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FI Posting Tips

Tips for new people using the Fallible Ideas discussion group:

  • If you think a criticism is irrelevant, say so and give your reasoning. The person who posted it thought it was relevant. You disagree with me. Discuss your disagreement instead of assuming he’s stupid or acting in bad faith.
  • If you think a criticism is unimportant, say so and give your reasoning. For example, you can point out a small change to your idea which solves the criticized problem and which you think your critic should have been able to think of himself. Then ask if he disagrees with that analysis – maybe he sees a problem with that alternative or there was a reason he didn’t want to put words in your mouth by assuming that is the adjustment you’d want to make. (Putting words in your mouth without saying them out loud, just in his own head, is in general worse, not better because it’s more prone to lead to confusion and misunderstanding. It doesn’t have the social problems of attributing his dumb ideas to you, but in terms or having an effective discussion if he thinks you mean something you don’t mean, and he doesn’t say this out loud, it can get really confusing.)
  • If you think a criticism is pointlessly picky, pedantic, or hair splitting, say so and give your reasoning. Don’t think it’s obviously so and the person did it on purpose. They disagree with you. You may be right, but you can’t change their mind without giving some sort of explanation/argument/reason that is new information to them.
  • If you think someone does something mean, rude or bad, say so and give your reasoning. You may have misunderstood something. They may thank you for the critical feedback and apologize. If you don’t communicate about the problem you perceive, you are preventing problem solving, and anything bad that happens (e.g. you holding a grudge or forming a negative opinion of someone) is your fault and your error. Sarcasm or any sort of insulting joke is considered mean -- don’t post it, and do say something if you think someone did it to you.
  • If you have a problem of any kind with FI, say so and give your reasoning. That’s how truth seeking works.
  • Never use quotes when something isn’t an exact quote. Never manually type quotes, only copy/paste. (An exception is you can manually type in quotes from a paper book, but be careful to copy the exact words and review it for typos. Another exception is typing in quotes from a video or audio recording.)
  • Try to answer questions with clear, direct answers.
  • Try hard not to lie. Expect that you will lie anyway. Be open to criticism of your lying which can help you learn about your lying. If someone thinks you’re lying, that is productive criticism, it’s not a personal attack. If you don’t understand their reasoning, ask questions. And read this article about lying.
  • Try to understand things really clearly. Raise your standards for what you regard as actually understanding something. When in doubt, ask questions. If you’re not sure if you should ask a question, ask it.
  • “I don’t understand” is a bad question. Don’t say that. Which part don’t you understand? What issue are you having with it? When asking a question, or asking for help, you have to give some new information. People can’t give you a better answer without some kind of info about what the problem you’re having is. If you don’t give new info to let them customize what they say for you, they are in the same situation they were in originally when they first wrote it for a general audience, and they already wrote their generic answer for that.
  • When you want help, give information about what you tried. What is your problem? And what have you already done to try to solve the problem? And why didn’t those problem solving attempts work? What went wrong with them? Info about how/why/where you got stuck, what’s going wrong, is crucial for people to help you.
  • Keep your posts pretty short and have at most 3 sections (3 different quotes that you respond to). Most of your posts should have only one section – just reply at the bottom to the overall point instead of reply to details like specific sentences. Knowing how and when to reply to small parts is a skill which is hard and you shouldn’t worry about it for months. If your discussion is too complicated to write one reply at the bottom – if you feel like you need to reply to a bunch of details – then ask for help about how to simplify it.
  • Only post when calm. If you’re even a little bit emotional, don’t post. (BTW, your emotionalness can be divided into two categories: the stuff you’re aware of and the stuff you’re not aware of. So you’re basically always more emotional than you realize. For most people, the part they aren’t aware of is the majority.)
  • If you have negative emotions in reaction to a post, that is your choice. That is something you are doing to yourself. It’s about you, not the post. It’s your error. You could learn better and change. Don’t blame the other guy. Even if he was rude, your emotions are your responsibility. And, as above, don’t assume he was rude without a rational discussion where you explain reasoning and so does he.
  • Because you can and should ask for help with any problem at FI, then all your problems are your own fault, unless you actually raised the problem, discussed it calmly and reasonably (including answering clarifying questions), and then explained why you find the help inadequate and explained what you think is the source of the problem (e.g. you think something about FI’s design is bad, and you think it should be changed in a certain way, but people just refuse for no reason – which wouldn’t happen, but that is the sort of thing it takes for your problems to stop being your own fault.)
  • Be really careful with your preconceptions. FI has lots of unconventional ideas. It has something to offend everyone. You have to be tolerant, patient and interested, rather than just assuming that different ideas are bad ideas. Some different ideas are bad, but why? Consider and share your reasoning. We’ve probably heard it before and already written answers.

Elliot Temple on September 11, 2019

Comments (6)

How Long To Learn FI Basics?

TheRat on Discord:

> @AnneB I'd like to ask you a few things if that's okay. You said you got better at discussing things, I can see that being the case. My question though is how long have you been with FI? And after that time have you finally started talking about CR and Popper? I ask because I recall seeing an older email or curi website post in where you said you want to do this but you felt not ready. My assumption, and please forgive me if I am wrong and correct this assumption, is that after perhaps years you still aren't discussing Popper but still in the process of *getting ready to* discuss Popper.

K-12 school is 13 years of getting *partially* ready to discuss Popper. It’s not enough. Throw in 10 more years to get a philosophy PhD and people are often worse at it than when they graduated high school. It takes a lot of knowledge to be ready to discuss Popper productively, as well as unlearning some of the bad ideas of our culture.

K-12 is not focused on teaching the minimal stuff needed for Popper discussions. But I don’t think it has a lot extra, either. Being well-rounded matters. I don’t think sports and art are irrelevant anymore than I’d think getting good at chess or Overwatch was irrelevant. I think sports and art aren’t taught very well or usefully in K-12, and pushing them on people who don’t want them is bad, but the same thing would happen with chess or Overwatch if they were taught in K-12. The problem isn’t inherent in sports or art.

Could people on FI get to Popper discussions faster? Sure. Anne *has been voluntarily choosing* not to go for Popper ASAP. She’s not in a hurry. She’s acting in a way that is OK with her. Anne has been doing grammar stuff productively for a few months. That’s not that long. And she’s gotten dramatically better at it. The difference is really visible. She considered moving on to something else a few weeks ago, which would have been OK, but decided to continue with more grammar (using the Peikoff materials).

To have a productive discussion about Popper, people ought to have like ten substantial, productive discussions first. Maybe fewer would do but I don’t think ten is too much to ask. That could be done in under a month if it goes well.

What happens with some people is they resist the introductory steps, and skip them, and spend months not doing them. They do a bunch of unproductive stuff when they could have learned the basics in less time if they hadn’t refused.

People are allowed to post about Popper at the start but what usually happens is they make a bunch of discussion and method mistakes *and* a bunch of mistakes about Popper. And it’s hard to deal with so many mistakes, of multiple types, at the same time, while also dealing with a person who doesn’t know discussion methods for handling such a thing.

Most people don’t want to face reality regarding how ineffective their education was, how ignorant they are, and how far they are from being a productive philosopher. Their *professors* (or middle school teachers) are not productive philosophers, and there’s a *big* gap from their professors to someone like me or DD, so they should have low expectations about their starting place.

It’s not that Popper is so hard, inherently, but that people have a lot of bad ideas from our culture that get in the way. Those are what make ten successful discussions – even about easier topics – take months or years (or usually just never) to achieve. E.g. Rat is already predisposed to think accurate quoting isn’t important. He’s coming to us with bad attitudes to scholarship standards. And he isn’t neutral on the matter and open to finding out what the right standards are, he’s actually adversarial about it.

To have successful conversations, you need some baseline understanding of what those look like, what they take, how they work. This includes e.g. a reasonable understanding of how to use quotes and engage with people, rather than talking past them or responding to in inaccurate summary of what you remember them saying. And it includes some understanding of how to ask questions about problems, or otherwise bring them up, rather than making a bunch of silent (not communicated) assumptions with no way for problem solving to happen. And it includes being able to ask and answer clear, short, direct questions, including a bunch in a row that clarify small things. And it involves having an attitude to discussion where you respect error correction instead of dismissing it as a minor – or if you actually have an argument why certain errors don’t matter to the goals at hand, you say the argument. But without an argument for some error not mattering, *and* the other guy thinking it matters, you should be *happy* to address it and view it as progress. Without that sort of attitude, lots of errors accumulate in a complex discussion and destroy it.

Having some *examples* of successful conversations gives you some guidance for how to discuss. It gives you something to aim for. It gives you targets and experience with what works and doesn’t work. It’s best if you have at least one successful prior conversation with complexity of at least 80% as much as your target conversation. That is, don’t increase conversation complexity by more than 25% at a time. That’s fast and lenient, and is too much in many cases, but it gives some guidance that I think people should be able to agree is reasonable. Success rate matters too. If you have one success in one try at 80 complexity, that’s different than one success out of five tries. It’s also different if you failed 4 times, then got it on the 5th try – maybe you figured out a few key things – vs. if you failed twice, succeeded once, then failed twice more (your reliability of conversation success at that complexity level is definitely still bad).

Most people come to FI with a view that most errors don’t matter much and can and should mostly be ignored, especially small errors. They cannot define which errors are small and don’t have a clear idea of when errors need addressing. But overall their attitude is quite different than the FI attitude. This is the sort of thing where, if you don’t address it, it causes problems in many other discussions on any topic. So it should get some attention early. Lots of people disagree about something like this but then don’t bring it up, they just dislike it without saying so, so they can neither persuade nor be persuaded about it.

People should say their concerns like that dealing with all the errors will be endless hairsplitting. They should talk about that instead of just disliking replies they get but not expressing the problem.

Can I address this kind of thing preemptively with an essay? Sure. I do have relevant essays. But there are many other things too. Even if I write about all of them, people won’t (and shouldn’t) read *and understand* all that before talking. The method of saying disagreements (including things you dislike, people should recognize those as points of disagreement) is crucial to having successful conversations.

There is also discussion organization stuff that’s needed before complex discussions. Can't discuss a 20-part topic if you don't know how to organize a 50+ part discussion (it's gonna branch some). How to (and not to) focus a discussion is a key issue. How branches can and can't be pruned or kept to a low number. How to keep track of them all, set some aside for later, choose which to prioritize, etc.

Also not getting mad is a pretty prerequisite skill.

The view of *everything* as ideas that reason applies to – and getting that to be ingrained in how you think – is one of the basic skills which is really helpful to discussing e.g. Popper productively.

Another thing people do is they don’t like something, don’t reply directly, and then bring it up in passing later. It matters to them, but they bring it up in a negative way that isn’t trying to do problem solving or truth seeking, and assumes the conclusion.


curi at 12:11 PM on September 11, 2019 | #13485 | reply | quote

> Never use quotes when something isn’t an exact quote. Never manually type quotes, only copy/paste. (*The one exception* is you can manually type in quotes from a paper book, but be careful to copy the exact words and review it for typos.)

(My emphasis.)

How about when quoting from a video talk / lecture? Should we just link with a time stamp?

I think manually typing the quote, as well as linking the source, would make a *second exception* for manual typing of quotes. Am I wrong?


N at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2019 | #13490 | reply | quote

#13490 You're right. My mistake. I've edited it.


curi at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2019 | #13492 | reply | quote

There is good explanation of why FI is hard at https://curi.us/2174-differences-between-my-free-resources-and-paid-help


curi at 7:20 PM on September 13, 2019 | #13506 | reply | quote

People cannot and should not offer all information preemptively. Instead, people mention information and you can pick and choose which parts to ask more about. If you do this badly, you won’t have much success at FI. If you assume people don’t have more to say about something they mentioned – no more reasoning, arguments, etc. – you are mistreating them, acting irrationally, and sabotaging the discussion.

Concretely: if someone says you did something incorrect, dishonest or immoral, *you can ask why they think that, or what their reasons are, or whatever*. If you don’t, you are preventing truth-seeking about the matter, and you’re showing your disinterest in understanding criticism.


Dagny at 9:06 PM on September 13, 2019 | #13507 | reply | quote

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