Most is spent on what is basically a visual in-joke about map and territory. Look to Reddit for an extremely tight banner/navigation area. Reddit's content starts a finger-width from the top of the browser.

Wow. I'd never noticed. Had never even looked at the top of the screen closely enough that I could even have told you whether or not there was an image there at all.

Fix the bug where permalinks to a post - even new ones! - do not work when a post is moved between subreddits.

User profiles? Click someone's username, and get taken to a page with some basic personal information, such as sex, location, homepage, etc. that the user in question can provide.

The site is very good the way it is; between the threaded comment format and the upvote/downvote feature, the technical design of this site makes it much, much better for having conversations than the typical blog commenting system. There isn't much that needs to change - at this point, it's more important to avoid screwing things up than it is to try to improve on what's already there.

Condense and reorganize personal items.

I have difficulty navigating all of my "personal" things such as my comments, drafts, preferences, saved, friends, etc. These are scattered about in a not very intuitive way.

I think that when you click on your own profile, it would be nice if the side-bar changed to include links to the different things I mentioned above. To re-access the 'recent posts' I would have to go back to the main page.

Automatically detect linear threads* and format them in a different way, rather than the current optimized-for-tree-structure way. The difference might be as minor as not indenting, but there are probably a few other things that could be done as well, looking at various forums and bulletin boards for inspiration. Another thing one will likely want to do is to make continuing in a thread-like fashion is easier and branching is harder.

  • defined as a chain at least 3 comments deep, where comment n is the only child of n-1.

Have comments on the Irrationality Game thread not show up in the top comments.

Use the whole screen. It's very annoying for lesswrong to show up as a narrow strip down the screen.

I prefer it this way. Really wide lines of text are difficult to track properly.

This could be added as a user preference, like it is in
I approve in general of people being able to manipulate stuff with preferences, but "like" made me shiver.
The nice thing about's design is that it's compatible with readability, which replaces its design with a more pleasant and relaxing one.
0hwc12y does that, but they do it wrong. They do it as a fixed percentage of the screen, not a fixed max-width.
Maybe LW user preferences could give users the choice of doing it either way? (I.e. as a fixed percentage or a fixed number of pixels.)
Does do anything related to usability right :)
...The text is readable against the background?
Score one for :)
Yes, they have a very simple interface. There are a fair number of sites that are hideously unnavigable just because the interfaces have so many options and are so colorful that it is hard to quickly move one's eyes over for what one is looking. keeps things simple.
I hate hate hate the top mouseover menu that pops down and pushes what I wanted to click out from underneath my mouse. Bad FF.Net! Edit - please disregard this post
Okay, it's not saturated with color and it doesn't have animated anythings, but in every other way it is overcomplicated and hard to navigate and has bad signage.
...except advertisements, of course.
Adblock ftw.
Is this something I can easily obtain?
It depends on your browser, but probably. It's a popular enough extension that I'd be pretty surprised if any browser that can do extensions at all doesn't have something equivalent. (Also possibly notable: If you're using Firefox, pressing 'esc' will stop all animated gifs on the page until the page is reloaded.)

Several times I've tried to find out what pronoun to use for someone with an ambiguous name, by looking through their comment history, and failed to find that information. It would be nice to have a quick way to get to someone's post on the Welcome thread, as a sort of profile, or at least regular account profiles that contain this information.

As it is, using "they" to refer to a specific person, guessing incorrectly, and posting a comment to ask which pronoun to use are all socially discouraged. Using names every time works, but is sometimes awkward.

I think the ideal solution to this is to have a field like "location" and "website" that one can fill in.
Radio buttons might work best: * she / her / herself / hers / her * he / him / himself / his / his * it / it / itself / its / its * they / them / themselves / theirs / their * e / em / eirself / eirs / eir * Don't use pronouns on me!
How about something for those of us who prefer anonymity.. Edit: I meant those of us who prefer anonymity but still want to post some personal information.
Don't fill in the field?


The field should be a text box, not a radio button or a dropdown list.

Ideally, I'd like it to be labeled 'pronouns' rather than 'gender', but that might be non-preferred for signaling reasons.

Agree strongly with the signaling concern. Also, it helps prevent smartalecks filling in something like "second person" or worse "first person plural".
'Gender' isn't much better at dealing with smart-alecks or outliers, actually. If I'm in an odd enough mood on the day that's implemented, I might fill in the box with 'yes'. Or 'no'. Or 'blue'. 'Female' doesn't always suit me, and unlike with pronouns there's no obvious non-male non-female answer to that one.
Are there important options beyond beyond male, female and an explicit n/a for the variable, not applicable, not your business etc cases?
I'd add "both", "fluid" or "variable", and "other" for a better shot at completeness, mostly because there are people whose non-binary gender is an important enough part of their identity that "n/a" seems likely to feel dismissive to them.
Better go with the text field then if there's really demand for all those. The base three would pretty much solve the actually manifesting problem of people not knowing which pronoun to use of other people though.
If the field isn't filled in, then posters are still stuck with a situation where what's wanted isn't obvious. Tentative suggestion: a text field in profiles for preferred pronouns.
It might be possible to automate this-- if you're commenting to someone, pronouns which don't match their preferences are marked as spelling errors or (if wanted) autocorrected. I don't know whether this is worth the trouble to program, but it' would be kind of cool.
That seems much too hard - pronouns are used in all sorts of contexts; how would it determine who (whether the author of the parent, the OP, or - more likely - nobody who wrote a comment here at all, in which case it has no reference) is being referred to?
You're right.
Is it? I wouldn't have thought people here would react negatively to that.
This makes me wonder if there would be value in a top level post discussing the implications of social anxiety arising from lack of clear gender markers. I have an unverified hunch that gender-related privilege plays a role in this, too. I'm not any kind of regular here but is "they" really discouraged? Why?
No, not really. The Pronoun Question is a recurring topic of idle conversation around here that never makes definitive progress, and a fairly standard sub-pattern is someone suggesting "they" and someone else asserting that singular "they" is ungrammatical and thus to be avoided. Other standard sub-patterns include someone suggesting Spivak pronouns and someone else asserting that they are dysphonious, someone suggesting "he" and someone else asserting that "he" is not in fact gender-neutral, and someone suggesting alternating "he" and "she" (either regularly, pseudo-randomly, or true-randomly) and someone else asserting that that's too much work. (I've been known to assert some of those things myself.) That said, I use "they" as a third-person singular pronoun all the time and have never gotten any negative comments (or, as far as I can tell, downvotes) because of it. Various other people use Spivak with equal success. And some people use "he" and "she." I endorse "they" but encourage you to use whatever works for you.
Has that happened? It seems pretty well established that singular "they" is grammatical english, and if someone said otherwise, they may have been talking about a special ungrammatical use of "they" (there may be some cases where "he" or "she" is correct and "they" isn't, but I can't think of many off the top of my head)
I don't feel like digging through links to find examples, and I accept that me repeating "Yes, it happens" is not actually additional evidence, so I won't be offended if you remain skeptical. That said: yes, it happens. Though I suppose it's possible that they meant a special ungrammatical use and I misunderstood them to mean the singular "they" in general.
That sounds like a lot of social anxiety to me if it's enshrined as a routine group behaviour - heat & light make me tend to think something interesting is going on that isn't being directly discussed. I'm surprised that a group predicated on doing things better would appeal to tradition and authority as a reason for, well, anything. And - seriously? Argument that "he" is gender-neutral? More argument for an eventual discussion of privilege as a pervasive bias. Fascinating, thank you for your thoughtful reply.
The privilege-as-bias discussion has been had a few times, including in the context of gendered pronouns. Which is no reason not to have it again, I suppose, but I encourage you to think carefully before doing so about your strategy for progressing it further than previous incarnations have, so we don't keep going 'round the same mulberry bush. Unrelatedly, tradition isn't a bad thing to appeal to when it comes to the meaning of words, or really to any activity that depends on a community's predictable adherence to conventions. Why do we drive on the right side of the road in the U.S. rather than the left, and stop at red lights and go at green lights rather than vice-versa, and use "hello" to greet people rather than "ahoy" or "shoelace"? Basically, tradition. Would it be better to switch? Well, maybe. But for at least some of those things, it's better only if we all switch at once, which is difficult to manage.

I have an anti-suggestion: no skinning or other proliferation of options. Someone asked for the current graphic appearance to remain as an option, but the designers and those officially approving the redesign need to have (justified) confidence in their decisions. If they're wrong, and everyone thinks it's dreadful beyond mere status quo bias, then they can roll it back and think again. If the general response is that it will more or less do, well, it will more or less do. Everything above that is a win.

Blogroll / Side Bar Section for Links to Rationality Related Websites. I love Overcoming Bias, but it seems a bit biased that Overcoming Bias is the only other website linked from here.

Reply to this comment with a comment for each website nomination?

Hmm... maybe with this feature new links could be added by users (presuming a minimum karma criteria), and then each link other users could vote up and down, so that the ordering of the list was organic.

I don't like this idea. The choice of websites to put on the sidebar is likely to be contentious. What exactly qualifies a website to be endorsed by LW? How should a website be judged considering the various PR implications of endorsing it? Also, who exactly stands behind the endorsement, considering that LW is a group blog? What's more, LW members already have the option to put website links in their profiles, and the websites authored or endorsed by prominent LW contributors are thus already given significant promotion.
It's not that significant. I watch my site traffic like a hawk and I get almost no hits from here.
FYI, I just tried to click through to your food blog from the link on your wiki userpage, and it is broken, I think.
Fixed, thanks.
I think I've clicked on all profile links posted by people on the top contributors list at one time or another (and many others as well), but I guess I'm an exception then. What could be done is to make people's profile links more conspicuous and directly accessible, perhaps as a part of making profiles generally more informative for those who wish to make them so. (I think someone already mentioned the idea of merging them with wiki profiles.)
A website has a specific goal that it's trying to uniquely achieve, and a general goal that places it within a community of like-minded websites. Less Wrong's specific goal is to refine the art of human rationality, and its general goal is to raise the sanity waterline. If other websites are successfully raising the sanity waterline, it behooves Less Wrong to link to them. I agree that there's genuine challenges in selecting which websites to link to, especially for a community blog. But a community blog, if it meets those challenges, actually has the greater potential to choose a good set of links. Less Wrong should strive to have a better set of links than its sister site, Overcoming Bias. These links matter. It's a standard feature of blogs, and for good reason. I've discovered many great websites this way. Unfortunately, never via Less Wrong. While I think high-karma Less Wrong users deserve promotion, it's not the only criteria for which promotion is justified. If there's a great sanity waterline raising website out there, it should be linked to, whether or not there's a high-karma Less Wrong user running it. On my own website I link to Wikipedia's argument fallacy list and cognitive bias list. Without digressing into a debate as to whether Less Wrong should link to these lists too, I'll merely point out that with the criteria you're suggesting, such links would necessarily have zero value. I think JGWeissman's proposal would choose the appropriate value for such links.

What I dislike most about the idea is that it gives some sort of official collective endorsement to external websites. One thing I like about LW is that except for the institutions that historically gave rise to it (OB and SIAI), it has no official doctrine and official endorsements. There are issues of broad consensus, but they are never officially presented as such. Thus, even if I have some disagreements with the majority on these issues, I can always voice my arguments without the unpleasant feeling that I'm invading the forum as an outsider trying to pick arguments over matters of consensus. (Which would constitute borderline trolling even if I'm right.)

Now, if there is a list of officially LW-endorsed websites, and I think some of them are bad and I don't want to endorse them by any means, raising such concerns would mean picking fruitless and frustrating arguments with the majority. And frankly, I think it is quite plausible that some websites hit enough "applause lights" that they might find themselves on the LW endorsement list, even though their intellectual standards leave much to be desired.

If individual LW members wish to promote external websites, I'm all for it. They can post links in discussions, and by all means allow them to post links in their profiles more conspicuously and prominently than now, not just to their own websites but also to a list of favorite websites. But please don't insist on an official list of collectively endorsed links.

You've articulated some of the problems of a blogroll well. Perhaps the blogroll idea could be evolved into a concept that better fits the needs of this community, while retaining its core value and simplicity: 1) Along side a link could be its controversy level, based on the votes for and against the link. By making the controversy explicit, the link can no longer be seen as a straight-up endorsement. 2) Along side a link could be its ranking based on say only the top 50 users. This would let people explicitly see what the majority vs. the "elite rationalists" thought - an interesting barometer of community rationality. 3) Split the "blogroll" in two - all-time most votes vs. most votes in the last week/month. This would alleviate the problem of staleness that Nancy pointed out. This is also nice because the links could be for not just websites, but any interesting new article. 4) Allow discussion of any link. Comments could warn users of applause lights etc. This is perhaps why the current voting system works well for choosing top posts, despite the problems you point out with majority opinion. A poor post/link can never get past the gauntlet of critical comments. You could generalize this to the point that ordinary posts essentially become a special case of an "internal link". Anyway, enough about a technical proposal - at this point I'm reluctant to push any harder on this. An impression I have of Less Wrong is that it's somewhat of a walled garden (albeit a beautiful one!) and that such changes would open it up a little, while maintaining its integrity. The resistance people have seems to be rooted in this - a fear of in any way endorsing "inferior intellectual standards". What we should instead be fearful of is not doing everything we can to raise the sanity waterline.
I wouldn't do this. The top 50 users by karma score are more likely to be members who make a lot of comments than "elite rationalists". The controversy meter and using recent votes are good ideas (I wouldn't split it, use only the recent votes).
You feel a good bit more strongly about this than I do. I would be inclined to look for a mild recommendation to head the blogroll-- "possibly of interest" or "frequently rationalist" or somesuch. However, your arguments remind me of another reason not to have a blogroll-- they generally don't get maintained, which means that they're likely to include discontinued and inactive blogs.
This strikes me as the most cultish-sounding thing I've seen here-- more so, say, than the boot camp. This may be unreasonable on my part since I don't have specific blogs in mind, but really-- in the huge universe of blogs, no others are rationalist enough? We couldn't even settle on science and math blogs which would be of interest?
It's cultish to say we don't have a consensus on this?
I dunno Nancy. I mean you start off innocently clicking on a link to a math blog. Next minute you're following these hyperlinks and soon you find yourself getting sucked into a quantum healing website. I'm still trying to get a refund on these crystals I ended up buying. Let's face it. These seemingly harmless websites with unrigorous intellectual standards are really gateway drugs to hard-core irrationality. So I have a new feature request: every time someone clicks on an external link from Less Wrong, a piece of Javascript pops up with the message: "You are very probably about to enter an irrational area of the internet. Are you sure you want to continue?" If you have less than 100000 karma points, clicking yes simply redirects you the sequences.
What about 'links to blogs which discuss similar things and/or use a similar approach to LW'?
I agree. The link to Overcoming Bias is a special case, because LW used to be OB, before the site split into two.
A way it could work: Have a section of the site where people can submit suggestions for the blogroll. This should be structured, with fields for a title, a URL, and a free form comment explaining the submission. The submissions can be voted on like comments, and the top 5 by voting score appear in the blog roll widget. The blog roll header can link back the submission section.
Measure of Doubt.
Those considering including Take On It, may want to look at prior discussion on Less Wrong about the website (summary of that discussion: I and a few other editors have issues with the website. Most commentators here seem to disagree with those criticisms.)
You Are Not So Smart.

Event calendar.

Currently, the "Show more comments above" link on a comment permalink page stops working after some number of uses. This should be fixed.

For that matter, both the "show more above" and the "parent" button seem to randomly break sometimes. This should definitely be fixed.
The site only allows you to see a certain number (10?) of levels of nesting at once. If the 'root' comment that you're trying to view grandparents of is nested that many levels in from the multi-great-grandparent you're looking at, you won't be able to go further up the thread. Changing the 'root' to the great-grandparent will allow you to go further up the thread, but the original comment won't be on the page any more when you do. Given how that works, it's probably non-trivial to fix this - allowing arbitrary levels of nesting to show on one page probably breaks the layout. There may be workarounds, though...

It would be nice to filter out post X's comments from the Recent Comments view.

Use Case 1: I'm browsing recent comments, but post X is new since I last read LW. I would rather read all of post X's comments in context, and not have them swamp the recent comments page.

Use Case 2: I'm browsing recent comments, but a particular thread that I'm desperately trying to ignore has been inspiring hundreds of comments that I'm actively uninterested in.

Show read/unread comments in different colors.

To take playtherapist's suggestion and turn it into something that makes sense in context, there should be parent/context links on every version of a comment (currently these don't exist on user pages, just permalink).

Also, for navigational purposes, deleted comments should still have parent and permalink buttons.

The order of comments displayed should be random, at least you should be able to state this in your preferences.

This way, all comments will get equal attention, each comment will get glanced at and voted equally, instead of the comments with most karma being first (and most judged) and those with least karma being last (and scarcely looked at).

Edit: This should, besides, apply to all levels of comments: So all the 'top-level comments' should be random, all the answers to one comment should be random and so on if you chose the comments to be sorted randomly.

In the meantime, you could try sorting by "Old" or "New"; the menu can be found at the bottom of any post, before the comments box.
Thank you, I didn't notice this because I kept looking in 'preferences'. Thus, it seems like a good idea to me to add the possibility of choosing your preferences regarding the comment order there. I'd find this much less confusing.
It's already possible to sort comments by timestamp rather than karma, but this might still be useful.

Replace the funny markup with plain old HTML. I hate having to look up the link syntax every single time, because it is completely unlike every other site I use (maybe it's just like Reddit, but I have blocked Reddit because it is even more of a time sink than Less Wrong).

Make this an option in user preferences maybe. I personally find Markdown much, much, much more intuitive than HTML.

I've got the link syntax pretty much in my fingers now (except for not yet being able to touch-type square brackets), but it was a pain until I had it memorized. The markdown for quoting and for emphasis is a lot handier than html.
Tips for remembering Markdown link syntax.

Auto-expand "article navigation" instead of hiding it by default, so it's not so unobtrusive.

Alternatively, you could rename "Article Navigation" to something more self-explanatory, perhaps "Navigate to Similar Posts".
Meh, that only makes sense for The Sequences, for "normal" posts it'd be a bit distracting.

It would be nice if the front page lists posts in order of their promotion, instead of order of their original posting.

Make the main LW site mobile-friendly, or implement a separate site version for mobile devices on

Enlarge / stretch the green karma button whenever the number doesn't fit in (mainly on individual user profiles with karma > 1000).

Thanks for pointing out.
10k is even worse. at 1k the numbers start getting obscured a bit but at 10k it looks like you are seeing the karma score but you're actually not. Gets confusing.

Is there currently a rules page? If not, there should be a rules page and it should be readily accessible for new readers/posters.

Fluid width, please.

In comment threads, the 'show more comments above' link appears even if the topmost comment shown is the first one in the thread. It shouldn't.

I'd like to see the site move away from the blog frontend.

It should start with an overview of rationality, some articles, and maybe the blog for people who want to discuss things further.

This might be good for newbies on their first visit, but if retention is the ultimate goal, it would quickly become redundant for the regulars to click through a static front page to get to the new content. The ABOUT link under the header already serves the purpose you suggest.
Regulars will probably have the page they want to skip to on autosuggest, so I don't think that's a big problem. :)

Provide the option to view the Discussion section with the topics sorted according to the newest comment. (In other words, each new comment to a topic "bumps" the topic to the top, like on most forums.)

People have already mentioned some way of marking comments as read. If that turns out to be too hard to implement, here's a simpler idea: The ability to set a mark time that corresponds to marking as read everything before a given time. And then - rather than autocollapsing everything from before then, as this is a crude tool - add a recent threads tool, that shows all comments from after that time which are not a reply to another comments from after that time - allowing you to just jump to the highest-level comments you haven't seen and read the thread, rather than digging back through Recent Comments to find them.

On the top-level post editor, hitting "edit HTML" should just switch the text box to "HTML view" mode (retaining your position), not pop up a separate box on top of it.

If trn is more trouble to code than it's worth, it would be nice to at least be able to just have recent comments for particular posts.

Trn or the equivalent. This would enable people to not see posts and comments they've already read unless they chose to, chose which other posters to see or not see, navigate comment trees.....

I suspect that if trn for the web were a Less Wrong project, it would also be useful publicity for the site, but this might be motivated thinking.

I have personal plans to develop my own sort of “trn for the web”; specifically, software which * takes as input: RSS/Atom feeds, possibly NNTP (Usenet) and email, as well as custom adapters for sources like LW which rely on threading but do not export it in common machine-readable form; * is used as a web-application but can be on one's own computer or a multiuser server; * provides UI features: efficient stepping through messages, easy thread-tree navigation (probably very similar to trn), and remembering read messages. However, I have no code as yet and no timeline; I might start working on it this summer or fall. I don't imagine anyone wants to help out under the constraint that I make all the platform and design choices...
How about a setting to auto-collapse anything not new? Edit - please disregard this post
"New" is ill-defined. One of the glories of trn is that each registered person has a file which keeps track of which posts and comments they've seen. On usenet, this was possible because each post was shown one at a time in ascii, which was fast enough to work even over a 56K connection. I don't think there was any way to make such a system to work on the web without JavaScript. A scheme like yours could work with user-specified dates for collapsing everything prior and/or with collapsing prior to when the person signed out for those who don't just leave tabs open. It isn't nearly as elegant as having personal accounts that track everything a person has read [1], but might be better than what we've got now. [1] trn included a "set unread" option.
It is ill-defined, yes. Hm... Something similar to Google Reader might be nice, with the ability to 'star' items, and track read, and mark unread. Now that I think of it, how about letting us make an rss feed out of a custom search and just view it in your favorite feed reader? That might be fairly simple. edit: Perhaps there is a simple or low-resource web rss feed reader that we can integrate with our message inbox? This is an example, I'm sure there are others as well. Edit - please disregard this post

Reduce the amount of generic article boilerplate controls (which currently consist of LW heading/site nav/article heading/article byline/"You are viewing a comment permalink."/article footer/comments header/"You are viewing...") which appear on the pages for individual comments; use the freed space for more context, e.g. displaying the parent comment by default.

Not sure if this is too late, but it was brought up at the recent London meet-up and it does seem no-one has suggested it:

Make the sequences actually readable as sequences - there are currently no forward links on the actual pages, which is irritating, and navigating them does appear to be an issue for quite a few people.

There are navigation links, but you have to click open "Article Navigation".

The pop-up window you get when you click on a voting button before logging in always seemed ugly and discordant to me.

Ability to display images in comments.

I needed this when Luke asked for feedback on a writing sample.

This appears to be implemented, although I don't know the markup for it.
Ability to disable images in comments.
Markup is: ![](http://www.example.PNG)
That doesn't work for me. I can't tell what the problem is.
You may need to put some text in the square brackets. I know this works, 'cause I lifted it from an old comment of mine: ![Card Probabilities](
Still doesn't work. It might be a problem with the site hosting the images. I'll have to experiment.
What image URL are you trying to use?
Got it.
* * Markup: ![Test](

I'm confused about the difference between "Promoted", "New", and "Top". When I'm not thinking about it, I default to "Promoted", but then I miss good posts.

I would like to see "Promoted", "New", and "Top" condensed into a single tab with a sort function on that page that allows the user to decide how they want to view it.

Same goes for "Comments" and "Top Comments".

The "help" button on the comments should include a link to a more extensive help file; probably both the generic Markdown help file, and a more specific one here (there's a page on the Wiki that does this, right?). (Including the more specific one to remind people that e.g. HTML doesn't work, and how to do that hack to include LaTeX.)


Make text more readable - especially in comments, since you can't use Readability on them.

Would an acceptable compromise be to allow you to change what font is displayed in your preferences? (Assuming that is not excessively difficult)
What in particular do you find unreadable about the site's text?
I'm not a designer and my taste in typography might be unusual, but I can try to pin down what makes reading it uncomfortable for me personally: (1) Arial (the default font) is much less readable than other fonts. At least one informal survey suggest users prefer Verdana over Arial 2 to 1. I agree completely. Readability uses Georgia, which also seems more readable to me. (2) "Justified" text (where each word lines up on the rightmost edge of the paragraph) is harder for me to read than unjustified text. According to Wikipedia, it noticeably impairs comprehension for people with dyslexia, too. (3) There are too many characters per line. My understanding is that in web typography, the "standard rule" (not universally accepted) is 55-75 characters per line. On its default setting, Readability averages around 70, which feels comfortable to me. Less Wrong has ~115 characters per line, which feels too wide. With a more readable font, this might not be an issue, but I definitely notice it with the current design. (4) Text is too small. This is a minor complaint, since you can adjust it in the browser. But by default, the text feels uncomfortably small to me.
I have a very strong preference for justified text. It makes the shape of paragraphs regular and less distracting.
Absolutely. Non-justified text died when we stopped using monospaced fonts with double spaces strewn between every second word to fill up a line. Flush left text just looks terrible now.
I prefer sans-serif fonts for reading on any kind of screen. Why not try specifying no font face or font size at all and use the browser default? I do not normally notice this, since I have set an absolute minimum font size on my browser. I agree it looks awful under the default settings.
A nice thing about Verdana compared to most sans-serif typefaces is that Verdana's uppercase letter "I" has serifs, so it doesn't look like a lowercase letter "l" (or, when italicized, a slash).
Make that all sans-serit typefaces. By definition. ;)

Have the Article Navigation work in the discussion section. Currently it only works on the main page, and if you try to use it in the discussion section it will take you to main page posts with the same author or tag.

The thing where you're able to resize the comment box isn't working for me right now? In any case, make this more prominent, and maybe (in case it doesn't work for some reason :P ) add a separate "reply" page people can use if they want a really large comment box...

This is actually a function of your browser, not of the website. Chrome does it, Firefox doesn't, and I can't speak for any others. If it can be added to the site, though, that would be nice.
Ah! That would explain why I never noticed it until I was using Chrome, and now (using Firefox again) don't. Thanks, I didn't mention that. My point though is that until it works universally a separate reply page might be nice.
Firefox 4 does it, actually. It's very nice.
Oh, nifty. I should upgrade. (I've been playing with Chrome, but it's failed to grow on me other than for that one feature.)

Another simple variation on the "marking things as read" idea: the ability to mark a post or comment as "don't care about this thread" so comments on it / replies to it don't show up in your recent comments.

It would be very nice to see the first line or first few words of a collapsed comment.

Add vote-up/down controls to the comment RSS feeds.

Add a facility to strip out font-related formatting (and otherwise simplify/cleanup HTML) from top-level posts, so that people can edit in their favorite WYSIWYG tools but avoid overriding the site styles.

Remove "Popular" and "Controversial" from the "Sort by" menu that's above the comments - I'd bet 99% of users only use "Top" and sometimes "New" (Plus for some reason, on my phone it's always set to "Popular" by default, no matter how much I change it).

Another one here who uses 'old', and it would seriously degrade my experience if that option were removed.
Which is why I didn't list it in the options to be removed :) (OK, I probably lose my bet.)
I used "controversial" to find this comment. keep.
2Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
I never even noticed the 'Sort By' menu. Thanks for pointing it out!
I often use "Old" so I can see things in the rough order they were posted.
Another "Old" user here.
I also use "old". Adding the option to not thread would be equivalent to being able to just see the most recent comments to specific posts.
Some of us use "Old" rather than "New".

Not exactly a design issue, but still a matter of user experience: if a thread gets too deep and the site shows a "Continue thread" (or whatever it says) link, that link should load the rest of the thread into the current page using JavaScript, instead of sending you to a separate page to continue it.

(This may or may not be worth doing in an AJAXly way; it may work fine to just include the entire thread in the markup originally sent by the server, hide it with CSS by default, and have the link render it visible.)

How would you handle the increasing narrowness? Systems that enable really narrow comments are ugly to read. Livejournal's solution of drifting really narrow comments off to the right after the minimum width has been reached is really ugly and I don't know of any others. Edit: Maybe the deep chunk of thread could float on top of the rest of the page somehow? (It'd have to be moveable and possible to scroll it alone)
Two separate links, perhaps?

Often I'll see that someone made a comment in response to what someone said as part of a discussion. If there's an easy way to see what specifically they are responding to, without searching through the entire discussion, I haven't found it. I know that one can also click on the name of the person being responded to, but if that person does a lot of posting, it can also be difficult to find that comment. A feature whereby one could click some where and be taken to the comment being responded to, in the context of the discussion would be helpful.

Click "parent".
In case you didn't figure it out, I thought you were making a joke. As Jimmy pointed out, I don't see "parent", because I look at his history and don't read the sequences. I have been corrected.
No, Alicorn. "Spy on son."

Mom, I keep telling you that you need to read the sequences. Many of my posts won't make much sense if you haven't, even if you do read the rest of the thread.

Alicorn was referring to the Parent link that appears under comments, which refers to the parent comment-child comment relationship. The reason you aren't seeing Parent links is because you're reading a user history page, rather than the comments feed or a comment permalink. If you follow the comment permalink from that page, you'll get a view of that comment and its replies, from which you can click Parent to go one step up the thread.

I would like to just say that in Firefox 4, none of the vote links (for article or for comments) work at all.

Aside from that, I feel that Recent Comments and Recent posts sections are completely useless. (Why would I want to see recent comments. And there is a page for Recent posts.) That whole right sidebar is pretty useless overall, except your own user status.

I also use the recent comments sections often - in fact, it's how I found this comment, by way of seeing Swimmer963's in the recent comments section. I actually use the recent comments section more often than the posts lists; it's a good way to see what's being discussed, which is a reasonable proxy for what's worth reading.
5Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
I use the recent comments section all the time. If I've already read all of the recent posts, I'll click on the recent comments and see if there are any I want to reply to. That feature is one of the things that actually allows discussions to start in the comment threads.
They work for me in Firefox 4 (Ubuntu 11.04 32-bit x86 distro build).
I use the tag cloud and the recent posts sidebar, and periodically look nervously at the top contributors list.
:) You seem to be pretty safe. But, yes, it seems like enough people use the sidebar to keep it around. Perhaps the recent comments could be shortened (to one comment per 3? lines), where you only see the full comment when you hover over it. Also, I wasn't suggesting removing any of the sidebar features, just moving them somewhere else (bottom?).

Add a control to each reply that collapses the whole comment thread. Label it "[--]". That way, when I belatedly realize I have wandered into a dead end, I can move on to something fresh without much scrolling.

A link to the markdown rules should be printed right above the comment box.

I entered ... on my 1st lesswrong comment because I thought it would turn into a link. It did not. I had to search Google for "lesswrong markdown" to find the rules since they were not very discoverable on the site itself.

The "Help" link below the comment box does that.
Thank you. Should the new design make it more prominent, or was I just too careless?
It may be good to change the text to something that makes its purpose clearer than "Help" does, maybe "Formatting help" or "Formatting syntax".
Chuck the Help link right next to comment and cancel.
A lot of people don't notice it so making it a little more clear could be helpful. I know I missed it entirely when I was unfamiliar with how the syntax worked. I applied the 'just f@#% google it!" injunction to myself to find how to do the quotes, links and lists. I was surprised a couple of months later when I discovered that the guide was only a few pixels away!
0arundelo12y I guess having the link on the right makes people miss it.

Is the site any less functional without JavaScript? If so, inform the user via a tag that displays a conspicuous message: "This site works better with JavaScript enabled".

Get rid of the "post saving" feature, which takes up screen real estate but is probably used by a minority (though some people here say they use it, so I may be underestimating). Or hide the "Saved" link in the top bar unless you have actual saved posts.

(You could also make saving an option that can be activated / deactivated in the options, but I don't think the "Save" link under posts is as much a waste of "screen real estate" as the link beneath the header, which is distractingly close to other useful links)


Much stronger meet-up integration. Mailing lists shouldn't be offsite, they should be part of the site. Something like discussion section, but you put your location in as part of signing up, and gain access to a 'Location' section that operates the way that Discussion operates. Details are unimportant; the main part is that meet-ups need a more integrated system, the tools that meetup threads use (mailing lists, schedule-matching) need to be available on LessWrong, and being part of your geographically local group of LessWrongers needs to be opt-out, not opt-in.

The ability to transfer Karma between users would be nice.

Ability to specify reason for upvote/downvote with a feedback note visible only to the person being upvoted.

Why not just send them a PM?

I thought of that too, but in the end I upvoted the suggestion because it lowers the barrier to such feedback, and I'm in favor of that.

You could even have a dropdown menu or one-line-pithy-comment-section that appears when you click a "vote" button.

Now that I think of it, comparing explanations for up/downvotes to properly commented code could help increase support for such explanations...

Extremely good idea, though admins should also probably be able to see the notes to prevent harassment.
Suggestion: notes should come with "report" buttons/links, just like comments. That gives the user who receives the note the ability to notify admins of harassment if it occurs, but ey can otherwise keep them private.
Solid. I honestly forgot that function was there, since I've never had to use it before-- that probably says something about this community. :)
Ability to destroy some amount of someone's Karma by sacrificing some of your own.

This seems like a really bad idea. If people sacrifice karma in this fashion it will make them more invested in the proposition that the other person's ideas are just bad in general. Since they've given up something (somewhat) tangible in accordance with that standard cognitive biases such as reduction of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias could have very bad results.

Thanks for pointing this out. Would it make a difference if it were a temporary/reversible cancellation instead?

I could see the appeal of a rationalist text-based RPG, but please let's not turn Less Wrong into one.

Adding game mechanics to serious endeavors seems to be a popular idea these days. One book about this is Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal.
What good do you think that would do?
No to a general destruction of karma. That would be nearly pointless. Especially since it is (more or less) free to downvote comments. i would like the ability to up or downvote an individual comment more significantly that 1 karma but with a cost. Either a limitation of how often you can do it or at karma cost to self. The difference between 'yeah, decent' and 'Wow! That was the most fascinating thing I read all week!'

Currently, there is a way for filtering LW content to view only submissions from people on one's friends list (

This only displays original posts, though. I would like to see this extended to comments as well.

Add Atom 1.0 feeds. Atom 1.0 is much better specified than RSS, resulting in more consistent interpretations of feeds.

In the RSS feeds, show the parent comment's text along with each comment, so that it is possible to understand replies without necessarily visiting the regular site.

Remove the links to Overcoming Bias.

I would take the opposite idea and say, turn the words "Overcoming Bias" into a link to the main OB page itself, rather than just having links to the recent articles.
They're not exactly prominent. It's perfectly common for blogs to link to similar blogs. OB and LW have a shared history and a similar approach; it's very likely that someone browsing the one will be interested in the other. ETA: also, I for one sometimes actually use those links.

Make comment permalink pages more visually distinct from article pages. Right now, if a person visits a link to a comment, it looks like it’s just a really short article with a single comment (perhaps with children). Only after closer inspection do I see that the text of the article starts with “You are viewing a comment permalink”, and the article title starts with “[Somebody] comments on”. The linked comment is highlighted in yellow, but this is not enough to signal to me that it is supposed to be the main content – it could simply mean it is a “hot” or ... (read more)

Children seem to be counted inconsistently - sometimes the root is included and sometimes it's not.

Make a section for meetup announcements with a widget visible on the main section, showing pending meetups, as determined by a "Meetup Data" attribute on the announcement.

This would get meetup announcements out of the main post lists, but would keep them visible, so that people will see the titles including locations so they will notice announcements relevant to themselves.

I would like a better interface to see the comments and posts authored by a particular user. In particular, I would like the overview page to display only titles (or perhaps the first few words of comments plus the name of the post to which the reply was made) so that one can more quickly scroll through.

Next to a user's name, display average karma per post instead of total karma (Total karma could be available, but not put in such a prominent place).

That would give everybody an incentive to post fewer, higher-quality comments.

If I worried that much about karma, I'd be posting nothing but jokes.
I would suggest copy and pasting a couple of quotes per month from a google search. And making contributions to controversial topics that are not inflammatory (at the expense of not having too much actual content.)
My impression is that quotes only garner a lot of karma if they're heavy on the applause lights, though funny doesn't hurt. Finding new quotes which are likely to do well sounds rather difficult. My impression is that those of my comments which go over 5 karma are very likely to be jokes, and at least at present, I have no ability to tell which jokes will go over that well. This doesn't seem worth trying to get stronger at, though perhaps the question is worth some thought.
Jasen would do very well out of this, with an average of over 40 karma/post! (including top-levels)

If we think people are taking "karma" too seriously, change the display to be qualitative like Slashdot's ("Excellent", "Good", "Fair", etc.)

I suspect this would be controversial, or at the least require significant discussion.

Implement this (xkcd).


LW generally does not have that problem.

I have a couple of teeny tiny issues with markdown.

  • At present a numbered list always begins with item 1, even if (for some reason) you want to begin at 2 or 0 or whatever. (Often nice to begin a list with 0 when there's some funny point you want to 'get out of the way' before proceeding to the 'real list'.)

  • [ETA: Ignore this point] Links don't work if the URL contains parentheses. This can be worked around if you use tinyurl, but it's annoying. A quick (but not perfect) fix would be to allow nested parentheses within a markdown link.

Refer to markown syntax for how to escape markdown syntax operators. It is handled the same way as handling, for example, literal_underscores_instead_of_italics.
Yes, that's as good a solution as one could hope for. My first point is clearly a 'bug' though: writing "2. something" shouldn't create output that looks like "1. something".
Or, at least, it is a feature which someone could legitimately not desire. The numbered list feature is just a way to specify html - so like in html the formatting is up to CSS. If you don't want a vanilla html numbered list generated then you just have to do the numbering manually and once again escape the character for the unwanted syntax. In this case that means the period. 2. One 1. Two Yes, this is somewhat annoying to do. It is also annoying that you don't have control of the CSS used from inside the markdown. Which gets frustrating for nested lists when the default formatting sucks. Come to think of it that's another feature request. Change one line in the CSS to improve nested lists.
2. Dog 1 Cat
1. 234 2. 23423
\2. Cat \1. Dog
You can link to a URL that ends in a parenthesis by escaping the parenthesis that belongs to the URL.
Thanks - useful to know.

Some way to get HTML entities (i.e. stuff like ∈ and ⊆, not stuff like and ) - or something similar - to work in comments.

You can use the Unicode characters represented by those entities directly — e.g. ∈, ⊆.
...of course it's not obvious that there's a convenient way to do this, so thank you for making me go look for one! It turns out works pretty well for this purpose. Nevermind; this is unecessary after all.
You might also take a look at Using LaTeX to render mathematics. However, the Unicode solution may be preferable in many instances, as text is less obtrusive than inserted images for simple usage.

I'd like a generic tracking tool for distributed efforts to collate information. I guess it would end up looking like a voting tool in some ways. It would be great if it had a blind mode so that people couldn't see results until some predetermined time.

Edit - please disregard this post


For authors: an automatic footnotes plugin.


Make it possible to see how much karma someone has when they have more than 100 karma.


While I mostly like the color scheme, I think the gray on the sides looks kind of sad. I'd like to see it a bit darker.


Allow threads to be read over NNTP, like Usenet.

[Disclaimer: I would not use this feature, but I have heard others wishing for this and so I offer this comment to remind them to vote for.]

Ability to have favourite users. Ability to give their posts and threads "personal karma". Similarly ability to killfile individuals, like you could in the old newsgroup days. (Or use "personal negative Karma").

A kind of "favourite users" already exists, under the guise of "friends". (Click on PREFERENCES, then click FRIENDS on the re-rendered navigation bar.) But it sounds like what you're suggesting is a more fine-grained personal ranking of posters. This could be useful, and it could be dangerous. It sounds like it could reinforce confirmation bias, for one.

Add a hierarchical categorization of tags so that it is not a jumbled mess in the sidebar.


I would like to be able to collapse or expand an entire sub-thread of comments. Rather than try to describe this in words, look at e.g. the "reveal triangles" used in the MacOS Finder for windows in list view to see what I'm imagining.

More subreddits, so that each post and comment is more likely to be seen and voted on by the sorts of people who would like to see it and who know whether it is good or bad than by other sorts of people.

Yes, but not yet. We do not yet have enough people to overwhelm either Main or Discussion with new good content.

Not all of the people who would be making good posts if we had subreddits are making those posts now. Subreddits might nudge them if nothing else. Some people primarily interested in, say, existential risks are probably being driven away by all the off-topic chat on the recent comments page.
The extropians list, in its early days, was a focal point for intelligent discussion about transhumanism issues, and I think it ended up being crucial in producing the thinking of both Eliezer and others like Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg. There currently is no such focal point anywhere on the internet, but a LW subreddit could be one.
One of my suggestions seems to be a subset of this one. So, whoever keeps track of these things might want to mentally add any upvotes that one gets to the parent, if they agree. I think this would be a really neat addition, if done right. It would also lengthen the lifespan of some of the discussion threads, as they wouldn't constantly be pushed back by new, potentially irrelevant ones. (I, for one, rarely navigate beyond the first page, and there are only a few topics that I am interested in.) This doesn't have to replace the main discussion area, by the way. It should be possible to implement viewing all the separate discussion topics on one page, but still provide the option of finer granularity for those who seek it. Some additional, potential categories: LW Community Organizers (currently on a Google Group), Sequence Re-runs (currently strewn across the main discussion), Existential Risks, Radical Life Extension, AI Theory/Implementation, etc.

If it's possible, I've always thought it might be helpful to have a second karma score that's a function of karma vs. number of viewers of the full post. Or simply a counter for number of viewers.

Edit: This would be points for a post/article, not necessarily for comments or users.

Less Wrong does not currently collect the information necessary to determine number of viewers. The closest available approximation is pageloads containing the comment, but that doesn't give information about how much of the page the reader scrolled through, or how quickly, which would be necessary to determine what they actually looked at and read.
Does what you say apply to posts, or just comments? I mostly meant posts. I would hope that enough LWers read entire posts to make an even imperfect implementation worthwhile.
It only applies to comments. Reading a post is a separate pageview, as long as there's some text below the fold.

A separate section for singularity related topics.


Move the [-] sign to collapse threads to the front of the comment. Reddit introduced this recently and I get confused whenever I change sites.

I made a sugestion in the discusion section some time ago, but it never got much atention, so I'll link it here. Consi