Welcome to Less Wrong! (5th thread, March 2013)

If you’ve re­cently joined the Less Wrong com­mu­nity, please leave a com­ment here and in­tro­duce your­self. We’d love to know who you are, what you’re do­ing, what you value, how you came to iden­tify as a ra­tio­nal­ist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post con­sists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.
(This is the fifth in­car­na­tion of the wel­come thread; once a post gets over 500 com­ments, it stops show­ing them all by de­fault, so we make a new one. Be­sides, a new post is a good peren­nial way to en­courage new­com­ers and lurk­ers to in­tro­duce them­selves.)

A few notes about the site mechanics

Less Wrong com­ments are threaded for easy fol­low­ing of mul­ti­ple con­ver­sa­tions. To re­spond to any com­ment, click the “Re­ply” link at the bot­tom of that com­ment’s box. Within the com­ment box, links and for­mat­ting are achieved via Mark­down syn­tax (you can click the “Help” link be­low the text box to bring up a primer).
You may have no­ticed that all the posts and com­ments on this site have but­tons to vote them up or down, and all the users have “karma” scores which come from the sum of all their com­ments and posts. This im­me­di­ate easy feed­back mechanism helps keep ar­gu­ments from turn­ing into flame­wars and helps make the best posts more visi­ble; it’s part of what makes dis­cus­sions on Less Wrong look differ­ent from those any­where else on the In­ter­net.
How­ever, it can feel re­ally ir­ri­tat­ing to get down­voted, es­pe­cially if one doesn’t know why. It hap­pens to all of us some­times, and it’s perfectly ac­cept­able to ask for an ex­pla­na­tion. (Some­times it’s the un­writ­ten LW eti­quette; we have differ­ent norms than other fo­rums.) Take note when you’re down­voted a lot on one topic, as it of­ten means that sev­eral mem­bers of the com­mu­nity think you’re miss­ing an im­por­tant point or mak­ing a mis­take in rea­son­ing— not just that they dis­agree with you! If you have any ques­tions about karma or vot­ing, please feel free to ask here.
Replies to your com­ments across the site, plus pri­vate mes­sages from other users, will show up in your in­box. You can reach it via the lit­tle mail icon be­neath your karma score on the up­per right of most pages. When you have a new re­ply or mes­sage, it glows red. You can also click on any user’s name to view all of their com­ments and posts.
It’s definitely worth your time com­ment­ing on old posts; vet­eran users look through the re­cent com­ments thread quite of­ten (there’s a sep­a­rate re­cent com­ments thread for the Dis­cus­sion sec­tion, for what­ever rea­son), and a con­ver­sa­tion be­gun any­where will pick up con­trib­u­tors that way. There’s also a suc­ces­sion of open com­ment threads for dis­cus­sion of any­thing re­motely re­lated to ra­tio­nal­ity.
Dis­cus­sions on Less Wrong tend to end differ­ently than in most other fo­rums; a sur­pris­ing num­ber end when one par­ti­ci­pant changes their mind, or when mul­ti­ple peo­ple clar­ify their views enough and reach agree­ment. More com­monly, though, peo­ple will just stop when they’ve bet­ter iden­ti­fied their deeper dis­agree­ments, or sim­ply “tap out” of a dis­cus­sion that’s stopped be­ing pro­duc­tive. (Se­ri­ously, you can just write “I’m tap­ping out of this thread.”) This is ab­solutely OK, and it’s one good way to avoid the flame­wars that plague many sites.
There’s ac­tu­ally more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the “WIKI”, “DISCUSSION” and “SEQUENCES” links.
LW WIKI: This is our at­tempt to make search­ing by topic fea­si­ble, as well as to store in­for­ma­tion like com­mon ab­bre­vi­a­tions and idioms. It’s a good place to look if some­one’s speak­ing Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a fo­rum just like the top-level one, with two key differ­ences: in the top-level fo­rum, posts re­quire the au­thor to have 20 karma in or­der to pub­lish, and any up­votes or down­votes on the post are mul­ti­plied by 10. Thus there’s a lot more in­for­mal di­alogue in the Dis­cus­sion sec­tion, in­clud­ing some of the more fun con­ver­sa­tions here.
SEQUENCES: A huge cor­pus of ma­te­rial mostly writ­ten by Eliezer Yud­kowsky in his days of blog­ging at Over­com­ing Bias, be­fore Less Wrong was started. Much of the dis­cus­sion here will ca­su­ally de­pend on or re­fer to ideas brought up in those posts, so read­ing them can re­ally help with pre­sent dis­cus­sions. Be­sides which, they’re pretty en­gross­ing in my opinion.

A few notes about the community

If you’ve come to Less Wrong to dis­cuss a par­tic­u­lar topic, this thread would be a great place to start the con­ver­sa­tion. By com­ment­ing here, and check­ing the re­sponses, you’ll prob­a­bly get a good read on what, if any­thing, has already been said here on that topic, what’s widely un­der­stood and what you might still need to take some time ex­plain­ing.
If your wel­come com­ment starts a huge dis­cus­sion, then please move to the next step and cre­ate a LW Dis­cus­sion post to con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion; we can fit many more wel­comes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ com­ments. (To do this: click “Create new ar­ti­cle” in the up­per right cor­ner next to your user­name, then write the ar­ti­cle, then at the bot­tom take the menu “Post to” and change it from “Drafts” to “Less Wrong Dis­cus­sion”. Then click “Sub­mit”. When you edit a pub­lished post, click­ing “Save and con­tinue” does cor­rectly up­date the post.)
If you want to write a post about a LW-rele­vant topic, awe­some! I highly recom­mend you sub­mit your first post to Less Wrong Dis­cus­sion; don’t worry, you can later pro­mote it from there to the main page if it’s well-re­ceived. (It’s much bet­ter to get some feed­back be­fore ev­ery vote counts for 10 karma- hon­estly, you don’t know what you don’t know about the com­mu­nity norms here.)
If you’d like to con­nect with other LWers in real life, we have mee­tups in var­i­ous parts of the world. Check the wiki page for places with reg­u­lar mee­tups, or the up­com­ing (ir­reg­u­lar) mee­tups page. There’s also a Face­book group. If you have your own blog or other on­line pres­ence, please feel free to link it.

If English is not your first lan­guage, don’t let that make you afraid to post or com­ment. You can get English help on Dis­cus­sion- or Main-level posts by send­ing a PM to one of the fol­low­ing users (use the “send mes­sage” link on the up­per right of their user page). Either put the text of the post in the PM, or just say that you’d like English help and you’ll get a re­sponse with an email ad­dress.
* Nor­mal_Ano­maly
* Ran­daly
* shok­wave
* Barry Cotter

A note for the­ists: you will find the Less Wrong com­mu­nity to be pre­dom­i­nantly athe­ist, though not com­pletely so, and most of us are gen­uinely re­spect­ful of re­li­gious peo­ple who keep the usual com­mu­nity norms. It’s worth say­ing that we might think re­li­gion is off-topic in some places where you think it’s on-topic, so be thought­ful about where and how you start ex­plic­itly talk­ing about it; some of us are happy to talk about re­li­gion, some of us aren’t in­ter­ested. Bear in mind that many of us re­ally, truly have given full con­sid­er­a­tion to the­is­tic claims and found them to be false, so start­ing with the most com­mon ar­gu­ments is pretty likely just to an­noy peo­ple. Any­how, it’s ab­solutely OK to men­tion that you’re re­li­gious in your wel­come post and to in­vite a dis­cus­sion there.

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recom­mend the ma­jor se­quences to ev­ery­body, but I re­al­ize how daunt­ing they look at first. So for pur­poses of im­me­di­ate grat­ifi­ca­tion, the fol­low­ing posts are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing/​illu­mi­nat­ing/​provoca­tive and don’t re­quire any pre­vi­ous read­ing:

More sug­ges­tions are wel­come! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the his­tory of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Wel­come to Less Wrong, and we look for­ward to hear­ing from you through­out the site!

Note from or­thonor­mal: MBlume and other con­trib­u­tors wrote the origi­nal ver­sion of this wel­come post, and I’ve ed­ited it a fair bit. If there’s any­thing I should add or up­date on this post (es­pe­cially bro­ken links), please send me a pri­vate mes­sage—I may not no­tice a com­ment on the post. Fi­nally, once this gets past 500 com­ments, any­one is wel­come to copy and edit this in­tro to start the next wel­come thread.