The Case for a Bigger Audience

How do peo­ple feel like LW 2.0 is go­ing? I’m im­pressed with the num­ber and qual­ity of posts that are be­ing made, es­pe­cially rel­a­tive to the baseline of what LW 1.0 was like right be­fore the re­launch. But I miss the lively dis­cus­sions in the com­ments from the “Golden Age” of LW 1.0. Con­sider the Craft and Com­mu­nity se­quence, writ­ten right when Eliezer tran­si­tioned from writ­ing for Over­com­ing Bias to writ­ing for Less Wrong. Here are six posts from that se­quence which were es­pe­cially mem­o­rable. On av­er­age, they have 179 com­ments. Look­ing at the “Cu­rated Con­tent” on the home­page right now, the 3 cu­rated posts av­er­age only 19 com­ments, even though they’ve all been up for at least 2 months.

A big au­di­ence lets your posts to have a greater im­pact. (Have any posts from LW 2.0 gen­er­ated new con­cep­tual han­dles for the com­mu­nity like “the san­ity wa­ter­line”? If not, maybe it’s be­cause they just aren’t reach­ing a big enough au­di­ence.) Some­times your au­di­ence gen­er­ates in­ter­est­ing new ideas you hadn’t thought of. And there’s a vir­tu­ous cy­cle: Peo­ple will write more com­ments if they have a jus­tified ex­pec­ta­tion of com­ment read­er­ship and replies.

I think the biggest risk to LW 2.0 at this point might be that au­thors who in­vest in mak­ing posts find that they don’t seem to be get­ting sig­nifi­cant read­er­ship, mak­ing a sig­nifi­cant im­pact, or gen­er­at­ing use­ful feed­back. There are a lot of peo­ple mak­ing posts right now, but there’s a risk those peo­ple will drift away. If we can get the vir­tu­ous cy­cle go­ing, that risk is less­ened.

There’s always the fear of Eter­nal Septem­ber, but I think the rest of the in­ter­net has got­ten more ad­dic­tive since LW 1.0, so just be­ing a web­site where longform es­says are posted already gets you an au­di­ence that’s se­lected for hav­ing a long at­ten­tion span. And of course, coun­ter­ing Eter­nel Septem­ber is a huge part of the mo­ti­va­tion for the new vot­ing sys­tem.

Some pro­mo­tional ideas to con­sider:

  • Make use of the Less Wrong Face­book and Twit­ter feeds to high­light new con­tent. (Is there still an RSS feed go­ing? If any­one is still us­ing RSS, it’s prob­a­bly the ra­tio­nal­ist crowd.) The Twit­ter ac­count hasn’t posted since 2016; could prob­a­bly benefit from a re­launch tweet.

  • Send a one-time email to old LW 1.0 users with high karma who haven’t logged in since the re­launch, an­nounc­ing LW 2.0′s launch and re­mind­ing them that their high karma puts them at the top of the heap.

  • Get Scott Aaron­son to men­tion the fact that LW 2.0 is a real-life in­stance of eigen­democ­racy in one of his “an­nounce­ments” posts. The credit is his for in­spiring the new vot­ing sys­tem.

  • Back in the old days of LW, Louie Helm made use of a pro­gram where Google offered free Ad­words cred­its to non­prof­its in or­der to drive traf­fic to LW. I don’t re­mem­ber which key­words he used, but I can ask if you like.

  • Ad­ver­tise on the side­bar of Scott Alexan­der’s blog. I’m not sure whether he charges money to non­prof­its which ad­ver­tise or not.

Mods, let us know if you’re look­ing for more pro­mo­tional ideas and we can spend more time brain­storm­ing.