There is something we can frame in two different ways, either “What is it that the mods make exceptions for?” or “What are the real rules?” I assume this comes down to the same question, but the second version is more explicit.
I think the implicit rule that I perceived was, more or less: “Posts should be about important/useful insights (whatever that means). They should try to explain, be based on and provide evidence when talking about the real world, be written in a level-headed way, avoid sneery comments about outgroups (and be timeless, even though that’s sometimes a vague concept). Because the things we want to avoid correlate with politics, we discourage politics in posts.”
Now, steelmanning, one could argue that the new rule is the same is before but augmented by “However, if a post contains expectionally important/useful insights (e.g. emergency information), all other criteria can be overruled. If the mods find the main points of a post convincing, other statements in the post then do not have to be rigorously argued for or be backed up by evidence, rants can take the place of level-headed writing, sneery comments about outgroups are ok (timelessness is not a criterion in an emergency anyway), and politics in general is not a problem anymore, including if that essentially means that LessWrong effectively endorses political demands that are not implied by being a rationality community.” (I am not saying Zvi’s posts are completely like that; instead I am trying to describe a potential rule that would potentially put them in the set of posts allowed for the frontpage, without saying that they are at the extreme border of that set.)
Is that the reasoning?
If so, I’ll note that I think it still damages the culture of the forum, but of course that may be justified. But then only the net effect is the justification. And the posts would therefore have to be really exceptionally important. Another possibility would be that the true rule should better be thought of as some function of the listed criteria? Then the more the other criteria are violated the more exceptional the main contant would have to be. However, that would not fit the “exception” reasoning. In any case, I think that it damages the culture more if it’s just left as a vague “We’ll make an exception”, combined with the implicit claim that Zvi’s post are very similar to other COVID posts (like this?).
Moreover, I am a bit suspicious of the claims about the unique value of these posts (“to make sure that people who follow LessWrong have at least basic guidance and advice during the most crucial phases of this whole coronavirus pandemic”, as habryka wrote above), which would fit the first dimension of the “exception criteria”. But as I am not in the US and do follow a different country’s media (including social media), it is of course possible that all other sources of information in the US are basically useless.
What I also don’t see is why this is “a decent middle-ground of not completely breaking our guidelines”; exceptions do break rules, otherwise they would not be exceptions, right?
I still don’t fully understand what you are saying, so: 1) What does the word “utilitarian” add to this explanation? 2) What would LessWrong run by “consequentialist calculus” look like, in contrast to “run by utilitarian calculus”? 3) Do you equate “habryka thinks” with the utilitarian calculus that is supposed to run LW?
I guess I can’t suggest a rule here; I seem to misunderstand the rules that are valid on LessWrong. With respect to the more-or-less explicit ones (“unusually high standards of discourse” etc, and “explain not persuade”), my understanding seems to be different from yours. There are also implicit rules which I thought existed as a standard or as an ideal, but they would not fit the preferences revealed by frontpaging or by popularity.
After some reflection, I still do not understand the reasoning why the new rule is that Covid-19 content is forbidden except for Zvi’s? Why are more level-headed posts banned from the frontpage, making spicing up articles with a certain rhetorics a necessary condition for Covid-19 frontpage posts?
“Over and over and over again, I’ve been told we should expect immunity from infection to fade Real Soon Now, or that immunity isn’t that strong. … the inevitable media misinterpretations … Naturally, the public-facing articles all seem to quote the 83%, and ignore the 95% and 99%. … (And again, they also take something presented after five months of follow-up, and report it as ‘immunity lasts five months’ because journalism.)”
While this may be true (who knows), can we maybe make it a norm to back up major empirical claims and generalizations with evidence?
What’s the background to this question?
Another way you can follow the new posts of all kinds is the RSS button on the frontpage (together with an RSS feed reader). You can also select to see all kinds of posts above a certain threshold of “karma”, e.g. this. (I think that is independent of whether it’s just a personal blogpost, but I currently have a technical problem and cannot really check that.)
I did not mind the amount of “coronavirus-related content” in April, and I do not remember the site being overwhelmed with political content.
I did not interpret Zvi’s delenda calls as calls for killing people. However, the usage of historical phrases is not innocuous. When you do that, you explicitly refer to the context, including the modern usage. I think it’s not useful to make up new interpretations of words on the fly, otherwise we might end up in a Humpty-Dumpty usage of language.
Moreover, I know that the LW community, like every community, likes to use a lot of insider language (which may be signalling, which I explicitly note here also to include an example). But then you should expect that outsiders do not understand it, and give it a different interpretation.
If I recall the old days and my memory does not fail me, back in the era of the first wave, LessWrong had a a lot of useful Covid-19 content, a bit like an wiki and newsfeed for understanding the situation and getting some tips for self-care. In the comment by Habryka you link to, he explains that it’s “Player vs. Environment” and therefore seemingly not as political; in any case, I would understand that description as a normative call. (Of course, putting it in a World War 2 / Manhattan Project context is a bit risky, and at some point some historic explanations for the desire to take action may also be used to summon, say, a taskforce against certain anti-American foreign powers; but I think as of now that is hypothetical.)
At some (relatively early) point of time, the systematic covid-19 coverage was discontinued. Among some other posts, there were Zvi’s (personal blog) posts. For these, Habryka’s explanations are not valid because they are to a large degree political in the ordinary sense; nonetheless, as you note, one was curated. In my opinion, there would not be much of a need for explaining the reasons for frontpaging if the reasons for curating were clear.
In the linked comment by Habryka and the comments around it, it is claimed that LW’s corona coverage has a lot of influence. If that is correct, then calling for the dissolution of the WHO may have had an impact, who knows. But in any case, it seemed and seems to me that LessWrong as a website/community/brand or whatever you may call it embraces the political conclusions when such posts are curated.
For the record, when the first Zvi covid-post curation took place, the explanation was this. I noted my discomfort with the curation. Zvi shrugged. Rob seems to have agreed that Zvi’s post was full of “heated rhetoric” but stated that it would probably be fine to people with a lot of insider knowledge and/or deeper insights. At this point, it seemed to me that the criteria for what constitutes an exemplary lesswrong post are applied in a somewhat subjective manner. Rob then said that in a utopian world, politics would be standard LW content; I had no idea what to do with that. The discussion ended. Meanwhile, jacobjacob also saw long-run costs even if he explicitly felt the need to note that he somehow disagreed with me.
I would like to note that the justification for encouraging/frontpaging covid content and the discussion about whether political texts should be encouraged and frontpaged are two very different animals. I welcome covid posts (e.g. this, this, this). I don’t even mind politics-related posts very much if they try to be factual, objective, neutral, explanatory, open and avoid to be one-sided, straw-manning, sarcastic, and pandering to insider opinion and requiring club knowledge. I do not say that I never enjoy one-sided, sarcastic essays, or that Zvi’s posts are all like that and not useful; and this is not statement about the extent to which I agree with Zvi. But I feel discomfort when rules are applied to everybody except the gold-star club members. I’m not sure I agree with the claim that “once you make enough exceptions then the rule is lost”; I’d rather say “once you make an exception then the understanding of the word ‘rule’ changes”. The previous behavior may have been compatible with a strict understanding of the word, but once you make an exception the meaning changes. I would have preferred a regime of “topics that may have political implications: yes; gray tribe op-eds on American politics: no”. (After all, AI safety stuff is also politics-related.)
And let me note that those “in the LessWrong community” who “do not have good information sources during this crisis” and agree that “Zvi’s updates are high-quality, honest, readable, and trustworthy” usually see them whether they are frontpaged or not, and whether they are curated or not. I assume frontpaging and curation is more about presentation of the website to the outside. (Though currently, this display window is constituted by curated and shortform posts...)
I endorse the current LW system where you can talk about politics but it’s not frontpaged.
Would you please briefly define what you consider to be politics? I would assume that posts calling for the “delenda” of the WHO or using wordings like “Second-worst person New York Mayor DeBlasio” or affirmatively citing this tweet are political. And these posts seem to be frontpaged.
To “fact-checked” and “compelling examples” etc, I would add the request that it would actually try to steelman these institutions’ actions.
“but it may mean a few months of never leaving the house without a positive-pressure suit”
This suggests that the air outside your house is densely infected with corona viruses? Which reminds me of the pictures of Chinese large-scale disinfection spray in cities. Is there any evidence that that is sensible and effective?
“Overshooting herd immunity” means we achieve herd immunity in the space of a few weeks, with perhaps 60+% of all Americans getting sick; and then (because the total number of infectious people is so high) a large portion of the rest of the population gets infected too even though the virus’s effective reproduction number R is much lower now.
I don’t understand what that means. How is herd immunity in this context formally defined?
Update. Doing a quick search led to this:
“The U.S. public’s overall trust in Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s top infectious disease doctor, has declined 10% since April. Republicans have particularly soured on him: His favorables dropped nearly 30% among Republicans since April. Democrats’ confidence in Fauci, meanwhile, has increased from 80% to 86% since April.” (Statnews, Sep 10)
“79% of Democrats said Fauci has done a good or excellent job handling the pandemic, compared with 56% of independents and 54% of Republicans.” “Voters have consistently rated the WHO, the CDC and their state governors above lawmakers and the president.” (Oct 14, Morning Consult)
I would be very interested in knowing whether you use more up-to-date polls for your statement.
Thanks for explaining your assessment of the situation.
They all have negative credibility at this point with many Americans.
Are there polls supporting this view? (Negative credibility would mean that people assume the opposite of what is said by these people is true, right?)
“I think the modal outcome is that ~50% of Americans will get it by the early summer”
What is the model for that expectation?
Yes maybe an ITT tests a fleshman instead of a steelman or a strawman...
Yes, though I assume the best test for whether you really steelman someone would be if you can take a break and ask her whether your representation fits.