I haven't yet participated in any of our babble challenges, even though I think they're a good idea. My reason is that they are ambiguous and prone to Goodhart's law. If the challenge is to list 50 ways of getting a golf ball to the moon, no matter how silly, I could do this:
- Carry it while jumping to the moon after getting really buff
- Carry it while jumping to the moon with rocket boots
- Carry it while jumping to the moon from a high platform
- Carry it while jumping to the moon from a high ladder
- Carry it while jumping to the moon from the top of a human pyramid
You can see that I'm optimizing here for getting to 50 by proposing minor variations on the same core idea. The intention of babble is to get you out of your mental ruts and past your blockages. It's not clear that this exercise on its own helps you do that very much. Yet if I said to myself "no more 'jumping' entries," I'd be pruning.
Can we solve this problem, while keeping the spirit of the exercise (which itself is a commendable example of babble)?
Let me babble a few ideas:
- Every 20 babbles, go back and categorize your ideas. Make the cutoff "At least 50 babbles, and 10 categories."
- Try problems in a conjecture + counter-example format. Topics that might work well here are social, philosophical, or aesthetic.
- Choose problems that are not technical problems (getting an object to the moon), but personal/social problems ("babble 50 ways to incentivize better teaching").
- Allow respondents to choose their own problem.
- Babble baseball. One team's "at bat" and they have to babble ideas. The other team's "in the field" and they have to categorize (or sub-categorize) the ideas. Then they have to propose their own ideas within each category. The "at bat" team has a 1-minute head start to list some ideas, which they publish all at once. They then continue publishing new ideas while the "in the field" team goes to work. The trick is that the "at bat" team has to publish ideas sequentially - i.e. "batter 1" has to publish an idea before "batter 2", "batter 2" before "batter 3" and so on. Only when the last "batter" has published an idea does "batter 1" get to go again. By contrast, the "in the field" team gets to work all at once.
Please add your own babbles in the comments!