Testing the FLEDGE Prototype 2021-05-12T12:40:05.048Z
Massachusetts Tick-Borne Disease Distribution 2021-05-11T18:40:08.363Z
Massachusetts Lyme Reporting 2021-05-10T22:40:05.857Z
Peekskill Lyme Incidence 2021-05-09T19:50:05.931Z
Android Video with External Microphone 2021-05-08T22:30:05.778Z
Thoughts on Ad Blocking 2021-05-06T02:50:04.606Z
Why I Work on Ads 2021-05-03T21:00:05.618Z
Car Seats Three Across 2021-05-02T02:00:04.832Z
Vaccination and House Rules 2021-04-24T01:00:03.030Z
Six-Door Cars 2021-03-21T19:30:04.647Z
Sharing a Car 2021-03-17T13:30:04.654Z
Seatbelt Extenders and Booster Seats 2021-03-14T21:50:05.559Z
Making a Kingfisher Video 2021-03-14T01:40:05.812Z
The Cost of a Sixth Seat 2021-03-10T03:20:02.570Z
Car Thoughts 2021-03-07T21:30:02.430Z
Bakeoff 2021-03-07T01:30:05.751Z
Limits of Giving 2021-03-04T02:20:02.903Z
When I left Google 2021-02-28T21:40:05.426Z
Avoid Contentious Terms 2021-02-24T03:10:05.216Z
Failed Vegan Choux Experiments 2021-02-20T20:10:05.990Z
Shortcuts With Chained Probabilities 2021-02-18T02:00:05.283Z
Weirdly Long DNS Switchover? 2021-02-16T20:00:05.905Z
KAnon 2021-02-15T20:50:08.144Z
Bucket Brigade Updates 2021-02-14T03:30:05.919Z
Watching themselves 2021-02-12T22:20:06.159Z
We Need Browsers as Platforms 2021-02-09T15:40:09.452Z
History of the Public Suffix List 2021-02-07T22:20:06.229Z
Bring Back Free-Flow Valves 2021-02-07T03:50:05.645Z
Looking at RSS User-Agents 2021-02-05T02:10:06.551Z
Introduction to Heel-Toe Drumming 2021-02-04T02:00:05.915Z
Browser Audio Latency 2021-02-03T02:40:05.922Z
Vaccinated Socializing 2021-02-02T03:20:06.275Z
New Empty Units 2021-01-26T03:00:03.153Z
You can send people KN95s 2021-01-24T23:40:15.806Z
Lifelong investments 2021-01-23T03:40:16.398Z
Bets, Bonds, and Kindergarteners 2021-01-03T21:20:03.563Z
Bucket Brigade: Video 2021-01-03T02:50:03.370Z
Simultaneous Randomized Chess 2020-12-27T03:30:06.937Z
New Bucket Brigade UI 2020-12-23T20:30:03.185Z
Secular Solstice 2020 2020-12-20T23:20:03.863Z
Adapting to Means Testing 2020-12-18T03:30:05.793Z
Heel-and-toe drumming 2020-12-11T02:20:02.784Z
Switching to Google Calendar 2020-12-09T20:10:04.972Z
Velocity-sensitive electronic drum pedals 2020-12-08T20:20:04.762Z
Giving Tuesday 2020 2020-11-30T22:30:06.330Z
DIY Beaterless Drum Pedals 2020-11-29T01:20:02.842Z
Thanksgiving and Covid 2020-11-20T04:30:05.666Z
Debug Headers with GET 2020-11-17T03:10:05.949Z
Brigaded Rounds 2020-11-16T01:50:05.191Z
Sharding the Brigade 2020-11-14T03:30:06.652Z


Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Testing the FLEDGE Prototype · 2021-05-13T14:01:28.054Z · LW · GW

if the user is in groups id-8 and id-256 and id-2048, but not in groups id-1, id-2, etc., show banner saying 'Jeff, I know it's you

Except you can only target ads based on membership in a single group, not a collection. generateBid only receives one group at a time.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Testing the FLEDGE Prototype · 2021-05-13T02:38:20.249Z · LW · GW

No, that's quite different. You're talking about contextual advertising: showing ads to people based on information about the page they are currently visiting. FLEDGE is intended for remarketing: showing ads to people based on the pages they have previously visited.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Testing the FLEDGE Prototype · 2021-05-13T02:37:08.573Z · LW · GW

The prototypical use case is something like:

  1. You visit Amazon and add a blender to your shopping cart

  2. You visit the NYT, Amazon shows a blender ad to see if you want to come back and complete the purchase

Today this happens via third-party cookies, but with FLEDGE this would look like:

  1. On the Amazon page, when you put the blender in your shopping cart Amazon would call the FLEDGE API joinAdInterestGroup to add you to some sort of interest group.

  2. On the NYT page, their ad network calls the FLEDGE API runAdAuction, and includes Amazon as a buyer. Amazon gets to run JavaScript in an isolated context which can look at interest groups, see that you are in the prospective-blender-purchasers group and bid to show you a blender ad.

What you are calling "tags" would normally be called "user lists" or, in the language of FLEDGE, an "interest group". (And "tags" are something entirely unrelated: snippets of JS people put on pages)

The incentive to provide true information in the simple version is that the advertiser is leaving a note for themself.

(There's also a more complicated version, where an ad tech company makes some deals. For example, say ads.example contracts with a car website. On each page, the website includes some code from ads.example that adds users to ads.example:cars. Then, the ad tech company contracts with an advertiser, and agrees to target their ads to users who are in the ads.example:cars interest group.)

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Massachusetts Tick-Borne Disease Distribution · 2021-05-11T19:48:15.432Z · LW · GW

Right. I initially thought that this explained the difference, but when they count a case towards Nantucket they're only counting it if the person is a resident of Nantucket.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Massachusetts Lyme Reporting · 2021-05-11T18:59:58.320Z · LW · GW

This makes it sound like TickCheck is a neutral party here. TickCheck doesn't make money by providing the data to users but makes money by selling tests. It would be easy for them to give their visitors better data but reporting the data like this is a way to put pressure on MA to buy more tests.

Saying "there's not much Lyme in MA" doesn't help TickCheck, though?

Additionally, MA is still doing lots of testing. It is the statistics on clinical diagnoses they're not doing.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Massachusetts Lyme Reporting · 2021-05-11T18:34:50.092Z · LW · GW

Yes, this should be possible, and MA does it internally:

Tick-borne Disease Visit: International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision (ICD-10) query of the first three diagnostic codes assigned to the ED visit for: Lyme disease (A69.2), babesiosis (B60.0), anaplasmosis (A77.49), and other tick-borne diseases (A68.1, A68.9, A77.40, and A93.8).

See reports at

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Peekskill Lyme Incidence · 2021-05-09T23:45:21.834Z · LW · GW

Similarly, they have: "Each year, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to CDC by state health departments and the District of Columbia. However, this number does not reflect every case of Lyme disease that is diagnosed in the United States every year. Standard national surveillance is only one way that public health officials can track where a disease is occurring and with what frequency. Recent estimates using other methods suggest that approximately 476,000 people may get Lyme disease each year in the United States."

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-09T19:52:49.576Z · LW · GW

A potentially serious disadvantage of the Peekskill area, especially for outdoorsy or rural-life-enjoying rationalists, is that it’s tick country.

I looked into this more: Peekskill Lyme Incidence

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Thoughts on Ad Blocking · 2021-05-08T10:53:22.297Z · LW · GW

> To resolve this, it seems that one entity needs to own each "channel that distributes the ads", so all the damage is experienced by them

Where "channel" here is the internet? This sounds illegal, since the whole idea is removing competition

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Thoughts on Ad Blocking · 2021-05-08T01:05:29.183Z · LW · GW

> I am also disappointed with all the stupid things that Brave is doing instead of fully focusing on being the most safe, the most private, the least fingerprintable web browser.

If they did that, how would they fund their engineers?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Thoughts on Ad Blocking · 2021-05-07T20:57:22.643Z · LW · GW

> not adding a "I dislike" button and a little survey on their ads

Have you tried clicking the little "ad choices" button in the upper right hand corner?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-06T15:59:02.523Z · LW · GW

The current system makes the advertiser the judge

You mean the publisher, right?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-06T15:58:06.955Z · LW · GW

I'm still confused about what you consider to be pulled. If I click on a link within the model railroading site to their page about locomotives, would locomotive ads in the response be push or pull?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Thoughts on Ad Blocking · 2021-05-06T12:32:23.670Z · LW · GW

I agree that consumers and publishers (not advertisers) are opposed here, but there are also many participants who are not: browsers, regulators, industry groups. Having some people who are opposed doesn't make solving a coordination problem impossible.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-06T12:14:33.854Z · LW · GW

The primary cost of websites like lesswrong is not hosting fees, but developer time. By a huge margin. Are the aliens paying for that too?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-06T12:11:54.549Z · LW · GW

If I place ads for torture and snuff videos and some people decide to click on them while other people don't, is that a problem?

In that case I expect users to find viewing these ads incredibly unpleasant, on average, much more so than either the example I gave, or advertising in general?

(And almost all publishers would not be willing to work with an ad network that placed this kind of ad on their page)

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-06T12:09:55.933Z · LW · GW

banning 'push mode' advertising, and strictly only allowing pull modes

I'm not convinced I fully understand your distinction, let alone that we could codify it sufficiently to make it into law.

If you visit a model railroading site, are ads for model locomotives push or pull?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T23:40:23.984Z · LW · GW

ARPU for ads grows which is the point I am making. It grew from 0 to whereever it is now in 20 years

You're talking about how much one company was able to grow ad revenue, which not surprisingly went up a lot as the company learned how to do ads. At the same time, other companies saw a large decreases revenue per user: famously, newspapers used to make a huge amount of money from classified advertising. Instead, I would look at the growth pattern of total advertising spend per American.

Since average mortgage is only about $10k/year, I find it plausible to think of such ad-driven annual spend.

Someone poor enough to consider an ad-funded house their best option is not going to have a spending pattern worth $10k/y to influence.

Can we agree that ads-per search are certainly higher than 20 years ago when there were no ads?

Of course, but I don't see what point you're making?

their presentation is increasingly aggressive

Your link goes to a discussion of a change to search results which showed favicons for regular results. I again don't have any internal information on this, but from this looked to me like a change to make search results more informative. After objections, the change was rolled back.

Are you using an adblocker in your browser?

I'm not, and haven't, no.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T19:17:19.842Z · LW · GW

consider the very webpage you are on currently: no ads, no paywall

Less wrong is funded by donations. So is Wikipedia. I touch on this in the post, but I think a model where donations fund the operations of most sites, let alone most journalism, is far from practical?

if advertising was not an option (eg banned and enforceably so), what would the internet look like?

I had a crack at answering this from the perspective of what this would do to products a couple years ago: Effect of Advertising.

From the perspective of users, I think the internet would be essentially unusable unless you subscribed to a few standard services, which would then have harmful levels of leverage. This is the "You can sort of fix friction with bundling..." paragraph above.

if there was a better payment model for the internet (say, magical space-aliens commit to funding it entirely, as a joke), what would advertising as a business look like in that case?

I'm not really sure what your hypothetical is supposed to be? For example, if I start a news site and I want to employ journalists, will the magical space aliens give me as much money as I want for their salaries?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T16:25:12.686Z · LW · GW

Trading a house for ads may seem expensive today but it is only one order of magnitude difference taking median home price, fact that most people get it on 30 year mortgage and average ARPU for ads.

Ad funded houses really can't work, unless we figure out how to make housing much cheaper. An upper bound on the amount it can be worth to advertise to someone is the amount of money they spend, and in practice it's much lower.

what most your team collegues have as some sort of OKR

There isn't much I can say publicly on this, except that this is a huge misunderstanding of the business?

nowadays we have entire Google search results beings ads

A small number of searches where people tend to be about to spend a lot of money have lots of ads. The majority of searches have few to no ads. My interpretation here is that Google has gotten much better at figuring out when to show ads, and when it is not worth showing ads. Again, I don't have internal numbers, but I would be very surprised if ads-per-search today were higher than it was ten years ago.

Youtube plays a commercial every 30 seconds

Since my wrists got really bad I've started watching a lot more video, including YouTube. There is no way there's a commercial every 30 seconds; where are you getting that?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T11:00:39.526Z · LW · GW

Cars and houses aren't good examples: they're so expensive that the only way to plausibly fund them with ads (and it's not actually economically plausible) would be incessant ads.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T10:58:12.776Z · LW · GW

I think journalism is a good example here? Very few people can afford to self-fund that kind of research

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T00:55:43.558Z · LW · GW

a corporation is reading my letters to my wife (she uses Gmail)

Gmail announced they would no longer use the contents of email to target ads in 2017:

tracks my every movement (I use Android)

You can choose whether to have location tracking enabled, though? I have it on, because I like having a record of where I've been and I trust Google to handle this information securely, but I could turn it off if I wanted.

keeps a detailed log of maybe half of the web articles I have ever looked at (depending on what ads they serve and whether I used a blocker)

That's what the second half of the post is about: a project I'm working on to serve targeted ads without letting advertisers know all the sites you visit.

With advertising, if I accidentally click on the link, I already paid. ...even if 3 seconds after opening the page they regret having clicked on the link, the ad was already shown, the author of the page made the profit

Mostly not. Advertisers know whether their ads were viewed and aren't especially interested in paying for ads no one sees. If you read the whole article the publisher will have many more "viewable" ads than if you click "back" right away. Similarly, if you go back right away you're probably not going to click on ads.

Another big force behind clickbait is that platforms like Facebook will see a click as evidence that the link is interesting, and show it to more people.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T00:42:47.011Z · LW · GW

Sorry, what I was trying to find out was whether Dentin was opposed to even this maximally sympathetic case. Like, is their view idea that commercial persuasion is fundamentally unethical, or that it is typically unethical in practice?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T00:40:33.821Z · LW · GW

It sounds like you're talking about ads on search results? I work on display ads and don't know very much about the search side of things.

I don't have any internal information, but some thoughts on the examples you're listing:

  • Scammers placing ads is harmful, though not unique to advertising. The article you link describes a similar issue happening in the phonebook era. It's very hard to tell from this sort of investigation how well a service is doing at avoiding abuse.

  • "Google Ads are regularly hijacked, such that they present or as the destination, but lead to a fraudulent website" Is this actually common? Looking at your link, it's hard to tell what happened in that case but I think it was probably an open redirect on

  • I'm not able to find any examples of ads against "MapQuest" searching on my laptop or phone in a couple different browsers; you don't happen to have screenshots?

  • "It's in the best interests of Google for the consumer to click on an ad, not a search result. So even if Google has the best search result, it's goal is to get the consumer to click on the ad." This misses that there's enormous value in giving users a good experience long-term, where they keep coming back.

But again, I know very little about this kind of advertising, since I work in a completely separate part of the industry.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-04T17:48:16.244Z · LW · GW

There's no way the ads I would have seen in a site over a period of one month would have generated $20 for the site, so trying to charge me $20/month is a no start.

When you switch to a paywall model, you have to accept that you're going to lose a large portion of your readers, which means you need to charge the remaining ones a lot more, no?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-04T17:45:50.593Z · LW · GW

You pay with contributed labor value

A small amount of non-expert labor is just not worth very much? Like, Amazon Turk pays famously poorly.

What if instead, occasional contributions to updating the map was the price for using it?

I could imagine a world in which that was part of using the map, but it's hard to imagine one in which it is a substantial portion. There are so many monetary costs to running a mapping site that you need some form of money coming in.

What if more online resources worked on a torrent-ish model where those accessing it contribute to hosting it for others?

Bandwidth is generally a small portion of the cost of running an online service. For example, the budget of this site (LW) is so overwhelmingly engineering time that they mostly don't worry about the cost of servers, let alone bandwidth.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-04T17:38:42.624Z · LW · GW

I'm not working on adding constraints, I'm working on adapting advertising to constraints proposed by browsers (primarily Chrome). Perhaps this is the same, since if advertising could not be adapted to the constraints you might end up with weaker constraints, but I do want to clarify that I'm on the ads side not the browser side.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-04T17:36:58.266Z · LW · GW

creates more good in the world and pays about the same

I think it's pretty unlikely that I could be paid more working for another company given my preferences (I want to stay in Boston, I want to work a reasonable number of hours, I don't like working remotely). I think my pay would be about the same if I switched within Google Cambridge, so that's possible, though I like my team a lot and there's a replaceability argument.

Did you have something specific in mind?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-04T12:00:57.199Z · LW · GW

The way online ads are currently monetized relies on personalization. This means that online ads create a strong incentive to track people, and to harm people's ability to have privacy online.

You might be interested in the second half of the post, starting with "But the biggest issue I see people raising is the privacy impact of targeted ads..."?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-04T00:38:14.182Z · LW · GW

its entire purpose is to alter people's mental state without their permission

I think that's the core of our disagreement? Here's an example I think is about maximally sympathetic: in non-pandemic times I help organize a contra dance. There are people who would like our dance, but don't know contra dancing exists, don't know that they would like it, or don't know about our dance in particular.

If I place ads, and some people see them and decide to come to our dance, do you have a problem with that? Or is it that you think most advertising doesn't work that way?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-04T00:33:23.715Z · LW · GW

I don't think this is a very good model for subscription services. Consider Netflix: they don't do ads at all, subscription only. But they still optimize for watch time and other engagement metrics, because they're very good proxies for retention.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Vaccination and House Rules · 2021-04-24T20:35:51.625Z · LW · GW

Fearmongering. There's nothing sensitive on the card.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Vaccination and House Rules · 2021-04-24T01:52:25.565Z · LW · GW

Added a link from the post!

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Decision Auctions aka "How to fairly assign chores, or decide who gets the last cookie" · 2021-04-01T01:24:55.014Z · LW · GW

If we yootle for repainting the spare room and I bid $1.2k to your $1.5k, we should probably just hire a painter.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Six-Door Cars · 2021-03-23T19:03:18.133Z · LW · GW

A minivan loses a 2nd-row seat for access to the second row.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Sharing a Car · 2021-03-21T16:12:21.923Z · LW · GW

They reviewed a draft for this post over email, which seems reasonably close?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Sharing a Car · 2021-03-20T21:24:44.498Z · LW · GW

We had previously borrowed their some car some, more informally, and reimbursed them approximately based on what it was worth. The main change here, though, is moving to a system where we can use the car without asking first, which is pretty useful to us.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Sharing a Car · 2021-03-20T21:23:23.973Z · LW · GW

What part do you think we are overthinking? For example, I think it is important for us to be on the car's insurance, and I think it is important for us to figure out a good system for who uses the car when.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Sharing a Car · 2021-03-20T20:47:07.621Z · LW · GW

I think placing this trust in our housemate is justified, given how well we know them and our level of community overlap.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on The Cost of a Sixth Seat · 2021-03-13T12:14:50.186Z · LW · GW

since most bigger cars with a full second row also have a collapsible third row anyway (at least as a premium option)

Not in the US; here that's mostly only fancy European imports.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on The Cost of a Sixth Seat · 2021-03-12T01:51:29.425Z · LW · GW

I don't think it would be legal for me to be in the front seat at all at the ages I was sometimes sitting in the middle front seat

At least in Massachusetts, there aren't actually any restrictions on children riding in the front seat. They strongly recommend that children don't until age 13, but it's not the law:

I imagine rear crumple zones also have some sort of increasing minimum requirement.

Maybe? But three-row SUVs are not especially long vehicles? For example the Volkswagon Tiguan is 185"; compare to a Toyota Camry at 192".

you will now have 3 cars at your house, and 2 off-street parking spaces, meaning your house will require an on-street parking space

Our driveway does fit three cars, but unless they are interchangeable that's a lot of hassle. Currently, one of our housemates uses the driveway and the other parks on the street; I think we would use the inner driveway space.

I think you've had your house about 5 years, and have said you plan to have it a long time. If even your family previously car-averse is likely to have a car for half or more of the time you are in the house...

Why are you only counting time as a homeowner? We lived in Cambridge/Somerville almost 10y as car-free renters first.

I feel that the parking situation in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville generally supports that parking and housing are not yet ready to be as decoupled as you've proposed.

I think we should:

a) Auction off the right to park in the street, and distribute the money among all residents:

b) Allow people to sell the right to park in their driveway

c) Allow construction of housing without off-street parking

d) Invest in public transit and bike infrastructure

I don't see why us getting a car would change whether any of these were good policy? At current levels of cost and convenience, it is worth it for us to have a car. If those changed, it might not be.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on The Cost of a Sixth Seat · 2021-03-11T23:30:56.305Z · LW · GW

No, I agree! We shouldn't get a new car.

(I wasn't properly accounting for interest or depreciation; self-financing makes them less obvious)

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on The Cost of a Sixth Seat · 2021-03-11T23:27:27.387Z · LW · GW

I don't think these are allowed in the US, but they do make adapters:

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Bakeoff · 2021-03-09T14:16:00.769Z · LW · GW

We live in a house that has been divided into two units, and we live in the upstairs unit. The (smaller) downstairs unit has a separate kitchen, and the two downstairs housemates are vegan. We do communal food, and I can general use the downstairs oven if I need more open space, but only for vegan things. I think it is partly smell and partly that it's rude to cook things in their oven if they're not going to be able to eat them.

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Car Thoughts · 2021-03-09T14:13:10.028Z · LW · GW

I think you're not taking into account that we are not expecting to drive very many miles, and so per mile costs are less important to us than average?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Car Thoughts · 2021-03-09T03:13:28.641Z · LW · GW

If you plan on taking long trips in the car

I don't think we're likely to do much long-distance travel, no

if there is any possibility of a fourth child

While I don't think we are likely to have a fourth child, if we did we could sell this car and buy another one. It's not like moving into a rent controlled apartment!

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Car Thoughts · 2021-03-09T03:12:04.991Z · LW · GW

I've put three car seats across the back of many small cars, including the ones we are considering like the Honda Fit. As long as your seats are reasonably narrow, it's quite practical. See

I'm not sure what you're thinking about in terms of "safely" and "legally"?

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Bakeoff · 2021-03-09T03:09:40.519Z · LW · GW

Sorry, I should've included that!

(Anna is five now, and Lily is about to turn seven.)

Comment by jefftk (jkaufman) on Enabling Children · 2021-03-04T16:14:24.616Z · LW · GW

We've done some amount of this, as you reference. I would strongly enjoy having more children around, and I think my kids would like that a lot. On the other hand, there are drawbacks:

  • Parenting styles very enormously. It's very hard to watch someone else's kid if you disagree about how to do it. I think this is much less of an issue in extended families, and especially historically, because there's better agreement on how to do it, but I know a lot of people in houses with multiple adults who have a lot of conflict over this. How closely do you supervise the kids? If one of them is hitting the other do you do something about it or let them sort it out themselves? Can they eat whenever they want? Can they have candy whenever they want? How messy an activity are they allowed to do on their own? If they do something wrong what sort of discipline do you use?

Kids are very good at understanding that different adults have different rules, and if sometimes kids are being watched by a parent and other times a nanny this isn't a problem. On the other hand, when multiple adults are present at once it's not clear which rules to apply, so you need more communication among the adults to have a consistent system. Otherwise the kids are going to spend all their time jurisdiction shopping and poking at edge cases.

  • Kids are messy and noisy, and different adults handle this differently. I'm also not very confident in adults ability to predict how their preferences will change after having kids. Perhaps your cleanest roommate will turn out to be exhausted and overwhelmed by child care and decide that keeping things tidy is just not a priority. This combines with the previous point: some parents are going to be okay just letting the kids yell, while others aren't.

  • I'm pretty pessimistic about strategies that involve building a new intentional community in a rural area, because you're putting all your eggs in one basket. In Boston I have many communities, and while I'm close to my housemates they're not that my whole world. If something happened where we stopped getting along, we all have other options that don't totally disrupt our lives. The rural approach is definitely cheaper, and going into it with several other families does cover some of the normal downsides of isolation, but I'd expect this to be much higher variance than I personally would be comfortable with.