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Postmortem on #18030 #18043 #18050

Date: 2020-09-17

IR wrote (addressing curi)

i feel very much like i have gotten some of these ideas from you, but i dont know which things youve wrote that i got these ideas from. and i dont know how much ive changed them.

I asked IR:

Otherwise, does it matter how much you’ve changed your mind?

which didn’t make much sense. Context: #18030 #18043 #18050

I think 2 main things happened:

  1. I wasn’t careful when reading IR’s comment, so missed important details / relations. (i.e. he was talking about changes to curi’s ideas in his head, not changes to his own pre-existing ideas in his head)
  2. I’ve been thinking recently about how my own ideas have changed over the last ~3 months.

(1) allowed me to ~skip between trains of thought without noticing. I ended up thinking about IR’s comment in terms of (2). My question to IR makes more sense in this light.

Beyond the issue of miscommunication in general, there’s a bigger problem I should care about and deal with. That is: responding earnestly to someone (usually) takes longer than reading what came immediately before. If I spend time responding to what I thought they wrote (but I’m wrong about that) then it’s, in essence, wasted time. Maybe there are some benefits, but they’re lesser than would be otherwise.

To avoid this sort of thing the obvious answer is reading stuff better. That doesn’t feel super actionable tho b/c just concentrating more on ~everything I read is not v efficient, esp if this sort of issue isn’t super common.

I could try re-interpreting what the person says, like re-writing out what I thought they meant before replying, but how would I know if that were right/wrong? It might make it clearer to me if I was unclear about what they thought. It doesn’t help if I think I know what they meant and that idea is clear and consistent in my mind (as it was in this case).

This issue was - I think - that the reference “these ideas” is somewhat ambiguous (or maybe just tricky). I think IR’s full sentence (expanding “them”) is something like:

and i dont know how much ive changed [my version of ideas I got from your ideas relative to the original ideas you wrote]

So, this might be a better sketch of what to do:

  • recognise tricky references (ideally automatically)
  • when tricky references occur, expand them out (there could be more than one possibility)
  • criticise the possibilities so I get just one
  • if I can’t and it’s ambiguous still, ask a clarifying question (listing the possibilities too)
    • optionally respond to each possibility if short enough or easy enough
  • if I get one and it’s reasonable I can just respond
  • if I get one and I’m not sure it’s reasonable, ask a clarifying question and respond at the same time

the next step in this action-plan-sketch is “recognise tricky references (ideally automatically)”. The first part of that is introducing a breakpoint (in the coding sense) on tricky references. I can do this a bit by paying more attention to references in general, trying to quickly figure out what they mean (and eval-ing if I know what they mean), and taking action if I don’t. If I’m not 10/10 confident on the reference I should stop and investigate.

Okay, this feels like a decent PM and plan. Feedback welcome/appreciated. It was a bit trickier than normal to figure out what to do because a plan like ‘learn2read’ didn’t feel good enough.

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