TLDR: I made a little custom iPhone widget for the EA Forum recently and have been getting a lot of value out of it. It takes an extra 10s to make this a LessWrong or Alignment forum widget. At the moment I don't feel bothered to make this into an app which is easy to install, but I think people could set it up themselves in ~5 mins or less, and if you don't use the forum much but want to use it more it might help.

What is it?

I set up a EA Forum[1] widget using a little iPhone personalisation tool called Scriptable. It shows the details of a random front page forum post once per hour. And it looks like this...

At the time of writing I haven't read Ozymandias' post

Why I think it's good

I've noticed that when I interact with the forum I usually enjoy it. However, I usually don't reach for the forum over other easily available sources of entertainment like YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok (although don't worry, I deleted TikTok). I made this widget initially to try and make the Forum an easy reach alternative to these apps. I think it worked; my usage of the forum went from once per month (or less) to once or twice a day. At one point I removed the widget and didn't get around to re-adding it for a few months, and my forum usage dropped down again. Since reinstalling it a few days ago, it has jumped back up. I’d put this then at somewhere around a 10 - 100x increase in value out of the forum for me, but don’t know yet if it will work long term or just hold my attention for 1-2 week chunks.

How to set it up

This works for iPhone and presumably iPad (although I haven't been able to test it on iPad).

  • Download the Scriptable app then open it
  • Click the little plus icon in the top right corner
  • Paste this code[2] into the editor
  • For LessWrong replace getForumPosts(EAForum) with getForumPosts(LessWrong) on line 10.
  • Go to your home screen
  • Long press on the home screen or any app to enter jiggle mode
  • Click the plus in the top left to add a widget
  • Find Scriptable (You can use the search bar)
  • Pick the midsized view and click "Add widget" at the bottom
  • Tap on the widget
  • Click choose script
  • Pick the script you just made (If you didn't actively change the name it should be the only option called "Untitled Script")
  • Tap anywhere else on the screen to exit jiggle mode.

You're done! I just ran through this process and it took a little over 1 minute. Here's a video.

I hope this helps you as much as it's helped me.

  1. ^

    Since the EA Forum, LessWrong and the Alignment Forum all use the same code you can replace getForumPosts(EAForum) with getForumPosts(LessWrong) or getForumPosts(AlignmentForum).

  2. ^

    For what it's worth, I don't advocate copying random code you see on the Internet and running it, but we're all friends here. (Plus I trust the community to have someone who feels like reading through the above and checking it's not horrifically unsafe and confirming in the comments.)

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I don't need anything to encourage me to use Lesswrong, but if you have something to discourage me from using it, although I don't have a need for it now, I am worried enough about the future that I would keep a link to it on my hard drive.

Upvoted for experimenting with your own motivations and reminders, and especially for sharing.  Thank you!

That said, I don't think it'd help me much - I have lesswrong.com/daily in my bookmark for "morning reading tabs" (next to my e-mail, Inoreader for feeds, and a few others), so I at least glance at it daily, and generally open new tabs for any topics that catch my eye, which I check on as I have time throughout the day.

For those who don't have something like this, I can imagine a reminder widget would help, but I'd probably just make it a "link to sites I've spent time on, but not in the last 48 hours" widget.  A pure reminder of things I've enjoyed in the past, rather than trying to pick specific posts to take me to.