Moderate Moderation

An editorial board, starting with myself, Nick Bostrom, and Eliezer Yudkowsky, will now moderate the posts here at Overcoming Bias.   Most contributors will not be able to post directly; they will instead write drafts, and it will take one member of the editorial board to approve a draft as a post.

We will select for quality and relevance.  Ideal posts are short, direct, have a clear thesis, and some clear support such as real life example, a quote, an analysis, or a pointer to longer treatment.  Extra points for thoughtful conversation among the contributors.  We won’t shy from controversies, but we don’t want tangential "flamebait" either. 

GD Star Rating
Tagged as:
Trackback URL:
  • michael vassar

    Suit yourselves, but it’s my impression that the list volume here isn’t sufficiently large to make that a good idea. Infrequently published blogs tend to loose the audience’s interest. Why not at least ask the other GMU bloggers what they think of the proposal first.

  • Matthew

    I suspect you will find that many of the contributors here who are not members of the editorial board will find / return to other blogs to publish their essays. Nobody likes to feel that their efforts need “approval”. And as Michael mentioned, a large decline in posted essays is likely to translate to a large decline in readership and blogosphere “mindshare”, which may or may not be relevant to your goals.

    That is not to say it would be a mistake — perhaps a leaner, more focused “Overcoming Bias” would be more effective in achieving the goals of the editorial board.

    An alternate suggestion is that if you feel that a few of the contributors have been diluting the signal-to-noise ratio, perhaps a better approach would be to let them know that, either publicly or privately. Or perhaps a more general appeal for “relevance” to the blog’s charter would help.

    Best of luck, this has certainly been one of the more interesting blogs to read and I certainly hope it will continue to be.

  • conchis

    would it be out of line to ask whether there is anything in particular that has prompted this move?

  • Michael, my colleagues tell me that one post per weekday is enough to maintain interest.

    Matthew, there is a tradeoff between quality and volume, both of which influence reader interest and whether we achieve our goals.

    Chonchis, a concern about quality and focus.

  • Lee

    This could be a good move. Unlike those readers (commenters above) who might stop coming if posts become infrequent, I am rss-subscribed via google reader. So to keep me on board, all you have to do is keep average quality high. So far you guys have.

  • With one exception (a blog I’ve thought about not reading anymore) I read _only_ infrequently updated blogs IIRC. My theory is that it is too difficult for a frequently-published blog to maintain a high-enough usefulness density.

  • Giant Step

    Allow me to echo Lee and Robin. Although I used to think a “free speech” blogging and commenting style was optimal, I’ve noticed that my affinity for any particular blog is strongly correlated with the degree of “quality control” that takes place. Sifting through half-baked comments and (to a lesser extent) posts is costly and hence drives the best thinkers away. That said, some bloggers delete comments on the basis of ideological persuasion, which is destructive to free discussion.

    I must say, however, that it’s hard for me to imagine being any more satisfied with this blog. That’s meaningful because if anything we are biased in the way of dissatisfaction.

  • Dagon

    Do we get a post on what biases are increased and reduced by moderation? I’m happy to have a somewhat lighter volume, but most of my time spent reading is comments rather than posts. It’s not clear that cutting number of posts will necessarily reduce the number of comments – it could just cause more comments per post.

    I’m generally in favor of moderation for a blog with multiple authors. However, I’d highly recommend making the proces as transparent as possible, to posters as well as to readers.

    Start with stated moderation goals: are you moderating with a volume target (pick the best post of the day), or a quality target (pick only posts that meet certain criteria, regardless of quantity)?

    Also, it would be nice to have a way to let people who are curious (about the topics, or just curious about how the moderation is working) see the posts that didn’t make the cut. Perhaps a daily or weekly list of links to the alternate locations where the not-good-enough posts ended up.

  • Dagon, if I see anything on bias due to moderation, I’ll post on it.

  • Is this part of an effort to get overcoming bias to be so
    academically respectable that it will get cited in journal

  • Anna

    Since the beginning I have I enjoyed the writings from the prominent posters such as Nick, yourself and Eliezer. I don’t see why your colleagues tell you that one post per weekday is enough to maintain interest but I would think one post from a prominent poster and maybe one or two posts from new posters will give a diversity.

  • Barkely, do you peer review your journal so your articles can be cited in blogs? 🙂

    Anna, hopefully we will continue to have many posts.

  • My comment was probably unnecessarily snarky. More seriously I think a comparison with the history of internet lists is relevant here. I was a moderator for one for awhile (the now defunct pkt). Some still exist, although largely now in the shadows of the blogs. However, many had, and some still have, e.g. the hes list, strongly academic goals and orientations. They did/do not have postings, but an ongoing dialogue among people who have signed up and been allowed to join, with the full, ongoing dialogue hitting one’s email. Occasionally some, as did pkt and also the hayek list, would host a seminar on a major paper or work by a prominent academic. These were often pretty serious, but the bottom line is that I pretty much never see them cited, although some lists, e.g. OPE-L, decided to close their archives to all but members, which does not help with citing. Also, on those lists the moderating was more a matter of blocking obnoxious or flamey postings, although sometimes there was the matter of dealing with cranks, a subject of another posting here, with pkt having a set of one’s with their own weird theories about money being a special problem.

    So, whatever the motive for moderating, good luck. But my own guess is that you are doing fine and don’t really need it.

  • Robin,

    Abolutely, :-), but I have noted that my earlier remark was snarky, inappropriate, and I apologize. I seem to give you a harder time than you deserve, but then at some level I figure you enjoy it, :-).

    Regarding the matter of the old internet lists, and I have no idea whether you participated in any of those or not, I was thinking about the matter today and realize that indeed I have seen occasional references in print to things that went on in some of these lists. Thus, there is a book on Say’s Law, edited by Steven Kates, that came out a few years ago that arose from a lengthy and heated debate on the hes (history of economics society) list. It was not so much that there were direct citations of the list discussion as much as papers were written that drew on those discussions, and it was made clear that the book grew out of those discussions. Also, I have seen published papers that mentioned that the paper grew out of some discussion or debate that appeared on this or that list, but, again, specific postings were not usually cited. And many collaborations grew out of people meeting through the lists with the discussions triggering specific research.

    I realize that this is probably far from why you are getting extra moderators here, and more relevant to an earlier posting, but it was noted on that one that collaborations might well grow out of discussions on blogs. I think it is an open question whether the more wide open public nature of the blogs will produce more or less such inspired research than the more focused and specialized internet lists.

  • Barkley, I did participate in many email lists, and I miss the back and forth conversation among nominal equals. The blog world has done a better job of quality control, but at the expense of losing much of that conversation element. This is the main reason I have focused on this “web forum,” instead of just making my own blog where only I say whatever occurs to me.

  • Thank you

  • thxx