Which subreddits should we create on Less Wrong?

post by lukeprog · 2013-09-04T17:56:33.729Z · score: 24 (25 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 78 comments


  Idea 1
  Idea 2

Less Wrong is based on reddit code, which means we can create subreddits with relative ease.

Right now we have two subreddits, Main and Discussion. These are distinguished not by subject matter, but by whether a post is the type of thing that might be promoted to the front page or not (e.g. a meetup announcement, or a particularly well-composed and useful post).

As a result, almost everything is published to Discussion, and thus it is difficult for busy people to follow only the subjects they care about. More people will be able to engage if we split things into topic-specific subreddits, and make it easy to follow only what they care about.

To make it easier for people to follow only what they care about, we're building the code for a Dashboard thingie.

But we also need to figure out which subreddits to create, and we'd like community feedback about that.

We'll probably start small, with just 1-5 new subreddits.

Below are some initial ideas, to get the conversation started.


Idea 1


Idea 2


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by shminux · 2013-09-04T18:35:45.366Z · score: 45 (47 votes) · LW · GW

What happened to holding off proposing solutions?

Main is useless to me as is. As I mentioned a few times before, it should be replaced/supplemented by a "highly rated"/"greatest hits"/"best of LW" section, whether generated automatically based on post's karma or updated manually once a day or so.

Also, instead of/in addition to subreddits, you can create a list of approved tags/keywords a poster is forced to select one or more from, which trigger notifications to these busy people, or to anyone else who subscribes to notifications.

comment by cousin_it · 2013-09-04T19:27:11.014Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding both proposals.

About tags: I like them more than subreddits because you can have several tags on a post, adding new tags doesn't fragment the audience, and you can add tags to existing content retroactively. For example, tags on MathOverflow work really well.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-09-04T18:47:12.138Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

create a list of approved tags/keywords a poster is forced to select one or more from


Especially given how this is orthogonal to splitting things up into subreddits.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-09-04T19:43:39.636Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Second this. Stuff happens on Discussion now, and in the Open Threads - this may be the phenomenon where the leading edge is the one with the lowest barrier to entry. Main is scary.

Of course, lower barrier to entry also means more garbage. Hence the up and down things.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-09-04T23:51:13.919Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There exist many "best of" lists, manual and algorithmic.

"Promoted" is a "best of" list; you probably just don't like the taste of the promoters (eg, meetups). The front page "featured" articles are best of the archives. Much of main is moved from discussion by the author in response to audience encouragement (but another part of main is going to be demoted to discussion). There is a list of top scoring articles of the week or month or other periods [1]. Hot is a smoothing of the trade-off between recency and votes, but the version for main is busted; anyhow, it doesn't let you control how recent you want the posts, the way "top" does.

[1] click on "filter" to choose another period.

comment by KnaveOfAllTrades · 2013-09-06T19:54:39.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

These might be good substitutes in theory, but it's possible that they are not prominent enough on the site to be good practical substitutes, insomuch as people just don't know about them. That would probably be quickly and easily fixed by editing front page / sidebar HTML, but as it stands.

More generally, I (and I gather others) find LW somewhat kludgey, un- or outright counterintuitive, and time-consuming to familiarise oneself with. As such, responses like 'There's a workaround for that, you know' are not entirely satisfying.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-09-04T19:54:30.267Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Replacing Main with Best of LW might work, though it would require more programming work.

The trouble with tags is that it's hard to make sure people use them properly and consistently.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-09-04T20:19:38.675Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

The trouble with tags is that it's hard to make sure people use them properly and consistently.

That's why you don't let users invent tags of their own but enforce a unified premade dictionary.

Also I know at least one website which lets people with sufficiently high karma retag posts of others -- that should be helpful with fixing problems.

comment by KnaveOfAllTrades · 2013-09-06T19:48:03.729Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's why you don't let users invent tags of their own but enforce a unified premade dictionary.

Then it's still hard to make sure people use them properly and consistently; even with admin-specified tags, those tags can be applied inconsistently by post authors such as to deflate the specificity of the tags or shift their meaning.

Also I know at least one website which lets people with sufficiently high karma retag posts of others -- that should be helpful with fixing problems.

I think maybe the reason Luke is specifically suggesting changing the subreddit partition is because this requires a one-off, upfront, unusually small (compared to other LW improvements) investment of time. High-karma folk (re)tagging is riskier because it puts an ongoing burden on a small number of people, introduces more opportunity for drama and disruptive disagreement, and very probably introduces other issues.

comment by peter_hurford · 2013-09-07T13:10:07.459Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

it's still hard to make sure people use them properly and consistently

Isn't that risk equally present with subreddits (i.e., people choosing the wrong subreddit)?

comment by Metus · 2013-09-04T23:24:07.768Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In addition to all the other yay-sayers I want to express my approval too. "Main" is useful for high-quality content but it is useless with its current distinction between "promoted" and not. "Discussion" is full of stuff I do not care about or only very little, as is the case with "Main". Tags + "Best of" solve both problems nicely. For the tags take a predefined dictionary and users with high karma count have the ability to re-tag.

That way I can subscribe to the topics I actually care about and do not have to read about meetups on the other end of the world or some nuance of effective giving of money I simply do not have.

Oh and nice catch of the holding off solutions stuff.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2013-12-04T19:10:37.633Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding both proposals (get rid of main, use tags instead of subreddits).

The defining difference between a subreddit and a tag chosen from a list of approved tags is that any particular article can belong to zero or more tags whereas it must belong to exactly one subreddit. I know that the way involving tags incurs a higher implementation cost, but if being like Reddit is as high as LW is going to aim, we might as well not bother.

I'll add another proposal: which "bin", subreddit or tag an article goes into should not be reflected in the URL. The current practice in which some URLs have /r/discussion in it while other articles do not is an example of what this proposal suggests we get away from doing.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-09-04T19:41:05.166Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Tags would be nice to have, but it sounds like they'd be much, much more expensive to implement, so I'm not getting my hopes up. Unless someone knows of an implementation built on reddit code?

comment by cousin_it · 2013-09-04T21:20:27.197Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

LW already has tags, e.g. this post is tagged "meta". They're just not very prominent in the UI.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-09-04T18:36:29.251Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

With an increasing number of subreddits, have an "all" subreddit for those who want to check for overall new content, without clicking on each subforum in turn.

All - Main - Technical - Repositories - Meetups - Misc

comment by Alejandro1 · 2013-09-04T18:43:56.423Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with shminux that keeping Main as a section one can post to is useless. I would have as places where one can post: 1) Theoretical rationality, 2) Applied rationality, 3) The Future, 4) Meetups, 5) Misc.

Then make it that ordinary posts above a certain high karma threshold (e.g. +20 or +30) get automatically Promoted to the front page, in addition to community-important things like a periodic list of meetups and, possibly, other posts at the discretion of the mods. Having Main as a separate section only causes this pointless self-callibration game in which people have to evaluate whether their posts are good enough for it, often failing and requiring posts to be moved from Main to Discussion or vice-versa.

comment by PECOS-9 · 2013-09-04T18:35:04.158Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I was about to ask whether it would be difficult to include something like /r/all (i.e. the ability to view posts from all subreddits without having to visit each individually), when I tried just editing the url to http://lesswrong.com/r/all, and sure enough, it works (it shows posts from both Main and Discussion)!

Is this functionality documented anywhere? Also, is it possible to view just the post titles on /r/all, without the full text?

Edit: Yes, it is possible to view just post titles: http://lesswrong.com/r/all/recentposts/

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-09-04T21:26:58.467Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I exclusively use /all and I know quite a few others do too.

comment by Dahlen · 2013-09-04T22:33:06.887Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I remember having read a discussion about this in a recent open thread; there was one particular response which I liked. Give me a moment...

Later: Found! User sixes_and_sevens asked people to think of eight categories in which to divide LessWrong. Emile came up with the following list:

  • Self-improvement, optimal living, life hacks
  • Philosophy
  • Futurism (Cryonics, the singularity
  • Friendly AI and SIAI, I mean, MIRI
  • Maths, Decision Theory, Game theory
  • Meetups
  • General-interest discussion (biased towards the interests of atheist nerds)
  • Meta

(If you liked the suggestions, you could go upvote his post instead of mine.)

My own minor correction to the list would be to merge Futurism & FAI into one category, and perhaps do the same with Philosophy and Math, Decision Theory, Game Theory etc. (so as to have all the theoretical stuff in the same place -- the Sequences, for example, could go here), but other than that I agree with it.

As for Main, perhaps we could implement reddit's recent & all-time best submissions lists, sorted by karma, percentage of upvotes, or a combination of both. An entire subreddit devoted to posts worthy of promotion seems not only unnecessary as long as we got a karma system, but a potential source of drama. As it is right now, users who wish to make a post are basically asked whether they believe they're about to make a great post or not, and their choice invites others to judge whether they were being appropriately humble. (I don't think it's a mystery for anybody why sometimes "moved to Discussion" mod posts get so many upvotes.) I think it's rather excessive to invite these considerations into the picture; just wait and see how much karma the post gets and that's it.

ETA: If you do split up LW in multiple subreddits, would that mean that all past posts would have to be re-categorized? Or would they be archived, so as to avoid the tedium that recategorization would involve, and start afresh with the new categories? Or perhaps you're thinking of keeping some analogue of the Main and Discussion categories, and transfer all past posts to their respective categories, while the new (non-Main, non-Discussion) subreddits that would be created would start out empty? (Judging by the structures of both ideas proposed in the OP, I'm inclined to believe the third hypothesis.)

comment by PhilGoetz · 2013-09-04T21:43:39.885Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this makes sense unless Main becomes only articles that have been promoted. Otherwise, it excludes any of the topics listed from being promoted.

And if Main becomes only articles that have been promoted, it would make more sense to have promotion be a filter on each subreddit, rather than its own subreddit.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-09-04T18:02:18.276Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Technical Discussion (on math, physics, algorithms, and so on) would be a nice addition that isn't quite satisfied by either "Epistemic Rationality" or "Applied Rationality". Would be a great forum for discussions like the recent result in probabilistic set theory.

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2013-09-05T04:13:27.812Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Technical" overlaps with most other topics worth discussing, though. It could work well as a Core Tag for shminux's idea. Especially if it were possible to filter for everything that lacks a tag. E.g. '+(decision theory), -(technical)' finds the non-technical decision theory posts.

comment by shminux · 2013-09-04T18:36:09.376Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Second that.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-09-04T23:42:21.478Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'd be interested in an explicitly casual/off-topic subreddit - a place to discuss non-LW-relevant things with LWers. Not sure if "misc" captures this or not.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-09-05T00:22:54.720Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To get the sort of posts that appear in the off-topic sections of forums, I think there'd have to be a specifically off-topic section, in addition to miscellaneous-but-relevant. It feels like there's some pressure in this community (though it might be only my perception - I don't think anyone is trying to pressure people) to keep posts to a high standard, so we'd need to explicitly make a place where it's okay to talk about cat videos and minor life events and the weather if we wanted to be able to talk about that. (Though there are probably other ways of indicating that it's okay to go off topic - after getting it started, having off-topic threads that don't get downvoted might be enough.)

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-09-07T08:58:18.414Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Reddit /r/lesswrong exists.

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2013-09-07T05:34:58.656Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would prefer not to have an off-topic subreddit. I fear that it would attract the sort of people who aren't as interested in the core topics here and ultimately dilute the quality of the community.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-09-07T05:46:03.088Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps make it only visible to registered users?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-09-08T04:18:41.855Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps make it visible to everyone, but require a certain amount of karma (or a certain account age, or something) before you can post there?

comment by Vaniver · 2013-09-06T15:03:49.950Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

As terms, I like "Applied Rationality" more than "Instrumental Rationality" and "Epistemic Rationality" more than "Normative Rationality." As collections of topics, I think the collections outlined in Idea 2 ('perceiving reality' vs. 'achieving goals') are better.

Like many others, I think that having "Main" as a separate subreddit is a bad idea. I think there should be an explicit and prominent link to "all," and it would be awesome if you could see promoted posts both by subreddit and across all subreddits.

I think we may want to tune the karma multipliers. Actually, is it possible to tune karma modifiers for comments by subreddit? I've noticed that comments on technical topics tend to get only a handful of votes- because the issues get less traffic- but they're often comments I wish I could upvote five times, because of the effort and expertise the comment represents, and the precision with which it addresses the issue. Treating technical posts on decision theory as more weighty than posts on futurism strikes me as something worth considering. (This might also help with the problem drethelin raises, of keeping technical discussions higher quality by making upvotes and downvotes way more serious, but I'm not sure it's the right way to do that.)

It seems like using the 10x multiplier for promoted posts, regardless of original subreddit, might be a good idea, and we could also have a 0x or 0.1x multiplier for subreddits people might otherwise not like to have. Giving people karma for saying "hi! :)" in a social subreddit doesn't seem like a good idea, but people getting to see a lot of upvotes on their greetings in a social subreddit seems like it might be a good idea. In the xkcd forums, there's a "forum games" section which does not contribute to total post count.

comment by pslunch · 2013-09-05T05:36:57.274Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

As an irregular consumer of LW, a fine grained sub system would be fantastically useful since, without having to sort through a lot of posts, I could scan the last couple of weeks or months of submissions on topics of interest.

But, rather than determining categories first, it might be useful to do rough counts of number of articles on a given topic, posting frequency, etc. You want to make sure that you have critical mass before you split things apart. Given this, as other people have suggested, retaining an "All" category, especially for the front page, seems very useful.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-09-05T03:09:14.988Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Since it is relatively easy to create/delete subreddits, I recommend creating a few, and then making another similar thread to reassess the results.

Also, I think it would be good to have a social subreddit, where the point is to make friends and have more relaxed fun.

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2013-09-04T18:53:06.529Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Rationality
  2. Self-improvement
  3. Effective altruism
  4. The future
  5. Misc.

The rationale for having a separate section for posts that "might" be promoted escapes me, so I have omitted that subreddit in my proposal.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-09-07T19:27:21.655Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Open Threads, Media Threads, Rationality Diaries -- these are so obviously different from the remaining posts, and they already have a strong tradition, so I believe there should be one subreddit for them (for all the repeating threads together).

More meta: The subreddits should reflect a difference that already exists. One should be able to move the existing articles into the new subreddits. (Moving them would be useful to show readers what exactly is expected where. I don't expect admins to move thousands of articles, just perhaps the last month to create the momentum.) For example, if you have an idea for a new subreddit, but you can't list articles from the last two months that would belong there, then this subreddit most likely shouldn't be created. So as a sanity check, before really creating the new subreddits, we should list specific articles from the last month or two which should be moved to each of them. (Unless we implement the topics using tags/keywords.)

comment by drethelin · 2013-09-05T06:48:00.083Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

a Hpmor subreddot seems the most obvious to me.

An actual mathematics/logic/decision theory that's heavily moderated like stack-exchange seems like it would be useful for the people who can hack it and useful to separate from the regular stream of content when trying to attract further mathematicians. Is it possible to limit posts to certain subreddits to only those with vetted privileges?

A "stupid questions" or "questions about the sequences" subreddit could be useful for new people as well as to further discuss old but interesting material.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-09-07T08:59:07.343Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Reddit /r/hpmor does this job quite well already (and you'll see LW regulars there).

comment by Coscott · 2013-09-06T23:57:09.476Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree about Hpmor. I think that discussion of hpmor on lesswrong will and should die down after the story is finished.

comment by drethelin · 2013-09-06T23:58:45.709Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Then you seem to have missed the entire point of HPMOR even existing.

comment by Coscott · 2013-09-07T00:13:20.274Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

After further reflection, I think you might be right, especially since people can just not follow that subreddit. r/hmpor is currently popular, and it could be good for lesswrong if we could get that moved here.

comment by Coscott · 2013-09-07T00:23:18.602Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

By "good for lesswrong," I actually meant "good for people who could use lesswrong." I am not sure whether or not the effect on the content is positive.

comment by drethelin · 2013-09-07T00:34:07.792Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it makes the content less generally useful but more generally fun.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-09-06T09:32:09.379Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW


  • There's already a fragmentation issue -- If you're reading "Main" the "Recent Comments" only shows you the recent comments in "Main", if you're reading "Discussion", the "Recent Comments" only shows you the recent comments in "Discussion". I've no idea what the Search function actually retrieves and whether it works across subreddits. Until such is fixed, or until an "All" functionality is visibly added, be careful about splitting the forums further.

  • I feel your division between "epistemic rationality', "instrumental (or normalive) rationality" and "the future" is bad and would cause people to freeze up when deciding where to post what.


  • SCIENCE ( Discussion of Math, Science, Decision theory, thought experiments, etc, whether LW-produced or discussion of outside research -- the place that the actual mathematicians and computer science theorists would be participating in)
  • SOCIAL (Meetups & any discussion of other real-life LW community activities (e.g. holiday rituals, housing arrangements) goes here)
  • MEDIA (The monthly media threads would go here, and so would HPMoR, Friendship-is-Optimal, all other LessWrong-inspired fanfics discussion -- but we would now encourage the more easy creation of threads that discuss specific authors, novels, movies, webcomics, SMBC, xkcd, etc. LW regulars would be encouraged to advertise and seek feedback for their own fiction).
  • OPEN (A merging of "Discussion" and "Open threads" - every topic that doesn't go anywhere else, and where barrier to entry is low. )
comment by linkhyrule5 · 2013-09-05T22:40:59.095Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

One suggestion I saw that I liked was promoting the Open Thread to a subreddit. Maybe combining it with the Stupid Questions Thread - so that there's one place for beginners to figure out what to post and stumble around while they work through War and Peace^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H the Sequences.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-09-04T19:41:47.895Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I would really like the final result to contain a subreddit for Effective Altruism and a subreddit for Self-Improvement/Instrumental Rationality/Applied Rationality/whatever we're calling it today.

comment by luminosity · 2013-09-06T08:41:57.753Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted as I don't think Effective Altruism is broad enough to justify an entire sub-reddit if we're still sticking to a small overall number.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-09-08T04:20:57.502Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is that an appropriate use of downvoting? Ben_'s comment seems to contribute to the discussion.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-09-08T08:48:21.133Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In general, I don't think that you should downvote for mere disagreement. This thread feels somewhat different, though, since people are making suggestions of what they'd like to see implemented on the site and up/downvoting those suggestions acts as an easy way of estimating the amount of support that a suggestion has.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-09-08T08:50:19.036Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My impression was similar. I would interpret a downvote of a suggestion here to mean "I don't want this feature implemented on the website" not "You are doing something bad, stop it.".

comment by KnaveOfAllTrades · 2013-09-09T09:08:46.665Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW


I think a two-dimensional vote (usefulness, agreement) instead of the current single dimension ('upvote'/'downvote') would be a good thing for LW to consider.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-09-09T09:16:27.175Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(There is a difference between disagreement and someone being wrong; with disagreement you don't understand very well where your own position comes from.)

comment by Nornagest · 2013-09-06T09:09:05.916Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's a narrow subject, but it gets a lot of attention here, especially in recent months: a scan through the recent activity in Main suggests somewhere around a tenth of top-level posts are related. That's a pretty good chunk and it doesn't fit too cleanly into any of the other proposed categories, so giving it its own subreddit might not be a bad idea.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-09-04T19:37:55.738Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good idea! I am glad you're making improvements. I like the idea of starting with a small number of subreddits. Hooray for incremental change!

comment by Lumifer · 2013-09-04T18:59:25.364Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Spending 60 seconds of thought onto it... :-) I'd suggest

  • Main
  • Mind (what's inside your head: biases, self-improvement, mind hacks, etc.)
  • World (what's outside your head: actual reality, how it works, how to deal with it, etc.)
  • Tools (queries, suggestions, reviews, etc.)
  • Tech (technical forum dealing with probability, statistics, math, programming, etc.)
  • Social (meetups, etc.)
  • Misc (the overflow bucket)

plus more specific subreddits:

  • AI
  • X-risks
  • Cryonics
  • Whatever else is both specific enough and popular enough to deserve a subreddit
comment by wedrifid · 2013-09-05T07:47:53.892Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

*Applied Rationality: for articles about what Jonathan Baron would call descriptive and prescriptive rationality, for both epistemic and instrumental rationality (stuff about biases, self-improvement stuff, etc.).

  • Normative Rationality: for articles about what Baron would call normative rationality, for both epistemic and instrumental rationality (examining the foundations of probability theory, decision theory, anthropics, and lots of stuff that is called "philosophy").

I like the this way of dividing concept space, hate the name. People already conflate "normative" issues with 'rationality theory' with such things as "Is it rational to evangelise vegetarianism?". Additional priming with the word 'normative' would be unhelpful. The use of that word with that meaning is borderline at best anyhow and unless the jargon is already overwhelmingly dominant to the extent that you can't fight it there is no need to adopt bad names for things.

The word 'applied' is often complemented by the word 'theoretical'...

comment by Ishaan · 2013-09-04T22:23:49.486Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The categories of stuff on LW as I perceive them (in no particular order) are:


-Values and ethics (human, utilitarian, alien, or otherwise)

-Game Theory (subset of instrumental rationality)

-Epistemology (epistemic rationality)


-Effective Altruism (Givewell, 8000hours, meta charity)

-X-risk reduction

-investment in far future

Personal Development


-Fighting Akrasia (procrastination, motivation, willpower)

-optimizing your organism (body, mind, nootropics, supplements,exercise, etc)

-good habits and heuristics (especially organization, decision making)

-tools and educational resources

-bias recognition and reduction

Self Referential

-about Lesswrong and associated blogosphere

-book reviews and views of various philosophers

-rationalist fiction, especially hpmor

Checking back, they line up well with yours.

However, as someone who is interested in all of these things, for me a more pressing problem is: how can we collate past content so that it will be easy to access now? There are a lot of great posts that aren't in the sequences, that I don't want to spend lots of time digging through and finding.

I think most people interested in one LW topic tend to be interested in others, so I'm not sure how much creating separate subreddits will improve anything.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-09-14T13:03:15.657Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One step more meta: Should we create subreddits for topics that are discussed there, or rather for the style of those articles? An example of style could be a "Research" subreddit, where you post an article only if the statements it contains are referenced (or if it is self-contained original mathematical research).

An example of a division based on article styles could be:

  • Announcements
  • Research
  • Best articles
  • Articles
  • Discussion

Official announcements = announcements about MIRI or CFAR activities, progress reports, advertising for effective charities, etc. Written by people from MIRI or CFAR, or by people who have their blessing to do so.

Research = trustworthy articles with references. It is okay if they are written in a less boring style and for a wider audience than the usual scientific articles (this is a blog, isn't it?), but if you say that "X is Y", you better provide some suport for that.

Best articles = no one posts their articles here. The articles here are the selected ones from the following subreddit:

Articles = you wrote a piece of text expressing an idea (not merely a question). It goes exactly here.

Discussion = all the regular threads; plus the articles that merely invite people to discuss a specific topic.

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2013-09-10T08:46:32.919Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because of overlaps and ambiguity, I wouldn't feel confident choosing a subreddit for a lot of posts I could see myself writing. And I think I've gained a pretty good understanding of most of the categories people have proposed. Someone newer to the site would probably be strongly discouraged from posting by having to figure out which of these arcane categories they belong in. I think that's a bug and not a feature; the kind of new person we want to discourage is the kind who's less thoughtful and cautious about categorization dilemmas.

I think shminux's idea of having 'moderated tags', and some easy method for seeing only the tag combinations you're interested in, is clearly superior to having ordinary subreddits. It's just too difficult to decide where best to place things, when you have to pick exactly one category. Meetups might be subredditable, but I don't think it really matters, whereas topic-based tags could have a very big impact on the site's interface. My suggestion would be to use these six topics to organize the site's content:

  1. mathematics: logic, model theory, proof theory, programming, physics. The formal sciences in their more technical, pure, or distanced-from-the-human-condition manifestations. How can we more precisely formalize our general world-view and decision criteria? How can we preserve such formalizations across iterated modifications by the modified algorithm?

  2. rationality theory: economic theory, game theory, decision theory, probability theory, epistemology, bounded rationality and cognitive biases. Relatively abstract discussion of idealized decisions and beliefs. Preferences (mostly) aside, how would an optimal agent behave? And why do humans fall short of these agent-neutral ideals?

  3. value theory: meta-ethics, normative ethics, fun theory, aesthetics, moral psychology, psychology of motivation. Discussion of the nature of human preference. What makes something a preference of ours, how can we determine this, and what features distinguish human values from other possible values?

  4. altruism: human rights initiatives, animal rights initiatives, charity evaluation, moral psychology (applied). Applied ethics and economic aid interventions. How can we most efficiently concretely benefit humanity? What specific projects deserve the most attention, and how can we get more people to attend to them?

  5. self-improvement: decision theory (applied), probability theory (applied), cognitive biases literature (applied), productivity experiments. Original research and applied scientific discoveries for individual growth. How can we best combat our own biases, ignorance, and general deficits of fun and achievement?

  6. future studies: projection, risk assessment, life extension, technology news. What major events will happen in the near and far future?

There could then be two more categories, 'Promoted' and 'All', and a feature for customizing a feed of just the tag combinations you want to do and don't want to see. I think 6 or so topics is a good compromise between the virtues of lumping and splitting, and these are probably the most natural large breakdowns between LessWrong topics that wouldn't require a philospohy degree to understand. Other topics I considered, but currently don't think we should add (as 'canonical', closely monitored and hosted on the main page):

  • introductory: Stuff that's intended to be useful and accessible to laypeople outside LessWrong.
  • education / outreach: Like 'introductory', but more meta.
  • technical: Stuff that's expected to not be useful to people without some interest and/or expertise in formalisms. Lots of easy math, or a fair amount of hard math, without very much to be gained by skimming the English.
  • off-topic / community: Miscellaneous. The stuff that shows up in 'all' but isn't in another category.
  • education / outreach
  • physics and cosmology: Doesn't seem like a topic LW is super committed to focusing on, so I imagined mostly confining this to Mathematics. Some stuff, e.g. on the Great Filter, may belong in Future Studies.

What do you think? I could categorize LW's most recent posts on this system and see what the test run would look like.

comment by philh · 2013-09-06T13:10:31.801Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like the idea of the various LW meetup groups having dedicated subreddits, instead of organizing elsewhere (usually google groups).

You can't interact with a subreddit through email, so some people would dislike that. But I prefer to interact with subreddits than with google groups, and I assume I'm not alone there.

comment by somervta · 2013-09-05T03:36:41.184Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

+1 to 'Technical' (Math, Decision Theory, Physics, etc)

+1 to promotion from all subreddits

+1 to Main as "Best of", or just getting rid of Main.

+1 to MIRI/FAI/Singularity stuff as a separate subreddit from EA stuff

Also, several historical posts have spanned multiple topics - some thought to a solution to this would be useful (this is the only reason that I might support keeping Main.)

The distinction between "Rationality theory" and "Rationality Practice" is what I think most people are getting at with Life improvement/Self-Improvement/Instrumental Rationality/Applied Rationality, regardless of the technical uses of those terms.

Another option is Links as a separate subreddit - the community norm here of prefacing with 'LINK:' is great, so an extension to a subreddit would be natural. Same goes for meetup announcements.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-11-06T22:19:53.865Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm way late to the party and I haven't read the comments yet but here's my idea; the goal here is to more trying to target types of readers rather than types of subject matter, which makes more sense pragmatically given the goal is people having to read less:

Main - things everyone need to see.

All - automatically generated taking everything from everywhere and redirecting.

Articles & Sequences - the same kind of stuff you see in Main, except lower barrier of entrance, and no meetups

Entertainment - discussion threads for rationalist fiction, quotes threads, anecdotes, media recommendations, etc.

Maths & Original research - the cutting edge stuff that many people might not be able to follow, and making assumptions about more background knowledge. The stuff MIRI employees can learn from.

Discussion/Misc - current Discussion and everything that doesn't fit elsewhere.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-09-08T04:22:53.301Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I'd really like a subreddit, or at least a tag, for articles that are directly and straightforwardly applicable to everyday life. Ones that say, "here's a problem that lots of people have, and here's how to solve it".

comment by Coscott · 2013-09-07T00:05:33.593Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like idea 1 much better than idea 2. I can't imagine a person who would read articles on instrumental rationality but not epistemic rationality. However, I think there are people on here who care about the applied rationality but not normative rationality and vice versa. This doesn't really apply to me, since I will be reading everything anyway, but I think that Idea 1 is both more useful for readers and more easy for posters to decide where their post should go.

I would however create a few more distinctions in Misc. I think that Meetup posts should get their own subreddit, since there are people who are just not interested in going to meetups. I also think that open thread and the ask a stupid question thread should be their own subreddits, since they get so much activity. I would make the list:

Main: As above, but it should contain only promoted posts.

Applied Rationality:As above

Normative Rationality: As above

The Future: As above

Open Discussion: What would have gone in the open thread

Ask LessWrong: A combination of ask a stupid question, and possibly some polling of opinions

Tangible Life: Mostly meetup posts, but also job openings etc.

Misc: Everything else

If this idea is rejected because people prefer fewer subreddits, I think it is still a good idea to start with a list of many subreddits, then ask the best way to combine some of them with misc or with each other.

comment by cousin_it · 2013-09-04T19:20:46.346Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like tags more than subreddits, because you can have several tags on a post, adding new tags doesn't fragment the audience, and you can add tags to existing content retroactively. MathOverflow is a good example of a site where you can follow tags as if they were subreddits. Maybe we just need to make tags more prominent on LW, e.g. have a list of tags as the main navigation, and make them mandatory for new posts?

Also, seconding the suggestion that posts should be promoted to Main from Discussion, not directly posted to Main.

comment by Epsilon725 · 2013-09-12T06:39:03.291Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This may sound odd, but could there be a subreddit for competitive video games and rational strategies/playstyles?

comment by KnaveOfAllTrades · 2013-09-06T19:40:43.495Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

1) Main/Eliezer-cluster: Epistemic rationality, FAI, cryonics, futurism, transhumanism, etc.

2) Instrumental & Skills: E.g. Be Specific, The Five-second Level, Fermi Estimates, How to Measure Anything, nootropics, Effective Altruism, how to dress, RATIONALIST TOOTHBRUSHING

3) ITL (In Tangible Life): Meetups, events of interest to the community, job openings, house/apartment openings/organisation

Keep Promoted, and have it draw from every subreddit.

The only thing I recall that might not obviously fit into one of these especially is HPMoR. I'm not bothered by HPMoR frenzies so don't really mind, but I gather that for every subreddit, some would find it frustrating to have HPMoR in that subreddit.

comment by KnaveOfAllTrades · 2013-09-06T21:10:21.125Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I should add: The main advantage for me of changing the subreddit partition of LW is to encourage a greater range and specificity of content; at the moment, I think some stuff I'd like to see is discouraged by the Main/Discussion partition. An example would be LWers picking a specific thing (a lifehack or specific self-improvement skill, say) and having a thread to post their progress, observations, and research. This seems like it's currently acceptable in small amounts, but I think the level of such posts that would be most conducive to communal self-improvement would be frowned upon under the current partition; many would consider it spammy/obnxious.

comment by BaconServ · 2013-09-28T03:46:06.204Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

With the exception of these two comments, all suggested splits are nonsensical; the lines used for division are unclear and the sections created serve no real purpose. If your goal is to promote growth, evolve into categories. As it stands, most of these suggestions would just split an already fragmented community.

I do notice a pattern among the suggestions though; people would like to see MIRI-centric stuff filtered out. To whoever is in charge or LessWrong, this is liable to seem like a bad thing, like it will exacerbate an existential concern, like the very act of allowing the premise to be considered is immoral, even. (I'm sure at least one MIRI Fellow feels that way.) This could not be more patently untrue; lack of advancement of rationality is what's making the threat worse. Sectioning MIRI off makes it easier to focus on. Yes, it creates the potential for it to be specifically ignored, but with the existing community, that's simply not going to be the case. Let's face it: This site is MIR's masturbation blog. Sectioning off the MIRI parts allows other parts to take root and grow. This is the growth that is needed most. You don't want MIRI to dominate any section of subsection of LessWrong in any way. It will dominate inevitably, exacerbating the effect can only impede growth. By chance, people coming to LessWrong for the non-MIRI parts are liable to become aware of the threats MIRI preaches, achieving the critical effect, but that won't happen without the initial growth.

And now, to shoot that idea in the foot, I propose further category growth: I have spent considerable time thinking about the nature of discussion and how to improve and facilitate it. The answer is: Factions. Even on major points where I disagree with MIRI, I would be willing to stay silent if it would mean having a subsection where I, and others like myself, could advance the goal we see fit to ensure the best possible future for everyone. That's right: Not only am I recommending you take a step back, I'm recommending encouraging your own competition.

My seed proposal:

  • MIRI, The Future, and X-risks. (Currently: Main)
  • Post-MIRI (That cabal I'm working on.)
  • LessWrong (Currently: Discussion.)

Note that this is entirely upside-down with how things currently are. That is intentional. Why do you think I'm bypassing MIRI if not for its completely upside-down and backwards way of suffering the exact same problems as everyone else?

Viva la evolution!

It's like you guys reject the premise that things improve post-revolution in this one specific way, because, while actively acknowledging you can't predict the future, you still think you understand it best. I'll give you a hint as to why: The people you're looking for have been raised to know better than to trust anyone who comes looking for them.


This is just another dumb post by another loony with strong opinions. Showing awareness of that sure isn't evidence enough for me to overcome my cognitive biases, especially not if this guy has the gall to mention them to me in my own paraphrased internal monologue.


Wait, what?

Nah, it's just a trick. Let's just go do what we set out to do. What are the actual odds we're wrong? Certainly, with all the evidence we've collected, there is only one Bayesian measurement/conclusion. It's not like we only collected the data we wanted to see.

Then again...

Maybe I'm being too harsh. You're only human, after all. Feel free to make mistakes.

comment by hairyfigment · 2013-09-28T04:06:25.516Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In the interest of avoiding inferential silence: the fucking Hell are you talking about? Pretend MIRI never existed and explain to me why I want this "post-MIRI" website you speak of. (Let's say that, eg, CSER still exists and still lists Stephen Hawking among its advisers.)

comment by BaconServ · 2013-09-28T05:34:31.090Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for avoiding inferential silence!

I apologize for any confusion: My comment is rather directed at the ones running LessWrong, because I am all too aware that people in charge are more or less entirely incapable of legitimately taking criticism from a crowd. That is; I intended to stand out in a way that can't be ignored by the mindset of a manager who happens to value rationality. (Also I was in an extremely jaded mood when I wrote that. <.<)

It's not that you should want such a thing, it's rather that, if MIRI understood online community evolution, they would want to encourage the existence of such things. I wouldn't expect to get my own special "subreddit" (not the same as a website) for only me and people that understand me well/agree with me, and I'd probably refuse such an offer if it was given. If MIRI never existed, there could be no such, "MIRI simply isn't good enough," subsection. MIRI is useful as an organization because CSER wasn't good enough. In the same way, I don't see MIRI as nearly good enough to accomplish its goals of ensuring a positive future, so I see fit to evolve past it and create a better organization. Whether anyone can provide such a thing or not, would you not be interested in seeing something more advanced/effective/useful than MIRI?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-29T18:38:21.386Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I doubt this will be seen, since I came across this late, but I think the most valuable thing for the Less Wrong community would be private subreddits for various caucuses that are underrepresented in the population of LW.

This would include:

  • Women
  • Global majority/People of Color
  • Queer/LGBT
  • Neurodiverse/Differently abled

This would:

  • Seed more projects like the LW Women's post series
  • Provide support when the main LW community is abrasive/insulting/alienating to people from various groups

It would be important that these subreddits be private, and that access only be granted to people that have verified their identities somehow with moderators. On Reddit, subreddits that attempt to be safe spaces are relentlessly harassed by people who don't think those spaces should exist, and they become exactly the opposite of what they've set out to become.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-02T16:31:00.716Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If such a subreddit for non-Americans was created I'd be curious to take a look at it, though I don't know if I'd stick around.

  • Queer/LGBT
  • Neurodiverse/Differently abled

I'm not sure these are underrepresented on LW -- for example, 13.8% of respondents on the last survey were homosexual or bisexual, whereas most figures here are in the single digits.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-29T19:41:17.254Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why is this the most valuable thing?

That is, I understand the benefits you're estimating, I'm interested in your thoughts about why those benefits provide more expected value than the expected costs, and why the net-benefit of this set of subreddits is higher than other sets?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-02T01:25:30.185Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, in my opinion this is the best single action a LW admin could take, because I think the tacit sexism and racism on LW prevents most humans (who are neither white nor male) from taking the teachings of Yudkowsky seriously, and I think that fixing the representation problem would go a long way towards solving that. Once the global majority are able to take LW seriously, it'll spread much faster, and the world will become more rational.

All the other suggestions I saw previously were just ways to split up existing discussion on LW by categories, whereas this will hopefully bring new people and types of discussion to the community.

I also think that this has near-zero costs besides some moderator effort. Parts of the LW community will be irritated by the idea of spaces that exclude them, because they're white men who have never been excluded, but in the long run, those people aren't very valuable to LW, because they serve to alienate people who aren't white men, and most people aren't white men.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-11-02T13:07:43.638Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK. Thanks for clarifying.

comment by palladias · 2013-09-04T18:05:13.250Z · score: -3 (11 votes) · LW · GW


Yes, yes, not an exhaustive list of all possible preferences, but...

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2013-09-04T18:49:11.773Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why don't you wait until other users at least get the chance to submit their proposals? Luke said that these were just "some initial ideas, to get the conversation started."

comment by palladias · 2013-09-04T19:18:13.992Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Didn't mean to cut off conversation or preempt other comments. Just to get a sense if people had strong preferences that they wanted to express but didn't feel like making short comments for "I like #1." The comments that feel most productive make some kind of critique or tweak, so just "Yeah, this sounds fine" can be lost.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2013-09-04T19:12:50.161Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I prefer Idea 1. I think "Normative rationality" should be called "Theoretical Rationality" instead. "Normative" just indicates that it's something you should do, which applies equally well to "Applied Rationality".

I think the problem with Idea 2 is that Instrumental Rationality and Epistemic Rationality and pretty closely intertwined, on both the Applied and Theoretical sides.

I also think that MIRI and FAI stuff should most of the time be filed under "The Future".