Upcoming LW Changes
Thanks to the reaction to this article and some conversations, I’m convinced that it’s worth trying to renovate and restore LW. Eliezer, Nate, and Matt Fallshaw are all on board and have empowered me as an editor to see what we can do about reshaping LW to meet what the community currently needs. This involves a combination of technical changes and social changes, which we’ll try to make transparently and non-intrusively.
Changes will be tracked as issues on the LW issue tracker here. Volunteer contributions very welcome and will be rewarded with karma, and if you’d like to be paid for spending a solid block of high-priority time on this get in touch with me. If you’d like to help, for now I recommend setting up a dev environment (as laid out here and here).
Some technical changes (links to the issues in the issue tracker):
Admins should be able to view comment voting (to investigate misuse of the karma system)
Edit the homepage
Increase the importance and ease of the tag system (allow users to tag others’ posts, use tags to adjust position in feed, etc.)
Make the meetup system friendlier to recurring meetups / more similar to the EA Hub.
A tangential note on third-party technical contributions to LW (if that’s a thing you care about): the uncertainty about whether changes will be accepted, uncertainty about and lack of visibility into how that decision is made or even who makes it, and lack of a known process for making pull requests or getting feedback on ideas are incredibly anti-motivating.
This is something I care about quite a bit! Ideally, the three people above would scrutinize every change and determine whether or not it’s worthwhile. In practice, they’re all extremely busy, and as I’m only very busy I’ve been deputized to handle whether or not change will be accepted. If you’re unsure about a change, talk to me.
Trike still maintains the site, and so it’s still a Trike dev’s call when a change will make its way to production (or if it’s too buggy to accept). We’ve got a turnaround time guarantee from Matt for any time-sensitive changes (which I imagine few changes will be).
The rationalist community is a different beast than it was years ago, and many people have shifted away from Less Wrong. Bringing them back needs to involve more than asking nicely, or the same problems will appear again.
Epistemic rationality will remain a core focus of LessWrong, and the sorts of confusion that you find elsewhere will continue to not fly here. But the forces that push people from Main to Discussion to Open Threads to other sites need to be explicitly counteracted.
One aspect is that just like emotion is part of rationality, informality is part of the rationalist community.
At some point I lost sight of what things were “rationality things” and what things were just “things, that I happened to want to talk about with rationalists, because those are the cool people”; and in the presence of this confusion I defaulted to categorizing everything as the latter—because it was easy; I live here now; I can go weeks without interacting with anybody who isn’t at least sort of rationalist-adjacent. If I want to talk to rationalists about a thing I can just bring it up the next time I’m at a party, or when my roommates come downstairs; I don’t have to write an essay and subject it to increasingly noisy judgment about whether it is in the correct section/website/universe.
Another aspect is dealing with the deepening and specializing interests of the community.
A third aspect is focusing on effective communication. One of the core determinants of professional and personal success is being able to communicate challenging topics and emotions effectively with other humans. The applications for both instrumental and epistemic rationality are clear, and explicitly seeking to cultivate this skill without losing the commitment to rationality will both make LW a more pleasant place to visit and (one hopes) allow LWers to win more in their lives. But this is a long project, whose details this paragraph is too short to contain. I don’t have a current anticipated date for when I’ll be ready to talk more about this.
I expect to edit this post over the coming days, and as I do, I’ll make comments to highlight the changes. Thanks for reading!