1. Please tag your posts!

When I'm trying to do get up to speed on some forum topic, tags have been immensely usefwl to me. But I'm frequently frustrated by how many highly relevant posts go untagged. I can't help grumpily murmuring[1] to myself that it would cost less than a minute for the author to tag each of their posts, while I often end up spending hours trying to find the right search terms to locate them.

       2. Tag other people's posts!

And if you think some post is unusually good for a particular topic, consider strong-upvoting its "Relevance" score.

I think that, on the margin, if we collectively spent more time tagging posts as we read them, we probably end up saving more time than we spend because it'll be much easier to find the posts we're looking for. And this is additional to the reading-value gained by people searching through tags. So unless you're a utility-monster, I think time spent tagging is usually worth it.

Oh no, I seem to have forgotten to tag this post. Exercise for the reader?

       3. Use the topics!

There's a case for browsing the front page and reading whatever catches your attention rather than guiding your search based on exactly what you think will be usefwl to you. But there's also a case for spending more time intentionally trying to find information that's relevant to what you're trying to do, especially if you think you've found a good path to follow. Besides, we're probably overly biased to read what's new  and popular compared to reading what we predict will have the most information value.

Rather than optimising our information diets based on what we think will be most usefwl, we often just read things because we want to "stay in the loop".[2] We don't want to be caught clueless about what's going on at any given moment, but how important is that really for what we're trying to do? Our value as thinkers is not defined by what we don't know, it's defined by what we do know and what we can produce.

“Rule thinkers in, not out.”

       4. Forum suggestion: Field to tag posts while writing it

Right now, you can't tag a post while you're writing it. You have to "save as draft" and then add the tags to the draft, or add the tags after you publish it. This is needlessly annoying. I suggest making it like this:

       5. Forum suggestion: No tags, no publish

The miniscule effort encouraged by making it mandatory is probably outweighed by the benefits many times over on average. Consider that the effort is a one-time cost, while the benefits accrue every time someone finds it usefwl. The costs are consistently modest for authors, while the benefits can be enormous for some readers (e.g. I'm doing a lit review and the tags help me counterfactually find the perfect post.)

So I suggest making it mandatory. Maybe like this:

You get a friendly reminder if you try to publish a post before tagging it.
  1. ^

    I don't endorse my own grumpiness, however! I appreciate your posts, and I would be even more gratefwl if you tagged them. Please! ^^

  2. ^

    I call it the "jabber loop". As long as we fear being exposed as clueless about something,[3] we're incentivised to read what we expect other people will have read, and what other people are likely to bring up in conversation.

  3. ^

    We almost exclusively see what people know, not what they don't know. You will notice every time you don't know something about what's mentioned in a conversation, but unless people speak up about their own ignorance (unlikely), you can't see what they don't know. So unless you have a solid underlying model, you may end up impostor-syndroming yourself into feeling useless. Lizka explains it best:

    This highlight the utter absurdity of being afraid of having our ignorance exposed, and going 'round judging each other for what we don't know. If we all worry overmuch about what we don't know, we'll all get stuck reading and talking about stuff in the Jabber loop. The more of our collective time we give to the Jabber loop, the more unusual it will be to be ignorant of what's in there, which means the social punishments for Jabber-ignorance will get even harsher.

    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

    So when I see someone bravely revealing their ignorance about something, I know they're an ally in the fight against the jabber loop. Put in extra effort to reveal what you don't know, and you're making it easier for others to do the same. Be the vanguard!


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