Which subreddits should we create on Less Wrong?

by lukeprog1 min read4th Sep 201378 comments

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Less Wrong is based on reddit code, which means we can create subreddits with relative ease.

Right now we have two subreddits, Main and Discussion. These are distinguished not by subject matter, but by whether a post is the type of thing that might be promoted to the front page or not (e.g. a meetup announcement, or a particularly well-composed and useful post).

As a result, almost everything is published to Discussion, and thus it is difficult for busy people to follow only the subjects they care about. More people will be able to engage if we split things into topic-specific subreddits, and make it easy to follow only what they care about.

To make it easier for people to follow only what they care about, we're building the code for a Dashboard thingie.

But we also need to figure out which subreddits to create, and we'd like community feedback about that.

We'll probably start small, with just 1-5 new subreddits.

Below are some initial ideas, to get the conversation started.

 

Idea 1

  • Main: still the place for things that might be promoted.
  • Applied Rationality: for articles about what Jonathan Baron would call descriptive and prescriptive rationality, for both epistemic and instrumental rationality (stuff about biases, self-improvement stuff, etc.).
  • Normative Rationality: for articles about what Baron would call normative rationality, for both epistemic and instrumental rationality (examining the foundations of probability theory, decision theory, anthropics, and lots of stuff that is called "philosophy"). 
  • The Future: for articles about forecasting, x-risk, and future technologies.
  • Misc: Discussion, renamed, for everything that doesn't belong in the other subreddits.

 

Idea 2

  • Main
  • Epistemic Rationality: for articles about how to figure out the world, spanning the descriptive, prescriptive, and normative.
  • Instrumental Rationality: for articles about how to take action to achieve your goals, spanning the descriptive, prescriptive, and normative. (One difficulty with the epistemic/instrumental split is that many (most?) applied rationality techniques seem to be relevant to both epistemic and instrumental rationality.)
  • The Future
  • Misc.


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What happened to holding off proposing solutions?

Main is useless to me as is. As I mentioned a few times before, it should be replaced/supplemented by a "highly rated"/"greatest hits"/"best of LW" section, whether generated automatically based on post's karma or updated manually once a day or so.

Also, instead of/in addition to subreddits, you can create a list of approved tags/keywords a poster is forced to select one or more from, which trigger notifications to these busy people, or to anyone else who subscribes to notifications.

Seconding both proposals.

About tags: I like them more than subreddits because you can have several tags on a post, adding new tags doesn't fragment the audience, and you can add tags to existing content retroactively. For example, tags on MathOverflow work really well.

create a list of approved tags/keywords a poster is forced to select one or more from

Seconded.

Especially given how this is orthogonal to splitting things up into subreddits.

Second this. Stuff happens on Discussion now, and in the Open Threads - this may be the phenomenon where the leading edge is the one with the lowest barrier to entry. Main is scary.

Of course, lower barrier to entry also means more garbage. Hence the up and down things.

6Douglas_Knight8yThere exist many "best of" lists, manual and algorithmic. "Promoted [http://lesswrong.com/promoted/]" is a "best of" list; you probably just don't like the taste of the promoters (eg, meetups). The front page [http://lesswrong.com/] "featured" articles are best of the archives. Much of main is moved from discussion by the author in response to audience encouragement (but another part of main is going to be demoted to discussion). There is a list of top scoring articles of the week [http://lesswrong.com/top/?t=week] or month [http://lesswrong.com/top/?t=month] or other periods [1]. Hot [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/hot/] is a smoothing of the trade-off between recency and votes, but the version for main [http://lesswrong.com/hot/] is busted [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hot]; anyhow, it doesn't let you control how recent you want the posts, the way "top" does. [1] click on "filter" to choose another period.
2KnaveOfAllTrades8yThese might be good substitutes in theory, but it's possible that they are not prominent enough on the site to be good practical substitutes, insomuch as people just don't know about them. That would probably be quickly and easily fixed by editing front page / sidebar HTML, but as it stands. More generally, I (and I gather others) find LW somewhat kludgey, un- or outright counterintuitive, and time-consuming to familiarise oneself with. As such, responses like 'There's a workaround for that, you know' are not entirely satisfying.
4Metus8yIn addition to all the other yay-sayers I want to express my approval too. "Main" is useful for high-quality content but it is useless with its current distinction between "promoted" and not. "Discussion" is full of stuff I do not care about or only very little, as is the case with "Main". Tags + "Best of" solve both problems nicely. For the tags take a predefined dictionary and users with high karma count have the ability to re-tag. That way I can subscribe to the topics I actually care about and do not have to read about meetups on the other end of the world or some nuance of effective giving of money I simply do not have. Oh and nice catch of the holding off solutions stuff.
4lukeprog8yReplacing Main with Best of LW might work, though it would require more programming work. The trouble with tags is that it's hard to make sure people use them properly and consistently.

The trouble with tags is that it's hard to make sure people use them properly and consistently.

That's why you don't let users invent tags of their own but enforce a unified premade dictionary.

Also I know at least one website which lets people with sufficiently high karma retag posts of others -- that should be helpful with fixing problems.

4KnaveOfAllTrades8yThen it's still hard to make sure people use them properly and consistently; even with admin-specified tags, those tags can be applied inconsistently by post authors such as to deflate the specificity of the tags or shift their meaning. I think maybe the reason Luke is specifically suggesting changing the subreddit partition is because this requires a one-off, upfront, unusually small (compared to other LW improvements) investment of time. High-karma folk (re)tagging is riskier because it puts an ongoing burden on a small number of people, introduces more opportunity for drama and disruptive disagreement, and very probably introduces other issues.
2peter_hurford8yIsn't that risk equally present with subreddits (i.e., people choosing the wrong subreddit)?
0[anonymous]7ySeconding both proposals (get rid of main, use tags instead of subreddits). The defining difference between a subreddit and a tag chosen from a list of approved tags is that any particular article can belong to zero or more tags whereas it must belong to exactly one subreddit. I know that the way involving tags incurs a higher implementation cost, but if being like Reddit is as high as LW is going to aim, we might as well not bother. I'll add another proposal: which "bin", subreddit or tag an article goes into should not be reflected in the URL. The current practice in which some URLs have /r/discussion in it while other articles do not is an example of what this proposal suggests we get away from doing.
0Ben_LandauTaylor8yTags would be nice to have, but it sounds like they'd be much, much more expensive to implement, so I'm not getting my hopes up. Unless someone knows of an implementation built on reddit code?
9cousin_it8yLW already has tags, e.g. this post is tagged "meta". They're just not very prominent in the UI.

With an increasing number of subreddits, have an "all" subreddit for those who want to check for overall new content, without clicking on each subforum in turn.

All - Main - Technical - Repositories - Meetups - Misc

I agree with shminux that keeping Main as a section one can post to is useless. I would have as places where one can post: 1) Theoretical rationality, 2) Applied rationality, 3) The Future, 4) Meetups, 5) Misc.

Then make it that ordinary posts above a certain high karma threshold (e.g. +20 or +30) get automatically Promoted to the front page, in addition to community-important things like a periodic list of meetups and, possibly, other posts at the discretion of the mods. Having Main as a separate section only causes this pointless self-callibration game in which people have to evaluate whether their posts are good enough for it, often failing and requiring posts to be moved from Main to Discussion or vice-versa.

I was about to ask whether it would be difficult to include something like /r/all (i.e. the ability to view posts from all subreddits without having to visit each individually), when I tried just editing the url to http://lesswrong.com/r/all, and sure enough, it works (it shows posts from both Main and Discussion)!

Is this functionality documented anywhere? Also, is it possible to view just the post titles on /r/all, without the full text?

Edit: Yes, it is possible to view just post titles: http://lesswrong.com/r/all/recentposts/

2RomeoStevens8yI exclusively use /all and I know quite a few others do too.

I don't think this makes sense unless Main becomes only articles that have been promoted. Otherwise, it excludes any of the topics listed from being promoted.

And if Main becomes only articles that have been promoted, it would make more sense to have promotion be a filter on each subreddit, rather than its own subreddit.

I remember having read a discussion about this in a recent open thread; there was one particular response which I liked. Give me a moment...

Later: Found! User sixes_and_sevens asked people to think of eight categories in which to divide LessWrong. Emile came up with the following list:

  • Self-improvement, optimal living, life hacks
  • Philosophy
  • Futurism (Cryonics, the singularity
  • Friendly AI and SIAI, I mean, MIRI
  • Maths, Decision Theory, Game theory
  • Meetups
  • General-interest discussion (biased towards the interests of atheist nerds)
  • Meta

(If you liked the suggestions, you could go upvote his post instead of mine.)

My own minor correction to the list would be to merge Futurism & FAI into one category, and perhaps do the same with Philosophy and Math, Decision Theory, Game Theory etc. (so as to have all the theoretical stuff in the same place -- the Sequences, for example, could go here), but other than that I agree with it.

As for Main, perhaps we could implement reddit's recent & all-time best submissions lists, sorted by karma, percentage of upvotes, or a combination of both. An entire subreddit devoted to posts worthy of promotion seems not only unnecessary as long as we got... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 13

Technical Discussion (on math, physics, algorithms, and so on) would be a nice addition that isn't quite satisfied by either "Epistemic Rationality" or "Applied Rationality". Would be a great forum for discussions like the recent result in probabilistic set theory.

3shminux8ySecond that.
2Rob Bensinger8y"Technical" overlaps with most other topics worth discussing, though. It could work well as a Core Tag for shminux's idea. Especially if it were possible to filter for everything that lacks a tag. E.g. '+(decision theory), -(technical)' finds the non-technical decision theory posts.

I'd be interested in an explicitly casual/off-topic subreddit - a place to discuss non-LW-relevant things with LWers. Not sure if "misc" captures this or not.

8mare-of-night8yTo get the sort of posts that appear in the off-topic sections of forums, I think there'd have to be a specifically off-topic section, in addition to miscellaneous-but-relevant. It feels like there's some pressure in this community (though it might be only my perception - I don't think anyone is trying to pressure people) to keep posts to a high standard, so we'd need to explicitly make a place where it's okay to talk about cat videos and minor life events and the weather if we wanted to be able to talk about that. (Though there are probably other ways of indicating that it's okay to go off topic - after getting it started, having off-topic threads that don't get downvoted might be enough.)
3David_Gerard8yReddit /r/lesswrong [http://www.reddit.com/r/lesswrong] exists.
3AspiringRationalist8yI would prefer not to have an off-topic subreddit. I fear that it would attract the sort of people who aren't as interested in the core topics here and ultimately dilute the quality of the community.
1ShardPhoenix8yPerhaps make it only visible to registered users?
0[anonymous]8yPerhaps make it visible to everyone, but require a certain amount of karma (or a certain account age, or something) before you can post there?

As an irregular consumer of LW, a fine grained sub system would be fantastically useful since, without having to sort through a lot of posts, I could scan the last couple of weeks or months of submissions on topics of interest.

But, rather than determining categories first, it might be useful to do rough counts of number of articles on a given topic, posting frequency, etc. You want to make sure that you have critical mass before you split things apart. Given this, as other people have suggested, retaining an "All" category, especially for the front page, seems very useful.

Open Threads, Media Threads, Rationality Diaries -- these are so obviously different from the remaining posts, and they already have a strong tradition, so I believe there should be one subreddit for them (for all the repeating threads together).

More meta: The subreddits should reflect a difference that already exists. One should be able to move the existing articles into the new subreddits. (Moving them would be useful to show readers what exactly is expected where. I don't expect admins to move thousands of articles, just perhaps the last month to create... (read more)

As terms, I like "Applied Rationality" more than "Instrumental Rationality" and "Epistemic Rationality" more than "Normative Rationality." As collections of topics, I think the collections outlined in Idea 2 ('perceiving reality' vs. 'achieving goals') are better.

Like many others, I think that having "Main" as a separate subreddit is a bad idea. I think there should be an explicit and prominent link to "all," and it would be awesome if you could see promoted posts both by subreddit and across all ... (read more)

  1. Rationality
  2. Self-improvement
  3. Effective altruism
  4. The future
  5. Misc.

The rationale for having a separate section for posts that "might" be promoted escapes me, so I have omitted that subreddit in my proposal.

Since it is relatively easy to create/delete subreddits, I recommend creating a few, and then making another similar thread to reassess the results.

Also, I think it would be good to have a social subreddit, where the point is to make friends and have more relaxed fun.

Thoughts:

  • There's already a fragmentation issue -- If you're reading "Main" the "Recent Comments" only shows you the recent comments in "Main", if you're reading "Discussion", the "Recent Comments" only shows you the recent comments in "Discussion". I've no idea what the Search function actually retrieves and whether it works across subreddits. Until such is fixed, or until an "All" functionality is visibly added, be careful about splitting the forums further.

  • I feel your division betw

... (read more)

This is a good idea! I am glad you're making improvements. I like the idea of starting with a small number of subreddits. Hooray for incremental change!

One suggestion I saw that I liked was promoting the Open Thread to a subreddit. Maybe combining it with the Stupid Questions Thread - so that there's one place for beginners to figure out what to post and stumble around while they work through War and Peace^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H the Sequences.

I would really like the final result to contain a subreddit for Effective Altruism and a subreddit for Self-Improvement/Instrumental Rationality/Applied Rationality/whatever we're calling it today.

0luminosity8yDownvoted as I don't think Effective Altruism is broad enough to justify an entire sub-reddit if we're still sticking to a small overall number.
0[anonymous]8yIs that an appropriate use of downvoting? Ben_'s comment seems to contribute to the discussion.
5Kaj_Sotala8yIn general, I don't think that you should downvote for mere disagreement. This thread feels somewhat different, though, since people are making suggestions of what they'd like to see implemented on the site and up/downvoting those suggestions acts as an easy way of estimating the amount of support that a suggestion has.
1wedrifid8yMy impression was similar. I would interpret a downvote of a suggestion here to mean "I don't want this feature implemented on the website" not "You are doing something bad, stop it.".
0KnaveOfAllTrades8y[Agreement-upvoted] I think a two-dimensional vote (usefulness, agreement) instead of the current single dimension ('upvote'/'downvote') would be a good thing for LW to consider.
0Vladimir_Nesov8y(There is a difference between disagreement and someone being wrong; with disagreement you don't understand very well where your own position comes from.)
0Nornagest8yIt's a narrow subject, but it gets a lot of attention here, especially in recent months: a scan through the recent activity in Main suggests somewhere around a tenth of top-level posts are related. That's a pretty good chunk and it doesn't fit too cleanly into any of the other proposed categories, so giving it its own subreddit might not be a bad idea.

a Hpmor subreddot seems the most obvious to me.

An actual mathematics/logic/decision theory that's heavily moderated like stack-exchange seems like it would be useful for the people who can hack it and useful to separate from the regular stream of content when trying to attract further mathematicians. Is it possible to limit posts to certain subreddits to only those with vetted privileges?

A "stupid questions" or "questions about the sequences" subreddit could be useful for new people as well as to further discuss old but interesting material.

2David_Gerard8yReddit /r/hpmor [http://www.reddit.com/r/HPMOR/] does this job quite well already (and you'll see LW regulars there).
0Scott Garrabrant8yI disagree about Hpmor. I think that discussion of hpmor on lesswrong will and should die down after the story is finished.
0drethelin8yThen you seem to have missed the entire point of HPMOR even existing.
0Scott Garrabrant8yAfter further reflection, I think you might be right, especially since people can just not follow that subreddit. r/hmpor is currently popular, and it could be good for lesswrong if we could get that moved here.
2Scott Garrabrant8yBy "good for lesswrong," I actually meant "good for people who could use lesswrong." I am not sure whether or not the effect on the content is positive.
0drethelin8yI think it makes the content less generally useful but more generally fun.

Spending 60 seconds of thought onto it... :-) I'd suggest

  • Main
  • Mind (what's inside your head: biases, self-improvement, mind hacks, etc.)
  • World (what's outside your head: actual reality, how it works, how to deal with it, etc.)
  • Tools (queries, suggestions, reviews, etc.)
  • Tech (technical forum dealing with probability, statistics, math, programming, etc.)
  • Social (meetups, etc.)
  • Misc (the overflow bucket)

plus more specific subreddits:

  • AI
  • X-risks
  • Cryonics
  • Whatever else is both specific enough and popular enough to deserve a subreddit

*Applied Rationality: for articles about what Jonathan Baron would call descriptive and prescriptive rationality, for both epistemic and instrumental rationality (stuff about biases, self-improvement stuff, etc.).

  • Normative Rationality: for articles about what Baron would call normative rationality, for both epistemic and instrumental rationality (examining the foundations of probability theory, decision theory, anthropics, and lots of stuff that is called "philosophy").

I like the this way of dividing concept space, hate the name. People al... (read more)

One step more meta: Should we create subreddits for topics that are discussed there, or rather for the style of those articles? An example of style could be a "Research" subreddit, where you post an article only if the statements it contains are referenced (or if it is self-contained original mathematical research).

An example of a division based on article styles could be:

  • Announcements
  • Research
  • Best articles
  • Articles
  • Discussion

Official announcements = announcements about MIRI or CFAR activities, progress reports, advertising for effec... (read more)

Because of overlaps and ambiguity, I wouldn't feel confident choosing a subreddit for a lot of posts I could see myself writing. And I think I've gained a pretty good understanding of most of the categories people have proposed. Someone newer to the site would probably be strongly discouraged from posting by having to figure out which of these arcane categories they belong in. I think that's a bug and not a feature; the kind of new person we want to discourage is the kind who's less thoughtful and cautious about categorization dilemmas.

I think shminux's id... (read more)

I like the idea of the various LW meetup groups having dedicated subreddits, instead of organizing elsewhere (usually google groups).

You can't interact with a subreddit through email, so some people would dislike that. But I prefer to interact with subreddits than with google groups, and I assume I'm not alone there.

+1 to 'Technical' (Math, Decision Theory, Physics, etc)

+1 to promotion from all subreddits

+1 to Main as "Best of", or just getting rid of Main.

+1 to MIRI/FAI/Singularity stuff as a separate subreddit from EA stuff

Also, several historical posts have spanned multiple topics - some thought to a solution to this would be useful (this is the only reason that I might support keeping Main.)

The distinction between "Rationality theory" and "Rationality Practice" is what I think most people are getting at with Life improvement/Self-Imp... (read more)

The categories of stuff on LW as I perceive them (in no particular order) are:

Philosophy

-Values and ethics (human, utilitarian, alien, or otherwise)

-Game Theory (subset of instrumental rationality)

-Epistemology (epistemic rationality)

Activism

-Effective Altruism (Givewell, 8000hours, meta charity)

-X-risk reduction

-investment in far future

Personal Development

-happiness-boosting

-Fighting Akrasia (procrastination, motivation, willpower)

-optimizing your organism (body, mind, nootropics, supplements,exercise, etc)

-good habits and heuristics (especially organiza... (read more)

I'm way late to the party and I haven't read the comments yet but here's my idea; the goal here is to more trying to target types of readers rather than types of subject matter, which makes more sense pragmatically given the goal is people having to read less:

Main - things everyone need to see.

All - automatically generated taking everything from everywhere and redirecting.

Articles & Sequences - the same kind of stuff you see in Main, except lower barrier of entrance, and no meetups

Entertainment - discussion threads for rationalist fiction, quotes thr... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 0

Personally, I'd really like a subreddit, or at least a tag, for articles that are directly and straightforwardly applicable to everyday life. Ones that say, "here's a problem that lots of people have, and here's how to solve it".

I like idea 1 much better than idea 2. I can't imagine a person who would read articles on instrumental rationality but not epistemic rationality. However, I think there are people on here who care about the applied rationality but not normative rationality and vice versa. This doesn't really apply to me, since I will be reading everything anyway, but I think that Idea 1 is both more useful for readers and more easy for posters to decide where their post should go.

I would however create a few more distinctions in Misc. I think that Meetup posts should get ... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 0

I like tags more than subreddits, because you can have several tags on a post, adding new tags doesn't fragment the audience, and you can add tags to existing content retroactively. MathOverflow is a good example of a site where you can follow tags as if they were subreddits. Maybe we just need to make tags more prominent on LW, e.g. have a list of tags as the main navigation, and make them mandatory for new posts?

Also, seconding the suggestion that posts should be promoted to Main from Discussion, not directly posted to Main.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

This may sound odd, but could there be a subreddit for competitive video games and rational strategies/playstyles?

1) Main/Eliezer-cluster: Epistemic rationality, FAI, cryonics, futurism, transhumanism, etc.

2) Instrumental & Skills: E.g. Be Specific, The Five-second Level, Fermi Estimates, How to Measure Anything, nootropics, Effective Altruism, how to dress, RATIONALIST TOOTHBRUSHING

3) ITL (In Tangible Life): Meetups, events of interest to the community, job openings, house/apartment openings/organisation

Keep Promoted, and have it draw from every subreddit.

The only thing I recall that might not obviously fit into one of these especially is HPMoR. I'm not bothered by HPMoR frenzies so don't really mind, but I gather that for every subreddit, some would find it frustrating to have HPMoR in that subreddit.

2KnaveOfAllTrades8yI should add: The main advantage for me of changing the subreddit partition of LW is to encourage a greater range and specificity of content; at the moment, I think some stuff I'd like to see is discouraged by the Main/Discussion partition. An example would be LWers picking a specific thing (a lifehack or specific self-improvement skill, say) and having a thread to post their progress, observations, and research. This seems like it's currently acceptable in small amounts, but I think the level of such posts that would be most conducive to communal self-improvement would be frowned upon under the current partition; many would consider it spammy/obnxious.

With the exception of these two comments, all suggested splits are nonsensical; the lines used for division are unclear and the sections created serve no real purpose. If your goal is to promote growth, evolve into categories. As it stands, most of these suggestions would just split an already fragmented community.

I do notice a pattern among the suggestions though; people would like to see MIRI-centric stuff filtered out. To whoever is in charge or LessWrong, this is liable to seem like a bad thing, like it will exacerbate an existential concern, like the ... (read more)

2hairyfigment8yIn the interest of avoiding inferential silence: the fucking Hell are you talking about? Pretend MIRI never existed and explain to me why I want this "post-MIRI" website you speak of. (Let's say that, eg, CSER still exists and still lists Stephen Hawking among its advisers.)
-2BaconServ8yThank you for avoiding inferential silence! I apologize for any confusion: My comment is rather directed at the ones running LessWrong, because I am all too aware that people in charge are more or less entirely incapable of legitimately taking criticism from a crowd. That is; I intended to stand out in a way that can't be ignored by the mindset of a manager who happens to value rationality. (Also I was in an extremely jaded mood when I wrote that. <.<) It's not that you should want such a thing, it's rather that, if MIRI understood online community evolution, they would want to encourage the existence of such things. I wouldn't expect to get my own special "subreddit" (not the same as a website) for only me and people that understand me well/agree with me, and I'd probably refuse such an offer if it was given. If MIRI never existed, there could be no such, "MIRI simply isn't good enough," subsection. MIRI is useful as an organization because CSER wasn't good enough. In the same way, I don't see MIRI as nearly good enough to accomplish its goals of ensuring a positive future, so I see fit to evolve past it and create a better organization. Whether anyone can provide such a thing or not, would you not be interested in seeing something more advanced/effective/useful than MIRI?
[+][anonymous]8y -5