How did you come to find LessWrong?

post by quanticle · 2011-11-21T15:32:34.377Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 76 comments

I was reflecting the other day about how I learned about LessWrong. As best as I can recall/retrace, I learned about LessWrong from gwern, who I met in the #wikipedia IRC channel via an essentially chance meeting. I'm wondering how typical my experience is. How did you come to LessWrong?

EDIT: Optional follow-up question: Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong? If not, what do you think could be done to increase awareness of LessWrong amongst potential rationalists?


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by KatieHartman · 2011-11-25T18:17:05.769Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I met Jesse Galef last year, and we became fast friends - at which point he practically begged me to read Methods of Rationality and LW. Good on you, Jesse!

This year I was the organizer for Skepticon, a conference that has traditionally concerned itself with the atheist movement. Eliezer, Julia Galef, Richard Carrier, and Spencer Greenberg were kind enough to come speak on topics more pertinent to the rationalist community (Bayes' theorem saw lots of love, and LW was plugged in several of the presentations!). Attendance was just over 1,100, and many of the attendees I spoke with were overjoyed to see more than just the "yes, there are probably no gods" spiel. I overheard one of them tell Eliezer that she felt like his talk had revealed a "next step" in her personal growth as a freethinker.

The whole experience has left me with the suspicion that the atheist community might not be as tapped for rationalism as it could be - and that just might be one of the better places to go looking. Lately, there's been a huge upsurge in atheist/secular activism at the college level, and as far as I know, these groups aren't being particularly targeted.

comment by Mercurial · 2011-11-21T17:53:41.617Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How did you come to LessWrong?

Through cryonics, oddly enough. I went to a "Teens & Twenties" cryonics meetup in January 2009 and met Eliezer there. He kept bringing up the rationality stuff and kept trying to encourage everyone to look at Less Wrong. I could well be the only cryonicist from that meetup who looked up Less Wrong afterwards as far as I know.

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong? If not, what do you think could be done to increase awareness of LessWrong amongst potential rationalists?

I'm a little concerned that the desire to inflate the tribe might not be well-connected to the purpose of Less Wrong. If the goal is to make the whole world more rational, getting everyone to join Less Wrong might not be the best way to do that. If there's some other goal, I'm not aware of it and can't comment on whether the community is "doing enough" since I don't have a metric for what "enough" means.

comment by Ezekiel · 2011-11-26T22:29:22.773Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

HPMOR was recommended to me by a friend, and from there to here. Frankly, this stuff is more interesting.

Somewhat ironically, I'm pretty sure the guy who recommended HPMOR to me in the first place is still religious, whereas I became atheist (largely) as a result of reading the stuff here. (That's "largely as a result of", not "largely atheist".)

comment by RomeoStevens · 2011-11-22T06:31:52.540Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Was going crazy studying econ and feeling like I must be insane to reach the conclusions about the world I was reaching. Then I found Robin Hanon's blog. From there I read lots of Eliezer, Mencius Moldbug, and Nick Szabo and realized everyone else was insane.

Replies from: Oligopsony
comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-22T07:00:50.354Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reading authors like those has convinced me of the insanity of many as well.

comment by Pavitra · 2011-11-21T22:41:05.795Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone in Agora Nomic made a Three Worlds Collide reference, and when I googled to find out what the reference was, I found myself here.

An indeterminate number of weeks later, I emerged from my room having read most of the archives.

comment by Grognor · 2011-11-21T18:59:42.897Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Discovered Graham's Number. Realized how fucking huge it was. Googled around for a coherent explanation. Found this. Thought, "This guy is a motherfucking genius. Too bad he disappeared from the internet." Months later, I came back to this essay and started thinking about how messed up it was. (2005, really?) I found Eliezer Yudkowsky's homepage and it was like "WOAH, THIS GUY IS A MOTHERFUCKING GENIUS! FUN THEORY? WHAT'S THAT?" Then BAM, he's talking about shit and I'm not getting it and I conclude "I will never understand any of this."

Cue September 2011. Rediscover Less Wrong. Realize that fun theory is one of the last in a series of interdependent sequences. Begin reading the sequences sequentially.


As for attracting new people to Less Wrong, man, I don't know. Eliezer and Luke both seem to want lots of people here, but there aren't all that many people here, and I'm not sure it would really help all that much.

I've personally tried to get people interested in Less Wrong to no avail. It's not easy, so there's that.

comment by Rain · 2011-11-28T19:18:31.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The FireFox add-on StumbleUpon took me to EY's FAQ about the Meaning of Life on 23 October 2005, along with Max More, Nick Bostrom, Alcor, Sentient Developments, the Transhumanism Wikipedia page, and other resources. They filled a large gap in my general philosophy: what to do next. From there, to further essays, to the sl4 mailing list, to SIAI, to OB, to LW.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-22T01:30:27.522Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong?

I'm not sure whether we should be going more for quantity or for quality, but I think we're either not doing enough to bring in new users or not doing enough to make sure the users we bring in are the right ones.

Replies from: wallowinmaya
comment by David Althaus (wallowinmaya) · 2011-11-22T10:00:35.364Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think we're either not doing enough to bring in new users or not doing enough to make sure the users we bring in are the right ones.

How can we change that? Do you have any particular strategies in mind?

comment by Xachariah · 2011-11-21T16:27:21.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Oh, I'd been to LessWrong before. I'd read a bunch of Eliezer's stuff here and on his personal site. It was all cogent, important stuff that made perfect since; I'd read a page and understand that the insights would be important to remember for the rest of my life. And then I would close the browser and absolutely forget about it.

It wasn't until I read HPMoR that I truly felt what LessWrong was like. I came back to LessWrong and started devouring the sequences. Every page or two, parts of my worldview would click into place. There were some things I agreed with lots and others not so much, but the good far outweighed the bad.

Been here ever since.

comment by fortyeridania · 2011-11-21T23:34:00.761Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I was reading up on cognitive biases, which led me to Overcoming Bias, which led me to Less Wrong.

Replies from: MileyCyrus
comment by MileyCyrus · 2011-11-22T02:58:41.213Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Same here.

comment by cata · 2011-11-21T20:00:59.419Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since OB, which I think I may have found via Hacker News.

comment by shminux · 2011-11-21T18:45:13.797Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Came across this site before on occasion, but never spent any time here until MoR.

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong?

I am not convinced that proselytizing is a worthwhile goal, to begin with.

Replies from: Vladimir_Nesov
comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-11-22T23:23:39.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not convinced that proselytizing is a worthwhile goal, to begin with.

Is it a worthwhile action then?

comment by kilobug · 2011-11-21T16:53:18.976Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

HPMoR for me too (pointed to a it by a geeky friend).

Replies from: Raemon
comment by Raemon · 2011-11-21T17:24:16.914Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by LauralH · 2013-02-07T00:54:03.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I used to read, a friend of mine often linked to it on Delicious, and I noticed I preferred EY's posts in general.

I got out of the habit after I caught up with all his posts in 2009 or so (before this site came to be), but someone linked to chapter 5 of HPMoR and I was all WAIT A MINUTE THIS SOUNDS BLOODY FAMILIAR.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2011-11-24T15:21:38.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cognitive biases, reading up on -> Overcoming Bias (not sure which specific link led there), reading it on and off -> Came back after one of the off periods, realized LW had split, followed to LW, now reading that on and off.

comment by Dan_Moore · 2011-11-22T19:11:08.236Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was googling something to do with utility functions.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-11-22T09:40:28.625Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wikipedia article for technological singularity -> Finnish IRC channel about transhumanism -> Finnish Transhumanist Assocation -> Staring into the Singularity -> SL4 -> OB -> LW.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-11-22T08:20:48.308Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

JoshuaZ's blog -> Gene Expression -> LW (I recall this was the first post I read). Read sequences, made account so I could correct Eliezer on this entry. Eventually started reading the rest of the site.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2011-11-22T06:19:42.084Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Boredom -> Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" -> naturalism & reductionism -> the singularity -> Kurzweil -> Yudkowsky -> OB -> LW.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-22T02:00:30.829Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I learned about LessWrong through a google search about half a year ago or so. One of EY's posts came up as a result, and that day I read through one of the sequences. I was slowly hooked from there. It was recently that I made an account and started posting.

I'm not sure if the community is doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong. I don't think I have enough data about or experience with LW to make an accurate assessment.

I do, however, run a Youtube channel where I discuss rationality, cog sci, and such. While I don't actively promote LW through my videos, I do bring a lot of the core ideas to my (extremely limited) audience and try to give credit where it is due. For example, I just did a video that discussed the Parable of Sound. While it wasn't my intention when making the channel, can I see how it can indirectly get people into LW.

I don't know if this is germane, but you can find my channel at . If you think what I am doing could be helpful, I'd love to get some feedback on how my channel and content could be improved. It's very new, so constructive criticism is needed.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-21T21:42:33.203Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone pointed me to HPMOR -> 3worldscollide -> started reading the OB archives -> hung around.

I don't think "we" are particularly doing much to bring in new users, but I also think that what "we're" doing is enough.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-11-21T21:22:46.301Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"What's the state of AI these days?" (on a whim, Feb 2007 IIRC) -> Goertzel's agi list -> SL4 -> OB -> LW

comment by Peter Wildeford (peter_hurford) · 2011-11-21T17:35:05.070Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Via LukeProg's CommonsenseAtheism blog

Replies from: Goobahman
comment by Goobahman · 2011-11-22T22:28:54.111Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

me too :)

I follow Luke around everywhere tbh.

Replies from: peter_hurford
comment by Peter Wildeford (peter_hurford) · 2011-11-23T01:17:34.380Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I pretty much do too.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2012-02-13T11:52:54.551Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by Zetetic · 2011-11-21T17:20:16.052Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

First through Scott Aaronson's blog, I looked over a couple of things but didn't come back. Then a friend encouraged me to check out the sequences, so I started reading them and was hooked.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2011-11-25T19:41:26.637Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2011-11-22T04:37:15.777Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

MarginalRevolution and econ blogs in general -> OB -> LW

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-11-22T03:14:46.327Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A friend saw the recommendation for Methods of Rationality on and thought I'd like it, so ey passed it on to me. I got to LW through the link in EY's profile.

comment by windmil · 2011-11-22T03:13:06.234Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I probably took an odd route to get here. About two years ago I was just happily reading some Dresden Codak, and saw he went to a Singularity Summit. He commented briefly on some of the things presented, and I followed links to the websites of various speakers. Really though, Eliezer Yudkowsky's site caught me the most. I started with The Simple Truth and over the next few months read through the sequences.

Haven't really posted much here, though I come back and read a few things from time to time.

Replies from: magfrump
comment by magfrump · 2011-11-22T08:32:20.039Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One more Dresden Codak follower right here!

comment by DanielLC · 2011-11-21T23:45:43.296Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was linked to a few times from .

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-21T22:13:54.233Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I probably found it by way of OB, and I'm not sure how I ended up there.

One thing that would probably help is for Eliezer's book on rationality to get published, but I don't have any idea what a reasonable schedule for that is.

Other than that, I recommend that LWistas recommend any articles they especially like on their blogs and on social media.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-21T17:47:39.837Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(checks personal logs...) Looked for new / better keyboard in spring 2010, found Tim's awesome keyboard site, read some of his meme stuff, followed links over course of next weeks, found LW, read major sequences in about 2 days, lurked a bit, did a lot of thinking, returned winter 2010 and decided to get active.

"That person is cool, let's internet-stalk them and find everything they read/write." is still my most-used technique to find good content.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-21T16:15:56.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Boring story; I've always been here since OB and then SL4. (Ironically, I think I originally came to the SIAI site way back in 2003 or 2004 via StumbleUpon.)

Replies from: billswift
comment by billswift · 2011-11-21T20:10:00.724Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Likewise, I was following OB, which I started reading about a month after it started; I have no memory of how I found OB.

Replies from: komponisto
comment by komponisto · 2011-11-21T21:02:36.901Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found OB around the same time via Scott Aaronson's blog -- which in turn I had originally discovered by typing "googol" into Google (leading me to this).

comment by Utilitarian · 2012-01-01T01:36:16.891Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Three friends independently pointed me to Overcoming Bias in fall/winter 2006.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-25T15:45:58.159Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I followed a link from the Koala Wallop forums, back when they still hosted Dresden Codak, and the sequences were still being posted on Overcoming Bias. I didn't start commenting regularly until years later when I started talking to Alicorn on OkCupid.

comment by atorm · 2011-11-23T04:22:20.435Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

StumbleUpon kept throwing up Less Wrong articles, and I finally started looking around the site.

comment by Kutta · 2011-11-22T09:39:47.220Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

2008: Life extension -> Immortality Institute -> OB

comment by Cthulhoo · 2011-11-22T08:56:09.289Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I discovered the blog by chance, following some link (I really don't remember the original source) to the QM section. I was interested in the foundations of QM at the time, and at some point Eliezer's sequence popped up. Since the blog posts were infested by links to other blog posts, I quickly found myself reading all the Sequences, then the other top level posts, then the discussions and then... I joined the community.

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong? If not, what do you think could be done to increase awareness of LessWrong amongst potential rationalists?

I'm inclined to say no to the first one. I stumbled upon the site almost by chance, and could have easily completely missed it. I honestly don't know what to answer to the second.

comment by magfrump · 2011-11-22T08:30:27.420Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was reading Dresden Codak, from there read some Kurzweil, then got into an Internet argument with User:Zack_M._Davis who used to live across the hall with me in the dorms, in which he linked me to Eliezer's home page and OB around the time of the split. I followed link trails until I had read most of the sequences.

comment by EvelynM · 2011-11-22T06:06:41.143Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

EconTalk -> Overcoming Bias -> LessWrong

comment by ata · 2011-11-22T03:27:14.195Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had read Overcoming Bias, very sporadically, and without really keeping track of authors or reading things in sequence, for a couple years before I found LW through it around July or August 2009 (at which point I started reading it more systematically).

Earlier in 2009 I had read "The Singularity Is Near", which was my first interaction with transhumanism/singularitarianism, and I was an excited Kurzweilian for a bit, which probably primed me to be particularly interested when I found out that the most prolific blogger on these awesome blogs of victory was the cofounder of something called the Singularity Institute.

comment by Kevin · 2011-11-22T03:03:07.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hacker News -> Overcoming Bias

comment by beoShaffer · 2011-11-22T02:03:47.699Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was googling some stuff related to decision theory and pascal's wager/mugging.

comment by tgb · 2011-11-22T02:03:22.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To give you some context: I just registered this account after lurking for a time and reading much of the sequences.

I saw Eliezer's Bayes' Theorem article about four years ago, read it, learned some, and moved on. A year ago I came upon a link in a forum poster's signature to HPMoR which I got into immediately (I had heard of it once before, but dismissed it as "fan fiction") and then ended up here. The point where I knew I would stay was the quantum mechanics article which was a hundred times more insightful than any of the popular science treatments of it I had read before.

I had been reading similar ideas, presented much more casually, in places such as the webcomic Dresden Codak. Particularly in the very humorous article at the bottom of this page, I have used this article a couple of times to try to introduce friends to the ideas of the singularity. This short story was another that got me truly interested in topics of a similar nature to the singularity. This short story is another good way to introduce people to some unusual thinking. For a Bayes's theorem introduction, this New Scientist piece was the first time it really clicked for me.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-11-22T01:56:40.333Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From a link at HackerNews.

comment by ahbwramc · 2011-11-22T01:54:45.984Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Through HPMoR, like many others, although it was quite delayed. After being referred to Methods of Rationality from another forum and falling in love with it, I thought, hey, why not check out this guy's other stuff? I started with The Simple Truth, and to be honest it didn't grab me. So for months and months I just had a bookmark for this site and an idea that I should probably check it out, maybe, someday, eventually. Finally, for no reason that I can remember, I went back to the site and started reading the "How to Change Your Mind" sequence. From then on, I was hooked.

Replies from: Eugine_Nier
comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-11-22T02:10:02.276Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I started with The Simple Truth, and to be honest it didn't grab me.

Yes, I found that story completely unreadable. It frankly reads a lot like a frustrated rant (while I can understand his frustration with relativists, it doesn't make the story any more readable). Specifically, it seem like he puts every stupid argument he's ever herd into the mouth of the priest, and it turns out that reading what is essentially an argument with a troll is extremely annoying.

comment by Dorikka · 2011-11-22T01:09:47.941Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This data should be useful to people who are trying to publicize LW, though the question would be better put in a survey to reach the section of the audience that read the Sequences but doesn't read Discussion much. A bit late for that, though. :(

Genji Press->Orac->Neuroskeptic->FunTheory Sequence.

At least that's how I remember it. Funny that Genji Press is primarily an anime/Japanese media blog, given where the links have lead me.

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-11-22T09:46:46.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Neuroskeptic has referenced the fun theory sequence? That's interesting. Do you remember where?

Replies from: Dorikka
comment by Dorikka · 2011-11-22T13:53:13.944Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not at all, considering it was so long ago. Could have been NeuroLogica as well.

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-11-21T23:56:08.979Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I ran across OB while being horribly akrasic on Reddit a few years ago.

comment by daenerys · 2011-11-21T21:27:47.627Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

HPMoR. Pointed to it from an OKC profile.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-21T21:18:02.544Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

transhumanism -> SL4 -> OB -> LW

comment by Psychosmurf · 2011-11-21T20:44:03.350Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone recommended HPMOR on another forum. Then I found LessWrong by googling the author's name.

comment by mindspillage · 2011-11-21T19:45:59.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Heard of Overcoming Bias through the Extropy Institute discussion list, which I've been lurking on for a billion years. (Or a dozen. One of those.)

The main way people in my social circle who were not familiar with LW have become interested in the site is through getting links to specific essays that were of particular interest to them, or of interest to people involved in whichever activity we have in common. (I don't know how many of the HPMoR readers have converted to LW readers, though at least a few.) Just saying "there's this site about rationality and cognitive biases" will get a "yeah, that's cool, whatever" unless the post on the front page is unusually compelling.

Replies from: scientism
comment by scientism · 2011-11-21T20:08:33.079Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Same here.

comment by kitimat · 2011-11-21T19:37:58.603Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Via Google. I was searching for a more in-depth discussion on cognitive biases. Found Overcoming Bias first then I found Less Wrong. Presently I'm working my way through the sequences.

comment by amcknight · 2011-11-21T19:02:16.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

StumbleUpon kept showing me metaethics and quantum mechanics articles and I finally realized that most of the good ones were from the same two sites (OB and LW).

comment by Morendil · 2011-11-21T17:51:48.314Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Randomly chanced across a Twitter link to the Zombies post, which led me to the MWI posts, was hooked at that point.

comment by prase · 2011-11-21T17:44:13.825Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Link from (now defunct?) to Overcoming Bias, then transition from OB to LW when the latter split from the former.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-21T17:06:26.751Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eliezer Yudkowsky's Babyeaters fiction. I had before that occasionally read some posts at Overcoming Bias, but I wasn't active when the migration to LW took palce.

comment by lavalamp · 2011-11-21T16:43:24.787Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I cannot remember, and really wish I could. It was definitely pre-HPMoR. It may have been post-OB.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-11-21T16:35:09.148Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

HPMoR. Like most recent-comers.

comment by XFrequentist · 2011-11-21T16:03:50.530Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Via Eliezer's Bayes tutorial. Started reading, couldn't stop. Still can't!

comment by XiXiDu · 2011-11-21T17:15:28.343Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How did you come to find LessWrong?

Orion's Arm -> Kurzweil -> Singularity Institute -> Overcoming Bias -> Less Wrong

I found out about Orion's Arm (forgot how), checked out their links, references and book recommendations, learnt about Kurzweil and came across a link to the Singularity Institute. I believe there was a link to Overcoming Bias on the SI blog which later turned into LW. I then pretty much ignored OB (later LW) until 2010 (reason: lots of incredibly boring posts about rationality ;-).