What isn't the wiki for?


Paul Crowley

The new wiki is off to a flying start - it's less than 15 hours old, and already it has over 20 articles and five authors. It's probably about time we worked out what it was for.

I created it because as things stand, I can't point my friends to Less Wrong and say "come and learn about rationality and take part in these fascinating and potentially important discussions!" The discussions we have here assume years of reading Overcoming Bias and close attention to what's been said there and here; it must be practically impenetrable to newcomers. So for me the primary goal is simply to provide a glossary, to give newcomers a fighting chance of understanding what on Earth we are talking about and why. I think it can do more than that, but before I come to that, let me say a little about what I think it's not for.

The way I would currently like to see it, the wiki is not there to duplicate what is already done elsewhere. So it's not a place for discussion - that's what this site is for, and the features to support discussion here are far stronger than they are there, what with voting, threading and so forth. By the same token, it's not a place to advance your ideas - it's better to do that here, where people can comment on them and where it's clearly tagged as the work of one author rather than some sort of collective conclusion.

I'd like to avoid duplication in other areas, too. Anything that can go in Wikipedia instead of our wiki should do: we will get better results if we and they are editing the same biography of Eliezer Yudkowsky, rather than creating a fork. To that end, I've created a {{wikilink}} template that can go at the top of an article, linking to the article with the same name in Wikipedia. Have a look at our current article on Newcomb's paradox - there is far more detail in the linked Wikipedia article, but there are some things we carry because they (rightly) won't: the sometimes non-standard vocabulary we tend to use around it (eg "Omega") and links to related articles in Overcoming Bias/Less Wrong on the subject, which they might not choose to keep (since Wikipedia is not a link farm).

Similarly, we don't want to provide our own index of heuristics and biases, since there's one on Wikipedia and another on the Psychology wiki, and most of what they lack on the subject we can fix there rather than trying to address by duplication.

It's often easier to say what a thing is not for than what it is for. What have I missed out here that we should be using the wiki for; am I right to discourage what I set out above; what else do we need to say about how best to use it? Because we could be discussing anything in a given week, but a wiki evolves more slowly, I'd like to hope that if in a year's time I meet someone who seems open to the ideas we discuss here and wants to learn more, it's the wiki I'd point them at rather than this website; it might eventually be the best starting point on how to become less wrong.