Do you like bullet points?
I think more naturally in bullet points, and I (sometimes) like reading posts that are written in bullet style. (This website is one of my favorites, and is written entirely in bullets).
(Disclaimer, although I wrote this post in bullet points because it was cute, I don’t think it’s the best exemplar of them. Or rather, it’s an example of using bullet points to do rough thinking, rather than an example of using them to illustrate a complex argument)
I like bullet points because:
It’s easier to skim, and build up a high level understanding of a post’s structure. If you understand a concept you can skip it and move on, if you want to drill down and understand it better you can do so.
Relatedly, it exposes your cruxes more readily. You can pick out and refute points, in a way that can be harder with meandering prose.
It’s easier to hash out early stage ideas. When I’m first thinking about something, my brain is jumping around and forming connections, developing a model at multiple levels of resolution. Bullet lists make this easier to keep track of.
I like this for other people’s posts as well, since it feels more playful, like I can be part of their early generation process. I think LessWrong would be better if more people wrote more unpolished things to get early feedback on them, and bullet lists are a nice way to signal that something is still in development.
Prose often adds unnecessary cruft. In the transition from bullets-to-prose, posts can go 2x-3x as long (or, when I go to write a short bullet summary of something I wrote in prose, it turns out to be much shorter, and the prose mostly unnecessary)
I had assumed this was a common experience, and that it was in fact a weakness of humanity that we didn’t have better, more comprehensive bullet-point tools.
But, alas, Typical Mind Fallacy. It turned out a couple people on the LessWrong team reacted very negatively to bullet points. Concerns include:
It’s easy to think you’ve communicated more clearly than you have, because you didn’t bother writing the connecting words between paragraphs.
They’re harder to read straight through. If you include bold words, readers might not bother reading the non-bold words, and miss nuance.
“I like numbered arguments, since that makes it easier to respond to individual points. But unnumbered bullet lists are just hard to parse.”
[Alas, the LessWrong website currently doesn’t enable this very well because our Rich Editor’s implementation of numbered lists was annoying]
“I dunno man it’s just really hard to read. My brain keeps trying to collapse the bullets like they’re code.”
I asked a couple more people, and they said “I dunno, bullet points seem fine. Depends on the situation?”
I am curious what the LessWrong userbase thinks about them overall. Raise your hand if you think bullet points are fine? Terrible? Great? Any particular types of posts you prefer reading bullet-style, and types of posts you think fare poorly if not written in prose?