comment by Mitchell_Porter ·
2012-09-03T17:40:55.896Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
My thoughts on the recent excitement about "trolls", and moderation, and the new karma penalty for engaging with significantly downvoted comments:
First, the words troll and trolling are being used very indiscriminately, to refer to a wide variety of behaviors and intentions. If LW really needed to have a long-term discussion, about how to deal with the "troll problem", it would be advisable to develop a much more precise vocabulary, and also a more objective, verifiable assessment of how much "trolling" and "troll-feeding" was happening, e.g. a list of examples.
However, it seems that people are already moving on. For future reference, here are all the articles in Discussion which arose directly from the appearance of the new penalty and the ensuing debate: "Karma for last 30 days?", "Dealing with trolling", "Dealing with meta-disussion", "Karma vote checklist?", "Preventing endless September", "Protection against cultural collapse", and hopefully that's the end of it.
So it seems we won't need some specialized troll-ologists to work out all the issues. Rather than a "war on trolls" becoming a permanent element of LW political life, I'm hoping that in the long run this is just an episode in the history of LW governance. The site has transformed several times, it will undoubtedly transform again, and this is just a blip, one bump on the road.
I am somewhat interested in the larger issue of how the site might best produce intellectual progress. Viliam links to Grognor's article, "I Stand by the Sequences" (note that Grognor has since quit LW to join the aphoristic faction on Twitter, like "muflax" and "Kate Evans", who specialize in producing philosophical one-liners). A similar article from the same period is "Our Phyg Is Not Exclusive Enough". These articles received some criticism as promoting dogmatism, groupthink, exclusivity, etc.; Alexander Kruel, aka XiXiDu, another LW defector, blogged about them as evidence of this.
However, I very much agree with the impulse behind those articles, even though I dissent from common LW opinion in some major ways. LW is not a site for anyone to talk about anything; it's not even a site for anyone who considers themselves "rational" to talk about anything. The Sequences do define a philosophy and they need to remain the reference point. Perhaps elements of them will one day, by consensus, be regarded as definitively obsolete, replaced by something better, but they're still the starting point from which any future progress begins, even if it's progress by opposition.
A year ago, I wondered what LW would amount to, if anything. LW is protean, it has many dimensions, but I especially meant its place in the history of ideas. I'm now prepared to say that it can amount to something, that it can be a tributary feeding into the common intellectual culture of humanity, but that will require a certain amount of discipline and due diligence on the part of people who do want it to matter that way. There are many things that are working already, for example the division between Discussion and Main (and perhaps the wiki represents an even higher-level distillation). It's good to have the rambunctious lower level where we are now, as well as the more rarefied and rigorous higher levels. It permits new possibilities to emerge.
Maybe my main message is to serious critics of LW (some of the "trolls" are just critics who aren't doing it constructively). They can actually contribute to the overall process by being more organized in their criticisms. This is one way that intellectual progress occurs: you have a position, you have an opposite position, and both positions are refined as a result of dialogue. LW, the site and the community, does have the mechanisms and the capacity to take on alternative views and give them a fair hearing, even if they are eventually rejected. Work with that, and we can all benefit.
One more thing I want to point out. It's often observed that hardly any sequences have been written since Eliezer. In fact, LWer palladias has written about a dozen series of posts on her blog in Sequence format. She recently achieved notoriety for converting from atheism to religion, so her sequences aren't LW canon, but they represent an interesting example of cross-pollination between very different schools of thought.
comment by palladias ·
2012-09-08T05:21:21.475Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Just spotted this thread. The Sequences were indeed the direct inspiration for the format of the linked series of posts I run. Though mine are on a pretty broad range of topics -- most recently contrasting Sondheim's Company with Passion and using both to talk about what the ends of marriage are.