Tip that seems bad

While typing one of my recent replies the following tip was displayed:

Consider replying to several posts at once

Rather than several replies to a topic in a row, please consider a single reply that includes quotes from previous posts or @name references.

You can edit your previous reply to add a quote by highlighting text and selecting the quote reply button that appears.

It’s easier for everyone to read topics that have fewer in-depth replies versus lots of small, individual replies.

I have been trying to keep my replies short to minimize exponential error growth. This tip seems to discourage that approach. Should I go back to long replies?

IMHO: Short replies are fine. The default Discourse forum tips are worth considering but not anything you have to follow (assuming they don’t overlap with the forum rules), especially if you have a specific criticism of them or a reason for doing things the way you’re doing. I disagree strongly with this particular tip.

I don’t know how to change that tip.

This line in the discourse codebase is one that might let us disable tips (if you want to do that):

@user.post_count >= SiteSetting.educate_until_posts

I guess that changing the educate_until_posts setting could disable it.

note: this inequality is mb backwards based on the way these conditions are &&ed

  def educate_reply?(type)
    replying? &&
    @details[:topic_id] &&
    (@topic.present? && !@topic.private_message?) &&
    (@user.post_count >= SiteSetting.educate_until_posts) &&
    !UserHistory.exists_for_user?(@user, type, topic_id: @details[:topic_id])

If it’s backwards then setting educate_until_posts to like 999999 might fix (otherwise 0 or -1, etc)

Refs (discourse codebase):

  1. should sequential_replies tip be shown
  2. logic for whether tips should be shown at all
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If you are writing the exact same replies, I don’t see what difference it makes if you split them up or write them all in one message.

Taken together, I don’t think I’m writing exactly or even approximately the same replies when I try to keep posts short as I do when writing long replies.

Your multiple, short replies are still leading to exponential error growth.

You seemed to be saying that you are trying to minimize exponential error growth by only writing short replies. But you are writing multiple short replies to a single message. And you are still making multiple errors per message. So there is still exponential error growth.

I thought your point was that you somehow thought that by splitting up your points into multiple different messages, that was helping. My point was that it is not actually helping: you splitting your replies into multiple different messages isn’t making your error growth non-exponential.

I’ve advocated techniques that could help, such as organizing stuff with discussion trees or learning with Max tutoring videos. He won’t try to do such things. Then he presents himself as making some sort of substantial effort to use CF ideas to make discussion better, after refusing to try to do things I think might actually work. It’s one thing to disagree with me and reject my ideas, but it’s another to claim to be (partly, significantly) trying things my way, while actually refusing to. It undermines CF (makes it look like it was tried and didn’t work) and indirectly and socially attacks me by implying that some things failed that were done under my guidance (which did not follow my guidance and were actually far outside my control).

I didn’t think it was solving the problem, but I thought it was helping. Thanks for letting me know it’s not.

I don’t think I’d enjoy doing those things.

I’ve tried some things I think are similar (maybe incorrectly). I’ve made trees for some projects, and I’ve watched some of the Max tutoring videos. I didn’t enjoy either of those activities compared to ex: just writing off-the-cuff forum responses.


I don’t want to be awful to talk with. I don’t know how to engage with CF in a way that I’ll enjoy and also won’t be awful for the best CF posters to talk with.

Have you found the trees useful at all, in any context?

I have found them useful for understanding grammar and for figuring out how a law works, for example.

Elliot made lots of specific criticisms. You quoted the negative judgment but not the specific criticisms, but then you say you don’t know how to engage with CF in a good way. One possible way would be to think about potentially addressing the specific criticisms Elliot raised (e.g. evading, not expecting to get things right, being careless, using social stuff, being biased). Even figuring out how to start working on one of those would be useful and productive and helpful in terms of being able to engage better.

You seem to be saying, more or less, that you don’t enjoy rationality (or productivity, effectiveness, etc). But you don’t frame it that way and don’t give an alternative framing or meaning either.

And then you neglect to say why you don’t enjoy it. You give no reasons.

This is a social attack which implies CF stuff is low enough value that rejecting it doesn’t require/merit reasons – even on the CF forum. You’re acting like there is no problem to solve there, implying that CF isn’t valuable and being alienated from it isn’t a problem.

And it’s social bait: you’re baiting me or someone else to ask you why. Asking you that is problematic in several ways.

  1. It sets a social frame of people coming to you, asking you for stuff, and wanting to know what you think.
  2. If I ask you why, it implies that I expect to get a reasonable, worthwhile answer that I’d want to hear. But I don’t. While that isn’t out of the question, I regard it as unlikely. So if I ask a neutral question it’s misleading in your favor. EDIT: Also if no one asks, and we all just ignore your bad post, it can make the forum look less active/vibrant/etc than it is.
  3. It unnecessarily drags out the conversation, increases the iteration count, and avoids reaching any conclusions. The more you do that, the easier it is for you to exit without any clear conclusion while incorrectly implying that some sort of substantial conversing actually happened. Every little bit of time you waste, and extra hassle you add, makes it harder to reach any conclusions within standard time/effort limits imposed by social rules, convention, etc.
  4. Making the conversation worse, and being harder to talk to, makes it look like anyone who talks to you anyway must value you a lot. It’s like they’re chasing you despite you spitting on them, so clearly you’re very high status.
  5. The hassle, time waste, etc., is itself lame to deal with. I’d rather not have to choose between dragging information out of people or giving up. (And if you don’t want to talk, don’t sabotage to try to get me to give up, thereby essentially faking reality about who is giving up. Give up on your end and admit it instead of trying to put that on me. It’s like the people who don’t want to break up with their boyfriend/girlfriend so they act badly and try to get broken up with.)
  6. The more time that passes (in terms of real time on the clock), the more stuff gets forgotten and the easier it is for you to misframe things, write misleading stuff, etc., and fool audience members who don’t have all the details in active memory. And you do this kinda thing habitually.

Your post is also ambiguous about whether your “those things” that you wouldn’t enjoy refers to 1) the specific examples i gave or 2) the general category i was speaking about. This makes it harder to reply, makes it hard to get anywhere in the discussion by requiring extra work and steps to establish anything, and baits a clarifying question that would have some of the same social dynamics as the candidate question discussed above. (And there are extra problems with asking both questions at once, but skipping either question is problematic, and asking them both in sequence is also problematic. One of the many problems with both in sequence is that you’re likely to say 2+ things meriting replies (including more questions) over the course of the two separate answers – or non-answers or tangents as you might write. So it’s hard to ever get back on track to say one thing at a time.)

Not giving enough information and baiting questions and help-seeking – for a problem you just created – is a common social strategy that people do automatically. Leaving stuff out looks low effort, so it’s socially good that way too.

This misframes what I said. It makes it look as if my words applied to your actual actions. It looks as if I said that writing shorter messages doesn’t even help.

But in my statement, “it is not actually helping”, the “it” I was referring to was the thing I previously thought you were doing. My sentence from right before what you quoted, which the “it” was referring back to, was:

The thing I was talking about when I said “it is not actually helping” was taking the same words, and just splitting them up into multiple messages instead of sending them as one single message. If you were simply doing that, then that would not help at all.

Social dynamics comments:

Trying to set the record straight is perceived as high effort – especially when you give quotes, details, analysis, etc.

Setting the record wrong was low effort.

Asking audiences to change their minds and believe the right thing is seen as needy. You are going to them and wanting them to do something.

Setting the record wrong is not seen as going to the audiences and asking for something.

Putting people in a position where they need to set the record straight is a social (and logical) attack that’s very hard to counter. Clarifying the issue in response, even for audience members who read the clarification, doesn’t work well. People don’t like it. In general, they intuitively see it as weak, tryhard and other bad things.

Turning it around and criticizing the person who harmed your reputation is problematic too. If he attacked you indirectly, and you then criticize him directly, you will be seen as the aggressor. Many audience members will believe him if he claims he was merely sloppy, and think you overreacted, and will see you as reactive to minor wording details which makes you seem super reactive (low status) b/c who cares about minor wording details? High status people are only triggered by big things, not little things. They are stable and safe enough not to worry about little things. And he doesn’t even have to admit he was wrong. And the more effort you put into showing he’s wrong, the socially worse you look if he then casually pretends it was practically a typo. But if you put in less effort, then it’s easier for him to deny he was even wrong since you haven’t laid out a bunch of clear, comprehensive arguments.

People put a lot of work into figuring out what small errors they can make that will be perceived as low effort or not doing much, but which will be threatening or damaging to others in big ways. People put lots of behind-the-scenes effort into finding misdeeds they can do that will do damage disproportionate to the apparent effort level, so they can make others look over-reactive.

EDIT: Forgot one of the points I was gonna say: Most audience members are sloppy thinkers themselves so they feel kinda threatened if you criticize sloppy writing/reading just like they routinely do, and they sympathize more with the person who made a mistake that they can totally see themselves making (either intentionally to be mean or unintentionally due to incompetence – they are capable of both). People will also like deny the misframing or misreading is an error, but then say that, in the alternative, even if it was an error, it’d be a reasonable and understandable one (but they use less clear wording than this).

Something that I see people do lot to reply to that sort of thing is make a mean social joke. (I see this on places like reddit a lot.)

You can say something like “oops, sorry, I thought you could read. if you had been able to read the actual words, you’d have seen that I was talking about x, not y.”

People respond better to that, for some reason. It comes off as a “joke”, so they don’t see it as aggressive. Even though, in my opinion, it is actually meaner and more aggressive than just explaining the mistake.

And people don’t notice or care that the joke is inconsistent – like, if the person actually couldn’t read, they also wouldn’t be able to read my response.

Also, making a “joke” looks less try-hard and less triggered to people than trying to clearly explain the mistake. People interpret things like jokes and laugh emojis as not caring, not taking things seriously, not being bothered, etc. Which also doesn’t make sense to me – if the person truly didn’t care, they wouldn’t respond at all. Making a joke or a laugh emoji face takes time and effort and shows that they do care.

I actually put effort into trying to be helpful, clear, and not socially mean to people. But, ironically, if I was just socially mean, that would look less aggressive to a lot of people. The person on the receiving end doesn’t actually like it though – it just looks less aggressive to audience members.

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Even when people’s sloppy errors are unintentional, they are almost always in their own favour. They aren’t making sloppy mistakes that favour the other guy. Their errors are systematically biased in their own favour, even when they are due to unintentional sloppiness.

If it was really just that they were being sloppy and careless, you should expect the errors to go in both directions.


The social rules for perceived effort are really problematic and weird.

Some problematic things make a fair amount of sense. For example, writing a 1000 word reply is seen as high effort because that is high effort for most people. If writing is low effort for me, because it’s my speciality and hobby, that generally isn’t taken into account, even by people who know enough about me. But I get that looking at things in terms of defaults, instead of customized thinking, is simpler. It has some downsides but it makes some sense. And many people do not know enough about the writer, so if some people customized their interpretation they would get out of sync with other audience members who only have access to a generic interpretation, so that’d actually be really problematic. It’s important to social dynamics that basically the whole audience can agree and see it the same way (they don’t always, but often the large majority do as long as they don’t have massive relevant prior biases to divide them like being in opposing political parties).

Other rules about effort seem focused on directly visible effort while ignoring lots of easily guessable effort. A classic example is hair, makeup and clothes: you can see the results in public and infer the effort, but that doesn’t count. Whereas visible effort made in public is generally bad, e.g. stopping to think for even 5 seconds during a conversation is generally seen as being slow, dumb or tryhard (which is presumed to be covering up for incompetence and inability – if you could intuitively and quickly say something adequate why wouldn’t you just do that?). If you take your time to think things over in a nerdy way people might not think you’re dumb but will think you’re annoying and should be more chill.

Thanks. I was using ex: improperly as an abbreviation for example. I’ll try to use e.g. or just say for example in the future.