Clearing An Overgrown Garden

(tl;dr: In this post, I make some con­crete sug­ges­tions for LessWrong 2.0.)

Less Wrong 2.0

A few months ago, Vaniver posted some ideas about how to rein­vi­go­rate Less Wrong. Based on com­ments in that thread and based on per­sonal dis­cus­sions I have had with other mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, I be­lieve there are sev­eral differ­ent views on why Less Wrong is dy­ing. The fol­low­ing are among the most pop­u­lar hy­pothe­ses:

(1) Paci­fism has caused our pre­vi­ously well-kept gar­den to be­come overgrown

(2) The aver­sion to poli­tics has caused a lot of in­ter­est­ing poli­ti­cal dis­cus­sions to move away from the website

(3) Peo­ple pre­fer post­ing to their per­sonal blogs.

With this back­ground, I sug­gest the fol­low­ing poli­cies for Less Wrong 2.0. This should be seen only as a start­ing point for dis­cus­sion about the ideal way to im­ple­ment a ra­tio­nal­ity fo­rum. Most likely, some of my ideas are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. If any­one has bet­ter sug­ges­tions, please post them to the com­ments.

Moder­a­tion Policy:

There are four lev­els of users:

  1. Users

  2. Trusted Users

  3. Moderators

  4. Administrator

Users may post com­ments and top level posts, but their con­tri­bu­tions must be ap­proved by a mod­er­a­tor.
Trusted users may post com­ments and top level posts which ap­pear im­me­di­ately. Trusted user sta­tus is awarded by 23 vote among the moderators
Moder­a­tors may ap­prove com­ments made by non-trusted users. There should be at least 10 mod­er­a­tors to en­sure that com­ments are ap­proved within an hour of be­ing posted, prefer­ably quicker. If there is dis­agree­ment be­tween mod­er­a­tors, the mat­ter can be dis­cussed on a pri­vate fo­rum. De­ci­sions may be al­tered by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote.
The ad­minis­tra­tor (prefer­ably Eliezer or Nate) chooses the mod­er­a­tors.

Per­sonal Blogs:

All users are as­signed a per­sonal sub­do­main, such as An­ders_H.less­ When pub­lish­ing a top-level post, users may click a check­box to in­di­cate whether the post should ap­pear only on their per­sonal sub­do­main, or also in the Less Wrong dis­cus­sion feed. The com­ment­ing sys­tem is shared be­tween the two ac­cess path­ways. Users may choose a de­sign tem­plate for their sub­do­main. How­ever, when the post is ac­cessed from the dis­cus­sion feed, the de­fault tem­plate over­rides the user-spe­cific tem­plate. The per­sonal sub­do­main may in­clude a blogroll, an about page, and other in­for­ma­tion. Users may pur­chase a top-level do­main as an alias for their subdomain
Stan­dards of Dis­course and Policy on Mind­kil­lers:
All dis­cus­sion in Less Wrong 2.0 is seen ex­plic­itly as an at­tempt to ex­change in­for­ma­tion for the pur­pose of reach­ing Au­mann agree­ment. In or­der to fa­cil­i­tate this goal, com­mu­ni­ca­tion must be pre­cise. There­fore, all users agree to abide by Crocker’s Rules for all com­mu­ni­ca­tion that takes place on the web­site.
How­ever, this is not a li­cense for ar­bi­trary rude­ness. Offen­sive lan­guage is per­mit­ted only if it is nec­es­sary in or­der to point to a real dis­agree­ment about the ter­ri­tory. More­over, users may not re­peat­edly bring up the same con­tro­ver­sial dis­cus­sion out­side of their origi­nal con­text.
Dis­cus­sion of poli­tics is ex­plic­itly per­mit­ted as long as it ad­heres to the rules out­lined above. All poli­ti­cal opinions are per­mit­ted (in­clud­ing opinions which are seen as taboo by so­ciety as large), as long as the dis­cus­sion is con­ducted with ci­vil­ity and in a man­ner that is suited for dis­pas­sion­ate ex­change of in­for­ma­tion, and suited for ac­cu­rate rea­son­ing about the con­se­quences of policy choice. By tak­ing part in any given dis­cus­sion, all users are ex­pected to pre-com­mit to up­dat­ing in re­sponse to new in­for­ma­tion.
Only trusted users may vote. There are two sep­a­rate vot­ing sys­tems. Users may vote on whether the post raises a rele­vant point that will re­sult in in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion (qual­ity of con­tri­bu­tion) and also on whether they agree with the com­ment (cor­rect­ness of com­ment). The first is a prop­erty both of the com­ment and of the user, and is shown in their user pro­file. The sec­ond scale is a prop­erty only of the com­ment.
All votes are shown pub­li­cly (for an ex­am­ple of a web­site where this is im­ple­mented, see for in­stance dai­ Abuse of the vot­ing sys­tem will re­sult in loss of Trusted User Sta­tus.
How to Im­ple­ment This
After the com­mu­nity comes to a con­sen­sus on the ba­sic ideas be­hind LessWrong 2.0, my prefer­ence is for MIRI to im­ple­ment it as a re­place­ment for Less Wrong. How­ever, if for some rea­son MIRI is un­will­ing to do this, and if there is suffi­cient in­ter­est in go­ing in this di­rec­tion, I offer to pay server costs. If nec­es­sary, I also offer to pay some limited amount for some­one to de­velop the code­base (based on Open Source solu­tions).

Other Ideas:

MIRI should start a pro­fes­sion­ally ed­ited ra­tio­nal­ity jour­nal (For in­stance called “Ra­tion­al­ity”) pub­lished bi-monthly. Users may sub­mit ar­ti­cles for pub­li­ca­tion in the jour­nal. Each week, one ar­ti­cle is cho­sen for pub­li­ca­tion and posted to a spe­cial area of Less Wrong. This re­places “main”. Every two months, these ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in print in the jour­nal.
The idea be­hind this is as fol­lows:
(1) It will in­cen­tivize users to com­pete for the sta­tus of be­ing pub­lished in the jour­nal.
(2) It will al­low con­trib­u­tors to put the ar­ti­cle on their CV.
(3) It may bring in high-qual­ity read­ers who are un­likely to read blogs.
(4) Every week, the pub­lished ar­ti­cle may be a nat­u­ral choice for dis­cus­sion topic at Less Wrong Meetup