Posts

The Filan Cabinet Podcast with Oliver Habryka - Transcript 2023-02-14T02:38:34.867Z
Open & Welcome Thread - November 2022 2022-11-01T18:47:40.682Z
Health & Lifestyle Interventions With Heavy-Tailed Outcomes? 2022-06-06T16:26:49.012Z
Open & Welcome Thread - June 2022 2022-06-04T19:27:45.197Z
Why Take Care Of Your Health? 2022-04-06T23:11:07.840Z
MondSemmel's Shortform 2022-02-02T13:49:32.844Z
Recommending Understand, a Game about Discerning the Rules 2021-10-28T14:53:16.901Z
Quotes from the WWMoR Podcast Episode with Eliezer 2021-03-13T21:43:41.672Z
Another Anki deck for Less Wrong content 2013-08-22T19:31:09.513Z

Comments

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you actually obtain and report a likelihood function for scientific research? · 2024-02-11T22:55:59.569Z · LW · GW

Off-topic tip: in addition to normal posts, LW also has a "Question" type of post which offers better UX for question-style posts like this one.

Comment by MondSemmel on More Hyphenation · 2024-02-10T20:32:43.873Z · LW · GW

I basically can't read stuff without noticing typos and grammar issues, so I make a ton of typo and edit suggestions. For some authors and works (currently the web serial Super Supportive in particular), a significant fraction of my suggestions consists of using more hyphens.

Comment by MondSemmel on Explaining Impact Markets · 2024-02-02T20:56:15.367Z · LW · GW

I liked this explainer. Thanks for writing it! More generally, I appreciate efforts to explain novel stuff in simple terms.

Comment by MondSemmel on Vote in the LessWrong review! (LW 2022 Review voting phase) · 2024-01-31T14:26:08.084Z · LW · GW

Feedback: I wanted to adjust my LW Review votes on the final day (I had only distributed ~300-ish points so far), but the review is considered over at Jan 31st 15:21 CET (= 6:21 am PST), even though the review page said the review would last until Jan 31st. Is that intentional?

In any case, I've gotten frequently confused with these deadlines, so I request that they be posted incl. timestamps and timezones from now on.

Comment by MondSemmel on What exactly did that great AI future involve again? · 2024-01-28T11:17:17.544Z · LW · GW

Check out the Fun Theory sequence, if you haven't already.

Comment by MondSemmel on Vote in the LessWrong review! (LW 2022 Review voting phase) · 2024-01-17T10:40:03.585Z · LW · GW

Thanks for doing this event every year!

Since I didn't see it mentioned in the post, I'll reiterate my concern that if AI stuff is not considered separately from non-AI stuff, then votes on AI stuff might swamp everything else:

For clarity, are the review & post results going to be separated into AI and non-AI stuff again, like they IIRC were in some previous year?

...

Overall my attitude is like, if the top 7 posts are all AI posts, that's not because they're necessarily better than the best non-AI posts, but rather because AI has been The Topic since 2022, plus the readership has dramatically shifted towards AI content. At which point we might as well declare LW to be a full-time AI site and consider all the rest to be mere hobbyist content =(. Such a ranking outcome would disincentivize authors from writing about the latter. Better to split the ranking into two top-25s or something.

Also, if the rankings are not split up, then if one only visits LW for AI or non-AI content, that gives an annoying strategic incentive to review-downvote all the other content. That doesn't occur if the rankings are separate.

To elaborate on that last point: Due to how quadratic voting works, if you want to maximize the effect of your votes on the relative rankings of a lot of posts (rather than for a few posts in particular), then the optimal voting pattern is to upvote all posts of the category you like +1, and downvote all posts of the disliked category by -1. (Net effect: a delta of +2 vote review karma on 250 posts of one's choosing.) Two natural candidates for this are AI vs. non-AI stuff. But if these categories are ranked separately, then the incentive for strategic voting disappears.

And besides the strategic voting stuff, another issue is that much of the AI stuff is very technical, so I often feel like I can't make an informed vote one way or another.

Comment by MondSemmel on 2023 Unofficial LessWrong Census/Survey · 2023-12-31T21:54:05.741Z · LW · GW

I completed the survey.

Comment by MondSemmel on The LessWrong 2022 Review: Review Phase · 2023-12-22T10:01:33.885Z · LW · GW

we carve up the results in different ways for different purposes.

I meant for stuff like prizes etc.

Overall my attitude is like, if the top 7 posts are all AI posts, that's not because they're necessarily better than the best non-AI posts, but rather because AI has been The Topic since 2022, plus the readership has dramatically shifted towards AI content. At which point we might as well declare LW to be a full-time AI site and consider all the rest to be mere hobbyist content =(. Such a ranking outcome would disincentivize authors from writing about the latter. Better to split the ranking into two top-25s or something.

Also, if the rankings are not split up, then if one only visits LW for AI or non-AI content, that gives an annoying strategic incentive to review-downvote all the other content. That doesn't occur if the rankings are separate.

Comment by MondSemmel on The LessWrong 2022 Review: Review Phase · 2023-12-22T09:34:58.740Z · LW · GW

Last year we awarded prizes for good reviews.  This year we will also award prizes!  We're aiming for something similar to last year's, though we haven't yet worked out the details (size, scope, etc).

What are you looking for in reviews? What makes for good ones?

Comment by MondSemmel on The LessWrong 2022 Review: Review Phase · 2023-12-22T09:32:09.810Z · LW · GW

For clarity, are the review & post results going to be separated into AI and non-AI stuff again, like they IIRC were in some previous year? I'd like to review some non-AI posts, but wouldn't bother doing so if all the top spots are going to be won by AI posts by default.

Comment by MondSemmel on Effective Aspersions: How the Nonlinear Investigation Went Wrong · 2023-12-21T19:06:23.931Z · LW · GW

What is up with the voting patterns on this post?_? My comment sits at 0 karma (3 votes) and -17 agreement karma (5 votes), and yet no-one bothered to reply or react to any part of it?

Comment by MondSemmel on Effective Aspersions: How the Nonlinear Investigation Went Wrong · 2023-12-21T10:10:08.026Z · LW · GW

Your conclusion doesn't follow.  A community is fully in its rights to use social pressure to discourage things it disagrees with (like libel suits), and others are fully in their rights to do those discouraged things anyway if they're willing to bear the social costs.

Cults also famously use all kinds of pressure tactics to prevent members from seeking out the law. This is bad. We should not be like this.

This is fallacious reasoning. It equivocates social discouragement with the far more extreme pressure tactics of cults. It also equivocates "discouraging libel suits" with "prevent from seeking out the law". And it implies that only cults do this kind of discouragement.

Separately, comparing Habryka to a cult-leader is a remarkable and remarkably unfounded non-sequitur.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-15T22:01:49.362Z · LW · GW

And well, you're a very high prestige person.

I stumbled over this part. What makes someone high prestige? Their total LW karma? To me that doesn't really make sense as a proxy for prestige.

Comment by MondSemmel on The LessWrong 2022 Review · 2023-12-13T09:47:44.938Z · LW · GW

Self-reviews and postmortems are great! Even a caricature of a self-review provides valuable information: "Look at my great/terrible take from last year. I've changed my mind about nothing/everything since." And of course the actual self-reviews are much more useful than that.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-12T21:28:15.683Z · LW · GW

Hi there, lsusr!

I read the post & comment which you linked, and indeed felt that the critical comment was too combative. (As a counterexample, I like this criticism of EY for how civil it is.) That being said, I think I understand the sentiment behind its tone: the commenter saw your post make a bunch of strong claims, felt that these claims were wrong and/or insufficiently supported by sources, and wrote the critical comment in a moment of annoyance.

To give a concrete example, "We do not censor other people more conventional-minded than ourselves." is an interesting but highly controversial claim. Both because hardly anything in the world has a 100% correlation, and because it leads to unintuitive logical implications like "two people cannot simultaneously want to censor one another".

Anyway, given that the post began with a controversial claim, I expected the rest of the post to support this initial claim with lots of sources and arguments. Instead, you took the claim further and built on it. That's a valid way to write, but it puts the essay in an awkward spot with readers that disagree with the initial claim. For this reason, I'm also a bit confused about the purpose of the essay: was it meant to be a libertarian manifesto, or an attempt to convince readers, or what? EDIT: Also, the majority of LW readers are not libertarians. What reaction did you expect to receive from them?

If I were to make a suggestion, the essay might have worked better if it had been a dialogue between a pro-liberty and a pro-censorship character. Why? Firstly, if readers feel like an argument is insufficiently supported, they can criticize or yell at the character, rather than at you. And secondly, such a dialogue would've required making a stronger case in favor of censorship, and it would've given the censorship character the opportunity to push back against claims by the liberty character. This would've forestalled having readers make similar counterarguments. (Also see Scott's Nonfiction Writing Advice, section "Anticipate and defuse counterarguments".)

Comment by MondSemmel on Why No Automated Plagerism Detection For Past Papers? · 2023-12-12T20:24:33.774Z · LW · GW

Typo: plagerism -> plagiarism (4x, incl. in the title)

Comment by MondSemmel on What is the next level of rationality? · 2023-12-12T10:51:02.530Z · LW · GW

Remember to link to this feedback on Intercom, to increase the chance that the LW team sees it.

Comment by MondSemmel on re: Yudkowsky on biological materials · 2023-12-11T16:42:51.787Z · LW · GW

I've only skimmed the post, but I've strong-upvoted it for the civil tone. Some EY-critical posts here are written in such an inflammatory manner that they put me off reading them, and even make me suspicious of the epistemics that produced this criticism. In contrast, I really appreciate the ability to write about strong factual disagreements without devolving into name-calling.

Comment by MondSemmel on Do websites and apps actually generally get worse after updates, or is it just an effect of the fear of change? · 2023-12-10T20:32:59.298Z · LW · GW

I’d claim that according to that metric, which is of course a very different metric than the pleasure of the people presently on the platform, the websites you list all did very well.

You'd have to provide some compelling argument that the website redesigns actually do better at this, though.

Here are two counter-arguments:

  • The Schelling Fence argument: the current app had a good reason for looking like it looked, and it was battle-tested. The new design has no such advantage.
  • Maybe you know your redesign will piss off your current user base, but you care more about acquiring new users. Still, this is not cost-free. For example, this reliably results in terrible review scores on app stores. And on reddit, some pissed-off reddit users used bots to delete all their old comments, which made the entire website worse for all users old and new alike.

Finally, let's take one example of a recent redesign which looks vaguely prettier at a glance, but where the functionality is just straight-up worse: Fitbit's recent app redesign (example post) made information much harder to see and interpret, and that in an app designed for health & exercise tracking.

Comment by MondSemmel on Do websites and apps actually generally get worse after updates, or is it just an effect of the fear of change? · 2023-12-10T20:04:59.903Z · LW · GW

One counter-example I experienced this year: From what I can tell, Steam's client re-design (from 2023~05) was uncommonly well-received, or at least that's the impression I got from the discussion on reddit.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-08T18:40:36.858Z · LW · GW

I don't have an opinion on your post itself, but it is indeed disappointing that the comments immediately jumped to the Nazi comparison, which of course made all further discussion pointless.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-08T18:28:40.940Z · LW · GW

Also, how likely is it that an adversary will manage to exploit security vulnerabilities to harvest all the PMs (private messages) stored on LW?

For this kind of thing it's both a positive and a negative that the LW codebase is open-source and available on Github.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-08T18:23:31.553Z · LW · GW

To add insult to injury, the RSS feed stopped working, so I can no longer see the new posts on my offsite timeline.

Have you reported this on Intercom as a bug report?

Comment by MondSemmel on Gemini 1.0 · 2023-12-08T09:41:52.562Z · LW · GW

The link works for me, but not in a private browser, so I assume this is one of those things where Twitter nowadays stops you from seeing things if you're not logged in. This link should work even in that scenario.

Comment by MondSemmel on Open Thread – Winter 2023/2024 · 2023-12-07T23:19:03.809Z · LW · GW

My thought process on writing that comment was roughly: "This is quadratic voting, right? Let me check the Wikipedia page. Huh, that page suggests a formula where vote cost scales quadratically with vote number. Maybe I misremembered what quadratic voting is? Let me just comment with what I do remember."

So the problem was that I'd only glanced at the Wikipedia article, and didn't realize that the simplified formula there, , is either an oversimplification or an outright editing error where they drop a factor of . The actual approximation of the quadratic voting formula (as explained in the linked Vitalik essay, which I'd apparently also read years ago but had mostly forgotten since), is , as per this:

 

And @trevor, here's a quote from that essay on the motivation for this formula:

But what do we actually want? Ultimately, we want a scheme where how much influence you "buy" is proportional to how much you care...

So how do we match these two up? The answer is clever: your n'th unit of influence costs you $n .

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-07T18:48:38.458Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the reply. I think we've reached the limits of what can be discussed in a comment thread. Would you be interested in doing a dialogue on this topic? I'm thinking of a somewhat broader phrasing, something like: "Would better support for open-source contributions free up or cost LW team resources?" or "LW and open-source contributions: costs & benefits", or similar.

(And, re: "I'm sorry about the variety of dropped balls", I want to be clear that I appreciate everything you and the team do, and I understand that you're a small team with a big mission. The reason why I gave examples of when the Intercom process was less than 100% reliable was not meant as blame, but just to support my argument that the tool seems ill-suited for certain kinds of reliability, like follow-ups.)

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-07T14:41:02.356Z · LW · GW

Friendship is Optimal, a My Little Pony fan fiction about an AGI takeover (?) scenario. 39k words. (I don't know the details, haven't read it.)

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T23:00:45.281Z · LW · GW

Ah, that's great.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T22:33:28.646Z · LW · GW

The other reason I've been posting less on LessWrong is that I feel like I'm hitting a soft ceiling with what I can accomplish here. I'm nowhere near the my personal skill cap, of course. But there is a much larger potential audience (and therefore impact) if I shifted from writing essays to filming YouTube videos.

There are also writers with a very large reach. A recommendation I saw was to post where most of the people and hence most of the potential readers are, i.e. on the biggest social media sites. If you're trying to have impact as a writer, the reachable audience on LW is much smaller. (Though of course there are other ways of having a bigger impact than just reaching more readers.)

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T22:22:46.208Z · LW · GW

The linkposts idea is interesting. I agree that it's weird to get karma for posting linkposts for other people.

In addition, there's also a problem where, no matter on which site you are (e.g. Reddit or Twitter or LW), native posts get much more engagement and upvotes than linkposts that require visiting an external site. But of course you also can't just copy the content from the external site, because that would be copyright infringement.

Anyway, as per elsewhere in this thread, your linkposts suggestion has a higher chance of being seen if you also make it on Intercom.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T22:09:54.991Z · LW · GW

I am really pleased that the filter system allows this to work so seamlessly - I just don't see AI stuff any more and sometimes kind of forget LessWrong is used as an "AI place" by some people.

It works quite well; the one limitation is that the tag filter can only filter out posts that have been tagged correctly, which brand-new posts aren't necessarily. That said, I just checked the New Post editor, and there's now a section to apply tags from within the editor. So this UX change likely reduced the proportion of untagged posts.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T16:19:35.853Z · LW · GW

The initial attention burst of LW is pretty heavily determined by how much the opening paragraphs and title draw people in. I feel kind of sad about that, but also don't have a great alternative to the current HN-style algorithm that still does the other things we need karma/frontpage-sorting algorithm to do)

It's hard to envision a different solution to this problem. When I browse a feed and decide what to read, of course things like author, karma, title, and first paragraph are the things that determine whether I'll consider reading. How else could things work?

@Charlie Steiner: Also see this comment thread on why it's so important to pay outsized importance to stuff like the title and presentation. Excerpts from my comment:

if you can't think of a way to present a piece of content such that people want to click on it, then they won't click on it, and then all the work that went into making the high-quality content went down the drain.

And:

a bunch of things have to line up for an article to go viral: someone has to click on your content (A), then like it (B), and then finally follow a call to action like sharing it or donating (C). From this perspective, it's important to put a significant fraction of one's efforts on quality (B) into efforts on presentation / clickability (A).

(Side note: If this sounds like advocacy for clickbait, I think it isn't. The de facto problem with a clickbaity title like "9 Easy Tips to Win At Life" is not the title per se, but that the corresponding content never delivers.)

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T16:06:50.096Z · LW · GW

It would be even more powerful if it generated a transcript automatically (though that's currently difficult and expansive).

A few points on this:

  • Some Youtube videos already come with good captions.
  • For the rest, Youtube provides automatic captions. These are really bad, lack punctuation and capitalization, but even at that level of quality they could e.g. be used to pinpoint where something was said.
  • Transcription via OpenAI Whisper is cheap ($0.36 per hour) and quite decent if there's only one speaker. For interviews and podcasts, the experience is not good enough for transcription (to create this podcast transcript at the beginning of the year, I used Whisper as a base, but still had to put in many many hours of editing), because it e.g. doesn't do speaker diarisation or insert paragraph breaks. But I'm pretty sure that by now there are hybrid services out there which can do even the things Whisper is bad at. This still won't yield a professional-level transcript, though doing an editing pass with GPT4 might close the gap. My point is, these transcripts are not expensive, relative to labor costs.
  • The implementation of automatic AI transcripts has become surprisingly simple. E.g. as I mentioned here, I now get automatic transcripts for my voice notes, based on following a step-by-step video guide. The difficulty is not yet at consumer-level simple (though for those purposes, one can just pay for an AI transcription service app), but it's definitely already at the level of hobbyist-simple.
Comment by MondSemmel on Open Thread – Winter 2023/2024 · 2023-12-06T12:36:43.991Z · LW · GW

The first option costs 1, the second costs sum(1..4), and the third costs sum(1..9). So the idea is that every vote costs 1 more vote point, and the cost for n votes is simply . I don't know where the formula comes from, however.

Comment by MondSemmel on Open Thread – Winter 2023/2024 · 2023-12-06T12:28:38.344Z · LW · GW

Apparently the most reliable way to make sure feature requests are seen is to use the Intercom.

Apart from that, I like the suggestion. There are many LW comments that warrant being turned into full posts, and this seems like a neat complementary suggestion.

If the feature was implemented, there would have to be a moderation policy requiring posters not to use this feature to pull comments you disagree with and turn them into top-level disagreements with individuals (if the original commenter wanted to do that, they could dialogue with you), nor to use it for witch hunts ("look at all the bad takes of this guy!").

Comment by MondSemmel on Open Thread – Winter 2023/2024 · 2023-12-06T12:24:55.009Z · LW · GW

Apparently the most reliable way to make sure feature requests are seen is to use the Intercom.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T12:16:53.860Z · LW · GW

Genuine question: Why Intercom? What's so good about it?

  • It advertises urgency ("we'll be back in X hours"), which seems unnecessary for almost all bug reports and feature requests. When I post a non-time-sensitive bug report, I just want to know that someone will look at it eventually; I don't need a reply within 24h from LW team members whose time is valuable.
  • My list of previous Intercom messages (20 threads total) is sorted in chronological order of last reply, cannot be rearranged, has no subject headings and is unsearchable. So I have to click into each thread to know what it's about.
  • I can't delete or archive old Intercom threads, so this list becomes increasingly unwieldy over time.
  • Old Intercom threads have poor timestamps, only being accurate to a week.
  • Or consider this bug report, which I forwarded on Intercom, but which only got resolved because another user contributed their experience in the comments. That couldn't have happened if the bug report was restricted to a 1-to-1 chat within Intercom.

Re: reliability & follow-ups:

  • I asked to have the Filan podcast transcript not set to Personal Blog status, and didn't receive a reply.
  • Or, a year ago, I reported a (non-time-sensitive) bug that I was unable to use the Reset Password button. Someone took a look, I mentioned it wasn't time-sensitive, and the exchange ended on me saying "Just let me know when it becomes possible again to reset my password." and them saying "Cool, will do". Naturally I never received a further update on this; the button just got fixed at some point. I'm mentioning this not to blame the LW team member, but to indicate that the Intercom medium is just not the right tool for anything that requires long-term follow-up.
  • Similarly, I just bumped another Intercom question which I'd originally asked in August.

Re: issue trackers:

  • The second-ever Intercom message I received (322w / 6 years ago) began with: "Hey! If you've found a bug on the site, please feel free to file it as an issue on our Github." So at least back then, Github did get used. What changed?
  • I've made a few bug reports where the Intercom reply (IIRC by you) was "Will put it in the queue". Which is appreciated, but which also implies that there is a queue, which kind of sounds like an issue tracker (?), except that it's not public.
Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T11:28:58.088Z · LW · GW

Crossposting my comment from here:

If the Github issue tracker is indeed not in use, then I find that very disappointing.

Intercom may be a more reliable channel for reporting bugs than the alternatives (though even on Intercom, I've still had things slip through the cracks), but it can't replace an issue tracker. Besides, not all feedback constitutes bug reports; others require a back-and-forth, or input from multiple people, or follow-up to ask "hey, what's the status here?", and all of that works much better when it's asynchronous and in public, not in a private chat interface.

And this very comment thread is a good illustration for why open thread comments also don't work for this purpose: they might not get noticed; the threads are kind of ephemeral; feedback is mixed with non-feedback; the original poster has no way to keep track of their feedback (I had to skim through all my recent comments to find the ones that were feedback); not everyone related to an issue gets notified when someone comments on the issue; if issues are discussed in disparate threads, there's no bi-directional crosslinking (if Github issue A links to B, then B displays the link, too); etc.

Ultimately whatever tools the LW team use to manage the website development may work well for them. But when I want to help as an outsider, I feel like the tools I'm given are not up to snuff.

It seems to me like a public issue tracker is an obvious solution to this problem, so I'm kind of incredulous that there isn't really one. What gives?

kave's reply:

It's (as a descriptive fact) not a priority to support external contributions to the codebase. My guess is that it's also correct not to prioritise that.

my reply:

I understand that that's obviously the counter-perspective, it just seems so wild to me. I'd love to see or do a dialogue on this, with anyone on the team where it would matter if they changed their mind on deprioritising this topic.

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-06T10:46:22.039Z · LW · GW

I wonder what fraction of the weirdest writers here feel the same way. I can't remember the last time I've read something on LessWrong and thought to myself, "What a strange, daring, radical idea. It might even be true. I'm scared of what the implications might be." I miss that.

The post about not paying one's taxes was pretty out there and had plenty interesting discussion, but now it's been voted down to the negatives. I wish it was a bit higher (at 0-ish karma, say), which might've happened if people could disagree-vote on it.

But yes, overall this criticism seems true, and important.

Comment by MondSemmel on Open Thread - August 2023 · 2023-12-06T00:47:28.924Z · LW · GW

I understand that that's obviously the counter-perspective, it just seems so wild to me. I'd love to see or do a dialogue on this, with anyone on the team where it would matter if they changed their mind on deprioritising this topic.

Comment by MondSemmel on Open Thread - August 2023 · 2023-12-06T00:27:40.717Z · LW · GW

If the Github issue tracker is indeed not in use, then I find that very disappointing.

Intercom may be a more reliable channel for reporting bugs than the alternatives (though even on Intercom, I've still had things slip through the cracks), but it can't replace an issue tracker. Besides, not all feedback constitutes bug reports; others require a back-and-forth, or input from multiple people, or follow-up to ask "hey, what's the status here?", and all of that works much better when it's asynchronous and in public, not in a private chat interface.

And this very comment thread is a good illustration for why open thread comments also don't work for this purpose: they might not get noticed; the threads are kind of ephemeral; feedback is mixed with non-feedback; the original poster has no way to keep track of their feedback (I had to skim through all my recent comments to find the ones that were feedback); not everyone related to an issue gets notified when someone comments on the issue; if issues are discussed in disparate threads, there's no bi-directional crosslinking (if Github issue A links to B, then B displays the link, too); etc.

Ultimately whatever tools the LW team use to manage the website development may work well for them. But when I want to help as an outsider, I feel like the tools I'm given are not up to snuff.

It seems to me like a public issue tracker is an obvious solution to this problem, so I'm kind of incredulous that there isn't really one. What gives?

Comment by MondSemmel on How do you feel about LessWrong these days? [Open feedback thread] · 2023-12-05T23:11:40.239Z · LW · GW

I still like the site, though I had to set the AI tag to -100 this year. One thing I wish was a bit different is that I've posted a whole bunch of LW-site-relevant feedback in comments (my natural inclination is to post comprehensive feedback on whatever content I interact with), and for a good fraction of them I've received no official reaction whatsoever. I don't know if the comments got ignored because the LW team didn't see them, or didn't have the time to act on them, or whatever, but I still wish I'd gotten some kinds of reactions on them.

I'm not asking for my feedback to be implemented[1], but when I post feedback comments on site posts by LW team members, I do wish I got some kind of acknowledgement, even if it always turned out to be "we've seen this feedback, but we have bigger fish to fry".

As an example, here are all my unanswered feedback requests since 2023-08-01 (arbitrary cutoff from when I got bored browsing my comments history):

  • Most important: My comment thread which requested that the Forum Magnum Github list of open issues be cleaned up, and which also included a smaller & actionable ask to sync the issue statuses from the private Lightcone Asana back to the public Github.
    • Incidentally, lack of reactions to some of my feedback is one reason why I wish that issue tracker was useful, rather than being in the sorry state it's in. My LW-related feedback comments are like posting Github issues on an open-source project: i.e. I try to make the site better, and expect a reply like "we'll implement this" or "we won't implement this" or "we haven't seen this, but someone will look at this eventually" or something. Plus I want to be able to check back on the issues months later, and neither comments nor Intercom are the right format for that. Whereas on Github, one can easily find all one's feedback in one place; the status of each issue is transparently clear; and I get update notifications.
  • The New User's Guide to LessWrong asked for feedback, I posted three huge feedback comments (1, 2, 3), and I'm not sure anyone ever saw them, let alone reacted to them.
  • Or there's this minor feedback comment on your post on the Dialogue Matching feature.
  • Or this comment on the Carving of Reality book where I pointed out that the books actually can be purchased in a few countries apart from the US, and so the FAQ warranted an update. Raemon even responded to the thread, but the FAQ is still incomplete as written.
  • And this unofficial thread on the LW Wiki contains feedback by me and others, which I wish had received some kind of attention.
  • This question on an Open Thread: "What's the minimum one would have to learn to productively contribute to open Github issues in the LW / EA Forum codebase?"
  • These questions on the process of making the "The Carving of Reality" book set.
  • This request for a retrospective for Good Heart Week 2022.

Finally, if someone on the LW team was interested, it could be neat to dialogue on a topic like "LW and open-source contributions".

  1. ^

    Though it occasionally does get implemented: like fixes to this bug report on comment reactions, or to a report on the comments counter being bugged in discussions.

Comment by MondSemmel on Queuing theory: Benefits of operating at 60% capacity · 2023-12-02T00:53:43.289Z · LW · GW

Related reading: IIRC the topic of queuing theory features prominently in the great book Algorithms to Live By.

Comment by MondSemmel on Redirecting one’s own taxes as an effective altruism method · 2023-12-01T15:57:53.435Z · LW · GW

Copy-pasting an ACX comment here:

Hello,

Criminal Defense attorney here. I thought I'd weigh in mostly for trivia reasons to point out that several federal statutes do criminally punish the *mere nonpayment* of taxes.

26 USC 7202 makes it a felony:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/7202

Though the current *policy* of the IRS is that they won't use this statute against someone who doesn't have a duty to "collect" a tax from some other person, as in payroll taxes or some gambling taxes. This *might be* the literal limit of the law, but to my knowledge that hasn't been really formally assessed by any court. I wouldn't want to be the first case study.

26 USC 7203 is a related and much broader misdemeanor:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/7203

naturally, as a misdemeanor the penalty is possibly quite light...possibly no jail time (though potentially as you can see there up to one year)...it's still technically a crime and for most people reading this, the bite is going to be the conviction itself rather than like a month in a workhouse.

Empirically the IRS' motives are complex and they won't prosecute every violation of these laws that hoves into view but as I see it you're really dancing with the devil. Shower often, be nice to old ladies, and pay your taxes.

Comment by MondSemmel on The 101 Space You Will Always Have With You · 2023-11-29T14:16:18.803Z · LW · GW

Re: on-ramps, see the New User's Guide to LessWrong and my main feedback on it. Though I'm not sure whether this guide is actually being used as a new user's guide by anyone, e.g. I don't know if any LW pages link to it.

Comment by MondSemmel on How did you integrate voice-to-text AI into your workflow? · 2023-11-21T09:12:57.514Z · LW · GW

The changelog indeed mentions Whisper as a "0.4.0 beta-only feature".

Comment by MondSemmel on How did you integrate voice-to-text AI into your workflow? · 2023-11-20T21:02:23.424Z · LW · GW

Are you talking about this website? It seems rather sparse on details. Can you elaborate a bit on what the tool is, who it is for (only power users?), what you use the tool for, how well it works, limitations, etc.?

Comment by MondSemmel on How did you integrate voice-to-text AI into your workflow? · 2023-11-20T18:56:08.694Z · LW · GW

My favorite part from the Getting Things Done book is the idea to capture 100% of your ideas, and to only process them after the fact. Rather than, say, trying to only write down good ideas. On LW this philosophy is known as Babble and Prune.

So for years, I've wished for the ability to record voice notes anytime I want, and to then get an accurate transcript automatically. Almost exactly one year ago, I bought a Pixel 7 phone for this very reason, hoping that their advertised AI chip and Recorder app could provide just that. They couldn't; the Recorder app prioritizes live transcription over accuracy, and the transcript is not usable without listening to the recording, which defeats the point.

However, due to Whisper, I can now indeed record voice memos via my phone or, newly, my smartwatch; then upload the file to cloud storage (e.g. Google Drive); and then immediately and automatically receive a Whisper AI transcript (awesome in its accuracy) and ChatGPT summary etc. (so far irrelevant for me) in my Notion workspace.

This is implemented by following this step-by-step automation guide by Thomas Frank, and only requires an OpenAI account incl. API key (costing $0.40 per hour of audio), a free Pipedream account (which is like Zapier but allows arbitrary code blocks), free cloud storage account, and free Notion account.

In principle the Notion part is unnecessary, and someone who wanted to take the time to manually adjust the automation could have the transcript output instead be an email or text file or whatever.

Comment by MondSemmel on "Benevolent [ie, Ruler] AI is a bad idea" and a suggested alternative · 2023-11-19T21:54:36.342Z · LW · GW

"Benevolent [Ruler] AI is a bad idea" and a suggested alternative

Thought on seeing the title: ... Is it going to be Malevolent AI?

Comment by MondSemmel on [deleted post] 2023-11-17T23:41:58.320Z

Speaking just for myself, and not suggesting this as a norm:

Checking my vote history, stats based on my last 6 weeks of voting: I ~never strong-upvote my own comments (whereas one's own posts are strong-upvoted by default). I very rarely strong-vote comments (on the order of <1-2%) one way or another. I rarely agree-vote one way or another. I occasionally (5-25%) strong-upvote posts, with meanings like "more people should see this" or "I want to see more stuff like this". Especially posts like LW feature announcements, practical high-effort posts, etc. I strong-downvoted one single post in this timeframe, on a hot-button politics issue.

One confounder here is that when I browse the LW feed, I tend to bookmark posts and then only read them months later. So by the time I read such a post, all the comments already have plents of votes, and the karma order usually looks more or less fine to me, so I see little point in bothering with using strong-upvotes. Similarly, by that time truly unpalatable low-value comments are usually already at negative karma, so again, no reason for me to pile on.

One situation where I do "make use of my voting power" is when voting on norms in the LW/EA communities. E.g. I often strong-vote and (dis)agree-vote during community controversies. Fortunately there either weren't any in the past six weeks (so this behavior didn't appear in the stats above), or there were and I didn't see them.