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description: Site ideals; source & content; traffic; examples; license
tags: personal, psychology, archiving
This page is about ``; for information about me, see [Links]().
# The Content
> "Ah! let not Censure term our fate our choice, / The stage but echoes back the public's voice; / The drama's laws the drama's patrons give, / For we that live to please must please to live."^[[Samuel Johnson](!Wikipedia), ["Prologue at the Opening of Drury Lane Theatre"](]
The content here varies from [philosophy](Culture is not about Esthetics) to [poetry](fiction/Brave poem) to [programming](haskell/Wikipedia RSS Archive Bot) to prosaic FAQ. It is everything I felt worth writing for the past few years that didn't fit somewhere like Wikipedia or was already written - "...I realised that I wanted to read about them what I myself knew. More than this - what only I knew. Deprived of this possibility, I decided to write about them. Hence this book."^[[Gennadi Sosonko](!Wikipedia), pg 19 of _Russian Silhouettes_, on why he wrote his book of biographical sketches of great Soviet chess players.] I never expected to write so much, but I discovered that once I had a hammer, nails were everywhere, and that [supply creates its own demand](!Wikipedia "Say's Law")^["It is only the attempt to write down your ideas that enables them to develop." --Wittgenstein (pg 109, _Recollections of Wittgenstein_); "I thought a little [while in the isolation tank], and then I stopped thinking altogether...incredible how idleness of body leads to idleness of mind. After 2 days, I'd turned into an idiot. That's the reason why, during a flight, astronauts are always kept busy." --Oriana Fallaci, [quoted]( ) in _Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon_ by Craig Nelson.]. I believe that someone who has been well-educated will think of something worth writing at least once a week; to a surprising extent, this has been true. (I have added ~130 documents to this repository over the past 3 years.) There are many benefits to keeping notes as they allow one to accumulate confirming and especially contradictory evidence[^darwin], and even drafts can be useful so you [Don't Repeat Yourself](!Wikipedia).
[^darwin]: _[The Autobiography of Charles Darwin](!Wikipedia)_, 1902:
> "I had, also, during many years followed a golden rule, namely, that whenever a published fact, a new observation or thought came across me, which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without fail and at once; for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favourable ones. Owing to this habit, very few objections were raised against my views which I had not at least noticed and attempted to answer."
One of my personal interests is applying the idea of the [Long Now](!Wikipedia). What and how do you write a personal site with the long-term in mind? We live most of our lives in the future, and the actuarial tables give me until the 2070-2080s, excluding any benefits from [caloric restriction](!Wikipedia)/[intermittent fasting](!Wikipedia) or projects like [SENS](!Wikipedia "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence"). It is a common-place in science fiction^[Such as [Larry Niven](!Wikipedia)'s [Known Space](!Wikipedia) universe; consider the introduction to the chronologically last story in that setting, "Safe at Any Speed" (_Tales of Known Space_).] that longevity would cause widespread risk aversion. But on the other hand, it could do the opposite: the longer you live, the more long-shots you can afford to invest in. Someone with a timespan of 70 years has reason to protect against black swans - but also time to look for them.[^fromm] It's worth noting that old people make many short-term choices, as reflected in increased suicide rates and reduced investment in education or new hobbies, and this is not due solely to the ravages of age but the proximity of death - the HIV-infected (but otherwise in perfect health) act similarly short-term.[^posner]
[^fromm]: [Erich Fromm](!Wikipedia):
> "If the individual lived five hundred or one thousand years, this clash (between his interests and those of society) might not exist or at least might be considerably reduced. He then might live and harvest with joy what he sowed in sorrow; the suffering of one historical period which will bear fruit in the next one could bear fruit for him too."
[^posner]: From [Richard Posner](!Wikipedia)'s _Aging and Old Age_:
> "One way to distinguish empirically between aging effects and proximity-to-death effects would be to compare, with respect to choice of occupation, investment, education, leisure activities, and other activities, elderly people on the one hand with young or middle-aged people who have truncated life expectancies but are in apparent good health, on the other. For example, a person newly infected with the AIDS virus (HIV) has roughly the same life expectancy as a 65-year-old and is unlikely to have, as yet, significant symptoms. The conventional human-capital model implies that, after correction for differences in income and for other differences between such persons and elderly persons who have the same life expectancy (a big difference is that the former will not have pension entitlements to fall back upon), the behavior of the two groups will be similar. It does appear to be similar, so far as investing in human capital is concerned; the truncation of the payback period causes disinvestment. And there is a high suicide rate among HIV-infected persons (even before they have reached the point in the progression of the disease at which they are classified as persons with AIDS), just as there is, as we shall see in chapter 6, among elderly persons."
What sort of writing could you create if you worked on it (be it ever so rarely) for the next 60 years? What could you do if you started *now*?[^jfk]
[^jfk]: [John F. Kennedy](, 1962:
> 'I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years.
> The Marshal replied, "In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon."'
> "Of all the books I have delivered to the presses, none, I think, is as personal as the straggling collection mustered for this hodgepodge, precisely because it abounds in reflections and interpolations. Few things have happened to me, and I have read a great many. Or rather, few things have happened to me more worth remembering than Schopenhauer's thought or the music of England’s words.
> A man sets himself the task of portraying the world. Through the years he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his face."^[[Jorge Luis Borges](!Wikipedia), _[Dreamtigers](!Wikipedia)_ [Epilogue](]
## Long Site
> "The Internet is self destructing paper. A place where anything written is soon destroyed by rapacious competition and the only preservation is to forever copy writing from sheet to sheet faster than they can burn.
> If it's worth writing, it's worth keeping. If it can be kept, it might be worth writing...If you store your writing on a third party site like [Blogger](!Wikipedia), [Livejournal](!Wikipedia) or even on your own site, but in the complex format used by blog/wiki software de jour you will _lose it forever_ as soon as hypersonic wings of Internet labor flows direct people's energies elsewhere. For most information published on the Internet, perhaps that is _not a moment too soon_, but how can the muse of originality soar when immolating transience brushes every feather?"^[[Julian Assange](!Wikipedia), 5 December 2006, ["Self destructing paper"](]
Keeping the site running that long is a challenge, and leads to the recommendations for [Resilient Haskell Software](): 100% [FLOSS](!Wikipedia) software[^zeroth], [open standards](!Wikipedia "Open format") for data, [textual]( human-readability, avoiding external dependencies[^bitly], and staticness.
[^zeroth]: [Mark Pilgrim](!Wikipedia), ["Freedom 0"](
> "In the long run, the utility of all non-Free software approaches zero. All non-Free software is a dead end."
[^bitly]: These dependencies are not always obvious. Computer archivist Jason Scott [writes]( of [URL shortening](!Wikipedia "URL shortening#Criticism and problems") services that:
> "URL shorteners may be one of the worst ideas, one of the most backward ideas, to come out of the last five years. In very recent times, per-site shorteners, where a website registers a smaller version of its hostname and provides a single small link for a more complicated piece of content within it... those are fine. But these general-purpose URL shorteners, with their shady or fragile setups and utter dependence upon them, well. If we lose [TinyURL](!Wikipedia) or [](!Wikipedia), millions of weblogs, essays, and non-archived tweets lose their meaning. Instantly. To someone in the future, it'll be like everyone from a certain era of history, say ten years of the 18th century, started speaking in a one-time pad of cryptographic pass phrases. We're doing our best to stop it. Some of the shorteners have been helpful, others have been hostile. A number have died. We're going to release torrents on a regular basis of these spreadsheets, these code breaking spreadsheets, and we hope others do too."
[Joshua Schachter](!Wikipedia) [remarks]( (and the comments provide even more examples):
> "But the biggest burden falls on the clicker, the person who follows the links. The extra layer of indirection slows down browsing with additional DNS lookups and server hits. A new and [potentially unreliable middleman]( now sits between the link and its destination. And the long-term archivability of the hyperlink now depends on the health of a third party. The shortener may decide a link is a [Terms Of Service violation](!Wikipedia "TinyURL#Criticism") and delete it. If the shortener [accidentally erases a database](, forgets to renew its domain, or just [disappears](, the link will break. If a top-level domain [changes its policy on commercial use](, the link will break. If the shortener gets hacked, every link becomes a potential phishing attack."
Preserving the content is another challenge. Keeping the content in a [DVCS](!Wikipedia) like [darcs](!Wikipedia) protects against file corruption and makes it easier to mirror the content; regular backups^[Such as burning the occasional copy onto read-only media like DVDs.] help. I have taken additional measures: [WebCitation](!Wikipedia) has archived most pages and almost all external links; the [Internet Archive](!Wikipedia) is also archiving pages & external links^[One can't be sure; the IA is fed by [Alexa](!Wikipedia), and Alexa doesn't guarantee pages will be [spidered](!Wikipedia "Web crawler") & preserved if one goes through their request form.]. (For details, read [Archiving URLs]().)
One could continue in this vein, devising ever more powerful & robust storage methods (perhaps combine the DVCS with [forward error correction](!Wikipedia) through [PAR2](!Wikipedia), _a la_ [bup](, but what is one fill the storage with?
## Long Content
> "What has been done, thought, written, or spoken is not culture; culture is only that fraction which is *remembered*."^[Emphasis added; Gary Taylor as quoted in _The Clock of the Long Now_. I am diligent in backing up my files, in periodically copying my content from the [cloud](!Wikipedia "Cloud computing"), and in preserving viewed Internet content; why do I do all this? Because I want to believe that my memories are precious, that the things I saw and said are valuable; "I want to meet them again, because I believe my feelings at that time were real." My past is not trash to me, used up & discarded.]
'Blog posts' might be the answer. But I have read blogs for many years and most blog posts are the triumph of the hare over the tortoise. They are meant to be read by a few people on a weekday in 2004 and never again, and are [quickly]( [abandoned]( - and perhaps as Assange says, not a moment too soon. (But isn't that sad? Isn't it a terrible [ROI](!Wikipedia "Rate of return") for one's time?) On the other hand, the best blogs always seem to be building something: they are rough drafts - works in progress[^books]. So I did not wish to write a blog. Then what? What would constitute *Long* Content as opposed to the existing culture of Short Content? How does one live in a Long Now sort of way?[^kelly]
[^books]: Examples of such blogs:
1. [Eliezer Yudkowsky](!Wikipedia)'s contributions to [LessWrong]( were the rough draft of a philosophy book (or two)
2. John Robb's [Global Guerrillas]( lead to his [_Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization_](
3. [Kevin Kelly](!Wikipedia)'s [Technium]( was turned into [_What Technology Wants_](
An example of how *not* to do it would be [Robin Hanson](!Wikipedia)'s _[Overcoming Bias]( blog; it is stuffed with fascinating citations & sketches of ideas, but they never go anywhere. Just his posts on [medicine]( would make a fascinating essay or just list - but he has never made one. (["Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism"]( would be a natural home for many of his posts' contents, but will never be updated.)
[^kelly]: ["Kevin Kelly Answers Your Questions"](, 6 September 2011:
> [Question:] _One purpose of the [Long Now Clock](!Wikipedia) is to encourage long-term thinking. Aside from the Clock, though, what do you think people can do in their everyday lives to adopt or promote long-term thinking?_
> [KK](!Wikipedia "Kevin Kelly (editor)"): The 10,000-year Clock we are building [in the hills of west Texas]( is meant to remind us to think long-term, but learning how to do that as in individual is difficult. Part of the difficulty is that as individuals we constrained to short lives, and are inherently not long-term. So part of the skill in thinking long-term is to place our values and energies in ways that transcend the individual -- either in generational projects, or in social enterprises.
> As a start I recommend engaging in a project that will not be complete in your lifetime. Another way is to require that your current projects exhibit some payoff that is not immediate; perhaps some small portion of it pays off in the future. A third way is to create things that get better, or run up in time, rather than one that decays and runs down in time. For instance a seedling grows into a tree, which has seedlings of its own. A program like [Heifer Project](!Wikipedia) which gives breeding pairs of animals to poor farmers, who in turn must give one breeding pair away themselves, is an exotropic scheme, growing up over time.
> "It's shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad'Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson."^[Frank Herbert, _Dune_]
My answer is that one uses such a framework to work on projects that are too big to work on normally or too tedious. (Conscientiousness is often lacking online or in volunteer communities^[[GiveWell](!Wikipedia) reports in ["A good volunteer is hard to find"]( that of volunteers motivated enough to email them asking to help, something like <20% will complete the GiveWell test assignment and render meaningful help. Such persons would have been well-advised to have simply donated some money. I have long noted that many of the most popular pages on `` could have been written by anyone and drew on no unique talents of mine; I have on several occasions received offers to help with the DNB FAQ - none of which have resulted in help.] and many useful things go undone.) Knowing your site *will* survive for decades to come gives you the mental wherewithal to tackle long-term tasks like gathering information for years, and such persistence can be useful^[An old sentiment; consider "A drop hollows out the stone" (Ovid, _Epistles_) or Thomas Carlyle's "The weakest living creature, by concentrating his powers on a single object, can accomplish something. The strongest, by dispensing his over many, may fail to accomplish anything. The drop, by continually falling, bores its passage through the hardest rock. The hasty torrent rushes over it with hideous uproar, and leaves no trace behind." (_The life of Friedrich Schiller_, 1825)] - if one holds onto every glimmer of genius for years, then even the dullest person may look a bit like a genius himself[^Feynman]. (Even experienced professionals can only write at their peak for a few hours a day[^Ericsson].) Half the challenge of fighting procrastination is the [pain of starting]( - I find when I actually get [into the swing]( of working on even dull tasks, it's not so bad. So this suggests an obvious solution: never start. Merely have perpetual drafts, which one tweaks from time to time. And the rest takes care of itself. I have a few examples of this:
[^Feynman]: ["Ten Lessons I wish I had been Taught"](, [Gian-Carlo Rota](!Wikipedia):
> "Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius. You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say: '*How did he do it? He must be a genius*!'"
[^Ericsson]: From ["The Role of Deliberate Practice"](/docs/1993-ericsson-deliberatepractice.pdf), Ericsson 1993 (among [others](
> "The best data on sustained intellectual activity comes from financially independent authors. While completing a novel famous authors tend to write only for 4 hr during the morning, leaving the rest of the day for rest and recuperation ([Cowley, M. (Ed.). (1959). _Writers at work: The [Paris review interviews](!Wikipedia "The Paris Review#Interview series")_.]; [[Plimpton, G.](!Wikipedia "George Plimpton") (Ed.). (1977). _Writers at work: The Paris review. Interviews, second series_.]). Hence successful authors, who can control their work habits and are motivated to optimize their productivity, limit their most important intellectual activity to a fixed daily amount when working on projects requiring long periods of time to complete...Biographies report that famous scientists such as Charles Darwin, (Erasmus Darwin, 1888), Pavlov (Babkin, 1949), Hans Selye (Selye, 1964), and B.F. Skinner (Skinner, 1983) adhered to a rigid daily schedule where the first major activity of each morning involved writing for a couple of hours. In a large questionnaire study of science and engineering faculty, Kellogg (1986) found that writing on articles occurred most frequently before lunch and that limiting writing sessions to a duration of 1-2 hr was related to higher reported productivity...In this regard, it is particularly interesting to examine the way in which famous authors allocate their time. These authors often retreat when they are ready to write a book and make writing their sole purpose. Almost without exception, they tend to schedule 3-4 hr of writing every morning and to spend the rest of the day on walking, correspondence, napping, and other less demanding activities (Cowley, 1959; Plimpton, 1977)."
1. [DNB FAQ]():
When I read in _Wired_ in 2008 that the obscure working memory exercise called dual n-back (DNB) had been found to increase IQ significantly, I was shocked. IQ is one of the most stubborn properties of one's mind, one of the most fragile[^fragile], the hardest to affect positively[^increase], but also one of the most valuable traits one could have[^conscientiousness]; if the technique panned out, it would be *huge*. Unfortunately, DNB requires a major time investment^[As in, 1 hour daily would not be too much.]; not a problem if it delivers, but it could be a huge loss. So, to do DNB or not?
Questions of great import like this are worth studying carefully. The wheels of academia grind exceeding slow, and only a fool expects unanimous answers from fields like psychology. Any attempt to answer the question 'is DNB worthwhile?' will require years and cover a breadth of material. This FAQ on DNB is my attempt to cover that breadth over those years.
2. [_Neon Genesis Evangelion_ notes](otaku) and [essay draft](otaku-essay):
I have been discussing [NGE](!Wikipedia "Neon Genesis Evangelion") since 2004. The task of interpreting Eva is very difficult; the source works themselves are a major time-sink^[25 episodes, 6 movies, >11 manga volumes - just to stick to the core works.], and there are thousands of primary, secondary, and tertiary works to consider - personal essays, interviews, reviews, etc. The net effect is that many Eva fans 'know' certain things about Eva, such as _[End of Evangelion](!Wikipedia)_ not being a grand 'screw you' statement by Hideaki Anno or that the TV series was censored, but they no longer have *proof*. Because each fan remembers a different subset, they have irreconcilable interpretations. (Half the value of the page for me is having a place to store things I've said in countless fora which I can eventually turn into something more systematic.)
To compile claims from all those works, to dig up forgotten references, to scroll through microfilms, buy issues of defunct magazines - all this is enough work to shatter [the heart](!Wikipedia "Karoshi") of the stoutest salaryman. Which is why I began years ago and expect not to finish for years to come. (Finishing by 2020 seems like a good [prediction](
3. [_Cloud Nine_](fiction/Cloud Nine):
Years ago I was reading the papers of the economist [Robin Hanson](!Wikipedia). I recommend his work highly; even if they are wrong, they are imaginative and some of the finest speculative fiction I have read. (Except they were non-fiction.) One night I had a dream in which I saw in a flash a medieval city run in part on Hansonian grounds; a [steampunk](!Wikipedia) version of his [futarchy](!Wikipedia). A city must have another city as a rival, and soon I had remembered the strange '90s idea of [assassination market](!Wikipedia)s, which was easily tweaked to work in a medieval setting. Finally, between them, was one of my favorite proposals, Buckminster Fuller's [cloud nine](!Wikipedia) megastructure.
I wrote several drafts but always lost them. Sad[^Tadamine] and discouraged, I abandoned it for years. This fear leads straight into the next example.
4. [Book reading list]():
Once, I didn't have to keep reading lists. I simply went to the school library shelf where I left off and grabbed the next book. But then I began reading harder books, and they would cite other books, and sometimes would even have horrifying lists of hundreds of other books I ought to read ('bibliographies'). I tried remembering the most important ones but quickly forgot. So I began keeping a book list on paper. I thought I would throw it away in a few months when I read them all, but somehow it kept growing and growing. I didn't trust computers to store it before^[As with _Cloud Nine_; I accidentally erased everything on a routine basis while messing around with Windows.], but now I do, and it lives on in digital form. With it, I can track how my interests evolved over time^[For example, I notice I am no longer deeply interested in the occult. Hopefully this is because I have grown mentally and recognize it as rubbish; I would be embarrassed if when I died it turned out my youthful self had a better grasp on the real world.], and what I was reading at the time. I sometimes wonder if I will read them all even by 2070.
[^conscientiousness]: IQ is very well studied, with a thorough literature going back nearly a century; it correlates with [scads of good outcomes]( *But* - there are a few psychological that may be more valuable, like [Conscientiousness](!Wikipedia "Conscientiousness#Personality models") (a rough synonym for self-discipline).
A [famous & much-cited]( 1991 meta-analysis, Mount & Barrick's ["The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis"]( found that Conscientiousness correlated (~0.2; possibly ~0.31) with various job performance measurements even after controlling for all the obvious thing like IQ & education, as did [a followup survey](/docs/1996-costa.pdf) in 1996. Conscientiousness correlates weakly [with](/docs/2003-lounsbury.pdf) [IQ]( in the first place (but [maybe not](/docs/1997-allik.pdf)); correlates with success in [medical school]( or [as a teacher]( or in [spelling bees]( along with all the correlations with educational success ([Noftle & Robins 2007](/docs/2007-noftle.pdf); [Poropat 2009](/docs/2009-poropat.pdf); [Hsu & Schombert 2010]( "Data Mining the University: College GPA Predictions From SAT Scores")) and in particular may determine one's success in *online* education ([Elvers et al 2003](; correlates [with educational credentials](/docs/1999-judge.pdf) after mental ability has been controlled; correlates with not having [been in jail]( and predicts later [criminal records](/docs/1994-krueger.pdf); correlates [more strongly]( ([summary]( than IQ with socioeconomic status (SES) and [lifetime income](, and almost as strongly as IQ with occupational status (and predicts [employment](; like IQ, Conscientiousness correlates with [reduced mental & physical disease](, and [longevity](/docs/2011-hill.pdf) (both as [children](/docs/1993-friedman.pdf) and [adults](/docs/2008-kern.pdf)); correlates (0.4) with 'overall quality of life' and (0.25) 'happiness' (Steel et al 2008, ["Refining the relationship between personality and subjective well-being"]( [Some studies]( "'The Power of Personality: The Comparative Validity of Personality Traits, Socioeconomic Status, and Cognitive Ability for Predicting Important Life Outcomes', Roberts et al 2007") show correlations to divorce rates, SES, *and* longevity; or simply on nearly every behavior relevant to longevity (see Roberts, [B. W., & Bogg, T. (2004)](,%202004.pdf)). [A study]( "'The Effects of Education, Personality, and IQ on Earnings of High-Ability Men', Gensowski et al 2011") of the [gifted Terman kids](!Wikipedia "Genetic Studies of Genius") (similar to [SMPY results](, found that for these bright-to-brilliant kids, Conscientiousness affects lifetime earnings (usually $2-3 million) even more than IQ (although only a bit more than [Extraversion](!Wikipedia)); this is not due *solely* to it increasing how much education the participants got. Eyeballing [the graphed correlations]( on page 45, it seems that going from the 10th percentile of Conscientiousness to the 90th was worth *~$800,000*. (It's worth noting that there is a ['Grit'](!Wikipedia "Grit (personality trait)") which is [very similar](!Wikipedia "Grit (personality trait)#Grit and Personality Measures") to Conscientiousness with longer-term perspective and less feedback, but which [seems to correlate better]( with GPA, military academy graduation, and spelling bee performance.) Along with [Openness to Experience](!Wikipedia), Conscientiousness is one of the main correlations with [creative scientists]( (stronger than Introversion!).
And there is one significant difference between IQ and Conscientiousness: increasing IQ is a tricky and often impossible task, but there is weak evidence that Conscientiousness [can be improved]( by trying harder tasks. (There is an irony here - it's hard tedious work to develop the ability to do hard tedious work, so how does one start?) Interestingly, Conscientiousness [increases steadily](,%202008.pdf) over a lifetime (in contradistinction to IQ's [steady fall](DNB FAQ#aging)), which is a hopeful observation. I like Richard Hamming on this (from ["You and Your Research"](
> "...Now for the matter of drive. You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode's office and said, "How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?" He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, "You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years." I simply slunk out of the office!
> What Bode was saying was this: "Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest." Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. I don't want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode's remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this."
Or to quote some [_Harry Potter_ fanfiction]( instead:
> [Harry:] "Where would I go, if not Ravenclaw?"
> [Sorting Hat:] "Ahem. 'Smart kids in Ravenclaw, evil kids in Slytherin, wannabe heroes in Gryffindor, and everyone who does the actual work in Hufflepuff.' This indicates a certain amount of respect. You are well aware that Conscientiousness is just about as important as raw intelligence in determining life outcomes, you think you will be extremely loyal to your friends if you ever have some, you are not frightened by the expectation that your chosen scientific problems may take decades to solve..."
[^increase]: And America has tried pretty hard over the past 60 years to affect IQ. The whole nature/nurture [black-white IQ debate](!Wikipedia "Race and intelligence") would be moot if there were some nutrient or educational system which could add even 10 points on average, because then we would use it on all the blacks. But it seems that I'm constantly reading about programs like [Headstart](!Wikipedia) which boost IQ for a little while... and do nothing in the long run.
[^fragile]: IQ is sometimes used as a proxy for health, like height, because it sometimes seems like any health problem will damage IQ. Didn't get much protein as a kid? Congratulations, your nerves will lack [myelination](!Wikipedia) and you will literally think slower. Missing some [iodine](!Wikipedia)? Say good bye to 10 points! Have tapeworms? There go some more points, and maybe an inch or two off your adult height, thanks to the worms stealing nutrients from you. Have a rough birth and suffer a spot of [hypoxia](!Wikipedia) before you began breathing on your own? Tough luck, old bean. It is very easy to *lower* IQ; you can do it with a baseball bat. It's the other way around that's nearly impossible.
[^Tadamine]: [Mibu no Tadamine](!Wikipedia), [_KKS_ XII: 609](
More than my life
What I most regret
A dream unfinished
And awakening.
What is next? So far the pages will persist through time, and they will gradually improve over time. But a truly Long Now approach would be to make them be improved *by* time - make them more valuable the more time passes. ([Stewart Brand](!Wikipedia) remarks in _[The Clock of the Long Now](!Wikipedia)_ that a group of monks carved thousands of scriptures into stone, hoping to preserve them for posterity - but posterity would value far more a carefully preserved collection of monk feces, which would tell us countless valuable things about important phenomenon like global warming.)
One idea I am exploring is adding long-term predictions like the ones I make on []( Many[^fiction] pages explicitly or implicitly make predictions about the future. As time passes, predictions would be validated or falsified, providing feedback on the ideas.^[Thinking of predictions is good mental discipline; we should always be able to [cash out]( our beliefs in terms of the real world, or know why we cannot. Unfortunately, humans being humans, we need to actually track our predictions - [*all* of them](!Wikipedia "Confirmation bias") - lest our predicting degenerate into [entertainment]( like political punditry.]
[^fiction]: Obviously some don't. It's possible to make predictions for border cases like the book reading list ('I will read 20 books on the page this year' or 'I will add more books this year than I will read'), but what about the poems? My imagination fails there.
For example, the Evangelion essay's paradigm implies many things about the future movies in _[Rebuild of Evangelion](!Wikipedia)_^[Dozens of theories have been put forth. I have been collecting & making predictions; and am up to 157. It will be interesting to see how the movies turn out.]; [The Melancholy of Kyon]() is an extended prediction^[I have 2 predictions registered about the thesis on [1 reviewer will accept my theory by 2016]( and [the light novels will finish by 2015](] of future plot developments in _[The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya](!Wikipedia)_ series; [Haskell Summer of Code]() has suggestions about what makes good projects, which could be turned into predictions by applying them to predict success or failure when the next Summer of Code choices are announced. And so on.
One of the ironies of this approach is that as a [transhumanist](!Wikipedia), I assign significant probability to the world undergoing massive change during the 21st century due to any of a number of technologies such as artificial intelligence (such as [mind uploading](!Wikipedia)^[See Robin Hanson, ["If Uploads Come First"]( ([archive](]) or [nanotechnology](!Wikipedia "Molecular assembler"); yet here I am, planning as if I and the world were immortal.
I personally take the approach that one should think Less Wrong and act Long Now, if you follow. I diligently do my daily [spaced-repetition review](Spaced repetition) and n-backing. I carefully design my website and writings to last decades, actively think about how to write material that improves with time, and work on writings that will not be finished for years (if ever). It's a bit schizophrenic since both are totalized worldviews with some fairly conflicting recommendations about where to invest my time - it's a case of high [discount rates](!Wikipedia) versus high discount rates; and one could accuse me of committing the [sunk cost fallacy](!Wikipedia), but then, I'm not sure then [sunk cost fallacy is a fallacy](Sunk cost) (certainly, I have more to show for my wasted time than most people).
The Long Now views its proposals like the Clock and the Long Library and [seedbanks](!Wikipedia) as insurance - in case the future turns out to be surprisingly *unsurprising*. I view these writings similarly. If [Ray Kurzweil](!Wikipedia)'s most ambitious predictions turn out right and the [Singularity](!Wikipedia "Technological singularity") happens by 2050 or so, then much of my writings will be moot, but I will have all the benefits of said Singularity; if the Singularity never happens or ultimately pays off in a very disappointing way, then my writings will be very valuable to me. By working on them, I hedge my bets.
# Technical aspects
## Hosting
<> exists as a set of static CSS, HTML, JS, & PDF files served by [](!Wikipedia) ([NFSN homepage]( The source is available for download on [Github](
NFSN is an old hosting company; its specific niche is controversial material and activist-friendly pricing. Its libertarian owners cast a jaundiced eye on [takedown request](!Wikipedia)s, and pricing is [pay-as-you-go](!Wikipedia). I like the former aspect, but the latter sold me on NFSN.
Before I stumbled on NFSN^[Someone mentioned it to me in [#lesswrong](irc://], I was getting ready to pay $10-15 a month ($120 yearly) to [Linode](!Wikipedia). Linode's offerings are overkill since I do not run dynamic websites or something like []( (with wikis and mailing lists and [darcs](!Wikipedia) repositories), but I didn't know a good alternative.
NFSN's pricing meant that I paid for usage rather than large flat fees. I put in $32 to cover registering `` until 2014, and then another $10 to cover bandwidth & storage price. DNS aside, I was billed $8.27 for October-December 2010; DNS included, January-April 2011 cost $10.09. $10 covered months of `` for what I would have paid Linode in 1 month! (Quite a [consumer surplus](!Wikipedia)^[Canny developers know that [Amazon S3](!Wikipedia) offers [static hosting]( so, DNS aside, I could easily host `` there; further, Amazon charges less for bandwidth and *much* less for disk space than NFSN. I may one day switch to Amazon, but for now I remain with NFSN - I like their ideals & their interface.].)
## Size
As of 2 January 2012, the source of `` is composed of >137 files with >931,274 words of ~5.9M; this excludes the images, PDFs, files necessary to generate the site, and the revision history. <!-- Statistics from `find . -name "*.page" -exec cat "{}" \; | wc` --> With those included and everything compiled to the static^[I like the static site approach to things; it yields [better performance]( and leads to fewer [hassles & runtime issues](] HTML, the site is approximately 72M^[HTML is not very compact. [7zip](!Wikipedia) can shrink that to a tenth the size.] The source repository contains >4,307 patches (this is an under-count as the creation of the repository in 26 September 2008 included already written & tracked material)
## Popularity
### October 2010 - February 2011
My editing activity, as generated by [darcs-graph](!Hackage): <!-- darcs-graph - - y=20 - - output=darcs-history.png - - /home/gwern/doc/archive/wiki/ -->
![](/images/2011-february-darcs-history.png "Plot of patch creations (y-axis) versus date (x-axis): October to February")
#### Traffic
> "An audience, even an audience of one, is always to be treasured and respected."^[[Adalric Brandl]( from ["Uhl Eharl Khoehng"]( by Patricia A. Jackson]
Popularity-wise, [Google Analytics](!Wikipedia) [reports that](/docs/ over the 150 days between 1 October 2010 and 28 February 2011, <!--,+2010/to/Feb+28,+2011 --> there were 4,346 page-views (average 30/day):
![](/images/201010-201102-traffic-history.png "Plot of page-hits (y-axis) versus date (x-axis)")
The most popular pages were^[Anecdotally, the rankings seem correct. When I went to a [LessWrong]( meetup in California, many knew of or had read the DNB FAQ, some had read or used my modafinil price-chart, and very few remembered reading anything else.]:
1. [DNB FAQ](); 1,180
2. [Modafinil](); 644
3. [Haskell Summer of Code](); 241
4. [Nootropics](); 108
5. [The Melancholy of Kyon](); 104
6. [Spaced repetition](); 101
7. [Links](); 96
The rankings are not as I would *prefer* (I imagine Internet archivist [Jason Scott Sadofsky](!Wikipedia) feels much the same way about [Sockington](!Wikipedia)), but it's pretty clear that people enjoy my more practical articles the most.
### February 2011 - July 2011
`darcs-graph` for this period:
![](/images/2011-july-darcs-history.png "Plot of patch creations (y-axis) versus date (x-axis): Repository creation to July")
#### Traffic
> "Streaming in the wind / the smoke from Fuji / vanishes in the sky; / I know not where / these thoughts of mine go, either."^[the monk [Saigyô](!Wikipedia), _[Shin Kokin Wakashu](!Wikipedia)_ XVII: [#1615](]
Google Analytics [reports that](/docs/ over the 124 days between 28 February 2011 and 2 July 2011, <!--,+2011/to/Jul+2,+2011 --> there were 42,410 page-views (average 342/day):
![](/images/201102-201107-traffic-history.png "Plot of page-hits (y-axis) versus date (x-axis)")
The most popular pages ranking changed considerably; while the DNB FAQ maintained its pre-eminent popularity, 3 new pages bumped out 'Links', 'Spaced repetition', 'The Melancholy of Kyon', and 'Haskell Summer of Code'. I am a little surprised that my 2 _Death Note_ essays seemed to've struck a chord, and even more surprised that my sloppy & random & un-rigorous notes about nootropics would be consistently popular:
1. [DNB FAQ](); 10,406
2. [home/main page](index); 4,189
3. [Modafinil](); 3,231
4. [Girl Scouts and good governance](); 2,633
5. [Death Note Ending](); 1,779
6. [Death Note Anonymity](); 1,366
7. [Nootropics](); 2,056
8. [Archiving GitHub](haskell/Archiving GitHub); 706
#### Promotion
> "They accumulate / but there are none to buy them -- / these leaves of words / piling up like wares for sale / beneath the Sumiyoshi Pine."[^Shotetsu]
[^Shotetsu]: [Shotetsu](!Wikipedia); on 'Famous Market-town'; entry 180 of _Unforgotten Dreams: Poems by the Zen monk Shōtetsu_; trans. Steven D. Carter, ISBN 0-231-10576-2. I am sometimes reminded of another waka, by [Ikkyu](
> "To write something and leave it behind us, \
> Is but a dream. \
> When we awake we know \
> There is not even anyone to read it."
As a writer, I desire feedback. I also want to feel that my work has been of use to people. So while it would be nice if the world beat a path to my website, I recognize that I have to put some effort into marketing my work. I've tried a number of methods.
1. [Witcoin]( I submitted any number of fairly popular articles but my total Witcoin traffic over this period was 132 visits - a traffic total I could have gotten with one slightly popular link on Reddit or a few links in comments. While I didn't lose any Bitcoins (because my registration was funded by Kiba's donation of 1 BTC) and actually profited 2.77 BTC, I have spent at least 6 hours figuring out how to use Witcoin, submitting articles, responding to comments, and voting. Not the best use of time.
2. Google [AdWords](!Wikipedia): initially disappointing, with after 3010 impression, there were still no clicks! It was funded by the $100 coupon for signing up for Google's Webmaster Tools. Interface is decent given complexity of task, but deeply frustrating to have to wait many weeks for the [DNB FAQ]() and [Modafinil]() ads to be approved or rejected. Finally, almost in June, the DNB FAQ ads were approved and the modafinil ads rejected. From 23 March to 2 July 2011, I paid $21.07 for 98,900 impressions yielding 63 clicks through. (Those visitors only spent an average of <1.5 minutes on the site, too.) Again, not a great investment of time.
3. [StumbleUpon](!Wikipedia): with just 3 articles 'stumbled' (included in the database), specifically DNB FAQ, [In Defense of Inclusionism]() & [Nootropics](), StumbleUpon was responsible for 161 visits or 2.77% of all traffic in the period I looked at. How much traffic could I expect with 30 or 40 articles stumbled? Quite a bit. SU has no 'front page' like other social news aggregators so traffic is more of a trickle than flood, but nevertheless, [Death Note Ending]() somehow clicked with SU readers and I got >500 readers out of it in a day or two. In total over this time, SU drove 2,257 visits. SU tended to give a pretty steady 30-50 visits a day with rare spikes when an article clicked. The downside is that after looking at SU comments and at how much time they spend on pages^[They spend an average of 27 seconds; in comparison, my *second* largest source of traffic, LessWrongers, average 3 minutes and 29 seconds; even my third largest traffic source, Redditers, manage almost 2 minutes. Even random people coming from Google manage to spend 44 seconds on their visit!], I have to agree with Arvind Narayanan's ["StumbleUpon Considered Harmful"]( - SUers do not want quality content but quick content, for the dopamine boost.
4. [Hacker News](!Wikipedia): [Girl Scouts and good governance]() made it to the front page, resulting in 1,727 visits & setting `` traffic records (it is that giant spike in the traffic graph), but apparently minimal viewing of other pages. Further, while I seem to get a modest amount of Reddit traffic from even unsuccessful submissions, HN submissions will sink without a trace. Kiba calls Hacker News a 'lottery', but it seems to be one worth playing.
5. LessWrong is a natural place to post many of my writings: <> And perhaps unsurprisingly, LW is my second-largest source of traffic, coming in after SU with 1,857 visits. While few of my submissions get upvoted all that highly, most of them drove a fair amount of traffic even in the Discussion ghetto. (Linking in comments also drives a surprising amount of traffic over long periods to my practical articles like on n-back or melatonin.) At some point I hope to have a good Article and see how much of a disparity there is.
### July 2011 - December 2011
> _Res audita perit, litera scripta manet_.
`darcs-graph` for this period (including 1-2 January 2012): <!-- darcs-graph - - filter=20110701 - - y=20 - - output=darcs-history.png - - /home/gwern/doc/archive/wiki/ -->
![](/images/2011-december-darcs-history.png "Plot of patch creations (y-axis) versus date (x-axis): July 2011 to 2 January 2012")
I ran into a [cool post by Christopher Done]( on a tool that does detailed analysis of patch patterns on a Git repository, [GitStats](, and this spurred me to create a [Git mirror]( of `` using [darcs-to-git]( GitStats produces a [whole bundle](/docs/ of graphs and figures, some of which I found surprising. (I did not expect to see a large spike on Wednesday and relatively few patches on Saturday, or a spike around 5 PM, as opposed to the early morning.) I think I will update the GitStats output with each output, as a (large) adjunct to the `darcs-graph` plots.
#### Traffic
> "...prompt no more the follies you decry, / As tyrants doom their tools of guilt to die; / 'Tis yours this night to bid the reign commence / Of rescu'd Nature, and reviving Sense; / ...Bid scenic Virtue form the rising age, / And Truth diffuse her radiance from the stage."
Google Analytics [reports](/docs/, that over the 185 days between 2 July 2011 and 2 January 2012, <!-- --> there were 191,015 page-views (average 1,032/day) by 79,346 visitors for a total of 115,585 visits (average 624/day). This is better than I expected and makes me wonder about [my prediction]( for <2000 average daily visits by 2013 (but it still seems unlikely traffic will triple over the next year).
[](/images/201107-201201-traffic-history.png "Plot of page-hits (y-axis) versus date (x-axis)")
The main change in page popularity did not surprise me; when I was writing [Silk Road](), I knew it would almost certainly be popular given how very popular the Gawker article was but also how lacking in practical details it was, and I also suspected that [Bitcoin is Worse is Better]() would be fairly popular as it argued an interesting and controversial thesis (the original and promoted version is hosted on ``, so its hit-count ought to be low). I'm surprised at how much the page `` still gets; a surprising number of people must either visit the main page after reading another article or click on my various blog comments.
1. Silk Road: 62,167
2. DNB FAQ: 25,541
3. home/main page: 16,967
3. Modafinil: 10,437
4. Nootropics: 10,219
5. Spaced repetition: 6,570
8. Bitcoin is Worse is Better: 4,297
9. [Links](): 3,490
More interesting is the other signals of popularity: [Zeo Inc.](!Wikipedia) gave me a free set of headbands (worth ~$50) because they liked my [Zeo self-experiments](Zeo), a software engineer/manager contacted me to see about recruiting me, ThinkGum offered me some of their eponymous product for my Nootropics page, and my request for Bitcoin donations has paid off a little with a few donations ฿0.1-1 and one generous donation of ฿20 (worth a bit upwards of $100 at the time; I spent it on modafinil). (This is all intrinsically helpful but I value it mostly because money speaks louder than words.)
#### Promotion
I've done relatively little in this period compared with the [previous period](#promotion):
1. I abandoned Witcoin not long after my experiment with it; and now Witcoin is dead, pending a possible open-sourcing of the codebase.
2. My AdWords credit is mostly expired. For some reason, my click-through rates kept dropping.
3. StumbleUpon remains a good traffic source (1,430 visits). I continue to 'stumble' my new articles when I remember to do so.
4. Hacker News was responsible for a great deal of my traffic in this period (4,175 visits). Most of it was not my doing, however - whenever I submit links, they do poorly.
5. LessWrong remains a major traffic driver (6,961 visits); I continue to see a lot of referrals from old posts and comments. Nor do all the links seem to be perceived negatively or as self-promotion by the LW community: I [posted an article]( describing site updates and the article was received well to my surprise, eliciting very favorable reviews of my writings in general. That was nice.
6. For this period, I did spend a little more effort submitting stuff to Reddit; and I was handsomely rewarded with the Silk Road submission skyrocketing and become one of the all-time most popular articles in the Bitcoin subreddit. Between that and my nootropics articles, Reddit sent me 20,842 visits.
The largest traffic sources are Google at 36,625 visits and direct/no-referrals at 24,118 visits. As I have no idea how to improve these two figures, I ignore it. I write good content, submit it places, supply metadata, and abide by my hackerly principles; hopefully that is all the SEO I need.
## Source
The source pages works both with the [Hakyll]( static site generator, used to generate <>, and with [Gitit](, a featureful interactive wiki; both are written in [Haskell](!Wikipedia "Haskell (programming language)"). My preferred method of use is browse & edit locally using Gitit, and then distribute using Hakyll. This combines the speed, portability, and security of Hakyll with the user-friendliness of Gitit.
The source files are written in [Pandoc](, and math is written in [LaTeX](!Wikipedia) compiled to [MathML](!Wikipedia). Comments are outsourced to [Disqus](!Wikipedia)^[Since I am not interested in writing a dynamic system to do it, and their anti-spam techniques are much better than mine.]. (These tools encourage a minimalist site; I believe that [minimalism](!Wikipedia) helps one focus on the content. Anything besides the content is [distraction and not design]( 'Attention!', as [Ikkyu](!Wikipedia) would say[^attention].) The revision history is controlled under [Darcs](!Wikipedia), but I periodically mirror it to a [GitHub repo](
[^attention]: Paraphrased from _Dialogues of the Zen Masters_ as quoted in pg 11 of the Editor's Introduction to _Three Pillars of Zen_:
> "One day a man of the people said to Master Ikkyu: "Master, will you please write for me maxims of the highest wisdom?" Ikkyu immediately brushed out the word 'Attention'. "Is that all? Will you not write some more?"
> Ikkyu then brushed out twice: 'Attention. Attention.' The man remarked irritably that there wasn't much depth or subtlety to that. Then Ikkyu wrote the same word 3 times running: 'Attention. Attention. Attention.'
> Half-angered, the man demanded: 'What does "Attention" mean anyway?' And Ikkyu answered gently: 'Attention means attention.'"
- To use Hakyll, you `cd` into your repository and `runhaskell hakyll.hs build` (with `hakyll.hs` having whatever options you like). Hakyll will build a static HTML/CSS hierarchy inside `_site/`; you can then do something like `firefox _static/index`.
- To use Gitit, you likewise `cd` but run `gitit -f static/gwern.conf`. You then would do something like `firefox`.
(My Hakyll & Gitit setups assume you are running HEAD. Nothing is guaranteed with older versions. Neither Hakyll nor Gitit was intended to be used with the same group of documents, so I have requested many changes.)
### License
This site is licensed under the [Creative Commons](!Wikipedia) [public domain]( license.
I believe the public domain license reduces [FUD](!Wikipedia) and [dead-weight loss](!Wikipedia)[^access], encourages copying ([LOCKSS](!Wikipedia)), gives back (however little) to [Free Software](!Wikipedia)/[Free Content](!Wikipedia), and costs me nothing^[Not that I *could* sell anything on this wiki; and if I could, I would polish it as much as possible, giving me fresh copyright.].
[^access]: PD increases economic efficiency through - if nothing else - making works easier to find. [Tim O'Reilly](!Wikipedia) says that ["Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy."]( If that is so, then that means that difficulty of finding works reduces the welfare of artists *and* consumers, because both forgo a beneficial trade (the artist loses any revenue and the consumer loses any enjoyment). Even small increases in inconvenience make [big differences](In Defense of Inclusionism#new-regimes).