Wiki Contributions


A very rough draft of a plan to test prophylactics for airborne illnesses.

Start with a potential superspreader event. My ideal is a large conference,  many of whom travelled to get there, in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation and air purification, in winter. Ideally >=4 days, so that people infected on day one are infectious while the conference is still running. 

Call for sign-ups for testing ahead of time (disclosing all possible substances and side effects). Split volunteers into control and test group. I think you need ~500 sign ups in the winter to make this work. 

Splitting controls is probably the hardest part. You'd like the control and treatment group to be identical, but there are a lot of things that affect susceptibility.  Age, local vs. air travel, small children vs. not, sleep habits... it's hard to draw the line

Make it logistically trivial to use the treatment. If it's lozenges or liquids, put individually packed dosages in every bathroom, with a sign reminding people to use them (color code to direct people to the right basket). If it's a nasal spray you will need to give everyone their own bottle, but make it trivial to get more if someone loses theirs.

Follow-up a week later, asking if people have gotten sick and when. 

If the natural disease load is high enough this should give better data than any paper I've found. 

Top contenders for this plan:

  • zinc lozenge 
  • salt water gargle
  • enovid
  • betadine gargle
  • zinc gargle

I'm not a parent, but if I was I expect I would need this locked down before I could commit. And I would need to decide on attendance earlier, because traveling with kids is a lot more work. 

I'm on deck to run something but haven't decided what yet. Some overlapping possibilities I'm toying with:

  1. Practicum for CFAR-style "could you solve this in an hour?" focused on health, environmental health, and, uh, looking for a good term for things like cognition improvement and better fitness. Super health?
  2. Emotional titration

First of all, thank you, this was exactly the type of answer I was hoping for. Also, if you still have the ability to comment freely on your short form, I’m happy to hop over there.

You've requested people stop sugarcoating so I'm going to be harsher than normal.  I think the major disagreement lies here:

> But the entire point of punishment is teaching

I do not believe the mod team's goal is to punish individuals. It is to gatekeep in service of keeping lesswrong's quality high. Anyone who happens to emerge from that process making good contributions is a bonus, but not the goal. 

How well is this signposted? The new user message says

Followed by a crippling long New User Guide

I think that message was put in last summer but am not sure when. You might have joined before it went up (although then you would have been on the site when the equivalent post went up). 



Going against the consensus is *probably* enough to get one rate-limited, even if they're correct

For issues interesting enough to have this problem, there is no ground source of truth that humans can access. There is human judgement, and a long process that will hopefully lead to better understanding eventually. Mods or readers are not contacting an oracle, hearing a post is true, and downvoting it anyway because they dislike it. They're reading content, deciding whether it is well formed (for regular karma) and if they agree with it (for agreement votes, and probably also regular karma, although IIRC the correlation between those was less than I expected. LessWrong voters love to upvote high quality things they disagree with). 

If you have a system that is more truth tracking I would love to hear it and I'm sure the team would too. But any system will have to take into account the fact that there is no magical source of truth for many important questions, so power will ultimately rest on human judgement. 

On a practical level:

My comments can be shorter or easier to understand, but not both. Most people will communicate big ideas by linking to them, linking 20 pages is much more acceptable than writing them in a comment. But these are my own ideas, there's no links.

Easier to understand. LessWrong is more tolerant of length than most of the internet.

When I need to spend many pages on something boring and detailed, I often write a separate post for it, which I link to in the real post. I realize you're rate limited, but rate limits don't apply to comments on your own posts (short form is in a weird middle ground, but nothing stops you from creating your own post to write on). Or create your own blog elsewhere and link to it. 

It feels like you want this conversation to be about your personal interactions with LessWrong. That makes sense, it would be my focus if I'd been rate limited. But having that converesation in public seems like a bad idea, and I'm not competent to do in public or private[1]

So let me ask: how do you think conversations about norms and moderation should go, given that mod decisions will inevitably cause pain to people affected by them, and "everyone walks away happy" is not an achievable goal? 

  1. ^

    In part because AFAIK I haven't read your work. I checked your user page for the first 30 commenets and didn't see any votes in either direction. I will say that if you know your comments are "too long and ranty, and they're also hard to understand", those all seem good to work on. 

I initially downvoted because I thought the complaint missed too many key factors. I've since changed to upvote, because I think the post provoked a good discussion. 


AFAIK there was a wave of rate limits, not bans. I think it's a huge error to conflate those. Most importantly, you can complain on-site about being rate limited in a way you can't complain about being banned. 

I have complaints about implementation but the theory seems sound. I'd like the team to put more work into implementation or treat false positives as more costly, but that's easy for me to say since I'm not the one that has to do it. 


  1. the combination of imperfect filtering and no communication seems bad to me. How are people supposed to know their ban was a mistake and asking will help, instead of annoying mods further. 
  2. "retroactive to a year ago" sounds pretty bad to me. But I don't think that's the right frame. I think the team meant to intervene and not rate limit people who'd had an issue 11 months ago but have been great since. habryka described at least one ban as a mistake in comments on this post, so sounds like this was inconsistent. But conceptually I think it was supposed to be "we have a new tool for detecting people who have been below standards this entire time" not "we raised the bar". 

@Raemon told me to be aggressive with things like new lines and ellipses to alter the pacing. 

But when rereading, I see that you don't say what to do about these comments. You only point out negative effects. What is your proposal? 


Rate limiting. If I was pope I'd make a few tweaks, but I think the concept is fundamentally sound and the implementation good enough. 

It sounds like you don't think there should be any user-focused mod response between "nothing" and "banned". Is that correct?

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