↑ comment by Mirzhan_Irkegulov ·
2016-04-05T14:43:09.108Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Exactly. It's like how classrooms are supposed to work. I'm much more motivated to engage with this post, then those that simply state a certain truth. If an article simply explains a certain mechanism, I'll read it, say “yeah, that makes sense, I agree with this”, close an article and completely forget about its contents. It's like article wasn't effective at all, even though it's technically correct.
I think this post's style combines 2 things: gamification and the fact that you can't learn math without doing exercises. Gamification because it's like solving a logical puzzle, it's fun, and it's also not too hard so that I give up immediately, and not too easy, so that I actually spend some time thinking. And the exercises, well there's a reason why Khan Academy or simply doing exercises in textbooks is crucial to understand math, and it's the same here, I work back and forth, trying to figure out the answer, it helps understanding the idea better and remember it for longer.
I think there's probably a very deep problem with the Web, having to do with how people procrastinate and devote time/effort/flow to things. It may be that internet articles are super-ineffective and will always be, at least in a certain form. When you are on the Web, and you use your browser, you have lots of tabs open simultaneously, your "workspace" is cluttered. Facebook messages there, several interesting articles here. And the computer itself, even if it's a laptop, it's not something you can easily manipulate in the same way you can a book.
So when you read some interesting article, you usually aren't in a state of flow. And even if you are in a flow, you aren't in the mood that says "I'm doing something serious and I should put much intellectual effort into it". Therefore reading a book online is infeasible, but reading some short engaging and humorous article is. When I say infeasible I mean most of the time when we are behind the computer screen, we're in the context, where we don't feel like or don't expect ourselves to concentrate heavily and not distract ourselves.
So articles optimize for clickbaity headlines, easy read, shortness. They adjust to lack of concentration and unwillingness to actively work on the reader's part. And then you read an article, find it interesting and insightful, and its contents are completely washed out from your brain 5 minutes later. Even if the article contained actually valuable knowledge and was technically correct.
There's a deeper thing going. First, recognition is not recall: just because you go "O! I know that! This makes total sense!" doesn't mean you gonna actually remember it. Second, people are very good at pattern-matching. So good, actually, that when they gain new information, they jump to conclusions and think "Your thing X is like the thing Y that I already know or heard of". The moment they prematurely equate two different phenomena based on superficial similarity, they stop paying attention and thinking, because they think they already understood it.
Suppose there is an article with condensed, yet correct and without omissions, information, for example a self-help advice. And there's an equivalent book with the same self-help advice, but it's verbose, long-winded and not necessarily easy to read. I suspect that on average the book will be more effective, not simply because of length or other properties, but mainly because people read books in certain contexts and moods, where they expect to put effort and concentration, where they expect themselves to be in a state of flow. If that is true, maybe we should rethink the whole writing and reading articles on the Web business.