Frontpage Posting and Commenting Guidelines

byBen Pace1y26th Sep 2017No comments

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Welcome to the new LessWrong! Our goal with the LessWrong frontpage is to host high-quality discussion on a wide range of topics, in a way that allows users to make better collective progress toward the truth.

New posts automatically get posted to a user's personal blog, where people are free to talk about whatever they like. Then, moderators will add it to the frontpage if it fits the following criteria:

1. Things to shoot for

1.1. Usefulness, novelty, and fun. The frontpage of this site is for serious intellectual engagement with interesting ideas, with a focus on ideas that are important but challenging to evaluate. Topics that lack inherent importance are OK if the discussion quality is high enough, and particularly if the discussion is useful for other purposes, like building skills; but the best topics will usually be consequential and neglected ones.

1.2. Accuracy, kindness, and relevance to the discussion at hand, in the spirit of the Victorian Sufi Buddha ideal.

1.3. Clarity and openness about what you believe, your reasons for believing it, and what would cause you to change your mind. Try to make concrete predictions and bets, and to note the cruxes for your beliefs, where possible. It’s not always easy to clearly articulate a belief, and it's great to note places where you’re uncertain about what you believe, about your reasons, and about your cruxes. We don’t want people to feel like they have to conceal or immediately abandon their beliefs whenever those beliefs turn out to be nontrivial to articulate or justify. But incremental progress toward more clarity and openness, even if it’s incomplete, is highly valued here.

A corollary of 1.3 is that we often prefer descriptive language (including language describing your current beliefs, emotional state, etc.) over prescriptive language, all else being equal. Prescriptions are obviously an essential part of communication, but descriptions are generally easier to relate to evidence, predictions, and cruxes. We encourage putting a focus on them for that reason.

2. Things to keep to a minimum

2.1. Community-focused discussion — i.e., discussion about the LessWrong/rationality community, as opposed to discussion about particular object-level topics. We want to avoid dynamics like (from Feynman):

When I was in high school, one of the first honors I got was to be made a member of the “Arista,” which was a group of kids who got good grades, hmm? Everybody wanted to be a member of the Arista, and when I got into this Arista I discovered that what they did in their meetings was to sit around to discuss who else was “worthy” to join “this wonderful group that we are,” okay?

If you want to discuss the community more generally, and you don’t expect the discussion to be of much interest to people who just want to talk about object-level issues (in psychology, or physics, or zoology, or cryptography, or…), then tag your post “community”. Questions about the site itself are welcome in the Meta section. Karma scores in “community” posts and Meta posts won’t be counted toward sitewide totals.

2.2. Crowdedness i.e., topics that are already really widely discussed in the public sphere, and where it will therefore be harder to say something new.

2.3 Things of fleeting importance — i.e., topics that will only be of interest for a couple of weeks, like discussions of what a politician has been doing. We want the frontpage of LessWrong to serve both as a training ground for aspiring rationalists and as an archive of accumulated collective knowledge. The ideal discussion will therefore both help build skills and help build knowledge that are valuable down the line. Not every discussion needs to achieve that ideal, but it’s a useful one to keep in mind.

We may build features in the future that are for more short-form and clearly ephemeral content on LessWrong. If so, this will be in a new section of the site built to be less like a repository of timeless information and discussion, and more like (e.g.) a Facebook feed.

2.4 Hot-button political issues Highly politicized issues tend to be very viral, which can often lead to them dominating discussion. These issues often (though not always) score poorly on tractability and neglectedness; they’re often emotionally charged in ways that make convergence and skill-building more challenging; and discussion is often triggered by transient news items, as opposed to deep new insights that will be equally relevant years down the line. “Politics is an important domain to which we should individually apply our rationality—but it's a terrible domain in which to learn rationality”. This means that highly politicized issues will often score poorly on 1.1, 2.2, and 2.3.

Of course, what counts as a “hot-button political issue” isn’t always clear, and we don’t want to encourage agonizing or arguing about what counts. (See 2.1.) We just want to encourage users to use their judgment and do their best to keep it to a minimum, so that other topics aren’t crowded out.

3. Off-limits things

3.1. Serious violations of discourse norms — Threatening behavior, needlessly harsh personal attacks, harassment, doxxing, and so on.

3.2. Consistently disruptive or low-quality content — Spam, discussion derailing, and so on.

A list of users with bans or public warnings can be found here.

4. How moderation works

Compared to moderators on other online forums, moderators on LessWrong are granted greater ability to change and improve the website, and are trusted with more information. These roles of responsibility are only given to trusted members of the community, and they are known as the Sunshine Regiment.

The new, weighted karma system is designed to bring good content to the top. However, this karma system is based on the voting patterns of many individuals, most of whom do not have the time to reflect on big-picture trends, nor the resources to substantially change those trends. In a classic tragedy of the commons, when there are thousands of people voting, no individual is incentivised to spend a lot of time considering their vote.

The incentives set up by the karma system can be considered the community’s System 1, and the Sunshine Regiment can be thought of as the community's System 2. Sunshines think about what incentive gradients are being produced, and are given the resources to influence the incentive gradients in a more substantial way (e.g. karma rewards on comments), allowing the community to plan around obstacles and achieve more complex goals.

There are no hard rules about what comments each member of the Sunshine Regiment will give karma rewards to. If your submission has received a karma reward, it will be signified by a small star icon on that comment or post. If your submission has been removed by a Sunshine, they will leave a note explaining why the comment was inappropriate or unsuited to the LessWrong frontpage.

Members of the Sunshine Regiment will have access to more information than other users, allowing them to notice negative patterns of behaviours, such as sockpuppet accounts and mass downvoting. The extra information is:

  • Access to the identities of voters on any comment/post, and to the voting history of all users.
  • The IP address a user wrote a post or comment from.

Sunshines of the 1st LessWrong Regiment are:

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