Tag Archives: Meta

Seven Million Visits

According to the Sitemeter figure on the lower right hand side of this page, there have now been seven million visits to Overcoming Bias since it began in November 2006. Of course many folks read this blog in ways that don’t trigger such counts, but this still seems a reasonable time to pause and take stock. THANK YOU to all you readers, and to all the other authors who have contributed over the years.

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This Is A Personal Blog Again

Last June I turned this into a group blog to help me overcome my addiction to blogging, and focus on writing a book. I think I’ve succeed in changing my work habits, and the book is coming along well, so I think it is time to switch this back to being a personal blog. After all, blogs work best when they have a very distinct coherent voice, and I’m weird enough that most anyone stands out in contrast.

So I offer my deep thanks to Katja Grace, Rob Wiblin, and Carl Shulman, who have honored me with their thoughtful contributions over the last ten months. They are promising young folks for whom I have great expectations, and I suggest you continue to read them, as will I, at their blogs:

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Thank You TrikeApps!

In 2009 my co-blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky split off from Overcoming Bias (OB) to create the Less Wrong (LW) blog. TrikeApps wrote the feature-full software for LW, and Eliezer wanted to start it off with a high Google page rank via inheriting his posts here at OB. To support this, I agreed to let TrikeApps move OB from TypePad to a new platform where TrikeApps could turn Eliezer’s OB post links into hard links to posts at LW, to have recent LW and OB posts show up in a sidebar at the other site, and to have TrikeApps manage the technical aspects of OB.

Four years later, I’d like to send a big hearty THANK YOU to TrikeApps for their blog management. I expect it would have cost lots to pay someone to do the work they’ve done. I don’t have any plans to change this arrangement anytime soon, though I’m of course open to suggestions for other ways to manage and structure this blog.

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Welcome Carl Shulman

Today we welcome a fourth author at Overcoming Bias: Carl Shulman. The other authors have known Carl for many years, he’s posted here at OB before, and while we (ok, I) have often disagreed, he’s consistently thoughtful, clear, and interested in interesting topics. You can read more about Carl here, here, and here, but I suggest you mainly just listen to what he has to say. :)

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This Is A Group Blog Again

The first stop to overcoming a problem is to admit you have one. So: I admit I’m addicted to blogging. In terms of total interesting intellectual insight, I’m actually pretty proud of my 5.5 years of blogging – I doubt I would have produced more insight had I blogged less. But my friends, colleagues, academia, patrons, etc. don’t want me to just find insights, they want me to gain prestige and have influence. And at this point in my life, they are right — intellectual influence *is what I should want. My insights will matter little if I can’t package them in a form that will tempt others to assimilate and build on them.

So, I am writing a book (which I’ll say more about in due time). Which feels great. Alas, I think readers prefer near-daily blogs, I’m reluctant to let this blog die, and as it is I get too easily engrossed in blog post topics. My solution: move Overcoming Bias back to a group blog, by including the young rising stars Katja Grace and Robert Wiblin, of whom I’ve long been a fan. We have mutual respect, similar interests, and similar styles of thought. With them posting more, I’ll hopefully be ok posting less. Overcoming Bias will continue at a similar rate and on similar themes, my less frequent posts will be more thoughtful and less newsy, and I’ll actually get a book written. What’s not to like? ;)

Btw, we aren’t seeking more authors – just the three of us are ok for a while.

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We Have Comment Likes

Blog comments vary greatly in quality, and often low quality comments drive away readers and high quality comments. This blog is no exception.

We now have a “like” button in our comments section. If the people willing to like a comment have on average better taste than the people willing to write a comment, readers and authors could avoid low quality comments by focusing on the most liked comments. It isn’t obvious why this assumption should hold, but I thought likes probably couldn’t make comments much worse, so, why not give it a try.

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Six Million Visits

According to Sitemeter.com, sometime in the next day or so we should have the six millionth visit to this blog.

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OB, Now With Votes

The main feedback I get on posts is comments. Sometimes I’m puzzled that a favorite post of mine gets very few comments, and I’m not sure if that is because others didn’t like it or just didn’t have anything to say about it.  So now, you can vote on posts, to signal your interest without needing to say something in particular about a post. Let the feedback begin.

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Who Watches Watchers?

James Surowiecki says U.S. voters should support a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (C.F.P.B.) because consumers make finance mistakes:

Many Americans are ill informed about financial products. … You might think that businesses offering better products would have an incentive to make sure that potential customers were able to distinguish between ripoffs and good deals, but … there’s “a limit to how much explaining a creditor can do before losing the attention of its customers.” … Warren … talked to a number of banks about introducing a credit card with a higher up-front interest rate but lower penalty fees—a cost-effective arrangement for many people. But … there was no way to convince consumers that it was a good deal. In a world where marketing is all about the lowest teaser A.P.R., … you end up with a race to the bottom. …

The C.F.P.B. hopes to change this, largely by insuring that consumers will be told the true terms of a deal, in a simple and clear fashion. … Some bankers … maintain that the C.F.P.B. will go too far and end up strangling financial innovation. But, over the past century or so, new regulatory initiatives have inevitably been greeted with predictions of doom from the very businesses they eventually helped. … History suggests that business doesn’t always know what’s good for it. (more)

Let’s see, banks offer bad products, because many consumers are too lazy to notice and choose good products. So voters should empower regulators to make rules banning bad products, or at least overly hidden products. But isn’t it also possible that regulators might offer bad regulations, because voters are too lazy to notice and choose politicians who support good regulations? Why would voters pay more attention to choosing regulators than banking customers pay in choosing banks? And if voters pay less attention, how does adding this extra layer of choice improve the overall situation?

You might argue that when choosing their votes, ignorant voters can rely on interest groups and better informed elites, who share their interests. But banking customers could also rely on interest groups and informed elites in deciding where to bank. Yes, banks often try to create and buy off apparently independent groups and elites that pretend to offer neutral informed advice, to fool uninformed customers into buying bad products. But the same thing can happen at the political level – how can voters know which organized groups and elites are actually informed and share their interests?

It would seem that any process that ignorant voters could use to decide who to trust on regulations could also be used by ignorant consumers to decide which banks to patronize. Since banking consumers have far stronger incentives to choose well on banks than voters have to choose well on politicians, how can it help to replace a possibly quite severe ignorant banking consumer problem with an even more severe ignorant voter problem?

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5 Million Visits

Today we had our five millionth visit to Overcoming Bias, at least as measured by sitemeter. Woo and hoo … :)

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