LW Team Updates: Pandemic Edition (March 2020) 2020-03-26T23:55:02.238Z · score: 37 (11 votes)
The Danes wish to know more about the coronavirus 2020-03-14T16:39:46.697Z · score: 13 (5 votes)
Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) 2020-01-08T20:23:53.772Z · score: 136 (49 votes)
Conversation about whether LW Moderators should express individual opinions about mod policy - 2019/12/22 2019-12-23T03:46:31.060Z · score: 18 (5 votes)
LW Team Updates - December 2019 2019-12-05T20:40:39.473Z · score: 41 (14 votes)
[LW Team] Request for User-Interviews about Tagging/Search/Wikis 2019-11-14T22:16:35.840Z · score: 14 (4 votes)
LW Team Updates - November 2019 (Subscriptions & More) 2019-11-08T02:39:29.498Z · score: 30 (13 votes)
[Team Update] Why we spent Q3 optimizing for karma 2019-11-07T23:39:55.274Z · score: 65 (19 votes)
[Site Update] Subscriptions, Bookmarks, & Pingbacks 2019-10-29T04:32:31.109Z · score: 95 (24 votes)
Open & Welcome Thread - October 2019 2019-10-01T23:10:57.782Z · score: 10 (3 votes)
LW Team Updates - October 2019 2019-10-01T23:08:18.283Z · score: 32 (11 votes)
Novum Organum: Introduction 2019-09-19T22:34:21.223Z · score: 81 (24 votes)
Open & Welcome Thread - September 2019 2019-09-03T02:53:21.771Z · score: 10 (4 votes)
LW Team Updates - September 2019 2019-08-29T22:12:55.747Z · score: 41 (13 votes)
[Resource Request] What's the sequence post which explains you should continue to believe things about a particle moving that's moving beyond your ability to observe it? 2019-08-04T22:31:37.063Z · score: 7 (1 votes)
Open & Welcome Thread - August 2019 2019-08-02T23:56:26.343Z · score: 13 (5 votes)
Do you fear the rock or the hard place? 2019-07-20T22:01:48.392Z · score: 43 (14 votes)
Why did we wait so long for the bicycle? 2019-07-17T18:45:09.706Z · score: 49 (19 votes)
Causal Reality vs Social Reality 2019-06-24T23:50:19.079Z · score: 38 (29 votes)
LW2.0: Technology Platform for Intellectual Progress 2019-06-19T20:25:20.228Z · score: 27 (7 votes)
LW2.0: Community, Culture, and Intellectual Progress 2019-06-19T20:25:08.682Z · score: 28 (5 votes)
Discussion Thread: The AI Does Not Hate You by Tom Chivers 2019-06-17T23:43:00.297Z · score: 36 (10 votes)
Welcome to LessWrong! 2019-06-14T19:42:26.128Z · score: 122 (72 votes)
LessWrong FAQ 2019-06-14T19:03:58.782Z · score: 64 (22 votes)
An attempt to list out my core values and virtues 2019-06-09T20:02:43.122Z · score: 26 (6 votes)
Feedback Requested! Draft of a New About/Welcome Page for LessWrong 2019-06-01T00:44:58.977Z · score: 30 (5 votes)
A Brief History of LessWrong 2019-06-01T00:43:59.408Z · score: 22 (14 votes)
The LessWrong Team 2019-06-01T00:43:31.545Z · score: 24 (7 votes)
Site Guide: Personal Blogposts vs Frontpage Posts 2019-05-31T23:08:07.363Z · score: 34 (9 votes)
A Quick Taxonomy of Arguments for Theoretical Engineering Capabilities 2019-05-21T22:38:58.739Z · score: 29 (6 votes)
Could humanity accomplish everything which nature has? Why might this not be the case? 2019-05-21T21:03:28.075Z · score: 8 (2 votes)
Could humanity ever achieve atomically precise manufacturing (APM)? What about a much-smarter-than-human-level intelligence? 2019-05-21T21:00:30.562Z · score: 8 (2 votes)
Data Analysis of LW: Activity Levels + Age Distribution of User Accounts 2019-05-14T23:53:54.332Z · score: 27 (9 votes)
How do the different star-types in the universe (red dwarf, etc.) related to habitability for human-like life? 2019-05-11T01:01:52.202Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
How many "human" habitable planets/stars are in the universe? 2019-05-11T00:59:59.648Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
How many galaxies could we reach traveling at 0.5c, 0.8c, and 0.99c? 2019-05-08T23:39:16.337Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
How many humans could potentially live on Earth over its entire future? 2019-05-08T23:33:21.368Z · score: 9 (3 votes)
Claims & Assumptions made in Eternity in Six Hours 2019-05-08T23:11:30.307Z · score: 46 (13 votes)
What speeds do you need to achieve to colonize the Milky Way? 2019-05-07T23:46:09.214Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Could a superintelligent AI colonize the galaxy/universe? If not, why not? 2019-05-07T21:33:20.288Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Is it definitely the case that we can colonize Mars if we really wanted to? Is it reasonable to believe that this is technically feasible for a reasonably advanced civilization? 2019-05-07T20:08:32.105Z · score: 8 (2 votes)
Why is it valuable to know whether space colonization is feasible? 2019-05-07T19:58:59.570Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
What are the claims/arguments made in Eternity in Six Hours? 2019-05-07T19:54:32.061Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Which parts of the paper Eternity in Six Hours are iffy? 2019-05-06T23:59:16.777Z · score: 18 (5 votes)
Space colonization: what can we definitely do and how do we know that? 2019-05-06T23:05:55.300Z · score: 31 (9 votes)
What is corrigibility? / What are the right background readings on it? 2019-05-02T20:43:45.303Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Speaking for myself (re: how the LW2.0 team communicates) 2019-04-25T22:39:11.934Z · score: 47 (17 votes)
[Answer] Why wasn't science invented in China? 2019-04-23T21:47:46.964Z · score: 80 (27 votes)
Agency and Sphexishness: A Second Glance 2019-04-16T01:25:57.634Z · score: 27 (14 votes)
On the Nature of Agency 2019-04-01T01:32:44.660Z · score: 30 (10 votes)


Comment by ruby on How will this recession differ from the last two? · 2020-03-31T01:40:21.478Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know enough economics to have great thoughts here, but I almost wonder if it's something like people's ability to trade has been eroded. The "market", i.e., place where you trade, has been lost. I would still purchases handmade cocktails and live music experiences if I could and you would still produce them if you could, but now we're no longer able to trade, no longer able to exchange value.

I'm not sure where this line of thought leads.

Comment by ruby on What should we do once infected with COVID-19? · 2020-03-24T19:12:33.079Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, the problem is my brain is not working today. I missed the word "not" despite intentionally looking for its presence or absence. My bad. Question retracted.

Comment by ruby on What should we do once infected with COVID-19? · 2020-03-24T19:01:30.544Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As I reach for the Ibuprofen and hesitate:

France is recommending against NSAIDs and against ibuprofen in particular. I will be very surprised if that ends up being born out (and WHO agrees with me)

Which part of the WHO status makes you think they don't think it will be born out? It says they're recommending what France says for now even though they don't currently have evidence that it's a problem.

Comment by ruby on What should we do once infected with COVID-19? · 2020-03-24T18:00:15.458Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Some additional thoughts:

I have a lot of uncertainty when hearing the 5% runny nose figure from data. Things like:
1) how did they define runny nose, maybe their cut off is much more stringent? If the paper defines this, it isn't getting passed along.
2) It's possible that different strains/mutations of coronavirus elicit different symptoms? I don't know enough to judge how likely that is. Same for whether different populations might present differently.
3) Allergies might cause runny nose independently of COVID-19.

Comment by ruby on What should we do once infected with COVID-19? · 2020-03-24T17:44:00.311Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have a runny nose? Probably not COVID-19

I'm concerned about this one as advice. I think it's fine to say it's a likelihood ratio of 20x against, but the in presence of severe fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, I think a person should still place non-negligible probability on it being COVID-19 notwithstanding having had a runny nose at some point. I'm worried people about hearing the "runny nose != COVID" updating too hard that they don't have it. 1 in 20 people isn't that rare.

I  think it's more reasonable to say that if you don't have fever and do have runny nose, the odds are probably in your favor, but the runny nose alone shouldn't be an overriding diagnostic consideration.

Comment by ruby on Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Summary · 2020-03-16T02:15:56.381Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I recall there being some concern that a residue can build up on the copper tape making it less effective. Certainly the tape on the back of my phone is discolored now.

If the tape ended up being not effective but it made people complacent such that they didn't clean the surfaces as much, that could be worse?

Did this get resolved?

I write this atop a mound of copper tape.

Comment by ruby on [Site Update] Subscriptions, Bookmarks, & Pingbacks · 2020-03-01T17:47:32.232Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seems no one replied to this. The top 5 is a limitation we are well aware of and is on the list to fix for Pingbacks is moved out of beta-status. I think it was there just because it takes extra UI work to have an expanding list. I agree the lack of indication that it's happening is pretty back.

I also really like the notification idea, I do hope we make that happen.

Comment by ruby on More writeups! · 2020-02-07T11:32:52.478Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Checkout, it’s an experimental tag within the  under-development feature.

Comment by ruby on LessWrong FAQ · 2020-01-29T20:12:39.897Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good question! I think this was missed in FAQ and I'll add it in. Currently multiple authors can only be added by an admin. If it works for you, send us a message through Intercom, or email

Comment by ruby on 2018 Review: Voting Results! · 2020-01-24T22:46:34.574Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are five people on the team. I wasn't the most involved, but I was still very involved. But you'll hear from all of soon, don't you worry.

Comment by ruby on 2018 Review: Voting Results! · 2020-01-24T17:26:32.364Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The team will be conducting a Review of the Review where we take stock of what happened, discuss the value and costs of the Review process, and think about how to make the review process more effective and efficient in future years.

I just want to speak up for myself, as I mentioned in a different comment, that at least in my mind, we need to properly review this year's Review before we're definitely committing to run this every year. I think the OP implies a greater level of confidence that the project was a "success" and will be repeated in subsequent than I feel.

Just so far, I've seen a lot of good come from this year's review that I'm very pleased with, but it's a costly project (for the team and the community), so that calculation needs to be done carefully. 

This comment shouldn't be interpreted as a sign that I'm negative on the Review. This is my attitude to every project that takes up significant resources. I won't have a firm opinion until I've thought about the Review a lot more and discussed at length with the team. We had to get the results out there quick though, ;)

Comment by ruby on 2018 Review: Voting Results! · 2020-01-24T17:07:07.749Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If voters are at all consistent, you'd expect at lease some positive correlation because the same factors that made them upvote for karma also made upvote for the Review.

Beyond that, I'm guessing people voted for the posts they'd read, and people would have read higher karma posts more often since they get more exposure, e.g. sticking around the Latest Posts list for longer.

Comment by ruby on 2018 Review: Voting Results! · 2020-01-24T17:03:39.484Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW · GW

So, my question is - do the organizers think it was worth it? And if yes, do you think it is worth it enough for publishing in a book? And if yes to both - what would failure have looked like?

These are really excellent questions. The OP mentions the intention to "review the review" in coming weeks; there will be posts about this, so hang tight. Obviously the whole project had very high costs, so we have to think carefully through whether the benefits justify them and whether we should continue the Review process in future years. Speaking for myself, it's not obvious that it was worth it, but still quite possible. It's a hard question because I expect the many of the benefits to accrue over time and be not straightforward to measure.

I think we should do a thorough review now with what we know now, and would need to do another review in ~year's time before pressing go on the next iteration.

I've generally been pushing for all major projects at LW to be properly reviewed with an eye to: Where they worth it? What did we learn? And what remains to be done?

Comment by ruby on 2018 Review: Voting Results! · 2020-01-24T17:00:33.869Z · score: 17 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like very few people voted overall if the average is "10-20" voters per post. I hope they are buying 50+ books each otherwise I don't see how the book part is remotely worth it.

I'm confused by this. Why would only voters be interested in the books? Also, this statement assumes that you have to sell 500-1000 books for it to be worth it– what's the calculation for the value of a book sold vs the cost of making the books?

The voting was broken in multiple ways - you could spend as many points as possible, but instead of a cut-off, your vote was just cast out due to the organizers' mistake to allow it.

I was surprised by this design decision too, though I'll note that the number of points spent was displayed and went red once you exceeded the budget. (Which has the advantage of if you're going over, you can place a vote and then decide whether to remove it or another.) Everyone except for the single person who spent 10,000 points kept to 500 or less.

Comment by ruby on 2018 Review: Voting Results! · 2020-01-24T16:48:22.874Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If a similar system is used on future occasions, it might be a good idea to limit how strong votes are made for users who don't cast many votes.

The quadratic-vote-allocator's multiplier of non-quadratic votes was capped at a multiplier of 6x. A "No" vote starts out with a cost -4, so even if you only voted "No" on one item, it wouldn't become more than a cost of 24 which translates into a vote with weight -6. 

I'd say the -30 was intentional.

Comment by ruby on 2018 Review: Voting Results! · 2020-01-24T02:13:03.627Z · score: 24 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Bounty offered for Analysis of the Results

I'm offering a pool  of $100+ of my personal money for the best analyses of the results, as judged by me. I'm looking for things that are meaningful insights drawn from the data, e.g. modeling the interaction between the karma score of a post and its vote outcomes.

There are a number of aggregate stats for each post included in the linked spreadsheet, but I'm also open to making available further stats or data to people upon request so long as they keep the voters anonymous.

EDIT: Be creative in what analyses you might run and don't limit yourself to just what's the in spreadsheet. As above, I'll share more data if it seems appropriate. This might be data about posts, comments, and anything else to do with the site.

Comment by ruby on Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics · 2020-01-20T17:31:17.116Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I voted very hard for this post. The idea feels correct, though I'd describe it as pointing at a key unresolved confusion/conflict for me. It fuels this quiet voice of doubt about everything I do my life (and about others in theirs). I'm not entirely sure what do with this model though, like, the entailment is missing or something. I voted hard mostly because I see it as the start of an issue to be resolved, not a finished work.

I'm not sure if the lack of "solution/response" or possibility of bad solution/responses is what you think is dangerous, or perhaps something in the very framing itself (if so, I'm not seeing it).

I should probably give the whole topic bit more thought rather than looping on my feelings of "stuck" around it.

Comment by ruby on Explicit and Implicit Communication · 2020-01-20T00:42:30.037Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[Rambly notes while voting.] This post has some merit, but it feels too...jumpy, and, as the initial comments point out, it's unclear in what's being considered "explicit" vs "implicit" communication. Only getting to the comments did I realize that the author's sense of those words was not quite my own.

I'm also not sure it's either 1) telling the whole picture, vs 2) correct. A couple of examples are brought, but examples are easy to cherry-pick. The fact that the case brought with Bruce Lee seemed to be in favor of a non-compassionate feels maybe, maybe like an existence proof, but I'm not even sure of what. I do think the military example could be fleshed out as a case of when it doesn't make sense to communicate length about everything.

As pitched, I do think the recommendation for Difficult Conversations sounds pretty cool.

Comment by ruby on Voting Phase of 2018 LW Review · 2020-01-19T07:26:23.455Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

We see information about how much individuals vote

For accuracy's sake, I'll add that we have all the data about who voted on what. Our internal policy is not to look at votes by specific users on specific posts unless we have really good reason to such as suspecting foul play.

Ray is correct about what we in fact look at, but feels important to say that we in principle could see it all if we chose to, and that we're requesting some trust from the community.

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-19T00:01:06.199Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Appendix 4: Author's Favorite Comments

Something I've never had the opportunity to do before, since I've never revised a post before, is collect the comments that I think that added the most to the conversation by building on, responding to, questioning, or contradicting the post.

Here's that list for this post:

  • This comment from Said Achmiz that seems correct to me in both its points: 1) that Nurture-like Cultures can be abused politically, and 2), that close interpersonal relationships trend Combative as the closeness grows.
  • Benquo's comment about the dimension of whether participants are trying to minimize or maximize the scope of a disagreement.
  • Ben Pace's comment talking about when and where the two cultures fit best, and particularly regarding how Nurture Culture is required to hold space when discussing sensitive topics like relationships, personal standards, and confronting large life choices.
  • PaulK's comment about "articulability": how a Nurturing culture makes it easier to express ill-formed, vague, or not yet justifiable thoughts.
  • AdrianSmith's comment about how Combat Culture can help expose the weak points on one's belief which wouldn't come up in Nurture Culture (even if only updates after the heat of "battle"), and Said Achmiz's expansion of this point with quotes from Schopenhauer, claiming that continuing to fight for one's position without regard for truth might actually be epistemically advantageous. 

Best humorous comments:

Comment by ruby on Being a Robust Agent (v2) · 2020-01-18T23:28:22.017Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like perhaps the name "Adaptive Agent" captures a large element of what you want: an agent capable of adapting to shifting circumstances.

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-17T20:34:44.383Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Appendix 3: How to Nurture

These are outtakes from a draft revision for Nurture Culture which seemed worth putting somewhere:

A healthy epistemic Nurture Culture works to make it possible to safely have productive disagreement by showing that disagreement is safe. There are better and worse ways to do this. Among them:

  • Adopting a “softened tone” which holds the viewpoints as object and at some distance: “That seems mistaken to me, I noticed I’m confused” as opposed to “I can’t see how anyone could possibly think that”.
  • Expending effort to understand: “Okay, let me summarize what you’re saying and see if I got right . . .”
  • Attempting to be helpful in the discussion: “I’m not sure what you’re saying, is this is it <some description or model>?”
  • Mentioning what you think is good and correct: “I found this post overall very helpful, but paragraph Z seems gravely mistaken to me because <reasons>.” This counters perceived reputational harms and can put people at ease.

Things which are not very Nurturing:

  • “What?? How could anyone think that”
  • A comment that only says “I think this post is really wrong.”
  • You’re not accounting for X, Y, Z. <insert multiple paragraphs explaining issues at length>

Items in the first list start to move the dial on the dimensions of collaborativeness and are likely to be helpful in many discussions, even relatively Combative ones; however, they have the important additional Nurturing effect of signaling hard that a conversation has the goal of mutual understanding and reaching truth-together– a goal whose salience shifts the significance of attacking ideas to purely practical rather than political.

While this second list can include extremely valuable epistemic contributions, they can heighten the perception of reputational and other harms [1] and thereby i) make conversations unpleasant (counterfactually causing them not to happen), and ii) raise the stakes of a discussion, making participants less likely to update.

Nurture Culture concludes that it’s worth paying the costs of more complicated and often indirect speech in order to make truth-seeking discussion a more positive experience for all.

[1] So much of our wellbeing and success depends on how others view us. It reasonable for people be very sensitive to how others perceive them.

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-17T20:33:01.757Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Appendix 2: Priors of Trust

I’ve said that that Combat Culture requires trust. Social trust is complicated and warrants many dedicated posts of its own, but I think it’s safe to say that having following priors help one feel safe in a “combative” environment: 

  • A prior that you are wanted, welcomed and respected,
  • that others care about you and your interests,
  • that one’s status or reputation are not under a high-level of threat, 
  • that having dumb ideas is safe and that’s just part of the process,
  • that disagreement is perfectly fine and dissent will not be punished, and 
  • that you won’t be punished for saying the wrong thing.

If one has a strong priors for the above, you can have a healthy Combat Culture.

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-17T20:32:22.077Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Appendix 1: Conversational Dimensions

Combat and Nurture point at regions within conversation space, however as commenters on the original pointed out, there are actually quite a few different dimensions relevant to conversations. (Focused on truth-seeking conversations.)

Some of them:

  • Competitive vs Cooperative: within a conversation, is there any sense of one side trying to win against the others? Is there a notion of “my ideas” vs “your ideas”? Or is there just us trying to figure it out together.
    • Charitability is a related concept.
    • Willingness to Update: how likely are participants to change their position within a conversation in response to what’s said?
  • Directness & Bluntness: how straightforwardly do people speak? Do they say “you’re absolutely wrong” or do they say, “I think that maybe what you’re saying is not 100%, completely correct in all ways”?
  • Filtering: Do people avoid saying things in order to avoid upsetting or offending others?
  • Degree of Concern for Emotions: How much time/effort/attention is devoted to ensuring that others feel good and have a good experience? How much value is placed on this?
  • Overhead: how much effort must be expended to produce acceptable speech acts? How many words of caveats, clarification, softening? How carefully are the words chosen?
  • Concern for Non-Truth Consequences: how much are conversation participants worried about the effects of their speech on things other than obtaining truth? Are people worrying about reputation, offense, etc?
  • Playfulness & Seriousness: is it okay to make jokes? Do participants feel like they can be silly? Or is it no laughing business, too much at stake, etc.?
  • Maximizing or Minimizing the Scope of Disagreement: are participants trying to find all the ways in which they agree and/or sidestep points of disagreement, or are they clashing and bringing to the fore every aspect of disagreement? [See this comment by Benquo.]

Similarly, it’s worth noting the different objectives conversations can have:

  • Figuring out what’s true / exchanging information.
  • Jointly trying to figure out what’s true vs trying to convince the other person.
  • Fun and enjoyment.
  • Connection and relationship building.

The above are conversational objectives that people can share. There are also objectives that most directly belong to individuals:

  • To impress others.
  • To harm the reputation of others.
  • To gain information selfishly.
  • To enjoy themselves (benignly or malignantly).
  • To be helpful (for personal or altruistic gain).
  • To develop relationships and connection.

We can see which positions along these dimensions cluster together and which correspond to the particular clusters that are Combat and Nurture.

A Combat Culture is going to be relatively high on bluntness and directness, can be more competitive (though isn’t strictly); if there is concern for emotions, it’s going be a lower priority and probably less effort will be invested. 

A Nurture Culture may inherently be prioritizing the relationships between and experiences of participants more. Greater filtering of what’s said will take place and people might worry more about reputational effects of what gets said.

These aren’t exact and different people will focus on cultures which differ along all of these dimensions. I think of Combat vs Nurture as tracking an upstream generator that impacts how various downstream parameters get set.

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-17T20:30:46.315Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[2] A third possibility is someone who is not really enacting either culture: they feel comfortable being combative towards others but dislike it if anyone acts in kind to them. I think is straightforwardly not good.

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-17T20:30:28.520Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[1] I use the term attack very broadly and include any action which may be cause harm to a person acted upon. The harm caused by an attack could be reputational (people think worse of you), emotional (you feel bad), relational (I feel distanced from you), or opportunal (opportunities or resources are impacted).

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-17T20:30:05.476Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-17T20:29:08.454Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Changes from V1 to V2

This section describes the most significant changes from version 1 to version 2 of this post:

  • The original post opened with a strong assertion that it intended to be descriptive. In V2, I’ve been more prescriptive/normative.
  • I clarified that the key distinction between Combat and Nurture is the meaning assigned to combative speech-acts.
  • I changed the characterization of Nurture Culture to be less about being “collaborative” (which can often be true of Combat), and more about intentionally signaling friendliness/non-hostility.
  • I expanded the description of Nurture Culture which in the original was much shorter than the description of Combat, including the addition of a hopefully evocative example.
  • I clarify that Combat and Nurture aren’t a complete classification of conversation-culture space– far from it. And further describe degenerate neighbors: Combat without Safety, Nurture without Caring.
  • Adding appendices which cover:
    • Dimensions along which conversations and conversations vary.
    • Factors that contribute to social trust.


Shout out to Raemon, Bucky, and Swimmer963 for their help with the 2nd Version.

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-17T20:27:18.894Z · score: 7 (1 votes) · LW · GW


Please do post comments at the top level.

Comment by ruby on Please Critique Things for the Review! · 2020-01-17T06:08:06.736Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, true, that seems like a fair reason to point out for why there wouldn't be more reviews. Thanks for sharing your personal reasons.

Comment by ruby on Voting Phase of 2018 LW Review · 2020-01-14T01:48:54.965Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW · GW

[EDIT: When I say that posts earlier in the list got 25-50% more votes, I mean simply the number of non-neutral votes cast on those items, regardless of direction of magnitude. It would perhaps be more accurate to say these posts had 25-50% more people vote on them.]

The posts available for review are presented in (what I guess is) a consistent order that is (so far as I know) the same for everyone. I expect this to mean that posts presented earlier will get more votes.

Good call. I looked into this and found an effect of somewhere between 25-50% more votes for posts being displayed earlier in the list. The team rolled out a fix to randomize loading this morning.

Interestingly, the default sort order was by number of nominations in ascending, so the most heavily nominated (approx, the most popular) posts were being displayed last. These posts were getting as many votes as those at the beginning of the list (though possibly not as many as they might have otherwise), and it's the posts in the middle that were getting less.

This was an oversight which we're glad to have caught. We've around halfway through the voting, plus the second half will have the deadline rush, so hopefully this bias will get countered in the coming week. 

Unfortunately you just make mistakes the first time you're doing things. :/

Comment by ruby on Please Critique Things for the Review! · 2020-01-12T07:53:19.170Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, so 80% of the reviewers have > 1000 karma. 90% >= 463; which means I think the "20-25% of eligible review voters are writing reviews" number is correct if this methodology actually makes sense.

Comment by ruby on Please Critique Things for the Review! · 2020-01-12T07:46:44.960Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Re: the ratio
The ratio isn't obviously bad to me, depending on your expectation? Between the beginning of the review on Dec 8th and Jan 3rd [1] then there's been 199 posts (excluding question posts but not excluding link posts), but of those: 

- 149 post written by 66 users with over 100 karma

- 95 written by 33 users above 1000 karma (the most relevant comparison)

- 151 posts written by 75 people whose account was first active before 2019. 

Compare those with the 82 reviews by 32 reviewers, it's a ratio of reviews:posts between 1:1 and 1:2. 
I'm curious if you'd been expecting something much different. [ETA: because of the incomplete data you might want to say 120 posts vs 82 reviews which is 1:1.5.]

Re: the effort
It's not clear to me that the effort involved means you should expect more reviews: 1) I think the Cost-Benefit Ratio for posts is higher even if they take longer, 2) reviewing a post only happens if you've read the post and it impacted you enough to remember and feel motivated to say stuff about, 3) when I write posts, it's about something I've been thinking about and am excited about; I haven't developed any habit around being excited about reviews since I'm not used to it. 

[1] That's when I last pulled that particular data onto my machine and I'm being a bit lazy because 8 more days it isn't going to change the overall picture; though it means the relative numbers are a bit worse for reviews.

Comment by ruby on Please Critique Things for the Review! · 2020-01-12T06:36:31.219Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think there are any ways the 2018 Review as we've been doing it could be modified to be better along the dimensions you're concerned about?

Comment by ruby on Please Critique Things for the Review! · 2020-01-12T06:11:14.549Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That makes sense. As I'm won't to say, there often risks/benefits/costs in each direction. 

Ways in which I think communal and collaborative review are imperative:

  • Public reviews help establish the standards or reasoning expected in the community.
  • By reading other people's evaluations, you can better learn how to perform your own.
  • It's completely time prohibitive for me to thoroughly review every post that I might reference, instead I trust in the author. Dangerously, many people might do this and a post becomes highly cited despite flaws that would be exposed if a person or two spent several hours evaluating it*
  • I might be competent to understand and reference a paper, but lack the domain expertise to review it myself. The review of another domain expert can help me understanding the shortcoming's of a post.
  • And as I think has been posted about, having a coordinated "review festival" is ideally an opportunity for people with different opinions about controversial topics to get together and hash it out. In an ideal world, review is the time when the community gets together to resolve what debates it can.

*An example is the work I began auditing the paper Eternity in Six Hours which is tied to the Astronomical Waste argument. Many people reference that argument, but as far as I know, few people have spent much time attempting to systematically evaluate its claims. (I do hope to finish that work and publish more on it sometime.) 

Comment by ruby on Please Critique Things for the Review! · 2020-01-12T05:25:49.585Z · score: 15 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Raw numbers to go with Bendini's comment:

As of the time of writing this comment, there've been 82 reviews on the 75 qualified (i.e., twice-nominated) posts by 32 different reviewers. 24 reviews were by 18 different authors on their own posts. 

Whether this counts as a shortage, is puzzling, or is concerning is a harder question to answer. 

My quick thoughts:

  • Personally, I was significantly surprised by the level of contribution to the 2018 Review. It's really hard to get people to do things (especially thing that are New and Work) and I wouldn't have been puzzled at all if the actual numbers had been 20% of what they actually are. Even the more optimistic LW team members had planned for a world where the team hunkered down and wrote all the reviews ourselves.
  • If we consider the relevant population of of potential reviewers to be the same as those eligible to vote, i.e., users with 1000+ karma, then there are ~130 [1] such users who view at least one post on the site each week (~150 at the monthly timescale). That gives us 20-25% of active eligible voters writing reviews.
    • If you look at all users above 100 karma, the number is 8-10% of candidate reviewer engaging in the Review. People below 100 karma won't have written many comments and/or probably haven't been around for that long so aren't likely candidates.

Relative to the people who could reasonably be expected to review, I think we're doing decently, if something like 10-20% of people who could do something are doing it. Of course, there's another question of why there aren't more people with 100+ or 1000+ karma around to begin with, but it's probably not to do with the incentives or mechanics of the review.

[1] For reference, there are 430 users in the LessWrong database with more than 1000 karma.

Comment by ruby on Please Critique Things for the Review! · 2020-01-12T04:40:06.930Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

concept of "pruning" output in this way

I'd be curious to learn the alternative ways you favor, or more detail on why this approach is flawed. Standard academic peer review has its issues, but seemingly a community should have a way it reviews material and determines what's great, what needs work, and what is plain wrong.

Comment by ruby on Circling as Cousin to Rationality · 2020-01-08T01:46:28.162Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding this.

I also go to T-Group (have been around a half-dozen times). T-Group, more so than other flavors of Circling, has a very rigid and restrictive format that couldn't possibly work for everyday life. It took me many tries to be remotely good at it, but it's helped me improve less heavily used aspects of my communicating/relating/connecting.

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2020-01-04T21:44:55.611Z · score: 24 (6 votes) · LW · GW

[Update: the new version is now live!!]

[Author writing here.]

The initial version of this post was written quickly on a whim, but given the value people have gotten from this post (as evidenced by the 2018 Review nomination and reviews), I think it warrants a significant update which I plan to write in time for possibly publication in a book, and ideally the Review voting stage.

Things I plan to include in the update:

  • Although dichotomies (X vs. Y) are easy to remember and talk about, different conversational cultures differ on multiple dimensions, and that ought to be addressed explicitly.
  • It's easy to round-off the cultures to something simpler than I intended, and I want to ward against that. For example, the healthy Combat Culture I advocate requires a a basis of trust between participants. Absent that, you don't have the culture I was pointing at.
  • Relatedly, an updated post should incorporate some of the ideas I mentioned in the sequel about the conditions that give rise to different cultures.
  • A concept which crystallized for me since writing the post is that of "the significance of a speech act" and how this crucially differs between cultures.
  • The tradeoffs between the two cultures can be addressed more explicitly.

Overall, I think my original post did something valuable in pointing clearly at two distinct regions in conversation-culture space and giving them sufficiently good labels which enabled people to talk about them and better notice them in practice. The fact that they've gotten traction has surprised me a bit since it pointed out perhaps a hole in our communal vocab.

Crisply pointing at these two centroids in the large space necessarily meant sacrificing the nuance and detail from the multiple dimensions in the space. I think the ideal treatment of the topic both provides easy-to-use handles for discussion as well as more thorough theory of conversational-cultures. In truth, probably a sequence of posts is warranted rather than just a single behemoth post or something.

A point interesting to me is that the post differs somewhat in style from my other posts. With my other posts, I usually try to be very technically precise (and end up sounding a bit like a textbook or academic paper). This post's style was meant to be more engaging, more entertaining, more emotional, and I'm guessing that was part of its appeal. I'm not sure if it's entirely a good thing, since I think trying to write in the evocative way is in tension with writing in the most technically precise, model-rich, theoretically-accurate way. 

In updating the post, I expect to move it to the latter style more and make it relatively "more boring read" even as I make it more accurate. I could imagine the ideal for authors to be is to have one highly-engaging, evocative post for a topic that draws people in and another with the same models in their full technical glory.

Lastly I mention that I think there's so much detail in this domain that alternative takes, e.g. Abram Demski's Combat vs Nurture & Meta-Contrarianism, feel like they're describing real and true things, yet somehow different things than what I addressed. I don't have a meta-theory yet that manage to unify all the models in this space, though that would be nice.

Comment by ruby on Melting Gold, and Organizational Capacity · 2019-12-26T03:05:51.177Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

as early as possible, no matter what your job is, you should make a part of your job to find new people to start sharing the load

But what if you're irrayplaceable?

Comment by ruby on Noticing the Taste of Lotus · 2019-12-25T22:13:00.271Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have a guess, but I think that's outside the purview of the purpose of these reviews.

I haven't been deeply involved in the 2018 Review design process, maybe Ben and Ray have specific ideas, but my own vote is that reviewers should feel free to share whatever thoughts they have in response to their posts without worry about them going out of of bounds.

I could imagine it being better if non-author reviews try to stay focused, but I'd vote that authors feel quite free to share all their current thoughts.

Comment by ruby on Decoupling vs Contextualising Norms · 2019-12-25T21:32:34.292Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

At the same time, I don't want to fall for the Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle and assume that both perspectives are equally valid.

Minor possible quibble: based on the definition in the link given, I think Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle doesn't refer to assuming a the deep wisdom position that two sides of a debate each have merit.

The fallacy of the undistributed middle (Lat. non distributio medii) is a formal fallacy that is committed when the middle term in a categorical syllogism is not distributed in either the minor premise or the major premise. It is thus a syllogistic fallacy.)

Comment by ruby on Conversation about whether LW Moderators should express individual opinions about mod policy - 2019/12/22 · 2019-12-23T23:24:50.643Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad to hear you planned to run by the team before posting. I know you don't mean to make them announcements, but my fear is that it might be very hard to make them not come across that way.

Comment by ruby on Conversation about whether LW Moderators should express individual opinions about mod policy - 2019/12/22 · 2019-12-23T21:17:27.115Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Everything quoted below seems pretty plausible, but I'd be keen to get more gears.

I strongly believe that "Thinking out loud" is one of the key virtues to cultivate in the technological era we're in, and has major positive externalities, 

Is it a virtue because of the positive externalities, or for other reasons? How does "technological era" factor in?

and any moves to hide discussion and thought, especially when simultaneously centralising power, often have surprisingly disastrous consequences.

There's probably something to that, but just because there's a rock on one side doesn't mean there isn't a hard place in on the other.

There are also details which affect the situation, such as there are different ways you might have people share their thinking:

1) Everyone shares thoughts whenever they feel like it, even when it's likely to misconstrued and be difficult to correct.

2) Everyone shares their individual thoughts, but only after care has been taking to ensure there's no misunderstanding, e.g. sharing a group statement about moderation to which individuals appends their individual thinking.

The latter does add some friction and is stifling, but for some topics that might just be the correct balance? It's not clear to me yet that your considerations outweigh the others.

Comment by ruby on Conversation about whether LW Moderators should express individual opinions about mod policy - 2019/12/22 · 2019-12-23T21:06:22.807Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've had a bunch of moderation posts I've wanted to write for a while, and that should improve things.

This makes me a bit anxious. My inner story is that you'll post various posts about moderation policy, intending them as "thinking aloud", but many people will relate to them as official announcement since they come from a LW mod. I'll then feel compelled to weigh in where I disagree and have a lengthy comment exchange trying to clarify the overall [incomplete] state of thinking of the team. And it'll be exhausting and stressful. And I imagine it feeling unilateralist curse-y too, because in your mind it was fine to do and in my mind it wasn't, but now I'm committed to this conversation when I'd have preferred a higher bandwidth, in-person one first. 

Comment by ruby on Conversation about whether LW Moderators should express individual opinions about mod policy - 2019/12/22 · 2019-12-23T21:05:11.871Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that the council situation is totally fine, if there's a public process of decision-making. [emphasis added]

I can imagine a system where individual council members speak their mind freely yet the subjects of the realm know that no law gets passed without appropriate process to possibly work quite well, but that "if" is doing a lot of work, and I think it currently does not hold of the LW team.

Certain topics get debated from time to time, but so far as I can recall, not in the context of "we're laying down the law now, come weigh in." I fear that people get anxious whenever those topics come up because they feel it might be their fleeting chance to make things go right.

Currently, the main place on LW where law gets formed is in actual decision announcements, and key decisions in that realm are always public, explained, and have comment sections, and everyone is allowed to write comments and posts critiquing those decisions.

I think this is false. For the most part, we have little announced law. We've got a few posts on Frontpage vs Personal blogposts, we've got the Frontpage guidelines, but nothing that much broader about what's okay vs not okay communication, what happens if we don't like something you're doing, etc. Though individual team members operate in accordance with a number of solid underlying principles, they're not really publicly or in agreement across the team, and so I'd venture that many decisions seem quite ad hoc. 

Most moderation decisions get made behind the proverbial closed doors (in practice we keep our door open to keep CO2 down, but you know– proverbial), and I wouldn't even call those decisions even law, though maybe they count as precedent.


I'm optimistic we can rectify this and I think most of the team think it's likely a top priority for Q1. Yet till we do so, I'm feeling that until such a time as we build trust (and this is difficult to do) and firmly establish a process of law getting developed in public, we don't necessarily get to have the privilege of sharing random thoughts here and there that are of pretty large significance.

Comment by ruby on Conversation about whether LW Moderators should express individual opinions about mod policy - 2019/12/22 · 2019-12-23T03:51:00.053Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

On the inquisitive side, I would be interested in hearing your full models, Ben, of the value of being able to "think for myself out loud on LW." Not improbably that your model is richer than mine.

Comment by ruby on Conversation about whether LW Moderators should express individual opinions about mod policy - 2019/12/22 · 2019-12-23T03:48:33.219Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Continuing the thread:

I was talking specifically about about moderation and matters of LW policy and norms. I think I see the value of being able to freely express our thoughts without concern for consensus, but I now think there are factors whose importance competes the value of being able to talk freely online.

The update (which I kind of contributed to the team, but which I think Ray first crystallized and propagated) occurred in the wake of a number of lengthy (20+ hour?) conversations we were having with people on- and offline a few month ago about moderation stuff. I think you were on Sabbatical then, Ben, which might be why you didn't share this update as strongly as me or Ray. The update was that notwithstanding caveats, people remained confused (and very concerned) in the wake of us "thinking aloud".

To quickly sketch out some factors I don't think we can ignore and might warrant be more carefully what we say:

  • The five of us are extremely powerful custodians of a public commons that many people are heavily invested and care deeply about . By "extremely powerful", I mean that structurally we are able to govern it and enact our decisions without requiring any kind of affirmative assent from the community. The community has informal means of complaint (which are quite powerful), but this isn't obvious to everyone and I think that many people fear that if we start taking things in the wrong direction, there goes LW.
    • In light of that, I think it's a reasonable reaction for people, in the face of hearing a LW moderator espouse a view about how LW might go (one they like or fear) to make an update that LW might actually enact such a view and therefore have a reaction of pleasure, fear, or panic in response to hearing it; or at the very least update their models of what might happen.
    • 1) It's non-standard or members of an organization to freely express individual ideas of policy, 2) It's cognitively difficult to keep track of five (six if you include Vaniver) models of moderation when trying to model what LW policy is. I don't blame people if they end up lumping things we individually say together, losing track, and getting confused about what's going to happen with their public commons.
  • In a world where any opinion we express gets taken seriously by people as expression of what LessWrong is, we're subject to unilateralist's curse. A and B of us might hold back from expressing an individual opinion we don't want people to mistakenly to attribute as proper LW policy, but then C thinks it's fine and does so, at which A and B feel obligated to swoop in and correct the record, leading to . . .
  • Appearances of breakdown of internal team communication. This is gnarly consideration, but if people are to trust as a team, they need to believe we're capable of resolving disagreements and deciding joint policy (especially for high-level vision stuff, culture, and mod policy). It can be both good and risky for us to debating this publicly. Good because it allows others to participate in our discussion, bad if it looks like we failed to communicate internally and are now duking it out publicly, trying to correct each other, etc. I think it's fair for people to update a big negatively depending on how that happens.


My analogy for punchiness:

Suppose you're a farmer who fled your old kingdom which was ruled by an incompetent tyrant to a new kingdom ruled by the council of "five fairly-wise men." You believe the rulers are well intentioned, but also they're not elected and get to enact their wishes almost immediately without restraint. 

When you hear one of the men of the council opining in the town square about grain taxation and water quota policies that would seriously affect you, you have reason to get worried that this might soon become reality– even if the council elder proclaims "this is just my individual view, I'm just thinking aloud" It's worse if you only stumble upon the conversation part way through and missed his disclaimers that were three comments earlier, or you forgot in the midst of the lengthy rant. 

Comment by ruby on Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2) · 2019-12-22T19:14:02.730Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My other worry about including this in the 2018 review is a claim of what the default should be. If the post claims that nurture culture should be the default, does that then seem like this is how LW should be? This counts even more as the post is by a member of the LW team.

I agree it should be clear about which normative stances taken in the post are statements about what should be true of LW.

At the time I wrote this post, I'd begun discussions about joining the LW team and had done maybe a couple dozen hours of remote analytics work, and I began a full-time trial but I didn't become a full-time team member until March 2019. I'd be more careful now.

The LW team doesn't currently have a firm stance on where LW should fall on the dimensions outlined in the OP/discussion, that's something we're likely to work on in the next quarter. We've got the Frontpage commenting guidelines so far, but that doesn't really state things in these the terms of Combat/Nurture.

My own thinking on the topic has been enriched by my much greater participation in LW discussion, including discussion around communication styles. I'd begun typing a paragraph here of some of my current thoughts, but probably it's best to hold off till I've thought more at length and am speaking alongside the rest of team. (An update in recent discussions of moderation and conversation norms is that the team should be careful to not confuse people by saying different things individually.)

I think it is safe for me to say that while I still think that something in the Nurture cluster is a good default for most contexts, that doesn't mean that LW might not have good reasons to deviate from that default.

Comment by ruby on Book Recommendations for social skill development? · 2019-12-21T15:14:31.725Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not easy to do, necessarily, but managers are often both incentivized and well-positioned to do this since your overall workplace performance matters to them and they can observe you interact with others. This is where I got the most mentoring.