Don’t have conversations on Facebook

October 2013

Brian Tomasik suggests, and many people agree, that keeping public records of your important conversations and correspondence is really useful: it makes them easier for other people to discover, give feedback on, search for, and link to, and makes sure (via the Internet Archive) that the information sticks around for a long time.

I completely agree. What’s more, I think we should go further. Not all “public” correspondence is equally useful. Consider the many useful discussions held in Facebook groups like Effective Altruists:

As a result, Facebook discussions have almost none of the benefits of public correspondence that Tomasik’s essay noted. Wherever possible, I recommend moving discussions and correspondence off Facebook, Google+, and other corporate-owned media and into blog posts and comment threads. For instance, if you’re going to comment on a blog post that someone shared, all else equal you should comment on the post itself, not the “share” on Facebook.1 It’s a small inconvenience with many positive externalities.


  1. Obviously this doesn’t hold if you expect your friends to be significantly better/more interesting commenters than the post’s average audience. For many people I know, though, their blogs are mostly read by their friends, so that objection doesn’t apply. 

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Jeff Kaufman

is anyone keeping a backup?

I keep backups of comments on the Facebook and G+ posts I make that serve as my blog comment threads. I wonder if making an app that allowed otgr people to register posts to be backed up would be helpful?


Ben

It would solve part of the problem. I still don’t think Facebook is a very good forum, though. It would probably be higher-return to figure out a way to get people to coalesce around some other forum than Facebook.


Pablo Stafforini

There has been (non-public) discussion about setting up a LessWrong-style forum/blog in the past. The main bottleneck is lack of a willing tech-savvy person or group of people. If anyone reading this is interested in participating in this project, please contact me. Or just share your thoughts with others by commenting on this thread.


Pablo Stafforini

about setting up a LessWrong-style forum/blog

In case that wasn’t clear, this should have read

about setting up a LessWrong-style forum/blog about effective altruism


Ben

@Pablo: unfortunately, I don’t have spare bandwidth for that right now, but check the EA programmers group?


Pablo Stafforini

Ben, I’m not familiar with that group. Is it a Facebook group? A quick search revealed no relevant results.


Brian Tomasik

Thanks, Ben! I agree that Facebook is suboptimal in these ways, although it has other advantages, including Like buttons (the Internet’s dopamine system) and non-burdensome reply notifications compared with subscribing to a blog by email. Also remember the Second Law of Internet Dynamics: Isolated forums spontaneously evolve towards Facebook. LessWrong seems to be one example of a place where this law has been resisted, though.

I wrote a separate piece about the problems with Facebook and other comment threads in general: http://www.felicifia.org/viewtopic.php?p=7719 My recommendation there was to use Facebook, etc. to gather information but then distill that information in a coherent, linkable follow-up essay.


Pablo Stafforini

Note that the LW-style forum I mentioned above has now been created, thanks to the efforts of Ryan Carey and others:

http://effective-altruism.com/