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TLDR: I'd like to have the ability to hide the author(s) of all the posts on my news feed so that I see can read the content without knowing about the source. I have some intuitions for why this might be good but mainly I think adding the feature is easy and it lets us check whether or not it's good.

Is this the right place to post this? I can't remember if there's an obvious place to suggest forum features (I think there might have been a survey a while back but I might have imagined it). Since the bulk of this post is closer to "Why you might want this" than "Why you should add this to the forum you maintain" I think it's better posted publically. Also it seems likely this can be quickly made with a chrome extension[1].

The feature

I'd like to be able to blur out author names wherever they appear like this...

One example of how this could look

(It could also be black boxes of regular size or random strings of nonsense characters like this ⏁⊑⟟⌇ ⟟⌇ ⋏⍜⋏⌇⟒⋏⌇⟒[2])

I'd like to be able to click on names to reveal them but would be ok with an easy toggle for the feature.

A larger project would be for folks at CEA to run an AB test where post authors are hidden for one group of users and not hidden for another and publish click through rates and karma from different groups. I think there will be a difference I'm not sure which setting I'd advocate for as a norm though (I'll go into why below).

EDIT: Since a lot of people are suggesting extensions / greaterwrong style solutions. One benefit of an integrated into the forum solution is the ability to separate blinded Karma from unblinded Karma (even if this is only on the back end). I'm mostly interested in what the frontpage looks like when karma is driven only by post content and not by authorship. 

Why I might (or might not) want this

I don't think I say anything super surprising in this section, you're welcome to skip it.

It seems pretty obvious that the authorship of a post affects my click through rate. There are good reasons for this. If I recognise a name as someone who I've read content from before and found that content useful I think it's more likely I'll find their new content useful too. This is the same logic that led me to watch the new Game of Thrones spin off, buy a second pair of Levi jeans, and listen to the latest Dodie album.

However this policy makes me less great at exploring new sources of insight. Historically I'm significantly more likely to re-read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality than pick up any specific book on my to-read list[3]

This actually doesn't just affect me but also, through the karma system, everyone else. FYI this is the factor which made me decide to post this[4]. I can think of a few examples off hand where I opened a post I might not have otherwise because I know the author personally and want to know what they're up to, I then end up upvoting the post. If I extrapolate my policy to everyone else on the forum I'd expect posts from authors who have a lot of friends in the community to do better than the exact same post posted anonymously[5]. I could train myself to stop doing this (and suggest others do so) but it would be a lot easier to just anonymise posts.

Separately once I open a post I'd guess there are a bunch of associations happening at a level of my thinking I'm not aware of when I read a name I recognise at the top of a post (ala Halo/Horn effect). I mostly guessing about what these would be but I expect people I like / have agreed with before get more of the benefit of the doubt and are engaged with less critically. This would mean I'd be more open to novel or unintuitive seeming proposals from people I know who are already established in the community. I think this effect still exists when I do the obvious thing and approach posts with an open mind, you typically can't fix a bias by knowing about it.

Here are some other reasons I might or might not want this feature:

  • Anonymising the forum lets EA community builders see it a bit more like newcomers to the community would (although we can't remove your jargon dictionary)
  • Relying on just titles might incentivise better titles from authors
  • Some posts might be upvoted purely because it's valuable for the community to know what influential person/org in EA is doing at the moment. If the posts are anonymised it might make these posts less visible which might be bad for coordination in the community
  1. ^

    Here's some code which when run in the chrome console will blur authors on the front page, it might not work forever.

    arr = Array.prototype.slice.call(document.getElementsByClassName("PostsUserAndCoauthors-lengthLimited"))
    arr.forEach(v => {
           v.style.color = "transparent"  
           v.style.textShadow = "0 0 10px rgba(0,0,0,0.5)"
  2. ^

    I actually spent an embarrassingly long time looking for nice looking alien character translators and these aren't up to my standard but sadly I couldn't find any that were aesthetic enough so maybe we should stick with blur.

  3. ^

    Probably the most embarrassing real world example in this post 

  4. ^

    E.g I consider this factor to be sufficient to suggest this feature and experiment but I don't know if it's necessary (in other words I don't know if none of the other factors would have been sufficient on their own).

  5. ^

    Actually I tend to click on anonymous posts because I'm curious about why they're anonymous. I'd expect a post would do better with a popular author than it would under a pseudonym.





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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:29 PM

If you use Firefox, you can use a customized user CSS file following these steps -- https://superuser.com/a/319322

In your CSS, put

@-moz-document domain(forum.effectivealtruism.org) {
    .UsersNameDisplay-userName {
        opacity: %0 !important;

Thanks for this!

For others, as well as fixing/removing the misplaced percent symbol, you also need to do the following:

  1. In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return. Click the button accepting the risk.
  2. In the search box above the list, type or paste userprof and pause while the list is filtered. If you do not see anything on the list, please ignore the rest of these instructions. You can close this tab now.
  3. Double-click the toolkit.legacyUserProfileCustomizations.stylesheets preference to switch the value from false to true.

I can see this getting a bit annoying/confusing, as it also blocks out commenters' usernames, but you can always hover over the empty space and read it from the link preview on the bottom-left of the window.

Jim Babcock and I built this feature! You can enable it in your account settings,  under Site Customizations. Let me know if you have any feedback!

(Because it un-blinds you based on mouse-hovers, you will not be able to un-blind yourself well on mobile.)

(I actually built it ~a month ago but forgot to write about it here.)

The extension for blinding karma and author names has been a game changer for me. Massively improves my forum experience. Strong upvote, it'd be great to have these as native features so that they are much more accessible and others can enjoy the debiasing and mental health benefits.

I tend to prefer blinding karma instead of the author name. But they're both useful at different times. I think adding both and making independently controllable would be a huge step forward. Then the community can experiment with favorite configurations for different contexts.

Thanks to the OP, I've been meaning to post about this for months. And thanks to the forum devs who are doing a ton of work behind the scenes to make everything on these forums possible.

I think adding both and making independently controllable would be a huge step forward. 

Some thoughts, not entirely related:

There was another post about blinding karma (maybe not names), at the post level (so no one can see the karma). This might have some good effects on norms and experiences about voting. 

IIRC, this idea about post-level blinding produced a disagreement about practicalities or transparency, and the conversation stopped.

  • This objection about the transparency/practicalities is solved by a system that blinds karma/names for a fixed, limited, time, say, 1/2/7 days, after which everything is revealed. 
    • Also, you can just have a user option (maybe requiring a token effort, like strong voting requires an effort) to unblind. 
    • Reddit actually implements this temporary system, so that you can't see recent karma.

There's many other details that are important. 

But basically if you implement a post level system as something authors can opt into, that seems like a win and another way to roll out this feature.

I'd be interested to hear if my experience is similar to others. Use agree-disagree voting on my replies to this comment to vote in this poll.

For times when the authorship of a post probably affected how I interacted with it. I think those effects were negative. (E.g they were closer to biasing against novel ideas from newcomers to the movement than correctly promoting important updates about influential people/organisations in the movement to the frontpage)

I can think of a time where the authorship of a post probably affected how I interacted with it

I posted something similar and there's a few comments if you want to check them out. 

(Posting here so people who just read this post can easily see) 

From the comments I think the consideration I hadn't considered was names on posts hold people accountable for the content of their post.

One quick hack to do this could be using an ad-blocking extension such as uBlock Origin. It has an option to selectively block parts of the website (Right click on the element and choose "Block element..." and then "Create")

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