I am Issa Rice. https://issarice.com/


I don't actually know how to design things, but here's a simple prototype you can play around with: https://issarice.com/adaptive-typography (as is the case with all prototypes, I ask the user to please overlook any jankiness of the current implementation, and instead imagine you are interacting with a much more polished/idealized version of the same idea).

Two years later: an abstract algebra server was created (covering three books: Artin, Aluffi, and "Abel's Theorem in Problems and Solutions"), but never really took off. I also discovered a topology server (covering Munkres) but it is also now inactive. Meanwhile the Tao Discord is still alive, but I fear it is mostly only alive because I am still there answering people's questions...

There's a tricky trade-off where on one hand, I want to answer questions quickly enough that people don't feel blocked on not knowing the answer to their question, but on the other hand, if I don't answer a question, then that may actually cause someone else to step in and answer (which sort of "trains" the server to become more resilient, so it doesn't only depend on me for survival). (Reminds me of the quote about how the worst thing you can do is to completely solve a problem, and Bill Thurston's anecdote about how he killed a field by making too much progress on it alone.)

I wish I knew how to make more of these servers go well.

What would you recommend in cases where there isn't a single moment in time when one has given up? Most of my projects are inactive in the sense that I haven't done much with them in a while (months or years), but also, they aren't completely dead. I gradually lost interest in the project or prioritized doing other things, but there isn't a sharp cutoff when that happened, and I might pick it up again. To give a concrete example, one of my blogs has a posting history that looks like this (numbers in parentheses indicate number of blog posts in that month):

   October 2023 (4)
   May 2023 (2)
   April 2023 (2)
   August 2022 (1)
   November 2021 (1)
   September 2021 (2)
   July 2021 (1)
   April 2021 (1)
   March 2021 (1)
   February 2021 (1)
   November 2020 (2)
   October 2020 (1)
   September 2020 (3)
   August 2020 (3)
   July 2020 (3)
   June 2020 (12)
   May 2020 (25)
   April 2020 (28)
   March 2020 (23)

I really like the idea of this page and gave this post a strong-upvote. Felt like this was worth mentioning, since in recent years I've felt increasingly alienated by LessWrong culture. My only major request here is that, if there are future iterations of this page, I'd like poll options to be solicited/submitted before any voting happens (this is so that early submissions don't get an unfair advantage just by having more eyeballs on them). A second more minor request is to hide the votes while I'm still voting (I'm trying very hard not to be influenced by vote counts and the names of specific people agreeing/disagreeing with things, but it's difficult).

I have about 500 Anki cards on basic immunology that I and a collaborator created while reading Philipp Dettmer's book Immune (Philipp Dettmer is the founder of the popular YouTube channel Kurzgesagt, which has been featured on LW before, and the book itself has also been reviewed on LW before). (ETA: When I first wrote this comment, I stupidly forgot to mention that my intention is to publish these cards on the internet for people to freely use, once they are polished.) However, neither of us is that knowledgeable about immunology (yet) so I'm worried about inaccuracies or misleading info in the cards. I'd like at least one person who knows a good amount of immunology (who has learned it from a source other than this book) to look over the cards and give feedback. I probably unfortunately can't pay any money for this.

I have about 5 years of serious Anki prompt-writing experience, and the cards follow current best practices for prompts as explained in e.g. Andy Matuschak's prompt-writing guide. In other words, these are not low-effort cloze deletions or ChatGPT-generated or anything like that.

I'm also open to arguments that the right thing to do is to just release the cards as they are, let people maybe point out flaws in public, etc.

I think another disadvantage that the post doesn't mention is that being an Organization confers a sense of legitimacy, in part because it acts as a costly signal that one can manage all the legal complexities, pay for paperwork, etc.; so being a sponsored project is a way to call yourself an Organization without paying the cost of the signal. In the limit of widespread knowledge about the legal subtleties of fiscal sponsorship, and due diligence on the part of the community to always keep the distinction in mind, this is not a problem. But people are lazy, and so this sort of confusion does I think benefit sponsored projects.

I've written up a few things on Reddit recently:

Based on this Wayback snapshot it seems to be a paper called "A Contamination Theory of the Obesity Epidemic" by Ethan Ludwin-Peery and Sarah Ludwin-Peery. I was able to download the PDF of the paper at this link (the main body of the PDF is 63 pages as claimed in this LW post, and the PDF is dated July 3, 2021, which is just before this LW post was published, so it is likely the version of the paper being discussed here).

The main blocker for me is social rather than technical. Back when the new wiki first started, I created a page but the LW devs (or at least one of them) didn't like the page. There was some back and forth, but I came away from the discussion feeling pretty unwelcome and worried that if I were to make more contributions they would also involve lengthy debates or my work would be removed. I haven't really kept up on the wiki since that time, but I haven't seen anything that has changed my mind about this.

A few technical things that would make it nicer to edit:

  • Wikilinks (perhaps things have changed now, but it was not possible to surround words in double square brackets like on many wiki software)
  • Automatic backlinks

I have not gotten prayer to really work for me yet, but I've experimented with it a bit (I feel somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but yeah I've gotten desperate enough and have thought I was possibly going to die on multiple occasions now and have entered mental states where I think praying might be the only thing I can do).

"Prayer" in the sense of "ask for a thing in your head and then the thing happens in real life" is obviously not going to work. But I think this may be the wrong way to think about prayers/praying (disclaimer: I am not religious at all and never was, so I have no idea what I'm talking about). Anna Salamon has an old post where she talks about "useful attempted telekinesis", and I think this may be one valid way to make sense of praying. Repeatedly and vividly visualizing the things you value/the things you want may magically make it easier to get that thing, at least some of the time. Another way to think about it might be as a dual to gratitude journaling: in gratitude journaling you examine what you value/don't value in terms of what you already have, whereas in prayer you examine the same things in terms of what you don't currently have. (Why should the latter work? Shouldn't it just lead to envy/sour grapes/bitterness about your life? Yeah, I don't know. Anna's post talks about useful vs harmful telekinesis and I think there's possibly a lot to explore here.)

Praying combined with chanting + rocking may be even more effective, because the latter two have some shot at directly affecting your physiological state. I've not really gotten chanting to work for me, but rocking sometimes calms me down a little bit.

Homeopathy: yeah, agreed, not sure what's going on here and hope that I don't have to get to the point of trying it out.

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