Why aren't there more forum-blogs like LW?

post by Stabilizer · 2013-09-27T07:28:09.092Z · score: 11 (18 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 28 comments

LW has a unique format. It is a forum-blog.

It is not a forum in the traditional sense. In traditional forums you cannot have long, essay-like posts (technically you can, but somehow the culture discourages it). Also, visually the top-level post appears separate and isn't similar to the comments. Like forums, you do have threaded comments and a karma system. Further, anyone who wants can register, post and comment. 

It is not a blog in the traditional sense. In most blogs only a select few can post. On LW anyone can create a blogpost, as long as it is somewhat relevant. There is also a notion of Main, where the moderators select the best posts. And the bloggers can aspire to achieve the Main standard.

I feel that this kind of forum-blogs can be very useful in many domains: math, physics, meditation, music, health and nutrition and so on. Of course, we'd need to assemble a high-quality audience who are not afraid downvote and also have good moderators. The problem of assembling a high-quality audience can also be done in LW fashion. Write a good blog for sometime and then convert the format of the blog to forum-blog. The advantage is that the new people who write posts have a guaranteed high-quality audience and are hence incentivized to post and make good posts.

So here's my appeal to people who already have blogs with a good readership: please consider converting your blog into a forum-blog in the style of LW. It will be a huge service to the community. If you do so, please don't be shy to moderate and select the best and treat them separately.

Or is there some other subtlety that I'm missing which is preventing the creation of forum-blogs? Or are there already forum-blogs out there and I'm just not aware of them?

EDIT: In reply Randaly's comment, I appeal to LW's masters: please consider releasing an open-source toolkit that allows the creation of blogs based on the LW format.

EDIT: David_Gerard points out that LW's source is open.

28 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-09-27T11:28:12.278Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that LessWrong runs on the Reddit platform.

That platform is in Python with some plugins that aren't easy to install. It's not like installing Wordpress on your Php based hosting.

The platform is also structured in a way that makes it hard to update the code in case of bugfixes because you have to make custom code change for your own website.

If you wanted a solution that get's widely used the best way would be to write a Wordpress plugin.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-09-28T03:51:14.214Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

http://bleacherreport.com/ + http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ + http://seekingalpha.com/ are all part of the new wave of "forum blogs". They don't seem to take the LW approach of shaming people in to quality... instead, they seem to encourage the production of lots of content and then build filtration mechanisms on top of that. (IMHO, Less Wrong's moderation is overly harsh and just having upvote/downvote buttons gets you 80% of the way there without encouraging your users to use them. But, others have told me that they get REALLY PISSED OFF when they see things on Less Wrong that seem stupid, to the point where just a few persistently wrong regulars can turn them off the site completely. This is an outlook I have a hard time empathizing with.)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-09-28T15:05:15.003Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think the harshness of LW is related to the difficulty of the topics. Debating quantum physics is more difficult than debating sport news -- less experts, more myths. (And we care about getting the correct result, where "correct" is defined as "corresponding to the territory", not as "which makes my tribe happy".)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-09-30T01:40:21.719Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

http://www.kuro5hin.org/

Kuro5hin has been around since the early days of the internet. There are other forum-blog hybrids out there as well. As for why they haven't taken over the internet, I think it takes a very specific type of topic and community for one to grow naturally. The forum-blog approach is well suited to applied philosophy, but I'm not sure what else.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-09-30T14:03:56.534Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Kuro5hin in its current state is a really good example of just how this format can degenerate once the main content contributors lose interest and go elsewhere.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-09-28T11:30:27.037Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One large difference yet to be mentioned is the existence of the sequences as a frame of reference.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-09-28T14:11:02.620Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When Eliezer started blogging on OB, he didn't have the Sequences yet, he was just writing them.

So maybe the new site could also start from zero, and the administrator could write an authoritative article when needed. Perhaps put those articles into some special category, like "site rules". And then, hyperlink them whenever the rule is broken again (repetition helps remembering).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-09-28T15:10:06.378Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When Eliezer started blogging on OB, he didn't have the Sequences yet, he was just writing them.

When Eliezer started writing them OB was a standard blog where only a select few could post.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-09-28T23:37:39.203Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd recommend spreading the burden of articles, to avoid the cries of "It's a phyg!"

Karma voting could perhaps be extended with an option for "recommend for archive" or "recommend for top level post".

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-09-29T09:46:33.972Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Still, only the trusted reasonable people should be able to write "site rules" articles. Otherwise there is a risk that every "Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism" article will be balanced by at least three "Freedom of Speech: Why Any Downvoting Or Moderation Is Evil Censorship" articles.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-09-29T11:57:34.198Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you call it recommendation you can have some trusted people just go through deciding whether or not to follow them.

comment by Andreas_Giger · 2013-09-28T10:26:50.584Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are forums with popular blog sections, e.g. teamliquid.net which also features a wiki. There are also forums that treat top level posts differently, e.g. by displaying them prominently at the top of each thread page. None of this is really new.

On the other hand, I feel that in some regards, LW is too different from traditional forums, like that threads are sorted by OP time rather than the time of the last reply, which makes it very difficult to have sustained discussions in these threads because they stay hot for a few days, but afterwards people simply stop replying, and at best you have two or three people continuing to post without anyone else reading what they write.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-09-27T11:19:46.973Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

SETT is a way to create a similar framework that's easy to use.

comment by Omid · 2013-09-27T07:52:17.085Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What about Reddit?

comment by Stabilizer · 2013-09-27T07:55:40.482Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The culture of Reddit seems to be discouraging long essay type posts. Further, Reddit did not have the evolutionary pathway of LW. Nor does it have good moderation.

comment by Nectanebo · 2013-09-27T13:22:05.083Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Nor does it have good moderation.

I don't think this is accurate as a blanket statement, since moderation quality and policy differs between subreddit to subreddit, with significant variation.

comment by Randaly · 2013-09-27T07:33:17.108Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

please consider converting your blog into a forum-blog in the style of LW.

This strikes me as somewhat technically difficult: AFAIK, there's no equivalent of Wordpress for Reddit's source code.

comment by Stabilizer · 2013-09-27T07:37:08.055Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Then my appeal to LW's masters: please consider releasing an open-source toolkit that allows the creation of blogs based on the LW format.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-09-27T07:49:58.794Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The source is on Github. It's open source (under the whacky licence Reddit chose, but it's OSI-approved).

comment by Stabilizer · 2013-09-27T07:54:49.854Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Awesome!

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-09-27T11:00:00.052Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Alternatively, someone could write a new software with those parts of functionality that contribute to LW success. The most important part is the karma mechanism; all other parts are just "nice to have" and can be added later. You need the karma mechanism... and a good community with rational moderator.

So if the LW source code seems too difficult for some people, creating a new code (possibly in a new programming language) remains an option.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-09-28T15:37:49.237Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I feel that this kind of forum-blogs can be very useful in many domains: math, physics

Are you aware of mathoverflow and physics stack exchange?

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-09-29T11:53:45.793Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Staxk exchange is designed to prevent discussion and instead have straight question and answers. Especially for essays it's a bad architecture choice.

comment by pragmatist · 2013-09-28T16:45:28.839Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Those are not blogs, though. They're pretty much straight-up forums.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2013-09-28T05:36:02.508Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The unusualness of LW may be self-reinforcing. You start a forum, or a blog, and can count on people arriving to it knowing more or less what to expect based on other forums or blogs they've read, as appropriate. As a weird hybrid... honestly, I've was an Overcoming Bias reader before LW existed, and I still don't feel totally comfortable with the format. So that's a disincentive to create more weird hybrids.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-09-28T00:10:20.492Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Launching a neuroscience blog is on my to-do list - although it's currently in the idle-daydream-planning stage.

I, too, looked at Lesswrong's reddit-blog hybrid format and thought it was awesome and worth imitating. However, I don't have the technical skill make any forum let alone a reddit hybrid, nor do I have a good estimate concerning how long it would take to figure it out. I also don't have any idea how to deal with spam and stuff.

Here's an intermediate coding-noob friendly solution I've been considering, inspired by the existence of reddit.com/r/hpmor

Rather than a traditional comments section, you make a subreddit devoted to your blog. You post all blog posts on the subreddit. The "comments section" consists of a hyperlink to the subreddit post. If any of your readers have anything to say, they can post on the subreddit. You can take the high quality reader posts from the subreddit and transfer them to the main blog, giving the poster credit. Reddit does all of the anti-spam stuff for you, and you just piggyback off the service. It's a mutualistic relationship - reddit assists with forum infrastructure, and your readers will become redditors. If readers is important to you, you might even get a little traffic from users cross-posting your stuff to other subreddits.

Again, this is idle daydreaming on a topic for which I have no experience, so it's completely possible that this is a dumb idea. If you know what you are doing and idea strikes you as incredibly bad or incredibly good, please do let me know.

comment by philh · 2013-09-28T13:54:23.122Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note that reddit closes comments after something like 6 months.

comment by ILikeLogic · 2013-09-27T21:51:08.042Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

SBNation.com blogs are like that. The main people write the main blog posts but anyone can post 'fanshots' (really short posts) or 'fanposts' (longer posts) and if the blog bosses think a fanpost is really good they can move it to the main section.