Harrison D's Shortform

by Harrison D5th Dec 20205 comments
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A few months ago I wrote a post on a decision-analysis framework (the stock issues framework) that I adapted from a framework which is very popular/prominent in competitive high school policy debate (which uses the same name). I was surprised to not receive any feedback/comments (I was at least expecting some criticism, confusion, etc.), but in retrospect I realized that it was probably a rather lengthy/inefficient post. I also realized that I probably should have written a shortform post to get a sense of interest, some preliminary thoughts on the validity and novelty/neglectedness of the concept, and how/where people might misinterpret or challenge the concept (or otherwise want to see more clarity/justification). So, I’ll try to offer a simplified summary here in hopes to get some more insight on some of those things I mentioned (e.g., the potential value, novelty/neglectedness, validity, areas of confusion/skepticism).

The framework remarkably echoes the “importance, neglectedness, tractability” (INT) heuristic for cause area prioritization, except that the stock issues framework is specific to individual decisions and avoids some of the problems of the INT heuristic (e.g., the overgeneralized assumption of diminishing marginal returns). Basically, the stock issues framework holds that every advantage and disadvantage (“pro and con”) of a decision rests on four mutually exclusive and exhaustive concepts: inherency (which is reminiscent of “neglectedness,” but is more just “the descriptive state of affairs”), significance, feasibility, and solvency. (I explain them in more detail in my post.) 

Over time, I have informally thought of and jotted down some of the potential justifications for promoting this framework (e.g., checking against confirmation and other biases, providing common language and concept awareness in discourse, constructing concept categories so as to improve learning and application of lessons from similar cases). However, before I write a post about such justifications, I figured I would write this shortform to get some preliminary feedback, as I mentioned: I’d love to hear where you are skeptical, confused, interested, etc.! (Also, if you think the original post I made should/could be improved--such as by reducing caveats/parentheticals/specificities, making some explanation more clear, etc.--feel free to let me know!)

I really appreciate your constructive attitude here :) I write below some recommendations and my take on why this wasn't successful. Some of it is a bit harsh, but that's because I honestly respect you and think you'll take it well 😊

I remember coming across your post, which is in an area that I'm very interested in, but seeing that I didn't remember any details and didn't upvote, I probably just skimmed it and didn't find it worth my time to read. I've read it now, and I have some thoughts about how you could have written a post on this topic which I  would find interesting and more readable - after reading it now, I think that it has some useful content that I'd like to know.

  1. A lot of the post (and actually even most of this shortform post) is about your own views and thinking process and meta-thoughts about the post itself and it's context. This is a lot of overhead which is not needed and in fact damaging both because it is distracting and because it makes it harder to find the gold within.
  2. As you said, the post is too lengthy and inefficient. I'd guess that most readers of the forum go through posts by filtering in approximately this order: Title-> skimming first paragraphs /  look for clear bullet points or tl;dr-> skimming the post, mostly looking at headers, images, first words of paragraphs, bolded parts, bullet points -> skimming sections of interest -> dive deeper into all or what interests them. 
    1. I found myself confused from skimming the intro. I saw that you offer an alternative to ITN, but didn't understand what it is.
    2. Skimming the rest of the post, I saw the four bulleted concepts and my next thought was that I get the general idea of the post, even if I'm confused about somethings, but it's not worth my time to read through this text to understand it better.
  3. It feels that the post is aiming at persuasion rather than description. I got the feeling that I was being sold some new shiny framework, and that most of the effort in the post goes there instead of just explaining what it's all about. I really do think that you overpromise here, and by doing that I could easily discard the whole idea as not worthwhile even if it has some merit.
  4. Relatedly, I found the attitude in the post somewhat vain and dismissive towards existing ideas and the readers. As I write this, I look back and didn't find any clear examples of that so perhaps I'm misjudging the post here. Perhaps it's because you make it seem like it's your idea.
  5. Key ideas of the framework are not explained properly. I don't understand how exactly one uses this framework. Can you put a "number" or evaluation on inherency? How exactly do accounts of diminishing returns enter this framework? What do we do about some overlap between different parts? You write that you hope for people to comment and ask questions, but I think that this is too much to ask - it takes a while to clarify to myself what I don't understand, and it's a lot of overhead anyway.

What I'd really hope you will do is to write a short post (not a shortform) which only explains this framework and some of its features, without unneeded meta-discussion.  I've tried skimming the Wikipedia page, but it's in a different enough context and language that it's difficult for me to understand without a lot of effort.

Thanks for the insight/feedback! I definitely see what you are saying on a lot of points. I’ll be working on an improved post soon that incorporates your feedback.