Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism

I’d like to point out a phe­nomenon that has pre­dictable con­se­quences, that peo­ple are seem­ingly un­aware of:

The Drive-By Low-Effort Crit­i­cism.

To illus­trate, we’ll use:

The Re­la­tion­ship Between the Village and the Mission

That was a re­cent post by Rae­mon on here that, as far as I can tell, (1) took an in­cred­ible amount of work to make, (2) was in­cred­ibly pro-so­cial, (3) was in­cred­ibly well-in­ten­tioned, and (4) is the class of thing that has mas­sively high-up­side if it works. It might not work, but it’s the type of thing that should be en­couraged.

To fur­ther break this down, the post was:

-> 5,444 words (!)

-> Deep-linked/​cited 26 other posts (!)

-> Had anal­y­sis, con­text, trade­offs, an­ti­ci­pa­tion of likely ques­tions or ob­jec­tions, ac­tion­able ideas, etc

-> Was nicely for­mat­ted for read­abil­ity with head­lines, ap­pro­pri­ate bold and ital­ics, etc etc.

-> Offered to do real-world things at au­thor’s time and ex­pense to im­prove the real-world ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity (!!!)

-> It even con­tained a moth­er­fuckin’ Venn di­a­gram (!!!)

In any event, I think we can clearly say it was a high effort post. How many hours did it take? Jeez. More than 2 hours, for sure. More than 5 hours, very likely. More than 10 hours, prob­a­bly. More than 20 hours? 30? Prob­a­bly un­der a hun­dred hours, but heck, maybe not if you con­sider all the time think­ing about the con­cepts.

Re­gard­less — hours. Not min­utes. High effort.

And this is clearly some­one who cares im­mensely about what he’s do­ing. And it’s clearly well-in­ten­tioned. And it’s hum­ble. And it’s… it’s just great. Hats off to Rae­mon.

Now, it might not work. It might be un­fea­si­ble. But he’s cer­tainly putting in a big effort to see if some­thing good is pos­si­ble.

What is his top com­ment? Here’s how the first one starts —

[ com­ment copied from Face­book /​ I didn’t read the full ar­ti­cle be­fore mak­ing this com­ment ]
i am some­what anti-”Mis­sion-cen­tered Village.”

Wait, you didn’t read the full ar­ti­cle be­fore mak­ing a drive-by low-effort crit­i­cism of the con­cept?

Okay. Deep breath. What’s the sec­ond top-level com­ment?

Here is my brain dump: I have mostly given up on the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity as a pos­si­ble village. I think the peo­ple who showed up here were mostly se­lected for be­ing bad at villag­ing, and that the awful shit that’s been hap­pen­ing around here lately is down­stream of that.


Rae­mon spent hours and hours mak­ing that post. He’s work­ing hard to do it.

The top two ranked replies are… well, that’s what they are.

They elab­o­rate a bit more — but even if both com­ments are cor­rect, you know that has a huge ad­verse effect on peo­ple’s will­ing­ness to post and con­tribute ideas, right? Right? You already know that, don’t you? Don’t you?

I mean, at the risk of over­stat­ing the case, I think this sort of be­hav­ior bor­ders on crim­i­nal.

I know it doesn’t feel malev­olent, but the pre­dictable end re­sult is get­ting less con­tri­bu­tions like that.

When a per­son takes a huge amount of time to at­tempt to make a con­tri­bu­tion to a com­mu­nity, I think crit­i­cism should spend at least some time get­ting fully ori­ented around the idea, un­der­stand­ing and re­spect­ing the au­thor’s per­spec­tive, and look­ing to en­gage in di­a­log that’d be ap­pre­ci­ated by the au­thor.

That is, if you care about high-effort thought­ful pro-so­cial con­tri­bu­tions.

The Drive-By Low-Effort Crit­i­cism is easy to do.

It’s easy to spot a po­ten­tial hole in some­one’s ar­gu­ment.

It’s easy to raise an ob­jec­tion.

It’s easy to spout off what­ever first comes to mind.

It’s much harder to fully un­der­stand the au­thor’s point of view, their end goals, the amount of time they put in to do the work, to re­spect and ac­knowl­edge that effort, and to look to post some­thing that re­wards, en­courages, and pro­motes that sort of be­hav­ior.

In fair­ness, both of those com­men­tors had more to say, and are no doubt smart peo­ple. But, like, some ba­sics of em­pa­thy, po­lite­ness, con­struc­tive­ness, ac­knowl­edge­ment, and such is es­sen­tial — if you care about get­ting high-effort con­tri­bu­tions in the fu­ture.

It straight-up sucks for peo­ple to make a ton of work and the first thing they see in re­ply is nega­tive and fast. Not fully ed­ited. Not ac­knowl­edg­ing the whole pic­ture. Not a sin­gle word of re­spect or ac­knowl­edge­ment of all the work. Heck, not even writ­ten with proper punc­tu­a­tion. Worse yet, not even hav­ing read the full piece !

I know the coun­ter­ar­gu­ments. Hav­ing weighed all of them, I still think is es­sen­tially stupid and short-sighted be­hav­ior, and will re­sult in a worse world.

Drive-By Low-Effort Crit­i­cism does dam­age. Think about it.