A quick note on weirdness points and Solstices [And also random other Solstice discussion]

post by Raemon · 2016-12-21T17:29:42.254Z · score: 23 (21 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 85 comments

Common knowledge is important. So I wanted to note:

Every year on Solstice feedback forms, I get concerns about songs like "The X days of X-Risk" or "When I Die" (featuring lines including 'they may freeze my body when I die'), that they are too weird and ingroupy and offputting to people who aren't super-nerdy-transhumanists

But I also get comments from people who know little about X-risk or cryonics or whatever who say "these songs are hilarious and awesome." Sunday Assemblies who have no connection to Less Wrong sing When I Die and it's a crowd favorite every year.

And my impression is that people are only really weirded out by these songs on behalf of other people who are only weirded out by them on behalf of other people. There might be a couple people who are genuinely offput the ideas but if so it's not super clear to me. I take very seriously the notion of making Solstice inclusive while retaining it's "soul", talk to lots of people about what they find alienating or weird, and try to create something that can resonate with as many people as possible.

So I want it to at least be clear: if you are personally actually offput by those songs for your own sake, that makes sense and I want to know about it, but if you're just worried about other people, I'm pretty confident you don't need to be. The songs are designed so you don't need to take them seriously if you don't want to.

-

Random note 1: I think the only line that's raised concern from some non-LW-ish people for When I Die is "I'd prefer to never die at all", and that's because it's literally putting words in people's mouths which aren't true for everyone. I mentioned that to Glen. We'll see if he can think of anything else

Random note 2: Reactions to more serious songs like "Five Thousand Years" seem generally positive among non-transhumanists, although sometimes slightly confused. The new transhumanist-ish song this year, Endless Light, has gotten overall good reviews.

85 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ChangeMyMind · 2016-12-22T05:05:38.921Z · score: 27 (20 votes) · LW · GW

The only extremely weird thing at the solstice was the constantly screaming and crying child that interrupted half of the presentations and was never taken outside of the building. It honestly ruined the entire celebration for me and made the whole thing extremely disappointing as an event I flew all the way into San Francisco to attend.

comment by Elo · 2016-12-22T20:38:59.497Z · score: 31 (24 votes) · LW · GW

The kid was Katie's kid. The difference is that I can name and shame because although I am in literally Australia I heard feedback that Katie's attitude of "not interfering" towards her kid was problematic for other people's experience of the solstice.

I have also been made aware that no one is willing to talk to Katie because they will be hit by a raging onslaught of ridiculous and insane behaviour. That's fine, I'd rather have people come to Australia and tell me off for naming and shaming than to remain silent when I know information.

In future I hope that all people are agenty enough to tell a kid to shut up, and also to praise a kid who is well behaved (and their parent's training).

It is taken that you would support kids that are well behaved at an event but this kid was exceptionally misbehaved. I consider this the common public opinion.

And yes the kid was literally running around shouting. (Feedback that made it to Australia)

comment by Raemon · 2016-12-23T04:49:52.808Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I think it is important to be able to voice concerns like this, even in the face of social pressure. I also think this was more confrontational than it needed to be - I think you could have factually described things without adding adjectives like "ridiculous" and "insane."

comment by Elo · 2016-12-23T04:57:12.969Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Fair. In using those words I refer to the history books of events that I was not part of, and know better than to get specific.

comment by waveman · 2016-12-23T03:43:23.914Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The bad child rearing is one part of it. This child will likely learn the hard way in the playground or in young adulthood what constitutes acceptable behavior. This is often a painful process that could have been avoided.

The other part is the fact that this family is producing unacceptable behavior now and it needs to be dealt with and to stop. If people remain silent things degenerate and people silently stop going because it is so painful. This is just being adults and having standards of what you will put up with. Normal adult assertiveness. It is not .

comment by ozymandias · 2016-12-28T02:19:33.536Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly relevant point: I believe there was a quiet room and Katie took Andromeda to the quiet room, but the room was not as soundproofed as they thought it was and she could still be heard.

(I am another person who considers the tone this is being brought up in to be highly unkind.)

comment by Fluttershy · 2016-12-23T10:42:36.192Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I think that Merlin and Alicorn should be praised for Merlin's good behavior. :)

I was happy with the Berkeley event overall.

Next year, I suspect that it would be easier for someone to talk to the guardian of a misbehaving child if there was a person specifically tasked to do so. This could be one of the main event organizers, or perhaps someone directly designated by them. Diffusion of responsibility is a strong force.

comment by ozymandias · 2016-12-28T02:16:34.177Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't actually think that parents have a huge amount of influence over the behavior of a person who is two months old. (I mean, it's unclear whether parents have much influence over the behavior of a child of any age, but the case of two-month-olds seems particularly clearcut.) It seems unfair to praise them for the coincidence of Merlin happening to be sleepy at the time.

comment by Alicorn · 2016-12-28T03:19:05.763Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

He wasn't that sleepy. I had to feed him twice during the event.

comment by ozymandias · 2016-12-28T15:30:23.524Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough! I think my general point still stands: for two-month-olds, parenting skill is probably outweighed by the mood and temperament of the child when determining how likely the child is to scream during Solstice.

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2016-12-23T00:57:55.992Z · score: 3 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Ugh... I get that you wanted to take it upon yourself to name the person, but you could've written this a bit more sensitively. My guess is that the mother will feel pretty awful reading your comment, and also be uber-defensive.

Edit: The comments replying to me seem correct, and I think it's probably more important to positively reinforce you actually stating this.

comment by hg00 · 2016-12-23T01:27:12.622Z · score: 19 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Complaining about people who cause problems is an undersupplied public service in our community. I appreciate Elo's willingness to overcome the bystander effect. At the same time, gossiping about people on the internet should only be done with great care.

My understanding is, in the relationship between Katie and Andromeda, Andromeda wears the pants. And letting Andromeda wear the pants sucks up time and energy. Using rich person parenting styles has costs if you're poor.

I'm generally sympathetic to parents who complain about unsolicited childrearing advice. But lots of people in the community have been helping Katie with Andromeda. This is admirable, and I think if these people have a hand in supporting a child, they deserve a voice in how it is raised.

comment by Elo · 2016-12-23T03:38:57.807Z · score: 18 (11 votes) · LW · GW

between Katie and Andromeda, Andromeda wears the pants.

I believe that Katie's choices as to how to raise a human are her own. Right up until it starts influencing others.

Just like I would publicly berate people who won't vaccinate their children, I would publicly name and shame someone for failing to take actions that are respectful of the other people at the event. (especially in times when it is within your control to do so)

Sure there are days when you still have to go to the DMV even though you have kids in tow and you have to somehow navigate public. Such is life. This is not one of those days. The solstice is an event that is optional in attendance. (even for the religiously inclined, other religious groups find ways to solve this problem)

unsolicited childrearing advice.

Absolutely. I won't tell Katie how to raise I child, but I will clearly say, you have a responsibility to control your kid at times when they are causing trouble to others. How that is done is up to you.

If a kid is too young to understand (for example to be respectful of others) then you are to take actions that cause the correctly fair experience, as a burden on yourself to take action. for example, taking the kid into another room (as many have mentioned) so that the kid is no longer disrupting others.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-04T12:02:57.517Z · score: 7 (6 votes) · LW · GW

My understanding is, in the relationship between Katie and Andromeda, Andromeda wears the pants.

I think "wears the pants" is a phrase that really needs to die. It embodies multiple different outdated, silly and/or potentially offensive assumptions.

comment by hg00 · 2017-01-06T02:51:13.797Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Eugene?

comment by gjm · 2017-01-06T03:33:20.397Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Me? Someone hasn't been paying attention.

No, I am not Eugine and the above was intended seriously.

comment by hg00 · 2017-01-06T22:10:23.912Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK. I thought you were Eugene because he's been creating sockpuppets to post low effort SJ content and discredit SJ ever since downvoting was disabled. You know, mean girls feminism type stuff that treats ideas like clothes ("outdated", "makes me laugh", "someone somewhere might think it's ugly", etc.)

comment by gjm · 2017-01-09T14:01:11.215Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh yes, I understand how you got to that conclusion.

I think I have been the #1 target of Eugine's mass-downvoting for some time, which is why I was amused. But of course I shouldn't expect other people to be as aware as I am of what Eugine has been doing to me :-).

(If you look at pretty much any comment of mine made in, say, the 3 months before downvoting was disabled, you will see it sitting at -1. And then if you hover your mouse over the karma score you will often notice that it's actually at +7-8 or +5-6 or +9-10 or something. That would be because, finding that downvoting everything I wrote once wasn't enough, Eugine decided on a policy of using his sockpuppets to put everything I write below zero. Most of the upvotes on those comments are probably from people who saw them at -1 and thought "meh, this doesn't deserve to be negative" ... only to have their attempt at correction nulled out by Eugine's socks.)

comment by Elo · 2017-01-07T00:17:30.577Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

feel free to message me any suspicious activity.

comment by Elo · 2016-12-23T03:29:44.121Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

At this point the motivation of "feeling awful" is being made to encourage her to improve her child-managing skills. She can be defensive about it, but no amount of defensiveness can apologise for her bad form which offended a great number of people (I have to wonder how many people have not posted on the thread, once voice of dissent is probably equal to at least 10 silent participants with the same opinion)

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2016-12-23T10:36:29.263Z · score: 3 (6 votes) · LW · GW

She can be defensive about it, but no amount of defensiveness can apologise for her bad form which offended a great number of people

FYI "defensiveness" is bad because she will not change her mind. I didn't mean "she'll be offended". Katie not being defensive is positive for your goals.

comment by taygetea · 2016-12-23T01:20:15.611Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

For context, calling her out specifically is extremely rare, people try to be very diplomatic, and there is definitely a major communcation failure Elo is trying to address.

comment by Elo · 2016-12-23T03:26:33.637Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I could be more diplomatic. But I'd still have to name katie for the sake of sparing Alicorn the confusion about her own child-raising.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-04T11:58:10.233Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm unsure about the overall rights and wrongs, but surely this is definitely incorrect: you could e.g. have said "I know whose child it was that was making the noise, and it was definitely not Alicorn's".

comment by FourFire · 2017-01-06T23:16:19.370Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder where this form of communication lands in Ask, Tell, or Guess Culture?

comment by gjm · 2017-01-09T14:05:55.923Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's a separate issue: in principle, you could have pretty much any norms about calling out other people's bad behaviour along with pretty much any norms about how one person gets to find out what another wants. But I'd guess that willingness to make public objections like this correlates with Ask+Tell as opposed to Guess, and probably also with Tell as opposed to Ask.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2016-12-24T04:17:20.336Z · score: 22 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I attended in the Bay last year and also had a bad time because of the screaming child. Thanks for being willing to complain about this in the face of social pressure not to.

comment by Alicorn · 2016-12-22T05:09:45.589Z · score: 15 (14 votes) · LW · GW

There were two children and one of them was mine; I'd like to be well-calibrated about how much fussing is bothersome to others, do you happen to know which child was the one who annoyed you?

comment by ChangeMyMind · 2016-12-22T06:09:43.880Z · score: 25 (18 votes) · LW · GW

The young child who ran through the entire area multiple times during the performance, was talking very loudly in multiple presentations (including through half of Ben Hoffman's speech), threw at least two tantrums, was taken to the back for a while but was still in an area that was fully audible to people in the presentation hall, and was later taken to the upper deck while still making plenty of noise up there.

I saw an infant taken outside of the presentation once but barely noticed any noise from that child at all. I'm glad to see families at events and am fully willing to attend alongside slightly fussy children who make some noise, but the one running around constantly and talking louder than the presentation was bizarrely far past that point.

The fact that you were even interested in asking this question makes me strongly suspect it was not your child.

comment by Elo · 2016-12-22T20:33:33.373Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Not your child. As a definitive opinion from someone who wasn't there.

The kid was Katie's kid. The difference is that I can name and shame because although I am literally in Australia around the world, I heard feedback that Katie's attitude of "not interfering" towards her kid was problematic for other people's experience of the solstice.

comment by shev · 2016-12-23T01:49:46.427Z · score: 3 (12 votes) · LW · GW

While I think it's fine to call someone out by name if nothing else is working, I think the way you're doing it is unnecessarily antagonistic and seemingly intentionally spiteful or at least utterly un-empathetic, and what you're doing can (and in my opinion ought to) be done empathetically, for cohesion and not hurting people excessively and whatnot.

Giving an excuse about why it's okay that you, specifically, are doing it, and declaring that you're "naming and shaming" on purpose, makes it worse. It's already shaming the person without saying that you're very aware that it is; you ought to be taking a "I'm sorry I have to do this" tone instead of a "I'm immune to repercussions, so I'm gonna make sure this stings extra!" tone.

At least, this is how it would work in the several relatively typical (American) social groups that I'm familiar with.

comment by FourFire · 2017-01-06T23:24:42.266Z · score: 8 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While I agree with your sentiment, I also care substantially more about the continued success and growth of solstices than about one or two participants of such events being deeply offended.

Elo is taking a stand here, which I believe needs to be taken, and few others are due to following the social norms of pre-emptively not offending people.

I admit I am confused; is sidestepping around the issue part of Ask or Guess culture?

comment by shev · 2017-01-07T01:12:59.581Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not asking for people not to talk about problems they have. I'm just criticizing the specifically extra-insensitive way of doing it in the comment I replied to. There are nicer, less intentionally hurtful ways to say the exact same thing.

comment by Raemon · 2016-12-23T20:55:03.688Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah.

Semi-related: This entire conversation has kind of wanted me to be able to see downvotes and upvotes tracked separately - I feel motivated to downvote the people who seem unnecessarily antagonistic to me, but I also very much want to see the upvotes showing solidarity with the complaint.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-04T12:07:07.070Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

downvotes and upvotes tracked separately

At present, they are. You can count the upvotes by looking at the point score. You can count the downvotes by saying quietly to yourself the number zero.

(Downvoting is currently disabled.)

comment by Raemon · 2017-01-04T16:20:39.103Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh right. :P

comment by gjm · 2017-01-04T17:10:29.405Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This doesn't work for old comments, of course, because downvoting hasn't always been disabled. Though if you hover your cursor over the net score it will give you a percent-positive figure, from which you can compute (provided it's not 50% positive, and only approximately in some cases) how many upvotes and how many downvotes. It would be better if it said how many up and how many down rather than what percent positive.

comment by jkaufman · 2018-10-26T17:57:21.583Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, you could compute it by adding an upvote and seeing how much it changed. Not that it matters now that we're on LW 2.0 and everything is different...

comment by Vaniver · 2016-12-22T19:04:19.600Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · LW · GW

As a further data point, I noticed Merlin fussing (during the second half, I think), but only because I was sitting about 20 feet away. It wasn't bothersome.

comment by Raemon · 2016-12-22T16:06:26.420Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

At the New York Solstice, we tried an experiment that got overall positive feedback this year, to address both children and "people who don't like the dark section of the night where it gets sad."

We divided the event into two sections, with a roughly 10 minute intermission (the intermission went longer for practical reasons - there were too many people who needed to use too few bathrooms). The first half was explicitly and completely childfriendly. The second half was "explicitly sacred, sad and dark", which would give parents judgment over whether it was appropriate for their kids, with an understanding that if their kid is making noise, they should take them to outside for a bit.

As it turns out we only had one 3 year old who was pretty well behaved (might have been taken out of the room on occasion by her grandmother, I wasn't sure).

I asked people what they thought about the intermission afterwards on the anonymous feedback form, and answers have mostly ranged from "great!" to "eh, I wish it wasn't necessary but it was - I wouldn't have thought to get water if it wasn't there."

comment by Anders_H · 2016-12-22T06:00:51.168Z · score: 4 (7 votes) · LW · GW

While I understand that some people may feel this way, I very much hope that this sentiment is rare. The presence of young children at the event only adds to the sense of belonging to a community, which is an important part of what we are trying to "borrow" from religions.

comment by dropspindle · 2016-12-22T06:28:24.694Z · score: 23 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I like having a community that supports children, but at the same time let's not close our eyes to the truth. If there actually is a child screaming throughout Solstice and running around rampant it will, in fact, ruin the experience. I don't know what the Bay Solstice was like, so I don't know if this was really the case or if it's an exaggeration.

comment by taygetea · 2016-12-22T07:22:46.163Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It was not an exaggeration.

comment by taygetea · 2016-12-22T07:22:12.969Z · score: 21 (14 votes) · LW · GW

From what I've seen, it's not rare at all. I count... myself and at least 7 other people who've expressed the sentiment in private across both this year and last year (it happened last year too). It is, however, something that is very difficult for people to speak up about. I think what's going on is that different people care about differing portious of the solstice (community, message, aesthetics, etc) to surprisingly differing degrees, may have sensory sensitivites or difficulty with multiple audio input streams, and may or may not find children positive to be around in principle. I think this community has far more people for whom noisy children destroy the experience than the base rate of other communities.

From what I've observed, the degree to which children ruin events for certain people is almost completely lost on many others. It's difficult to speak up largely because of sentiments like yours, which make it feel like people will think that I'm going against the idea of the community. For me, and I don't think I'm exceptionally sensitive, I think it removes between a third and half of the value of going to the event.

comment by ChangeMyMind · 2016-12-22T08:09:33.501Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I typically don't mind children being present at events (if taken outside if they begin screaming) and don't have particularly strong sensory issues. I imagine that people with either of those would have had an even worse time than I did.

comment by chaosmage · 2016-12-22T17:14:22.987Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

When I still went to church, there was sometimes a "children's service" that went in parallel to the church service. Young kids who couldn't sit still and their parents were strongly encouraged to go to that one instead. It was a small room far enough away, with the pastor's wife, and I presume they were singing and nursing and changing diapers.

When a little child attended the Leipzig Solstice two years ago, that's basically what we did. She and her parents had their own room for themselves where they could go when she became tired and fussy. That room wasn't really far enough away, though. But she was mostly quite happy with the Solstice and made us feel awesome for having her there. So I say children, when properly managed, are a clear boon to a Solstice.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-22T20:58:44.843Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But she was mostly quite happy with the Solstice and made us feel awesome for having her there. So I say children, when properly managed, are a clear boon to a Solstice.

I agree that having the child was a valuable participant at the Leipzig solstice.

I think it's also about respecting the child. Keeping a child who doesn't enjoy the event to the extend that the child cries the whole time at the event isn't respecting the agency of the child.

comment by Vaniver · 2016-12-22T19:00:35.311Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

While I understand that some people may feel this way, I very much hope that this sentiment is rare.

There are two sentiments here, that I think should both be common:

  1. Children are welcome at community gatherings.

  2. There are times when children should be quiet or absent.

Raemon's solution is a good one here, as is a norm of parents removing children when they get especially loud. (At this event that may have been less practical than normal, given that it was about 40°F outside, but may have been solved by having a designated children's room or something.)

comment by ChangeMyMind · 2016-12-22T08:07:25.064Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you that having community events be family events is a very good idea and am also fully against the idea of banning children. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between some children making some noise during an event and a single child consistently talking and throwing fits interrupting half of the entire presentation while their parents don't remove from hearing range.

comment by gwillen · 2016-12-22T07:09:54.525Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hm, I did notice a child -- I suspect and presume the same one you mean -- who made a number of loud comments during the performance. (That one couldn't have been Alicorn's, who is too young to make comments.) At least for the comments that happened while I was on stage with choir, I felt like they got a laugh from the audience, and I found the whole thing mildly entertaining. The rest of the time I didn't really notice them well enough to recall details. But I can totally see how they could be distracting and bothersome to others.

I fear, though, that -- if you feel that the event was truly 'ruined' by this -- it may be hard to find sufficient common ground between you and child-havers for both to be happy attending the same event. As a non-child-haver myself (and a non-child-wanter) who doesn't especially dislike children, my suspicion is that you are a significant outlier on the "degree of annoyance" spectrum? But I now find myself interested in data on this.

(EDIT: I just realized that it's possible that the child was much closer to you than to me, so we might have had different experiences that might color my views differently if I were sitting where you were.)

comment by taygetea · 2016-12-22T07:26:54.250Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Replied above. There's a strong chilling effect on bringing up that you don't want children at events.

comment by ChangeMyMind · 2016-12-22T08:17:16.477Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't normally mind children (if they are taken outside once they begin screaming loudly) and don't have strong sensory issues. I grew up in environments with plenty of children around, typically regarded most of their noise as more amusing than the people around me seemed to, and rarely minded them making noise since people were polite enough to take them outside if they were throwing a full tantrum. I typically expect this response from parents. Are cultural norms normally different in that regard in California?

I was sitting at the circular tables in the back half of the building. If you were in the front areas near the speakers then I would expect your experience to have been much better. For instance, if you could hear any of the first half of Ben Hoffman's speech then your experience was certainly far different from mine.

comment by gwillen · 2016-12-22T19:20:03.378Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Because I didn't perceive a significant disruption to the event, I was mentally bucketing you with people I know who severely dislike children and would secretly (or not so secretly) prefer that they not attend events like this at all; or that they should do so only if able to remain silent (which in practice means not at all.) I suspect Anders_H had the same reaction I did.

It sounds like the reality is that the disruption was much more significant in the back of the hall than the front, where I was sitting with the choir. It's hard for me to form an opinion on a qualitative question like this without having experienced it myself. But I now appreciate that probably for much of the audience, the distraction was more significant than I was giving it credit for.

I also believe I may have met the child and the child's parent at one point during the festivities, so I admit I'm reacting with a certain amount of defensiveness on behalf of a person who seemed nice enough when I met them in person, as to the complaints of someone I only know online. This is obviously to a large degree a tribal and not a rational response.

I guess that, contra taygetea below, my perception of some of the geek communities I have spent time with, which are made up primarily of non-child-havers, (not this one specifically) is that children are generally disliked and their parents are expected to take any steps necessary to ensure that they don't inconvenience anybody who doesn't have children themselves. But I think this may be down to a few loud and prickly individuals, combined with held-over feelings from before my peer group started having children, which are now dissipating but at a variable rate.

comment by ArgleBlargle · 2016-12-24T08:23:25.268Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I was sitting quite near the front (second row) and the disruption was enough to make me want to leave the event. I could not hear much of Ben Hoffman's speech at all, despite him being about 30 feet from me making it, and the child was taken upstairs and then ran up and down the balcony creating thumping noise that overpowered the speeches and songs. The interruption during Brienne's speech was the most heartbreaking. This was not comments or funny, this was yelling and screaming, and then not being removed.

The child was then taken to the afterparty,with dozens of drinking, carousing adults, after midnight. The whole thing with this kid ruined much of solstice for me (for personal reasons as well, because the child was an individual source of stress in her barely mitigated behavior toward me), and I adore children. I have been a teacher, a nanny, a counselor, and I hope to be a parent. I will not keep a child of mine who is fussing in an event where said fussing ruins the experience for others. We traveled to the Bay to attend Solstice, and I was extremely disappointed.

comment by Anders_H · 2016-12-23T17:36:32.640Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Because I didn't perceive a significant disruption to the event, I was mentally bucketing you with people I know who severely dislike children and would secretly (or not so secretly) prefer that they not attend events like this at all; or that they should do so only if able to remain silent (which in practice means not at all.) I suspect Anders_H had the same reaction I did.

Just to be clear, I did not attend Solstice this year, and I was mentally reacting to a similar complaint that was made after last year's Solstice event. At last year's event, I did not perceive the child to be at all noteworthy as a disturbance. From reading this thread, it seems that the situation may well have been different this year, and that my reaction might have been different if I had been there. I probably should not have commented without being more familiar with what happened at this year's event.

I also note that my thinking around this may very well be biased, as I used to live in a group house with this child.

comment by Bakkot · 2016-12-28T05:54:59.511Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Without commenting on the merits and costs of children at Solstice or how they ought to be addressed:

Having attended the East Bay solstice both this year and last, it was my impression that there was significantly more noise made by children during parts when the audience was otherwise quiet this year than there was last year. My recollection is hazy, but I'd guess it was maybe three to five times as much noise? In terms of number of distinct noisy moments and also volume.

This year I was towards the back of the room; last year I was closer to the front.

comment by gwillen · 2016-12-24T21:01:09.400Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Self-reply: After reading other comments and replies to me, I'm updating in the direction of believing that I'm unusually tolerant of child noises, for someone not possessed of children myself.

comment by Kindly · 2016-12-22T02:33:57.027Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Extremely unlikely that people exist that aren't weirded out by Solstices in general but one song lyric is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

comment by itaibn0 · 2017-01-04T01:09:14.416Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Straw that breaks the camel's back" implies the existence of a large pre-existing weight, so your claim is a tautology.

comment by Kindly · 2017-01-07T16:49:53.241Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, I think I meant what I said. I think that this song lyric can in fact only make a difference given a large pre-existing weight, and I think the distribution of being weirded out by Solstices is bimodal: there are not people that are moderately weirded out but not enough to leave.

comment by mindspillage · 2016-12-23T06:48:35.019Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The recent East Bay solstice was my first one. (I'm not usually enthusiastic about rituals or very large social events where I don't know many people--but I do enjoy singing with friendly people, so I came as part of the choir.)

I was pleasantly surprised by how not odd it was. It felt quite a lot like other ritual-type events I've gone to--church services, memorial events, formulaic holiday celebrations, etc.: much reinforcing of common themes for the group and reference to shared values and oft-repeated material. It was not as in-groupy as I expected--I could have imagined taking a friend who was not part of the community and not needing to explain much about it; it was mostly appealing to the broadest part of the community rather than deep insider references. (And here I realize I still count myself as in the community even though my recent involvement is mostly passive!)

I also appreciated the group activity of writing down meaningful encouragements and posting them on the wall: it gave a sense of who was in the room and the chance to show the best parts of themselves--and something easily visible to make conversation with strangers about during breaks. It did remind me of the sort of activity you might do at a company retreat, but the better kind! I wouldn't mind seeing that repeated.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2016-12-23T03:43:18.043Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Things that persistently work for me at Solstice:

  • Having it happen at all.
  • Group singing, particularly "Brighter Than Today" which has gotten to be pretty much the song of the season for me.
  • Acknowledging and working with dark themes — cold, danger, extinction, loneliness — and facing them as a community and as humanity. This is a big part of what makes Solstice work as a ritual for me. I'm going to come in vaguely mopey and anxious but glad to see people; completely break down crying at least once during the ritual; hug a lot of people; reconnect with a community I don't see nearly as much as I should; and have an awesome night.

Things that seem like areas for improvement:

  • Both events I went to this year had microphones cutting in and out. Even with experienced sound people involved, this still happens. It's easy for me to laugh off technical problems, but they still are disruptive.
  • The Berkeley event seemed to have a lot of extra food. It's much better to overprovision than underprovision, but the error seemed pretty high. I found myself wondering if the dinner aspect of the event wasn't well publicized.
  • Even with the suggested donation above the ticket price for the Berkeley event, the overall price was much less than I would be willing to pay. This is inefficient! Sure, I can add the extra to my end-of-year donations, but mumble mumble fuzzies and utilons mumble.

Things I don't like that didn't happen:

  • "X Days of X-Risk". It wasn't in the Berkeley program this year, and honestly I had kinda forgotten about it until seeing this post. I find "Twelve Days of Christmas" annoying for being repetitious, and "of x-risk" is too many consonants to sing. It wouldn't have ruined it ... but I will gladly take "When I Die" over "X Days of X-Risk" any day.

Things I am not worried about:

  • Cultiness. It is totally okay for Solstice to be the cultiest thing we ever do. It's certainly the cultiest thing I did all year.
comment by Raemon · 2016-12-23T05:44:57.006Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! Curious which events you attended? (I'm guessing Berkeley and Seattle, but wasn't sure)

comment by fubarobfusco · 2016-12-23T06:18:11.651Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Berkeley, and the Sunday Assembly one in Mountain View. I care more about the Berkeley one, and much of the reason I went to the other was to see what differences that group was doing with their liturgy. Much more sedate emotionally, although pretty energetic musically: they have a rock band instead of a choir; they opened with "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog". They still did "When I Die" and "Do You Realize?" though, and their venue allowed candles. Also, I think they have a running gag about playing "Wonderwall" that I didn't quite pick up on.

comment by Raemon · 2016-12-23T16:25:54.328Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh cool, glad to hear from someone who went to the Mountain View one - I'd be interested in any more thoughts/impressions you have on that. (I've talked to them and looked over their script/setlist, so I have a rough idea of what happened, but curious how it felt to someone familiar with LW)

comment by fubarobfusco · 2016-12-23T23:14:39.579Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure what else to add, but if I think of anything later I'll do so.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-22T13:45:55.498Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder what part of these worries is really about "weirdness points", and what part is related to the "status-regulating emotions".

I mean, maybe it's not just "we are needlessly weird, which could make people stop taking us seriously", but also "having songs that take our beliefs as normal is a bit higher-status than we can afford... someone is going to punch us just to make sure we know our place and don't disrupt the social order".

comment by Error · 2016-12-21T19:25:00.902Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In-jokes (and in-not-jokes) can signal both inclusion and exclusion; there's a difference between "you won't get this, you're not part of our group," and "you don't get this? Let us show it to you." Relevant XKCD.

In my own experience, people don't mind in-jokes as long as they feel like you're letting them in on the joke.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-12-21T18:36:11.216Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And my impression is that people are only really weirded out by these songs on behalf of other people who are only weirded out by them on behalf of other people.

Coincidentally, I was thinking today about whether people upvote some LW articles because they felt really useful for them, or just because they believe they could be useful for other people. Another instance of a similar problem.

(Specifically, I was considering writing an article explaining some more or less high-school math. Because... well, people have random blind spots, so maybe this could actually help someone. It's an experiment, and I would get feedback in form of upvotes, right? And then I was like: oh crap, people could actually upvote this article even if it wouldn't be useful for anyone, just because everyone would be like: well, this is all obvious for me, but someone else will probably benefit from reading this.)

Is there a general solution? I guess in our culture, you could just tell people "please now express how you feel about the issue, ignoring your prediction of how other people will feel about it". Or perhaps create a poll containing options in the form of "I feel X, but I predict other people will feel Y".

comment by Raemon · 2016-12-21T18:45:37.524Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'll leave you wondering whether I upvoted this because I thought this comment was useful or I just someone else would have thought it was interesting. :P

comment by eukaryote · 2016-12-24T07:32:47.412Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Comparative solsticeology: I helped organize the Seattle Solstice, and also attended the Bay Solstice. Both were really nice. A couple major observations:

The Seattle Solstice (also, I think, the New York one) had a really clear light-dark-light progression throughout the presentations, the Bay one didn't - it seemed like each speech or song was its own small narrative arc, and there wasn't an over-arching one.

Seattle's was also in a small venue where there were chairs, but most people sat on cushions of various size on the floors, and were quite close to the performers and speakers. The Bay's was on a stage. While the cushion version probably wouldn't work for a much larger solstice, it felt intimate and communal. (Despite, I think, ~100 attendees at Seattle. Not sure how many people came to the Bay one, ~150 marked themselves as having gone on Facebook but it seemed larger.)

comment by Raemon · 2016-12-27T18:34:02.421Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

Yeah, it's a really frustrating problem that once Solstices cross 75-attendees or so, it becomes increasingly hard to preserve the intimate feel. You either need to spend a lot of effort transforming a big empty room into an arbitrary space, or you need to find a space that feels more intimate somehow.

comment by Elo · 2016-12-27T19:44:31.292Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As a suggestion - to maintain the small feel - divide into smaller groups. Possibly while in the larger hall, be divided into groups for groupier-close-feel. Think about dunbar's group size numbers. We need small tribes to feel close and connected to people.

comment by Raemon · 2016-12-27T20:04:29.331Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the Bay aimed to do that (or something similar) by having small tables people could sit at.

But the issue is more about the practicality of setting the sort of environment that feels cozier. I.e. with less than 50 people, you can fit in a living room, which means you have couches and it naturally feels right to cuddle on the floor, etc. Whereas in a big hall, unless you bring in a lot of your own couches, pillows, etc, and then arrange them artfully on the floor, and have a space for the songleaders to stand that doesn't feel like a stage... it's going to be hard to produce the feeling no matter how you divide people up.

comment by username2 · 2016-12-22T22:53:19.412Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I really enjoyed the main East Bay solstice! Thanks to everyone who put it on.

I found it slightly off-putting that one of the performers seemed to take lots of joy in using lyrics different from those displayed on the screen. I can definitely see how this might be an honest error, but that's not how my gut felt. I felt like I (and the other audience members) were being very implicitly made fun of by not being allowed to know what lyrics would come next during the sing-along. I suspect that this sort of status game is negative sum, since lots of audience members can feel put down by it, while Critch is the only one who really benefits.

Other than that, I generally enjoyed the musical parts, and greatly appreciated the performers :)

comment by TodesBrot · 2016-12-23T20:27:19.378Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can ensure you, as someone who was tangentially involved in the organizing, that it was not intentional. Just a failure to coordinate between the people who created the slides, and the people who modified the song.

comment by gwillen · 2016-12-23T23:05:02.751Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think Critch was just trying to make light of an awkward situation not of his making -- at least for some of the disagreeing parts, he was clearly working from written notes that differed from the written slides on the screen (not just making it up as he went).

FWIW I had the same impression you did initially but I think it wasn't accurate.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2016-12-22T00:00:56.714Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do people think that the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner at baseball games here in the US represents inappropriate ingroupiness? How about buying a sweater with my university's logo and cheering for their team at a football game?

It seems to me that ingroupiness has both costs and benefits. Ingroupiness facilitates the creation of group-wide public goods, promotes within-group cooperation, improves collective decisionmaking, makes it easier to accomplish large projects, satisfies the human need for community, etc. I wish there was a little more awareness that this is not a one-sided tradeoff.

comment by Error · 2016-12-21T19:26:30.787Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I asked this in the open thread, but maybe it's more likely to be noticed here: Are the solstice events recorded and/or streamed? I've wanted to go but I'm too far away.

comment by Raemon · 2016-12-21T19:43:34.688Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The Bay Solstice is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIRMTydvSnw&feature=youtu.be&t=2h6m20s

And I haven't finished uploading the NY Solstice but you can check out one song for now:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmKx-NQ6iWU

comment by Jiro · 2017-01-03T21:26:20.804Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And my impression is that people are only really weirded out by these songs on behalf of other people who are only weirded out by them on behalf of other people.

Be careful, though. How much of that is really "only weirded out on behalf of other people", and how much of it is "weirded out themselves, but think it would be more socially acceptable to claim to be weirded out on behalf of other people"? After all, being weirded out yourself may signal that you don't want to be part of the group. Being offended "on behalf of other people" is a way to express your offense while trying not to signal the wrong thing.

comment by Raemon · 2017-01-03T23:15:55.095Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Definitely possible - I was careful to follow this up with 'if this does actually bother you I definitely want to know about it' and I did mean that seriously.

I haven't gotten ZERO personal concerns over it (I think I've gotten about one and a half complaints about When I Die, which is dramatically fewer complaints than I get about other aspects of the Solstice that are less juicing controversial)

comment by Jiro · 2017-01-04T04:54:58.774Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can't necessarily get someone to act as though a signal isn't a signal by saying "I won't count it as a signal".

comment by Raemon · 2017-01-04T16:26:59.427Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe. (If you have a suggested solution to that issue, let me know)

But honestly I don't think your interpretation is that likely. a) most of this feedback is on anonymous forms, and the people who I talk to in person I talk to enough to get a pretty comprehensive understanding of their concerns.

b) This community in general does not seem to have a problem criticizing itself.

I think it is much more likely that people are made uncomfortable about whether it is socially acceptable to unironically enjoy x-risk memes and risk being judged by people outside or less involved with the Less Wrong community, than to be uncomfortable for personal reasons and then fear being judged from within the x-risky elements of LW.

comment by WalterL · 2016-12-28T19:57:32.495Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like you shouldn't worry about songs that are getting a good reception potentially offending someone. Bad songs will bomb. Good songs will stick around.

Censors are canny. They figured out a long time ago that "Don't you dare free speech in that way because I order you not to!" wasn't a winner. So we moved onto "Don't you dare free speech in that way because it harms me in an unverifiable way", and then to "Don't you dare free speech in that way because it may at some point potentially harm someone, possibly".

Counterspell is if they really cared about speech hurting people they wouldn't be telling you not to sing, since after all that is speech and might potentially hurt you or someone else at some future date in some unspecified way. They are fine with that (and other songs that they aren't objecting to), because they don't actually believe that songs/speech hurt people. They just don't like the song, and are using a ruse to try to get you to fall in line by hijacking your "don't hurt people" belief.