comment by Stephen Clare ·
2022-07-12T17:32:36.221Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Death by feedback
It's not unusual to see a small army of people thanked in the "Acknowledgements" section of a typical EA Forum post. But one should be careful not to get too much feedback. For one, the benefits of more feedback diminish quickly, while the community costs scale linearly. (You gain fewer additional insights from the fifth person who reads your draft than you do from the first, but it takes the fifth person just as long to read and comment.)
My biggest worry, though, is killing my own vision by trying to incorporate comments from too many other people. This is death by feedback. If you try to please everyone, you probably won't please anyone.
There are lots of different ways one could write about a given topic. Imagine I'm writing an essay to convince EA Forum readers that the resplendent quetzal is really cool. There's lots I could talk about: I could talk about its brilliant green plumage and long pretty tail; I could talk about how it's the national animal of Guatemala, so beloved that the country's currency is called the quetzal; or I could talk about its role in Mesoamerican mythology. Different people will have different ideas about which tack I should take. Some framings will be more effective than others. But any given framing can be killed by writing a scattered, unfocused, inconsistent essay that tries to talk about everything at once.
Sure, go ahead and get feedback from a few people to catch blunders and oversights. It's pretty awesome that so many clever, busy people will read your Forum posts if you ask them to. But don't Frankenstein your essay by stitching together different visions to address all concerns. It's important to recognize that there's not a single, ideal form a piece can approach if the author keeps gathering feedback. "Design by committee" is a perjorative phrase for a reason.
Thanks to absolutely nobody for giving feedback on this post.Replies from: MichaelDickens
↑ comment by MichaelDickens ·
2022-07-12T21:13:01.849Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I have some feedback on this post that you should feel free to ignore.
In my experience, when you ask someone for feedback, there's about a 10% chance that they will bring up something really important that you missed. And you don't know who's going to notice the thing. So even if you've asked 9 people for feedback and none of them said anything too impactful, maybe the 10th will say something critically important.
Replies from: Stephen Clare
↑ comment by Stephen Clare ·
2022-07-13T09:45:12.774Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Hm, maybe. I still think there are diminishing returns - the first person I ask is more likely to provide that insight than the 10th.
Under your model, the questions I'd have are (1) whether one person's insight is worth the time-cost to all 10 people, and (2) how do you know when to stop getting feedback, if each person you ask has a 10% chance of providing a critical insight?