Lesswrong, Effective Altruism Forum and Slate Star Codex: Harm Reduction

Cross Posted at the EA Forum

At Event Hori­zon (a Ra­tion­al­ist/​Effec­tive Altru­ist house in Berkeley) my room­mates yes­ter­day were wor­ried about Slate Star Codex. Their wor­ries also ap­ply to the Effec­tive Altru­ism Fo­rum, so I’ll ex­tend them.

The Prob­lem:

Less­wrong was for many years the grav­i­ta­tional cen­ter for young ra­tio­nal­ists wor­ld­wide, and it per­mits post­ing by new users, so good new ideas had a strong in­cen­tive to emerge.

With the rise of Slate Star Codex, the in­cen­tive for new users to post con­tent on Less­wrong went down. Post­ing at Slate Star Codex is not open, so po­ten­tially great blog­gers are not in­cen­tivized to come up with their ideas, but only to com­ment on the ones there.

The Effec­tive Altru­ism fo­rum doesn’t have that par­tic­u­lar prob­lem. It is how­ever more con­strained in terms of what can be posted there. It is af­ter all sup­posed to be about Effec­tive Altru­ism.

We thus have three differ­ent strong at­trac­tors for the large com­mu­nity of peo­ple who en­joy read­ing blog posts on­line and are nearby in idea space.

Pos­si­ble Solu­tions:

(EDIT: By pos­si­ble solu­tions I merely mean to say “these are some bad solu­tions I came up with in 5 min­utes, and the rea­son I’m post­ing them here is be­cause if I post bad solu­tions, other peo­ple will be in­cen­tivized to post bet­ter solu­tions)

If Slate Star Codex be­came an open blog like Less­wrong, more peo­ple would con­sider tran­si­tion­ing from pas­sive lurk­ers to ac­tual posters.

If the Effec­tive Altru­ism Fo­rum got as many read­ers as Less­wrong, there could be two grav­ity cen­ters at the same time.

If the mod­er­a­tion and self se­lec­tion of Main was changed into some­thing that at­tracts those who have been on LW for a long time, and dis­cus­sion was changed to some­thing like New­com­ers dis­cus­sion, LW could go back to be­ing the main space, with a two tier sys­tem (maybe one mod­u­lated by karma as well).

The Past:

In the past there was Over­com­ing Bias, and Less­wrong in part be­came a stronger at­trac­tor be­cause it was more open. Even­tu­ally less­wrongers mi­grated from Main to Dis­cus­sion, and from there to Slate Star Codex, 80k blog, Effec­tive Altru­ism fo­rum, back to Over­com­ing Bias, and Wait But Why.

It is pos­si­ble that Less­wrong had sim­ply ex­erted it’s ca­pac­ity.

It is pos­si­ble that a new higher tier league was needed to keep post qual­ity high.

A Sugges­tion:

I sug­gest two things should be pre­served:

In­ter­est­ing con­tent be­ing cre­ated by those with more ex­pe­rience and knowl­edge who have in­ter­acted in this memes­pace for longer (part of why Slate Star Codex is pow­er­ful), and

The op­por­tu­nity (and to­tal ab­sence of triv­ial in­con­ve­niences) for new peo­ple to try cre­at­ing their own new posts.

If these two prop­er­ties are kept, there is a lot of value to be gained by ev­ery­one.

The Sta­tus Quo:

I feel like we are liv­ing in a very sub­op­ti­mal blo­go­sphere. On LW, Dis­cus­sion is more read than Main, which means what is be­ing pro­moted to Main is not at­trac­tive to the peo­ple who are ac­tu­ally read­ing Less­wrong. The top tier qual­ity for ac­tu­ally read post­ing is dom­i­nated by one in­di­vi­d­ual (a great one, but still), dis­in­cen­tiviz­ing high qual­ity posts by other high qual­ity peo­ple. The EA Fo­rum has high qual­ity posts that go un­read be­cause it isn’t the cen­ter of at­ten­tion.