LW Update 2018-12-06 – Table of Contents and Q&A

After a cou­ple months of work, we’re ready for a sig­nifi­cant up­date to LessWrong:

  • Post Page Redesign

  • Open Ques­tions (aka Q&A)

  • Table of Con­tents (aka ToC)

  • Com­ment Guidelines

Post Page Redesign

The first thing you prob­a­bly no­ticed is that we re­designed the post page. This was more of an in­ci­den­tal change, which turned out to be nec­es­sary in or­der for both Table of Con­tents and Ques­tion posts to work nicely.

Table of Contents

We wanted a Table of Con­tents that not only helped you ori­ent at the be­gin­ning of a post, but pro­vided a frame of refer­ence while read­ing a post, that would help make longer, more com­pli­cated posts more skim-able.

Fea­tures:

  • Right now the ToC dis­plays to the left of posts on desk­top screens, for posts that have 3 or more head­ings.

  • An el­e­ment that is en­tirely bold counts as a heading

  • On small screens, the Table of Con­tents is available when you click on the site-nav­i­ga­tion icon in the up­per left. (The icon will change to in­di­cate a ToC)

There are some ad­di­tional nice-to-have fea­tures we plan to add soon­ish, such as the abil­ity to col­lapse the ToC, and the abil­ity to pre­view it while draft­ing a post.

In gen­eral we’ll prob­a­bly ex­per­i­ment a bit more with the for­mat.

Props to GreaterWrong for im­ple­ment­ing a Table of Con­tents quite a while ago. :)

Open Questions

I wrote a cou­ple weeks ago about our new Ques­tions and An­swers sys­tem. We’re now ready to de­ploy the min­i­mum-vi­able-ver­sion of this.

Cur­rent Features

  • Ask a Ques­tion. In your user menu (in the up­per right cor­ner of the screen) there is now an op­tion for ques­tions to ask a ques­tion, which will cre­ate a post with the ques­tion-flag. For now, it’ll ap­pear nor­mally in lists of re­cent posts (in­clud­ing the home page, daily and your per­sonal pro­file)

  • An­swer a Ques­tion. This is similar to a com­ment, but the for­mat­ting is differ­ent to high­light that this is meant to have a differ­ent feel than com­ment­ing. An­swers should as­pire to re­solve a ques­tion as ac­cu­rately and thor­oughly as pos­si­ble, such that if you just read the ques­tion-fol­lowed-by-sin­gle-an­swer you’d have a pretty com­plete un­der­stand­ing of the is­sue.

  • Com­ment on an An­swer. By de­fault, only the top 3 com­ments will be dis­played, but if you want to dig into the dis­cus­sion of a given an­swer you can ex­pand them.

  • Com­ment on a Ques­tion. You can com­ment on an over­all ques­tion, with­out an­swer­ing. This is for if you’re still try­ing to un­der­stand the ques­tion, or you think it’s mak­ing a con­cep­tual mis­take, or you just have some thoughts that don’t neatly fall into the “an­swer” for­mat.

  • Spe­cial­ized Table of Con­tents. Ques­tions with at least one an­swer au­to­mat­i­cally have a Table of Con­tents, even if there are no head­ings, to help users ori­ent on a fairly com­pli­cated page.

For the time be­ing, ques­tions are sub­ject to the same front­page guidelines as any­thing else. If a ques­tion seems pro­duc­tive, well-speci­fied and not-too-poli­ti­cal, we’ll pro­mote them to front­page, and oth­er­wise they’ll be visi­ble in the All Posts or Daily views.

Up­com­ing Goals

There are many ad­di­tional fea­tures we ex­pect to be nec­es­sary for Q&A to flour­ish.

  • Mark­ing ques­tions as an­swered. The au­thor of a post can choose an an­swer as a suc­cess­ful an­swer to this ques­tion. (There’s some de­bate about whether this is right ap­proach, but for now it seems like the best ap­proach is to let an au­thor de­ter­mine the frame of a ques­tion, and up­vot­ing/​down­vot­ing of ques­tions to provide in­for­ma­tion on well-framed the com­mu­nity thinks the ques­tion is)

  • Re­lated Ques­tions. Many ques­tions are in­ter­con­nected. We’re in­ter­ested in al­low­ing for sub­ques­tions, re­lated ques­tions, and per­haps “re­search agen­das” that are sort of like se­quences for un­solved ques­tions.

  • Ques­tion Sec­tion on the home page. Our home page is already a bit clut­tered, so adding a ques­tion sec­tion will re­quire a sig­nifi­cant re­work. But we’d like a sys­tem that shows new ques­tions, and high­lights when they’ve re­ceived satis­fac­tory an­swers.

What Makes a Good Ques­tion?

We want peo­ple to feel com­fortable ask­ing a range of ques­tions, from “What caused the sci­en­tific rev­olu­tion?” to “wtf is Moloch?”

Some con­crete ex­am­ples in­clude:

  • How do I use Bayes’ The­o­rem when try­ing to figure out which job offer to take?

  • Why do some peo­ple care about ex­is­ten­tial risk above most ev­ery­thing else?

  • What were the main changes to the hu­man con­di­tion that oc­curred af­ter the agri­cul­tural rev­olu­tion and in­dus­trial rev­olu­tion?

  • What is a ham­ming prob­lem?

  • Why does as­sign­ing prob­a­bil­ity 1 to math­e­mat­i­cal state­ments not make sense?

  • Why has no­body built a real pre­dic­tion mar­ket?

  • Why should I care about the causes of my be­liefs in dou­ble crux? Surely I should just care about the best ar­gu­ments?

  • Why does Eliezer em­pha­size notic­ing con­fu­sion so much in the se­quences?

You can also add more de­tail about your epistemic state in the post body. Ex­am­ples:

  • I’ve read Bostrom’s ini­tial pa­per but didn’t get <thing>

  • In par­tic­u­lar I cur­rently be­lieve that <stuff>.

  • In par­tic­u­lar I’m con­fused about <de­tail>.

Com­ment Guidelines

Fi­nally, we’ve also added some new fea­tures to your per­sonal mod­er­a­tion guidelines. Pre­vi­ously, we gave users with 2000 karma the abil­ity to mod­er­ate posts (whether on their per­sonal blog or on front­page). Along with that was the abil­ity to set their mod­er­a­tion guidelines.

We also want peo­ple to be able to use their per­sonal blog sec­tion roughly the way they would any other blogsite, which in­cludes set­ting mod­er­a­tion poli­cies. So, if you have 50 or more karma, you will now be able to set and en­force mod­er­a­tion guidelines on per­sonal blog­posts.

If your post guidelines are com­pat­i­ble with the front­page guidelines, we may pro­mote it to front­page. There, you won’t be able to mod­er­ate it your­self (if you have less than 2000 karma) but the nor­mal site ad­mins will at­tempt to en­force the spirit of your in­tended rules.

In the fu­ture we will build out some fea­tures to make this pro­cess smoother and clearer to new users, and to give them op­tions about which posts they want to move to front­page. For now, send us a PM if we’ve moved a post to front­page that you want to re­tain di­rect mod­er­a­tor con­trol of, and we’ll move set it back to per­sonal-blog.

You can also use the ‘re­port com­ment’ tool if you think we missed a par­tic­u­lar com­ment that should be mod­er­ated while leav­ing it on front­page. (We’ll be us­ing our judg­ment about which cases are ac­tu­ally com­pat­i­ble with the front­page guidelines)

Note: Due to a quirk of code­base, users won’t re­ceive their new mod­er­a­tion per­mis­sions un­til they re­ceive an vote. So, if you have 50+ karma now, it’ll kick in when a com­ment or post is voted on. Send us a PM if you re­ally want to get go­ing right away.

How to Setup Moder­a­tion Guidelines

  • Go to to your user ac­count.

  • Find the Moder­a­tion & Moder­a­tion Guidelines sec­tion.

  • Select a mod­er­a­tion style (ei­ther ‘Easy Go­ing’, ‘Norm En­forc­ing’ or ‘Reign of Ter­ror’, to roughly com­mu­ni­cate how heav­ily you’ll be mod­er­at­ing) [1]

  • If you like, you can spell out ad­di­tional notes for what sort of norms you’d like to cul­ti­vate on your per­sonal blog, which will be the de­fault guidelines on posts you cre­ate.

After hav­ing done that, you’ll also have the op­tion to set the mod­er­a­tion guidelines for in­di­vi­d­ual posts. By de­fault, they will be the guidelines you set in your user pro­file, but you can change them if you’d like a par­tic­u­lar dis­cus­sion to go a cer­tain way.

[1] Note, “Easy Go­ing”, “Reign of Ter­ror”, etc, are just rough sug­ges­tions. They don’t have a di­rect im­pact on what you’re al­lowed to do as a mod­er­a­tor.

Go Forth and Be Cu­ri­ous!

We’re look­ing for­ward to peo­ple ask­ing ques­tions and cul­ti­vat­ing new types of con­ver­sa­tions. Let us know if you have any thoughts or feed­back. :)