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comment by Clarity1992 · 2012-04-28T23:04:31.532Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Now this isn't a comment on the content of the article itself but, given that your first part in this series has negative votes (at the time of this comment and, most crucially, at the time this part 2 was posted), I question the wisdom of pushing on before addressing the perceived problems with the first post. On the other hand, perhaps you believe continuing to the next instalment will place the first part in a better context. Another theory is that you don't care about the negative votes or comments and are writing for those who do like what you're doing, and the downvoters can disembark the boat if they choose. Enough speculation from me, what's your stance?

comment by FrankAdamek · 2012-04-29T00:28:37.122Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for bringing this up. It seemed that much of the feedback on the first post was that it was too much anecdote and too little content closer to the ultimately useful stuff, like results and methodology. This post has less history and more discussion of things like "okay, what's the result," so I think that that issue isn't so present (and for whatever these very small numbers are worth, this post seems to be doing a little better).

I do expect that this post puts the previous one in a slightly better context. Mostly, my intent with these posts is for them to be seen and for people to get a few ideas out of them - and while it would be good for all sorts of reasons to make these posts high quality in other ways, if people get some ideas out of them but don't think it's that great a post, or even down-vote it for valid reasons of style and content-type, that would mostly be a win.

I may well delay the next posts based on feedback and votes, but so far it seemed like the right move to go ahead.

comment by erratio · 2012-04-29T01:56:58.595Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please, please try to make your writing more succinct (assuming the next post, which has the actual important bits in it, is as long and rambling as these two). I criticised your style heavily in the last post because I want to be able to get your ideas without having to hunt for them.

comment by Clarity1992 · 2012-04-29T07:42:04.046Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that's a fair answer, and I especially approve of the mentality you describe here:

Mostly, my intent with these posts is for them to be seen and for people to get a few ideas out of them - and while it would be good for all sorts of reasons to make these posts high quality in other ways, if people get some ideas out of them but don't think it's that great a post, or even down-vote it for valid reasons of style and content-type, that would mostly be a win.

I do however believe this makes your series a better candidate for 'discussion' and then moving to 'main' if it still seems worthy after a few rounds of feedback. The first such round, it appears to me in this case, should be an earnest attempt at stylistic and structural edits out of consideration for your readers, if only because you're wasting your own time if you write something no-one deems worth the trouble of reading the whole way through in the first place.

As a very basic starting point, there is not really any excuse for posting the entire massive article without a summary break. The use of which is, needless to say, more delicate than simply snipping the bottom X% off the article as it appears on the front page. Good writers on here begin their articles with something that readers can use to get a clear idea of whether they actually want to continue reading, and this beginning to an article is surprisingly difficult to write! However, it is instructive in trimming fat from your prose and writing with clarity because, after all, you probably do want people to click that "continue reading" button if they're likely to read on and upvote, and not click it if they're likely to read on and downvote. Why is that rather-patronising explanation relevant here? Because you may have saved yourself a tonne of downvotes on both articles by using proper lead-ins to preselect your readers.

comment by FrankAdamek · 2012-04-29T16:13:52.073Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As a very basic starting point, there is not really any excuse for posting the entire massive article without a summary break.

I was just noticing last evening that that summary break is NOT automatically included in an article, and that I was sending the entire posts to the "New" feed. That was not a happy surprise for me :) Your advice on writing summaries is also useful, thanks.

Thinking about what you said about 'discussion', I'm going to move these first two posts over there for now. I might try and go back and revise and reorganize the material into something more appropriate for 'main', but for now I'm going to move these two out of the 'main' feed until/unless they're in a better form. Thanks again.

comment by asparisi · 2012-04-28T23:26:36.134Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, I said I would reserve judgements on future posts.

And I know that the previous post came across as a sales pitch. I know that this prejudices me toward thinking that future posts will also be parts of the pitch.

But this seems to be more of the same: a personal testimonial, rather than a recommended methodology.

I believe you will probably get to what you consider methodology. But that's how sales goes: build them up; hook them, present the idea.

So, I have to ask:

Are you really sure that this isn't a sales pitch? Keep in mind that selling something isn't wrong, and that the 'payoff' from a sales pitch can be something as universal as "other people liking my posts."

comment by FrankAdamek · 2012-04-29T00:12:55.154Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

At first when you mentioned that these posts looked like a sales pitch, I interpreted your use of the phrase as meaning an empty and deceptive claim. It was in that sense that I said:

FWIW (if this were a sales pitch, would I just say the same thing?) it seems that...

And the interesting idea I was surprised by was the extent to which the post seemed like a sales pitch for PUA.

In the sense of an empty and/or deceptive claim, these posts are not a sales pitch. I want to see rationality do better and I don't want people to waste their time, or to have less expectation of success when someone else would have later given some useful advice. I would also look really silly after people realized there was nothing in the ideas, and being accepted as a rationalist is important to me; most importantly because almost all of my friends are rationalists.

In the sense of attempting to create interest in something, these posts are most definitely a sales pitch. (At least these first two, then we get into the methodology.) As for what I'm selling, all I have to offer is ideas, and for free. As for why I'm trying to sell them, I suppose the biggest factor is that I care a lot about existential risk, I have for years, and I see the advance and flourishing of rationality as really damn helpful for reducing those risks. There are other people doing things that I very much want them to succeed at, and it seems in fact that these ideas might really be able to help them do those things. (For example, be more rational themselves and increase rationality in others, but there are other things as well.)

One of the reasons that I included many of the persuasive elements I did (and one of the reasons it would be great to have more than one person using these ideas - this gets easier if people observe group behavior outside themselves) is that it can be very hard to simultaneously express only true things. For example, if someone points something out that you could be doing better, or mentions that there is a more accurate way of seeing something, this may be true but it also forms a lot of Bayesian evidence that this person is trying to gain social standing at your expense, and is going to frame themselves as more intelligent than you, etc. It's very hard to express "that's wrong" and "I will not put myself above you" at the same time. And for good reason! Almost nobody does that without trying to put themselves above others, and they'd be likely to say that even if they were planning to put themselves higher.

All of this makes it difficult to show people that they can trust me to look after their interests - and again, not by any fault of theirs, it's just a matter of the particular epistemic situation. Eventually people will realize whether they can actually trust a person or not, but I wanted to make this as easy as possible by presenting information on what my actual goals and concerns are, how I see others and myself, etc.

So that's the reason for many of the persuasive elements in these posts. They are intended to persuade, but they're also very much intended to present actually true information.

I believe you will probably get to what you consider methodology. But that's how sales goes: build them up; hook them, present the idea.

And yeah, in terms of a basic sales pitch, that was the intended flow. I wanted people to have some evidence for why the later material was worth reading, and why there might be something to it even if it parts of it seem counterintuitive at first.

comment by aleksiL · 2012-04-29T07:58:21.266Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another data point: I wasn't too bothered with the general sales-pitchiness of the first two posts, possibly because I've occasionally gained useful knowledge by reading actual sales pitches from the self-help crowd.

That said, you had me hooked by the third paragraph of Part I and I've been going "get to the POINT already" since then. I do see some value in personal testimony, but it should be far more condensed.

comment by asparisi · 2012-04-29T00:49:24.447Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah. Well, if your goal is to gain credibility through the use of persuasive elements... hm.

Generally I would consider that a good strategy. Using persuasive elements on humans has a high probability of increasing trust.

That said, the format is common among sales people and con artists, and a person savvy to these techniques will actually feel less inclined to trust IF they recognize the technique. (Which requires they know the techniques and recognize them: normally a low-probability event)

I could go on about evaluating the audience of LW, of the risk/reward ratio of such manipulations and how you calculate the payoff, but if I take you at face value then there is no reason for you to have thought that far ahead. I will just note that when someone realizes that what you are doing is trying to persuade them, it often has the opposite effect. (A notable exception includes advertising, but that may have more to do with the ubiquitous nature of manipulative advertisements.) It is often far better to simply present the method and let it speak for itself.

comment by FrankAdamek · 2012-04-29T01:12:14.757Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I think this is partly what I'm looking at with the response to the posts. It seems that I underestimated LW's tendency to notice this, and/or their general opposition to such approaches. (I'm unfortunately not that familiar with the online LW community, as I normally only read promoted posts without the comments.) It's worth noting that a persuasive argument can also be a valid argument, and not all attempts to create beliefs in others are attempts to create false beliefs. But these attempts nonetheless look suspicious (for good reason) and while the upcoming posts have fewer such elements already, I'm going to go and clear some of them out.

comment by sufferer · 2012-04-29T01:18:54.192Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems unfortunate that this got downvoted so much. I got a lot out of it.

Perhaps it should just be clearly labelled as "Frank Adamek makes sense of axiology, human psychology and instrumental rationality: a personal journey"

I think labelled as such, people would not feel the need to downvote it. If you don't want to read a personal story, then don't come here!