Contributors: Be Half Accessible

We intended this "web forum" to be a cross between a group blog and a conversation among experts.   We want to both attract readers to highlight our cause, and form a community discussing our shared interest.  This may not turn out not to be viable, but until we give up, let me ask contributors to help in this way: make half your posts accessible to a wide audience.   

It is great to have formal discussion of details of epistemology or Bayesian theory, but if that is mainly what readers see, most of them will leave.  And honestly our commitment to overcoming bias is a bit suspect if we just talk generalities and rarely grapple with specific biases and hard cases.   So please, I ask, let us post as often on accessible papers, news, or events that illustrate or embody important biases and corrections. 

Oh, and please, delete needless words; a screenful of text or less is ideal. 

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  • http://procurementinvestor.blogspot.com/ David Rotor

    I support the plea to delete “needless words”, brevity often will improve a writer’s ability to communicate to a reader. I suspect, but have no proof, it will also increase readership.

    I find making posts “accessible” is a more interesting question. While I hold a Masters degree, it was more of a trade-school experience than an academic experience, so I don’t have the background to follow “formal discussion of details of epistemology or Bayesian theory”. When confronted with a post that is dense with specialist language I try to determine whether it is worth my time to wade into it.

    I tend to group those posts into three categories. Ones that I view as using the specialist language because it provides a short-hand means to communicate are usually worthwhile reading (and quick wikipedia references help understand the content). I don’t read posts where I believe the author is using specialist language to demonstrate just how much of that language the author can use in one post. The first two are easy for me to categorize (of course, that’s purely a personal bias, 😉 ). The third category, the ones that appear to use specialist language because it is required to communicate the author’s meaning (as opposed to a short-cut) also usually don’t make my personal reading cut, but I suspect may be very worthwhile to a reader who speaks the same language.

    Cheers,
    David Rotor

  • http://profile.typekey.com/sentience/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    There’s a tradeoff between accessibility and length. I usually choose length.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    Eliezer, do you mean you write longer articles so that you can be more easily understood by a wide audience? Or do you mean longer is less accessible, but you prefer it for other reasons?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/sentience/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    The fact that you had to request clarification demonstrates my point. Longer articles are more accessible. Some of the points I want to make, I could, in theory, make briefly, but even intelligent readers would have a 2/3 chance of misinterpreting one point along the way. Why *should* points of rationality be communicable in one screenful of text? When half my readers complain my pages are too long and obvious, and the other half complain that my pages need to be broken up into chapters with more examples and homework exercises, I figure I’ve hit median verbosity.

  • http://rationallongevity.blogspot.com/ Anne Corwin

    There seems to be a fairly common fallacy operating these days which assumes that all ideas should somehow be reducible to “sound bites”. I find that too frequently, people tend to “skim” and assume that when a large block of text is present, much of it is probably unnecessary, when that may not be the case. There are people who write realtively long, very complex pieces in which every word is carefully chosen and essential to the meaning of the piece. As far as this blog goes, the amount of verbiage needed to clearly explicate an idea will depend upon the nature of the idea in question. Some ideas need less words, some need more. And there’s also a trade-off, sometimes, in terms of time invested to write something long but clear versus the time invested in figuring out how to cut your length by a few words here and there.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    I agree some some ideas need more space to explain fully than others. But even the most technical papers are usually summarized in a one hundred word abstract. In ordinary conversation authors do not usually launch into fifteen minute monologues explaining their latest idea; they offer shorter summaries in the hope luring others into more detailed discussion.

    Ideas that need a paper-length to explain should be written in a paper-length, and then posted as a paper somewhere; they should not be published as paper-length blog posts. Instead post a summary of the paper and point readers seeking details to the paper. I have often written short essays and posted them to my web site, and then posted a summary to a blog.

    Also, most ideas can be broken into parts. I have been posting here on some difficult ideas, but have broken them into parts, and make one post for each part.

  • Everett E Allie

    For samples of my thought, “Google” my name. I am author of “The Origin of Social Dysfunction”.

    In short, my position is that the discovery of “Truth” requires tracking objective indices. The (level of “objective reality” we understand (internalize) determiness our individual ‘rationality’ and behavior.

    Humanity remains trapped in carefully instilled and instituted ‘belief systems’ that block the gaining of objective knowledge by the individual and functions to enable and maintain authoritarian control over populations. This pathology has remained a constant throughout human history, maintaining endless conflict and misdirection. This must be corrected if the destruction of civilization and Earth’s carrying capacity is to be averted.

    EEA