How Are We Doing?

This is our 101st post in the 50 days since we opened November 20.   So it is time to take stock and ask for feedback.  We’ve had 76,436 page views, 33,410 visits, and 1392 comments.   Our visitors come from these time zones:  Eastern 35%, Pacific 19%, Central 14%, Mountain 7%, Greenwich 5%, Berlin 5%, and New Caledonia (near Australia) 5%. 

Our busiest days overall were last Friday for several posts, December 13 for the post Do Helping Professions Help More?, and Nov. 28 for the post Are The Big Four Econ Errors Biases?

I wrote 45 of the posts, and Hal Finney wrote 16.   Eliezer Yudkowsky and David Balan wrote 7, Nicholas Shackel and Peter McCluskey wrote 3, Nick Bostrom and Guy Kahane wrote 2, and Hibbert, Kling, Shulman, Tschoegl and Weeden wrote one.  The top two categories were Disagreement with 19 and Standard Biases with 17.

My plan was to scale back my contributions once we had enough momentum; I’m not sure we are there yet.   So, what can we do to improve?   

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  • I’ve really enjoyed this blog/forum/thing for the duration it’s been up. Bravo!

    Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

    “So, what can we do to improve?”

    Well, for one, don’t stop posting, Robin! No scaling back for you!

    Two, I’m wondering whether you shouldn’t have some policy of kicking people off the side column if they haven’t posted in a month or a similar rule.

    That would help incentivize greater contributions from contributors.

    As for improving quality of posts, that is a much more difficult question. I’ll leave that to poster number two or three…

  • I would think one new post per weekday is a good rate, so I don’t see us as lacking momentum – if anything, the opposite. 670 unique visitors per day is quite impressive.

    Minor things:

    Is it possible to increase the number of “recent comments” listed in the right margin? If one has been away for a few days, it is easy to miss commments that have been made unless one goes through lots of posts manually to check.

    I wonder if it would be worth modifying the title field of the blog, perhaps to include some short text explaining the origin of the blog and what we are up to? One doesn’t want to clutter it, but some sort of welcome message might be useful.

  • Psstt… New Caledonians are French citizens (whites + natives). Your New Caledonian traffic is either spam or misinterpreted Australian traffic.

    Do you hide the listing of your categories on purpose? I would have liked to click on one of interest to me —and seeing the full list is also informative.

    As for participation inequality, I (again) recommend Jakob Nielsen’s essay:

    I’m doubtful that you will be able to retire and see the blog develop on its own dynamic. Overcoming Bias = Robin Hanson. Most of your readers don’t give the first fig about the other writers, probably. Sorry to be blunt and to pierce some bubbles. (I liked Hal Finney’s recent post about the oil futures market, though.) My deep respect to all the writers, anyway.

  • This is a great site. I’ve been reading for about a month, I didn’t realise it was only six weeks old, I I’m pleasantly suprised to find I must be one of your earlier subscribers. Immediate thoughts:

    – slow down? This blog doesn’t need more than on update a day (not even). You might be setting a pace that you can’t keep up. Many of the posts could be held up or day to two especially to make way for
    – posts that pick up on current topics, linking to your main themes.

  • I forgot to say.. this is the article that I actually sent to one or two people (a good test of really liking soemthing).

    (More from Weeden, please!)

  • Nick, sorry Typepad doesn’t give me the option to increase the number of recent comments listed. Feel free to suggest a short subtitle.

    Chris, there is a list of categories on the right side.

    Alcibiades, I only asked contributors to post at least once a year.

    All, yes, I’ll feel free to slow down my posting rate if needed.

  • I would have never guessed this blog was so new. Keep up the great work! Fascinating stuff.

  • Calca

    When I first landed here I didn’t know and didn’t understand much. I then decided to read every post from the very beginning in chronological order and that helped my comprehension quite a bit. Also Yudkowsky’s introductory articles on his webpage (beautifully written) helped understanding the jargon and the goals. Since sometimes the language here is shocking it would be helpful to have these self-help hints more publicised, but it’s just a thought.

  • cosmo1

    Comment about the look: I don’t like the position of dotted line. It’s hard (for me) to know who the author of the post is.

  • Cosmo, I’d like to put the author below the post title, but I haven’t figured out how to to that in TypePad yet.

  • Michael Sullivan

    “Overcoming Bias = Robin Hanson”

    That certainly seems to be why a lot of people were excited to promote the site, but I’ve been just as impressed and inspired by the posts from other contributors (most of whom I’d never read before), as well as much of the commentariat. It would be a great loss if Robin scaled back to no more posts than the typical contributor, but I don’t think the blog would lose much momentum if he posted less often but still regularly. I find I can’t properly keep up with the site, as it inspires some deep thinking and comment streams. I’ve often started thinking about commentary that I never get around to writing before the conversation expires.

  • Lee

    Great blog. Suggestions:

    (1) Every now and again, how about giving us a quick explanation of why Bayesianism is the focus so much.

    (2) Get rid of that ugly icon. The “BS” in the slash-circle thing that appears in webbrowsers next to the url. It would be better to have nothing rather than that—especially since you went the classy route with your banner.

  • Lee, the icon is now changed.

    Michael, someone should post a summary of “why Bayesian” soon, and then we can refer back to it. Also, no conversation ever expires. 🙂

  • ChrisA

    Echoing the other comments, this is a really great blog. I have really enjoyed reading the posts (from everyone) and occasionally commenting. What I think is most impresssive is the courteous quality of the debate, people really do read the other posters comments and respond properly.

    I guess my time zone (middle east) was so infrequent it was not worth mentioning.

  • Ian Deans

    I’m new to your blog, but it is simply fantastic. Bravo, and keep up the good work!

  • Michael E Sullivan

    “Also, no conversation ever expires. :)”

    I’m glad you don’t plan to close and delete comments after a while like many journals, and I agree that all good conversations (and too many bad ones) are eternal. Unfortunately, the problem with blogs is that comments and followup are second-class. The flow tends to pass from threads usually after a fairly short time and one can’t usually expect a comment in a two week old thread to be read by anyone other than the site maintainers (original authors? — whoever would get notices of comments being posted in a thread). I suppose that means I should put my hat in to become a contributor so that I can pick up old conversations with an original post when necessary.

  • Unlike Jewish atheist I haven’t the time or inclination to read back through all the posts to “go figure.” So as intellectual lightweight, I’d sure like a “bias lite” post, which explains what is bias as relates to this blog, and what the blog is aiming at specifically (or not so specifically.) The bits that have really piqued my interest are things that relate to the question of how we know what we know, what probabilities we assign to our fundamental beliefs, and at what cost we alter, tinker or fail to do so. I’ve had enough logic and stats training to be familiar with the term “bayesian” but not enough to spell it correctly at the first go, or to have a clue what that is… I can look it up, I know.

    This preamble is just to be sure you understand that the blog mostly is neither about nor for me, BUT, I often find bits that grab my imagination, and set my head to spin. Ain’t the i-net grand! I can read about enlightenment or bias or philosophy, have 1/2 a clue, and a wonderful time. Thanks.

  • Robin, it would indeed be ideal to be able to maintain activity on old post conversations, but, alas, blogs simply don’t work that way. The best blog I’ve ever seen in that regard is Alas, a Blog,

    and I attribute its success in that regard to its recent comments plugin, which groups by post and displays a large number of comments. This allows you to gauge conversational velocity of recent comments per post, which really helps things, and allows people reading the from page to very quickly see if there’s any new activity on posts they’ve been participating in. Having a week’s worth of comments is important, so that people who only check the site every few days won’t miss comments they would otherwise respond to.

    Alas, even that isn’t enough to make conversations last indefinitely. The problem is that the subject matter being explored in conversation is very non-linear, but the format of blog comments are completely linear. People coming into the conversation get bogged down by the linearity. When threads get too long and too noisy, new participants rarely enter, and back and forth between a few participants is rarely desirable after a point.

    When posters elevate a topic brought up in a comments thread to a new post, that issue is mitigated somewhat. It gives new issues, and objections, more attention, and allows for a fresh context to be constructed. This is something you might consider doing more frequently, if you want to encourage that.

    I’ve long thought that some form of non-linear discussion forum would be a big improvement. Something wiki-like, but that fixes wiki weaknesses. A small step in that direction is subthreaded comments (when done well). But the commenting volume here isn’t high enough to warrant (or benefit from) that.

  • Robin:

    1) I am preparing other posts, albeit in desultory manner. Furthest along is one on framing and filling.
    2) There is nothing wrong with recycling previous posts, together with comments. By that I mean every now and then revisiting a post by bringing it out of the archive and putting it up front, with a notation to the effect that is what you are doing, and why. Reasons could range from you like the issue and would like to give it a second chance, to this issue aroused a lot of discussion last time and now that we have had a chance to let the issue sit in the cask and mature, it might be worth tasting again.

  • Michael E Sullivan

    “I’ve long thought that some form of non-linear discussion forum would be a big improvement. ”

    You mean like usenet?

    I mean if it wasn’t bombarded by spam.

    Can you tell that I really miss usenet?

  • I can’t really tell if you’re being sarcastic or not, Michael. If so, (or for the benefit of Usenet-haters) the main reason Usenet was so characterized by endless flaming and trolling was that the moderation was so primitive, and the communities so open. Blogs are much more managed and insular, so non-linearity wouldn’t lead to the eternal September.