Today's post, Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism was originally published on 21 April 2009. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):


Good online communities die primarily by refusing to defend themselves, and so it has been since the days of Eternal September. Anyone acculturated by academia knows that censorship is a very grave sin... in their walled gardens where it costs thousands and thousands of dollars to enter. A community with internal politics will treat any attempt to impose moderation as a coup attempt (since internal politics seem of far greater import than invading barbarians). In rationalist communities this is probably an instance of underconfidence - mildly competent moderators are probably quite trustworthy to wield the banhammer. On Less Wrong, the community is the moderator (via karma) and you will need to trust yourselves enough to wield the power and keep the garden clear.

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I got an entirely different lesson out of the Eternal September - communities that can't or won't train new members in their mores are doomed. Communities that haven't planned how to scale are doomed.

This post, to me, focuses on Not Losing. This is not the same as Winning.

Suppose Less Wrong got 10,000 new active members tomorrow. Would it collapse? Does the community have any plans on how to deal with a sudden surge of popularity - something bigger than the steady influx since HPMoR? Is the fact that Less Wrong hasn't succeeded the only thing keeping it from failing?


Yes, if only we had a general theory of Outside Context Problems.

Sample solution: We could expand the scale of the existing system. Add multiple discussion tiers; increase the karma requirement to post to Main, add a lower karma requirement to comment in Main, add a yet lower karma requirement to vote in Main. Do the same thing to Discussion, with lower limits. Add multiple tiers of discussion, where users have to graduate at each level to move up.

[Edited for tone]

Most of your suggestions have been made before, and are probably on some wish list. How do you get any of it done on zero budget is the issue. So the real question is how to get the necessary budget for the site development, not which features should be implemented.

I know nothing of Less Wrong's maintenance approach - it seems to be maintained by a small handful of very busy people - but it would seriously surprise me if this community, disproportionately composed of programmers as it is, couldn't come up with the code to implement any solution the administrators found suitable.

This surprise has been repeatedly expressed, and volunteers raised their hands, but almost nothing came out of it. As far as I know, Trike does a small amount of code maintenance and an occasional simple feature, that's it.

I wonder, does it have an API? Though, if it doesn't, I suppose someone could just as easily add one.

That said, I'll admit it: I'm perfectly capable of writing and/or extending the Lesswrong codebase, but I'm not going to. At least, not right now.

Does the site need improvements? Lesswrong seems worth helping, but it also appears to me that things are working just fine right now. Is there reason to think this is incorrect?


You could generalize this to "Become reddit (i.e. anyone can make a new subreddit/discussion-section), and allow mods to set karma levels for joining/voting/commenting/submitting on a per-subreddit basis".

I'd hesitate to go quite that far, as that seems more likely to splinter the community than anything else.