What would you like to see posts about?

by shev2 min read19th Jan 201715 comments

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I've just come back from the latest post on revitalizing LW as a conversational locus in the larger Rational-Sphere community and I'm personally still very into the idea. This post is directed at you if you're also into the idea. If you're not, that's okay; I'd still like to give it a try.

A number of people in the comments mentioned that the Discussion forum mostly gets Link posts, these days, and that those aren't particularly rewarding. But there's also not a lot of people investing time in making quality text posts; certainly nothing like the 'old days'.

This also means that the volume of text posts is low enough that writing one (to me) feels like speaking up in a quiet room -- sort of embarrassingly ostentatious, amplified by the fact that without an 'ongoing conversation' it's hard to know what would be a good idea to speak up about. Some things aren't socially acceptable here (politics, social justice?); some things feel like they've been done so many times that there's not much useful to say (It feels hard to have anything novel to say about, say, increasing one's productivity, without some serious research.) 

(I know the answer is probably 'post about anything you want', but it feels much easier to actually do that if there's some guidance or requests.)

So, here's the question: what would you like to see posts about?

I'm personally probably equipped to write about ideas in math, physics, and computer science, so if there are requests in those areas I might be able to help (I have some ideas that I'm stewing, also). I'm not sure what math level to write at, though, since there's no recent history of mathematically technical posts. Is it better to target "people who probably took some math in college but always wished they knew more?" or better to just be technical and risk missing lots of people?

My personal requests:

1. I really value surveys of subjects or subfields. They provide a lot of knowledge and understanding for little time invested, as a reader, and I suspect that as overviews are relatively easy to create as a writer since they don't have to go deep into details. Since they explain existing ideas instead of introduce new ones they're easier and less stressful to get right. If you have a subject you feel like you broadly understand the landscape of, I'd encourage you to write out a quick picture of it.

For instance, u/JacobLiechty posted about "Keganism" in the thread I linked at the top of the post, and I don't know what that is but it sounds interconnected to many other things. But in many cases I can only learn so much by *going and reading the relevant material*, especially on philosophical ideas. What's more important is how it fits into ongoing conversations, or political groups, or social groups, or whatever. There's no efficient way for me to learn to understand the landscape of discussion around a concept that compares to having someone just explain it.
(I'll probably volunteer to do this in the near future for a couple of fields I pay attention to.)

It's also (in my opinion) *totally okay* to do a mediocre job with these, especially if others can help fill in the gaps in the comments. Much better to try. A mostly-correct survey is still super useful compared to none at all. They don't have to be just academic subjects, either. I found u/gjm's explanation of what 'postrationalism' refers to in the aforementioned thread very useful, because it put a lot of mentions of the subject into a framework that I didn't have in place already -- and that was just describing a social phenomenon in the blog-sphere.

2. I've seen expressed by others a desire to see more material about instrumental rationality, that is, implementing rationality 'IRL' in order to achieve goals. These can be general mindsets or ways of looking at the world, or in-the-moment techniques you can exercise (and ideally, practice). (Example) If you've got personal anecdotes about successes (or failures) at implementing rational decision-making in real life, I'm certain that we'd like to hear about them.

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