habryka wrote about why LW banned me. This is habryka’s full text plus my comments:
Today we have banned two users, curi and Periergo from LessWrong for two years each. The reasoning for both is bit entangled but are overall almost completely separate, so let me go individually:
The ban isn’t for two years. It’s from Sept 16 2020 through Dec 31 2022.
They didn’t bother to notify me. I found out in the following way:
First, I saw I was logged out. Then I tried to log back in and it said my password was wrong. Then I tried to reset my password. When submitting a new password, it then gave an error message saying I was banned and until what date. Then I messaged them on intercom and 6 hours later they gave me a link to the public announcement about my ban.
That’s a poor user experience.
Periergo is an account that is pretty easily traceable to a person that Curi has been in conflict with for a long time, and who seems to have signed up with the primary purpose of attacking curi. I don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong about signing up to LessWrong to warn other users of the potentially bad behavior of an existing user on some other part of the internet, but I do think it should be done transparently.
It also appears to be the case that he has done a bunch of things that go beyond merely warning others (like mailbombing curi, i.e. signing him up for tons of email spam that he didn't sign up for, and lots of sockpupetting on forums that curi frequents), and that seem better classified as harassment, and overall it seemed to me that this isn't the right place for Periergo.
Periergo is a sock puppet of Andy B. Andy harassed FI long term with many false identities, but left for months when I caught him, connected the identities, and blogged it. But he came back in August 2020 and has written over 100 comments since returning, and he made a fresh account on Less Wrong for the purpose of harassing me and disrupting my discussions there. He essentially got away with it. He stirred up trouble and now I’m banned. What does he care that his fresh sock puppet, with a name he’ll likely never use again anywhere, is banned? And he’ll be unbanned at the same time as me in case he wants to further torment me using the same account.
Curi has been a user on LessWrong for a long time, and has made many posts and comments. He also has the dubious honor of being by far the most downvoted account in all of LessWrong history at -675 karma.
I started at around -775 karma when I returned to Less Wrong recently and went up. I originally debated Popper, induction and cognitive biases at LW around 9 years ago and got lots of downvotes. I returned around 3 years ago when an LW moderator invited me back because he liked my Paths Forward article. That didn’t work out and I left again. I returned recently for my own reasons, instead of because someone incorrectly suggested that I was wanted, and it was going better. I knew some things to expect, and some things that wouldn’t work, and I'd just read LW's favorite literature, RAZ.
BTW, I don’t know how my karma is being calculated. My previous LW discussions were at the 1.0 version of the site where votes on posts counted for 10 karma, and votes on comments counted for 1 karma. When I went back the second time, a moderator boosted my karma enough to be positive so that I could write posts instead of just comments. LW 2.0 allows you to write posts while having negative karma and votes on posts and comments are worth the same amount, but your votes count for multiple karma if you have high karma and/or use the strong vote feature. I don’t know how old stuff got recalculated when they did the version 2.0 website.
Overall I have around negative 1 karma per comment, so that’s … not all that bad? Or apparently the lowest ever. If downvotes on the old posts still count 10x then hundreds of my negative karma is from just a few posts.
In general, I think outliers should be viewed as notable and potentially valuable, especially outliers that you can already see might actually be good (as habryka says about me below). Positive outliers are extremely valuable.
The biggest problem with his participation is that he has a history of dragging people into discussions that drag on for an incredibly long time, without seeming particularly productive, while also having a history of pretty aggressively attacking people who stop responding to him. On his blog, he and others maintain a long list of people who engaged with him and others in the Critical Rationalist community, but then stopped, in a way that is very hard to read as anything but a public attack. It's first sentence is "This is a list of ppl who had discussion contact with FI and then quit/evaded/lied/etc.", and in-particular the framing of "quit/evaded/lied" sure sets the framing for the rest of the post as a kind of "wall of shame".
I consider it strange to ban me for stuff I did in the distant past but was not banned for at the time.
I find it especially strange to ban me for 2 years over stuff that’s already 3 or 9 years old (the evaders guest post by Alan is a year old, and btw "evade" is standard Objectivist philosophy terminology). I already left the site for longer than the ban period. Why is a 5 year break the right amount instead of 3? habryka says below that he thinks I was doing better (from his point of view and regarding what the LW site wants) this time.
They could have asked me about that particular post before banning me, but didn’t. They also could have noted that it’s an old post that only came up because Andy linked it twice on LW with the goal of alienating people from me. They’re letting him get what he wanted even though they know he was posting in bad faith and breaking their written rules.
I, by contrast, am not accused of breaking any specific written rule that LW has, but I’ve been banned anyway with no warning.
Those three things in combination, a propensity for long unproductive discussions, a history of threats against people who engage with him, and being the historically most downvoted account in LessWrong history, make me overall think it's better for curi to find other places as potential discussion venues.
I didn’t threaten anyone. I’m guessing it was a careless wording. I think habryka should retract or clarify it. Above habryka used “attack” as a synonym for criticize. I don’t like that but it’s pretty standard language. But I don’t think using “threat[en]” as a synonym for criticize is reasonable.
“threaten” has meanings like “state one's intention to take hostile action against someone in retribution for something done or not done” and “express one's intention to harm or kill“ (New Oxford Dictionary). This is the thing in the post that I most strongly object to.
I do really want to make clear that this is not a personal judgement of curi. While I do find the "List of Fallible Ideas Evaders" post pretty tasteless, and don't like discussing things with him particularly much, he seems well-intentioned, and it's quite plausible that he could me an amazing contributor to other online forums and communities. Many of the things he is building over on his blog seem pretty cool to me, and I don't want others to update on this as being much evidence about whether it makes sense to have curi in their communities.
I do also think his most recent series of posts and comments is overall much less bad than the posts and comments he posted a few years ago (where most of his negative karma comes from), but they still don't strike me as great contributions to the LessWrong canon, are all low-karma, and I assign too high of a probability that old patterns will repeat themselves (and also that his presence will generally make people averse to be around, because of those past patterns). He has also explicitly written a post in which he updates his LW commenting policy towards something less demanding, and I do think that was the right move, but I don't think it's enough to tip the scales on this issue.
So I came back after 3 years, posted in a way they liked significantly better … I’m building cool things and plausibly amazing while also making major progress at compatibility with LW … but they’re banning me anyway, even though my old posts didn’t get me banned.
More broadly, LessWrong has seen a pretty significant growth of new users in the past few months, mostly driven by interest in Coronavirus discussion and the discussion we hosted on GPT3. I continue to think that "Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism", and that it is essential for us to be very careful with handling that growth, and to generally err on the side of curating our userbase pretty heavily and maintaining high standards. This means making difficult moderation decision long before it is proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" that someone is not a net-positive contributor to the site.
In this case, I think it is definitely not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that curi is overall net-negative for the site, and banning him might well be a mistake, but I think the probabilities weigh heavily enough in favor of the net-negative, and the worst-case outcomes are bad-enough, that on-net I think this is the right choice.
I don’t see why they couldn’t wait for me to do something wrong to ban me, or give me any warning or guidance about what they wanted me to do differently. I doubt this would have happened this way if Andy hadn’t done targeted harassment.
At least they wrote about their reasons. I appreciate that they’re more transparent than most forums.
In another message, habryka clarified his comment about others not updating their views of me based on this ban:
The key thing I wanted to communicate is that it seems quite plausible to me that these patterns are the result of curi interfacing specifically with the LessWrong culture in unhealthy ways. I can imagine him interfacing with other cultures with much less bad results.
I also said "I don't want others to think this is much evidence", not "this is no evidence". Of course it is some evidence, but I think overall I would expect people to update a bit too much on this, and as I said, I wouldn't be very surprised to see curi participate well in other online communities.
I’m unclear on what aspect of LW culture that I’m a mismatch for. Or put another way: I may interface better with other cultures which have or lack what particular characteristics compared to LW?
Also, LW didn't explain how they decided on ban lengths. 2.3 year bans don't correspond to solving the problems raised. Andy or I could easily wait and then do the stuff LW doesn't want. They aren't asking us to do anything to improve or to provide any evidence that we've reformed in some way. Nor are they asking us to figure out how we can address their concerns and prevent bad outcomes. They're just asking us to wait and, I guess, counting on us not to hold grudges. Problems don't automatically go away due to time passing.
Overall, I think LW’s decision and reasoning are pretty bad but not super unreasonable compared to the general state of our culture. I wouldn’t expect better at most forums and I’ve seen much worse. Also, I’m not confident that the reasoning given fully and accurately represents the actual reasons. I'm not convinced that they will ban other people using the same reasoning like that they didn't break any particular rules but might be a net-negative for the site, especially considering that "the moderators of LW are the opposite of trigger-happy. Not counting spam, there is on average less than one account per year banned." (source from 2016, maybe they're more trigger-happy in 2020, I don't know).