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New Community Website Project

This post is for discussing goals and strategy, and high-level planning, for a project (under consideration) to make a new FI community website, with better educational help, organization, forum features, marketing, and monetization.

Alan Forrester would be doing some coding and hopefully other roles. Some other people have expressed some interest too.

Although I'm an experienced Rails developer, I want to focus primarily on where where I have the most expertise and comparative advantage: philosophy (e.g. research and educational content creation), as well as high level strategy.

Related Discussion Topics


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Focusing Your Attention Discussion

People must focus instead of letting their attention get dragged around to whatever other people put in front of them (and then dragged again soon after, so nothing gets enough attention to be finished). But people also must listen to criticism and ideas instead of just ignoring the external world and its knowledge. There’s a tension here.

Discuss how to deal with it below:


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What I Sell

Philosophy Education

My speciality is rationality, problem solving, and how to think or learn. I focus on ideas useful in real life. I have original philosophical ideas (Critical Fallibilism) inspired most by Critical Rationalism, Objectivism, and Theory of Constraints.

I'm experienced at many applications, e.g. how philosophy can bring insight to artifical intelligence, parenting, relationships, psychology, or politics.

I sell digital products (PDFs, videos...) and personalized services (tutoring, advice, consulting...).

Business Consulting

Eli Goldratt died and his successors aren't creative enough. They're doing what he already explained how to do (which is worthwhile). I can apply Theory of Constraints ideas in ways that others wouldn't think of.

Unique Insight

I can do (for example) design, economics and science. But I'm not a designer, economist or scientist. I'm a philosopher. If you just want some regular design, hire a designer.

But what if you want the best that money can buy? What if regular designers aren't satisfying you? You still hire a designer, but you also hire me. I will provide design insights which are different than what you'd get from any designer. You could hire 100 designers and I'll still tell you some things that none of them do, because none of them are philosophers.

I've read and thought about design. I'm not a novice but it's not my profession. Apart from philosophy, I'm a generalist. Some people do design full time. I bring a broader, philosophical perspective. I can do this for most topics where good thinking makes a big difference. When standard results aren't enough, talk to me.


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Collaborative Writing Discussion Thread

Max and Anne B have been discussing how to do collaborative writing.

This topic is a place for them (and anyone else interested) to discuss and plan how to write something collaboratively.

They have several goals:

  • to learn about discussion, collaborative writing and learning
  • to do some collaborative writing and produce some posts/articles
  • in the case a post isn't produced: to discuss to conclusion why that didn't happen.

Max requested this topic as part of his SubscribeStar subscription.


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What To Sell or Give Away?

What are good policies about what to sell?

I sell personalization, privacy, and (partial) control over my attention and time. Those are easy to decide should be sold. I give those away only in limited amounts, particularly to friends and when there’s mutual benefit (e.g. someone wants to discuss a topic that I want to discuss and is able to say things that interest me).

For articles, videos, podcasts, diagrams, etc., what should I sell?

High effort, quality or accessibility stuff can be sold to wide audiences. Stuff with lower polish, accessibility or that’s for a specialized niche can be sold to narrower audiences of hardcore fans.

I don’t want to sell all my accessible stuff and give away the stuff that has less value to most people because then new people are being asked to pay right away.

I don’t want to give away all my accessible stuff and only charge hardcore fans. That limits getting paid and also makes it harder for a fan to transition to be more hardcore after getting interested in some more niche material.

So I think I should both sell and give away some of each type of material. But then how do I decide which stuff to sell or not? What criteria should I use?

Related, I’d generally rather make 5 lower effort things than 1 polished thing. Why? I generally learn more that way. Most polishing and making stuff more accessible doesn’t help much with me figuring out better ideas myself. I think my ideas are good and important enough that making a lot of stuff makes sense; I can quickly make lots of stuff that has value (e.g. lots of my blog posts aren’t edited but are still worth existing). I think there’s a lack of good stuff in the world and I want to make more.

Most people see it differently. They see way too much stuff to engage with and they want to prioritize stuff that packs a little more value into a little less time. If that takes 10x longer to make, that’s fine, they have more than enough stuff to engage with anyway. I think my stuff has unique value and I want to make lots of it, both because I generally like making stuff more than polishing it and because I want way more of my kind of stuff to exist so that the best and most interested people can learn from it.

Anyway, I think these traits are not the way to decide what to sell or give away. But what is?

Another related factor is giving away stuff for free often makes it look lower value to people and they often treat it badly. This can be worse for them (the mistreatment harms their own learning) as well as worse for me in various ways, though I don’t necessarily need to care about this. From The Fountainhead:

When you see a man casting pearls without getting even a pork chop in return—it is not against the swine that you feel indignation. It is against the man who valued his pearls so little that he was willing to fling them into the muck and to let them become the occasion for a whole concert of grunting, transcribed by the court stenographer.

I’ve been flinging pearls into the muck for decades. I’ve reduced that some in the last few years. I could just keep doing it. My life is fine and I can just keep making stuff and learning stuff. Getting people to pay for some stuff and getting a larger audience would have some advantages.

I’ve considered things like having most criticism on a private, paid forum since the general public hates criticism, but being open to public debate and questions is important to me. And I like having lots of stuff publicly accessible. Paywalling ideas, especially above mass market book pricing (like $10), is problematic in some ways.

A different way to look at it is what will people pay for? Saving time. Stuff they can’t get elsewhere. Stuff with practical benefits.

Anyway I make lots of stuff that could maybe be sold, and I think I should sell some of it and make some free. I have some ideas about how not to decide what’s free or paid. I don’t know a good way to decide. Anyone got ideas?


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (9)

Skills I'd Pay For

There are lots of skills I'd pay for but it's generally hard for me to work with people who are unfamiliar with FI philosophy. For example, I'd like video editing to cut down streams to summaries. The main idea is to delete 80% of each stream so that just highlights are left. (Here's an example of a video made by cutting out 88% of a stream. They're pretty common with popular gamer streamers like smallant and zfg who I believe hire video editors to make them.) But I don't think it'd work to get a video editor who knows how to use editing tools but doesn't know anything about FI. He wouldn't know which parts are the highlights! Plus he wouldn't watch my videos normally. It works best to hire an editor who already watches your videos anyway, so then basically you don't have to pay him extra to watch your videos in the first place. It's more efficient and cheaper to use someone who was going to watch the video on his own than someone who wasn't. And it's better if the person doing it actually likes the videos, is interested, is in a position to make judgment calls and additional edits besides cuts (because he has ideas about what would make something better), etc.

Other things I could use: art, design, marketing, other types of video editing, animation, and Keynote polishing (there are lots more tutorials on that channel, but that one video will give you a good idea of what I'm talking about).

I've been having Justin do some work on making ebooks from email archives and adding tables of contents to videos. Those are other good examples of the kinds of skills I'm interested in delegating.

Editing text would be valuable too but basically that takes a ton of skill and I can't trust anyone to edit my writing. The other ones I listed are all easier to do well enough it'd have value to me. I'm less skilled and picky about them.

I'd also be interested in someone to do my newsletters for me. That takes some writing skill and FI knowledge, but a lot less than writing or editing my essays.

I'm sure there are other similar things that I'd also like to delegate. Maybe you could suggest some.

Are any of my fans good at some of these things and interested in doing work for me? Get in touch. I particularly value people who work fairly independently, and come up with some ideas of their own, instead of just following detailed directions. Micromanaging is too much work for me.

Some of these skills, like basic video editing (how to cut parts out), are quick and easy to learn. Others are harder but have lots of resources to help you learn, e.g. there are books and videos about design and marketing (The Futur is an example of a pretty good educational YouTube channel for design and marekting). If you're interested but not already good at any of these skills, you could learn some. Most of the skills require being decent at using computers. Using other software tools can often help you get stuff done faster and easier, e.g. using otter.ai to transcribe videos with timestamps can help you find the good parts to include in a condensed version (then you can edit the video backwards, cutting stuff out from the end first and working towards the start, so when you delete stuff it doesn't change the timing of any earlier parts).

Work would be freelance project work, not full time employment. And not a ton of hours. You could do it in addition to other stuff in your life, rather than choosing one or the other.


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Should I Facecam?

I podcasted about whether to start using facecam for some videos. I’m looking for feedback on this decision.

Facecam would give people additional info about what I’m like and how I live, including about mood, emotions and reactions (or lack of). It’d also give info about fashion, blemishes, race, age and some other stuff. People have to deal with IRL so role modeling how to do that, including dealing with hecklers, has some value. Facecam is dangerous for second-handers, but I’m not personally scared about being judged and becoming self-conscious or defensive. I do have concerns about reducing focus on ideas and ceasing to boycott some social dynamics, but people can actually be more distracted by making stuff up than by seeing reality, and showing how I handle social dynamics is a different way to combat the bad ones.

Those are just a few quick thoughts. Hear more considerations in the podcast and share your opinion below.


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IGCs

IGCs are a way of introducing Yes or No Philosophy and Critical Fallibilism. I'm posting this seeking feedback. Does this make sense to you so far? Any objections? Questions? Doubts? Ideas that are confusing?


Ideas cannot be judged in isolation. We must know an idea’s goal or purpose. What problem is it trying to solve? What is it for? And what is the context?

So we should judge IGCs: {idea, goal, context} triples.

The same idea, “run fast”, can succeed in one context (a foot race) and fail in another context (a pie eating contest). And it can succeed at one goal (win the race) but fail at another goal (lose the race to avoid attention).

Think in terms of evaluating IGCs not ideas. A core question in thinking is: Does this idea succeed at this goal in this context? If you change any one of those parts (idea, goal or context) then it’s a different question and you may get a different result.

There are patterns in IGC evaluations. Some ideas succeed at many similar goals in a wide variety of contexts. Good ideas usually succeed at broad categories of goals and are robust enough to work in a fairly big category of contexts. However, a narrow, fragile idea can be valuable sometimes. (Narrow means that the idea applies to a small range of goals, and fragile means that many small adjustments to the context would cause the idea to fail.)

There are infinitely many logically possible goals and contexts. Every idea is in infinitely many IGCs that don’t work. Every idea, no matter how good, can be misused – trying to use it for a goal it can’t accomplish or in a context where it will fail.

Whether there are some universal ideas (like arithmetic) that can work in all contexts is an open question. Regardless, all ideas fail at many goals. And there are many more ways to be wrong than right. Out of all possible IGCs, most won’t work. Totally random or arbitrary IGCs are very unlikely to work (approximately a zero percent chance of working).

Truth is IGC success – the idea works at its purpose. Falsehood or error is an IGC that won’t work. Knowledge means learning about which IGCs work, and why, and the patterns of IGC success and failure.

So far, this is not really controversial. IGCs are not a standard way of explaining these issues, but they’re reasonably compatible with many common views. Many people would be able to present their beliefs using IGC terminology without changing their beliefs. I’ve talked about IGCs because they’re more precise than most alternatives and make it easier to understand my main point.

People believe that we can evaluate both whether an idea succeeds at a goal (in a context) and how well it does. There’s binary success or failure and also degree of success. Therefore, it’s believed, we should reject ideas that will fail and then, among the many that can succeed, choose an idea that will bring a high degree of success and/or a high probability of success.

I claim that this is approach is fundamentally wrong. We can and should use only decisive, binary judgments of success or failure.

The main cause of degree evaluations of ideas is vagueness, especially vague goals.


I'll stop there for now. Please post feedback on what it says so far (rather than on e.g. me not yet explaining vague goals).


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Discussion Points of View and Mutual Benefit

A discussion needs to make sense simultaneously from both people’s points of view (povs). That means each person gets all his requirements met. (More than two people is harder and I won’t address that specifically.)

If my requirements for the discussion aren’t met, then we don’t have mutual benefit from the discussion. If yours aren’t meant, then we don’t have mutual benefit. The discussion should only happen if there is mutual benefit.

This means you can use my discussion methodology, or propose an alternative that I find acceptable, or you shouldn’t expect a conversation with me.

If someone refuses debate and also wants to be some sort of public intellectual – rather than leaving ideas and truth seeking to others – then he ought to say why. I do say why. I’ve written about my discussion methodology and I’m responsive to critical discussion about it.

Sharing one’s reasoning means that mistakes on either side can be potentially fixed. It leaves a path open for progress to happen, regardless of who is mistaken. And I try to be extra tolerant of methodology and framework differences when people try to discuss my methodologies and frameworks themselves. Demanding someone fully use my approach to discussion before discussing/criticizing my approach to discussion would be problematic. But I do expect people, even in those conversations, to try to use an approach that makes sense and is productive from my point of view. If they can’t or won’t tell me how it should make sense or offer value from my perspective, and I don’t see it (after trying some), then it’s not going to work. If I can’t see how their comments will lead to progress, and they won’t tell me in a way that addresses my concerns, questions, criticisms, etc., then it’s not going to lead to progress for me.

There are aspects of discussion that I’m flexible about. Some things I prefer one way but I can deal with them being another way. They aren’t dealbreakers. I see how progress can be made even if something is a bit inconvenient or non-optimal.

There are other aspects of discussion which I’m inflexible about. I don’t want to meet people half way or compromise. E.g., I don’t think it’s productive to criticize things I don’t think I said and refuse to use quotes. I don’t see value in having a discussion of that nature. Similarly, I don’t see value in people saying things I consider unclear or ambiguous, and then not being very responsive to clarification requests. People often say unclear things faster than then clarify any. If you won’t or can’t tone down the unclear, “sophisticated” or “advanced” statements to the point where communication is working, then I don’t know how to have a productive conversation with you.

I can be flexible about the occasional statement I have a problem with, and drop or ignore it without clarification. But if it’s a frequently recurring problem affecting the main points of the conversation, then either initial communication or clarification needs to be working reasonably well.

I also want reasonably organized discussions. There is lots of flexibility here but it can’t just be mass chaos. People who won’t cooperate with attempting to organize things make bad discussion partners.

I require that people respond to me. If people won’t answer my questions, then I don’t know how to have a mutually beneficial discussion. I am responsive to direct questions. Often people don’t use or respond well to direct questions or requests, and this makes discussion hard. They want me to respond to things they don’t say, and I want them to respond to things I do say, and neither of us is getting what we want. I won’t switch styles without my concerns being addressed, but the people who want to operate by unwritten rules and social hints don’t want to discuss that system itself and acknowledge what they’re doing, so my concerns don’t get addressed. Often instead they agree to use my system of saying things in words but then don’t. They haven’t practiced it and don’t really know how to do it, and don’t acknowledge their beginner status and work on learning, so then discussion fails. I don’t know what to do about that besides either not discuss or they try to learn and work their way up at rational, explicit discussion. I’m open to alternatives if someone can offer one that offers mutual benefit and makes sense from my pov.

I don’t know how to have a conversation that benefits me when people are doing a bunch of unacknowledged social dynamics, passive aggressively sniping at stuff, being dishonest, and refusing to (or more often incapable of) analyze text literally. And people get offended if I express problems like this. They also get offended if I question their competence. But what am I to do? Refuse to discuss and refuse to say why? Dishonestly take the blame for the discussion’s failure? Present myself as unwilling to discuss? No. I would discuss but have certain concerns. If people don’t want me to name concerns like those, they shouldn’t converse with me in the first place. I’m not going and doing this to random people who never signed up for it. I run forums aimed at rational, critical discussion. If people don’t want criticism they should go elsewhere. People come to me and I’ve written a ton to try to warn them about what to expect. And I’ve been open to suggestions on how to better warn people but no one seems to know any fixes. It’s hard to fix by writing different warnings since in general people don’t read much before discussing, and even if they do they usually don’t understand much of it. I occasionally do go to other forums but I pick ones that claim to be focused on rational discussion and I’m less assertive or pushy there and I much more often will drop conversations without explanation. I think it’s OK for me to stop responding there because anyone who cares can come to my forums and debate me, or can make an explicit request that I explain why I left. (I do make some effort to let people know those options exist.)

One of the things I commonly want in discussion is persistence. I’ve already had a lot of discussions. I don’t want to go over old ground at the start of the discussion … and then stop there. I understand that may be new ground for others, but if that’s going to be the whole discussion then I often don’t want it. I’m more interested in unbounded discussions that try to reach conclusions about important issues. Lots of people think their opinions and ideas don’t really matter. That is their privilege but it isn’t what I’m looking for.

A common discussion problem is people make statements that rely on premises that I don’t share. Either I disagree with some of their premises or I’m unfamiliar with some, or both. This is a reasonable and expected thing to happen some. But people should understand the issue and be willing to discuss the premises instead of continuing on the original topic. And they should start building up a mental model of me and should get better at saying things that don’t read to me as skipping steps (using premises I don’t know) or building on stuff I disagree with instead of speaking to the disagreement.

People are bad at lots of this stuff. Most people are pretty incompetent at discussion. But most of them won’t admit it. I won’t simultaneously treat you like a beginner, give you leeway and help you learn to discuss better while also treating you as a peer who is seriously challenging my ideas. People often want both – they e.g. want me to go easy on them while pretending I’m not going easy on them, so that they look good. And they want me to do that without being asked. It’s dishonest and doesn’t benefit me. And their sometimes implied offer to do the same for me in return is not appreciated. You can’t have it both ways and the excuse “I have great ideas; I’m not just great at debating” is not going to fix it. If you want help figuring out how to have a productive discussion, say that. If you think you’re in a position to correct me on stuff, say that. But don’t try to have it both ways at once. If you really think you can do both at once, say so, and try to explain why and how.

It’s hard for me to help people who refuse to present themselves as learners. When I try to help them learn, they often find it condescending and threatening to their implicitly claimed status as experts. A lot of people should be trying to learn but instead try to debate, and are really bad at learning from/during debate, and so it doesn’t work, and the discussion can easily shift to the issue of them doing a bunch of stuff they’re incompetent at, and so they ought to figure out a course of study to become competent first, and people often hate that and find it threatening to their self-esteem and social status. But there’s no benefit from my pov to ignoring recurring patterns of incompetence that are preventing the original topic from making progress. And I don’t want to quit the discussion without saying why. Again, all I want is a way to continue that offers value from my perspective. And you should have a way of continuing that offers value from your perspective. And that may not happen, in which case we need not talk. Lots of people just don’t want to be judged, and don’t want anyone to talk openly about problems discussing with them. If that’s you, don’t start a conversation with me, because I do judge and I do talk about my judgments and reasons.

If you present yourself as a beginner/student/learner who’s trying to improve and isn’t very good at stuff yet, you won’t find me very judgey. That’s fine and I’m sympathetic to that.

If you present yourself as an expert who knows I’m wrong about important issues, then that’s not something I want to ignore; it’s something I want to reach a judgment about. Can and should my judgment be impersonal? The short summary is that people mostly consist of ideas, so impersonal criticism of ideas is often threatening and scary to people, and feels personal. And also there are often patterns of error in ideas someone shares – e.g. they try to argue that I’m wrong about several things and make recurring mistakes – and speaking about those patterns and their causes is personal. Saying those ideas (that Joe said) contain patterns of error caused by specific thinking methods (the ones that Joe uses) is not going to to make Joe happy. That kind of wording change doesn’t address the real issue, which is that part of Joe’s identity is connected to the ideas being criticized.

If you want to be treated like a beginner every time you’re wrong, but also to spend most of your time trying to argue that I’m wrong instead of trying to learn anything, it’s not going to work. Learning via debate as a primary mechanism is hard and most people have no idea how to do it. It’s not taught effectively anywhere. People don’t go to classrooms, debate their teachers, and learn a bunch by doing it. That is not a common or standard way to learn. If you’re trying to learn in a way that’s dramatically different than all the learning that happens from interacting with parents, teachers or books, you should have some sort of plan and explanation of what you’re doing, how you developed the skill, why it’ll work, etc. If you don’t have that, don’t assume you know how to multitask debating and learning. Try doing one thing at a time, and only maybe do two at once if you’ve gotten both of those things to work well multiple times individually.

People often want to talk about sophisticated, advanced stuff with me, but they don’t know the medium stuff that builds up to it. That doesn’t work well and they usually don’t want to hear about the gaps in their knowledge. But it doesn’t work well from my pov to try to fill in those gaps as short tangents to an advanced debate. Learning those medium things is hard enough when it receives full focus for weeks.

If you don’t like any of this, or want something else, say so. Ask for what you want and we can discuss my concerns, if I have any. I’m open to other stuff as long as you can tell me the benefit from my pov or I can figure that out myself.


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