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# Blog - making decisions under uncertainty

I created a new page on the Wiki for a proposed blog post.

Title: Making decisions under uncertainty.

Summary: Groups often want to make the right decisions. So they spend a lot of time in the decision process itself. A better approach is to acknowledge when perfect decisions don’t exist and to incorporate the uncertainty itself into your plans.

Link to Wiki page: Blog - making decisions under uncertainty

Any comments or suggested improvements are welcome in this thread.

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1.

When I click on a page titled Making decisions under uncertainty I expect to see a discussion of Bayesian statistical decision theory (that's just me), not a biography of someone called Curtis Faith (that's probably not just me). It is an important subject, but some of the content belongs on your personal page.

Comment Source:When I click on a page titled [[Making decisions under uncertainty]] I expect to see a discussion of Bayesian statistical decision theory (that's just me), not a biography of someone called Curtis Faith (that's probably not just me). It is an important subject, but some of the content belongs on your personal page.
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2.
edited January 2011

Graham, thanks for your comment. You bring up good issues.

This Wiki page is intended to be a workspace for proposed blog posts not content for the Wiki itself. It won't be linked to from anywhere else on the Wiki. Since people don't know who I am, I think some level of personal introduction is necessary.

How do you think we should handle this issue for new posters on the blog?

Should John introduce all new posters? Should the posts come from John himself instead?

What level of personal anecdote is appropriate for blog posts? Should all this go on the appropriate individual pages?

With respect to Bayesian statistical decision theory, it works reasonably well if you have a good handle on the degree of uncertainty itself and the complexity of the system is manageable. For complex systems with unknown uncertainty, you have other problems. In trading, for example, there are certainly some traders who take a very quantified approach to the decision-making process. In general, these traders have not done very well during major changes as their models on which the decision-making is built are inflexible and don't account for all potential factors. Some of the recent comments on the Azimuth blog post Mathematical Economics are relevant.

I believe the problem of making decisions under uncertainty is not a scientific problem, and not a mathematical problem. One can gain insights and one can use science and math to elaborate implications of potential paths forward but not to optimize the decisions themselves. If this were possible, you'd see much more success on the mathematical economics front.

Perhaps the title is confusing and should be changed so as not to mislead the reader into thinking about Bayesian statistical decision theory rather than the more human problem of group decision making under uncertainty which is really what the blog post is about.

Comment Source:Graham, thanks for your comment. You bring up good issues. This Wiki page is intended to be a workspace for proposed blog posts not content for the Wiki itself. It won't be linked to from anywhere else on the Wiki. Since people don't know who I am, I think some level of personal introduction is necessary. How do you think we should handle this issue for new posters on the blog? Should John introduce all new posters? Should the posts come from John himself instead? What level of personal anecdote is appropriate for blog posts? Should all this go on the appropriate individual pages? With respect to Bayesian statistical decision theory, it works reasonably well if you have a good handle on the degree of uncertainty itself and the complexity of the system is manageable. For complex systems with unknown uncertainty, you have other problems. In trading, for example, there are certainly some traders who take a very quantified approach to the decision-making process. In general, these traders have not done very well during major changes as their models on which the decision-making is built are inflexible and don't account for all potential factors. Some of the recent comments on the Azimuth blog post [Mathematical Economics](http://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/mathematical-economics/) are relevant. I believe the problem of making decisions under uncertainty is not a scientific problem, and not a mathematical problem. One can gain insights and one can use science and math to elaborate implications of potential paths forward but not to optimize the decisions themselves. If this were possible, you'd see much more success on the mathematical economics front. Perhaps the title is confusing and should be changed so as not to mislead the reader into thinking about Bayesian statistical decision theory rather than the more human problem of group decision making under uncertainty which is really what the blog post is about.
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3.

A rather hasty comment, as was my first one:

I didn't take enough notice of

I created a new page on the Wiki for a proposed blog post.

... especially the last three words.

I believe the problem of making decisions under uncertainty is a scientific problem, and a mathematical problem. Talk more later ;-)

Comment Source:A rather hasty comment, as was my first one: I didn't take enough notice of > I created a new page on the Wiki for a proposed blog post. ... especially the last three words. I believe the problem of making decisions under uncertainty **is** a scientific problem, and a mathematical problem. Talk more later ;-)
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4.
edited January 2011

I think the big thing Graham was mentioning was that the name sounds like a good name/redirect to use on a page we ought to have on Bayesian decision theory rather than anything else.

I gather (from the analogous nLab) that it's possible to get a purely private section of the wiki if you're just concerned about formatting issues. Otherwise I guess we ought to have some way of "namespacing" stuff that's non-wiki content under development (particularly if we want to default to "open" development processes for things like blog entries).

Curtis wrote:

I believe the problem of making decisions under uncertainty is not a scientific problem, and not a mathematical problem. One can gain insights and one can use science and math to elaborate implications of potential paths forward but not to optimize the decisions themselves. If this were possible, you'd see much more success on the mathematical economics front.

I think you've got to distinguish between "making decisions under uncertainty" and "making decisions where participants disagree about the uncertainty". Things like, e.g., self-navigating robots, routinely do "making decisions under uncertainty" but that's because whoever programmed them fixed mathematical models of the uncertainty which, even if they're not "correct", are what's going to be bloomin' well used. In contrast, as you say in situations where participants disagree about models, analyses and "utility functions" the maths isn't as predominant.

Comment Source:I think the big thing Graham was mentioning was that the name sounds like a good name/redirect to use on a page we ought to have on Bayesian decision theory rather than anything else. I gather (from the analogous nLab) that it's possible to get a purely private section of the wiki if you're just concerned about formatting issues. Otherwise I guess we ought to have some way of "namespacing" stuff that's non-wiki content under development (particularly if we want to default to "open" development processes for things like blog entries). Curtis wrote: > I believe the problem of making decisions under uncertainty is not a scientific problem, and not a mathematical problem. One can gain insights and one can use science and math to elaborate implications of potential paths forward but not to optimize the decisions themselves. If this were possible, you'd see much more success on the mathematical economics front. I think you've got to distinguish between "making decisions under uncertainty" and "making decisions where participants disagree about the uncertainty". Things like, e.g., self-navigating robots, routinely do "making decisions under uncertainty" but that's because whoever programmed them fixed mathematical models of the uncertainty which, even if they're not "correct", are what's going to be bloomin' well used. In contrast, as you say in situations where participants disagree about models, analyses and "utility functions" the maths isn't as predominant.
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5.
edited January 2011

Graham wrote:

I believe the problem of making decisions under uncertainty is a scientific problem, and a mathematical problem. Talk more later ;-)

Of course you are correct.

I should have said not only a scientific problem and a mathematical problem. It is also a group dynamics, sociological and political problem.

The kinds of decisions that benefit from the soft rules I outlined in the article are strategic decisions, macro-level decisions, resource allocation decisions. These are decisions that won't get made by computers no matter how good those computers are.

Human decisions ultimately end up being soft decisions because not everyone involved that needs to understand the decisions will understand algorithmic decisions. If we end up needing to divert huge resources from one aspect of society to another, these need to be explained and understood in human non-scientific terms.

Even for the internal decisions of the Azimuth project itself, they won't be made by decision algorithms, they'll be made because John decides something. Over time John will likely let others make decisions but those decisions will be soft devisions. Some of the ideas that David Tweed presents in this discussion are ideas that will require soft decisions to set the priority of the group. Deciding where the Azimuth Project fits into the sustainability issues ecosphere is a soft decision. Etc.

Comment Source:Graham wrote: >I believe the problem of making decisions under uncertainty **is** a scientific problem, and a mathematical problem. Talk more later ;-) Of course you are correct. I should have said **not only** a scientific problem and a mathematical problem. It is also a group dynamics, sociological and political problem. The kinds of decisions that benefit from the soft rules I outlined in the article are strategic decisions, macro-level decisions, resource allocation decisions. These are decisions that won't get made by computers no matter how good those computers are. Human decisions ultimately end up being soft decisions because not everyone involved that needs to understand the decisions will understand algorithmic decisions. If we end up needing to divert huge resources from one aspect of society to another, these need to be explained and understood in human non-scientific terms. Even for the internal decisions of the Azimuth project itself, they won't be made by decision algorithms, they'll be made because John decides something. Over time John will likely let others make decisions but those decisions will be soft devisions. Some of the ideas that David Tweed presents [in this discussion](http://www.math.ntnu.no/~stacey/Mathforge/Azimuth/comments.php?DiscussionID=365) are ideas that will require soft decisions to set the priority of the group. Deciding where the Azimuth Project fits into the sustainability issues ecosphere is a soft decision. Etc.
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6.

I think the big thing Graham was mentioning was that the name sounds like a good name/redirect to use on a page we ought to have on Bayesian decision theory rather than anything else.

I gather (from the analogous nLab) that it's possible to get a purely private section of the wiki if you're just concerned about formatting issues. Otherwise I guess we ought to have some way of "namespacing" stuff that's wiki content under development (particularly if we want to default to "open" development processes for things like blog entries).

Some namespacing might make sense. Perhaps we could prefix "Working: " onto the title for works-in-progress.

I think you've got to distinguish between "making decisions under uncertainty" and "making decisions where participants disagree about the uncertainty". Things like, e.g., self-navigating robots, routinely do "making decisions under uncertainty" but that's because whoever programmed them fixed mathematical models of the uncertainty which, even if they're not "correct", are what's going to be bloomin' well used. In contrast, as you say in situations where participants disagree about models, analyses and "utility functions" the maths isn't as predominant.

Excellent distinction. We ought to come up with a term or use one if it is already in common usage that makes this distinction obvious.

Nothing obvious comes to mind, but perhaps: "heuristics for decision making under uncertainty," "human decision making under uncertainty," or "soft decision making under uncertainty," or "group decisions under uncertainty," would be better.

Or perhaps something like: "Planning for an Unknown Future"

Comment Source:>I think the big thing Graham was mentioning was that the name sounds like a good name/redirect to use on a page we ought to have on Bayesian decision theory rather than anything else. >I gather (from the analogous nLab) that it's possible to get a purely private section of the wiki if you're just concerned about formatting issues. Otherwise I guess we ought to have some way of "namespacing" stuff that's wiki content under development (particularly if we want to default to "open" development processes for things like blog entries). Some namespacing might make sense. Perhaps we could prefix "Working: " onto the title for works-in-progress. >I think you've got to distinguish between "making decisions under uncertainty" and "making decisions where participants disagree about the uncertainty". Things like, e.g., self-navigating robots, routinely do "making decisions under uncertainty" but that's because whoever programmed them fixed mathematical models of the uncertainty which, even if they're not "correct", are what's going to be bloomin' well used. In contrast, as you say in situations where participants disagree about models, analyses and "utility functions" the maths isn't as predominant. Excellent distinction. We ought to come up with a term or use one if it is already in common usage that makes this distinction obvious. Nothing obvious comes to mind, but perhaps: "heuristics for decision making under uncertainty," "human decision making under uncertainty," or "soft decision making under uncertainty," or "group decisions under uncertainty," would be better. Or perhaps something like: "Planning for an Unknown Future"
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7.

"group decisions under uncertainty"

I vote for that, among the proposed options. I can't quickly think of anything better.

Comment Source:> "group decisions under uncertainty" I vote for that, among the proposed options. I can't quickly think of anything better.
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8.

Perhaps we could prefix "Working: " onto the title for works-in-progress.

I'd prefer a more specific prefix like "Draft blog post". To some extent, everything on the wiki is a draft, or a work-in-progress.

Comment Source:> Perhaps we could prefix "Working: " onto the title for works-in-progress. I'd prefer a more specific prefix like "Draft blog post". To some extent, everything on the wiki is a draft, or a work-in-progress.
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9.

FWIW, "Group decisions under uncertainty" sounds good to me.

Comment Source:FWIW, "Group decisions under uncertainty" sounds good to me.
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10.

Graham Jones wrote:

I'd prefer a more specific prefix like "Draft blog post".

Makes sense to me.

Comment Source:Graham Jones wrote: >I'd prefer a more specific prefix like "Draft blog post". Makes sense to me.
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11.

Curtis, in Blog articles in progress you (I presume) say

Summary: Groups often want to make the right decisions. So they spend a lot of time in the decision process itself. A better approach is to acknowledge when perfect decisions don’t exist and to incorporate the uncertainty itself into your plans.

I like that! It reminds me of:

"People don't want to be good. They want to be right."

(I think I heard that on the radio, but can't remember who said it.)

Comment Source:Curtis, in [[Blog articles in progress]] you (I presume) say > Summary: Groups often want to make the right decisions. So they spend a lot of time in the decision process itself. A better approach is to acknowledge when perfect decisions don’t exist and to incorporate the uncertainty itself into your plans. I like that! It reminds me of: "People don't want to be good. They want to be right." (I think I heard that on the radio, but can't remember who said it.)
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12.

"Making decisions where participants disagree about the uncertainty" is occasionally referred to as "decision making under deep uncertainty". But I don't know of any term that is very widely used.

Comment Source:"Making decisions where participants disagree about the uncertainty" is occasionally referred to as "decision making under deep uncertainty". But I don't know of any term that is very widely used.
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13.
edited January 2011

I'm really glad you're starting to write blog post, Curtis!

You wrote:

Groups often want to make the right decisions. So they spend a lot of time in the decision process itself. A better approach is to acknowledge when perfect decisions don’t exist and to incorporate the uncertainty itself into your plans.

Sounds like we shouldn't waste a lot of time discussing this post, then.

But seriously...

This Wiki page is intended to be a workspace for a proposed blog posts not content for the Wiki itself. It won't be linked to from anywhere else on the Wiki. Since people don't know who I am, I think some level of personal introduction is necessary.

I agree.

As Graham pointed out, we need to avoid confusion between blog articles in progress and 'normal' articles on the Azimuth Project wiki. Here's a quick and way, for now. Let's make sure all blog articles in progress have titles starting with

Blog:

To illustrate this, I have changed the title of the Azimuth Project entry from

Making decisions under uncertainty

to

Blog - making decisions under uncertainty

I will change all the links I can find, to make sure the new title works.

Now, about introducing new bloggers:

How do you think we should handle this issue for new posters on the blog?

Should John introduce all new posters? Should the posts come from John himself instead?

I need to introduce new bloggers, just to let my readers know what's going on.

However, I really want the blog posts to clearly come from other people! I want everyone to understand that the Azimuth Project is not just me. It's a growing group of people, and people can gain recognition and publicity by joining.

I think for now it's technically easiest if I post other people's blog entries, perhaps with a word of introduction from me for their first post, but make it really clear that the post is written by them.

What level of personal anecdote is appropriate for blog posts?

I think a certain amount of personal anecdote is a very good thing, especially for new bloggers. When we read someone's writings we want to know them a bit; that helps us get interested in them, and decide how much to trust them.

However, it's best if the anecdotes are relevant to the topic under discussion, otherwise they can seem self-indulgent. Especially on a 'serious' blog like Azimuth has pretensions of being, any sense of navel-gazing or self-importance can be quite damaging.

It's a slippery slope, down which I have often slid.

However, your first post seems fine in this respect.

Comment Source:I'm really glad you're starting to write blog post, Curtis! You wrote: > Groups often want to make the right decisions. So they spend a lot of time in the decision process itself. A better approach is to acknowledge when perfect decisions don’t exist and to incorporate the uncertainty itself into your plans. Sounds like we shouldn't waste a lot of time discussing this post, then. <img src = "http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/emoticons/tongue2.gif" alt = ""/> But seriously... >This Wiki page is intended to be a workspace for a proposed blog posts not content for the Wiki itself. It won't be linked to from anywhere else on the Wiki. Since people don't know who I am, I think some level of personal introduction is necessary. I agree. As Graham pointed out, we need to avoid confusion between blog articles in progress and 'normal' articles on the Azimuth Project wiki. Here's a quick and way, for now. Let's make sure all blog articles in progress have titles starting with Blog: To illustrate this, I have changed the title of the Azimuth Project entry from [[Making decisions under uncertainty]] to [[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]] I will change all the links I can find, to make sure the new title works. Now, about introducing new bloggers: > How do you think we should handle this issue for new posters on the blog? > Should John introduce all new posters? Should the posts come from John himself instead? I've been thinking about this. I need to introduce new bloggers, just to let my readers know what's going on. However, I really want the blog posts to clearly come from other people! I want everyone to understand that the Azimuth Project is not just me. It's a growing group of people, and people can gain recognition and publicity by joining. I think for now it's technically easiest if I post other people's blog entries, perhaps with a word of introduction from me for their first post, but make it really clear that the post is written by them. > What level of personal anecdote is appropriate for blog posts? I think a certain amount of personal anecdote is a very good thing, _especially_ for new bloggers. When we read someone's writings we want to know them a bit; that helps us get interested in them, and decide how much to trust them. However, it's best if the anecdotes are relevant to the topic under discussion, otherwise they can seem self-indulgent. Especially on a 'serious' blog like Azimuth has pretensions of being, any sense of navel-gazing or self-importance can be quite damaging. It's a slippery slope, down which I have often slid. However, your first post seems fine in this respect.
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14.

In case anyone is reading this right now, give me some time to muck around with the title and the links for Blog - making decisions under uncertainty. Weird stuff is happening.

Comment Source:In case anyone is reading this right now, give me some time to muck around with the title and the links for [[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]]. Weird stuff is happening.
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15.
edited January 2011

Okay, I've gone and changed all links I can find from

'Making decisions under uncertainty'

to

Blog - making decisions under uncertainty

If anyone sees more, please change them.

Normally I'd use a redirect, but that's exactly what we don't want here - because we might someday want to use the original title for a 'normal' article on the wiki.

I'd have preferred a colon to a dash in Blog - making decisions under uncertainty, but it seems a colon in a link does evil, strangely variable things.

Comment Source:Okay, I've gone and changed all links I can find from 'Making decisions under uncertainty' to [[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]] If anyone sees more, please change them. Normally I'd use a redirect, but that's exactly what we don't want here - because we might someday want to use the original title for a 'normal' article on the wiki. I'd have preferred a colon to a dash in [[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]], but it seems a colon in a link does evil, strangely variable things.
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16.
edited January 2011

Curtis: I think your article

Blog - making decisions under uncertainty

is almost ready for me to publish on the blog. I have taken the liberty of calling the first section "A bit about me". Feel free to change that.

There's something more important, though. It would be nice if at the very very beginning of "A bit about me", you say something vaguely like this:

"I have decided to get involved in the Azimuth Project, so I'll be posting some blog articles here. Since you may not know me, here's a bit of my story"

and then, somewhere further down in "A bit about me", say a little bit about how you got interested in the Azimuth Project and why you're writing this blog entry.

And then, maybe at the very end of the blog entry, a tiny bit more about what the Azimuth Project is up to and how your advice is relevant. Right now it's not tightly connected... especially for many of my readers, who probably don't actually know or care much about the Azimuth Project.

You see, without a little bit of "glue" like this, your article will comes as a bit of a shock: Some guy that's not John is posting on John's blog, telling us about his life, and giving us 7 pieces of advice. Why is he doing this? Where did John go? What does this have to do with the usual kinds of articles we see on this blog? What's going on?

I'm sure you can see what I mean and figure out a deft way to deal with it.

Comment Source:Curtis: I think your article [[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]] is almost ready for me to publish on the blog. I have taken the liberty of calling the first section "A bit about me". Feel free to change that. There's something more important, though. It would be nice if at the very very beginning of "A bit about me", you say something vaguely like this: "I have decided to get involved in the Azimuth Project, so I'll be posting some blog articles here. Since you may not know me, here's a bit of my story" and then, somewhere further down in "A bit about me", say a little bit about how you got interested in the Azimuth Project and _why you're writing this blog entry_. And then, maybe at the very end of the blog entry, a _tiny bit_ more about what the Azimuth Project is up to and how your advice is relevant. Right now it's not tightly connected... especially for many of my readers, who probably don't actually know or care much about the Azimuth Project. You see, without a little bit of "glue" like this, your article will comes as a bit of a shock: _Some guy that's not John is posting on John's blog, telling us about his life, and giving us 7 pieces of advice. Why is he doing this? Where did John go? What does this have to do with the usual kinds of articles we see on this blog? What's going on?_ I'm sure you can see what I mean and figure out a deft way to deal with it.
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17.

Actually:

People tend to like short blog posts. A lot of people won't have the patience to first read a quick story of Curtis' life leading up to how he got interested in the Azimuth Project, and then 7 pieces of advice about making decisions under uncertainty.

But people like lots of blog posts. So how about chopping it in two:

1) A quick story of Curtis' life, leading up to how he got interested in the Azimuth Project. I'm still not completely sure how and why he got so excited about the Azimuth Project. So I'd like to hear more about that.

and then, once we know who Curtis is and why he's here:

2) Seven pieces of advice about making decisions under uncertainty.

This should be a fairly easy change to implement.

Comment Source:Actually: People tend to like short blog posts. A lot of people won't have the patience to _first_ read a quick story of Curtis' life leading up to how he got interested in the Azimuth Project, and _then_ 7 pieces of advice about making decisions under uncertainty. But people like _lots_ of blog posts. So how about chopping it in two: 1) A quick story of Curtis' life, leading up to how he got interested in the Azimuth Project. I'm still not completely sure how and why he got so excited about the Azimuth Project. So I'd like to hear more about that. and then, once we know who Curtis is and why he's here: 2) Seven pieces of advice about making decisions under uncertainty. This should be a fairly easy change to implement.
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18.
edited January 2011

I'll split this up over the next couple of days.

I was concerned with the length so your comment doesn't surprise me.

Do you think it makes sense to give others logins to Wordpress so they can post under their own names? There are ways under Wordpress to set up accounts that can only create blog posts but not publish them, I think, if you want to make sure you get to publish the posts yourself.

Comment Source:I'll split this up over the next couple of days. I was concerned with the length so your comment doesn't surprise me. Do you think it makes sense to give others logins to Wordpress so they can post under their own names? There are ways under Wordpress to set up accounts that can only create blog posts but not publish them, I think, if you want to make sure you get to publish the posts yourself.
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19.

Do you think it makes sense to give others logins to Wordpress so they can post under their own names?

It makes a lot of sense; the big question is whether I have the patience to figure out how to do it. I'll try to figure out how.

There are ways under Wordpress to set up accounts that can only create blog posts but not publish them, I think, if you want to make sure you get to publish the posts yourself.

I think I'd like to reserve that power for now.

Right now I only have a free Wordpress-hosted blog, a kind of cheapo version that's less flexible than the kind you pay for. Someday I may switch to the kind you pay for. This seems to be necessary if you want to let people preview their comments!

I don't know if the free version lets you have multiple accounts, users with limited powers, etc.

Comment Source:> Do you think it makes sense to give others logins to Wordpress so they can post under their own names? It makes a lot of sense; the big question is whether I have the patience to figure out how to do it. I'll try to figure out how. > There are ways under Wordpress to set up accounts that can only create blog posts but not publish them, I think, if you want to make sure you get to publish the posts yourself. I think I'd like to reserve that power for now. Right now I only have a free Wordpress-hosted blog, a kind of cheapo version that's less flexible than the kind you pay for. Someday I may switch to the kind you pay for. This seems to be necessary if you want to let people preview their comments! I don't know if the free version lets you have multiple accounts, users with limited powers, etc.
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20.

I don't know if the free version lets you have multiple accounts, users with limited powers, etc.

It does and it is pretty easy to setup.

Here's the documentation section on User Roles from Wordpress 2.0 and later:

### Summary of Roles

• Super Admin - Someone with access to the blog network administration features controlling the entire network (See Create a Network).
• Editor - Somebody who can publish and manage posts and pages as well as manage other users' posts, etc.
• Author - Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts
• Contributor - Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish them
• Subscriber - Somebody who can only manage their profile

I just checked an old wordpress.com blog I had setup for testing purposes and you can indeed add users with the full range of roles in the free Wordpress setup. I tested adding a new user with the "Contributor" role and it seems to work fine.

The way adding users works is a bit different on the wordpress.com site as the users you add must be already be users of wordpress.com or they'll need to create an account there. Once they do that they can be linked in. You invite users to join your blog with a particular role specified. It defaults to contributor which is what you want right now, the ability to author and edit their own posts but not to publish them onto the blog.

If you go to the Dashboard on Wordpress you will find on the lower left a Users button. If you press it you should get a list of users at the top (with only you) and then you should find

Add User From Community

Type the e-mail address of another WordPress.com user to add them to your blog.

User E-Mail:

Role: defaults to Contributor

You need to have the email address of the account that the user already holds on wordpress.com if they have one. Otherwise they'll need to create a blog, even if only for this purpose so they have a separate wordpress.com account. When you "invite" them this links their blog account with yours so they get access to your blog in the list of "My Blogs" on their wordpress home page. They can then create and edit posts and submit them for review. Then you can publish them anytime you want. I believe the blog posts from others will be visible to you almost immediately.

If you wanted to add me as a contributor in this way, for example, you'd invite me at curtis (the normal character for email addresses) followed by curtisfaith followed by dot com.

Comment Source:>I don't know if the free version lets you have multiple accounts, users with limited powers, etc. It does and it is pretty easy to setup. Here's the documentation section on User Roles from Wordpress 2.0 and later: ### Summary of Roles ### * Super Admin - Someone with access to the blog network administration features controlling the entire network (See Create a Network). * Administrator - Somebody who has access to all the administration features * Editor - Somebody who can publish and manage posts and pages as well as manage other users' posts, etc. * Author - Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts * Contributor - Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish them * Subscriber - Somebody who can only manage their profile I just checked an old wordpress.com blog I had setup for testing purposes and you can indeed add users with the full range of roles in the free Wordpress setup. I tested adding a new user with the "Contributor" role and it seems to work fine. The way adding users works is a bit different on the wordpress.com site as the users you add must be already be users of wordpress.com or they'll need to create an account there. Once they do that they can be linked in. You invite users to join your blog with a particular role specified. It defaults to *contributor* which is what you want right now, the ability to author and edit their own posts but not to publish them onto the blog. If you go to the Dashboard on Wordpress you will find on the lower left a Users button. If you press it you should get a list of users at the top (with only you) and then you should find Add User From Community Type the e-mail address of another WordPress.com user to add them to your blog. User E-Mail: Role: defaults to Contributor You need to have the email address of the account that the user already holds on wordpress.com if they have one. Otherwise they'll need to create a blog, even if only for this purpose so they have a separate wordpress.com account. When you "invite" them this links their blog account with yours so they get access to your blog in the list of "My Blogs" on their wordpress home page. They can then create and edit posts and submit them for review. Then you can publish them anytime you want. I believe the blog posts from others will be visible to you almost immediately. If you wanted to add me as a contributor in this way, for example, you'd invite me at curtis (the normal character for email addresses) followed by curtisfaith followed by dot com.
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21.

People tend to like short blog posts. A lot of people won't have the patience to first read a quick story of Curtis' life leading up to how he got interested in the Azimuth Project, and then 7 pieces of advice about making decisions under uncertainty.

But people like lots of blog posts. So how about chopping it in two

The blog post has been split into two parts:

Both posts are ready for review and comments.

Comment Source:>People tend to like short blog posts. A lot of people won't have the patience to _first_ read a quick story of Curtis' life leading up to how he got interested in the Azimuth Project, and _then_ 7 pieces of advice about making decisions under uncertainty. >But people like _lots_ of blog posts. So how about chopping it in two The blog post has been split into two parts: Part one: _[[Blog - Curtis Faith on the Azimuth Project]]_ Part two: _[[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]]_ Both posts are ready for review and comments.
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22.
edited January 2011

The first one looks just right.

The second looks great, but I can imagine a couple of small tweaks:

I know a bit about managing risk and uncertainty...

Whenever someone says "I know a bit", I sort of cringe, because it makes me think they're saying "I know a hell of a lot, but I'm really modest too". It's probably best to somehow avoid saying anything about how much you know, and let that become apparent through what you say.

The Azimuth Project needs your help. The planet needs your help.

We need your help.

The last one needs a question mark, but more importantly, this hyper-dramatic prose sounds too much like the stuff professional advertisers churn out, especially since it's part of a plea. Imagine it being read by a bunch of extremely intelligent and slightly cynical scientists — I think that will make you want to tone it down. Or even better, imagine you're talking to one of them. You might even decide that a straight-out plea is not the way to go.

Comment Source:The first one looks just right. The second looks great, but I can imagine a couple of small tweaks: > I know a bit about managing risk and uncertainty... Whenever someone says "I know a bit", I sort of cringe, because it makes me think they're saying "I know a hell of a lot, but I'm really modest too". It's probably best to somehow avoid saying anything about how much you know, and let that become apparent through what you say. > The Azimuth Project needs your help. The planet needs your help. > We need your help. > Will you join us. The last one needs a question mark, but more importantly, this hyper-dramatic prose sounds too much like the stuff professional advertisers churn out, especially since it's part of a plea. Imagine it being read by a bunch of extremely intelligent and slightly cynical scientists &mdash; I think that will make you want to tone it down. Or even better, imagine you're talking to one of them. You might even decide that a straight-out plea is not the way to go.
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23.

Or even better, imagine you're talking to one of them. You might even decide that a straight-out plea is not the way to go.

So what do you recommend for these extremely intelligent and cynical scientists? What distinguishes those who are right on the fence for helping, those who may have come and looked at the site but not yet decided to jump in?

What do you think they need before they will join? Do they just need to see some specific way they can help?

Comment Source:>Or even better, imagine you're talking to one of them. You might even decide that a straight-out plea is not the way to go. So what do you recommend for these extremely intelligent and cynical scientists? What distinguishes those who are right on the fence for helping, those who may have come and looked at the site but not yet decided to jump in? What do you think they need before they will join? Do they just need to see some specific way they can help?
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24.

I've updated the blog post Blog - making decisions under uncertainty on the Wiki to reflect your two suggestions. Let me know if the changes work better.

Comment Source:I've updated the blog post [[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]] on the Wiki to reflect your two suggestions. Let me know if the changes work better.
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25.
edited January 2011

So what do you recommend for these extremely intelligent and cynical scientists?

Making some personal viewpoint points (that may not be original): making it seem interesting as well as important may help. Also, this may be personal but I get turned off by prose that talks about "we" too much, because it always makes me wonder if there's going to be some parts of the "we" that are more important than other parts: I find even non-active text ("We need to build the capability to assimilate and acquire an understanding of reality as it unfolds" vs "It is important to build the capability to assimilate and acquire an understanding of reality as it unfolds") more "attractive", even though stylists rules discourage this style. (I'm sure the "we" point isn't the case, it just seems that way.) For the same reasons, I find "contribute to" more attractive than "join".

Comment Source:> So what do you recommend for these extremely intelligent and cynical scientists? Making some personal viewpoint points (that may not be original): making it seem _interesting_ as well as important may help. Also, this may be personal but I get turned off by prose that talks about "we" too much, because it always makes me wonder if there's going to be some parts of the "we" that are more important than other parts: I find even non-active text ("We need to build the capability to assimilate and acquire an understanding of reality as it unfolds" vs "It is important to build the capability to assimilate and acquire an understanding of reality as it unfolds") more "attractive", even though stylists rules discourage this style. (I'm sure the "we" point isn't the case, it just seems that way.) For the same reasons, I find "contribute to" more attractive than "join".
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26.
edited January 2011

Curtis writes:

So what do you recommend for these extremely intelligent and cynical scientists? What distinguishes those who are right on the fence for helping, those who may have come and looked at the site but not yet decided to jump in?

I don't really know! Maybe David Tweed, David Pollard, Graham Jones, Staffan Liljegren, Frederik de Roo and Tim van Beek should say why they decided to jump in.

David Tweed wrote:

making it seem interesting as well as important may help.

That's probably part of it. Scientists like things to be interesting. Scientifically interesting, that is.

More later....

Comment Source:Curtis writes: > So what do you recommend for these extremely intelligent and cynical scientists? What distinguishes those who are right on the fence for helping, those who may have come and looked at the site but not yet decided to jump in? I don't really know! Maybe David Tweed, David Pollard, Graham Jones, Staffan Liljegren, Frederik de Roo and Tim van Beek should say why they decided to jump in. David Tweed wrote: > making it seem interesting as well as important may help. That's probably part of it. Scientists like things to be interesting. Scientifically interesting, that is. More later....
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27.

John said:

Maybe David Tweed, David Pollard, Graham Jones, Staffan Liljegren, Frederik de Roo and Tim van Beek should say why they decided to jump in.

I don't score on John's intelligo-cynico-nasty-meter, but will comment anyway:

One reason is of course that I knew John from "This Weeks Finds" and the n-café, so joining in at the beginning of the project had much of a "help a friend to get a difficult project running" quality to it.

On the other hand there are a lot of questions discussed now on Azimuth that trouble me since my childhood, like "why is transportation so inefficient?", "how could anyone build an economy on resources that are irreplaceble and will soon be depleted?" etc.

My own "research program" before Azimuth was to dig deeper into axiomatic quantum field theory, especially on curved spacetimes. I don't give up much by abandoning that, for various reasons.

The last part may be the hardest for most people in academia: Usually you have a research program that you already invested much time and effort to. I'd guess that many friends and readers of TWF think about Azimuth that

• they'd have to abandon their current research and area of expertise to

• enter an area where there are already many (maybe too many) experts with

• only an unsure vision of what they could contribute once they had adapted to the new field.

Comment Source:John said: <blockquote> <p> Maybe David Tweed, David Pollard, Graham Jones, Staffan Liljegren, Frederik de Roo and Tim van Beek should say why they decided to jump in. </p> </blockquote> I don't score on John's intelligo-cynico-nasty-meter, but will comment anyway: One reason is of course that I knew John from "This Weeks Finds" and the n-café, so joining in at the beginning of the project had much of a "help a friend to get a difficult project running" quality to it. On the other hand there are a lot of questions discussed now on Azimuth that trouble me since my childhood, like "why is transportation so inefficient?", "how could anyone build an economy on resources that are irreplaceble and will soon be depleted?" etc. My own "research program" before Azimuth was to dig deeper into axiomatic quantum field theory, especially on curved spacetimes. I don't give up much by abandoning that, for various reasons. The last part may be the hardest for most people in academia: Usually you have a research program that you already invested much time and effort to. I'd guess that many friends and readers of TWF think about Azimuth that - they'd have to abandon their current research and area of expertise to - enter an area where there are already many (maybe too many) experts with - only an unsure vision of what they could contribute once they had adapted to the new field.
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28.

Hi Curtis,

Maybe David Tweed, David Pollard, Graham Jones, Staffan Liljegren, Frederik de Roo and Tim van Beek should say why they decided to jump in.

I "discovered" TWF about a year ago or so but I was an irregular reader. I was very positively surprized when John decided to write about environmental issues, because I am already interested in them, and many scientists often have the approach "it's not a real problem" or "other scientists will solve it". I then jumped in because John said they were very much in need of collaborators, and I thought "if I want to read more about this, I can also try to help writing". So I think a plea may help with people who are already following the blog regularly and appreciate it, and only need a little push. The main threshold for me was that I'm not an expert in anything! (btw, I haven't been able to contribute much lately)

I'm not sure if a plea is the most efficient way to attract professional scientists working on these matters. In fact I think that, because they are already working on it, they would prefer to spend their pastime on different matters. I could imagine that if university committees would count azimuth contributions like they count talks and publications (but with a lower coefficient) we would get plenty of contributing visitors.

Comment Source:Hi Curtis, > Maybe David Tweed, David Pollard, Graham Jones, Staffan Liljegren, Frederik de Roo and Tim van Beek should say why they decided to jump in. I "discovered" TWF about a year ago or so but I was an irregular reader. I was very positively surprized when John decided to write about environmental issues, because I am already interested in them, and many scientists often have the approach "it's not a real problem" or "other scientists will solve it". I then jumped in because John said they were very much in need of collaborators, and I thought "if I want to read more about this, I can also try to help writing". So I think a plea may help with people who are already following the blog regularly and appreciate it, and only need a little push. The main threshold for me was that I'm not an expert in anything! (btw, I haven't been able to contribute much lately) I'm not sure if a plea is the most efficient way to attract professional scientists working on these matters. In fact I think that, because they are already working on it, they would prefer to spend their pastime on different matters. I could imagine that if university committees would count azimuth contributions like they count talks and publications (but with a lower coefficient) we would get plenty of contributing visitors.
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29.

Not really an answer to your question but I happen to have handy some quotes from H. G. Wells that I like.

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

While there is a chance of the world getting through its troubles, I hold that a reasonable man has to behave as though he were sure of it. If at the end your cheerfulness is not justified, at any rate you will have been cheerful.

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.

Comment Source:Not really an answer to your question but I happen to have handy some quotes from H. G. Wells that I like. > Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. > Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. > While there is a chance of the world getting through its troubles, I hold that a reasonable man has to behave as though he were sure of it. If at the end your cheerfulness is not justified, at any rate you will have been cheerful. > No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.
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30.

After Curtis puts his entry

Blog - making decisions under uncertainty

onto the Azimuth Blog, I'll be glad to publish it whenever he wants.

I'm slightly underwhelmed by the number of comments on the blog, but it's possible that blog entries only get tons of comments when they provide a fun subject to discuss. For example, I got tons of comments on Greg Egan's probability puzzle!

It's also possible that explicit requests for help are a turnoff.

So, Curtis might consider trying something like this. Instead of ending Blog - making decisions under uncertainty with a request to "come check out" the Azimuth Project, maybe he could pose a specific exciting challenge or "puzzle" about making decisions under uncertainty. Something where people will have different opinions.

Comment Source:After Curtis puts his entry [[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]] onto the Azimuth Blog, I'll be glad to publish it whenever he wants. I'm slightly underwhelmed by the number of comments on the blog, but it's possible that blog entries only get tons of comments when they provide a fun subject to discuss. For example, I got tons of comments on Greg Egan's probability puzzle! It's also possible that explicit requests for help are a turnoff. So, Curtis might consider trying something like this. Instead of ending [[Blog - making decisions under uncertainty]] with a request to "come check out" the Azimuth Project, maybe he could pose a specific exciting challenge or "puzzle" about making decisions under uncertainty. Something where people will have different opinions.
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31.
edited January 2011

Obviously I've interacted with Curtis here on the forum, so this is "theoretically" why I think why I wouldn't have responded to his story: it doesn't really provide that much to make a posting about. It's basically detailing various events from his life that have shaped him, that it's impossible to disagree with and very difficult to comment on. Likewise the next blog post has long sections which are of how doctors apply different very high level criteria in the ER, which is again difficult to disagree with. If you/Curtis are interested in volumes of comments, I'd try and throw something that's sufficiently specific into the final section that someone might disagree with it.

Comment Source:Obviously I've interacted with Curtis here on the forum, so this is "theoretically" why I think why I wouldn't have responded to his story: it doesn't really provide that much to make a posting about. It's basically detailing various events from his life that have shaped him, that it's impossible to disagree with and very difficult to comment on. Likewise the next blog post has long sections which are of how doctors apply different very high level criteria in the ER, which is again difficult to disagree with. If you/Curtis are interested in volumes of comments, I'd try and throw something that's sufficiently specific into the final section that someone might disagree with it.
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32.
edited January 2011

Hmm - "disagree" seems to be a key word in David's theory of why people, or at least he, writes blog comments.

That could be true. I don't think most people posting comments to my blog entries are "disagreeing" with something in them. I actually try to say stuff that's true, to lessen the chance of this happening. I don't really like "arguments", I like it when people work on things together. But I like getting lots of comments: it makes me feel people are paying attention. Maybe I should be a bit more outrageous.

Comment Source:Hmm - "disagree" seems to be a key word in David's theory of why people, or at least he, writes blog comments. That could be true. I don't think most people posting comments to my blog entries are "disagreeing" with something in them. I actually try to say stuff that's true, to lessen the chance of this happening. I don't really like "arguments", I like it when people work on things together. But I like getting lots of comments: it makes me feel people are paying attention. Maybe I should be a bit more outrageous.
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33.
edited January 2011

I mean "disagree" in the sense that if I agree with everything you've said I don't really feel like adding a post saying "That's so right.", partly from a concern about diluting other more interesting comments and partly from vanity (being honest). It's a bit like the paradox of the perfect lecture: if you've been exceptionally clear and convincing you wouldn't expect to get any questions at the end because there's nothing to clarify. But I do mean disagree in a "polite" sense, nota flamewar sense.

The other half of blog comment conversation is if you can "expand on" something the author has said. But that's a lot like "disagreements" in the sense that you've got to have some specific point you feel you can expand on.

Comment Source:I mean "disagree" in the sense that if I agree with everything you've said I don't really feel like adding a post saying "That's so right.", partly from a concern about diluting other more interesting comments and partly from vanity (being honest). It's a bit like the paradox of the perfect lecture: if you've been exceptionally clear and convincing you wouldn't expect to get any questions at the end because there's nothing to clarify. But I do mean disagree in a "polite" sense, nota flamewar sense. The other half of blog comment conversation is if you can "expand on" something the author has said. But that's a lot like "disagreements" in the sense that you've got to have some specific point you feel you can expand on.
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34.

John Baez wrote:

But I like getting lots of comments: it makes me feel people are paying attention. Maybe I should be a bit more outrageous.

I think people comment when they are passionate about something, and when they think they have something to add to the conversation. Sometimes that is because you disagree and want to make a point, sometimes it is because you agree and have something to add from another perspective, or as David said: "if you can 'expand on' something the author has said."

Many people won't comment on issues where they are not passionate or where they don't think they have expertise or relevant experience. I suspect that many of your readers want to help but don't feel they have the expertise or experience to add anything for some of these issues.

I mentioned it in another post, but it might be a good idea to have a "meta" post on the blog where you ask people who are blog readers why they comment on some things and not others, why some of the blog readers haven't jumped in to help, what keeps people on the fence, how many people have been reading the blog but not the wiki or forum, etc. I think your readers would be happy to respond to direct questions like this. Especially if you listed some expected answers so people won't feel bad about responding back "I just don't feel like I could add anything," "I don't have time," or "I'm too busy with my career for a diversion at the moment."

Comment Source:John Baez wrote: >But I like getting lots of comments: it makes me feel people are paying attention. Maybe I should be a bit more outrageous. I think people comment when they are passionate about something, and when they think they have something to add to the conversation. Sometimes that is because you disagree and want to make a point, sometimes it is because you agree and have something to add from another perspective, or as David said: "if you can 'expand on' something the author has said." Many people won't comment on issues where they are not passionate or where they don't think they have expertise or relevant experience. I suspect that many of your readers want to help but don't feel they have the expertise or experience to add anything for some of these issues. I mentioned it in another post, but it might be a good idea to have a "meta" post on the blog where you ask people who are blog readers why they comment on some things and not others, why some of the blog readers haven't jumped in to help, what keeps people on the fence, how many people have been reading the blog but not the wiki or forum, etc. I think your readers would be happy to respond to direct questions like this. Especially if you listed some expected answers so people won't feel bad about responding back "I just don't feel like I could add anything," "I don't have time," or "I'm too busy with my career for a diversion at the moment."
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35.
edited January 2011

Maybe David Tweed, David Pollard, Graham Jones, Staffan Liljegren, Frederik de Roo and Tim van Beek should say why they decided to jump in.

shared interest in Open access applied to scientific results and a great talk that John B gave at the Long Now Foundation. I followed his good stuff bad stuff for a while but I was not a regular "hang around" until i discovered that he had started to blog about environmental issues and Azimuth. I have been slow blogging and was becoming frustrated with how little impact environmental issues and results had in society. At the same time I was on my way to setup a social network site (using Elgg/PHP,Inshoshi/Rails or similar open source platform) similar to the aim of Azimuth.

Comment Source:> Maybe David Tweed, David Pollard, Graham Jones, Staffan Liljegren, Frederik de Roo and Tim van Beek should say why they decided to jump in. shared interest in Open access applied to scientific results and a great talk that John B gave at the Long Now Foundation. I followed his good stuff bad stuff for a while but I was not a regular "hang around" until i discovered that he had started to blog about environmental issues and Azimuth. I have been [slow blogging](http://openbiosphere.blogspot.com) and was becoming frustrated with how little impact environmental issues and results had in society. At the same time I was on my way to setup a social network site (using Elgg/PHP,Inshoshi/Rails or similar open source platform) similar to the aim of Azimuth.
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36.

So, just to be clear, I'm waiting for Curtis to put his article "making decisions under uncertainty" on the blog and let me know, and then I'll publish it. I think the audience is ready and waiting for the next post!

Comment Source:So, just to be clear, I'm waiting for Curtis to put his article "making decisions under uncertainty" on the blog and let me know, and then I'll publish it. I think the audience is ready and waiting for the next post!
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37.

It's up now.

Comment Source:It's up now.