Welcome to the new LessWrong! Our goal with the LessWrong frontpage is to host high-quality discussion on a wide range of topics, in a way that allows users to make better collective progress toward the truth.

New posts automatically get posted to a user's personal blog, where people are free to talk about whatever they like. By default, moderators will consider whether the post is a good fit for the frontpage. If you don't want the post to appear on frontpage, you can uncheck "moderators can promote".

1. Things to shoot for on frontpage

1.1. Usefulness, novelty, and fun. The frontpage of this site is for serious intellectual engagement with interesting ideas, with a focus on ideas that are important but challenging to evaluate. Topics that lack inherent importance are OK if the discussion quality is high enough, and particularly if the discussion is useful for other purposes, like building skills; but the best topics will usually be consequential and neglected ones.

1.2. Accuracy, kindness, and relevance to the discussion at hand, in the spirit of the Victorian Sufi Buddha ideal.

1.3. Clarity and openness about what you believe, your reasons for believing it, and what would cause you to change your mind. Try to make concrete predictions and bets, and to note the cruxes for your beliefs, where possible. It’s not always easy to clearly articulate a belief, and it's great to note places where you’re uncertain about what you believe, about your reasons, and about your cruxes. We don’t want people to feel like they have to conceal or immediately abandon their beliefs whenever those beliefs turn out to be nontrivial to articulate or justify. But incremental progress toward more clarity and openness, even if it’s incomplete, is highly valued here.

A corollary of 1.3 is that we often prefer descriptive language (including language describing your current beliefs, emotional state, etc.) over prescriptive language, all else being equal. Prescriptions are obviously an essential part of communication, but descriptions are generally easier to relate to evidence, predictions, and cruxes. We encourage putting a focus on them for that reason.

2. Things to keep to a minimum

2.1. Community-focused discussion — i.e., discussion about the LessWrong/rationality community, as opposed to discussion about particular object-level topics. We want to avoid dynamics like (from Feynman):

When I was in high school, one of the first honors I got was to be made a member of the “Arista,” which was a group of kids who got good grades, hmm? Everybody wanted to be a member of the Arista, and when I got into this Arista I discovered that what they did in their meetings was to sit around to discuss who else was “worthy” to join “this wonderful group that we are,” okay?

If you want to discuss the community more generally, and you don’t expect the discussion to be of much interest to people who just want to talk about object-level issues (in psychology, or physics, or zoology, or cryptography, or…), it's best to leave it in your personal blog section.

Questions about the site itself are welcome in the Meta section.

2.2. Crowdedness i.e., topics that are already really widely discussed in the public sphere, and where it will therefore be harder to say something new.

2.3 Things of fleeting importance — i.e., topics that will only be of interest for a couple of weeks, like discussions of what a politician has been doing. We want the frontpage of LessWrong to serve both as a training ground for aspiring rationalists and as an archive of accumulated collective knowledge. The ideal discussion will therefore both help build skills and help build knowledge that are valuable down the line. Not every discussion needs to achieve that ideal, but it’s a useful one to keep in mind.

We may build features in the future that are for more short-form and clearly ephemeral content on LessWrong. If so, this will be in a new section of the site built to be less like a repository of timeless information and discussion, and more like (e.g.) a Facebook feed.

2.4 Hot-button political issues Highly politicized issues tend to be very viral, which can often lead to them dominating discussion. These issues often (though not always) score poorly on tractability and neglectedness; they’re often emotionally charged in ways that make convergence and skill-building more challenging; and discussion is often triggered by transient news items, as opposed to deep new insights that will be equally relevant years down the line. “Politics is an important domain to which we should individually apply our rationality—but it's a terrible domain in which to learn rationality”. This means that highly politicized issues will often score poorly on 1.1, 2.2, and 2.3.

Of course, what counts as a “hot-button political issue” isn’t always clear, and we don’t want to encourage agonizing or arguing about what counts. (See 2.1.) We just want to encourage users to use their judgment and do their best to keep it to a minimum, so that other topics aren’t crowded out.

3. Off-limits things

3.1. Serious violations of discourse norms — Threatening behavior, needlessly harsh personal attacks, harassment, doxxing, and so on.

3.2. Consistently disruptive or low-quality content — Spam, discussion derailing, and so on.

A list of users with bans or public warnings can be found here.

4. How moderation works

Compared to moderators on other online forums, moderators on LessWrong are granted greater ability to change and improve the website, and are trusted with more information. These roles of responsibility are only given to trusted members of the community, and they are known as the Sunshine Regiment.

The new, weighted karma system is designed to bring good content to the top. However, this karma system is based on the voting patterns of many individuals, most of whom do not have the time to reflect on big-picture trends, nor the resources to substantially change those trends. In a classic tragedy of the commons, when there are thousands of people voting, no individual is incentivised to spend a lot of time considering their vote.

The incentives set up by the karma system can be considered the community’s System 1, and the Sunshine Regiment can be thought of as the community's System 2. Sunshines think about what incentive gradients are being produced, and are given the resources to influence the incentive gradients in a more substantial way (e.g. karma rewards on comments), allowing the community to plan around obstacles and achieve more complex goals.

There are no hard rules about what comments each member of the Sunshine Regiment will give karma rewards to. If your submission has received a karma reward, it will be signified by a small star icon on that comment or post. If your submission has been removed by a Sunshine, they will leave a note explaining why the comment was inappropriate or unsuited to the LessWrong frontpage.

Members of the Sunshine Regiment will have access to more information than other users, allowing them to notice negative patterns of behaviours, such as sockpuppet accounts and mass downvoting. The extra information is:

  • Access to the identities of voters on any comment/post, and to the voting history of all users.
  • The IP address a user wrote a post or comment from.

Sunshines of the 1st LessWrong Regiment are:

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New Comment
25 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:58 AM

I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I couldn't find a better place in 5 minutes of searching.

I think that the mix of "recent" and "upvoted" in the Latest Posts section skews way too heavily towards total karma, even for new posts with a tiny number of votes.

As a specific example, my link to a research post on polyamory, Rationality and correlated beliefs was strongly downvoted by the first person who saw it. This set its total karma to 1, which caused it to drop out of the front page within 2 hours of publication. It currently has 3 karma/3 votes. Now, when this happened before I just shrugged and assumed my posts were not good enough. But this is a super high-effort post containing a ton of novel data and analysis on a topic of interest to the community. I dare say it meets the frontpage criteria outlined above. It was linked by Tyler Cowen on Marginal Revolution and currently has 6,200 pageviews, but only 39 of them are from LessWrong.

I think that the "upvoted" part of the algorithm needs to either be downweighted, or its weight should be a function of the total number of votes. 0.5 karma/vote over 100 votes is a signal of low quality, even if the total karma is a healthy 50. 0.5 karma/vote over 2 votes is a signal of nothing at all, but its enough to kick the post out of the frontpage.

Hmm. Indeed I am surprised it has such a low karma score, it was a high-effort piece of data analysis about the community, and I learned useful things from it. (I have just strong-upvoted it, so it's at 12 now.) I think this does update me that posts should be given more time in the recent posts list when posted, even if low-karma. (Thx for pointing this out.)

I'm sad to hear that a short-form section is currently planned to be for ephemeral content. I was a person who expressed interest in the short-form idea, and I very much intended it to still be for archive-quality discussion; I was thinking of things like question posts, prompts, and the like. Still worth indexing, but not intended to make points, instead intended to explore them.

This makes sense, and plausibly the site should have something like that instead. In whichever world, I care a lot about there being some mechanism by which short-form ideas and writing bubble up into the indexed/archived ideas on the site; the reason that I might want to make short-form content feel more ephemeral is that it seems to me that people are very willing to write their off-the-cuff ideas into such a format, if they can generally expect not to be made to defend those ideas forever.

So, um, not exactly on topic but I have no idea where else to ask this -- how does one post to one's personal blog page anyway? And how does one move one's post between frontpage/personal? This isn't at all clear. I recently tried to post to the personal blog and it ended up on frontpage and I have no idea how to move it, or how I would have posted to personal in the first place.

(Like, where is this documented? Right now to me it looks like the answer is, not somewhere findable enough.)

Everything is by default posted to your personal blog. There ended up being a lot of posts on frontpage that were often low quality, so currently posting frontpage is no longer an option (except for users over a certain karma threshold I believe). Instead mods take responsibility to push appropriate posts to frontpage.

Yeah, should edit OP properly when I get back.

OK but how does one actually control where a given post goes to? Where is the control? I don't see it. And despite what you say the one post I made went to front page!

You don’t currently have the choice to post to frontpage; the reason your post is on frontpage is because a mod moved it there.

If you’d like posts not to go to frontpage do PM us, and we’ll build a better system for this in time.

Oh I see. That explains it, thanks.

I guess it's not so much that I am opposed to such a post being frontpaged, as it is, like... that post was just sort of a quick note written without a lot of thought, right? Not something I am necessarily really endorsing or prepared to argue about or anything, you know? I just feel like, if a mod is going to move it to frontpage, they should put their name on it as having done so! :P I didn't put it on the front page, I just wrote the thing...

(Ignore this answer if you don’t use GreaterWrong and don’t want to do so; but in case anyone who does use GW is wondering the same thing…)

When you click the “+ New post” button, the form will have a “Section” selector, like so:

The “All” option puts the post on your personal page; “Meta” puts it in Meta (duh); “Drafts” leaves it in your drafts.

You can move one of your posts in the same way—click “Edit post” at the bottom…

… set the “Section” selector to whatever you want, and click “Submit”.

Two remarks:

1) Thanks a lot for fixing the speed issues. The site is now reasonable fast for me on both Linux and Windows 10.

2) It took me from the start of the beta test until just now to figure out how the content is structered. I was feeling a bit uneasy quite often because I didn't see a way to see all content, didn't know the difference between "featured" and "frontpaged" and on the bottom, I saw comments for posts which I didn't know how to access. I really appreciate it when the content is well-structered. I see the issue with avoiding too much meta discussion and don't have a good solution but maybe it's still useful feedback to communicate that I'm confused by the structure.

1) I notice that the norm of discouraging politics focuses on hot-button political issues instead of politics in general. Is this an intentional shift? For example, are general discussions of politics that stays out of controversial areas no longer discouraged? I'm also curious how this interacts with comments given that commentators may engage with these issues, even if the OP did not.
2) I feel that there needs to be a mechanism for sufficiently important meta posts like this one to appear on the front page. Otherwise only a few people will see this and it will take longer for the intended norms to be adopted by the community.

Personally, that seems to me to draw the right line. Discussion of (say) economics or alternate voting procedures, while clearly political, also feel to me like useful rationality content. On the other hand, a post about race or gender or Donald Trump would have to be really exceptional to be worthwhile.

I agree with ozymandias's comment. I don't expect the amount of political discussion on LessWrong to increase; there have been a few great posts that can be called political on this site (the first three that come to my mind are by Eliezer, Scott, and Hallquist), but these each navigate fairly well around causing the commenters to feel like (and read others as) soldiers for a side, and don't get heated as a result. And most importantly, they also make really good points.

Yes - these are guidelines for posts and comments.

As to (2) I basically agree and will do something about this in the coming weeks.

What about ostensibly apolitical posts that nonetheless use hot button issues as examples?

What about situations where a hot button issue comes up in the context of discussion?

>Note that this guide doesn't apply to your personal LW blog - you can do whatever you like there. This post talks about the norms and epistemic standards encouraged on the frontpage of LessWrong.

In practice, I was concerned about this issue and discussed it with a moderator ahead of time; they signed off on my plan of putting it on my personal blog feed without promoting it to the front page.


(There's a quotes button in the editor bar at the bottom. Consider:

Quotes are indented and slightly grey like this.

If you for some reason don't have the editor bar, ping us in intercom, with your browser edition and what platform you're on.)

What are the norms/rules for commenting on older posts? Many internet communities forbid thread necromancy; I see no mention of it here, but thought it worth checking.

Also, if I'm reading a sequence as it comes out, of course I do not have access to future posts when I make a comment. But if I'm reading through several posts from a month or two ago, and I have a question about one of them, is there an expectation that I read through the rest of the sequence to see if it's answered later before I say anything, or should I comment as I go along, as would be the case if I'd been reading it as it came out?

For example - I'm reading Tensions in Truthseeking. Shall I reply to Writing that Provokes Comments? Should I read the rest of the sequence first? It's not so long that that's unfeasible, but trivial inconveniences could probably reduce my likelihood of commenting significantly.

Thread necromancy is explicitly encouraged! We generally want the content on the site to be a living repository of knowledge instead of just a news-based community, and so comments and concerns on old articles are definitely welcome.

I also think that asking questions before you've read the whole sequence is good. Other readers will probably have similar confusions and you writing them and others answering them either explicitly or pointing out that they are answered later in the sequence will help people stay engaged.

While I approve of the Sunshine Regiment I don't think "tragedy of the commons" is a good model for normal voting pattern. I would instead encourage people who downvote a post because they think it doesn't belong on the front page to write a comment outlining their reasoning.

Afterwards people who agree with that reasoning can vote it up while people who disagree can vote it down. That's the mechanism we used to build a sort of case law on the old LW and it doesn't feel like a tragedy.

The problem with writing a comment explaining a downvote is that comments draw attention to posts via recent comments, working against the intent; if that issue can be solved I think this would be good practice.

Both 3.1 and some of 3.2 should also be ground for moderation when it doesn't happen on the frontpage.

There was a time when we had a discussion about what's ban worthy on the old LW. We included the encouragement of illegal violence. I would like to have a section about this under "off-limits".

No blanket ban on encouragement of violence, because it should be okay to advocate for wars.

No blanket ban on the encouragement of illegal conduct because it should be okay to advocate consumption of illegal substances.

[I read the above as saying that we should have a ban on encouraging violence.]

I feel like this is just an ad-hoc ban, based on a general statement which doesn't actually seem to hold and then modified where necessary to accomodate public disagreement.