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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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.)

6RHollerith -- 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.

Fix this bug.

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)
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)
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.)