Follow-Up to Petrov Day, 2019

Hur­rah! Suc­cess! I didn’t know what to ex­pect, and am pleas­antly sur­prised to find the Front­page is still in­tact. My thanks to ev­ery­one who took part, to ev­ery­one who com­mented on yes­ter­day’s post, and to ev­ery­one who didn’t unilat­er­ally blow up the site.

Launch At­tempts Results

I said I would share user­names and codes of all at­tempts to launch the codes. Others on the team told me this seemed like a bad idea in many ways, and on re­flec­tion I agree—I think many peo­ple were not aware they were sign­ing up for be­ing pub­li­cly named and shamed, and I think it’s good that peo­ple aren’t sur­prised by their ac­tions be­com­ing pub­lic. Though if some­one had suc­cess­fully nuked the site I would have named them.

Nonethe­less, I’ll share a bunch of info. First of all, the but­ton was in a pretty cen­tral place, and it turns out you can hit it ac­ci­den­tally. Ray built the but­ton so that you could only hit it once—it was for­ever af­ter pressed.

  • The num­ber of logged-in users who pressed the but­ton was 102.

    • (Ruby made a sheet of times when peo­ple pressed the but­ton, redact­ing most of the info.)

  • I have no num­ber for logged-out users, for them press­ing it brought up a win­dow ask­ing them to log-in. (Er, I’m not cer­tain that’s the best se­lec­tion pro­cess for new users).

  • The num­ber of users who ac­tu­ally sub­mit­ted launch codes is 18.

    • 11 of those ac­counts had zero karma, 7 ac­counts had pos­i­tive karma. None of the users were peo­ple who had been given real codes.

  • Sev­eral users sub­mit­ted launch codes be­fore click­ing through to find out what the but­ton even did—I hope this ini­ti­a­tive serves them well in life.

  • A few ac­counts were made on-the-day pre­sum­ably for this pur­pose, I’m happy to name these. They in­clude users like “bomb_presser”, “The Last Harbinger”, and “halosaga”, whose codes were “00000000″, “NL73njLH58et1Ec0” and “diediedie” re­spec­tively.

LW user ci­pher­goth (Paul Crowley) shared his launch codes on Face­book (in­deed I had sent him real launch codes), and two users copied and en­tered them. How­ever, he had ac­tu­ally shared fake codes. “The Last Harbinger” en­tered them.

A sec­ond user en­tered them, who had pos­i­tive karma, and was not some­one to whom I had sent real codes. How­ever, they failed to prop­erly copy it, miss­ing the fi­nal char­ac­ter. To them, I can only say what I had pre­pared to say to any­one who mis-en­tered what they be­lieved were cor­rect launch codes. “First, you thought you were a failure to the com­mu­nity. But then, you learned, you were a failure to your­self.”

Oli and Ray de­cided that any­one sub­mit­ting launch codes de­served a janky user-ex­pe­rience. I hope all of the users en­joyed find­ing out that when you try to nuke the site, re­gard­less of whether you en­ter cor­rect or in­cor­rect launch codes, the launch pad just dis­ap­pears and noth­ing else hap­pens. (Once you re­fresh, the page is of course nuked.)

Last night dur­ing my house’s Petrov Day cer­e­mony, which ran from about 8:10-9:10, I ner­vously glanced over at the LW front­page on the open lap­top as it re­freshed ev­ery 60 sec­onds. Some small part of me was wor­ried about Quirinus_Quir­rell fol­low­ing through on his threat to nuke the site at 9pm. I hon­estly did not ex­pect that some­one could cre­ate a char­ac­ter hard enough that it would leap out of the book and hold us all hostage in a black­mail at­tempt. Damn you Eliezer Yud­kowsky!

Look­ing Ahead

I thought the dis­cus­sion was ex­cel­lent. I mostly avoided par­ti­ci­pat­ing to let oth­ers de­cide for them­selves, but I might go back and add more com­ments now it’s done. As Said Ach­miz pointed out, it’ll be bet­ter next year to have more time in ad­vance for peo­ple to dis­cuss the ethics of the situ­a­tion and think, and that will be even more in­for­ma­tive and valuable. Though I still learned a lot this year, and I think over­all it turned out as well as I could’ve hoped.

I’ll think more about how to do it next year. One thing I will say is that I’d ideally like to be able to reach an equil­ibrium where 100s of users ev­ery year don’t fire the launch codes, to build up a real tra­di­tion of not tak­ing unilat­er­al­ist ac­tion—sit­ting around and not press­ing but­tons. Sev­eral users have sug­gested to me fun, gam­ified ways of chang­ing the event (e.g. ver­sions where users are en­couraged to trick other users into think­ing you can trust them but then nuke the site), but over­all in ways that I think de­creased the stakes and com­mon knowl­edge effects, which is why I don’t feel too ex­cited about them.