CFAR website launched

post by lukeprog · 2012-07-03T15:01:32.174Z · score: 33 (34 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 77 comments

The new Center for Applied Rationality website has launched! We'll be adding content as time goes by. Let us know if you find broken links, etc.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by VincentYu · 2012-07-03T16:13:04.444Z · score: 32 (32 votes) · LW · GW

Nitpick/question: The 'rationality camps' seem to have been renamed to 'retreats'. Why is this? A 'retreat' brings to mind religious connotations (and OED confirms this), and seems to augment phygish impressions.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-07-03T16:21:31.481Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Nitpick/question: The 'rationality camps' seem to have been renamed to 'retreats'. Why is this? A 'retreat' brings to mind religious connotations (and OED confirms this), and seems to augment phygish impressions.

Agree. Retreats is a terrible name.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-07-03T22:44:04.374Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Convention? Conference? Session? Intensive course?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-07-03T22:56:52.259Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Convention? Conference? Session? Intensive course?

I like 'course' most of these.

comment by Bruno_Coelho · 2012-07-04T01:21:03.998Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

'Conference' sounds like a bunch of specialist in one place to discuss some stuff.

'Course' indicates training, with I suppose, is the goal.

comment by AlexMennen · 2012-07-06T01:11:14.115Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Boot camp, like the first one was called?

comment by Pavitra · 2012-07-04T20:15:11.406Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I prefer "conference".

comment by mindspillage · 2012-07-04T02:36:14.539Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Residential seminar?

comment by Dorikka · 2012-07-04T03:32:47.682Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like it could be read as 'a seminar on residences.' I was just confused when I read it.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-07-03T20:12:10.574Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for using "phyg."

But don't people associate "retreat" with corporate retreats?

comment by Raemon · 2012-07-03T21:09:11.663Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

This was my main association. And "camp" has a sort of kidd-ish association for me. I feel like kids go to camp and adults go to retreats. Not sure how representative this is.

comment by aelephant · 2012-07-04T10:08:12.498Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

How about "workshop"?

I agree about the kiddish vibe of "camp" and I also agree that "retreat" has a sort of religious hue to it as well. Some guy died on a "mysterious Buddhist retreat" recently.

comment by Raemon · 2012-07-04T16:23:09.455Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I like workshop best of all the options presented so far.

comment by gwern · 2012-07-05T01:13:50.316Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No one seems to have suggested 'class' yet, which confuses me a little.

comment by drethelin · 2012-07-06T07:46:06.624Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In my mind classes are things that I take for an hour or two, not a weekend or a whole week.

comment by VincentYu · 2012-07-03T20:26:55.467Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I don't consider 'retreats' to be exclusively religious. But for me, it brought up religious undertones that I thought were undersirable and unintended.

comment by Emile · 2012-07-05T08:25:20.544Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't associate it with corportate retreat (religious connotations were the first to string to mind).

But even "corporate retreat" makes me think of teambuilding or blowing off steam or maybe networking or brainstorming in a different environment - not particularly learning (though I agree things like teambuilding are a kind of learning, and there are probably some with some explicit teaching going on). Whereas "camp" seems to be pretty straightforwardly about teaching ("bootcamp").

(on the other hand, you may be able to get companies to pay more for something called a retreat than for something called a camp)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-05T05:47:40.745Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for using "phyg."

You've probably done the SEO research. Does it actually matter?

comment by thomblake · 2012-07-03T18:37:50.174Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Initial impressions:

There are really a lot of instances where the same photo was used for multiple images. That should probably be fixed.

There are a lot of requests for js and css files. If they're coming from your server, you should bundle them up into one file. Better yet, sources like jQuery should be coming from a CDN like Google for these reasons. Your webdev should check out Yahoo's website about performance if they haven't already.

The carousel on the front page is something that IMO should be expunged from the web. Replace the "slide left" behavior with the "fade in/out" used on the "What we do" page, for a good start.

The URL should be, not http:// already tells you that you're looking for the web server. The redirect should go from to, not the other way around. Obviously, links such as the logo should be changed to match.

The pages look pretty terrible on my phone (Motorola backflip running Android using built-in browser). A lot of the text disappears off the right side of the screen. The header links should probably be formatted differently for mobile - the header section looks like a mess.

The page about mobile apps should have a note that they are "Coming Soon!" or something like that - I expect to be able to download the apps from that page, or at least link to descriptions.

The page about groups should link to some place where you can get in touch with a local group.

The CFAR link on the SPARC page looks like a tab, so it is surprising when it redirects to the CFAR website (ETA: Though this would not be the first website to use that pattern). Otherwise, nice use of CSS tabs. For some reason, the text on the SPARC page has massive amounts of whitespace in the source - you may want to trim it on the back end, though since you're sending resources gzipped it shouldn't make a real difference.

SPARC: GET 404 (Not Found)

The "What is Rationality?" page doesn't seem to have a clear answer to that question. Certainly not on a skim.

In general, great job.

comment by arundelo · 2012-07-03T18:49:51.903Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The URL should be, not

I agree (in the sense that this is what I do with my own sites), but here's a pro-www argument. (More accurately it's an argument against using a "bare" domain name in web addresses; that link itself does not start with "www.", but it does start with "faq.".)

comment by thomblake · 2012-07-03T19:01:12.825Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The arguments are good, but as you say they do not support 'www' as opposed to any other prefix. 'www' should be consigned to the flames.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-07-03T22:22:45.892Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There is one advantage of "www" -- if you write the website address without "http://" part, only the "", some softwares will recognize that it is a web link and will make it clickable; the same thing will not happen with "". (For example if you write that in an e-mail, or a comment on a web page.)

I don't know how much this is useful in real life. Could possibly generate a few extra links and higher pagerank.

Either way, some people will write the "www" part even if it's not there, so if it is not the official one, it should redirect.

comment by dbaupp · 2012-07-05T02:54:49.395Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

SPARC: GET 404 (Not Found)

The 404 page has a typo: "retourn" rather than "return".

comment by Jolly · 2012-07-04T18:46:49.139Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The majority of photos were taken from my Less Wrong/Rationalist photo archive - feel free to use more from there to expand the photo collection :)

comment by Rain · 2012-07-11T19:50:08.145Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In general, great job.

Quoted for emphasis.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-07-04T04:10:12.692Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

The site's front page looks broken on my cell phone (Opera on Android).

Also, some of the quotes on the front page (and elsewhere) seem ridiculously over the top in a way that's suggestive of some lowbrow scam. ("It's hard to see how it could be anything short of life-changing"? Come on.)

comment by Cyan · 2012-07-03T18:15:46.063Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Very nice! ETA: I'll be specific: the look-n-feel of the website is generally professional and polished. The text is short, to the point, basically ideal in tone and content.

Minor nitpick: on the What is rationality? page, the line

For example, a Perfect Reasoner wouldn’t be more confident that Linda is a feminist bank teller than that she is a bank teller, because in all cases where Linda is a feminist bank teller she is also a bank teller.

occurs without introducing Linda or discussing why one might expect her to be a feminist. We're all steeped in the heuristics and biases literature here, but this could be rather baffling to anyone not already familiar with the Linda story/experiment.

In short: possible inferential distance detected. Illogical! Illogical! Illogical!... sorry.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-07-03T20:20:49.330Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Fixed, kinda. If somebody has a clearer, very short way to illustrate what 'violating the laws of probability theory' looks like, I'm all ears.

comment by TimS · 2012-07-03T21:18:13.580Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Unrelated issue - It looks like there is an unclosed italics tag somewhere in the "Perfect Reasoner" part of "What is Rationality"

comment by lukeprog · 2012-07-03T21:21:28.698Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW


comment by Randaly · 2012-07-05T00:00:40.643Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I recommend that you change Eliezer's profile to first mention that he is a Research Fellow at the SI, as writing fan fiction and a blog are not high-status

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-07-05T21:51:20.619Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The phrase popular science writer would might be useful. It's not super high status, but it is better than blogger and clearly connects to his CFAR position.

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-07-05T22:06:56.482Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Thinking about it a little more I would recommend something like

Eliezer is a AI theorist and popular science writer, known for both his non-fiction and educational fiction explorations of rationality. Including the highly popular Harry Potter and the Methods of rationality.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-07-05T22:16:34.917Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like it!

comment by wedrifid · 2012-07-05T22:05:43.517Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The phrase popular science writer would might be useful. It's not super high status, but it is better than blogger and clearly connects to his CFAR position.

This would particularly be the case if Eliezer published those books he started. Writing 'popular science writer' based on his OB blogging would be accurate but would still give haters an excuse to insult him and claim that "He isn't even a pop sci writer like he says he is. He's just a blogger."

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-07-06T01:16:29.330Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hater gonna hate :) but seriously as a non-retorical question how much ammunition would that give them for convincing people who don't have a pre-written bottom line on the subject. Also does anyone know if/when he's going to get those books published.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-07-06T01:25:44.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

but seriously as a non-retorical question how much ammunition would that give them for convincing people who don't have a pre-written bottom line on the subject.

Very little.

comment by ahartell · 2012-07-03T16:50:07.660Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I love the site, but I have two minor nitpicks. It isn't a big deal, but it seems weird that the image/quote on the main page only cycles between two sets, especially with the small arrows facing in either direction. Also, the quotation used on the "retreats" page is also used on the main page. This, to me, gives the sense that you don't have many such quotations, which I don't think is a positive signal to send.

comment by shokwave · 2012-07-03T20:07:23.525Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On this note, if you want more quotes, you have but to ask!

comment by Despard · 2012-07-03T15:18:14.888Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

That's a beautiful site! And looks like all the links work.

I have very few criticisms. First there is a tiny use of jargon words like 'win' in a context they're not normally used in, but I think it's probably ok, the context is fairly self-explanatory. Though I might be getting used to the jargon words by now, so I'll inevitably be biased.

Second I think the causal model graphic on the front page can be improved: I think you need to change 'perfect reasoning' and 'perfect decisionmaking' to 'improved reasoning' and 'improved decision-making'. No reasoning or decision-making can be perfect, but they can be improved greatly. 'Perfect' seems like overstating the case. (That's even reinforced in the 'winning' section on the What Is Rationality?' page.) Also decision-making requires a hyphen.

Third and most obviously for my perspective I would like to see citations for some of the scientific claims, but since I'm personally working on that right now for CFAR I can wait until I've finished. ;)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-07-03T22:26:19.169Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

'Perfect' seems like overstating the case.

I was going to write the same thing, though my suggestion would be "Rational reasoning / decisionmaking". Well, maybe repeating the same word everywhere is not a good idea. Therefore, another suggestion: "Better reasoning / decisionmaking".

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-07-04T03:14:23.602Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Perfect" leaves me twitching. Is it possible to know with probability of 1 that your reasoning can't be improved on if you're talking about anything complex?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-07-03T22:38:11.427Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

The links to Amazon could be used to generate some money for CFAR.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-03T15:57:05.023Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Hedons generated.

These apps are news to me. Are these being developed to also serve as fund-raising tools, or are they going to be free? If free, FOSS? If FOSS, where is yonder git repo?

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2012-07-04T03:41:15.460Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

On my settings (some automatic zooming because I have bad eyesight), the photo takes up the entire front page and I didn't realize there was anything else beneath it to scroll down to until I saw it mentioned here.

Also, I get that you're all social and popular and people-oriented, but it just seems weird to have so many random pictures of attractive people enjoying themselves but not obviously doing anything related to rationality. Maybe removing the duplicate photos would help.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-07-04T00:44:48.098Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

A quotation on the home page is attributed only to "Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2010". It is odd to cite only the name of the journal in which it was published, and not the author(s).

comment by thomblake · 2012-07-03T17:57:43.831Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The 'donation' page for CFAR redirects to after completing a donation.


Also, the donation details (in both the confirmation e-mail from Paypal and the thank you from SIAI) all reference SIAI and not CFAR.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-07-03T20:21:07.040Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, we're working on that, but we wanted the site up now.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-04T15:45:33.287Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This seems a good approach since it takes a long time for knowledge of the existence of such an institution to spread let alone build up its reputation.

Also I'm also very glad to hear it might accept BitCoin in the future! :)

comment by Nisan · 2012-07-03T20:57:34.741Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad to have a shiny link to give people when they ask me about CFAR!

comment by Raiden · 2012-07-04T00:51:24.179Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Seeing this come together and implemented gives me hope that the sanity waterline actually can be raised. I can imagine future history books saying, "The early 21st century was the time of the Rationalist Movement, the greatest cultural rebirth in history. " I am lucky to bear witness to what you people are going to accomplish.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-06T21:28:55.005Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think the designer of the website needs to make a comment here claiming her work so we can all give her massive karma. hint hint :)

comment by KatieHartman · 2012-07-07T03:43:36.384Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, daenerys! :)

comment by Davorak · 2012-07-07T21:36:05.807Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

From my layman perspective it looks professional and very clean, great job.

comment by shokwave · 2012-07-07T04:39:19.485Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hey everybody, let's upvote this!

comment by Pavitra · 2012-07-04T20:25:22.045Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The logo seems to be being loaded from; this should instead be hosted locally.

comment by Michelle_Z · 2012-07-04T04:30:45.561Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW


The color scheme, design, and pictures are all appropriate and portray the organization well. I do have to point out that you need more than two photos on the home page, but other than that, well done!

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-07-03T22:47:52.997Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Animated elements are distracting and draw the eye away from the text. They are especially distracting to many non-neurotypical folks. Avoid animation except in response to explicit user action.
  2. The text color is #775F4D, which is not very dark. Join the contrast rebellion for increased readability.
comment by CharlesR · 2012-07-03T19:40:30.886Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Are you planning to provide training for people who are already running meetups?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-04T15:50:31.341Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What will be CFAR's relationship to LessWrong? Since a lot of its activities seem closely related to this site, to give an example of this, pretty much anything cited with a social component, like the Meet Up groups and the rationality camps.

Can we soon expect a cool link to CFAR's site from LW like we have for SingInst and FHI?

comment by betterthanwell · 2012-07-04T12:45:18.826Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I like it a whole lot. The design is beautiful, the layout is good, the prose is well crafted and concise. I feel a little bad for saying this but ... I like this website almost, but not quite as much as I dislike the new Singularity Institute website. I don't know what went wrong there, but the Singularity Institute website somehow seems / feels unprofessional and just badly done compared to this one.

comment by shminux · 2012-07-04T03:12:12.552Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The red miniskirt on the front page shows your appreciation of the target demographics.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-04T03:45:46.372Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Haha, I hadn't noticed that until you pointed it out, but now I can't not see it.

comment by Manfred · 2012-07-04T02:49:47.607Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The layout of the introductory text blurb below the pictures could be improved. Readers (secret meaning: me) are in danger of skipping to the clear heading-text of "We Can Do Better" and totally missing the introduction. My first thing I'd try would be to move the "What if?" box up a little (aligning text with text, rather than with the top of the box), and then take the following text from below it and put it all in the right-hand column, making sure that "We Can Do Better" is still clearly visible on the bottom of most monitors without having to scroll down.

Also, "We at CFAR see the discovery of these “cognitive biases,” or systematic thinking errors," should be "We at CFAR see the discovery of these systematic thinking errors, or "cognitive biases"."

comment by Raemon · 2012-07-03T15:52:14.218Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As someone who was pretty critical of the new Singinst site, I have to say this new one looks gorgeous and motivates me to participate, donate time and potentially donate money. (I've actually had to check myself and note that I my decision-making for donation should not be this influenced by how good or bad a website is. At least not to the extent that it apparently is.)

comment by Aleksei_Riikonen · 2012-07-06T11:49:30.142Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Quite a good website, though I expect that when one first glances at it, it looks suspicious how much there is talk of "perfect reasoning", "knowing exactly how to weigh the relevant evidence" etc.

Gives the impression that you think your methods produce perfection. One might have to delve surprisingly deep into the website before one realizes that that's not actually among the claims made.

comment by Dorikka · 2012-07-04T18:59:11.151Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's a pretty huge white space between the header and "Using decision science to help yourself and the world." It looks like a picture should go here, and I think there was one before. Apologies if this has already been mentioned.

comment by albeola · 2012-07-04T08:11:54.490Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The "FAR" keeps pushing me into far mode and then the red color keeps pulling me back into near mode. It's like a Stroop task!

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-03T18:47:50.360Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Where did the picture of an Intel processor come from? Tineye isn't helping very much.

comment by KatieHartman · 2012-07-03T19:50:40.702Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Here. :)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-03T15:10:44.974Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My first impression is that it is well designed and well written. Great job!

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-05T07:44:12.466Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Same here.

comment by loup-vaillant · 2012-07-05T22:33:04.487Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Overall, I'm impressed.

Most "glaring" flaw so far: it is difficult to resize fonts. Some text can hide when I do, for instance in the "What We Do" page.

comment by Bobertron · 2012-07-04T12:01:44.016Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can someone explain the logo to me? Looks like EEG to me.

comment by gwern · 2012-07-05T01:15:18.199Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Looked like a circuit or electric diagram to me.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2012-07-16T12:09:54.563Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

May I suggest CfAR rather than CFAR?

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-07-11T22:31:52.792Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Curiously, I noticed when looking at this that my brain associates the style of the website with phyg-ish organisations. Upon reflection, most websites of organisations I trust don't look like this, because they are either not very slick and professional (often a side effect of being run by academic institutions), or actually have a lot more content (which causes everything to look less slick). I'm sure this will be fixed when more content comes along. I'm interested to see whether anyone else makes the association though, or if I'm just particularly sensitive when filtering information sources with visual cues?

It really is a very minor quibble. On the basic level, a clean slick and professional website is a great thing!