March 2019 gwern.net newsletter

post by gwern · 2019-04-02T14:17:38.032Z · score: 19 (3 votes) · LW · GW · 9 comments

This is a link post for https://www.gwern.net/newsletter/2019/03

9 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Raemon · 2019-04-02T19:02:49.631Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Comment on the new formatting: I like the new sidenotes generally when used it moderation. On articles where there's loads of them they get hard to parse. I'm not sure what the best solution is, but possibility is for the "body" of a sidenote to be low-opacity or hidden until you mouse over it (while leaving the title section of the sidenote visible for easy find)

Relatedly... I like the fact that when I mouseover a sidenote a thing pops up on the main text that lets me see what the sidenote is referring to... but think it could actually be more visible (I still have to hunt for it).

comment by Ruby · 2019-04-02T20:13:17.972Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I like the idea of sidenotes generally a lot. I've been thinking that Google Doc's side commenting is really neat and I'd been wishing I'd see more like that. I generally like that this website design is giving me lots of information. Things often tend too minimalist.

In terms of streamlining it though, I have some thoughts. I was a little taken aback by https://www.gwern.net/GPT-2 because there are just so many elements on the page when you first look at it:

  • Italic post meta right at the top.
  • Site level navigation very top left.
  • Post Table of Contents
  • Some kind of abstract like thing a in a special box
  • Main body text.
  • A side note.

Granted it was my first time looking at the site and if I was used to those elements might be quicker to parse. Also feels like there four columns of things. Only other thought is I'd prefer sidenotes all on the right hand side. The alternating is distracting and requires I scan both sides or something.

Still, I do like the underlying direction with the design, especially the side notes.

comment by Raemon · 2019-04-02T19:05:20.970Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(hmm, looks like not all sidenotes have distinct body/title divisions. General principle of "would be better if the sidenotes didn't distract me as much when there's a lot of them" still seems valid tho)

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2019-04-02T19:49:30.166Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

possibility is for the “body” of a sidenote to be low-opacity or hidden until you mouse over it (while leaving the title section of the sidenote visible for easy find)

That would rather defeat the point of the sidenotes, which is to allow you to glance over and read it without moving anything but your eyes.

There is, fundamentally, a trade-off, between three factors:

  1. Using lots of sidenotes/footnotes/etc. in general;

  2. Having them be easily parsable at a glance (instead of requiring active interaction);

  3. Having them not be distracting.

The current implementation is one particular point along those trade-offs; you could argue that some other point would be superior, but it’s at least not obvious that any such superior point exists.

I like the fact that when I mouseover a sidenote a thing pops up on the main text that lets me see what the sidenote is referring to… but think it could actually be more visible (I still have to hunt for it).

As you’ll likely be unsurprised to hear, we’ve actully had complaints that the citation highlighting is too obtrusive, and interferes with reading the text around it while you’re hovering over a sidenote… conflicting preferences and competing access needs strike again!

comment by Raemon · 2019-04-02T20:03:16.055Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. Agree that that's all complicated and tradeoffs are hard. Just my 2cents.

(Looking forward to future world where it can tell what part of the screen you're looking at and hide/show things dynamically based on how long you've looked at them. Also not looking forward to all the dystopian hellholes that will probably results from that technology when it exists)

comment by gwern · 2019-04-02T20:25:15.422Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am excited and terrified of eyetracking for foveated rendering in VR for precisely those reasons: it will be both awesome & awful and I don't know how it'll net out. (All the more reason to keep paying for VR games, I guess, to help ensure that the user is the customer rather than the product...)

comment by Pattern · 2019-04-04T00:03:51.855Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I prefer how the site used to look.

comment by gwern · 2019-04-04T01:05:05.619Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Which part? There have cumulatively been a lot of changes.

comment by Pattern · 2019-04-05T04:14:19.714Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I realized there'd been changes I didn't like when I looked at this newsletter. It seemed more "in your face", but aside from a) different font size, b) different formatting, c) different font, I couldn't put my finger on it.

I wasn't sure what it was until I looked at an old article, and a old newsletter side by side with what it used to look like. Text used to be smaller* and on the right* (instead of in the middle). Headings within a piece are grey instead of black, and maybe a different font. The body of the text also seems more grey** (although that could be the size). Things also seem longer (now) - and not just a result of increased size, which is weird because moving things to the left shouldn't (intuitively) shrink the margins, so I guess the margins used to be bigger*.

*Changes

**There's a difference between how text looks, and text with links (which is especially apparent with newsletters). The increased text size made this really pronounced.

TLDR:

Additionally, I was also struck by the differences when I looked at "The Gift of the Amygdali". My taste in formatting (here*) seems to be more minimalistic, and smaller text, which is right justified, with larger margins (which both have the effect of not spreading longer sentences across more lines).

That said, I don't know if I'm a typical reader of your blog (I understand you've been doing A/B testing or something), I also read Wikipedia a fair amount (though I like your blog more because of the consistent, high quality).

*With regards to your site. (Other sites mostly have different styles.)