Forum Posting Ethics

Questions and comments
CS
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by CS » Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:39 pm

I think the newbie questions can be useful - at least the responses to them - both in the human psychology of how advice is taken, as well as the unique tidbits of advice that pop out.

Plus the search functionality doesn't work. Embarrassing how long it took before it occurred to me to uses Google's site search function to find information. Wt, CS, wt...

@blackbird

I too have felt judgement. After my initial postings on my journal, I almost didn't come back again due to the responses. I went from excited to find this new community to wanting to remove any word that I had ever said. Why didn't I leave? Because I've learned so much here that I sucked up my ego issues and just plowed through anyhow (after disappearing for a while). Plus after going back and rereading the posts, they weren't as bad as I remembered.

I think some people are just more comfortable sharing than others. (Or are they just better at ignoring any 'imposter syndrome' voices in their heads?) It would be interesting to me to find out how 'the regulars' feel about this. Is there any self-consciousness to posting a lot - or is it all positive?

@jennypenny +1 on appreciating your voice. I know politically we are probably not even close, but I have dealt with that by ignoring the political threads when they get me too hyped up (that goes for anyone's postings on them). Getting into political fights here is just not worth it - see above.
(I have noticed though that I agree with, and appreciated their speaking out)

@jacob,

Regarding sharing expert knowledge, I know more about writing, plot structure, and pursuits other than financial wisdom. I am guessing quite a few of us are in that same boat. Getting to retirement was my weakness (less so now), hence a lot of time spent here reading. Tried to make up for that "taking" behavior with encouraging posts to other newbies. This is probably not a satisfying response. You have the curse of appreciating, and wanting, depth of knowledge.

@Riggerjack

Saved you on this thread. :D
Last edited by CS on Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:45 pm, edited 3 times in total.

CS
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by CS » Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:41 pm

Deleted - don't even ask what silly thing I did, like making a post quoting myself.
Last edited by CS on Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

blackbird
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by blackbird » Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:42 pm

@Riggerjack

WFPB diet = Whole-Foods, Plant-Based diet. Basic idea is that a body of research has been building over the last 15-25 years that indicates that many of the anti-oxidant properties specifically, but health improvements in general, are best accessed by consuming:

- Foods as close to their original form as possible (produce aisle stuff)
- Foods derived from plants almost exclusively (not to be confused with vegans, as concerns for animal welfare are not the driving motivator)
- Foods that are consumed in quantities meant to most efficiently maximize efficacy

I learned of it recently through a book called "How Not to Die" by Dr. Michael Greger and was very struck by the threads I found it specifically mentioned in here. Greger's book is obsessively footnoted (references to studies probably comprise the last 25% of the book) and he is careful to detail not only what type of study his current chapter / statement is based on but how that study was performed (double-blind, longitudinal, etc). To me it seemed like the "ERE" approach to eating (systematic research of nutritional studies to create the most optimized framework for life-extending eating habits while providing enough slack in food choices that it is achievable / less onerous to adopt).

You may have realized by this point that it was not received by several posters here with the enthusiasm I expected. This created a sort of cognitive dissonance for me, and I struggled trying to explain what was bothering me and why I was bothered. Ultimately I just asked folks a general question about their eating habits hoping I could eke out some answers on my own.

@jacob

I am not sure if you find this credible, but I do see your point of view. But I think your last post exemplifies a little bit of what I referenced in the "sharp" comment. I don't know how to explain it in a way that doesn't come off as too naive for you to take seriously or too critical so that you to take offense (b/c I don't want either of those things to happen) but as one of the parasites I found it off-putting. I'm not sure that is a bad response, b/c fish is certainly right to grow tired of answering beginner / obvious questions over and over and your views reveal a similar weariness. I wonder though if things that are self-evident, irrefutable facts to you may not appear as decided as they do to folks who are easing in here. I mean, this place isn't just about changing a perspective on money, or work, or any one subject in a way that the OVERWHELMING number of people around me would see as crazy, it is about changing most, if not all, of the many facets of life, sometimes in jarring ways.

I would just encourage everyone think about that from a 'the new guy' side of things.

And yes, re-reading this now I am hesitant to post it, but many times I've wanted to reply to a comment and have not done so due to a bit of gun-shyness. I think it is at least possible, if not likely, that others have had a similar hesitation. So I'm going to submit and just say hell with it.

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by jacob » Thu Oct 26, 2017 4:52 pm

Somewhere above, I wrote a post. I then spent all morning re-editing and adding to it all over the place until it had evolved into a rambling rant. After some gardening chores, seeing nobody had responded to it, I decided to delete it. After deleting it, I noticed, CS and blackbird eventually responded to it, probably working on their replies and submitting them sometime later.

So let me see if I can recreate my original point about somewhat more succinctly so their responses didn't come out of nowhere.

My issue was (more as a private person and not as the forum overlord) how has morphed into And how this new culture can be detrimental to the older rule. This is one of those things that's really hard to explain unless one has some experience with it. Ironically, this illustrates the problem exactly. Lets consider the analogous problem.

Anyone on facebook has probably seen one or more of those memes where there's a simple math problem. Like this:

What is 8-2*4+1?
a) 25
b) 1
c) 30
d) -2

If this has gone viral, you'll often see significant support for all four answers in the comments. There can easily be hundreds of answers with people arguing and "liking". There will be different arguments. Some did it by hand. Others "used a calculator" to get their result. Yet others also "used a calculator" to get a different result. It's endless. There will be a few trying to explain about the importance order of operations.

Now I'm strongly presuming that everybody reading this on the ERE forums is capable of coming up with the correct answer above which is 1 (b) and know that the reasons therefore is due to the order of operations. If you can't or don't know why, I think you'll miss my point. I'm also somewhat assuming that you've personally observed one or more instances of this meme on facebook and therefore know that a great number of adult human beings do NOT know what the correct answer is. If you haven't please take my word for it.

We can observe the following from the "math on facebook"-example:
  • There's a great number of adults who despite graduating high school do not master 5th grade level math.
  • Out of those, who are wrong, many are yet quite sure they're right because they got the answer on an authority they trust (their calculator).
  • There are also many who get the right answer. Some of those will also get it on authority (a better calculator).
  • Some will get it wrong because they have never heard of operations order, even if they meticulously hammered it out by hand. For example a 3rd grader wouldn't know ... but based on what they DO know, they'd be quite sure of their [wrong] answer.
  • Out of those who get the right answer some can also see why others get the wrong answer and explain what the correct answer is.
  • It's impossible based on this simple math question to know if those who can explain the right answer are a math professor or just aced 5th grade and still remember. The proper resolution is lacking.
In this example we have a range of opinions both right and wrong as well as a range of expertise. I probably forget some types here. The point, though, is that there are multiple combinations of both insight and confidence. A 3th grader might have studied hard and be top of their class, but it would be mistaken to presume they know much about math at that age. (Pardon me if people learn this at other levels, it's been a few decades for me). OTOH a HS student with A-level math would definitely know that there's very little they don't know about operator precedence. They can confidently say and know that they know everything there is to know about this type of problems.

Now, again, I ask you to take my word that the same dynamic also exist for much more complicated issues than 5th grade math. For example, we've had exactly the same dynamic on this forum on certain topics. I'm not talking political orientation, lifestyles, or personal choices, or similar topics, where everybody is entitled to their own opinion and choices. I'm talking reality-based subjects, where people are no longer entitled to their own facts.

Here's the problem. This goes to the point of the ethical behavior when it comes to complicated issues.

There's a tiresome tendency that happens from time to time where someone asks a question not with the intention of getting an answer but more to confirm their pre-existing beliefs. If they don't get the answer they're looking for, they ask again, or they ask someone else, and so on. There's also a very annoying tendency to treat what's really basic stuff (from the perspective of an expert) as something that's up for debate. That'd be like as if a 3rd grader on being informed that 25 is incorrect saying that "they don't believe in operator precedence".

The emergent tendency to stating opinions instead of sharing knowledge therefore turns more complicated matters into a debate between Mt Stupid and actual experts.

One might think blame people on Mt Stupid for making everybody dumber. Now I find the Mt Stupid with its megaphones annoying, but I don't blame them.

What I find frustrating are lazy beginners and those who have made it past the mountain and into the valley.

Lazy beginners: This is the one I remember in particular from the climate threads (there were four!) but which also comes up to some degree in various finance/market threads. People trying to learn by following along on the pseudo-debate without bothering learn even the basics of basic stuff. That approach would usually lead to a belief that many issues were unsettled or uncertain. But that is like a 1st grader concluding that nobody is really quite sure how multiplication works based on watching the debate between 3rd graders and adults who still remember their 5th grade math. Why do some get 25 and others get 1? And didn't someone say it's impossible to multiply negative numbers? Yadda yadda. The problem here is that lazy beginners often think they know enough already or that they don't need to know anything because there's an entire forum of enthusiastic people happy to answer. The problem with that is the high risk of getting answers both from experts and the top of Mt Stupid while lacking any ability to tell the difference. What lazy beginners really ought to focus on is trying to figure out how much or how little they know. And this is best done by doing some basic reading before going and seeking answers on the interwebs. Essentially, this issue is a failure to get educated.

People in the valley: If a debate goes on long enough, some people can apply enough meta-heuristics to figure out who the experts are (say things that are logical and coherent) and who the Mt Stupid crackpots are (say things that don't even make sense internally or from post to post) is. They also realize how little they actually know about the issue. As predicted, they get far less opinionated than any other group. They might have started close to Mt Stupid but quickly proceeded beyond it but as a result say less and less. After venting my frustrations with dealing with pseudo-debates instead of sharing knowledge, I've had several people tell me that they're still following along and actually learned a lot. That's nice to hear ... but it's not really helping anyone.

The issue here is something I read in either the Tao Te Ching or the Analects about how it is the experts duty to teach and the beginners duty to learn ... but how it is also the duty of older-students to point out the difference between who are experts and those who don't really know what they're talking about so beginners who can't tell the difference don't get confused. Because ...

... if the goal is to share expert knowledge, it could be accomplished a lot more effectively if those who actually know what they're talking about don't have to waste energy debating with people who don't believe in basic facts that are available with only a little bit of study. Here it would be super helpful if people in the valley didn't remain silent but stepped in and maybe answered some of the easier questions ... in particular pointed out what [insight] caused them to move from the top of the mountain and further on.

The practical/emergent result of [the valley] not contributing is of course that the experts in a given field eventually wear out and stop talking to newbies.

I don't really mean to judge or demand. That's why I was so reluctant to write the post initially. I just want to explain how this behavior naturally has consequences. Now, facebook is far worse than this place ... and I think this forum is still very good. Not perfect, but very good. This is an internet-wide issue.

So that observation concerns the ethical part of [ANY] forum participation which Fish also alluded to. If you're too lazy to even bother learning the basics before engaging in some topic ... or if you're withdrawing from commenting once you've learned enough (perhaps thinking you're not expert enough to comment---but you just learned, so you are qualified and perhaps even more so because the insight-experience is more recent) and leave all the "work" dealing Mt Stupid debaters and the LazyNoob base camp to the experts...then that .. I'd say is somewhat parasitic and doesn't really make for a community that's effective at sharing expert knowledge/making everybody as smart as possible.

Maybe that's a bandwidth issue. Thirty years ago, when resources were limited, the primary use was knowledge. Now that bandwidth is too cheap to meter, maybe the primary use for being online is killing time ... your own and others.

Or maybe it's just the Gods' punishment for expertise. It's strangely appropriate :? :shock:

I would say for the few things where I consider myself an expert (I draw the line as in knowing enough that some professional organization will or have paid, say, six figs or several years, for the knowledge) and where I've spent enough time debating, I'm beginning to quickly be able to discern and sniff out whether someone is just asking to debate or confirm their primitive beliefs or actually there to learn and if so whether they're the proverbial 3rd grader, 9th grader, or 24th grader or how much they really know in order for my to tailor my answer. In the past, I've been a lot more willing to engage everybody, but these days, I'll withdraw if I detect the odor of a debater. I think I've gotten rather allergic to the idea of using debate as a didactic device for intro101 stuff.

Conversely, I also feel that I've gotten fairly good at backing down if I detect that someone knows more about a subject than I do. I will not waste their time debating them when I should probably go and read a book or some of the links they likely already posted. This is related to the bandwidth rule. I realize that Mt Stupid is a phase everybody probably has to go through at some point for every field they're trying to learn. I try hard to identify when and where it happens so as to spend as little time as possible there.

Being a perpetual beginner in new fields, I also realize that it's often hard to know where to begin. I have a rule which is my favorite Analects quote and which I try to adhere to strongly unless I'm bored or something:
Confucius wrote: I never try to make people open up [to the world of learning] unless they already have a pent up excitement about it. Then if I give them one corner [of a problem or point of study], if they do not come back to me with the other three corners I will not involve myself with them again.
I kinda suspect he learned that the hard way as well.

So once again ... I didn't write this to judge or demand. Well, I probably do judge, but don't mean it as a demand. I fear even more "rules" would be detrimental to the forum. The "global" atmosphere is already "wound up" as it is.

saving-10-years
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by saving-10-years » Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:49 pm

Thanks for re-creating this @Jacob. Did not see it first time around. Most of what you say I understand/agree with, but the 'valley' metaphor does not resonate with me. I think that old-timers might underestimate what happens when new people come along and start reading here. What is here is huge, broad and deep and largely very worthwhile. I suspect that people quickly find that they want to read and learn, and the more they read and learn the more they unearth that they want to read and learn. Finally at some stage they speak. Its the entries that start with 'Long time lurker here ...' that prick my attention. Usually a good sign to me (signals 'I did my research'). Like others here I appreciate the differences in viewpoints and backgrounds represented - the more I hang out listening to you guys the more I know and the less expert (in everything) I feel.

Riggerjack
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by Riggerjack » Thu Oct 26, 2017 6:07 pm

@jacob.
I can understand your frustrations, but I think you have set yourself up for disappointment.

You have put a great deal of time and effort into becoming an expert, in several fields, presumably because you respect expertise, and you were really into those fields. Good on you. If I have a physics, finance, CC, or hardcore frugality question, you are my first and primary source for an answer. I have been here for years, and never seen you overstate your knowledge on any subject.

However, that isn't the rule, hell, it's not even common. It is very common for experts to believe that expertise transfers. That because I know X, and X is similar to Y, that I am also an expert in Y. Or, as an advocate of Y, we have so many X experts, that clearly we are correct.

So expertise is being devalued by experts, and advocates.

Then you have the problem of people like myself, who when 75% sure of something, state said belief, and completely fail to signal any uncertainty. This probably causes more confusion than I am aware of. It's not my intent, it is just how I think, and causes confusion in real life...

Then you just have the human drive for recognition of status, causing all kinds of signal errors.

And then you have the general disrespect for anything free. If we were paying you for a class, there is the general belief that you are an expert, because you are being paid to be an expert. Instead, we are here, on the interwebs, where everyone has a voice, with all the good and bad that implies.

Then there is the huge pile of absolute human incompetence that is distributed unevenly throughout humanity. I know journeyman electricians I wouldn't trust to wire a barn, engineers who don't know how to calculate the load on a beam, and architects who shouldn't be allowed to design an outhouse, financial planners who don't understand risks, the list goes on and on.

In other words, your expectations of what benefits should be conferred to experts doesn't seem to match the available pool of experts. Maybe this is a function of too many people going into University (60% of HS grads, last I heard), or maybe it is something else. But while you behave as a highly intelligent and educated man, confident in his knowledge, you have to know this is hardly typical of the field.

Fish
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by Fish » Thu Oct 26, 2017 6:59 pm

I really liked Jacob’s original so I took the time to recreate it. (I did this all on my mobile phone during the bus ride home from work - I suppose the commute is good for something after all.) This version was a lot more eloquent even though the new one adds to the message.

@jacob - Feel free to edit this into your earlier post, or delete this duplicate without doing anything, or whatever.
jacob wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 3:47 pm
There's another thing I've been thinking about. I kinda hesitate to post it, because I'm not sure it's a good idea as it might quench people's desire to post---seeing how so many are already hesitant to do so in this ... illustrious company :geek:

My issue which l vent not as the benign dictator and overlord of this domain but as a private person is the frustration of sharing expert knowledge in general.
The problem is that with modern era social media, that "rule" is often replaced with
Now what we see in practice is that when some beginner asks a question, they will often get a combination of answers with varying levels of expertise and opinion. You can see the quantitative ratio by clicking on the second link. Having different perspectives when it comes to opinion is a good idea when it comes to politics, lifestyles, life-lessons (anecdote), ... But when it comes to verifiable facts, multiple perspectives a terrible idea. There aren't sides or alternatives to reality.

There's something in either the Analects or the Tao Te Ching about how it is the expert's role to teach and the beginner's role to learn, but also how it is the role of other people (non-beginners) to point out who is the expert and who is the beginner because otherwise beginners can't tell the difference between experts and other beginners.

See, ideally, the graph would be an increasing monotonic function where the more expertise one had, the more inclined one would be to share it. Instead, there's a tendency for humans to get fairly strongly opinionated after just a little bit of knowledge and then shutting up after learning some more and realizing how little they know. At this point people close their mouth and open their ears; and therefore they create the valley in the graph and thus do not serve the function underlined above.

So instead of sharing expert knowledge, the consequence is that experts end up debating people who know just enough to have an opinion but not enough to know how little they know.

For sharing expert knowledge, this is both enervating and aggravating. You end up arguing 101 stuff in the form of a debate which is very frustrating. Worse, you never get to move onto 202 stuff because there's a continuous influx of new beginners who want to share their own opinion. It's exasperating debating multiplication with people, who believe multiplying is impossible because they can't be bothered to learn it, when you could be teaching calculus.

Now, some eventually catch on as to who is the expert and who is just opinionated. They will then reveal (privately) how they’re eventually only paying attention to one "side" of the debate (the expert side) and how they actually learn a lot.

As an expert in a couple of fields (finance, climate) it's nice to be appreciated and told [usually in private] that all the energy that has been sunk into stupid debates wasn't completely wasted. It's also nice to be told when someone realizes that you actually know a lot more than they initially thought but that they didn't realize it at first [almost always in private ... few people will admit this publicly]. I'm sure people with expert knowledge in other fields have felt the same and experienced the same secret appreciation in other fields.

But...

The problem is that we could be sharing so much more expertise if it was pointed out more publicly. I don't mean that as some kind of public thank-you note or expressions of support. I don't think such make much of a difference. Rather:

If there's an ongoing debate between whether it's possible to master the multiplication table or whether 5x7 consistently gives the same result. Then beginners ought (in my opinion) pick up a basic math book instead of figuring that the truth is that math is really hard and not worth learning because because you get ten different answers when you ask online followed by lots of debate on who is right(*)

This is a far more effective approach than trying to learn by watching a pseudo-debate.

(*) I'm sure everybody has seen one of those facebook memes, where people are asked the result to 3 - 1 * 5 + 2 always resulting in several different answers (12, 0, 14, etc.) as people are only too happy to share their opinions/effective math expertise or lack thereof for the world to see :roll: You might also have noticed that even for something like that the signal/noise ratio is absolutely shameful and debates can carry on for a long time. This might even have happened on a sufficiently regular basis that you have a fairly good idea of who of your friends and family are going through their adult lives with a 3rd or a 7th grade math level understanding and who is 11th grade or higher.

Someone originally believing that 5x7 is such a large number so as to be impossible to compute but eventually realizing that it's possible to add five sevens and even memorize severals dozens of such results should not shut up and sit back only paying attention to the experts, but point out the difference between the expert and the math-resistant first grader to the kindergarteners, so they don't hold themselves back by listening too much to the resistant first-graders.

More importantly, talk about what you learned, how you learned it, and why it's important. This takes attention away from the uninformed sophomores who otherwise dominate the threads and frees energy for the experts from wasting time on a pseudo-debate to spending more time adding insight.

In conclusion: When it comes to ethics (the moral rules for a well-functioning community), I don't blame the unconsciously incompetent for debating because they're often not conscious of their own incompetence. Therefore, they can be forgiven---kinda like how you forgive fools and children or yourself, because they're just acting according to their nature. The blame, rather sits with those who do know better but don't point out how they used to be that ignorant and how they learned more. The blame also sits with those who know they know nothing but can't be assed to make an effort to learn i.e. those who don't read links, books, and ask the same questions over and over.

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by jacob » Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:12 pm

@Riggerjack - I'm afraid my post put too much emphasis on the expert (person holding the expertise) and not enough on the increasing expertise/knowledge itself which was the original goal that is quickly being replaced with increasing difference of opinion. After all, the idea of an expert is just a [now less trusted] brand for a container of knowledge.

I think if the goal is seen as increasing knowledge itself, my complaint about behaviors that are not helping to increase knowledge becomes clearer:
  • If beginners don't bother to acquire even a basic level of knowledge, but instead rely on others to take them by their hand and walk them through, that takes away time that others could use to develop more knowledge.
  • If valley people (for lack of a much better word) don't share the knowledge that helped them get over the mountain but ALSO leave that to others, then that also takes away time that could be used to develop more.
These are both issues that puts more of the work on the experts yet do nothing to increase the levels of knowledge as it's researched/developed/published.

However, the existence of misinformation would from a systems-perspective make it even worse. If there are people adding wrong information, the development of knowledge can completely stall at a very low level.
  • If uninformed beginners try to gain their [basic] understanding from the debate between information and misinformation, they will end up concluding that there's very little net information because they'll simply take the average between information and misinformation which is close to zero and conclude that all the volatility means there's lots of uncertainty.
  • If somewhat informed beginners (valley) don't help to curb some of the misinformation, the level of expertise will stall once informed people are using all their energy refuting misinformation and helping uninformed people.
As a direct consequence, the total level of knowledge rises in proportion to the efforts of those who contribute to supporting it minus the effort of those to contribute to destroying it. If there's not enough supporting knowledge, it can even "burn" away.

Again, this is just a minor quibble for these forums, but it is of major concern out there in the real world.
(I'm not talking about early retirement stuff here.)

CS
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by CS » Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:30 pm

@Jacob

Thanks for the long post. In light of the points you made about stemming the tide of misinformation, and helping the experts out, I will make more of an effort to respond the newer people. As someone who has read your book (albeit needing a refresh) and years of MMM, there is some knowledge there. I think you did a post (journal entry?) about the appropriate levels of people to ask, and to help, i.e. ask those just above in skill level for help, and help those just below.

I saw a PhD thesis once on highly intelligent children. Part of what it talked about was the communication breakdown that gets really bad at about 15 IQ points difference (or higher). If that gap is too large, then no one knows what the other is talking about. This led to some smart kids to think they were stupid because they couldn't see what the others were struggling to learn - they thought they just didn't see the problem correctly. This is somehow related to the knowledge difference miscommunications, but in typical INTP manner is difficult for me to communicate.

Side note, I knew a person that liked to 'learn' by debating. They wouldn't look up anything ahead of time. It was exhausting to interact with them.

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by jacob » Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:39 pm

@CS - Here's an old blog post on similar issues:
http://earlyretirementextreme.com/democ ... y-gap.html

It's also quite conceivable that I've posted about asking one up and assisting one level down. It relates to the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_knowledge It's also optimal on a Wheaton scale framework. This is part of the reason why I almost never comment on younger journal entries. Saving one's first $100k or the process of getting under $1000/month is just too far away anymore :)

Riggerjack
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by Riggerjack » Thu Oct 26, 2017 8:36 pm

Side note, I knew a person that liked to 'learn' by debating. They wouldn't look up anything ahead of time. It was exhausting to interact with them.
Wait. When did we meet?

@jacob,

"The valley" has another reason to step up. Teaching anything is the final step in learning it. Nothing exposes and causes correction to minor gaps in understanding like trying to turn it around and teach a subject. I never considered myself trained in anything until I teach it.

Campitor
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by Campitor » Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:06 pm

jacob wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:12 pm

I think if the goal is seen as increasing expertise itself, my complaint about behaviors that are not helping to increase expertise becomes clearer:
  • If beginners don't bother to acquire even a basic level of knowledge, but instead rely on others to take them by their hand and walk them through, that takes away time that could be used to develop more expertise.
  • If valley people (for lack of a much better word) don't share the knowledge that helped them get over the mountain but ALSO leave that to others, then that also takes away time that could be used to develop more.
@Jacob
As an autodidact, the problem I've encountered as a "newbie" is not knowing where to start, a.k.a., what book I should read 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. I truly appreciate when you make book recommendations that include guidance on what should be read 1st. This is supremely helpful for someone looking to build a solid foundation of knowledge to spring past the sophomore stage (mount stupid).

You seem to be a "natural" teacher with a gift for explaining difficult concepts; I feel this is lacking in many experts. Disseminating knowledge is an art which many, including experts, don't work on - they toss out a barrage of high level concepts at a staccato's pace as if the quantity of knowledge regurgitated is more valuable than the comprehension of the student. The experts don't put on the "beginner's mind" thereby equating earnest and honest inquiry with hand holding. And newbies sometimes want their hand held by an expert is to avoid the claptrap that passes as facts in the age of information where any kook can get published and anyone with credentials is free to opine widely and loudly on subjects they know nothing about.

Its difficult to determine when you've actually climbed past mount stupid - there are no video game level-up messages to inform you that mount stupid has been defeated. Perhaps those who have made it past Mount Pendejo don't even know it and refrain from offering knowledge because of it. Perhaps this is why it's only experts chiming in?

Anyways, I hope you continue to wade in with facts and information to help those of us that really want to learn new things. Besides, it's super entertaining to watch you eviscerate someone who is really obstinate in their active promotion of a fallacy - the global warming thread comes to mind. You pimped slapped some heavy duty knowledge into some folks that day: https://youtu.be/k-SdNHq9RZc?t=25

@Riggerjack

I think you end threads because your arguments are very persuasive and at times so logical that it imposes a measure of deep contemplation and self examination. I find your opinions valuable precisely for their challenging nature - you force use to look at data we may have not explored otherwise. The depleted uranium conversation we had comes to mind.

@Jennypenny - I like hearing your perspective and the topics and research you bring to these forums. You're definitely a positive force here.

On the whole I think the community here is great which I credit to Jacob and everyone else that keep elevating the tone of the conversations. Thank you Fish for starting this topic.

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by Riggerjack » Fri Oct 27, 2017 5:11 pm

Maybe I just have different goals, as I am not developing expertise in ERE, merely journeyman knowledge is good enough for me. But I understand that some folks have no interest or capacity to expand the expertise, or body of knowledge. To me, that is OK. The folks who want the list of tips and tricks to shortcut to ERE, aren't interested and wouldn't know what to do with systematic thinking. Again, that should be fine. People can clearly live lifestyles they barely comprehend, judging from the most common complaints around here. If they are going to do so, living by a list of tips and tricks to ERE, seems a better way than leaving them to their own devices.

CS
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by CS » Fri Oct 27, 2017 8:08 pm

@Jacob
I wouldn't be surprised if that thesis was referencing Hollingworth's IQ work. I'd check, but I don't have it with me right now.
Last edited by CS on Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by jacob » Sat Oct 28, 2017 8:45 am

@Campitor -

This model is useful for knowing when one has "leveled up".
viewtopic.php?t=6149 (1=first climb, 2=mountain, 3=valley, 4,5=second climb)
It applies to all kinds of complex learning. I think someone who has mastered some field (which is likely most here) would be able to recognize in themselves the kind of thinking/attitudes/activities that went along with it and how their thinking/opinions changed?

Advanced beginners like to focus on "the facts". A "just give me all the facts"-attitude. I think the easiest way to differentiate between an advanced beginner and an expert is that the former only has one way of putting them together. Effectively, they only have one explanation. An expert tends to have many. One begins to develop competence after realizing that there may be more than one explanation. Only knowing one explanation also makes advanced beginners rather opinionated, so there are more.

A good teacher is in my opinion someone who maintains a theory of mind of the learning path and who is able to identify what someone knows but more importantly what they don't know and then tailor their response to that. The risk is that such responses may easily be perceived as a debate(*) and this is why a teaching approach can fail.

(*) Maybe someone who's more inclined to debate is looking for the responses that confirm them but is "cognitively blind" to the various bits and pieces of the feedback that indicates that there are things they don't know or haven't considered, but should... Relating to my comments above, I know this effect, and so I try to pay extra attention to that.

Conversely, if the expert just goes into what I call "academic mode" (where all information is written with equal weight under the presumption that the readers already know all the references); the information will fly over everybody's heads except other experts. Worse, with the advent of google (and we now have one generation of graduates who grew up with search engines and the habit of using them for homework) ... there's this [now common] idea that "doing my research means finding a URL to some random "expert" to verify my 'facts'". The end result is people throwing URLs at each other with many of them not really knowing what they're talking about.

This is why learning requires some cooperation and effort from both parties before it can happen.

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by SustainableHappiness » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:55 am

This is my first internet forum and I am surprised by the sense of community it gives me even though I have never and may never meet You in person. Anyways, this feels like an appropriate topic to ask this question, as I've read the netiquette rules and this one seems to lie between Rule 4: Respect other peoples time and bandwidth, and Rule 5: Make yourself look good in cyberspace.

Example first, I asked a question about preserving recently as it is a topic related to ERE that is of interest and I thought the forum might provide something useful and it did (and I've already said thank you). Does saying thank you and tying up the topic to answers on a thread I've created unnecessarily bump up the topic (I agree with you Fish as I am an "Active Topics" browser) and waste forumites time, or is it balanced out by gratitude helping the sense of community?

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by black_son_of_gray » Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:55 am

There is another confounding dimension to this discussion that I think is worth mentioning: System 1 vs. System 2 (a la Kahneman & Tversky)

(Disclaimer: I'm almost certainly going to use these two terms in a technically inappropriate and overreaching way. Oh well.)

Simply put: we all use System 1 vs. System 2 thinking to varying degrees, and in different amounts for different topics. Some people make a focused effort on staying in System 2 thinking mode as long and as frequently as possible. I think to some extent this is trainable. Others ask questions instead of System 2. It takes effort to thoughtfully mull over a problem, so they crowd-source an answer that they immediate use as their heuristic going forward (hope that top search result or single book read was a good one!). Google is an amplifier here: it prevents people in System 1 mode from having to think deliberately, but it also allows people in System 2 mode to access huge amounts of information to make a reasoned decision.

Open-mindedness and progression towards expertise requires, to some degree, the willingness to "crack open" System 2 from time to time to double check that your heuristic/mental model is still accurate. That takes a lot of effort, and also carries the emotional risk that you were wrong! So I can see how people don't do it once they have their "thinking short-cut" in place. I think the propensity that someone has for revisiting System 2 after exposure to new information/or ideas sets the pace at which people ascend and descend Mt Stupid. It takes more than exposure to information. It takes more than hearing good arguments. It takes a willingness to enter System 2.

Campitor
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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by Campitor » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:08 pm

jacob wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 8:45 am
A good teacher is in my opinion someone who maintains a theory of mind of the learning path and who is able to identify what someone knows but more importantly what they don't know and then tailor their response to that. The risk is that such responses may easily be perceived as a debate(*) and this is why a teaching approach can fail.....This is why learning requires some cooperation and effort from both parties before it can happen.
Experts aren't immune to the "this is a debate" conundrum. Let me give you a personal example. I was at a party and I was introduced to a professor from a local university. We got along cordially and spent the time discussing mutually interesting topics. After a few laughs and drinks, we got around to discussing his work where he revealed he has done extensive research on asbestos. I've read a lot of papers on asbestos since I was exposed to it frequently many years ago; it was a warehouse with low hanging asbestos wrapped pipes. These pipes were constantly raining down clouds of asbestos as a result of the collisions caused by forklift propelled goods. No one knew it was asbestos until it was tested several years later. No worries - my lungs are free and clear to this day.

To get back on point, I wanted to ask this professor why I or my coworkers didn't get lung cancer. I still remember my question: "If asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is present in our air and I was exposed to it directly in my work environment for years, why didn't I get lung cancer or why don't more people get cancer? Is there a type of asbestos that is more dangerous to breathe?" I clearly knew I was standing on the downwarrd slope of Mount Stupid when I asked my question. I was hoping the professor would give me some information that would help me descend into the valley of competence/proficiency. I was expecting a fascinating lecture on microbiology or epidemiology but instead he got very irate. He perceived my question as a direct challenge and responded with the "it's people like you" trope. I tried to explain that I wasn't doubting asbestos effects on the lungs or its ability to cause cancer but seeking to understand at what point, in his expert opinion, does it become cancerous and what his researched revealed. The professor wouldn't have any of it and literally turned his back on me. I've witnessed this repeatedly in my own life or seen it done to others. I've spent my entire career working alongside people with multiple degrees: PhD's, MAs, Dr's, etc. Why do so many take any kind of question as a challenge to their knowledge instead of a sincere probe in the quest for enlightenment? Is there a similar 6 stage model for being a good teacher?

And to tie this back to the question regarding why the valley folk don't talk to the mount stupid guys - perhaps they are afraid of invoking the ire of those on Mount Olympus who are now shouting at those of us in the valley clawing our way up their side of the mountain - some of us don't want to end up like Prometheus.

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by Fish » Sun Oct 29, 2017 11:01 am

blackbird wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:28 am
I suspect that I fall into the category of posters you reference here. I post infrequently, and often solicit feedback [...]
I'm coming back to your post in an effort to mitigate the chilling effect of the meta-discussion. In my estimation, most posters here (yourself included) do not cause too much of an issue when acting according to your own nature; i.e. most are unconsciously semi-competent and the result is decidedly net positive. We still see things that require moderation (e.g. yesterday's sailor-stories cleanup) but that is not what I'm talking about here. What I am talking is related to the observation that:
slsdly wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:54 am
Hotels don't have a sense of community.
So if you're an infrequent visitor and always go straight to your room (i.e. topics you start) it's understandable and acceptable(*), but please don't delude yourself into thinking that you're doing a great favor for the community by posting here. And if you live here but you still spend all of your time in your room, then this almost certainly tends towards net-negative unless you throw great parties. In an objective sense. The kind that keep others coming back, not the types of parties that cause hangovers and require cleanup.

(*) How acceptable this is depends on the relative concentration of self-interested visitors vs. community-builders and regulars. For a healthy community, the latter need to vastly outnumber the former in the proportion of posts that are written. One can definitely contribute as an infrequent poster, one example that comes to mind is @ebast, who puts a lot of thought into his posts and writes extremely well.

My objective in creating this awareness is not to create the chilling effect but to push the hotel guests to become better guests. Especially those who live in the hotel^H^H^H^H^H apartment complex.
blackbird wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:28 am
Almost every time I post (and this time is probably going to be no different), I regret doing so because I either feel like:

1. I should have spent more time framing my question, because I believe the responses would have been less....(searching for the word here)...sharp? I guess is the best way to state it. [...]

3. I feel outright judgment, and then it takes me a long time (weeks, to months) to build up the willingness to post again. That feeling of judgment is something I believe isn't intentional (mostly) but still suppresses my desire to be more active.
If it makes you feel better, I brace myself when reading new responses because posters here tend to be plain and direct. I find it is easier to not expect agreement. That makes any feeling of disappointment go away faster. It's a much different environment than school or office work which is much more supportive in my experience. (I suspect that's the case because those institutions care about retention.) You just have to have an open mind, a thick skin, and prefer truth to agreement. And if you're posting about politics or any other eternal disagreement (health and diet included), then I don't know what else you can expect. You're kind of asking for it.
blackbird wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:42 pm
fish is certainly right to grow tired of answering beginner / obvious questions over and over
I have nothing against beginner questions, but I do object to people asking questions as a substitute for Google. I also don't mind "obvious" questions if the poster signals that they've already looked/thought in the obvious places, because there's a good chance that someone else here understands the issue at a higher level than obvious.
blackbird wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:42 pm
Many times I've wanted to reply to a comment and have not done so due to a bit of gun-shyness. I think it is at least possible, if not likely, that others have had a similar hesitation. So I'm going to submit and just say hell with it.
Good for you! When I started posting my ratio of unfinished drafts to submitted posts was something like 6:1. :? I have dozens of drafts because they didn't meet the standards of the community as I perceived it. But it seems to get better with practice (or my quality is declining :lol:), as I'm finally getting very close to 1:1, i.e. submitting everything I write.
SustainableHappiness wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:55 am
Does saying thank you and tying up the topic to answers on a thread I've created unnecessarily bump up the topic (I agree with you Fish as I am an "Active Topics" browser) and waste forumites time, or is it balanced out by gratitude helping the sense of community?
When information or advice is received, it is courteous and proper to for the requester to acknowledge it, and preferably go a little bit beyond by explaining how you're going to use that information, or how it changed your thinking. If there was an impact let us know that our time wasn't wasted. That being said, if you just started 3 other topics then it might be reasonable to wait before bumping the other thread with a thank you, to give other posters some breathing room. In my mind, it's a little rude to own more than 2-3 posts at a time on the "Active Topics" page, especially if you're the one doing the bumping. If it's already in the top half of "Active Topics" then I don't consider such a post a bump since it already has the forum's collective attention.

But this may be overthinking it all. If your entire intention is to say thank you, then just do it. If any part of it is motivated by wanting to bump your thread to get some more replies, then add some value with your bump so that those familiar with the thread don't regret clicking to read your latest post.

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Re: Forum Posting Ethics

Post by bryan » Sun Oct 29, 2017 6:24 pm

I think I'll echo @SustainableHappiness: How great is it that this forum exists and seems to continue on rather well? By the time I found ERE, it was already terminal, but the forums were very much alive. It's certainly harder to find information on the forum than the blog (differences in curation and central planning, I suspect), but luckily @jacob and others readily link to previous or tangent discussions when relevant. Resurrecting old threads seems OK so long as it is in good faith.

Of course, I would still agree with OP that I would prefer more thought-provoking original threads versus google-able questions.. Then again some of these newbie threads have turned out pretty interesting (I suspect many regular, good posters just can't resist being an active part of the community here?)

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