Slate Star Codex: alternative comment threads on LessWrong?

post by tog · 2015-03-27T21:05:43.039Z · score: 28 (33 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 32 comments

Contents

  Update:
None
33 comments

Like many Less Wrong readers, I greatly enjoy Slate Star Codex; there's a large overlap in readership. However, the comments there are far worse, not worth reading for me. I think this is in part due to the lack of LW-style up and downvotes. Have there ever been discussion threads about SSC posts here on LW? What do people think of the idea occasionally having them? Does Scott himself have any views on this, and would he be OK with it?

Update:

The latest from Scott:

I'm fine with anyone who wants reposting things for comments on LW, except for posts where I specifically say otherwise or tag them with "things i will regret writing"

In this thread some have also argued for not posting the most hot-button political writings.

Would anyone be up for doing this? Ataxerxes started with "Extremism in Thought Experiments is No Vice"

32 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by dxu · 2015-03-27T22:17:48.845Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is in part due to the lack of LW-style up and downvotes.

This is likely a reason for the comment quality, yes. However, I submit that another (possibly more important) reason is that SSC contains a great deal of politics (relative to LW), which naturally causes mind-killing, even amongst the most rational of human participants. See here for a more elaborate discussion of this phenomenon.

comment by shminux · 2015-03-27T21:40:13.831Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

There is no reason one can't link a blog post here and start a discussion. I don't know Scott personally, but I am quite sure he will not mind. I am almost as sure he will not bother commenting in both places.

What I would really like to see is someone compiling a book called, say, SSCequences from his best posts and maybe best comments on them. And an audiobook. And...

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2015-03-27T23:10:09.475Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

Instrumental Rationality: From Medicine to Moloch.

comment by Solvent · 2015-03-28T02:47:54.452Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have made bootleg PDFs in LaTeX of some of my favorite SSC posts, and gotten him to sign printed out and bound versions of them. At some point I might make my SSC-to-LaTeX script public...

comment by Dahlen · 2015-03-28T11:45:19.516Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I don't read the comments on SSC mostly because of very, very poor comment section layout (because nesting comments just significantly narrows the width for every "child" comment), not because of comment quality. Besides, if I perceived SSC comments as rather poor in quality, it would be mostly because of the significantly larger contrast between them and the main blog post. (At least here in Discussion, it's rare when one LessWronger in the main post writes significantly better than the several top commenters, whereas on SSC, Scott is, well, Scott and everybody else is just everybody else.)

Besides, I don't find the addition of a up/down vote feature an improvement, rather the opposite, especially when it comes to the kinds of topics Scott touches upon. I often don't use my own up/down vote buttons because I often feel like "who the hell am I to judge?", particularly when I know I lack expertise in something. Other people, also without qualifications, may not be as scrupulous. While it does clutter up the comment section, agreement or disagreement expressed verbally, non-anonymously (because it psychologically weighs differently depending on the impressiveness of the person it comes from), and with justifications seems to me to help the overall quality of discussion.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2015-03-27T23:19:30.746Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This would cause me to read Slate Star Codex and to occasionally comment. It may do the same for others.

This may be a positive outcome, though I am not certain of it.

comment by Nornagest · 2015-03-27T21:36:44.514Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There have been occasional threads, yes. Not systematically. An obstacle is that Scott generally uses his blog to cover topics not suitable for LW: politics, psychology outside the cog-sci domain, more politics, collections of terrible puns, long meandering refutations of politics.

(This is not to disparage it; I probably comment more there than I do here.)

comment by tog · 2015-03-27T22:01:56.386Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure those topics are outside the norms of LW, outside the puns. Cf. this discussion: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/lj4/what_topics_are_appropriate_for_lesswrong/

comment by Raemon · 2015-03-28T04:29:33.277Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty pro-this, conditional on Scott being pro-it.

1) It sort of adds Slatestarcodex back to the rotation of high-quality-content to discuss on Less Wrong, so people here can easily learn about it. (I would NOT want to add the more political posts here though).

2) Maybe it'll split the comments? Sure, but the comments there are already huge and unwieldy (possibly more-than-dunbar's number worth of commenters) so I'm actually fine with that. Discussion over there is already pretty split up among comment threads in a hard to follow fashion.

comment by joaolkf · 2015-03-28T00:23:20.444Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I would be more in favour of pushing SSC to have up/downvotes than to linking its posts here. I find that although posts are high quality the comments are generally not, so this is a problem that definitely needs to be solved on its own. Moreover, I read both blogs and I like to have them as separate activities given that they have pretty different writing styles and mildly different subjects. I tend I to read SSC on my leisure time, while LessWrong is a gray area. I would certainly be against linking every single post here given that some of them would be decisively off topic.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-03-28T08:23:10.435Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I find that although posts are high quality the comments are generally not.

This is true of every blog I've ever seen. Posts are high quality, because you wouldn't be reading the blog otherwise, but anyone can pop in to add their two cents. General discussion forums don't show this effect, because anyone can post at top level.

I've never seen a blog that supported downvotes or karma ratings. If such exist, do they get better comments?

comment by joaolkf · 2015-03-28T13:10:33.846Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I intended to mean that the comments are dramatically worse than the posts. But then again this might be true of most blogs. However, it's not true of the blogs I wish and find useful to visit.

This a blog that supports up/downvotes with karma in which comments are not dramatically worse than the post, and sometimes even better.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-03-29T22:05:20.701Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This a blog that supports up/downvotes with karma

By a blog I mean something where the posts are written by one person. LW is what I am calling a discussion forum: anyone (subject to a minimal karma requirement) can post at top level.

comment by tog · 2015-03-28T01:33:03.271Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would be more in favour of pushing SSC to have up/downvotes

That doesn't look like a goer given Scott's response that I quoted.

I would certainly be against linking every single post here given that some of them would be decisively off topic.

Noting that it may be best to exclude some posts as off topic.

comment by joaolkf · 2015-03-28T13:16:09.692Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It would seem I'm not the norm. I have been going there for just over one year. But I find it hard to believe people would be generally against any form of organising the comments by quality. It would be nice to know which of the 400 comments is worth reading. Do people simply read all of them? Do they post without reading any? I think I have been here, and mostly only here, for so long that other systems do not make sense to me.

comment by tog · 2015-03-27T22:00:30.657Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There's discussion of this on the LW Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/144017955332/permalink/10155300261480333/

It includes this comment from Scott:

I've unofficially polled readers about upvotes for comments and there's been what looks like a strong consensus against it on some of the grounds Benjamin brings up. I'm willing to listen to other proposals for changing the comments, although if it's not do-able via an easy WordPress plugin someone else will have to do it for me.

comment by tog · 2015-03-28T15:06:28.656Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The latest from Scott:

I'm fine with anyone who wants reposting things for comments on LW, except for posts where I specifically say otherwise or tag them with "things i will regret writing"

In this thread some have also argued for not posting the most hot-button political writings.

Would anyone be up for doing this? Ataxerxes started with "Extremism in Thought Experiments is No Vice"

comment by Xerographica · 2015-03-27T21:30:17.207Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I really like the idea of blogs "outsourcing" their comments to forums. A second best option would be for Scott to use Disqus for his comments. With Disqus you're always logged in. Plus you can rate comments up or down.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-03-27T21:32:03.603Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

I hate disqus. It's hard to keep track of what you're read or haven't read, and since it doesn't load all comments automatically, it's inconvenient to search.

comment by gwillen · 2015-03-28T03:02:34.476Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding hatred for Disqus. I also find that it's extremely slow to load, and causes page scrolling to lag severely when the browser is under heavy load (i.e. lots of tabs open.) It also has the problem of any third-party code inclusion, that it allows the third party to track you across sites; for this reason I keep it blocked with Ghostery which I use to block ads and tracking.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-03-27T21:44:42.677Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But you can sort comments by newest/oldest/best! Plus, you're automatically subscribed to anything that you comment on. So any future replies are e-mailed to you. And you're given a central page to find and reference any of your comments... Xerographica. And you can use HTML.

This is my preference breakdown for SSC's comments...

LessWrong > Disqus > Current

comment by Artaxerxes · 2015-03-28T09:18:50.408Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This idea seems to have been met positively, so I posted one. Let's see how it goes.

comment by tog · 2015-03-29T01:18:12.358Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you good to do these posts in the future? If not, is anyone else?

comment by Artaxerxes · 2015-03-29T01:41:18.932Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't want to make any guarantees. I think people cross-posting to LW whenever they want a post to be discussed here is fine. This probably doesn't necessarily need systemizing.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-03-29T18:31:23.105Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But it's worth remindering not to cross-posts posts tagged with "things i will regret writing"

comment by Toggle · 2015-03-27T22:06:09.218Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would happily take advantage of such a system. (Also I would be a little worried about regular injections of political tarbabies.)

comment by Kaninchen · 2015-03-29T20:41:59.679Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Separate question which we should probably have a community policy on: should the existence of these alternative comment threads be mentioned at SSC? On the one hand, assuming we do succeed in getting high-quality discussion going on here, it would be good for people to be able to read it. On the other hand, if the average SSC commenter starts reading the LW-based threads then they may well start commenting here and thus drag the level of comments here down to the level of SSC. (Third alternative for consideration: mention the existence of these threads at SSC, but specifically ask people not to come over here to comment?)

comment by tog · 2015-03-29T20:49:45.797Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Upvotes/downvotes on LW might take care of the quality worry.

comment by RyanCarey · 2015-03-28T01:19:20.750Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hey Tom, thanks for volunteering to do this.

Personally, I expect this would worsen my experience because it would fragment comments. I'm not going to go to LW to read comments for SSC. I prefer to read comments, if any, on SSC itself.

In general, for most of the people, all they are going to notice (if anything) is a slight decrease in quality of on-site comments, so just a handful of people desiring this does not mean that it's net positive for Scott's readership at large.

Split comment-threads would also reduce cross-pollination of ideas. It's good that LessWrong readers currently bring their ideas in contact with some people who only have vague background awareness of LW at SSC. It's a challenge in practising explaining things well, provides feedback, and spreads useful ways of thinking.

So this would be personally undesirable for me and also has some clear negative externalities on others.

comment by tog · 2015-03-28T02:43:09.055Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To be clear, I don't have the time to do it personally, I'd just do it for any posts I'd particularly enjoy reading discussion on or discussing. So if someone else feels it's a good idea and Scott's cool with it, their doing it would be the best way to make it happen.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-03-28T04:08:31.307Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One possibility to avoid fragmenting the conversation would be to wait to link to link to a post at SSC until the comments have died down over there.

comment by tog · 2015-03-28T15:03:11.811Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On fragmentation, I find Raemon's comment fairly convincing:

2) Maybe it'll split the comments? Sure, but the comments there are already huge and unwieldy (possibly more-than-dunbar's number worth of commenters) so I'm actually fine with that. Discussion over there is already pretty split up among comment threads in a hard to follow fashion.