From: Michael Vassar (
Date: Fri Aug 19 2005 - 12:08:36 MDT

Both here and at crnano's blog it seems to me that ego is impairing
efficient use of time and possibly efficient acquisition of information.
When someone who has ignored the rules, not read enough back posts, and who
is generally clueless shows up making cliche errors, people argue, refute,
and spend a great deal of time correcting the inconsiderate time waster.
Even trolls are often allowed to post a few dozen times. By contrast, when
similar or more subtle errors are made by actual experts, or by those who
with some reason claim expertise, hostility becomes far more overt and
attempts are made to drive the know-it-all away. This is unfortunate, both
because it is likely to impede the efficient flow of information, and
because it prevents us from developing the habits necessary to acqurie
buy-in from people who are not yet familiar with our positions but who have
demonstrated the willingness to study and learn something, and who may know
where to find other people who could provide assistance or money.
Richard Loosemore provides a particularly clear example of this problem.
When Richard started posting, it was clear that he didn't know SL4 concepts
remotely well enough to judge them or contribute to them. It was not clear
that he did know anything else. People on the list responded by arguing
politely, explaining points, and in general treating him in a friendly
fasion. Then, when he asserted his erudition (and Bayesians should have
outgrown absolute objections to arguments from authority) suddenly people
became aggressive about putting him in his place.
I am a firm believer of putting people in their place. It avoids much
wasted time AND greatly increases the degree of respect that you will
recieve from the truly ignorant. It is much more likely that the uninformed
will actually read the articles that you tell them to if you are
condescending or dictatorial about it. However, the older and more
knowledgable someone is, the less likely this strategy is to be productive.
When experts or near experts have read your introductory writings and have
gotten key points grossly wrong without realizing it, this means that you
have a chance to gain skills that will be vitally important when it comes
time to approach other experts who haven't even read your introductory
writings. It is precisely the experts who most need outreach, as these are
the people most likely to actually help if you can get through to them.

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