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author: niplav, created: 2019-04-02, modified: 2022-06-10, language: english, status: in progress, importance: 3, confidence: highly likely

A description of this website and its author.

About

Gänzliche Illusionslosigkkeit über das Zeitalter und dennoch ein rückhaltloses Bekenntnis zu ihm ist ihr Kennzeichen.

— Walter Benjamin, “Erfahrung und Armut”, 1933

But human nature being what it is, there are going to be some people on the Internet claiming that everything is intrinsically tangled up into a whole, and another group claiming that different people are allowed to pick and choose whichever facets they personally like. And the second group is going to be 100% right just like they always are every single time that argument happens anywhere.

— Groon the Walker, “The Erogamer”, 2020

The Site

Content

This website contains texts on different topics, ranging from programming over philosophy to discussions of odd social behavior, as well as translations, transcriptions, music recordings and programming projects. It follows the idea of Long Content: pages that are continually getting refined and updated, never quite completely finished, but approaching stability. This allows for "perpetual drafts", along with continuous improvement (similar to a wiki, but mainly edited by one person).

This is inspired by the idea of Long Content, produced under the motto

Think Less Wrong, act Long Now and Suck Less.

— paraphrasing Gwern Branwen, “About This Website”, 2019

For this reason, articles are not published by date, but rather by category, both to make it easier to read the content of the site in order (i. e. to "Start at the Beginning") and to structure it by topic and form, rather than to strive for presenting mainly new information to the reader.

Furthermore, the texts are often less literary essays and more static computational notebooks à la Jupyter or Wolfram Mathematica notebooks—highly driven by code, literate programming style (though usually without the interactivity: I execute the code locally and enter results, which will probably not change, even with the advent of WebAssembly (which would enable a large number of different languages to run in the browser), because I like to keep the site lean, which runs against the JavaScript-heavy notebook format).

The content on this website is licensed under Creative Commons 4.0.

Texts

The texts contain mainly new material, both short arguments and collections of links, but also longer descriptions of new ideas or analyses of concepts where existing descriptions (e.g. on Wikipedia or other blogs) were deemed incomplete. It is of course not possible to avoid replicating existing ideas (it is not possible for me to read anything beyond a slim part of existing texts on a topic before writing my own ideas down), but it seems likely that the idea will at least be new to most readers.

Generally I use the rule: Let t be the time it would take to write a text about the idea I was thinking about. Then the time spent researching whether the idea exists already should stop take at most $\frac{t}{2}$.

There are, of course, some texts that were written about existing and well-known ideas. These were written mainly for my own enjoyment.

Not Really a Blog

A blog (a truncation of "weblog") is a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries (posts). Posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post appears first, at the top of the web page.

English Wikipedia, “Blog”, 2021

I don't think this website can be classified as a blog—it strongly lacks the chronological element of the standard blog format, except for the changelog.

I agree with Gwern that blogs are the victory of the hare over the tortoise, and I'm deeply unhappy that short-term and unorganized forms of content aggregation have prevailed on the web over long-term & maintained sites (culminating in abominations such as discord servers holding large amounts of local knowledge—with content on a forum one can at least link or lurk without creating an account, and potentially just shove it into the internet archive if need be! "anicca, anicca…"). I do, however, sometimes participate in the guilty pleasure of ephemeral shitposting.

I'm not big into linguistic prescriptivism (although it is another one of those guilty pleasures I occasionally engage in), so call this a blog if you like. I personally prefer the term simple term "website" or "personal website". If you want to talk about me as if I had prestige, "essays" is also okay. (It might send incorrect signals about how prestigeworthy I really am, though).

Translations, Transcriptions & Archives

It seems possible that archiving content has a much bigger impact than creating new content. Given that I write mostly for self-expression, it is a small factor in most of what I do, but occasionally I transcribe or translate texts in order to make them more easily accessible.

The translations are often intertwined with the effort of learning other languages or exercising language skills that would otherwise be forgotten. For that reason, they can be of quite low quality, so I'm always grateful for corrections sent my way.

Programming Projects

This site also acts as a central place of organisation for different programming related projects and contributions. That includes pages representing programming projects, but also literate programs containing code, comments, tests and performance measurements. Most programs will be written in a small number of programming languages.

Inspiration

I always had a few ideas I thought were worth preserving, and a lot of ideas I thought would be fun writing down, and also thought about creating a repository for all my personal projects, but somehow these never really pushed me completely toward actually setting something up. A good reason might have been that I only visited sites that were poorly organised and contained little to no personal long-term content (either blogs focused on new posts or simply haphazard aggregations of short ideas (like in the form of 2f30.org or the suckless.org wiki)).

This was changed upon discovering gwern.net and reducing-suffering.org: both gave me a good idea of how a long-term website should look and feel like, and which kind of content could be published there.

I decided to start writing down my ideas, collecting older texts and reviewing them to see what was still valuable and what was useless.

My decision to start a website was solidified by Guzey 2019 and a question on /r/slatestarcodex:

What's the bottleneck to more things like "Slate Star Codex" or Gwern's site existing in the world?

arikir, “What's the bottleneck to more things like "Slate Star Codex" or Gwern's site existing in the world?” on /r/slatestarcodex, 2019

I decided that it could not hurt to try and follow through on the idea of aggregating the stuff I produced, and a possible (but unlikely) benefit to other people was just a nice addition.

So far, writing for a website has been beneficial to interacting with several topics: It streamlines my thoughts, makes it possible to take notes, include code and images and several other advantages. Even if I had never gotten around to publishing this site, it would still have been a net positive project for me.

Style

The style of writing is mostly formal US english.

Titles and Headings

Writing Checklist

I use a script to fix easily catchable mistakes.

I try to set at least title/​author/​DOI/​year/​subject, and stuff any additional topics & bibliographic information into the “Keywords” field. Example of setting metadata:

exiftool -Author="Frank P. Ramsey" -Date=1930 -Title="On a Problem of Formal Logic" -DOI="10.1112/plms/s2-30.1.264" -Subject="mathematics" -Keywords="Ramsey theory, Ramsey's theorem, combinatorics, mathematical logic, decidability, first-order logic, Bernays-Schönfinkel-Ramsey class of first-order logic, _Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society_, Volume s2-30, Issue 1, 1930-01-01, pg264-286" 1930-ramsey.pdf

Gwern Branwen, “Internet Search Tips”, 2022

I probably won't put as much information into the "Keywords" section, it feels abusive to me to stuff it like that. I also despaired about how to format the DOI, Wikipedia says

Contrary to the DOI Handbook, CrossRef, a major DOI registration agency, recommends displaying a URL (for example, https://doi.org/10.1000/182) instead of the officially specified format (for example, doi:10.1000/182)

English Wikipedia, “Digital Object Identifier”, 2021

After some thought, I have decided to go with the handbook recommendation.

Organisation

For every text, there are several tags attached to it (mainly taken from Gwern 2019).

Author

The "author" tag is quite self-explanatory, the field is the original author of the piece. This is only relevant for translations and transcriptions.

Similarly, there are two optional tags: "translator" for the person who translated the text, and "transcriptor" for the person who transcribed the text. The former can be me or a professional translator, the latter is always me.

Dates

A page has several date tags. The creation date ("created") shows the date when the text was first created (if the text is by me) or when the text was first published (if the text is by another author). If it is unclear when the text was first published, I give my best estimate for the year, and set the date to the first of January of that year. The "modified" tag always shows the date of the last modification by me. Both the "created" and the "modified" tag are present on every text.

If the text is a translation, the "translated" tag shows the date when I started working on the translation. Similarly, the also optional "transcribed" tag shows when I started working on the transcription of the text.

The date format is ISO 8601, rarely using a "-" as a negative sign for a year before the Common Era.

Language

The language tag shows the languages the body of the text is written in (if necessary, separated by commas). Currently, there are only texts in English and German, but the tag may be one of the following:

Confidence

The confidence tags are also taken mainly from Gwern 2019, and describe how much I believe that the content of a post will turn out to be correct.

I made some additions to the list of tags which I thought were useful: "translation" for translations, "transcription" for transcriptions (digitalizing of a book or article written on paper), "theory" for unfalsifiable ideas that nonetheless might create new perspectives and approaches, "other" for texts that might not fit into any of these categories.

The complete list of confidence tags is as follows:

Status

The status tags indicate the state of progress for a piece.

They may be any of the following (in increasing order of being-finished-ness):

But, truth be told, nothing on here is ever finished, even when it is christened with the "finished" tag.

Importance

The importance tags are also taken from Gwern 2019, but I don't do any resorting, both because that would be too much effort and because I believe that most of the content I produce is not especially important.

The importance tag is a number $n \in [10] \subset \mathbb{N}$.

Implementation

The website is built writing the articles in Markdown and them compiling them to standard HTML using markdown_py. Mathematical formulae are typeset using MathJax 2. It only uses only minimal CSS (highlighting code and quotes, centering the text and limiting line length) and very litte JavaScript, mainly for MathJax and converting headers to anchor links.

Influences

This site is greatly influenced by several websites: The style of organisation and presentation is shamelessly influenced by gwern.net and reducing-suffering.org (although achieving similar quality in content, breadth and depth will be diffficult). I try to follow the concept of Long Content and extensive presentation.

My views on philosophy are heavily influenced by the rationalist movement, and I stay faithful to the ideas of the movement by disagreeing sharply with it on several points. The general principles I broadly agree with are consequentialism, bayesian epistemology, metaphysical nominalism, reductionism and scientific naturalism (but likely not illusionism/eliminativism about consciousness).

“You're a sound rationalist, aren't you?”; Screenshot from “Legends of the Galactic Heroes”

My view on ethics is very consequentialism-focused, but with a large amount of moral uncertainty thrown into the mix. Within consequentialism, my views are similar to (and influenced by) the idea of suffering focused ethics, especially the writings at reducing-suffering.org.

In regard to software, my views are quite similar to those of the minimalist unix and Plan 9 supporters at suckless.org and cat-v.org.

Miscellania

Various measures of size for the website (excluding automatically generated content and transcriptions):

$ cat (l *.md | g -v 'chrono|tao|_list|exercise_log|declaration') | pr | grep -Eo 'Page [0-9]+' | tail -1
Page 472
$ wc (l *.md | g -v 'chrono|tao|_list|exercise_log|declaration') | tail -1
26416  146341 1072198 total

Benford's law:

$ grep -ho '[0-9]' *.md | sort | uniq -c | sort -n | tail -10
6106 4
7128 9
7130 6
7297 8
7423 3
7750 5
7803 7
26734 1
28876 2
44173 0

(Note: as of the time of writing, the list of numbers above is not iteratively stable, that is, after I update the numbers, the distribution of digits on my website changes slightly (since the numbers above are part of the website), but it does not reach fixation at some point, but rather cycles).

Friends of the Site

The Author

Pronouns

I'm most happy with they/them.

Psychological Characteristica

My Big Five are:

From a test somewhere on the internet a while ago, I just wrote down the results.

The last g-loaded test I took (in high school) put me at ~110, which seems about right.

Elsewhere on the Internet

I used to use twitter, but I got addicted to it (thrice) and decided to instead switch to twtxt. Then I discovered that it's not quite as fun as twitter and switched to a mastodon instance instead, and another one after the first one died, which has been an okay middle ground.

Contact

Contact address is echo avcyni@cbfgrb.arg | tr a-zA-Z n-za-mN-ZA-M.

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