FHI and MIRI both hold workshops that are logistically very expensive, both for the organizations and for the participants. Structurally a workshop discussion seems very similar to a LessWrong: you have one person make a short presentation about a topic or a question, then discussion ensues. It seems like a lot of resources could be saved if some of those discussions were moved online entirely, or if the participants had online discussions ahead of time to iron out some basic issues / common misunderstandings so that the workshop could focus on more important issues. We should ask what features would enable that.
I think one thing that would help is to have private posts that can only be viewed and commented on by invitation (by both username and email address so people can be invited even before they sign up to LW). I guess that people are often reluctant to post on LW because they’re not ready for their ideas to be seen in public yet. For example their idea is only half-formed and it wouldn’t make sense yet to take the effort of making it understandable to people outside a small circle. Or they’re not sure the idea is correct and don’t want to take a public reputation hit in case it’s not.
I suggest having the option of making a private post public at any time, so productive discussions can be later viewed and joined in by the public, for example after the initial poster decides there aren’t embarrassing holes in their ideas, or has had a chance to edit their post for public consumption. Each commenter should be able to mark their comment as private or inherit, where private would hide their comment from the public even if the opening post is made public.
(1) I want this too and would use it and participate more.
(2) Following logically from that, some sort of “Lists” feature like Twitter might be good, EX:
(“Friending” is typically double-confirm, lists would seem much easier and less complex to implement. Perhaps lists, likewise, could be public or private)