We've had a sort of awkward relationship with Open Threads for the past few months (previously our policy has been "they are fine but shouldn't be on frontpage."). There are some reasons habryka and I are both a bit skeptical about Open Threads as a thing.
comment by Raemon
· score: 11 (2 votes) · LW
...Some off-the-cuff thoughts on my own reservations about Open Threads:
My experience with them on old LW is that they're a weird mishmash of topics that mostly seemed... kinda meh? It didn't feel like a place where fun casual conversation was happening. It felt like a place where kinda-meh-ideas went to die, and contributed to my overall sense of old LW being a withered ghost town.
Previous open threads on LessWrong2.0 seemed like almost all the discussion there was about "how great it would be if there were an OpenThread", as opposed to any actual interesting conversation happening. But, to be fair, Old LW had a bunch of other problems, and on New LW, it's not really a fair test of their value if they're only visible to many people via the Recent Discussion section.
[Edit: though I note, open threads that were more goal oriented "let's have a conversation about X" seemed more often fruitful to me]
Open Thread vs Shortform/CasualLongterm, Open Threads don't make sense to me as the mechanism by which people have off-the-cuff conversations, ask questions, say things that don't quite fit in other threads, etc. They feel like a makeshift solution for a forum that hasn't yet built better tools for any of those things. Solutions that seem more sensible to me might include:
- A dedicated, integrated IRC platform for LW where people can drop in, hangout, ask questions etc.
- A dedicated version of the Shortform Feeds that some [LW · GW] people [LW · GW] have [LW · GW] been experimenting with. (These also feel like a makeshift solution for a forum that hasn't yet built a real version of the thing, and have some pluses and minuses compared to Open threads. Although in this case I think the tools that need building to make it "not makeshift" have less to do with the feeds themselves, and more to do with our Recent Discussion section and/or subscription options).
But, those tools won't be built for awhile. My current take is that having one dedicated slot for casual conversation on the frontpage makes sense as a way to handle that need. We were avoiding leaning into that because it wasn't our intended longterm solution. I currently think it was a mistake to have a few month period where that meant there weren't really any good solutions at all.
(I think shortform feeds could end up working in a way that gets a best-of-both-worlds, where there's a view that lets you see everyone's current shortform conversations that feels kind of like an open thread, while still being able to then look at an individual person's feed to see all their off-the-cuff thoughts. The Recent Discussion section is sort of trying to do that but isn't quite pulling it off)
comment by vedrfolnir
· score: 8 (2 votes) · LW
I'd be interested in a dedicated version of Shortform Feeds.
The blogosphere equivalent of this was the main/sideblog setup -- think SSC and Scott's Tumblr. This seemed to work well for a lot of people, myself included: if you have something that isn't quite substantial enough for a 'main' post, a quote from a book that you might want to link to later, or something like that, you just put it on your sideblog.
This might have been what Main vs. Discussion was intended to be on old LW, but it obviously didn't work out like that: insofar as something like the setup existed on LW, it was Discussion vs. Open Thread.
These feeds wouldn't be places for fun casual conversation, but that's what the asteroid belt of largely invite-only chatrooms and satellite forums are for, at least if the Age of Forums is any guide. (These days it'd probably be social media instead of satellite forums.) Communities tend to grow their own places for fun casual conversation -- I don't think this has to be engineered, unless the point is to ensure that at least some of it happens on lesswrong.com. If they're set up right, I think they'd be a lot like what existing sideblogs are like, which would IMO be a Good Thing.
I'm not a UI guy, so take this with a Dead Sea or two of salt, but my guess is that you'd need sideblog feeds to only be reachable from a link on someone's userpage for this to work. If there's a firehose, people might worry about polluting it; if sideblog posts are directly visible from userpages, people might worry about keeping their userpages looking pretty and respectable and so on. (In the traditional setup, main blogs are easily discoverable from sideblogs but not vice versa. That's trivial if you're on Tumblr or wordpress.com, but it probably wouldn't mesh well with how things work here, and I doubt it's strictly necessary. But some degree of distance from the agora probably is.)