Learning From Less Wrong: Special Threads, and Making This Forum More Useful

This post was originally intended as a comment on a discussion about how we shall make use of this forum. Several users expressed an interest in splitting this forum into different sections such as Major/​Minor articles, or Main/​Discussion. Noting how such a division was historically unpopular on Less Wrong, Ryan Carey, the current moderator for this forum, cautions against doing so.

If we want to make special discussions on this forum so it’s more useful, or modular, we can do so. Less Wrong itself has various other special threads in addition to its regular posts. There are two types: periodic, and repository

Periodic threads are ones posted on a regular, e.g., (bi-)weekly, or (bi-)monthly, basis. There are already open threads, effective altruism quotes, welcome threads, and meetup announcements on this site. These should keep being posted regularly. Additionally, we can also periodically post the following:

  • ‘What Are You Working On?’: a (bi)monthly thread on which users can showcase their current activities. Of course, such a thread on this forum would be specific activity at least tangential to effective altruism. Still, it could act as a way for effective altruists to find collaborators, and other volunteers, a la .impact, or have their projects funded by other effective altruists, as Diego Caleiro, and Ozzie Gooen, have started doing.

  • ‘Group Effective Altruism Diary’: Less Wrong has a group rationality diary. We can do the same for effective altruism. This is a (bi)monthly thread for users to share how they’ve been doing applying effective altruism in their own lives.

  • Media Thread: posted monthly to collect recommendations/​reviews for media (books, movies, articles, etc.)

Ryan Carey wouldn’t have to maintain regular threads like these alone. Less Wrong users organize themselves to post these threads on their regularly timed schedule(s), and we could do the same. I personally volunteer to post the periodic threads I’ve suggested above. I’ll start posting these in October, one per week, and repeat the pattern every (other) month.

Additionally, Less Wrong users spontaneously created threads which became useful repositories of information.

  • Solved Problems Repository: this is a thread for ‘solved’ problems in instrumental rationality. Since instrumental rationality is useful advice for everyone, I recommend checking out that thread on Less Wrong itself. Anyway, we could have such a resource on this forum specific to effective altruism. For example, there could be a resources page for dealing with tax-deductible donations, launching a non-profit organization, etc., for each of the different countries effective altruists are from.

  • Helpful Life Advice: this is called something else on Less Wrong, but I figure we can call it ‘Helpful Life Advice’ here because effective altruism is so much more personal than other activities.

  • Useful Questions Repository: questions that are good, and useful, to keep in mind as an effective altruist. I recommend reading the original thread on Less Wrong as well.

  • Bad Concepts Repository: a body of concepts that effective altruists discover make for bad decision-making. I recommend reading the original thread on Less Wrong as well.

  • Procedural Knowledge Gaps: a thread for knowledge which should be common sense, but is only learned through experience. This seems especially important for effective altruism as it is a lifelong path fraught with difficult decisions, and knowing how to pass them well is important. The original thread on Less Wrong has life advice applicable to anyone.

  • Repository of Mistakes: this could be a thread here for effective altruists to share the life-changing mistakes they’ve made. Like with procedural knowledge gaps, such a repository seems especially, crucially important for effective altruists, due to the specific and demanding lifestyle choices some of us may make.

If this forum never develops its own wiki as Less Wrong did for itself, or the existing effective altruism wiki remains stagnant, then I believe repository threads such as these should be linked from the home page of this forum. I believe it will make more sense to start these repository threads later, when this forum gains more users.

Overall, between periodic threads, repositories, and other special threads, specifically labeled as such when they’re posted, I believe fragmenting this thread as Ryan cautions against isn’t necessary. If you have any other suggestions for special threads that would do this forum well, please suggest them in the comments.