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Condensed Less Wrong Wisdom: Yudkowsky Edition, Part I

Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions

  • Ask "What experiences do I anticipate?", not "What statements do I believe?"
  • Your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality. If you are equally good at explaining any outcome, you have zero knowledge.
  • The strength of a model is not what it can explain, but what it can't, for only prohibitions constrain anticipation.
  • There's nothing wrong with focusing your mind, narrowing your categories, excluding possibilities, and sharpening your propositions.
  • For every expectation of evidence, there is an equal and opposite expectation of counterevidence.
  • You can only ever seek evidence to test a theory, not to confirm it.
  • Write down your predictions in advance.
  • Hindsight bias devalues science: we need to make a conscious effort to be shocked enough.
  • Be consciously aware of the difference between an explanation and a password.
  • Fake explanations don't feel fake. That's what makes them dangerous.
  • What distinguishes a semantic stopsign is failure to consider the obvious next question.
  • I
... (read more)

Please make this a post. It is is a valuable resource that I would like to have accessible.

1Will_Newsome
Should I add the other sequences first, you think? It's already too long, and that'd double the length or more.
6komponisto
Actually, I say put in on the wiki.
1Will_Newsome
That's a much better idea, I think.
5JGWeissman
Doubling the length would be fine for an article. Include links back to the detailed original articles.
6ata
Agreed. Slogans/quotes are fine as reminders/summaries of points that are explained and defended in more detail, but not as substitutes for them.
5lessdazed
From video dialogues: * How do you know the costs of your irrationality if you're irrational? * We're here to talk about rationality, which is the art generated when you want something more than your particular mode of thinking * Well, if you expect the future to be just like the past, calling that "realism" isn't going to save you from the fact that you’re guaranteed to be wrong. * ...there are specific propositions, right? You can't just bundle all the propositions together and slay them with one mighty blow that consists of one thing you can do wrong if you believe this bundle of propositions. * Curiosity requires ignorance and the ability to relinquish your ignorance, and I see you attaching a lot of importance to your ignorance here. * This sounds to me more like a mistake you are making in your model of the world than something you could actually do to the world itself. * If you want a precise practical AI, you don't get there by starting with an imprecise practical AI and going to a precise practical AI, you start with a precise impractical AI and then go to a precise and practical AI. * You can make mistakes even if you think you have a precise theory, but if you don't even think you have a precise theory you're completely doomed.
4arundelo
One thing you need is a paragraph break (a blank line) before and after the list. The source code should look like this: *Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions* * Ask "What experiences do I anticipate?", not "What statements do I believe?" * Your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality. If you are equally good at explaining any outcome, you have zero knowledge. [Edited to add italics to the subheading.]
0Relsqui
How do you put in the editing characters literally? Backslashes?
2mattnewport
Markdown.
2Relsqui
Saved; thank you.
0Will_Newsome
Thanks much.
1[anonymous]
Also see divia's post for a spaced repetition database that could be helpful for internalizing these important thinking patterns.
1Vladimir_Golovin
This is an excellent effort. Please keep it up.
1Will_Newsome
I will do so, though I'm worried about what happens after I finish the "Yudkowsky Edition"; there's lots of other Less Wrong wisdom but it's further spread out and I feel like if miss some if it then people will be sad. But at any rate I plan on going back and getting the links to the posts for all the above and then doing the other sequences, then posting the whole giant thing at the top level. Over the next few days I have a different and probably higher utility post to help Louie Helm write, though.

Would anyone else like to see a new demographic survey done? I'm interested in how LW's userbase has changed since the last one (other than, well, me).

6[anonymous]
Yes.
5DanielVarga
Yes. And please include the questions "Are you a male with very long hair?" and "Are you by any chance named Vladimir?", because we need more data to investigate some strange issues.
1whpearson
Most of my social group (comp sci, into metal/alternative/gaming, slightly misanthropic) went through a period of having long hair. So it is unsurprising to me.
1Vladimir_Golovin
Just to complicate things a little: in addition to being a Vladimir, I was a male with very long hair.
2[anonymous]
Yes.
0[anonymous]
Definitely.

OkCupid thread, anyone?

I was thinking that those of us that aren't shy could share our OkCupid profiles for critique from people who know better. (Not that we have to accept the critiques as valid, but this is an area where it'd be good to have others' opinions anyway.)

If anyone wants to get the ball rolling, post a link to your profile and hopefully someone will offer a suggestion (or a compliment).

Also, I bet cross-sexual-preference critique would be best: which for most of us means gals critiquing guys and guys critiquing gals. But I realize the LW gender skew limits that.

I was interested to see what discussion this post would generate but I'm a little disappointed with the results. It looks like further evidence that instrumental rationality is hard and that the average lesswronger is not significantly better at it than the average person without a particular interest in rationality.

I'm going to throw out a bunch of suggestions for things that I think a rationalist should at least consider trying when approaching this specific problem as an exercise in instrumental rationality. I anticipate that people will immediately think of reasons why these ideas wouldn't work or why they wouldn't want to do them even if they did. Many of these will be legitimate criticisms but if you choose to comment along these lines please honestly ask yourself if these are ideas that you had already considered and rejected or whether your objections are in part confabulation.

One obvious reason for not trying any of these things is that the issue is just not that important to you and so doesn't justify the effort but if you feel that way ask yourself how you would approach the problem if it was that important to you. I haven't tried all these things myself. I rejected som... (read more)

Presumably people who are 'not photogenic' are not made of some different type of material that reacts differently to light than photogenic people. The problem must either be a lack of good quality photographs or an issue with uncomfortable body language when being photographed.

The camera also adds (visual cues that make it look like it adds) weight, and messes with color. My best friend just got married and had lots of photos taken of her and her husband. He looks fine because he starts out skinny as a rail and his coloration works in the photos. But in the very same photos, she develops a blotchy complexion and her hair color looks unnatural and gross. And while she's not fat, the extra ten pounds on the glossy photo nudge her a little that way. Her body language looks fine in photos (and if she were tensing up, wouldn't she also look tense on video? Video of her looks much better), and the quality of the photographer or camera can't be the issue because in the very same photograph her husband looks exactly like himself in real life and she looks weird.

8mattnewport
I don't know exactly what the problem might be with your friend's wedding photos but in general the problem of how to make people look as good as possible in photos is quite well understood. There's an entire industry devoted to doing it. I can list several technical errors that can appear to add weight or mess with color but these kinds of things are not unsolvable. Part of the skill of a good photographer is avoiding these problems. Photoshop can also be used to fix specific problems with colour reproduction. I would bet that an experienced portrait photographer could identify what went wrong with your friend's pictures to produce a less than satisfactory result by examining them for a few minutes. I suspect there may be genuine cases where certain people seem relatively less attractive in still photos than in person but this may be due to aspects of their personality or behaviour which the camera cannot capture. I doubt there is anyone however whose perceived attractiveness is not increased by a good photo relative to a bad one and in photography much of what constitutes 'good' has been figured out over the years.
2mindspillage
"Knowing what to do" and being able to do it well are different. I have had good photographers take pictures of me. They have used the appropriate lighting and angle and helpfully tried to coach me in what to do--how to pose, how to smile, what to wear. And indeed, their pictures turn out better than most snapshots. That doesn't mean that I am able to use their advice effectively--to hold an unforced smile and keep my eyes open at the same time, avoid tilting my head funny, or not look frustrated and impatient after the 50th shot. It's a difficult skill for me, and while I expect I could be better with practice, it's not high on my list of desired skills to improve. So I'm not photogenic. Which means merely that I don't have these skills now and don't pick up on them quickly, but when you look at my awful pictures it's no different than if photogenic-ness were some immutable inherent quality. (But I'm off the market anyway. On the upside, my partner was pleasantly surprised when he first met me in person that I was better-looking than my photos suggested.)
5Craig_Heldreth
xxxxx
5mattnewport
One of the reasons that instrumental rationality is hard is that acquiring good data is hard. Imperfect data is generally better than no data however and there are other sources where you can find research into some of the same questions that OkCupid covers. Most of the advice in their 'Don't Be Ugly By Accident' post is just standard stuff for portrait photography for example which any book on photography would cover in great detail.
3Relsqui
I agree about OKT, as I noticed elsewhere. I also agree with Alicorn about the glasses, if that's practical and if at-a-glance attractiveness is sufficiently high priority for you. Thanks for that. ; ) I don't feel I can remark on the way most women use their OKC profiles, because I don't read many of them and I try to stick to the extraordinary ones. But I can say that there are tons of men out there who are clearly parroting what they've been told will attract women, trying to come off as the perfect knight in shining armor while successfully avoiding showing any hint of personality. The effect is to make it seem like they're trying to attract the similarly generic woman so they can get married and have generic children. I recommend looking up how to write the accents; some of these words change meaning without them. A common example is that "año" means "year" and "ano" means "anus." Not that any sane reader wouldn't know what you meant, but it's worth knowing anyway. Some verbs change with accents in ways which are much more subtle: "estudio" is first person present and "estudió" is third person preterite. A few specific errors, if you're interested: I'd use "estudiaba" rather than "estudié" because it refers to an ongoing process, rather than a single event in time. (By contrast, one might say "empezé estudiar español en el grado segundo," because one began to study at one point in time.) I think you made a typo writing "en la escuela"; I would probably have written "a la escuela" (at school, rather than in school), but I'm not sure you're actually wrong. It might just be a style choice. Similarly, I'm guessing "facilidan" is meant to be "facilidad." Your "vecindad" is singular, so it "tiene" many Spanish-speakers, not "tienen." And while "muchas personas" is technically correct, it's the equivalent of saying "many persons" in English--more common would be "mucha gente" (many people). I'm not fluent either, so I can't promise that's exhaustive, but I've s
3Alicorn
I would advise you to wear smaller glasses if that is possible given your eyesight.
1[anonymous]
There are fun quizzes and they tell you stuff about your personality. That's why I registered; my half-assed profile explicitly says I'm with someone and to message me only if you're interested in platonic friendship. I have made friends with one really nice couple, though.
3[anonymous]
I know why I'm not photogenic: 1. Bad posture (which I can fix when I'm standing at a mirror, but which shows up a lot on candid pictures.) 2. Trouble with facial expressions (I'm not sure how to put this ... I'm not good at knowing how my face looks, and I have a dumb expression in most pictures. The general effect is "chipmunk.") 3. Small total volume of pictures (neither I nor my friends are in the habit of taking lots of pictures of each other.) One of my defects is -- I'm not sure if there's a shorter way to put this -- knowing what my body position would look like to an observer. It's why I can't do something like, say, golf: you'll tell me to change my form and I won't understand what I'm doing wrong because I can't "see" myself. I think that photogenic people and performers, apart from being physically attractive, are really good at "seeing" themselves.

I think that photogenic people and performers, apart from being physically attractive, are really good at "seeing" themselves.

I'm not sure I agree with this--or rather, I'm not sure this is the best model of what's going on. My impression has always been (and this fits with my photo-taking advice elsewhere in this thread) that you don't learn to see how you look when you're doing something right--you learn how it feels to be in the correct position to do it. That is, someone who's watching you might say "your back is curved, straighten it," and you can straighten it, but you still don't see what they see. You just find out what it feels like to have a straight back, and can try for that again later. I've never played golf, but I'd be surprised if good golfers are thinking about what they look like when they're putting. I'd expect them instead to recognize the feeling of being in the correct posture from having done it before.

4mattnewport
This kind of self awareness would be a good starting point to fix the problem if you decided it was important enough to you. There are various things you can do which plausibly claim to improve body awareness (I've heard the Alexander Technique mentioned around here though I don't know anything about it myself) and good body language can be learned to some extent. Even if you don't think it's worth the effort to work on these things however, if you go to a good professional portrait photographer they should be able to help you address these kinds of problems and get some good pictures. Portrait photography isn't my main area of interest but I've read some books that cover the basics and they generally talk about techniques for getting the client relaxed and comfortable in order to minimize the effects of awkward body language and about things you can tell a person to do that will help them position themselves in a way that will produce good photos.
3whpearson
I like your ideas. Although some become harder to enact the less frequent your desired partner type is, which seems to be a problem for some people. I'll note that if you are only willing to spend limited time on it and have the choice between improving general attractiveness and A/B testing profiles, I would pick the former. I'm currently aiming for the increased salary and improved fitness. I don't hold out much hope for OKcupid, I think I'll do better just getting out more to the sorts of events that the people I am interested in might go to.

I've never used any dating websites, but people who care about that sort of thing should note that the advice they'll get this way may have a very low, or even negative correlation with what actually works. I don't mean to say that people will consciously write misleading things -- just that, for various reasons, they may not work with a realistic idea of the thought process of those who are supposed to be attracted by the profile in question. To get useful advice, the best way to go is to ask someone of the same sex (and preferences) who has successfully used some such site to share their insight.

the best way to go is to ask someone of the same sex (and preferences)

Definitely. It is often recommended to guys to focus almost exclusively on advice from other males rather than women until you have reached a level of understanding such that you can reliably distinguish between people talking about what the world 'should' be like rather than what the world is. Having a certain level of social presence also makes it more likely that people will refrain from trying to foist the rules for boys on you and actually give honest assessment's of preferenes.

I don't know who erisiantaoist is, but I cannot believe he actually started his profile with the "I am slightly more committed to this group’s welfare..." quote. If I were at all gay I would date him in a second just for that.

...although I am generally surprised at how anxious people in this group are to signal transhuman weirdness, especially transhuman weirdness that only one in a few thousand people would understand or find remotely sane. Do you really have access to such a high quality dating pool that you're looking for people who will be impressed instead of confused when you name-drop AIXI and state your intention to live forever?

In my case I'm not looking for a transhumanist match: there are lots of really smart, interesting girls out there that haven't heard of transhumanism, and I have a lot more things to talk about than ethics. (Seriously, who talks about bioconservatism on the first date? Once a girl said on a first date, "There are so many books, it's the only thing that makes me really sad that I'm going to die." And I was like, "Oh, don't worry about that. We're not that far off from solving death, you'll be fine. I personally work on the problem; trust me, you'll have trillions of years to read your books." I was still able to get a second date.) I just do it because I think it's hilarious that I can come across as insane and still get girls by being relatively laconic. Social normalcy screens off epistemic oddity, to an extent. I'm not socially normal but I do an okay job at emulating it most of the time.

So those that would take inspiration from my profile, note that the nerdy parts aren't optimized for success. At all. I just like typing AIXI. AIXI AIXI AIXI AIXI AIXI...

[-][anonymous]160

Maybe they're just sick of half-heartedly dating folks they don't click with.

I had a brief relationship with a nice boy who had never heard of most of the things I'm interested in -- he wasn't an intellectual type. Nothing against him, but it was surprisingly disappointing. After that, I thought, "Okay, in the long run I'm going to want a deeper connection than that."

Maybe they're just sick of half-heartedly dating folks they don't click with.

The first few versions of my profile were geared to show off how geeky and smart I was. This connected me to people who spent a lot of time playing tabletop roleplaying games, reading fantasy novels, and making pop culture references to approved geeky television shows, none of which are things which interest me particularly.

Eventually I realized that I am not actually just popped out of the stereotypical modern geek mold, and it was lazy, inaccurate, and ineffective to act like I was. Since then I've started doing the much harder thing of trying to pin down my specific traits and tastes, instead of taking the party line or applying a genre label that lets people assume the details. In that way, OKC has actually been a big force in driving me to understand who I am, what I want, and what really matters to me. A bit silly, but I'll take it.

Here's a question I've been pondering a lot: What are good questions to use to actually learn something about a person? (If you suggest "what kind of music do you listen to" ... you're fired.) If they're not the same for everyone, and I expect that they aren't, how do you find them?

What are good questions to use to actually learn something about a person?

"What's something you believe, that you'd be surprised if I believed too?"

(I've yet to try this in a romantic context, but when meeting new friends it usually leads to a good conversation– the more so for ruling out first-order contrarian beliefs that they'd expect me to share.)

3Relsqui
Oh, that one is excellent. I might try that on some of my current friends. Although ... I wouldn't recommend using it on someone who dislikes debating or defending their beliefs (or on someone about whom you do not know that). If they're right, you have an immediate source of conflict which if taken personally could nip the new acquaintance in the bud.
9arundelo
I want to upvote this more than once. For a while (a long time ago) I asked people "When did you first realize you were different?" Once a young woman I was on a date with said "But I'm not different"!
0Relsqui
Weird. How did that turn out?
1arundelo
Well, I knew it was a bad sign, but I didn't want to write her off based on just that one thing, so I did end up asking her out again. After two or so dates she realized she wasn't interested in me but apparently didn't have the guts to tell me that, so she stood me up and pretended she didn't see or hear me (!) when I went to her place of work. (We were both pretty young -- just out of high school.)
8Relsqui
Ouch. Classy. One thing I've learned from having mostly male friends who sometimes complain about their dating lives is no matter how much of an asshole I feel like when I turn someone down, it's much less than the asshole I'm actually being if I don't tell them. This is why I always respond to new messages on OKC that aren't outright rude, offensive, or all textspeak (and even then I sometimes do). Although, I will admit that, after an exchange has alerady gotten started, if I've been signalling "not interested" over a few messages (responding with minimum polite reply and not asking any new questions), and the other person persistently doesn't get it, I may just trail off.
[-]MBlume100

One thing I've learned from having mostly male friends who sometimes complain about their dating lives is no matter how much of an asshole I feel like when I turn someone down, it's much less than the asshole I'm actually being if I don't tell them.

Strongly agree in general...

This is why I always respond to new messages on OKC that aren't outright rude, offensive, or all textspeak (and even then I sometimes do).

I might be unusual here, but I actually consider online dating to be kind of a special case. My usual strategy is to message anyone I'd want to go on a date with, and then forget I sent the message. This means if my mailbox turns pink, it's a pleasant surprise, and there might be a date in the offing. Finding instead a polite rejection is a bit disappointing.

That is, IRL, if we're friends/acquaintances, and I'm politely/vaguely suggesting that I'd like us to date, and you're picking up on that, it is totally good for you to shoot me down, so that I can quit wasting mental/emotional energy. Online where things are more explicit, the only waste of mental/emotional energy is when I'm logging in to find a message, only to find a rejection.

1Relsqui
I'm actually the same way, but I think a lot of people aren't. Or even if they are, it's kind of draining to put so much energy over time into writing messages and get nothing out of it. Being politely turned down is at least an acknowledgement. In practice, I almost never get to the point of having to explicitly turn someone down, though. Either one-sided clicks don't happen that often, or when they do, the other person gets the hint I'm not interested.
7CronoDAS
I wish more people knew this.
6Alicorn
Should I really message everybody back and tell people to go away if I don't want to talk to them? If some guy in his thirties or forties sends me a message asking a question that I clearly answered in my profile and we have only a 40% match, what do I even say? "You are out of my age range, apparently did not read my profile, and have a low match percentage with me; please go away"? This sounds like an invitation for him to argue with me!
3Relsqui
This policy may not scale to the point where I get a large volume of messages from people I have zero interest in engaging with; I wouldn't know, because that's not the case. However, in response to your example message, I might say no more than "That's in my profile" or a one-sentence answer with no followup question or other remarks. If he doesn't take the hint, I can either argue back if I feel like being snarky, or ignore him afterwards.
4[anonymous]
Perplexed said something smart, but here are my drunk brainstorming ideas: Do you believe in God? Why or why not? (people are usually willing to answer this, but they'll get offended in a hurry if you argue) What experience in life have you learned the most from? What was your favorite subject in school? Do you still follow it? Do you think it's worthwhile to give to charity? Which ones? Do you give to them? (see God question caveat, and the last question is extra offensive if they have to say no) What do you think about him? (Mention someone you both know personally or indicate a person who can't easily overhear) What do you do when you don't have to do anything else?
3Relsqui
I like some of those, particularly the last one--I've seen something similar, which was "what could you talk about for hours?" I'm reluctant to ask "most," "least," or "favorite" questions, because almost nobody has good prepared answers, except to the trivial ones like "favorite color." Which is not an effective question for getting insight into someone's worldview.
3Alicorn
I like asking people what their favorite playing card is, and acting confused if they don't have one (but about half the time they either already had one or are willing to make one up to play along).
0Relsqui
That's funny. I don't particularly have an opinion about playing cards but I thought of one immediately when I read that.
1Alicorn
My favorite is the ten of diamonds; what's yours? :)
7CronoDAS
Mana Maze.
0Relsqui
Har har.
3Relsqui
Jack of hearts. Why yours?
1Alicorn
The ten of diamonds is the "good ten", and worth two points (more than any other single card) in cassino, my favorite card game. Why the jack of hearts?
1Relsqui
Highly ranked enough to be human, but humble among them. Hearts connotes sociality (on that test I lean towards diamonds, but if we're talking about real life rather than gaming I'm much more a heart).
1Perplexed
Actually, the most informative prepared question is probably this one:
6Relsqui
And then what do you do if they say "no"? :) Personally, I'm annoyed by people who say "you can ask me anything, go ahead" (especially in response to the "most private thing" prompt on OKC). It's a way of putting the burden of making conversation on the other person, instead of sharing it with them.
5[anonymous]
Meh... The more I think about it, the more I love prompting your interlocutor to gossip about a third person. You can potentially learn: -How interested she is in other people -How willing she is to talk about other people behind their backs -How much she knows about other people -What qualities she values in other people -Whether she tends to judge people generously or not plus whatever actual facts you may manage to glean about their relationship with said third party! It's great! It's kind of ethically shady, but I am drunk and willing to overlook that for the sake of argument. Edit: Hey guys I fail at lists sorry
0Cyan
Under the comment box to the right, you'll find a little help link.
-2[anonymous]
Edit: Ok grumpy people, let me clarify: drunk people don't format good and don't really spend a lot of time reading instructions, I know it's there, tyvm.
4Perplexed
I don't think that a prepared interrogation is the way to do it. Instead, I think you need to listen carefully to what is said in casual conversation ("What kind of music?" works fine!) and then ask followup questions to draw them out. Example: "You don't like country? Me neither. What is the thing about it that annoys you most."
0Relsqui
Oh, I think I was unclear--I meant the kinds of questions you'd want on a profile page or a matching survey, not for in-person dates. In the latter case I completely agree with you. :)
3[anonymous]
I'm not completely in the geeky mold either. But if you literally take a random sample of young men in my area, I will not get along with most of them. There's some sense in filtering. To learn about people, I usually get them started on their interests. It only really works for people who have interests (enthusiastic about a hobby or career) but do you really want to date someone who doesn't? I only feel I know someone when I know his personal philosophy, but that usually takes time to come out.
0Relsqui
Of course--the alternative to self-labeling isn't sacrificing your personal criteria. I might not have understood you correctly, because I'm not sure whether this is agreeing or disagreeing or a tangent. That actually makes me flinch a little, because I've spent a lot of time on OKCupid thinking "It seems like everybody else has defined things which they go out and practice and spend money on and share with their friends. I don't have anything like that. Am I just too boring? : \" I suppose that's more not having a discrete hobby than not having interests--but my interests are much more about the way I live than what I go out and do. I don't think I actually am boring, but I'm afraid I read that way, because I don't have a thing which I do. Indeed. I might have said "worldview" instead, but they're probably different angles on the same idea.
1CronoDAS
I usually go with "What kinds of things do you like to do in your free time?" although I don't know if I'm really the one to be making suggestions on this topic, considering how little I go out. One reason I ask that is because I fit into the category of and I'm hoping to find people with similar interests.
1whpearson
If you had a year where you didn't have to work*, what would you do? *You had lots of money and a job to go back to after
0Relsqui
That's a really good one. Oddly enough, I think the "if you won ten million dollars" question works well for the same reason--they give you a sense of someone's priorities besides the necessities. (Someone asked me that on Formspring a while back, and I had fun taking my time and thinking about what I really want.)
0[anonymous]
I think typical questions like "what kind of music do you like?" are counterproductive, annoying, and cliched. Conversation should be more like dancing and less like filling out a form. To understand a person, you must (simply) read between the lines of what they say and how they act. Study their body language and tone of voice. Notice, when the conversation reaches a crossroads, what path they choose to follow.
6erratio
I would upvote this multiple times if I could. Having mostly non-mainstream interests sucks for dating.
5orthonormal
Remember, these profiles are selected from the pool of "people who link their OKCupid profile on Less Wrong, and ask advice of the LW pool".
2ata
I admit that my profile does gratuitously signal transhuman weirdness... I'm okay with that not because I'm expecting a large number of people to be impressed rather than confused/repelled by that, but because I'm more interested in meeting the (smaller number of) people who are interested/impressed/okay with that.
2Relsqui
I think the point is to be aware that you may also be driving away people who don't mind it, or might be interested if they learned a little first. Or people who think it's weird, and will judge you based on it if it's the first thing they learn about you, but will shrug it off and agree to disagree if they've already learned to like you first.
2ata
Yeah, I've considered that. For me it's just a little bit hard to avoid talking about under "What I'm doing with my life", because that is what I want to do with my life. But I was aiming to signal something like "interesting and plausible enough to contact him and find out more" — maybe I'm overshooting that and landing in "he sounds crazy; ignore" territory for most people, even people who might otherwise be convinced of the correctness/desirability of the things I mention there. P.S. ...I just recognized your username! You messaged me a few months ago when I lived in Berkeley and I had a bit in my profile that said that I expected I'd usually be too shy to message people but not too shy to reply. Turned out I was too shy to reply. Sorry :( I wish I had replied. You sound cool.
1Relsqui
I should note that I was just responding to the previous comment here; I hadn't seen your profile yet but now I have to go see. Oh, yeah! I remember you. No worries. :) Your description of your sexuality sounds just about like the mirror image of mine. It's tricky to describe, isn't it? I took a crack at it in my "message me" section but I don't know how good a job it does of explaining. Anyway, about the strength of your statements re: singularity et al ... I think the only part that I would expect to make someone o_O is the throwaway mark about humanity probably not surviving this century. I don't think most humans believe that to be the case. Whether they've ever really thought about it or learned why anyone else thinks so is not the point; they don't, so that might come off as crazy. Up to you whether to care.
1Alicorn
The up-front declaration that you are Not Interested In Marriage Or Children Or Probably Even Exclusivity thing is new; what made you decide to add it?
1ata
Because I don't want to lead people on if they're looking for those things. Do you think it would be better to leave that out of the profile and just let my responses to the relevant matching questions filter for that sort of thing? (I actually need go back and change some of those to more than "a little important"...)
1Alicorn
Well, it does a good shutting-down job, but you should definitely also fix your questions - you're still at 97% with me even though I'm a fan of all three things.
0ata
But do you think it's worded in a way that repels people with whom I could otherwise at least be friends? I don't want to signal that I'm hostile to people who are looking for those things, only that I'm not personally looking for them in a relationship.
1Alicorn
I don't actively look for Just Friends on OKC, so I'm not sure how informative I can be about the search patterns of people who do. I didn't get an impression of hostility, just a clear "Dead End" sign.
0Relsqui
Last I checked, straight men aren't that into gay dudes. :P
0[anonymous]
I took it as moderate evidence that that guy is Clippy

May as well... Me.

[-]Emile120

Great profile!

witty, + 5

sci-fi and singularity geek, +5

draws a webcomic + 5

wants kids, +2

degree in worldbuilding, awesome, +10

cooking, +3

vegetarian, -2 :(

likes fancy pretentious cheese, +1

I'm too old, live on another continent, and my wife is next to me right now, -50

5CronoDAS
Thank you. Now I have a face to go with my pointless Internet crush! :)
1komponisto
Aargh! Surely you know that only low-status people use the preposition "for" in this context! High-status people say "in".
1Wei Dai
This is curious. Do you have an explanation for why "for" is associated with low-status and "in" is associated with high-status (in this context)? Are there other similar linguistic phenomena?
4komponisto
Hm, I suppose I could attempt one. I think my current best guess would be along the following lines: High-status people will tend to have a richer cache of stored expressions; in a given situation, they are more likely to be able to precisely reproduce a previously-heard expression appropriate to the context, rather than having to make up a new expression on the spot. This is especially so if the idea being expressed is one that high-status people think about more often than low-status people do. Consequently, a high-status person will be more likely to remember the phrase "graduate school in philosophy" in detail, including the specific information about "in" being the preposition used; whereas a low-status person, who (at least at first) may not have as much occasion to speak about graduate school in philosophy, may only have something like "graduate school [preposition] philosophy" stored in their mind. As a result, when they first need to use the expression, they will have to spontaneously choose a preposition, and the choice they end up with may not be the same as the one in the existing expression commonly used by high-status folk. But now, when the low-status person next uses the phrase, they will have a tendency to remember the preposition they themselves used the last time; so this new expression will then spread among their low-status associates, and will become the standard cached version of the expression for low-status people.
0Relsqui
I don't know whether this is one, but I expect that some such expressions have different "correct" forms on either side of the Atlantic.
0komponisto
Yes, of course status levels are not the only source of linguistic variation; there's also geography, and other things also. Note however that high-status language varies less by geography than low-status language. Also, British English (at least "Southern British Standard") sounds higher status to me than American English in general, so I would find it surprising if an expression that struck my (American-English) ear as low status turned out to be a high-status British form. I would expect the reverse -- that is, something that sounds low-status to a British speaker being a high-status American expression -- to be more common.
0komponisto
Sticking to prepositional shibboleths, another one that comes to mind concerns professional athletes and sports teams: Low status: "X is on the Texas Rangers." (Generalized from the use of "on" in expressions like "whose team are you on?") High status: "X is with the Texas Rangers." (Standard expression used in the specific context by sports journalists, etc.)
0erratio
One of my best friends, who is far more intelligent than I, sometimes says 'could of' instead of 'could have'. My point being, having language pet peeves is fine and normal, but whether people make those errors or not is a really poor indicator of status (even though hearing 'could of' and 'for all intensive purposes' drives me up the wall)
5komponisto
Some very intelligent people also wear T-shirts instead of suits. Nevertheless, it would be preposterous to deny that wearing a suit is a meaningful status signal, or to claim that clothing is a "really poor indicator of status". Signaling mechanisms aren't perfect, and yet they're still signaling mechanisms anyway.
7mattnewport
In engineering / software circles, wearing a T-shirt rather than a suit is a kind of countersignaling.
3komponisto
Indeed; and no doubt linguistic countersignaling also occurs in some communities. (Example: politicians.)
1erratio
Spoken language is much more difficult to change on purpose than clothing is, so in my view it has much less value than clothing choices as a status indicator.
4komponisto
In that case it should have more value as a status indicator -- harder to fake.
1erratio
I think my main disagreement with you here is in whether unconscious or conscious signalling has higher value as a method of determining actual status. I would argue that choosing to put on a suit is actually a better determinant of high status than an accent that indicates I grew up in Dumbistan, because status is something you obtain as opposed to something you either have or don't.
5Perplexed
I think that all talk of status flirts with the Mind Projection fallacy. Status is almost entirely in the eye of the beholder. A high status person is one who conforms to the ideals of the status-judge. So, you are both right as to what signals status, as long as you really mean "what signals status to me".
1kodos96
How can you even tell the difference? It seems like unless you're speaking in a very formal, deliberate manner, they're pronounced nearly identically.
1erratio
It must be a dialect thing, I can clearly hear the difference. I wish I couldn't.
0Alicorn
I don't think I've actually heard "in" used there, and it sounds awkward to me. I guess I'm just low-status. Oh well.
0komponisto
You have, many times. Trust me. "I'm a graduate student in philosophy". -> "I went to graduate school in philosophy" -> "Philosophy? I went to graduate school in it."
4gwern
The Googles would seem to agree: * http://www.google.com/search?q=%22graduate+school+in+philosophy%22 * http://www.google.com/search?q=%22graduate+school+for+philosophy%22
0Relsqui
Oh man, you read like an alternate universe version of me where I stayed in school and kept reading fiction. Or, if it's not quite that strong, you at least send off a lot of "in my tribe" vibes. I'm almost exactly the same way. I don't need only one at a time, but I like small groups or pairs. The closer I am to the people in question, the more of them I can handle at once. I'm building a list of axes (that's the plural of "axis" here, not "axe") along which humans are distributed for social/relationship purposes, and I definitely think "what size of group do you prefer to socialize in" is important enough to be on it. (It might actually have been the first one.) I really want to try your cauliflower soup now. I have a rant about a set of "most private thing" answers that includes yours. You're not obliged to care, but there it is.
3Alicorn
I just don't know how to organize things I talk about into "more private" and "less private". I just have "too private to mention" and "not private". So while I'd gladly pick something and put it there if I had such a spectrum, I don't know how to make facts about myself line up in a spectrum. Suggestions? Soup. I also add a parsnip or two to each batch lately, and I tried it with a turnip once but didn't think it was an improvement. I would have added these to the post but I have forgotten how to log into my blog, it's been so long since I've used it.
3Relsqui
Oh, that's a good reason. On a side note, I'm curious--have you made a deliberate choice to use the UK style of punctuation for quoted words at the end of a sentence (period outside, not inside)? If so, why? The only thing I can think of is to look for intersections of the set "other people might consider this too private to post" and "I do not consider it so." Anything in both of those is probably at least private enough to be interesting. Alternatively, I consider your other use of that box (adding something which didn't fit anywhere else) to be entirely valid. Thanks!
5Alicorn
I put punctuation inside quotes only when it is part of the quote. For example, I'll put an exclamation point inside quotes when I note that I sometimes greet people by saying "Hi!". (But then I put a period after that.) I am not conscious of this being a UK thing; it's just how it makes sense to me. Can you give me examples? The ones I've seen in the wild have not had any clear analogues to myself.
2RobinZ
I use the same notation, and have seen other people report the same for the same reason.
2NancyLebovitz
I punctuate the same way, and for the same reason. I suspect it's a geekishness thing.
6arundelo
Guy Steele & Eric Raymond (don't know which wrote this part): Here or here. (The first link is to the copy on ESR himself's site, but the quotes are messed up.)
2komponisto
Me too. The mathematician Paul Halmos was an outspoken defender of this.
1Relsqui
Yeah, this is certainly logical, and like RobinZ I've seen other people do it for the same reason. It happens to also be what's taught in UK/world English, as opposed to US English, or at least such is my understanding. It startles me when I see it, though, presumably because the US rules were so thoroughly ingrained in me as a child that it seems to mismatch an otherwise good impression of someone's grasp of grammar. In case it's not clear enough, I don't think less of you for using that syntax; I'm just probiing my reaction to it. Uh, hm. I'm not sure, actually; I don't know where your comfort zone lies! Sex is usually a good bet; I've also used that field for things I'm not embarrassed by but can be shy about mentioning because some people are dicks about it. Things I can remember having there at some point, or could have, include: * I don't know how to ride a bike (which was true until I was 23). * I don't drink coffee or alcohol--not because of any code of conduct, just taste. * I'm pretty difficult to bring to orgasm. No one has ever done it within a couple weeks of a first attempt. There are flaws in these; the second one makes me sound boring, and the latter two both result in dumbasses saying things like "you just haven't tried the right drink/dick yet." But they're examples of things in the personal-but-not-too-personal set for me.
0Alicorn
I know how to ride a bike, but don't have and have never had a driver's license - but that isn't private at all. I don't drink coffee or alcohol either, but one's clearly stated in the sidebar and the other seems irrelevant and also not private at all (and I answered a question about it). And my analogy to the last case would seem to invite messages that, as you say, are not welcome.
0whpearson
It is a well written and interesting profile. I'd go with it being a bit more concise, but that is my personal taste. You make it clear that you are unapologetic about your liking of Stephenie Meyer, I don't think you need the section about liking kids movies. It seem somewhat redundant (I'm not implying that Twilight is a kids movie, simply that both make the point that your taste in media is your own, not societally driven).
0[anonymous]
It's a great profile. My preference is for more concision, but not everyone's the same about that.
0Will_Newsome
IMO I think your third picture (the wedding one) should be your main one, it's a very good photo.
2Alicorn
But I'm not wearing a bandana, and therefore I don't look like myself!
7Will_Newsome
You totally do look like yourself! It's not like you'll show up for a date and the person will be like "WHENCE THE BANDANA, LIAR?! YOU ARE NOT THE DROID I WAS LOOKING FOR." And then you'd be like "WTF" and that'd be that. Where was I? Oh, right, sleep deprived.
0Alicorn
Can I get second opinions on the relative goodness of the bridesmaid picture sans bandana and the more characteristic bandana-containing pictures? Will's raving and I can't trust his judgment :)
5Perplexed
I definitely prefer the bandana. But then I'm an aging hippie, so my judgment is suspect. Nice profile, btw. God, you guys make me feel old.
1whpearson
They made me feel old (I'm 31), now I feel less old.
3Emile
I find the bandana one more attractive (the one with the dark sweater, not the one with the big wooden, I mean, metal thingamajig), you look more natural and comfortable than the wedding one. (Does this mean I'm an aging hippie too? I do have a beard.)
5Alicorn
It's not wood, it's an actual metal bat'leth.
3ata
That one is my favourite too.
1Alicorn
Well, sheesh, now I don't know what to do. My own preference is the closeup of my face, so I'm going to switch back.
3whpearson
Honestly, I think most people expect you to put up your best pictures in the fore. If you don't they might think your average pictures are your best pictures, and you look worse in person. The world of dating is not at all about honesty sigh
3Alicorn
These are my best pictures. I'm terribly unphotogenic; these three (and a redundant bat'leth picture) are just about the only ones I can stand to publicize.
3Relsqui
For what it's worth, I like them. You have a good smile, and the smile is what makes or breaks a picture.
1Alicorn
Yes, and in most photos, I look like a complete doofus - these are the good smiles, not just random smiles :P
3Relsqui
Well your good smiles are adorable. So there. :P
1mattnewport
If you have a friend with an interest in photography and a decent camera ask them to take a few pictures. A good camera and some basic photography skills make a huge difference.
0Alicorn
As far as I know, I do not have such a friend.
1mattnewport
Well if you acquire one bear it in mind. I have a Panasonic GF1 which happens to be the camera OkCupid found took the photos with the highest average attractiveness and a photo I have of myself taken with it (a random snapshot by my sister who's not majorly into photography) got the highest rating of all my photos on their My Best Face test even though I don't think it's the most flattering picture of me from the ones I tested. Some nice depth of field and bokeh in the background seem to swing it for a lot of people though.
0whpearson
I meant the comparison of your bridesmaid one to your non-bridesmaid ones. People, generally, will make an initial judgment based on the first picture. Of course if you are not interested in general people, it doesn't matter so much.
1RHollerith
I think both bandana pics (specially the grey bandana one) are better than the bridesmaid one.
1Relsqui
I like bat'leth most, other bandana second, wedding third. But if you're going with the non-bat'leth bandana photo because you can't get close enough in on that one to frame your face the way you'd like, as it seems like you are, I trust your judgment.
0[anonymous]
Bridesmaid over bandanna. I love the little braidy-hair thing. Doesn't matter that you don't look like that all the time -- I don't wear satin leopard-print dresses all the time, but it's a good photo.
0[anonymous]
Bridesmaid over bandanna. I love the little braidy-hair thing. Doesn't matter that you don't look like that all the time -- I don't wear satin leopard-print dresses all the time, but it's a good photo.
1Alicorn
All right, I swapped 'em. That photo also has me in makeup, which I also never wear and was obliged to permit for the wedding... The braid is actually really cool. The hairdresser taught me how to do it - it builds into its procedure the fact that humans have two hands, and doesn't require you to have three or four, which is nice :)
9Apprentice
Now, when I've read LessWrong in the past I've always thought to myself, "what a nice friendly community, populated by geeks like myself". But looking at all those profiles I'm amazed how outdoorsy adventurism seems to be a big part of your self-image. SarahC "hiking and trail-running the Wasatch Mountains this summer was a blast" Yvain "insane adventure ... mountain-climbing in the Himalayas" mattnewport "Mountains make me happy. I love snowboarding and hiking on them." Nisan "I love exploring" [pictures in exotic mountainous locations] JGWeissman "I am an active member of the UCI Sailing Association" Relsqui "You want to go do something with me. Ride bikes" I've got nothing against mountains, I've even been up a few and enjoyed it. I'm not fat or anything, I even exercise semi-regularly. But if I were to make a profile like this it would never occur to me to emphasize those aspects of myself. Is this known to be attractive? I personally find these profiles intimidating. I would be more awkard and less comfortable meeting any of you after seeing those profiles than just after seeing your LW contributions. To me, those profiles have a tendency towards coming across as perfect-and-a-bit-bland or goody-two-shoes, which is simultaneously intimidating (I'm not perfect) and not exciting to me. I like people that have some decadent, flawed or 'evil' aspects. Saying you have an evil sense of humor is something, but it's a bit non-specific. Disclaimer: I married my high-school girlfriend. I have zero experience with dating or dating websites. I probably have no idea what I'm talking about. I would possibly be qualified to give advice about maintaining a successful relationship but I know very little about starting one. My tastes in people are also probably not typical, I have a fondness for the romantic and the mysterious - exhaustively detailed profiles are inherently something of a turn-off to me. Edit: Rereading my comment, I think I hit the wrong tone. I meant
7[anonymous]
Well, a lot of people like physical activity in a partner -- it says something about physical attractiveness, and also a sort of energetic outlook. As for the predominance of outdoorsy activities -- honestly some of it is a class/culture thing, but so what. I've also noticed that there's overlap between math and mountaineering -- sort of the same kind of "coincidence" as math people liking Bach. Geeks tend to be drawn to physically demanding individual pursuits: running, climbing, cycling, and to a lesser extent weights. (Swimming ought to qualify but I've never met a lot of geeky swimmers.)
1Apprentice
I see, that's interesting. (I run and swim - but swimming is very popular in my area.)
1mattnewport
I live in a city surrounded by mountains that hosted the Winter Olympics this year so snow sports and hiking are pretty popular around here. There's probably some cultural context that interferes with the signalling going on in this case.
2Apprentice
Ah! So basically I fell for the fundamental attribution error. My explanation (dispositional): This person is a sports fanatic since he practices such an exotic high-commitment sport. True explanation (situational): This person lives in Vancouver, where this taste in sports is commonplace.. Since you'll be looking for a person in your own city, this misunderstanding of signals presumably won't be a problem.
4Relsqui
I find it really interesting that I'm included in that, but I think I understand why. I absolutely share your intimidation by really outdoorsy-oriented profiles. It makes me feel like the person would always want to be off doing things I didn't know how to do, wasn't fit enough for, or just wasn't interested in. I don't place my mentions of cyclling in that category, for two reasons: 1) Bicycling as a primary mode of transportation is common among people my age in my city. Cycling isn't a hobby for me; my bike is my car. I rarely ride just for pleasure. 2) Because of the first point, dating another cyclist--or at least a bike-friendly person--is actually a practical matter for me. If I date someone who has a car and no bike, and we travel together, I'm relying on that person for transportation wherever we go, and cannot leave by myself if I want to. This is inconvenient at best, and potentially scary at worst. We could travel separately, but drastically different speeds make that a bit of a nuisance ... plus, traveling with my date is just nicer. This is not to say that I wouldn't date someone who didn't use bikes for transportation. But it's easier, and if it's going to be an issue I'd like to establish that up front. Besides ... it's a filter for the sorts of people who might think "Ugh, why are these stupid bicyclists riding in the road?! Don't they know it's just for cars?!" ;)
4Apprentice
You describe it well - I get tired just reading this stuff :) I see - fundamental attribution error again. The true explanation is more situational than dispositional.
0Relsqui
Yeah, but I found it really interesting to look at it from that perspective, so thanks for bringing it up.
2Jonathan_Graehl
Outdoors-adventure stories/pictures: I also enjoy such activities in moderation (e.g. I play beach volleyball several times a week), but doing so is seen as an attractive quality (evidence of "spirituality", health, attractiveness, willpower, etc. in comparison to the stereotypical couch potato or computer nerd). So you should expect people to sell that part of themselves to the extent that it exists in any quantity.
9whpearson
If people haven't you should read the OKtrends blog, especially about what makes a good picture (good quality camera etc). Also a bit about what people are looking for dating wise would be useful. Generally that is too dull to put in the profile itself, but required for advice I think. My profile is currently moth-balled, and not really designed to be attractive (I did get accused of being narcissus, which put me off making it more attractive). I found it horrendously addictive interacting with people and looking at the breadth of humanity and their hopes and dreams. If not people are nosy, I will divulge my okc identity via private message. I am also quite happy to give out awards, if people want them. Or just look at your visitor list for the guy with the round blue sunglasses on.
9Will_Newsome
I and 100 others second the recommendation to read OKtrends: simple, frank statistical analysis. It's not the most useful information, but I was really surprised at their frankness when discussing touchy subjects: religion, race, attractiveness. They're very down-to-Earth in their analysis. Good point.
8[anonymous]
I like the OkTrends blog; the analysis is more casual than scientific, of course, but the content is stuff that I was really interested to learn. Also, as a more general point, I think that non-scientific but enormous back-of-the envelope calculations (like OkTrends) are a good supplement to tiny but scientifically designed studies. If the big&sloppy approach and the little&precise approach give completely different results, that's cause for further investigation. Pre-Internet, we didn't have the opportunity to do that much big&sloppy statistics, except very crude things like the census; but today, I think it might be useful to double-check the results of small experimental studies (e.g. in medicine) with self-reported stuff from an enormous population sample.
3datadataeverywhere
I agree with the big & sloppy point, but would also like to point out the parallel between the OkTrends blog and the Mythbusters.
4Relsqui
While OKTrends does contain a lot of interesting, well-explained, and often entertaining statistics, I would be very cautious about mentioning it in the same breath as anything to do with how to attract people. The folks at OKC can describe the kind of photos which get a user lots of messages--basically, pointing the camera down your cleavage if you're female, cropping your head out in favor of your abs if you're male--but a fat lot of good that does you if you have a small chest or a belly. (Or if you want to get messages other than "UR HOT WANNA GO OUT 2NITE.") Similarly, knowing that "vegetarian" is a first-message keyword which disproportionately leads to conversation is not all that helpful if you aren't one. Relatedly, their data is collected from a large and surprisingly mainstream userbase; if LWers are as atypical as we say we are, very few of those users are going to be similar to whomever you're trying to attract. Maybe you know a geeky, intelligent woman who wouldn't roll her eyes at the headless ab shot, but I don't. If you don't believe that the target audience of OKC is very different from LW's readerbase, read the comments on any OKTrends post. They're not all inane, but ... (I suppose I'm making the assumption there that LWers looking for dates are more interested in someone smart and with common interests than someone who relies on having tits to get attention. If I'm wrong, feel free to disregard.) By the way, just in case you don't feel insecure enough yet, OKC claims to be quietly segregating its users by hotness. I've seen it theorized that that was a publicity stunt or a sneaky way to pull back inactive users, which seems quite plausible to me, but doesn't make the stunt any less scummy. Don't get me wrong; I like and use OKC. Just remember that, no matter how clever and statistically sound their algorithms are, most of their data still comes from people who think that what checkout stand magazines say about people, dating, and sex is actu
9wedrifid
I have no problem with dates who are smart and have common interests and rely on tits to get attention. :)
5wedrifid
That seems to be a desirable outcome and one that I expect would be the natural outcome from applying statistical measures to interaction patterns. I expect and prefer OKC to provide matches that are most likely to lead to rewarding interactions. These do tend to be more likely between people of approximately equal hotness.
0Relsqui
That's conventional wisdom, certainly, but I'd be interested in seeing an actual study.
2mattnewport
Who You Find Attractive is Based on How Hot You Are. I couldn't find a published study with a couple of minutes but I recall seeing experimental evidence for this before.
1Relsqui
Thanks, that was interesting. One of his conclusions has a funny side effect: if you care a lot about how hot people are, you're probably pretty attractive. ;)
0wedrifid
Have you tried google? I've seen several but do not have the links on file.
3wedrifid
Does that help? I would have expected leaving the head there to go with the abs would work better. If I see pictures of just breasts then I wonder what is being hidden (and aside from that find the expressions on a girls face and the style of hair to be potentially attractive.)
4Relsqui
I thought they'd mentioned that in OKT once, but I just went back and looked and didn't see it. So maybe I made that up. Her personality. >_>
2[anonymous]
As I recall, "body" as opposed to face pictures actually hurt your chances, statistically.
2luminosity
Interestingly, since receiving the mail saying I'd now be seeing hotter people in matches etc I have noticed a distinct fall in attractiveness of profiles to me, whether looks or profile based.
2mattnewport
I'm pretty sure it's some kind of stunt since I got that email. I'm curious why you think the idea is 'scummy' though? Given how skewed first messages are towards physically attractive women (the same effect doesn't seem to exist for men) it seems like some kind of mechanism for balancing this effect would be useful. I've thought about a dating site where you have to 'pay' more (probably points of some kind rather than real money) to contact the most contacted people to try and reduce this effect but I'm not sure how you'd pitch it so as not to offend people. It would help counteract the trend for the hottest girls to be overwhelmed with messages and the average girls left receiving few messages though I think which could potentially be good for everyone.
2Relsqui
Not segregating people by hotness, emailing them to tell them so. It's the equivalent, by omission, of sending a bunch of their users a message saying "you're not pretty enough." It's a message which saturates our culture, and I'm not a fan, whether it's stated outright or not. This would solve the balance problem from a technical perspective but not a human one. If you set a site up this way, the value of an incoming message would be proportional to the cost of messaging you. If you're "cheap," an incoming message is just as likely to mean the messager couldn't afford anyone better as that someone's interested. If you're "expensive," every message means interest ... but you get fewer of them than you might elsewhere. Nobody wins. I'm definitely interested in better algorithms for matching people up, but I don't think that particular idea is viable.
2mattnewport
This is definitely a problem. I think you'd need to somewhat disguise what was going on so people didn't feel they were being 'priced'. I'm not sure you appreciate the dynamics of messaging on these sites. The hottest girls get vastly more messages than anyone else, more than they can possibly read and reply to. The problem they face is filtering out messages they might actually be interested in from the noise. For these users fewer messages is better, particularly if the messages are higher quality (which they will probably tend to be if they are expensive to send). Meanwhile less physically attractive girls and most guys get few or no unsolicited messages. The system should help increase the number of messages they receive. They may indeed be receiving messages from people who 'couldn't afford anyone better' but they are getting messages and chances are the messages they receive will be from more realistic matches. As wedrifid pointed out, people tend to end up in relationships with people of roughly equal attractiveness. All the average guys who send dozens of messages to the hottest 1% of girls who they have little hope of success with might consider messaging someone whose profile interests them but who is of more average physical attractiveness. I may not have made it clear that the idea would be that the recipients receive some or all of the cost of messaging them. This way the most in demand users would be able to 'afford' to message people of similar attractiveness but wouldn't be deluged with messages from people 'beneath' them who they likely have little interest in.
4Relsqui
Agreed. No, trust me, I know this part. :p But I see what you mean; my afterthought about how it would reduce their message quantity missed the point. I wasn't assuming that would be the case, although this would mean that hot people would mostly receive messages from other hot people. Which, according to your link, would be preferable for them. Interesting. Okay, I retract my immediate rejection, at least enough to admit that I'm curious about how this would pan out.
0whpearson
The post I linked to was purely about the camera and how a picture should be taken, not what a picture should be taken of. I doubt that we are sufficiently weird that we like grainy, poorly lit, low resolution images. But yes, I'm still not quite sure how we should give advice in general, not knowing what the other people are looking for.
2Relsqui
True, but they have another one about the other thing. Hmm. I've sometimes made a point of trading profile evaluations with people who know me well in person--the idea being "does this fit what you know of me?" This isn't directly useful for our purposes, but I wonder if that's actually a good criterion, and if so, what we can learn from it. I suppose what that method checks for is for impressions we get from the way people write things which give a significantly different idea than they intend. Even little things like the same word repeated in nearby sentences can convey thoughlessness or inarticulacy. Or the combination of different profile pieces, written at different times, might suggest a strong emphasis on something which isn't that important to the subject. What if we went through each others' profiles, line by line, and verbosely described the impressions and implications we read from it? In other words, explicitly state the details we're filling in between the lines. Might that be a productive form of profile critique between strangers?
2wedrifid
That's a really good idea.
1whpearson
Possibly. Extreme diplomacy needed though, you would have to be careful that your negative associations with specific traits didn't leak too much into the language used. I'll give it a go. 1) You give the impression you are mainly interested in game design (both in the what you are doing and message me if). Would you also like talking about the design of other non-game things? 2) Your profile doesn't indicate an interest in the real world (MMO + guitar + books). Are you interested in societal problems and their solutions (or lack thereof)?
0Relsqui
Thanks, that's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for--this should be more clearly on a back burner, since it's not a primary thing. I was thinking of rewriting the "message me if" soon anyway, so that'll probably go away. This is a good example of your point about negative associations--using "real world" to mean "the big picture/humanity as a whole" instead of just, well, occurring outside of a virtual reality. So I read that as "you have no life," which would offend me if I didn't think it was a misunderstanding. Some of them. Some I find interesting problems in their own right, but in general I don't spend cycles on things I don't feel I have any power over. Which charity is most efficient is not really an issue you worry about when 10% of your income is still approximately $0 (and I'm not swimming in free time to donate, either). With luck, I might in some years be settled enough to have the luxury of addressing the big picture. In the meantime, it doesn't seem productive to spin my wheels about it.
2whpearson
Will try harder in the future :) I'm probably odd in thinking that parties/clubbing are much forms of escapism as computer games. Neither are bad inherently either, a little escapism is a fine thing. Even if you don't have power over them, knowing what is going on big picture wise can be useful: what education to pick (growth/shrinking industries), where to live (do you expect oil prices to go up significantly in the near future, if so then minimize commute time) etc . If these things aren't interesting to you and you wouldn't want to have conversations about them, then it doesn't matter.
1Relsqui
Yes and no. I see your point, but I think being social and developing those skills is healthy and productive. Some video games can also teach you skills that are broadly applicable, but I don't know of many. I was so unwilling to acquire an education in something not personally important to me that I put off going to college for about six years, until I knew what it was I was interested enough in to choose as a specialty. So, while I can see why someone might choose an education based on industry, it's not really for me. I don't have either a car or a driver's license. This might conceivably change at some point, but I haven't really needed them yet, and I don't really expect to get into a position where I do any time soon. Don't get me wrong. I do read some current events, and when I get curious I'll go study a bunch of history to put it into context. (A while ago I spent three days on Wikipedia reading about every major conflict in the middle east since Israel's statehood, because I was sick of only having a general "there is conflict there" sense without understanding why.) But doing so is not a major part of my life.
3Wei Dai
The author of that blog seems to give advice based purely on statistical correlation without making any effort to distinguish between correlation and causation. See this post for example.
0whpearson
Well the author of the blog is trying to get people interested in the website, so it should be viewed as marketing more than advice. Advice just sells better than pure stats. It is still the only source of statistics on what goes on behind the scenes of okcupid, so it should provide some useful information, if you are interested in mainstream dating. It is also interesting purely from a sociological point of view, which races message the other races. It also provides the people on okcupid a common topic of conversation, if they are moderately interested in statistics.
3Wei Dai
No need to be so defensive. I'm not saying "don't read that blog". I'm just annoyed that the author doesn't do a better job analyzing the data (that presumably only he has access to).
3whpearson
Hmm, wasn't trying to be defensive. It was a valid criticism of the site. I just was worried that I had given the impression that I thought it was a place for advice! Relsqui kind of thought that, so I thought it needed a disclaimer. I wished to give the reasons that I had recommended it under, to dispell any lingering impression that I might be advising people to talk about zeus by proxy. I prefer to look at it from a half full perspective. Most other web businesses don't release any analyses at all.
1Wei Dai
Ok, got it. Thanks for the clarification.
8[anonymous]
Oh, why not. http://www.okcupid.com/profile/sadielou13
6Relsqui
I moused over your photo thumbnails to see what whpearson was talking about and thought, "Man, who does that smile remind me of? Oh, it's Kaylee! That's a Kaylee smile." And then I read the actual first line of your profile and cracked up.
3thomblake
I didn't realize there were Lwers in the New Haven area; I should've expected that to change once school started up again. Tom McCabe is nearby too, I reckon. There should be a meetup, but I'm not allowed to organize those anymore.
[-]Kevin120

By the power vested in me by the cult of CEV, I hereby grant you permission to organize LW meetups.

2Will_Newsome
Relative LW newcomer (I think) Will_Sawin should be where Tom McCabe is, I think, if Tom is at Yale and Yale is near New Haven.
2Alicorn
Why aren't you allowed?
1thomblake
I totally botched the one at the H+ summit that I had taken responsibility for, so I declared that I am no longer allowed to organize those.
9Scott Alexander
Don't feel bad. You can't possibly be worse than me. I accidentally arranged a London meet-up with two days notice on Easter in a bookstore that was closed at the time (and Tomas, Richard, and Ciphergoth showed up anyway, to their great credit).
2wedrifid
Meanwhile everyone else was busy at church celebrating the rebirth of Christ? At least it isn't your religiously significant tradition you clashed with. :)
0Richard_Kennaway
The Starbucks along the road was open, so we celebrated the global capitalists and their rascally way of making money by selling people what they want to buy.
0jacob_cannell
Wait, so how was that bad?
2jacob_cannell
Unsolicited advice: Your third pic with the red dress is the best - but only 3? You could use a few more. Aspartame is evil! Ahh you and alicorn make me feel old. I would never have guessed so many people where were under 25.
2whpearson
I prefer the third picture to the first, although that may just be the clothing colours and fewer jpeg artifacts. You might want to crop the third to remove the plastic cups and extraneous people. Other than that, I think you have a good mix of factual info to quirkiness in your profile. You might think about re-ordering your categories of interests in terms of what is most important to you. If people are scanning then they might switch off after reading something that isn't so important (movies?) before reading something that is.
1Interpolate
I would make your third picture your display picture. I don't have many specific names/titles listed in the favourites section, but I found that I received more messages when I did.
1wedrifid
Things you couldn't do without: Aspartame. Nice. :) I seem to recall someone laying into superstition surrounding aspartame risks here a while back. Including rather adamant skepticism about a friend's belief that it was the cause of her difficulties. Was that you or do we have another fan of artificial sweetener? :)
4komponisto
You were thinking of LauraABJ.
0wedrifid
Ahh, yes, that's the one.
2[anonymous]
No, I'm a different person. I've never researched the health risks specifically, but I'm generally skeptical of the mindset that "we're not healthy because of all the chemicals we put in our bodies!" I'm also in favor of taking small risks that greatly increase one's quality of life. I hadn't thought about it much, but I guess aspartame says a lot about me.
0[anonymous]
No, I'm a different person. I've never researched the health risks specifically, but I'm generally skeptical of the mindset that "we're not healthy because of all the chemicals we put in our bodies!" I'm also in favor of taking small risks that greatly increase one's quality of life. I hadn't thought about it much, but I guess aspartame says a lot about me.
1Kevin
Reiterating advice I gave someone else -- you would look better with less blurry photos.
1komponisto
Out of curiosity, why do you consider Schubert lieder to be controversial?
0[anonymous]
People either love 'em or hate 'em. I have known folks who absolutely can't get through one song.
0komponisto
Interesting. Living as I do in a Second-Viennese-School-and-beyond sort of world, I guess I'm just not used to thinking of Schubert as a "controversial" composer.
0Vladimir_M
The third picture looks like you're standing at attention. I'd recommend a more relaxed-looking pose!
2[anonymous]
Oh god. I have heard several picture criticisms here and from people I know personally. The fact is that I really don't photograph well. It's hard enough to find pictures where I have a nice expression and don't look fat. Good posture and good camera quality -- not gonna happen.
4whpearson
I'd message you on the strength of those pictures/profile (assuming I was in the right location/age group). So I wouldn't get too down-hearted about people criticising them. This is a thread to suggest improvements, so we are looking for what could be improved.
0Vladimir_M
The picture is funny in a cute way. It looks like you had a severe case of that semi-conscious reflex to assume a "proper" position when someone points a camera at you, so you ended up striking a pose straight from the drill manual. :-) Getting rid of that misleading instinct is a good first step towards making oneself more photogenic. In any case, look at it as a cost-benefit question. How much do you care about this particular mode of public self-presentation, and how much effort for procuring good photos does this justify? (The easiest way to get some good photos is to hang around those irritating people who relentlessly snap their digital cameras next time you go to a party, and then just ask them to email you the pictures and make a selection out of the huge pile. The best way is to ask someone who has some basic photography skills to snap a few pictures of you.)
3Relsqui
Tacking on some more photo advice: When I was taking my senior formals for my high school yearbook, the photographer kept egging me on to smile more. It got really annoying. I WAS smiling! Finally, just to make him knock it off, I plastered on a giant stupid really fake grin. He said "perfect!" and shot it. They came out fantastic.
0Alicorn
Hey, you live near me! Neat!
0[anonymous]
I didn't know that! Let's meet up some time.
0Alicorn
I PMed you my contact info so we can set this up offsite; did you get it?
0[anonymous]
yep.
6Relsqui
Observation about online dating which didn't fit anywhere specific under this thread: it's a very strange sensation to be simultaneously aware of having specific preferences about unimportant traits (height, baldness) and that they're irrational. I've noticed that if I'm looking at the profile of a 32-year-old man who is balding, I feel like he's too old for me; another 32-year-old who is not will not give me that feeling. This annoys me a little. I don't care about baldness, but apparently some part of me does.
6Relsqui
Are you intending to make a top-level about this thread? I think there's some really interesting stuff in it: profile optimization techniques, whether and how you can glean advice from a statistical analysis of other peoples' results, and non-dating applications of learning to write a good profile (e.g. self-knowledge). I'd be interested in trying to distill the ideas into a useful post, but it's your thread, so I consider you to have right of refusal. Also, to you or anyone else: agree/disagree that this subject merits a top-level?
4Will_Newsome
I haven't really followed the thread at all, but I grant permission to anyone to do what they want with it; it's their karma. I have a few LW posts that I'm already busy with for the next 5 days or so. I believe you haven't written a post yet, Relsqui? I think you should do it. If you want, write a draft and set up a piratepad and link to it from here so that other people can contribute and edit.
4Relsqui
May well do; thanks. I have two more tests to study for this week (one down already), so, uh, it won't be today. But I'll see if I have time later in the week to assemble comments. I've seen a few collaborative text sites mentioned here--etherpad, and now piratepad. Anything particular I should know about choosing between them, or just try 'em and see what I like?
2Alicorn
Piratepad is just an instantiation of the Etherpad software.
1erratio
There's also the shiny new discussion area just under the site header /points to link
0Relsqui
Oh, yeah! Good point.
1Relsqui
Posted in discussion. If it gets a positive response, I'll shunt it to the main.
5WrongBot
My profile. I met my first girlfriend via OKC, but that was ~5 years ago. Haven't had much success there lately, but I've effectively become much more selective since then (due to polyamory's relative rarity), so that isn't too surprising. Very curious to hear what people think about how I've presented myself, as I'm dubious that my learned skills in that domain have transferred to internet profile writing.
0knb
Well, you've got preselection going for you, I guess.
4Scott Alexander
Ah, sure. People (especially women), give me what help you can: http://www.okcupid.com/profile/ScottAlexander
7Interpolate
I get the sense that your profile content doesn't do you justice - perhaps you could afford to be more arrogant? No one you want to meet would find you boring. I like most of your pictures, but I would include a few where you look more friendly and approachable, eg. pictures of you at work.
7Relsqui
That's a brilliant piece of advice about the attitude to take when profile-writing. Don't worry about looking good to people you aren't interested in! It doesn't matter what they think! Given the potential objections below about Yvain's work photos, a photo of him socializing might also fit the bill. Nothing says "I'm approachable" like "Look! These people clearly approached me, and I didn't bite them."
4Alicorn
Yvain is a med student. Pictures of him at work might have him wearing a mask and up to his elbows in blood. Which would be interesting, but not approachable ;)
1Interpolate
I realise he is a med student, which is why I suggested "at work". Maybe this is a personal quirk, but people in surgical scrubs exude compassion and approachibility to me. Conversely, pictures of people at work in an office setting usually seem impersonal and/or trite to me.
1Alicorn
My dad (a doctor, although he doesn't practice as a physician and does consulting instead) wears scrubs as pajamas, so I don't trust my intuitions about what they mean one bit.
7Relsqui
1) I don't want to alarm you, but there's a tiger next to you. 2) I second the comments about your pictures. Get someone with a real camera to take some for you, smile when they do it, and then crop/balance them. 3) You made me giggle a few times; points for that. 4) I do too message men! 5) You get to goad the reader into asking you out and still have it sound like a joke exactly once. The second time it's desperate. (You do it once in the "message me if" and once in a photo caption.) Where in CA are you from? :)
0Scott Alexander
2) I am mostly using those pictures to signal that I do interesting things; generally, the more interesting the thing I am doing, the less likely I have a good photo of it (eg when trekking in mountains I became unshaven and poorly groomed and hideous and can only take pictures by holding the camera in front of my face). I'm not really sure how to fix that. Should I get rid of all my interesting pictures? 5) Meh, good point. I'm from Orange County, but haven't lived there in a while.
6Relsqui
Nah, you could just supplement them with tidier ones.
4gwern
Perhaps I am alone in this, but the 2nd/middle picture looks terrible - as if you hadn't washed or shaved your head in a week.
0[anonymous]
I figured that signaling that I do interesting things was worth me almost always being poorly groomed when I do them, and that people would generally understand that grooming takes second place when you're trekking. Do you think not?
2Kevin
I think the blurriness of your pictures makes you look less attractive. There was an OK Trends blog about this: http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/dont-be-ugly-by-accident/
1[anonymous]
I like it. I like the humor, I like the varied skills and interests.
0pwno
Really like your "you should message me if" section. I would word it a bit differently, but definitely intriguing.
0arundelo
So the picture with the tiger is really you!
3FrankAdamek
3Relsqui
I'm willing to help cross this divide and check out some dudes or ladies-into-ladies on OKC. I think having seen a lot of profiles with the same errors over and over is a bigger asset than the ovaries, though. Also, unless we really have no criteria other than "is male" or "is female" (and we deserve to have more precise standards than that), it's going to be hard to distinguish between "your profile doesn't attract me" and "you don't attract me." I'm not sure how to account for, well, taste. To clarify with an example, I'm happy to give that ball a kick and put my profile out there to be critiqued. But there are some qualities that are important to me which I think are underrepresented among LW's users (like having good interpersonal/social skills), and some that I'd expect to be common here which I'd prefer to avoid in a partner (like dedicating an above-average proportion of time to academic or professional pursuits). So if I find out that my profile isn't appealing to people who don't fit those preferences, is that a good or a bad thing?
2CronoDAS
I don't think the "head back" picture is a good pose.
0Relsqui
I don't think it's great either, but it's the only photo I have of myself that isn't actively misleading about my appearance. And even that one's getting out of date. (A little bit of hair growth is a big difference when it's very short.) What I actually need to do is take some new pictures. :) Or shave my head again, which I'm considering.
3ata
Here's mine. I like how I match over 90% (and usually 96%-98%) with almost everyone else here.
3luminosity
97%. But I guess that's really not too surprising. One of the things I like about okcupid is how it's easy to make the match rating act as a warning. Make it ignore choices that differ form yours but you don't feel are important, and put high value on the ones that do. I can usually tell at a glance if someone is religious or highly socially conservative.
2ata
If anyone's interested in giving advice on the "actually looking attractive" aspect of OkCupid profile optimization: I am wondering what to do about facial hair. This is what it currently looks like, and I don't like it very much at all. Possible options include going back to something like this, or aborting Operation Facial Hair altogether. (My Best Face ranked the first aforelinked photo as my worst, and the other one as my best (which surprised me a bit). That is some evidence about what people prefer, but not very strong evidence, because there are several other differences between the photos that could account for some of the variation.)
1Alicorn
I vote for abandoning facial hair. And your photo with the hat is totally the best.
0Relsqui
I prefer the second one, but I tend to prefer beards in general.
0WrongBot
You have the same first name and initials (I'm assuming) as an ex-boyfriend of mine. You're also about the same age, live in the same general area, and look quite a bit like him. So that was slightly startling. Also, yeah, 96% match rating. There seems to be an LW value cluster that's packed pretty tightly, relative to general personspace.
0wedrifid
Yup 96% here. :)
3whpearson
It is also worth noting that making a good profile is not the only thing you can do. If you socialise on the site, you get more exposure in general and people might see you if they are browsing the other people's journals or looking at the recent activity section.
3Will_Newsome
Autothexis at OKC. Critiques are welcome. Profile's been pretty successful. I think the main limiting factor is my age, but even then I've managed to hook up with a few cute girls from Cal without putting in too much effort.
0Relsqui
40% match. Wow. Picture me backing away slowly.
3Will_Newsome
Haha I noticed that. It's rather odd. A girl I've been dating for the last few months and the one I like the most has about a 40% match with me and it's incredibly hard to see why. I guess I should directly compare our questions or something. It was at about 80% until they switched up the Matching mechanism: I have no idea what they did, but I think it was for the worse. Maybe not though.
2[anonymous]
You are probably using it wrong.
3wedrifid
I'm bayesian_prior. The profile I have there is successful but I haven't looked at the text I wrote there in over a year. Critiques are welcome.
3Nisan
You may want to expand the sections "The first things people usually notice about me" and "The six things I could never do without". The former is a chance to provide a random detail about yourself. As for the latter, "eudaimonia" is a great answer, but if I didn't know the transhumanist connotation and looked it up on Wikipedia, I'd conclude that you must be a fan of virtue ethics :) ETA: Oh, and a while back OKCupid got rid of the "I am _, __, and _" section, and incorporated the text into your self-summary. You may or may not like that.
0wedrifid
Thanks. Virtue ethics? Gah! Must change that.
2Matt_Simpson
I never thought I'd say that LW caused me to join OKCupid. Here's my profile: http://www.okcupid.com/profile/TheMattSimpson Comments? Suggestions? It's probably obvious that I'm mainly interested in hearing what the LW ladies have to say, but if you men know of such things I'm all ears.
2[anonymous]
Ok, want to ask advice about something ... touchy. Like most girls' profiles, mine says nothing whatsoever about sex, to avoid attracting armies of pervs. But sexual incompatibility actually can be a deal-breaker for me, and I'd imagine I'm not alone in that. I don't have anything complicated going on -- I just think that sex is nifty, and I want some way to avoid winding up with people more prudish than myself. Is there a delicate way to hint at that?
6jimrandomh
Just say "No prudes". Why make it more complicated?
5wedrifid
Nice double entendre Including the phrase 'sexually compatible' seems to send the right signal without being excessively crude. You can also use the question system to filter this kind of thing. There are questions that explicitly handle these sort of preferences and also the ability to select a set of questions as mandatory. Apart from that you can do a search through all the sex questions and answer every one of them. That is what I did when I lost the 'more desiring of sex' picture on my profile and wanted to reclaim it. This will (obviously) lower the match ratings of prudes and also allow you to see [comparisons on various relevant criteria[(http://www.okcupid.com/profile/sadielou13/compare/bayesian_prior). Even if you haven't explicitly mentioned anything about prudishness you can make a reasonable inference about relative prudishness of potential matches by looking at a get a good indication of that from looking at "kinkier", "more old fashioned", "more desiring of sex" and "more moral". (I just noticed that my rating puts me at +31% on 'pure'. WTF? I must be confused about what purity means since I could have sworn I was no such thing!)
3Will_Newsome
The girl I'm primarily dating put sex as one of the six things she couldn't do without. That didn't put me off. It also screens off crazy social conservatives.
2luminosity
I've seen plenty of women's profiles that mention sex. I imagine if armies of pervs were a terrible problem that probably wouldn't happen as much? If you don't want to risk that though, my recommendation would be to leave it off entirely, deal with it in messaging or in person. It seems to me that if you don't want to state it outright, you're likely to be misinterpreted.
2whpearson
I'd keep it impersonal and put mentions of it with words that aren't associated with sex normally or are negatively associated with sex. "Sex is nifty" is good in that it doesn't associate you with the sex, so doesn't illicit mental images. Nifty is also an odd word to associate with sex. "I don't have a religious view on sex" is also unlikely to get the pervs going. Both of these are a bit boring through. Failing that, to keep it more light hearted you might want to try adding in some sexual double entendres? Hard to balance the right level of subtlety and understandability though.
1Relsqui
I agree with wedrifed; answering questions is a good way to express this and match on it without putting it up front in your profile. By the same token, you can sort the public answers of a potential match to see if you're compatible in that way.
1Duke
Somehow I doubt that the part about needing a guy to have lots of sex with you is worth mentioning.
2Kevin
www.okcupid.com/profile/kfischer
1cousin_it
Late to the party! I'm cousin_it there too. Visible only to logged-in users.
1fburnaby
Looks like I'm very late to the party. Just in case, I'm rock n stroll .
1JoshuaZ
This is interesting to read as someone who is not on OkCupid. Simply reading this thread makes me more inclined to sign up under the basis that input from LW is much more likely to make such a profile useful and less likely to make my profile simply be further damage to everyone's signal to noise ratio. Must think about this.
3JoshuaZ
Ok. Replying to self to keep things organized. Have made a profile. Some of the match questions are really poorly phrased. For example, consider the question "Have you ever had a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex?" which has four possible answers: * 1 Yes, and I enjoyed myself. * 2 Yes, and I did not enjoy myself. * 3 No, and I would never. * 4 No, but I would like to. This neglects some fairly obvious other options such as "no, and indifferent." Many other questions had similar problems. The question about contraception was confusing since it wasn't clear whether abortion was considered contraception for this purpose. I assumed that it was not but I could see someone interpreting it as referring to any form of birth control.
4mattnewport
This is because they are largely user submitted and not actively filtered by OkCupid staff.
7AdeleneDawner
It doesn't help that they're limited to four answers of relatively short length, either.
3Alicorn
I'd change "religion" in the sidebar to agnosticism or atheism. If people are sorting for religion (which is most of what that affects - anyone who scrolls enough to look it on your actual profile page can also see the essays about your Jewish cultural background), this will screen off anyone who's looking for agnostics/atheists and let through anyone who's looking for religious Jews. Basically a solid profile; if you were in my age range and lived nearby, I might have pinged you.
0JoshuaZ
Thanks. Updating per your advice.
0JoshuaZ
Hmm, so any chance I could get feedback on this profile?
1MBlume
I'm Sgt. Pepper I've had precisely one positive outcome on OKC, and that was a friend who led me to cool activities, not a hookup. Still try from time to time though.
1[anonymous]
My profile. I initially joined OkCupid for the tests and stayed for the journals community, so it isn't really optimized for attracting dates/matches. I have made a few valuable acquaintances through it, however. As an aside: Why haven't more people mentioned LW in their profiles? ETA: Despite my not using OkC primarily for its intended purpose, critiques are very welcome.
2knb
Drop the Myers-Brigg type indicator (very last season), and replace it with the hip and stylish Five factor model. Or your profile will just end up attracting a bunch of Jung-fanboys who want to talk about their dream journals. :3
1Nisan
Okay, here's mine. I think I can offer advice to both men and women here; a big part of writing a good profile is simply writing well.
3[anonymous]
I really like this; good pictures, and, yes, good writing.
0Nisan
Thanks!
1Perplexed
I created a profile just for purposes of this thread. Don't know if I will finish and maintain it. I'm not really looking for someone right now. But feel free to critique as if I were.
2Relsqui
Your six things made me laugh. But your "private thing" answer annoys me--conveniently, I have already written out a rant about why.
0NancyLebovitz
The word you're looking for is probably xenophilia.
1mattnewport
I deleted mine. Too depressing.
0mattnewport
This discussion prompted me to give OkCupid another try. Profile's still a work in progress, haven't filled out the books/movies etc. section yet.
4whpearson
I'm going to assume you are interested in a wider range of women than the average (on lesswrong) and point out a profile that I think is successful, and might be useful to you. If you are specifically looking for gender atypical women, then probably ignore this. Take this guy. Things he does in his profile worth noting (but not necessarily copying) 1) Implies he gets lots messages 2) Implies that people might want to stalk him 3) Shows he can organise events IRL * If you look at his journal, lots of people are talking to him, lots of girls are flirting with him. Those sorts of things are a lot harder to engineer than an attractive looking profile, so are good demonstrations of value. You stand out from the crowd. I've met him in real life and he does seem successful with women. He is easy going and friendly, but intensely cocky and flirty. *Going to an okcupid meetup is a good way of increasing your exposure on the website as well. You will be featured in diaries + pictures and if you make a good impression you'll get compliments and people to follow and comment on your journals. It can be grey hat if that is the only reason you do it though...
0mattnewport
I think that's probably accurate. I can see why the profile you link is successful. It's funny and well written. It also signals high status without being too direct or explicit about it. I'm not confident in my ability to pull off the same degree of funny over a similar amount of text however. I tend towards more brevity because I find I get bored of most long profiles (this one mostly avoided that) and I assume most women have the same reaction but I'm not sure if that's a mind projection fallacy. Humour does seem effective in profiles but one of the reasons its a good signal is it is hard to fake and I'm always wary of trying and failing, more so in writing than in person.
3Relsqui
If you figure this out, tell me. Your food section is making me hungry ... but pickled onion monster what? Your photos are quite good, and the captions made me giggle. I can see why you picked the one you did for the top picture, but I really like the smile in the last one. Smiles are very attractive. For what it's worth, I think your profile could be a little longer, but the length of the one whpearson linked is excessive. Information content > brevity, but clarity > length. I agree with this. I find humor to be a mild attraction boost, but obviously deliberate attempts at humor which flop are a pretty big turnoff. (For the record, being funny constantly, even successfully, also is--I need to know someone is capable of taking anything seriously.) This is the problem with a lot of dating/profile advice which observes that people who are __ get lots of dates/messages. It's easy to say that, looking at the data, but much harder to squeeze any kind of practical advice out of it, since "be __" usually isn't. That said, if you do add more content to your profile and want an opinion on e.g. whether the humor works, I'd be happy to give it another eye.
0mattnewport
Monster Munch. It's kind of an in joke for anyone who happens to have lived in England - it's a well known brand there but pretty much unheard of anywhere else. For anyone who gets the reference the juxtaposition of a list of healthy unprocessed foods with a completely artificial processed snack might raise a smile. Thanks. The top one tested best on My Best Face on my old (now deleted) profile. I haven't compared it against the bottom one which is pretty recent. Smiles being good seems to be the conventional advice but OkTrends suggested otherwise in one post. I'll rerun the My Best Face test with the newer pictures included. I might take you up on that. I'll probably fill out the empty sections and refine what's already there over the next few days.
0Relsqui
As noted elsewhere, I don't put a lot of stock in their recommendations, but I admit I'm only the one data point.
0mindviews
I'll join in the fun - any suggestions appreciated. My profile is currently limited to OKC users, though. I wish there were more LW ladies in SoCal who were easier to find...
4Alicorn
I don't recommend leaving this as a surprise. The question it prompts is "Why? What's wrong with his taste in books? Is he embarrassed or something?" And while these questions might go into a message to you from the girl of your dreams, they might also send her scurrying away.
2mindviews
I tried something different and added a link to this section. Any comments on how that works?
2Alicorn
This is better.
0JGWeissman
Here is mine Like several others here, I am looking for someone who at least isn't turned away by my transhuman values. My profile has been moderately successful in generating dates, but not much long term.
6RHollerith
I would leave all that out. You already said you work as a software developer and that you have a technical degree. If a female programmer wants to know more, she can ask. The convention in these profiles is to be conversational. If you were introducing yourself to a stranger in person, and the fifth and sixth sentences out of your mouth were the above, most women would peg you as a hopeless nerd. The probable reason this section is titled "What I'm doing with my life," is that most profile writers need to be nudged into listing actual accomplishments, but you've already established yourself as an accomplished person in the previous section, so maybe use this section to describe your hopes for the future and what you've been doing to improve yourself. I understand that you want to discourage readers unaccepting of transhumanism, but maybe spell out how your transhumanism would affect your future partner: "Any woman that gets involved with me would have to understand that a part of my income will go to philanthropic ends -- and unusual philanthropic ends which are ridiculed by some at that! Also, I have arranged for my body to be cryonically preserved on my death, and I would prefer for my partner to assist me in that goal. At the very least, she would need to promise that she will not interfere with my arrangements." Oops. Did not mean to write so much. I hope this is not unwelcome advice?
[-][anonymous]110

"Also, I have arranged for my body to be cryonically preserved on my death, and I would prefer for my partner to assist me in that goal. At the very least, she would need to promise that she will not interfere with my arrangements.

I would actually recommend against saying that, even though it may be factually true. I would not attempt to dissuade my man from cryonics if he were interested, but if I saw this in an OkCupid profile, I would think, "This guy is ALL ABOUT transhumanism and probably boring." Seeing as I'm more used to the idea than most women, what turns me off will probably turn off lots more potentially compatible readers.

Edit: I agree with the above that you don't need to go into so much detail about the programming though.

1JGWeissman
Done. I agree with Molybdenumblue about the transhumanist stuff though.
0RHollerith
I do too on reflection.
0luminosity
Why not? Mine
0erratio
If you ever move to Sydney I would be highly interested in meeting you. So I would have to say, looks like your profile is working :)
0luminosity
I guess I must be doing something right then. And I'll bear that in mind should circumstances change and I end up in Sydney. :)

I recently mentioned Dempster-Shafer evidentiary theory another thread. I admit, I was surprised to get no replies to that comment.

Is there any interest in a top-level post introducing DST? Bayesianism seems to be cited as a god of reasoning around here, but DST is strictly more powerful, since setting uncertainty to 0 in all DST formulas results in answers identical to what Bayesian probability would give. I would like to introduce Dempster-Shafer here, but only if the audience will find it worthwhile.

3Will_Newsome
I would very much like an introductory post. Hopefully LW's best statisticians would reply and a good discussion would get going. As far as human epistemic rationality is concerned, though, does it ever help to try to 'move in harmony with the DST' the way it seems to help when people try to 'move in harmony with the Bayes' by e.g. making sure to take into account prior probabilities or the like? Are there any qualitative applications of DST to one's beliefs that are more powerful or more elegant than naive Bayesian heuristics? Also, it is just a confusion to ask what the equivalent of Bayesian networks are for DST? I'm definitely not a statistician but the application of verbalized statistical heuristics has helped me a lot in the past. It'd be cool if you could cover these questions in your post, but if not I still think you should write it. Pleaaaaaase.
3gwern
I'd like to read about it, but less about the details than why we should prefer it to Bayesianism. For example, how would proponents deal with Cox's theorem?
2ata
I'd be interested in a top-level post — I had been meaning to ask about it, in fact. I've read about DST briefly and had been wondering (1) if in practice it is actually useful for anything you can't do as easily with pure Bayes, and (2) if they are theoretically isomorphic or if Bayes is strictly a special case of DST.
7datadataeverywhere
In my opinion, using DST usually adds unnecessary complexity to problems that can be sufficiently solved in a Bayesian framework. Then again, I think that the same thing can often be said of descending from a Bayesian to a Frequentist approach, which is to say that most problems are simple, and properly using any framework is enough to get a good answer. See neq1's post that inspired my original comment. That said, I work on problems that I have solved both from a Bayesian perspective and from the perspective of DST, and I have found the former lacking. There are at least a few problems that I feel like DST is much better at. If you search Google Scholar for Dempster-Shafer and look at results in the past few years, you'll notice a really clear trend for using it to extract information from noisy sensor data. That's what I use it for, and seems to be a strength of DST. As to your second question, I think it is in the realm of possibility that Bayes can be used to construct DST, but I don't know how and if it is possible, it is certainly more difficult than going the other direction. In some sense, DST is meta-Bayesian, because PDFs of PDFs of priors can be specified, but doing that with a strictly Bayesian framework misses the set-theoretic nature of Dempster's Rule of Combination, and results in a weaker theory, that among other things, still doesn't handle contradictions any better than Bayes does.
2Perplexed
I would like to see it. I tried to get some idea of what it is about by Googling but failed miserably. I should disclose up front that seeing Zadeh's name associated with it did not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling of anticipation.
2datadataeverywhere
What?! Seeing Zadeh's name should definitely give you a "fuzzy" sensation! ;-P
0Perplexed
Usually I am conscious of my subconscious puns. Dada Dada everywear.
0lukeprog
Yes please!
1datadataeverywhere
I've been working on this, but have been swamped with other things. Among other things, I've reversed my position on ata's question about the equivalence of Bayesian probability and DST, and am reasonably sure that I can demonstrate that DST can be derived from, for instance, Jaynes' formulation of probability. For related reasons, I've grown to distrust most underlying formulations of DST, and while I still trust the method (it works, after all), I think standard presentations have gotten it Wrong. Which of course means that I feel the need to get it Less Wrong before I post it here, making this a much more monumental challenge.
1lukeprog
I appreciate your commitment to quality!
0satt
I certainly wouldn't mind. I saw your other thread and hoped someone else would reply to it and get a conversation rolling. I've heard a tiny bit about DST, and it sounds interesting, but I know too little about it to comment on it myself.
0AdeleneDawner
I was surprised that that didn't get any responses, too. I don't usually contribute to discussions of probability, and probably wouldn't comment on such a post, but I'd certainly be interested in reading it.
[-][anonymous]140

I'm considering writing a post on anapana meditation (sometimes also known as mindfulness meditation or breath meditation) that gives instructions, tips for practicing, and details costs and benefits. I would probably be drawing primarily from personal experience (but I'd still appreciate any references to relevant studies). At the end of the post I would invite others to use my knowledge to give this form of meditation a trial. Is something people are interested in? For those who are interested, is there anything you would like to see addressed?

My meditation history: I learned anapana and vipassana meditation from a 10-day course at one of these centers in 2006. After a year of false starts I was able to keep up a daily practice of 1 hr from 2007-2008 and 2 hrs from 2008 until the present. During that period I also took an additional 4 (or 5?) 10-day courses.

3Bobertron
I'd be interested in mindfulness, concentration and relaxation. How they relate to each other and anapana meditation. Should one practice something in addition to anapana meditation if one is interested in concentration or relaxation?
0[anonymous]
Thanks for your feedback. I'm planning on focusing on mindfulness and concentration, as well as the relationship between the two. I think I'll be able to address how those two are related to relaxation benefits. Sorry but I don't really have a good answer to your question. I haven't explored many other practices with this aim. Sometimes I find that trying to put all one's attention into simple repetitive tasks where one isn't personally invested (like doing dishes) is relaxing, and can help maintain concentration during the day. This can be a form of meditation somewhat akin to walking meditation. The benefit I get from this might be dependent on my daily sitting meditation practice though.
2[anonymous]
For those who are curious, I've decided to write the post and am currently working on a draft. I'll ask for feedback in a separate comment when I'm done.
0Will_Newsome
Sweeeeet. You might want to consider putting it in an etherpad somewhere for a quick review (I think piratepad might be the most common, I dunno). If you link to it from here you should get 2 to 10 people to look at your draft.
[-]Jonii130

So, hello. Has anyone here ever experienced spontaneous and sudden evaporation of akrasia alltogether? I'm asking mostly because this is exactly what happened to me, on 26th of August this year.

I didn't do anything special. I had tried taking cold showers every now and then for a week earlier, and started taking some nutrient pills around that time, that's pretty much it. Then, that morning, I suddenly started working on the projects I had planned and thought of.

That may not sound all that dramatic, but I haven't introduced myself yet. I have been my whole life a rock-solid underachiever. After elementary school doing homework was not enforced, so I gradually stopped doing that. University doesn't care if you participate in lectures, so I didn't. All my academic effort happens roughly one day before any given exam. It's not that I didn't like the subject I study, or that I didn't want to do it. I just couldn't. There was a mental block that totally prevented me from using my free time for any of my projects, things I wanted to work on.

So that day, I spontaneously figured that I gotta study one thing in order to be prepared for the next academic year. So I did. I figured my room was... (read more)

4Morendil
The phenomenon of plateaus in learning is fairly common, and in Go specifically if you look at a graph of how a population of players are distributed in terms of ranks, it has several noticeable discontinuities. So the Go jump isn't too surprising. The one with akrasia is, because I wouldn't think of that as something you were learning.
2realitygrill
My particular jumps in Go strength came after reading more new theory, trying to integrate it into my game for a while (and failing), and then frustratedly taking a break. I'd come back a few kyu stronger, and games would consolidate this into maybe another stone or two's increase in strength. This happened enough that I stopped feeling frustrated (rather just stuck) and proactively took breaks. Usually about a week would do it.
1byrnema
After reading the post about Go, I started playing for a while ... and I was so bad so consistently I quit playing (out of discomfort with opponent discomfort, rather than frustration). Has anyone had the experience of playing several games with no improvement? On the last online game I played, the person I played against paused to ask me if I understood the rules. The next question was, 'do you understand that you're supposed to surround my stones?' or something like that. I know that I have trouble making any plans spanning several moves, and when I do make 'plans' I can't recall them after activity on another part of the board..
5Jonii
There is a proverb in go: "Lose your 100 first games as fast as possible", mostly because there is little use in making plans before you have some sort of intuition of what's going on on the board. So if you just play and lose without thinking too much about it, you get to the fun part faster.
0byrnema
Nice quote. My interest in playing Go has been rekindled, thank you, and I agree with Relsqui that it applies to many contexts.
0Relsqui
Thank you, I've been trying to remember the actual wording of that proverb. A Go player told it to me years ago and it's nice to remember whenever I'm new to, and sucking at, anything. "This is a necessary frustrating hard part; keep going and you'll move through it."
4Morendil
Sure, every Go player hits a plateau in their playing career, in fact more than one. As a proto-Go player (and I think of myself as a dabbler still), I used to have a specific computer program as my sole opponent: IgoWin, a tiny 9x9 Go program which I still think makes a pretty good introduction to the game. When you start out as a total beginner IgoWin gives you 5 handicap stones, which on a 9x9 board makes for a real easy games. Then, as is traditional, every time you win a game it takes away one handicap stone, until the games start to become challenging again. My first ever plateau in learning Go was when I got IgoWin to play me even, taking Black. As White I was totally unable to beat it. No matter how much I played (for weeks on end) I couldn't figure out how to get past that. After a while I broke down and asked a friend of mine who I knew was a player to teach me the basics. Two or three games with him on a 13x13 board later, I was able to clobber IgoWin as White in even games. I started playing human opponents exclusively, and later learned that bots like IgoWin are considered a bad way to learn, because Go playing programs so lack an understanding of the game that playing them will give you bad habits. So the idea is that there are plateaus, but there are also plateau-busters. For me, playing with a "real" opponent who knew what he was doing was one. Another was reading in-depth reviews of games at the GTL. Yet another was to do lots of tsumego from graded problems books. Also, reading important books like In the Beginning or Attack and Defence, which help make sense of the whole game and give you a conceptual framework in which to plan your moves.
0byrnema
Thank you. Since I'm embarassed about wasting the time of real people (though I've read I shouldn't be), I think playing a computer is for me. Even if I learn bad habits, it'll be a way to 'get through' my first 100 games. From playing one online computer game of Go, I find that I enjoy playing and losing to a computer because I know the computer is infinitely patient and doesn't analyze my mistakes or wonder what I'm thinking about for so long. So my question is; did you find that the experience you gained from the computer outweighed any bad habits you learned, or would it have been preferable to meet with your friend right at the beginning?
2Morendil
I definitely got over my bad habits pretty fast. I think I did, anyway.
0[anonymous]
My mistake was definitely using the full board.
0Douglas_Knight
My mistake was definitely using the full board.
0realitygrill
I would try playing as much as possible on KGS, using 9x9s and 13x13s in the beginner room. Just try to get a feel for (and understand) common patterns. People are quite friendly and willing to do reviews. Personally, I think 9x9s and Igowin are just boring, and don't teach you much. So try to get past this. Lots of the fun in Go is trying to implement new ideas. 9x9s are generally too constrained for this.
1Jonii
I have dedicated much of my life for overcoming akrasia, especially after I found LW I've been working hard(well, thinking hard and planning hard mostly), does that count as learning?
0realitygrill
More details? I may try to replicate this.
0Morendil
It might. The difference between that and Go seems intuitively large, but I can't properly articulate why.
3jimrandomh
This exactly mirrors my experience with correcting an unrecognized thiamine deficiency with sulbutimine. You had a micronutrient defiiciency (possibly but not necessarily the same one I had), and those pills you mentioned taking fixed it. Problems with brain biochemistry disguise themselves as psychological problems. This is a big deal and it needs more attention, because I think a lot of people are struggling with problems like this and don't know that fixing it is even possible.
1ata
Indeed. What's worse, a lot of them will spend years (and countless dollars) in therapy trying to talk their way out of their biochemical problems...
2ata
Huh. I could use a miracle like that. What were the pills you had recently started taking?
0Jonii
Sorry, I don't know. Omega 3, vitamins, stuff like that, but I threw the package away. It was some sort of combination box of all those supposedly important nutritients you need to take daily, with quite a lot of different stuff in it.
2wnoise
Are you going to be able to buy the same mix once this runs out?
0Jonii
Sure. I might comment here after I buy more of that.
2Jonii
Dunno if this is all that interesting story, but some people found it interesting, or at least inspiring, so I thought I should share. shrug
1Vladimir_Golovin
I experienced this several times. Last time I had this feeling was just a week ago. There were at least two more occasions, both during this year. And I'd very, very much like to know what causes this state, and how to induce it at will.
0[anonymous]
Congratulations! Not that I want to generalize from one example or anything, but what were the nutrient pills?
0Nisan
Thanks for sharing. I've had akrasia evaporate for short periods of time before, but the cause was always identifiable: * Taking THC once cured me of an internet addiction, and that solved my akrasia problem at the time. * Another time, my akrasia was due to problems in my social network. A positive change in my social network removed that problem.
0Relsqui
Are you comfortable elaborating on the problems in your social network? I've had some very frustrating issues which could be described the same way, so any related data is of interest.
0gwern
Abrupt changes due to chemistry are not unheard of. Maybe you could stop taking any and all vitamins/supplements to see what happens - if you dare.
0Jonii
I haven't been taking those all that much lately, once every 4 days or so for the last two weeks.
0gwern
Deficiencies can be small - chemicals, after all. If you aren't taking them all that much, then it's an even cheaper experiment.
0Jonii
It would take longer, which is my main concern. Gotta see if this remains stabile for a reasonable amount of time until I can go testing around. For the last few weeks, it's been far from stabile, I've remodeled my life just to be able to work more efficiently, and today is the first time I managed to actually work school-related stuff while being home, something I didn't think was possible few months back(Before this, when I absolutely had to do something, I had to leave my apartment in order to do it).
[-]Cyan120

A request for help: I feel like I'm finally mastering my akrasia at work, but I have yet to find a technique to remove a pre-established Ugh Field. In this case, I have nearly complete drafts for two paper that I wrote as part of my Ph.D. thesis. I have a strong stress reaction to just thinking about opening the files (ETA: it's thinking about doing the work that causes the reaction; opening the files is just the first step in actually doing the work), but I want to want to whip them into shape and submit them for publication.

Less Wrong, other-optimize me!

Ask someone else to sit down together with you at the computer, open the files, and start reading and discussing them with you. Eventually, start editing them together. Tell your collaborator specifically to hang around for a while and disregard your (possible) requests to stop, until the work is well underway and you can continue with the flow.

This would of course require a significant commitment on part of the other person, but if this is really important, a good friend should be willing to help you, and you might even consider paying someone less close for their time and effort.

3wedrifid
Bonus incentive if they are hot and of your sex of preference. (This is an entirely serious suggestion.)
2Vladimir_M
That would indeed be a significant improvement over the basic scheme, but probably hard to pull off in practice.
3wedrifid
Really? I find it easier to pull off, given the colleagues I tend to build collaborative relationships with. In general it is a whole lot easier for me to work with girls than guys. Guys are more likely to compete, to try to force through bad ideas because they are being territorial. Control of the intellectual space is more important than getting stuff done, for obvious social and evolutionary reasons. On the other hand girls don't need to compete with me for the same social territory so a better balance of give and take can be reached.
3Vladimir_M
The comment was about this particular case -- since Cyan complained about having few options in general, I figured that it made no sense to propose this additional enhancement. But yes, what you write is generally correct. This is also one of the principal reasons why women are on average better adapted to modern workplaces of white-collar drudgery, and are thus doing increasingly better in today's economy. In addition, there is the basic fact that being surrounded by attractive people of the opposite sex creates a more pleasant environment, making one overall happier, more optimistic, and less prone to lethargy, especially for men. I've heard half-substantiated stories about companies that, under an informal policy, hire a certain number of attractive people who otherwise wouldn't pass muster, specifically to boost workplace morale.
0mindspillage
I needed this too. It did in fact require a significant commitment, so she became a coauthor, which was fine for my situation. I wrote a seminar paper that I couldn't stand by the time I was "done" with it--did some things well and others unimpressively--but the prof pushed me to publish it. (I'll skip the parts where I was making myself miserable about how terrible it was and the parts where I was running past deadline and agonizing that now it really needed to be good because I was late, so it became even later.) His research assistant was a friend of mine with complementary skills--I am terrible at details, cleaning up loose ends, making sure ideas aren't left half-finished and unattached to their surroundings; she is good at taking unpolished idea-dumps and turning them into real papers. So when I dreaded the thought of opening it, she did her first pass. (And, uh, then I dreaded opening it again, thinking "oh no, what if it's bad and I have to figure out how to steer it back without making her feel bad". But at least it was a different reason.) Mostly we exchanged emails and met every week or so, and we finished (and got a publication offer, whee) because I would have felt like a real jerk otherwise for dragging her into it and then flaking out. Also because my role then was mostly reacting to her changes and seeing what they suggested as next steps for me, rather than simply staring at a page I'd already been staring at unproductively.
0Cyan
The only potential helpers competent to discuss the contents live in different cities (except possibly XFrequentist, if he's willing).
5XFrequentist
Happy to if needed. I suffer from something similar on occasion, except my ugh field seems to manifest somewhat differently. I'd be very interested to hear about your progress on this.
0Cyan
Thanks! I'll PM you when I reach that point (I'm going to try the suggestion that directly target stress reduction first). (And BTW, congratulations on your engagement!)
2XFrequentist
No problem. Be sure to report the results! (Coincidentally, Julian just sent me a paper you're coauthor on... and thanks!)
5Vladimir_M
It doesn't have to involve an in-depth discussion of the content. The important thing is to get the editing underway so as to dispel the ugh-field and get into the flow. For this, it should (hopefully) be sufficient to start doing things where any smart scientifically literate person will be able to provide some feedback. For example, devising the best way to organize tables and charts, figuring out how to reword hard-to-parse sentences and paragraphs, etc. You can even make it into a fun exercise where your non-expert collaborator tries to figure things out from the draft while you explain the details that are assumed as background knowledge, and you fix or fill in the text as you go forward. The possibilities are many.
6Cyan
Oh wait, I just thought of someone else who is nearby and is competent to help. (In fact, I'm really dumb for not thinking of her right away.)

If you need to whip them into shape, you're probably not happy with them. If you're anything like me, showing them to someone else is probably the last thing you want to do.

Solution: you owe me one of the papers by the next open thread. If you don't work on it, you'll be sending me whatever you're so embarrassed about. If you can fix it in time, you won't have to worry. I don't have much time right now, but I will read it, so beware.

1Cyan
I am actually happy with them. The required whipping into shape is editing of the material to the target journals' formats, styles, and expected audiences.
8Vladimir_Golovin
This looks like a severe burnout. Is it possible for you to take a month off? Have you tried 80/20ing the drafts? What's the most difficult task that you need to perform to complete the papers? Does it require hard mental work, or it's just formatting / proofreading / editing / rewriting / reviewing sort of thing? Or perhaps the task itself isn't what paralyzes you, but you're afraid of some submission / approval process that lies ahead? This has often been the case for me when I dealt with submissions of important work to human reviewers. I'd suggest a written self-interview to figure out what really causes your reaction.
0Cyan
It's the lingering remnants of the severe burnout I was suffering around this time last year. The task is indeed just formatting etc. (See here.)
7wedrifid
Three options: * Acquire the Sedona Method from a suitable source. It is particularly useful for 'releasing' that sort of stress reaction. (An audio form preferably - a text version is too much like work!) * Read comments by pjeby, his approach includes rewiring the underlying associations that lead to the aversion. Hopefully PJ himself is following the comments at the moment! * Don't try to work. Go and sit in a chair and think "I am writing my paper" to yourself over and over. Now here is the important part - you do NOT use the build up of willpower you get to go and force yourself to work. You hold yourself back from any attempt to make yourself work and just keep relaxing and keep thinking "I am writing my paper". You only allow yourself to go and work when you really, really want to. If this means you spend two hours relaxing instead of working then that's good too. This should be instinctively associated with productive self nurturing rather than the shame of procrastination. That final approach would probably be better described in a post than a dense bullet point but it does work for me. In fact I'm planning to go think to myself "I am putting the entirety of my semester's work into supermemo".
5MartinB
My suggestions: compartmentalize setting up the work environment - here: put notes on table, open file, etc. - and the actual work. Basically you set up everything you need, then get a tea and then start work. That way the setup is not perceived as real work. Against ugh a timer might work. Commit yourself to work on ONE of the papers for 30 min, then a break, and if you are in flow then another round. But first just spend the whole 30 min on the paper. Regardless of what comes out of it. Overcoming the startup hump is sometimes enough to get going. If your editing process is more complicated, then write the steps up upfront, and do them one after the other in blocks of time(s)
8Vladimir_Golovin
I strongly support this suggestion. The setup phase can be generalized as removing trivial inconveniences and creating trivial impetuses. I often separate this stage from the actual work, sometimes with an explicit commitment not to work before the setup is done.
5erratio
What's the smallest possible step you could take towards opening the files? Can you open the folder they're in? Or the next folder up in the directory tree?
2Cyan
It is possible for me to open the files; but when I do, I have a fight-or-flight stress reaction with accompanying squirt of adrenaline.
8Alicorn
What if you just... leave them open? And keep leaving them open until it goes away? (It would go away, right?) Flee the room if you have to while the application loads and then come back later and perform the passive action of not closing them.
1Cyan
Basically, it's thinking about doing the work that causes the reaction. If I commit to opening the files but not working on them, then I have a minimal reaction.
5Vladimir_Golovin
Excellent. If your deadline allows, you can explicitly commit to not working on the drafts until you figured out what causes your reaction to opening the files.
2erratio
By minimal do you mean effectively no reaction or that you still get a jolt of adrenaline but it's bearable? In the latter case, opening and closing the files until it's no longer effortful or stressful would be the first step. Otherwise you can move onto looking but not editing (check that it's all there and not corrupted, as Alicorn suggested).
2Cyan
I mean a little one -- mild butterflies in the stomach. I'll try it. (I will try all of the suggestions. But not tonight -- it's my bedtime. Damn you, little red envelope!)
5Alicorn
Does the stress reaction feel connected to time pressure of any kind? If so, that needs to go. If you feel like you're in crunch time: a) Ignore all optional suggestions, such as datadataeverywhere's, which call for you to get the work done by a specific milestone or date. (No disrespect intended to dde; that would be a good suggestion if your difficulty is more a matter of "the perfect is the enemy of the good" rather than "no time no time aaaaah".) b) If there is some deadline you cannot readily ignore on those papers, consider alternatives. Could you write a new, different paper instead for the same purpose? Can you get your name on a friend's paper and get similar return on the submission? Can you withdraw with a penalty that currently scares you less than working on the papers? Note: don't actually do these things, not if you actually want the specified work done before the deadline - but think about them, make yourself aware that you are not juggling the end of the world here. Finishing your papers is just about guaranteed not to be the One True Path To Success. c) Forbid yourself to touch those papers for some significant period of time. You are permitted (but not obliged) to think about them, but you can't actually open them up and change anything. "Significant period of time" here varies from person to person - I usually find the sweet spot between a day and a week, but if you operate on different time chunks than I do you might only need "till lunchtime" or as much as "a fortnight". Do anything in the world you like except mess with those papers - they are off limits. d) If this works the way it should, you should feel first relief, and then antsiness: you keep thinking of good ideas! But you can't use any of them because your time isn't up yet! It's your morning/day/week/fortnight off! When it's finally over you may find that you are eager to use up all of those ideas right away.
5Alicorn
Do you have this reaction to thinking about opening the files even if you commit to closing them immediately afterward? Perhaps with a not-working-on-them purpose in mind, like checking to make sure the files haven't been corrupted or anything?
2Cyan
Yup. In fact, it appears I have a mild stress reaction to just discussing doing so online.
4Alicorn
What about asking someone else to open them for you? I expect this would be stressful, but would it be so much so that you couldn't do it?
4cousin_it
Hi Cyan, I can offer you this, starting tomorrow. Interested? (Disclosure: I tried it yesterday for the first time with another LW user and was very satisfied with the results, at least on my end. Post forthcoming.)
0Cyan
I might take you up on it, but not right away. I want to try suggestions that directly target stress reduction first. What are the hours of overlap between your time zone and 8:30pm-10:30pm Eastern Standard Time (UTC -5)?
0cousin_it
It seems to be 5:30am to 7:30am in Moscow :-(