Introduction to the Sequence Reruns


The sequences - hundreds of posts written by Eliezer Yudkowsky from 2006 through 2009 - contain the core material behind Less Wrong, including many ideas that are often treated as background knowledge in new posts. New LW members are encouraged to read the sequences and many LW regulars have expressed interest in rereading them, but even though the posts are sitting in the archives for anyone to read it takes another step to actually read them.  The sheer number of words can be overwhelming, and many people find that they never quite get around to delving in. To many people, reading new blog posts is fun but going through the sequences is work. And it can be hard to have lively discussions on years-old posts.

As announced here, we are introducing the Rerunning the Sequences series to the discussion section as an attempt to make the sequences more accessible by making them more like new blog posts. We will be going through the sequence posts in order, one post per day, making posts that contain a link to the sequence post and a summary of it.  If you're interested, follow along (the posts will all have [SEQ RERUN] in the title and will be easy to spot), take part in the discussion, and get involved in other ways described below.  If you're not interested, you can ignore these discussion section posts (they all have [SEQ RERUN] in the title and will be easy to spot).


For our purposes, we're currently considering the sequences to consist of Eliezer's 702 posts (listed in order here) beginning with The Martial Art of Rationality, ending with Practical Advice Backed By Deep Theories, and excluding quotes threads.  The list of posts has not been finalized yet - there are still some other posts to exclude (like purely administrative posts) and some more posts to add, perhaps including some posts not by Eliezer (like Robin Hanson's side of the AI Foom Debate). Each day, there will be a post in the discussion section which links to one of these posts and follows the standard template included below.  We'll go through the posts in chronological order, one per day, beginning today (April 19, 2011) with The Martial Art of Rationality. These posts will be clearly identified by the [SEQ RERUN] tag in the title, easy to find under the sequence_reruns tag, and easy to follow with a feed reader by subscribing to the rss feed for the sequence_reruns tag.  Hopefully, this will capture the feel of reading a blog, with a new post to read each day.

Each post also serves as a focal point for discussion. Discussion should take place in the comments to the new post in the discussion section, not the original post, since this is a fresh discussion which is taking place a few years after the original post was made. This will also keep everything in the discussion section, so that the main page doesn't get flooded with comments on old posts.

This is a community-driven effort, and in order for it to work people will need to get involved. Someone needs to make the sequence reruns post each day, and that role is open to anyone who will do it (just like with the open threads and quotes threads). If you're ever wondering where a day's sequence reruns post is, go ahead and make the post. There is a standard template to follow in order to make posting as simple as possible - it shouldn't take more than five minutes (especially after you've done it once).  Instructions (along with the template to copy and paste) are included at the end of this post.  If you have something that you'd like to say about the sequence post, you should put it in the comments to your post rather than in the post itself.

Each sequence reruns post includes a summary of the post that it links to, which is taken from the LW wiki. But many of the posts don't have a summary written yet, and some of the others don't have a good summary yet. So another way to be involved is by writing summaries for the posts that need them and adding them to the LW wiki before we get to those posts. After a sequence reruns post has been made, if it is missing a summary or its summary isn't very good then you could write a new summary for it then and leave it in the comments so that the post can be edited. But it's better to get the summaries written ahead of time.

Finally, there are other issues that can arise with the sequence reruns and ways to make it better.  For instance: deciding precisely which posts to include (e.g., should we include all the posts in the AI Foom Debate?). Things will run more smoothly if folks are involved in coming up with improvements, spotting issues ahead of time, and helping to make the decisions. Discussion about these kinds of issues, and other kinds of meta discussion about the Rerunning the Sequences series, should mostly take place in the comments to this post or in other meta posts, rather than in the comments to individual posts in the series. Discussion in the individual posts should be based on the linked sequence post, rather than on these kinds of meta issues.


To make a post in the Rerunning the Sequences series, you will need to copy and paste a standard template (included below) and add links and information from the original sequence post, the previous Sequence Reruns post, and the LW wiki page which has summaries.  There are 8 things to change in the template, which I've labeled 111111, 222222, …, 888888.

1. Find the previous Sequence Reruns post and find the sequence post that is due for that day (which will generally be the next post listed here)

2. Go to the LW wiki to find a summary of the sequence post (summaries arranged by year: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009); if there are multiple summaries available choose the one that looks best

3. Copy and paste the template below into a text document and make the 8 edits to the template:

111111 the title of the sequence post (e.g., Why truth? And... )

222222 the url of the sequence post (e.g., )

333333 the title of the sequence post, again (e.g., Why truth? And... )

444444 the date when the sequence post was originally published (e.g., November 26, 2006 )

555555 the lw wiki page where you found the summary (e.g., )

666666 the summary of the sequence post which you took from the lw wiki (e.g., You have an instrumental motive to care about the truth of your beliefs about anything you care about. )

777777 the url of the previous Sequence Reruns post (e.g., )

888888 the title of the previous sequence post (e.g., The Martial Art of Rationality )

4. Click to create a new article

5. Make the title: [SEQ RERUN] 111111

6. Make the tags: sequence_reruns

7. On the "submit article" page, click where it says "HTML" (edit HTML source) and paste the edited version of the template that you've created.  Click "update."

8. Check and make sure your post looks okay. Does it have the appropriate title and tag? Have all of the strings of numbers been replaced? Was there any special formatting (like italics) in the summary which you need to add to the post?

9. Make the post. If there is a "Post to" option set it to "Less Wrong Discussion" (if there is not, you're already in the discussion section and will automatically post there) and click "Submit."


Title: [SEQ RERUN] 111111

Tags: sequence_reruns

Today's post, <a href="222222">333333</a> was originally published on 444444.&nbsp; A summary (taken from the <a href="555555">LW wiki</a>):</p>


<p><br />Discuss the post here (rather than in the comments to the original post).<br /><br /><em>This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them.&nbsp; The previous post was <a href="777777">888888</a>, and you can use the <a href="/r/discussion/tag/sequence_reruns/">sequence_reruns tag</a> or <a href="/r/discussion/tag/sequence_reruns/.rss">rss feed</a> to follow the rest of the series.<br /><br />Sequence reruns are a community-driven effort.&nbsp; You can participate by re-reading the sequence post, discussing it here, posting the next day's sequence reruns post, or summarizing forthcoming articles on the wiki. Go <a href="">here</a> for more details, or to have meta discussions about the Rerunning the Sequences series.</em>

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I suggest that we ask people to have discussion in comments section of the original post so that

  • folks that find the original post by other means (e.g. google or their own perusal through the sequences) also encounter any more recent discussion.

  • if we ever rerun the sequences again then discussion from this rerun will be easily accessible next time around

  • The welcome-to-LW post already recommends newcomers comment on old posts. It would be strange and confusing to have multiple venues with concurrent discussion on the same post.

  • It's just good housekeeping. We should keep all the discussion related to each post in one place.


At this point, [SEQ RERUNS] get very few responses. Barely any discussions happen in [SEQ RERUNS]. Might as well post comments in the original post and hope someone will respond in a couple months.

Poll: If you want another chance to discuss the AI FOOM Debate, upvote this comment.

Poll: If you don't want the AI FOOM Debate to be included, upvote this comment.

Why are you reposting a summary+link, instead of the post itself?

We'd have to copy-and-paste the whole post into a new post, and I generally think it's a bad idea to duplicate material; apparently there's mixed opinion on this. Possible downsides include confusing people, lowering PageRank, messing up search results by having the new version come ahead of the old version, and bothering other people who think it's weird to duplicate material. On the other hand, there's the advantage of convenience, especially for people who want to read the posts in their rss reader. Maybe we should have a poll?

Another idea: maybe we could iframe the original posts in the reruns? Although iframes are probably currently filtered out, and this would work better if there were a "print-friendly" version we could link to, as far as not duplicating content and putting the original posts directly in front of people this seems to be the best of both worlds.

Avoiding duplicate content for SEO? Just a guess.

Seconded - would much rather see the whole post than just a summary.

My own biggest annoyance, after discovering this site last summer and delving into the Sequences, is that it was often very difficult to figure out which post came next.

Finding dependencies was easy — even when there isn't an explicit "Follows:" tag at the start, Eliezer's generosity of hyperlinks meant that I could quickly assemble a screenful of tabs — but whenever I finished a particularly exciting post, especially one I'd reached on the third hyperlink down, I didn't know how to find its follow-up. Early on, I didn't even know how to guess which Sequence it was part of.

By now I know about the "all posts by year" lists, but as a newbie I couldn't find them. And if I had found them, I wouldn't have known which posts were relevant from their titles alone. I'd have used a naïve all-Eliezer-all-the-time heuristic, and assembled the same list that you're intelligently avoiding.

And … honestly … even if there were a single, coherent, easy to find, chronological list of all Sequence posts … the act of going there, looking up the blog I just finished, and visiting the one beneath it is just the sort of trivial inconvenience that discourages new readers. It's easy, but it's not obvious. We can make it easier.

So as long as we're re-running the Sequences from a template — could there please be a "next" button?

There is a next button... but you have to click Article Navigation to find it. It'll take you to the next post in each tag.

Hmm, that should probably be made more prominent and easier to find.

Well, how embarrassing. Ten months of lurking and I still hadn't noticed that for myself. Thank you!

It was introduced quietly and it's not very well telegraphed.

Thanks! I hadn't known about that.

It looks like the Article Navigation only works on the main page, though, and not in the discussion section. The links all take me to posts on the main page, and the sequence_reruns buttons are grayed out since the only posts with that tag are in the discussion section.

Oh dear. I'm sorry, I should probably have tried it on the rerun tag before commenting.

Well, perhaps this answers Yvain's question on the thread above: if we link to the original post, instead of quoting it, then its "next" buttons will work….

Blagh, you just revolutionized my sequences reading experience. Amazing! I've had the exact same problem. Many thanks!

Late as I am, I think this is a real waste of bandwidth. Not only is almost no one participating, but those that do, directly violate the idea of this website that no article is too old to comment on. And it's useless to everyone who wasn't there at the beginning of the rerun. Has anyone who hasn't read the sequences ever wanted this? I'm pretty convinced it doesn't help anyone at all.

I wouldn't even mind if it didn't say to discuss the sequences on the rerun posts instead of the main posts. This is only going to cause confusion, with discussions broken and threaded and fucking broken. I mean, if I want to see the most recent discussion on an article, I'm going to ctrl+f "2011" on that page. I'm not going to go looking for a tiny chance of comments on one of the SEQ_Rerun tagged posts.

I'm calling for it to end. It's still not even a quarter done, the first (and, I hope, last) rerun, so there's just no reason not to end it. Or at least fix it so it doesn't say to post comments on the rerun posts anymore, like alexflint says.

And it's useless to everyone who wasn't there at the beginning of the rerun. Has anyone who hasn't read the sequences ever wanted this? I'm pretty convinced it doesn't help anyone at all.

I am quite confident that this opinion is one that is shared with other LW members, although you are the first person to say so that I have seen. I have had several people who have told me that they appreciate the reruns (in private messages, and in actual conversations). A couple of those conversations were with LW lurkers, who are not commenting (and are unlikely to create accounts just to participate in the very limited discussions that go on there). I would guess that there a substantial number of others like them.

I would additionally bet that there are a lot of LW members who are not commenting, but still reading (if there's a way to check the number of views on a page per day, that would be some useful data to collect). There also just isn't much to comment about in the sequences. When they were being written, they were the strange and often controversial opinions of this guy named Eliezer Yudkowsky on Robin Hanson's blog. Now, those ideas are commonplace and widely accepted in the community. At this point, anyone who has something new to say about the Torture vs. Specks problem is really just going to write a new post. At this point, I would bet a lot of people who joined Less Wrong after the sequences were written are just interested in reading the collected ideas in the sequences in the order that they were written, as a coherent whole.

With regards to the comments issue, I agree. Initially, I thought that the comments should go on the original posts, but a poll of LWers decided against it, because of concerns that it would clog up the "recent posts" feature. I didn't see alexflint's post until now, but given that the number of comments are typically low, I don't think that this is much of a concern anymore. As a result, I have created this poll.

I like the reruns! I haven't read all the sequences (and I'm sure I'm not the only "regular" (for some value of regular) who hasn't), so it's interesting when a post I haven't seen (or can't remember) pops up.

And even if I have seen it, often posts are worth a re-read. Or, spending a few minutes thinking about it again.

(Sure, I could go through them day-by-day personally, but I don't think I would do it reliably by myself.)

Furthermore, it means that every sequence post gets a summary in the wiki (thanks MinibearRex, and others!).

Is something wrong with the RSS feed? The last posts I can see there are dated early June.

hmm... I can see new posts in the source XML, but Google Reader fails to show them :(

  1. Go to the LW wiki to find a summary of the sequence post (summaries arranged by year: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009); if there are multiple summaries available choose the one that looks best

This step should include improving the summary if existing ones are no good, which is often the case. (And since multiple summaries are not needed, the rest can be removed.)

I propose a norm of not upvoting rerun posts higher than 3 or 4 or so; this is a good project and people should be rewarded for helping out with it, but not disproportionately to the difficulty of posting a rerun. If you like the original post, upvote the original post; and if it's so good that you wish you could upvote it more than once, then upvote the rerun.