thought: the problem with less wrong's epistemic health is that stuff isn't short form

post by lahwran · 2018-09-05T08:09:01.147Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · LW · GW · 27 comments

like what if there was no long form content and just a feed of short form content?

like I'm a bit salty that that never got implemented after the conversation I had with oliver where I was like "it'll suck if you don't do this", and well, now it sucks the way I said it would :/

27 comments

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comment by jimrandomh · 2018-09-07T19:20:45.670Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Recently-joined LessWrong developer here. This is something we've discussed and are planning on in the medium-to-long-term; it just hasn't been prioritized before due to limited capacity. We're in the process of scaling up the dev team, which should enable us to implement more things like this.

comment by lahwran · 2018-09-05T08:47:39.358Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW

man I'm kind of cranky tonight, sorry about that

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2018-09-05T08:31:47.124Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Moved to meta.

Edit: Oops, apparently it was already in meta.

comment by lahwran · 2018-09-05T08:44:04.329Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I posted it in meta in the first place

comment by Elo · 2018-09-06T05:25:25.914Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Virtue of precision.

Teach rationalists to say more with less words.

comment by c0rw1n · 2018-09-05T08:48:14.526Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"the problem with lesswrong : it's not literally twitter"

comment by lahwran · 2018-09-05T08:58:10.335Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

no, I was thinking of facebook. it needs to be a discussion platform, so it does need length, but basically what I want is "endless comment thread" type deal - a feed of discussion, as you'd get if the home page defaulted to opening to an endless open thread. as it is, open threads quarantine freeform discussion in a way that doesn't get eyes.

comment by quanticle · 2018-09-05T15:24:21.962Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

no, I was thinking of facebook.

Facebook isn't any better than Twitter on any of the metrics I care about.

basically what I want is “endless comment thread” type deal

That is the reason I use Facebook as little as possible, and I would stop interacting with LessWrong entirely if it moved to this format.

Facebook adopts its format not because it benefits the reader, but because it benefits them. The endless comment thread format maximizes "user engagement". It maximizes stimulation. It intentionally minimizes rational thinking, because, in a sense, rationality is the opposite of virality.

Moreover, why should there be discussion? If a post is authoritative, well researched and obviously correct, then the only thing to do is upvote it and move on. A lengthy discussion thread is a sign that either the post is either unclear, incorrect, or has mindkilled its readers.

Edit after feedback:

I want to draw a distinction between the worthiness of an article and the length/number of comments that article generates. Facebook, Twitter, for-profit-blogs, all elide this distinction. For them, an article that generates a lot of pageviews and a lot of comments demonstrates high user engagement, and therefore, is a good article. This is true, even if the article's content is inflammatory, and lowers the rationality waterline.

LessWrong is not a for-profit blog. LessWrong's goal should not be to maximize user-engagement via the production of long comment threads. In my opinion, if there are a bunch of long-form articles for which the only reasonable response is, "Yep, that's all true. Good article!" that's a win condition.

comment by lahwran · 2018-09-05T22:25:29.696Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · LW · GW
Moreover, why should there be discussion? If a post is authoritative, well researched and obviously correct, then the only thing to do is upvote it and move on. A lengthy discussion thread is a sign that either the post is either unclear, incorrect, or has mindkilled its readers.

Uh.

A lengthy discussion thread is progress.

An authoritative post is one person doing all the work.

A discussion thread is getting help with your initial thoughts.

That is the reason I use Facebook as little as possible, and I would stop interacting with LessWrong entirely if it moved to this format.

I don't appreciate the participation-threat here and I don't think it's reasonable to decide what's good based on what current users would respond to by abandoning - don't negotiate with terrorists, etc. I also think you're conflating things with the endless discussion thing - endless scrolling is super addictive, I agree, but I didn't mean that, I mean how posts are short form/partially-finished-thoughts by default. I think crap like zvi and ben hoffman post make the bar too high and things need to be shorter and less of a Big Deal. I'd prefer if everything was on one page by default but you had to do explicit paging to prevent severe addictiveness.

Facebook uses a number of nasty evil tricks, such as carefully timing when you get notifications, outright lying about the number of new posts there are to read (on mobile, it always says 9+ EVEN WHEN THERE ARE EXACTLY ZERO BECAUSE YOU UNSUBSCRIBED FROM EVERYTHING), infinite scroll, not showing you all the things your friends post at once so you can only see everything by going back repeatedly, not propagating notification counts between different clients, showing new notification *counts* without refresh but not showing the new notifications themselves without refresh, etc etc. it's not hard to be less addictive than facebook - it's the default.

I don't want high pageviews. I don't want upvotes. I want discussion. I want a place where people can exchange ideas. I want to take what already exists on rationalist's facebook walls and move it to lesswrong.

comment by Raemon · 2018-09-05T22:57:12.390Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · LW · GW

fwiw, I had the context to understand what you meant in the first place, but without that context I don't think the OP is very clear about what you want and why you want it.

comment by DanielFilan · 2018-09-06T05:41:41.674Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why should LessWrong be that, as opposed to having it be in-person or on various slacks/IRCs/discord servers? Seems like the thing you want is people developing thoughts in ways that don't need the whole 'community's eyes.

comment by lahwran · 2018-09-06T20:59:56.351Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

because otherwise people don't read less wrong because the only things that happen there are people posting overthought crystallized ideas.

comment by DanielFilan · 2018-09-06T22:44:31.185Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like 'people' read LessWrong as it currently exists, although I'm not aware of the actual visitation stats.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2018-09-06T23:11:51.434Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Happy to provide people with any stats they want.

I share the model that shorter content would attract more readers, and that we should build something more short-form shaped, but also that it seems very unlikely that we want to give up the more traditional post-format as the primary way of engagement with LessWrong.

comment by Davis_Kingsley · 2018-09-06T23:46:46.132Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One thing I'll point out is the "recent discussion" feels less accessible than on old LW (requires scrolling), and the lack of a "top users, 30 days" section probably decreases my engagement a bit as well - both because of the lack of a "leaderboard effect" and because it can be useful to look at that to see who's been posting interesting content that I might otherwise have missed.

comment by Raemon · 2018-09-06T23:58:00.466Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting – on old LW I basically never read the recent discussion because it was small and off to the side and didn't display much of the comments.

I do think not having the leaderboard thing decreases engagement, and have mixed feelings about that, since the way it increased engagement was the sort of facebook-like-thing that's kinda hijacking your monkey brain in skinner-boxy-ways.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2018-09-07T00:59:05.227Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Same. The recent discussion section feels a lot more prominent to me than on old LW. I also practically never used the recent discussion section on the old site.

comment by lahwran · 2018-09-07T07:26:52.159Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

it's literally the only thing I use. I basically never click on the post list because they're all collapsed and on a different page. give me a feeeeeeed

comment by jimrandomh · 2018-09-07T19:24:57.922Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On old-LW, did you view recent discussion via the sidebar widget, or were you going to an endpoint like `/comments`?

comment by Davis_Kingsley · 2018-09-07T21:55:41.855Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Both, but the sidebar widget is the main thing I miss. I notice that I still use it on the EA Forum, for instance, which has much of old-LW's structure. On current LW I have to scroll down a lot on the front page to see recent comments and they don't appear while reading posts, which IMO quite reduces my engagement.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2018-10-28T18:03:22.148Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I realized I never posted this here, but it does seem good to mention that we do have a "recent comments in chronological order" page here [LW · GW].

comment by Elo · 2018-09-07T20:15:22.106Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I did and still do read /comments.

comment by lahwran · 2018-09-07T07:28:07.917Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

my metric of success: "get rationalists off of facebook". to do this you need to replace facebook. discord replaces part of it with a much healthier thing, but lesswrong like stuff is needed for the other part.

comment by Regex · 2018-10-26T17:44:05.389Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Moreover, why should there be discussion? If a post is authoritative, well researched and obviously correct, then the only thing to do is upvote it and move on. A lengthy discussion thread is a sign that either the post is either unclear, incorrect, or has mindkilled its readers.

Alternatively, a length discussion could be a sign that the post inspired connections to related topics and events. Additionally, it may have made a critical advance that furthered understanding of the topic for other people. Even though optimizing for engagement yields divergence from what we want doesn't mean we should optimize against engagement. Or that a lack of engagement is somehow good.

If there are a bunch of long-form articles for which the only reasonable response is, “Yep, that’s all true. Good article!” that’s a win condition.

I do believe there is a place for that, but were I to repeatedly make posts which were so thoroughly correct and got essentially no engagement I would take that as a sign that people weren't really interested in it and that I should focus on other topics that have a larger impact.

comment by quanticle · 2018-10-28T04:55:06.726Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note that I said discussion, not engagement. Would your conclusion be the same if a post got relatively few replies, but was upvoted to +100?

comment by Regex · 2018-10-30T23:55:27.794Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

High upvote low reply is less bad, but still feels like it is fundamentally broken in some way. Failing to leave a mark maybe? I think I would mostly be confused given such a reaction. There might be specific types of posts that would generate that, but I feel those qualities do not generalize to the set of "authoritative, well researched and obviously correct" posts.

comment by Raemon · 2018-10-31T01:33:04.376Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think posts will produce engagement if they leave the reader with open questions and ways to apply it. But generally, the more comprehensive and correct a post is, the more I expect less engagement. (This has been my experience anyway)

I agree we don't want to optimize against engagement, but I do think it's a longstanding problem that good, comprehensive high quality posts often get less engagement – the more comprehensive and high quality, generally the more you need to actually have skills and domain expertise to figure out how to apply it to other things.

See Writing That Provokes Comments [LW · GW]