Links #2

June 2015

Ruthie argues that US music education could be hugely improved by de-emphasizing performance and large ensembles. Despite being a happy member of 60+-person choirs for almost a decade, I wholeheartedly endorse this. Classical training for large-ensemble performance is boring as hell compared to all the stuff you can do if you prioritize having fun over sounding perfect.

David Chapman writes an interesting breakdown of the social dynamics of subcultures. Potentially relevant to movement-building (of effective altruism or anywhere else).

Cross Validated has a list of common statistical sins. If you’re going to interpret statistics, you should probably read them and be aware of them.

Frederik de Boer calls out the eternal Internet discussion problem:

I just don’t think the online world is set up for stuff like this to be useful anymore. It’s not like I’ve ever mistaken my blogging for Doing Something. I’m not that naive. It’s just that I can’t fulfill the basic function of “the world’s messed up and here’s why and what do you think about that?” I like arguing and always have, but I like arguing about what I’m actually saying, and right now you spend tons more time insisting that you aren’t saying what others claim you are, and that’s just no fun and no good for anybody. I hear this basic complaint from all kinds of writers I know.

This might sound like another of my complaints about left-wing communicative practice, but it isn’t; this is a non-ideological phenomenon. I try never to look back on the good old days (mostly because they weren’t that good) but as someone who’s done this for too long, I’m not afraid to say that things have never been less charitable out there. I don’t mean that in the sense of people having sympathy for your actual argument, but in the sense of people just trying to understand what your argument is in the first place. My default assumption now is that many people will look for the most unflattering, damning reading of anything I write, so I write everything as this tedious lockbox of doubling back and self-protective asides and constant explicit statements of what I’m not saying. It’s just so ugly, aesthetically, stylistically. But the alternative is being harangued for days about a position I don’t hold. Not worth it anymore.

100+ interesting data sets for statistics (H/T Luke).


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Dan Luu

Funny, it’s precisely because so many people misread things unchartibly that I don’t add a zillion dislcaimers to my writing.

To give one example, I once wrote a post about a technical thing. The first sentence was about how I was only talking about domain X, and how domain X often borrowed things from domain Y that were done decades earlier. On Slashdot, HN, and reddit, I had people tell me I was an idiot because all these things happened first in domain Y and not domain X. My domain X vs. Y comment wasn’t an aside, a side note, or a footnote. It was the first sentence of the post (other than a quote). And yet, most commenters skipped over that in their hurry to berate me.

After that, I mostly stopped adding disclaimers in footnotes and aisdes since there’s no way people are going to read that stuff if they’re not even going to read the first sentence of the post.

On a related topic, something I’ll probably blog about sometime, it’s amazing to me how much nastiness comes into my life as a result of blogging. Even if I ignore all comments on the public internet and only consider things directed to me (email and comments that tag me on small closed private forums I participate in), the vast majority of negatitivty in my life is in response to my blog posts. Just thinking about the past decade, I can only rememer five times someone was angry at me for non-blog post reasons (uhh, exlcuding my father). And most of those weren’t even about me; for example, two were random racists on the street, who probably would have been angry at the next non-white person they ran across, regardless of who it was. But if include blogging, I don’t even have to go back a year to recall five angry nastygrams directed at me. If you consider the time I spend blogging (maybe a few hours a month?) vs. the time I spend doing everything else, there’s a multiple order of magnitude difference in rates.

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