This page is about the status notices (or tags) that are displayed at the top of pages of this site. The status efficiently communicates to the reader at what stage of development a particular page is. In practice, it’s mostly useful as a shorthand for something to the effect of “This page is a draft, so the content on here might be incomplete, unpolished, incorrect, or otherwise not up to the same level of quality as finished pages.”
I took the idea of status tags from gwern. Here is his original explanation, though my use (explained below) differs slightly.
The “status” tag describes the state of completion: whether it’s a pile of links & snippets & “notes”, or whether it is a “draft” which at least has some structure and conveys a coherent thesis, or it’s a well-developed draft which could be described as “in progress”, and finally when a page is done - in lieu of additional material turning up - it is simply “finished”.
Below is how I use status tags:
- Same as gwern, i.e. for pages that are just collections of links and quotes. I also use this for brief posts in general; one can treat them like Facebook status updates, except that they might eventually build up to something more.
- Same as gwern, i.e. for pages that have a rough direction but aren’t solid.
- In progress
- Same as gwern, i.e. for pages that are fairly solid but aren’t very polished or meticulous.
- Mostly finished
- For pages that I consider mostly done, needing only minor corrections.
I compose several different kinds of documents:
- A blog post or paper that tries to comprehensively argue for some position.
- A reference work such as a timeline or table that collects some data into a single location for easier analysis.
- Something like a transcript or simple data analysis where there’s a narrow space of “correct” outputs, where anyone else could have done produced basically the same thing if they put in about the same amount of effort.
- Some notes on a topic where I briefly get excited about a topic and start collecting some data or quotes by reading a bit, where I don’t have a deep understanding of the topic.
- An explanation of some habit or lifestyle choice I have (e.g. sleep schedule and sunhat), where I don’t claim some special expertise, but which still represents my current life choices based on iteration over the years.
- A reflection piece where I try to summarize some aspect of what I’ve done at a high level, using an “inside view”.
- An opinion piece that summarizes my views on a topic, where I haven’t done any specific deep exploration of a topic. This is useful for others to know “where I’m coming from”.
- An “ignorant thinking” piece where I try to combine my life experience, “first principles” thinking, and general reasoning ability to try to come to some conclusion on a topic without doing deep reading.
- A random thought I have e.g. while working on some other thing, or while daydreaming, or while taking a shower or something, where I don’t expect it to be a high quality thought but where, in the moment the idea excites me and I wish to record it somewhere.
- School assignments where I don’t have much choice about how to go about implementing the piece.
Some tricky things with categorizing pieces of writing with the above:
- A piece can start out as one thing and morph into another at some later stage.
- There is a trade-off between concision and precision. Using simple labels makes the process standard, but might lack necessary precision. For instance I feel like Open Phil blog posts often do an okay job of communicating “where we are coming from” but lack standardization.
Some related ideas that try to communicate the “where I’m coming from” idea:
- Epistemic effort
- gwern’s completion status tags
- gwern’s confidence/belief tags
- “Epistemic status” disclaimers at the top of blog posts (e.g. on Slate Star Codex)
I prefer to think of my writings as continuously improving drafts, partly because I might obtain better feedback. For instance Anne Ruggles Gere writes (quoted in “Shutting Down Tolkien” by Brandon Rhodes):
[W]hen participants in writing groups read “finished” writing, the language of the group often became acerbic or vacuous because members felt (perhaps unconsciously) that they had no purpose.
See also Brian Tomasik’s advice on agile projects, which encourages early feedback:
When it comes to writing a paper or planning a campaign or picking a cause to focus on, a little bit of feedback at the beginning is worth hundreds of micro-edits or small optimizations later on. The topic that you write about can matter more than everything else in your whole article. If you complete a research paper about something unimportant, it doesn’t much matter how well written and well researched the piece is (unless your goal is to establish prestige as a writer or build an audience that you can then direct toward your more important essays).
This is why I like to leave even completely empty pages on this site, so people can give me feedback on which pages I should work on more.
- Belief tags are also used on this site.