LessWrong is currently doing a major review of 2020 — looking back at old posts and considering which of them have stood the test of time.

There are three phases:

  • Preliminary Voting (completed)
  • Discussion (ends Jan 11th)
  • Final Voting (ends January 25th)

We're now in the Discussion Phase, and there are 402 posts that got at least one upvote in the Preliminary Voting Phase. The full list is here. Now is the time to dig into those posts, and for each one ask questions like “What did it add to the conversation?”, “Was it epistemically sound?” and “How do I know these things?”.

The Less Wrong team will award at least $2000 in prizes to the reviews that are most helpful. (We might or might not make a Best of 2020 book.)

If you're an author and for whatever reason don't want one or more of your posts in the Review or considered for the book, contact any member of the team (e.g. email Ray Arnold at raemon777@gmail.com ).

Why Review?

The overall goal of the annual review is to revisit old posts with additional context and distance. Did an idea that seemed promising pan out? Was something that didn't seem that exciting come up over and over again? Was something that you strong-upvoted the day it came out as good as you thought, and the sort of thing everyone should be sure not to miss?

But all that will show up in the votes. Why write text about the posts instead of just voting? Five reasons:

  1. Reward authors. Writing a review puts a name to the number, and helps motivate authors through reading the impact they had on people. (Note that nominations used to fill this role.)
  2. Share experiences. You might have changed how you thought or acted because of a post, but did other people? Talking about our reactions helps ground our impressions of how other people reacted.
  3. Summarize and analyze. Coming back to a post a year later, you might have a better sense of how it fits into the bigger picture, and recording that in a comment will make the post more intelligible to future readers. It's also quite useful for authors to see what people took away from their posts; a summary that seems like it missed the point might prompt another post that better approaches the target.
  4. Test and verify. As something moves from "something we talked about for a week" to "something that people will remember about 2020", it helps to do some digging and share what you find. Did the speculation check out? Did someone's review of a book capture its point? If there was major criticism (or it's a position in an ongoing controversy), is that context present (or at least linked to)?
  5. Reason together. Was there something about the post that confused you? Are you trusting something because other people seem to be trusting it? This is a good opportunity to interrupt information cascades, notice gaps, and elaborate on explanations.

Also, if you were the author, a self-review is a good opportunity to join the conversation. What were you hoping your post would accomplish? What was hard or easy about writing it? What would you have done differently?

You'll be able to see the voting results for all of the nominations on this page, which might be useful for helping pick which posts to discuss.

Go forth and think out loud!

New Comment
14 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:31 PM

2020 was a weird year due to COVID, with lots of posts that were important and urgent but not timeless, which had led some people to ask: how should that impact the review?

I say: it's useful to reflect on things even if they weren't timeless, if they were important, which I think many early writings on COVID were. What impact did the post have? What could have been written instead? I'd focus less on "this is what I would have written if I knew then what I know now", but instead "how well were we reasoning under uncertainty?".

As well, the review is connected to making a book but is not just about the book. As lsusr points out, we're not going to put Harry Potter fanfiction in a book sold for revenue, but it's still worth thinking about that post. We're experimenting with donation buttons this year, and I suspect that those will see some use for things that might not be useful to read again but which were very useful to read the first time.

Review prizes will be posted in a response to this comment.

Some logistical notes: I'm going to be announcing prizes roughly every week during the discussion phase, focusing on reviews made since the last prizes were announced. By default, we'll wait until the end of the period to actually award the prizes (so that we only need to send people one larger transfer if they win multiple prizes), but if you'd like it sooner just send a private message to me or Raemon with your paypal address. 

Great reviews so far! :D

Second set of prizes:

$200 to:

$100 each to:

[edited to increase Vanessa's prize amount; Ray convinced me that rather than going back at the end to give out larger prizes to a wider pool, more signal as we go is more useful.]

Book keeping summary – Total prizes for reviewers in the 2020 Review:

  • $600 AllAmericanBreakfast
  • $500 johnswentworth
  • $400 Vanessa Kosoy
  • $200 Steven Byrnes
  • $200 Zvi
  • $100 each to abramdemski, adamzerner, CharlieSteiner, Daniel Kokotajlo, Davidmanheim, Elizabeth, magfrump, MondSemmel, Neel Nanda, niplav, nostalgebraist, philh, Richard Korzekwa, Turntrout, Vika, Yoav Ravid, and Zack_M_Davis

I went through and reviewed all of my posts that didn't previously have a review, and also the one un-reviewed post I didn't write that I was actively sad no one had tackled yet, but didn't offer additional input on anything that had the necessary one review already due to lack of sufficient motivation. Noting this in case it is useful.

I just shipped some code that changes the Frontpage Review Widget for eligible review voters – they will now see the latest reviews, like this:

The goal here is to make it much more natural to engage with reviews, and to update your vote in response to reviews (which in turn hopefully incentives people to write more of them)/

I'm interested in user feedback on how it feels to use.

I've also made it possible change your sorting of posts on the Review Dashboard page, including a "needs Review" option which sorts to the top posts where:

  • You've upvoted it
  • It's got at least 4 points from 1000+ karma users, (seemed like a reasonable floor on "likely to actually get ranked highly")
  • It doesn't have a review yet

Happy reviewing!

Also, preregistering a comment (to be posted after this phase) with the sha256 of 0f586288e793603c6275fc11dd11960efd236fb106bf1ec91f780f6a88306fba 

I just published an update to the /reviewVoting page, which makes it more clear that posts need at least one review to proceed to the Final Voting phase.

I've made a few updates to the voting page in the past week. You can now sort the posts multiple ways. By default, posts are sorted in order of your top voted posts, which so far don't have any reviews. This is intended to make it easy to write reviews for things you think are important to make it into the final phase.

There's two hours left in the Review Phase. If you got to lesswrong.com/reviewVoting, you'll see posts sorted to the top that you highly upvoted, which you may want to review so that they can get into the final voting phase.

lol j/k I'm bad at understanding timezones. Turns out it launches in ~23 hours. Happy last day of reviewing.