What I think about you

by cousin_it1 min read29th Nov 201141 comments


Personal Blog

So, having heard Mike Li compare Jaynes to a thousand-year-old vampire, one question immediately popped into my mind:

"Do you get the same sense off me?" I asked.

-- Eliezer Yudkowsky, The Level Above Mine

Most people need feedback in many areas. Most people can give feedback in many areas. But for some reason I don't see a lot of actual honest feedback happening, neither in my personal life, nor at work, nor here on LW. This looks like some sort of market failure, or perhaps a bug in society.

Would we benefit from a norm that encouraged asking for feedback or critique in any area, perhaps using open threads set up specially for that? I think we would. What do you think?

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[-][anonymous]9y 17

Back in high school, someone set up a site for (anonymous) feedback for everyone in class. It took one day to explode and turn into 4chan, so the school administration had to shut it down.

I loved it. It was the first time someone actually told me some of the bullshit I've been doing. (For example, like the people in Eliezer's example, I started showering a bit more frequently. Didn't help that my best friend literally has no sense of smell.) I'd love to get feedback that useful again.

So I'm very much in favor of any such norm or setup. Googling for a bit, the best existing setup I found is whatiswrongwith.me. (Feel free to rant about me). I'll probably look around some more later when I have more time.

There was a Facebook app calling itself Honesty Box that attempted to fill this niche a while back, although it had its limitations (an interface discouraging long replies; only allowing one question at a time). So it's been tried. No one on my friends list has used it for a couple of years, though, and nothing equivalent seems to have arisen.

I suspect social networking's about the best place for such a thing: asynchronous, readily anonymized, sufficiently impersonal but not too much so, and structured such that people with access usually won't be tempted to give malicious feedback. On the other hand, limiting the answer pool to acquaintances introduces some bias -- but that's a difficult bias to eliminate short of establishing strong reasons for giving feedback to strangers, a solution unlikely to arise in any casual setting.

LW probably wouldn't be much worse, with weaker access controls but stronger etiquette norms and a tradition of accepting short-term discomfort in service to long-term goals. The lack of face-to-face contact outside of meetup groups is a weakness, though; you can glean quite a bit from someone's behavior over a text channel, but as a group I think we're already pretty well practiced in communicating that way and would benefit more from feedback regarding other channels.

I can personally attest to the usefulness of exactly that kind of feedback. I truly feel lucky to have a friend as close to me as my roommate, we'll call him Roux.

Back in high school, I was awkward and constantly scheming up ways to become socially savvy but failing in ways that were not charming in the least. Roux was a battered kitten just out of the 'nut house.' He wore a black outfit with black baggy jeans that were painted all over with white fabric paint and accentuated with white handprints all up the front. On the back was a patchy paint job concealing the words 'I made this shirt in the nut house' with '46 + 2' written over it.

Over the years we've been friends I have learned more from him than I would in two of my lifetimes without him, I believe. Our minds are so closely synched that conversation can be deep and informative with a very reliable regularity. We ask each other questions like the example above regularly. To ask a question like that, one of us need only outline a concept to fully form it in the other's mind and then ask the question, just as directly in the example above.

That said, I suppose I should put in that I feel Roux and I get a lot of benefit from this kind of 'QA Session' because we are so familiar with each other's minds. I can't see anything wrong with setting up a site or subsection (my vote is for separate site) as an area for these "Crocker's Questions," but it seems likely to miss the mark often.

Perhaps you could include some verification during the early stages and find out if the offered advice is useful.

I have vague recollection of maybe Stanford Business School doing that kind of personal feedback in some workshop required for all graduating MBAs.

It is something of a tragedy that no one will tell us what they all know. That guy you always see with the awful comb over - don't you just want to knock him out and give him a hair cut? But no hair cut ever comes, and no one even tells him that he needs one.

What's probably worse is that no one tells us all the complimentary things they think about us either. Especially for all the akrasics who think they are imposters.

Upvoted for ego stroking - I like the idea that I might not actually be an imposter.

I think there are two issues with feeling like an "imposter".

On the one hand, having unrealistic expectations of yourself, so that you are an imposter, by those standards.

The applying an entirely different standard of imposter to other people.

If you applied that same standard, to yourself, using only the kind of publicly available knowledge that you use to judge whether someone else is an imposter, it's likely you're not an imposter by those standards at all.

One unrealistic standard for you, a realistic standard for others, and you treat them in your mind like the same thing.

How do other people fare when you apply your own standards to them? How many of them aren't imposters? If they evaluated like you do, using their own knowledge of their failures and limitations, would they feel like imposters too?

I'd certainly not oppose an online feedback channel, and I'm pretty sure that I'd like one.

I want feedback, but my internet presence is different enough from my meatspace existence that I'm not sure if I particularly want feedback over the internet.

Specifically, I want people to respond to and influence my mental habits rather than the text that it outputs. Mental habits are much more easily picked up on in person.

Here's one thing I've noticed about you: You say "uh huh" in a distinct way and say it quite a bit. I find it slightly annoying.

Btw, I'm back now, so we should chat.

You say "uh huh" in a distinct way and say it quite a bit. I find it slightly annoying.

Nice! This is exactly the sort of thing I'd like to hear more.

Huh, I did not know that about myself!


This is where meetups could be useful. Roux and I have to depend on being as specific as possible. However, at a meetup, you could poll the group for their honest opinion.

Just an outline of what I'm pondering:

It would be like a silent auction, where everyone submits a 'what do you think about me' question.

A question is drawn, the group answers the question, everyone is embarrassed, next question.

Sounds like fun, actually. It seems a bit like 'truth or dare.'

Seconded, though I don't find it annoying.

I can't see anything immediately wrong with having an open thread where people can declare generalized Crocker's Rules and receive feedback. I'd encourage the 'actually declaring Crocker's rules' bit to lessen the risk that people will become offended (since we do happen to be primates.)

Talking about a norm in relation to this seems like a bit meta-off-the-deep-end. People can already declare Crocker's Rules if they want, and I don't really think we have a problem with a lack of critique in general.

Oh, and I'd greatly appreciate feedback. :D

Crocker's Rules!

I didn't know there was such a term, thank you. I kind of wish there was a way to signify that status in posts.

I agree that it isn't a problem on the internet, especially not here. I would be interested in discussing this topic as it applies to meat-space (in particular among friends and allies), as it is something I have given a great deal of thought.

I kind of wish there was a way to signify that status in posts.

The current method of saying "I declare Crocker's Rules" seems to work okay.

Replying to the grandparent, elaborating on earlier information: there's a page on Crocker's Rules in the wiki which you might want to read if you're interested. If you feel that the text is insufficient to get your point across, you could always link to it if you wanted.

I approve of this, and want to encourage this behaviour in relation to, well, everything on LessWrong. One thing I really like about the Sequences and comments here is that rather than explain concepts every time, or assume knowledge of concepts, we hyperlink the concepts to their explanation. It's basically a near-perfect solution to this problem!

Generally a good idea; and, some caveats:

here on LW

Let's remember that there is no "here", here. This is a virtual forum, and text is too low-bandwidth to form an opinion of a person qua person.

As a case in point, you specifically, i.e. Vladimir-you, as opposed to cousin_it you, made an almost entirely different impression on me in person than on-line. Ditto every other person in the group that I met while you were in Paris.

Did you get the same (i.e. reciprocal) feeling?

I think this generalizes: in many contexts we present a specific "persona" that may or may not be consistent with the ones we display in other contexts.

There are techniques for giving useful and actionable feedback. (Here's one good book I've read on the topic.) We may consider this topic as belonging to the "self-help" reference class, and infer that nearly all such techniques will be backed by very little hard evidence and lots of speculation.

So, to the extent that norms for feedback lead us to ineffective techniques for soliciting or giving feedback, they may do more harm than good. But I would approve cultivating a norm promoting effective asking and giving of feedback.

As a case in point, you specifically, i.e. Vladimir-you, as opposed to cousin_it you, made an almost entirely different impression on me in person than on-line. Ditto every other person in the group that I met while you were in Paris.

That's a nice opportunity for feedback. Who goes first?

I'm not quite sure I have much to say that will be useful; the F2F impression has kind of overwritten what was there previously. And correspondence bias all but guarantees that I will be wrong in attributing to you some character traits that were only a result of the specific situation we met in. But here goes anyway.

Online, you came across as fairly pleasant but at times edgy, generally cocky (i.e. confident but sometimes excessively so), perhaps a bit elitist in your interests, close-minded at times. In person you seemed a lot more relaxed and smiling than I'd have predicted, more curious too.

Augh, this is difficult. My mouse has hovered over the "Comment" button for like five minutes now.

In person you came across as... more muted, or more meek, than your online persona. Your emotions and interests didn't really shine through you in personal interaction, though I know they're there because I know you online.

I'm guessing some of that was shyness, some of it was dysthymia (treated since). You should have seen me wowing an audience of 100+ last week in Grenoble with my talk on cognitive biases applied to software development. :)

I think it would be ideal to have some low-hassle way for people to receive anonymous feedback from other LessWrongers, if they opt in. We could all set up google docs like lukeprog did, but then we'd all have to set up google docs. Maybe there's an easier way.

ETA: something like Voxopolis might work, but it seems like it's not immediately intuitive to use. If anyone wants to use it nonetheless, I welcome anonymous feedback through the site to my username at gmail.

Does anyone know of any kind of site that would allow us to create a group within the site, and offer each other feedback? I say this because, if someone wants to give feedback to one particular person at this moment, they would have to go to one of these threads and scroll down until they find the person's preferred method of receiving feedback. Either that, or we could make a directory with a list of everyone who wants to be involved, and their preferred method.

People are too sensitive. When I played basketball, people thought that a coach didn't like them if they yelled at them. However, a fate far worse would be if the coach gave up and didn't care enough about the person to yell at them. I personally enjoy it when people critique my reasoning, just so long as it's not some sort of signaling thing so that they feel dominant. I wholeheartedly endorse this idea. People cannot improve unless they get feedback.

This is also a useful heuristic when trying to pick a book on amazon. Read the negative reviews.

Here's a Google Doc form where anyone can leave anonymous feedback for me.

I hearby (edit: hereby) open myself up for criticism.

Well... I'm reluctant to say this since I was holding onto it, curious how long it'd last*, but... You haven't been doing a good job with "Free research help, editing and article downloads for LessWrong"; my own request has gone apparently ignored for the last 20 days.

* At least I didn't make any predictions which this comment would immediately screw up.

Heh, I have excuses, but they aren't good ones. I wasn't able to find "The Mystery of Go" by I.J. Good unfortunately. It seems it's in a very small blind spot for Google Books and my library doesn't otherwise have access to it. I've posted the papers now.


OK. Here's some: you can't spell "hereby". :-)

The irony of this thread is that there are, atm, 24 comments, one post and 46 karma points between them. So either there's a lot of counterbalancing karma or no one wants to opine!

So, this seems to be potentially turning into the thread that it describes.
And... OK, I'll bite.

Crocker's Rules apply (in descendents of this comment only).
Private messages welcome but I have a mild preference for public comments.
I'm precommiting to not responding to any resulting comments via either channel unless you specifically say you want a response.

I have a strong preference for feedback expressed as suggestions for change.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Would we benefit from a norm that encouraged asking for feedback or critique in any area, perhaps using open threads set up specially for that? I think we would. What do you think?

This is surprisingly difficult to pull of publicly, having to walk the fine line between keeping away trolls and not punishing those who risk negative signalling to tell others what they really think.

People could ask for feedback publicly, but receive it via private messages.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Downvoted for "market failure". You can buy coaching sessions and you will get feedback.

The existence of a market for a good or service doesn't imply that the optimal amount is being produced. I'd bet that the the price of these coaching sessions is larger than the marginal cost of the sort of feedback that cousin_it is talking about.

Are your recommending that people pay other people for feedback? But that's so clumsy!

Or am I failing to parse?

It is clumsy, but if it's valuable and people are not supplying it to you for free, then it's worth paying for. (Think about editors - aren't they basically being paid for criticism? Good criticism is hard work!)

[-][anonymous]9y -3

I actually seem to get plenty of feedback here at lesswrong. Mind you it is usually from people who are trolling me and I hold them and their feedback in utter contempt but feedback it is. Some of it even seems honest.

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