All of richardbatty's Comments + Replies

Writing That Provokes Comments

What about asking your audience questions?

For example, you could ask questions:
* Seeking criticism, such as "I think section x is the weakest part, what are some alternative arguments?"
* Promoting understanding, such as "Can you think of 2 more examples of <concept I just introduced>?"
* Stimulating research, such as "I think this model can be applied to area y, does anyone have suggestions for how to do this?"

This might help get readers out of passive consumption mode, and into thinking about something they could comment... (read more)

LW 2.0 Strategic Overview

The core of my argument is: try to select as much as possible on what you care about (ability and desire to contribute and learn from lesswrong 2.0) and as little as possible on stuff that's not so important (e.g. do they get references to hpmor). And do testing to work out how best to achieve this.

By intellectual community I wasn't meaning 'high status subculture', I was trying to get across the idea of a community that selects on people's ability to make intellectual contributions, rather than fit in to a culture. Science is somewhat like this, although ... (read more)

LW 2.0 Strategic Overview

"From my point of view, you are proposing to destroy something I like which has been somewhat useful in the hopes of creating a community which might not happen."

I think a good argument against my position is that projects need to focus quite narrowly, and it makes sense to focus on the existing community given that it's also already produced good stuff.

Hopefully that's the justification that the project leaders have in mind, rather than them focusing on the current rationality community because they think that there aren't many people outside of it who could make valuable contributions.

LW 2.0 Strategic Overview

"I think communities form because people discover they share a desire"

I agree with this, but would add that it's possible for people to share a desire with a community but not want to join it because there are aspects of the community that they don't like.

"Is there something they want to do which would be better served by having a rationality community that suits them better than the communities they've got already?"

That's something I'd like to know. But I think it's important for the rationality community to attempt to serve these kind... (read more)

4NancyLebovitz4yI'm fond of LW (or at least its descendants). I'm somewhat weird myself, and more tolerant of weirdness than many. It has taken me years and some effort to get a no doubt incomplete understanding of people who are repulsed by weirdness. From my point of view, you are proposing to destroy something I like which has been somewhat useful in the hopes of creating a community which might not happen. The community you imagine might be a very good thing. It may have to be created by the people who will be in it. Maybe you could start the survey process? I'm hoping that the LW 2.0 software will be open source. The world needs more good discussion venues.
LW 2.0 Strategic Overview

You're mainly arguing against my point about weirdness, which I think was less important than my point about user testing with people outside of the community. Perhaps I could have argued more clearly: the thing I'm most concerned about is that you're building lesswrong 2.0 for the current rationality community rather than thinking about what kinds of people you want to be contributing to it and learning from it and building it for them. So it seems important to do some user interviews with people outside of the community who you'd like to join it.

On the ... (read more)

5John_Maxwell4yI'm not persuaded that this is substantially more true of scientists than people in the LW community. Notably, the range of different kinds of expertise that one finds on LW is much broader than that of a typical academic department (see "Profession" section here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lhg/2014_survey_results/]). I don't think people usually become scientists unless they like the culture of academic science. I think "intellectual communities" are just a high-status kind of subculture. "Be more high status" is usually not useful advice. I think it might make sense to see academic science as a culture that's optimized for receiving grant money. Insofar as it is bland and respectable, that could be why. If you feel that receiving grant money and accumulating prestige is the most important thing, then you probably also don't endorse spending a lot of time on internet fora. Internet fora have basically never been a good way to do either of those things.
4NancyLebovitz4yMy impression is that you don't understand how communities form. I could be mistaken, but I think communities form because people discover they share a desire rather than because there's a venue that suits them-- the venue is necessary, but stays empty unless the desire comes into play. " I'm thinking people who are important for existential risk and/or rationality such as: psychologists, senior political advisers, national security people, and synthetic biologists. I'd also include people in the effective altruism community, especially as some effective altruists have a low opinion of the rationalist community despite our goals being aligned." Is there something they want to do which would be better served by having a rationality community that suits them better than the communities they've got already?
LW 2.0 Strategic Overview

Have you done user interviews and testing with people who it would be valuable to have contribute, but who are not currently in the rationalist community? I'm thinking people who are important for existential risk and/or rationality such as: psychologists, senior political advisers, national security people, and synthetic biologists. I'd also include people in the effective altruism community, especially as some effective altruists have a low opinion of the rationalist community despite our goals being aligned.

You should just test this empirically, but her... (read more)

1scarcegreengrass4yThis is a real dynamic that is worth attention. I particularly agree with removing HPMoR from the top of the front page. Counterpoint: The serious/academic niche can also be filled by external sites, like https://agentfoundations.org/ [https://agentfoundations.org/] and http://effective-altruism.com/ [http://effective-altruism.com/].
2Nisan4yRegarding a couple of your concrete suggestions: I like the idea of using existing academic jargon where it exists. That way, reading LW would teach me search terms I could use elsewhere or to communicate with non-LW users. (Sometimes, though, it's better to come up with a new term; I like "trigger-action plans" way better than "implementation intentions".) It would be nice if users did literature reviews occasionally, but I don't think they'll have time to do that often at all.

I feel that this comment deserves a whole post in response, but I probably won't get around to that for a while, so here is a short summary:

  • I generally think people have confused models about what forms of weirdness are actually costly. The much more common error mode for online communities is being boring and uninteresting. The vast majority of the most popular online forums are really weird and have a really strong distinct culture. The same is true for religions. There are forms of weirdness that prevent you from growing, but I feel that implementing

... (read more)
9NancyLebovitz4yIt seems to me that you want to squeeze a lot of the fun out of the site. I'm not sure how far it would be consistent with having a single focus for rationality online, but perhaps there should be a section or a nearby site for more dignified discussion. I think the people you want to attract are likely to be busy, and not necessarily interested in interviews and testing for a rather hypothetical project, but I could be wrong.