site banner

[META] Out Of The Frying Pan, Into A Different Frying Pan

We have somehow survived another move.

I feel like a broken record here, but, seriously, good job everyone, and thanks. While the moderators of a community are important, the community simply doesn't exist without its members. Y'all came over here and kept on posting, and that's exactly what we needed.

With luck, this is going to be the last move we ever need to make; we have our own domain and servers, we're no longer really existing with any specific other person's permission.

We are, however, not out of the woods.

I mentioned during some of the original Reddit-exodus posts that I had a serious medium-term worry about userbase. We've cut ourselves off from the Reddit pipeline and that means we're in danger of slowly eroding away; people will always leave the community and right now we don't have a good way of getting new users. We wouldn't be the first community to do so! Every community needs an influx of people, and now we need to figure out the right way to manage that.

So I now have a few requests, ordered roughly by how comfortable I am asking it.

First: Send links to people that you think will be interested. If you know someone looking for political discussion, send them a link to the site as a whole; if there's a specific post you think they'll be interested in, link that. Remember that we have The Vault, which has unfortunately gone a bit neglected while I worked on this changeover. Please don't spam anyone - I don't want anyone just posting links to our front page on a hundred subreddits - but if you have a good opportunity, either regarding friends or communities that you're an established member of, take it.

Second: Propose places that might be willing to do a link trade. I'm planning to reach out to a bunch of subreddits shortly and see if they're willing to crosslink, especially places that are serious-political-discussion-adjacent in the hopes that we can draw off that section of their population and both be better off for it. If you have personal connections you can bring it up to them yourself, otherwise just let me know and I'll see what I can do. I expect a low success rate but even a low success rate might be pretty dang valuable.

(And don't limit this to subreddits! There's a number of good communities out there that aren't on the big social sites.)

Third: If you have time, help out. We have a dev server that you can join if you want to work on a huge number of pending issues, and it's thanks to the people on this server that we've had such a constant flow of updates, fixes, and tweaks. If you're less programmery but more editorial, we do have a lot of Vault-related editing that we'd like to get done; this goes faster than you might think. If there's some other skill you have that you think might be valuable, hop on the dev server and send me a message.

And finally, fourth, which is the one that I really hate to ask, but I'm doin' it anyway.

I've set up a Patreon to take donations. If you have spare cash and think this is a worthy destination for it, please chip in.

I'm not sure what this whole "money" thing is going to end up looking like. At the very least this will pay for server costs; any income above that will go into making the site better, in whatever way seems most valuable. I've been thinking about taking out ads in an attempt to pull more users here, for example, and that isn't cheap.

This is going to be very experimental and will probably involve false starts. I'd love to hear suggestions on good ways to spend money on the site - if you have any, let me know - but note that in order to hire programmers we would need a lot of money.

For those who are more crypto-minded, I'm also taking donations via Ethereum (0xa97e126DCEcC7Ea3AF05d252B49c03ae35547dD9) and Bitcoin (bc1qnj0mvg90dfawjq3kxq4wdvcq0ejksgyf2m0xnq). All of these links are on the new (and very primitive) Support page.

I know there's going to be people who think that we left Reddit just so I could cash out. I frankly suspect that even if I just pile all of the results into a giant sack with a dollar sign on it and walk off while cackling evilly, I still won't be making minimum wage, so this would be a terrible plan :V No, I do actually like this community a ton, and want it to keep going, but I can't fund an indefinite amount of stuff on my own. And part of this push is to figure out just how useful this site is to all of you, in order to see what can be justified and what can't be justified.

So there's the ask! If you have connections, use them; if you have time, contribute it; if you have money and want to put it towards this, please provide financial support so I can figure out how to keep the new-user pipeline going.

If you don't, that's cool! Keep on posting and I hope you enjoy your time here.

Finally, this is the new Bugs/Suggestions/Small Comments thread. If you have feedback, post it here! A lot of the stuff in that Pending Issues link up above was submitted by users, and we're getting through it slowly.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

Has anyone reached out to Scott?

It's been a long time since he enacted the ban on CW discussions on his site and the SSC sub, given the NYT debacle, maybe he's slightly less worried about being PC these days?

While I don't think it's more likely than not that he'll agree, it's still worth a shot, given that The Motte has always had close ties to its roots.

(Similar argument for the SSC sub, is there any overlap in moderation nowadays?)

Has anyone reached out to Scott?

@ScottA is his account on here, presumably.

He stated in this comment that he'd advertise the site in the next Open Thread.

That's extremely reassuring to hear! I knew he still harbored a soft spot for us, even after all the shit he was through. Thanks for letting me know.

Did the feature request thread vanish? I'd like to ask if there is an RSS or JSON view of this forum.

EDIT: looks like you can also sort and filter:

Can we have a war megathread? Not the culture one, the Russo-Ukrainian one.

I have enjoyed @doglatine ‘s regular roundups in the CW thread and worry a dedicated thread would get lost unless it was for a truly monumental event.

Much appreciated; always nice to know someone’s listening.

I know there's going to be people who think that we left Reddit just so I could cash out. I frankly suspect that even if I just pile all of the results into a giant sack with a dollar sign on it and walk off while cackling evilly, I still won't be making minimum wage

There is a way to make decent money off this sub without ads at all: cookie stuffing. Shady though.

The problem with promoting on reddit is the mods are stridently against any self-promotion to competing subs or communities. I think word of mouth will help, although it will take a few months to kick in. Maybe Scott and some top Substack bloggers (large overlap of readership) can give a shout-out.

Yeah, this is part of why I'm not pushing this hard on Reddit; I can't, Reddit will just boot me.

Rdrama maybe? I suspect they care about userbase as well and the site design is identical which is huge for user retention.

There's massively overlap when it comes to rdrama/themotte posters

God I would have given anything to unleash long post bot on the old sub.

One suggestion regarding user pipeline would be maybe to use the old /r/TheMotte for certain things? Maybe posting links to Quality Contributions over there or even posting links to regular weekly threads? I am not sure how reddit mods would look at it, but it may work to some extent.

This is a good idea. Use /r/themotte as a feeder sub

Farm league

I'd like it if we could somehow promote original user content, over commentary. There's the Quality Contributions thing, but now that we can actually add our own features, I think it would be a good idea to turn them into something more than comments showcased by the mods.

Original content could create a gravity well of it's own for this place, making the pipeline issue less pressing.

I generally agree with you, but the details are tricky.

We already have the Vault set up, intended to be something similar to that. Unfortunately this takes a bit of extra HTML editing. I'd like to rig things up so that our quality contributions go straight there but I haven't gotten that together yet; unfortunately it also requires a bit more editing (for context and such) than the main posts do.

I've been thinking about one of the most successful forums I know, specifically Something Awful. I posted on there for several years and it turns out they actually have a front page which collects both best-of-the-forums and original writings by people. Maybe duplicating that would be a good idea?

Maybe we actually need a few sets of things:

  • Quality contributions that make sense with context

  • Quality contributions that make sense without context

  • Specifically-chosen top-level posts to form the bulk of the front page

but of course all of this is a lot of work.

If you've got other ideas, or have a more specific idea on how this could work, let me know :)

If you've got other ideas, or have a more specific idea on how this could work, let me know :)

Maybe somehow integrate comparative sorting into the site? Gwern's text about it. I'm not sure how this could be done though. Make a shortlist of QC's, have users vote on whether the thing they read previously was better/worse than current item? If people actually used it, that'd provide a lot more value than upvotes, I think.

I've got ideas for a whole host of things that basically come down to "click a button to volunteer a few minutes of your time", and then we ask you to rate things or approve things or whatever. A lot of this is bottlenecking on tech stuff; right now we've got a bunch of important fixes we need before we can work on new things. But these are planned.

I admit I hadn't thought of that particular one, but I do like it. I think right now I need to come up with something reasonably simple to prototype this on - comment approvals, perhaps - but, well, one step at a time here.

I just made my first comments on the site, and, from checking in incognito, they did not appear publicly at first. This was the case for both a top-level comment in the CW thread (which stayed invisible for hours, overnight), and a reply (which stayed invisible for a few minutes).

In both cases, the comments only appeared publicly after I reported them myself (as in pressed the "Report" button on the comment, and submitted one to request they be "approved" or whatever the mechanism in action here is), but also in both cases they appeared publicly within seconds of reporting them. So either the mods are extremely on the ball in responding to reports (but up-to-hours off the ball in approving new comments unprompted), or it was the act of reporting them which automatically caused them to publically appear (which leaves it frustratingly unclear what would have happened to them if I hadn't self-reported them).

I doubt I would have been singled out/shadowbanned since I hadn't done anything yet, so I assume it is representative of the (new?) user experience. It is off-putting.

It would help to know what the intended behaviour is here and what to expect.

New users get filtered to start with in order to cut down on spam (seriously, this is really effective). I'm pretty sure most of them don't notice (seriously, how many people check their comments incognito?) and I don't want to call attention to it. Gotta wait until a mod shows up and hits approve.

I suspect you just had weird timing in terms of getting approved, but it's possible there's some bug around reporting that causes things to appear - I'll look into that.

I do have some tentative plans for a better system, but developer time is, as always, a constraint.

For the above comment: again, did not appear in incognito at first, then did within a few seconds of self-reporting the comment.

I will leave this one un-self-reported for a few hours as an experiment.

20 minutes: this comment still does not appear publicly.

45 minutes: comment appears publicly after Zorba's attention

Can someone explain what is meant by "We survived another move?" We moved from reddit to here, right? Do you mean the split off from SSC on reddit was the first move? Or did we move again and I missed it?

Yeah, SSC -> The Motte Reddit -> here. I wasn't really confident the first move would work either.

Also SSC Comment section ➡️ SSC Subreddit before that.

I'm not super familiar with this process myself, but thought I'd bring it up in case someone here is and can comment on whether it'd make sense to apply for a grant from EA's infrastructure fund.

The link between this community and EA ranges from tenuous to actively hostile.

At best, we're a friend of a friend of an EA-heavy community. The overlap is certainly higher than most other neutral forums. But it remains neutral. There's no mission statement, no overall ethos calling for altruism, let alone EA. It's a discussion board with some people who might be EA or at least sympathetic...

...and plenty who aren't. I can think of a lot of reasons why a conservative board with a penchant for contrarianism skepticism might attract EA opponents; we've got critics of globalism, critics of anything centered on California, maybe even a couple radical egoists. One of the last top-level posts to the sub, immortalized forever in granite, is Yarvin's attempt to jump on the EA criticism bandwagon.

I don't think we have any standing to claim EA funding.

There is a not-totally-insane argument that marginally raising the sanity waterline of the culture war is an altruistic cause in and of itself. As the old saying goes, the worst thing they can possibly do is say "no", so if it's not very costly in labour terms it's worth a try.

If we branded as or even made token lip service to doing it as an EA effort, yeah.

But if everybody who heard about EA started panhandling for their money, I think it’d be a waste of their I Kant endorse it.

To play Devil's advocate, this round, we're talking about a "group" that's funded researching electron suffering and has people thinking about what if we killed all the insects, and has billions of dollars flying around that they don't know what to do with. We're far from the worst use of their ill-gotten gains, and almost certainly a more cost-effective use than some of their more-easily-mockable funding in the past (or that justice initiative they spun off because it's not effective, but couldn't be closed, that would be bad press).

As well, Scott funded multiple ACX grants along the lines of "interview for jobs" and "take some time off from work." I'm not sure we're any less EA-adjacent than that.

EA funds a lot of weird stuff, but The Motte is probably the wrong sort of weird and since being booted from Scott's direct influence it would be hard to argue that this is an "effective altruist grassroots community." At best it's the black sheep or redheaded stepchild, related but not really acknowledged and certainly not beloved. How many people here identify or support EA?

That said, over the past two years other adjacent-types have been throwing money around at ridiculous causes and funding their friends, like Scott's ACX grants, Tyler Cowan's grant program, etc etc. Even with the crypto crash there might be similar programs that don't have EA's value standards.

Edit: Ha, Scott's already said below he wouldn't fund us because we're not EA enough. That calls into question some of his past grants, in my opinion, but I'm sure he can make up statistics to explain why those counted and we wouldn't.

Good rounded criticism without even broaching the mountain of skulls. If anyone wants to talk about that then I suggest this substack post.





I suggest Hacker News.

Submit interesting materials there. Do not even try spamming, that will not work.

Tracing Woodgrains had a blog post frontpage there a day or two ago.

Could we pay Scott for an advertisement?

I'm happy to advertise you on the next Open Thread. Let me know if there's any specific wording you want, otherwise it'll just be a few sentences about you and a link.

I think it would be good to also mention that we have a long backlog of development tasks and we welcome volunteer developers who support our mission.

This imposter! I bet this username was chosen so we would falsely attribute to him all the great things Scott Aaronson has posted!

(I think Scott Alexander is pretty great, too)

Just kidding, but the real reason is so we could make this joke, right?

I think the only thing I'd ask is to use some quote you consider appropriate out of the top of the sidebar:

This website is a place for people who want to move past shady thinking and test their ideas in a court of people who don't all share the same biases. Our goal is to optimize for light, not heat; this is a group effort, and all commentators are asked to do their part.

or the sidebar:

The purpose of this community is to be a working discussion ground for people who may hold dramatically different beliefs. It is to be a place for people to examine the beliefs of others as well as their own beliefs; it is to be a place where strange or abnormal opinions and ideas can be generated and discussed fairly, with consideration and insight instead of kneejerk responses.

but otherwise, use your own words.

Also, many thanks :)

(other people may have better ideas; you're welcome to ignore mine and use theirs :V)

There are occasional classifieds posts, one was posted recently for all kinds of spam.

Maybe! I don't know if he'd be OK with it; my gut feeling is that either we don't need to pay him for an advertisement or we can't pay him for an advertisement.

Maybe Scott could give us money via one of his fancy ACX grants.

ACX Grants are mostly for things that are sort of EA-like and probably wouldn't give one to the Motte, sorry. Happy to talk about other ways I can support you.

Aside from "a lot of money", which I'm pretty sure everyone could use, honestly the biggest thing we need is just an influx of users. I don't know if you're feeling up for tying these communities together again, but we could really use a spot on your sidebar.

Regardless of whether you're up for that yourself, I'd also appreciate any recommendations on blogs that would be interested. This is something I'm looking for in general, but in addition I'm specifically hoping for some rationalist-left-wing blogs (add "adjacent" in there as many times as necessary); I know this is a tough thing to find but I'm kinda worried about the whole evaporative-cooling witch thing.

That is a good thought, and might double as free advertising even if he only gives us a token amount.

First of all, thank you for doing this! The site looks & works fine for me. One thing you should consider in order to raise funds, is to sign up for Brave Rewards. Users of the Brave browser can then send you BAT tokens, some type of crypto, in an automated fashion in some set interval. I have no idea whether this is feasable or worth your time, but I think the concept is quite neat. So far I have only found one creator (Agadmator on youtube) who has signed up, so I have some BAT to spare.

I guess the big question I have is how much it's likely to be; if it's, like, cents per user at most, which it probably is, then it's not worth the time to sign up and I'd feel weird selling out for a browser also.

I'd feel weird selling out for a browser also.

Brave users opt in to the program so anyone that sees ads chose to see them. I see it more as taking the money that's on the table from users who already use Brave to browse themotte.

Yes, that was my thought too.

I’d be more comfortable contributing money if I was confident it would be spent responsibly. Some kind of regular financial report or other kind of transparency would go a long way towards that.

I feel like the fact that Zorba hasn't sold out to work at FAANG, and clearly could do that or otherwise leverage the network here, is good evidence that this isn't a get (not very) rich (not very) quickly scheme.

Also, you can look at the flow in/out of the crypto addresses, and see the patreon subscribers. That's pretty darn transparent already. So far, $70 BTC, $0 ETH, $82/mo Patreon.

My big concern here is that the financial reports end up consisting mostly of time spent writing financial reports. I'm happy to talk about roughly what's going on and where the money is going (right now, server fees, somewhere around $50/mo) and if we get to Serious Money (tm) stages then yeah I'll do the legwork or hire someone to do it for me.

But if we're looking at $100-$200/mo then I'd actually rather not have the money than have to do a detailed financial report.

Finally, it's worth noting that "spent responsibly" is a kind of squirrely concept. I worked on a World of Warcraft mod a while back that took donations, and I made a big thing over how contributions would go towards the future development of the mod. And they did! They went to my pocket so I kept working on the mod. Basically made it a full-time job for a year or so. If I got a ton of contributions then "make this a part-time or even full-time job" starts looking viable, but then the financial report will be like, "Server Fees: $50, ZorbaTHut's Payroll: Everything Else".

Which some people would object to, even if I'm effectively working at a discount.

Donation-based stuff is weird because people get weird about money.

Propose places that might be willing to do a link trade.

DSL forums?

Surely 90% of people there know about here, and 90% of people here know about there?

The blue ocean of prospective mottizens is the comment sections of various substacks and blogs, but it's quite difficult to reach those people without naked shilling.

Yeah, I know both exist, but I've never posted at DSL - and I'd expect less than half of DSLers to be actively aware of us and fewer than that to actually post here.

Not surely at all. You overestimate the universality of engagement and social interest. I've almost forgotten they exist, for instance.

I'd strongly argue against typical paid ads, on the theory that anyone seeing ads on the internet these days is too much of an [uncurious technologically uninformed casual user] to have heard of adblockers.

If we were selling Gorilla Male Vitality Organic Vaginal Douches With Nonessential Oils to credulous [gentlepersons], ads would be the way to go.

But we're trying to sell Optimeme performance-enhancing "cognition supplements" to twitchy med students who find mainlining Adderall doesn't do it for them any more, which takes more sophisticated online marketing.

Getting the motte on people's blogrolls and (may Allah forgive me) quoted in Twitter threads seems like the way to go for attracting active participants.

But we're trying to sell Optimeme performance-enhancing "cognition supplements" to twitchy med students who find mainlining Adderall doesn't do it for them any more, which takes more sophisticated online marketing. this an ad? Because I want some Optimeme now.

Order today and for No Extra Cost we'll upgrade you to Optimeme+ Hyperstealth, specially formulated to fool DEA mail investigators by looking and tasting just like aspirin!

I'm pretty sure it's just more meth.

I've been sort-of-seriously considering print ads. I know that sounds nuts. But it's also so weird that I think it might be able to attract some attention.

(Also, it costs money.)

Getting the motte on people's blogrolls and (may Allah forgive me) quoted in Twitter threads seems like the way to go for attracting active participants.

Part of this is the link-trading stuff, and yeah I completely agree that's the best first approach. I can't really organically force people to post in Twitter threads - that's up to you guys! - but it's also the kind of thing that happens naturally if the other work is going well.

How much is it to place an ad in one of the New Times papers?

I did some really quick scans a few weeks back and the answer seemed to be "low thousands", although it was unclear to me how much space that was.

Now that we're off-reddit it may be safer to tell you my much cheaper plan to get quite a long ad published in the Washington Post?

Kulak might have to take one for the team to pull it off though.

You know what could be good along those lines - a little merchandising. Stickers with just "" on them, that kind of thing. I don't think you should go heavy into it, it would clash with the atmosphere of this place, but it would also get you a little revenue (no strings attached too, unlike donations) and it goes a long way to building community. A really long way. We also have a couple of memes that might make good merch, like a sticker saying "Actually A Quality Contribution!", which would be quite strong outside of this place because it projects confidence and exclusivity, and is unique enough to us to start a bread crumb trail for the curious.

like a sticker saying "Actually A Quality Contribution!"

I'll admit I'm entertained at this idea. I've put it on my list :D

IMHO it's a good idea, not just an entertaining one. Clear advertising for TheMotte terrifies me, because I'm afraid the "evaporative cooling" metaphor applies to condensation too. Advertising that requires someone to be curious enough to search for the meaning of a random phrase and competent enough to find it (e.g. with Google I get relevant results iff I think to wrap the phrase in quotes) isn't a high bar but it's better than nothing.

Edit: oh, and as a third advantage, searching for that phrase brings me first to thethread, and reading that feels likely to draw users who fit with what this place would like to be. Most other forms of advertising would bring me directly here, and reading random selections here are ... not always as much of a draw to thoughtful potential users, to put it politely, and probably more prone to starting a vicious "evaporative" cycle, to consider it theoretically.

I wonder if tracingwoodgrains could get us a shoutout on the Blocked and Reported podcast. That seems to me like one of the most closely adjacent places that isn’t explicitly part of the ratsphere.

I've been sort-of-seriously considering print ads

I was thinking of recommending that, but still online.

Find an influencer with a compatible mindset, and pay for an ad segment. Angela Nagle, Justin Murphy, Benjamin Boyce... any sort of weirdo who's into respectful debate.

We could even have a vote where we want to advertise next, and a crowdfunding drive.

Zerohedge perhaps for paid ads. They were canceled for early reporting of lab leak (and I believe link banned from Reddit). Basically any writers whose been canceled. AGM.

As far as dollars-per-audience go, this seems inefficient compared to targeting a non-banned community.

I feel kinda dumb for not thinking of that, frankly.

Yeah, that's a good idea!