types of mistakes and overreaching

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Anne B

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Apr 25, 2020, 11:31:45 AM4/25/20
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On Discord

https://ptb.discordapp.com/channels/304082867384745994/667162736970432522/703274778320044072

I wrote:

>> I know I tend to overreach and not be able to see it. If anyone here thinks I’ve been overreaching recently and is willing to point me to where/how, I’d appreciate it. (I will not take no response to mean that I’m not overreaching.)

Alisa wrote:

> Have you shared the standard by which you judge what counts as a mistake? Have you written anything that you think contains zero mistakes by that standard? Knowing that would help me check for mistakes in your writing. That, in turn, could help you detect overreaching, because overreaching is related to the number of mistakes you make.

I have not shared a standard by which I judge what I count as a mistake for me. I hadn’t thought about it. Now that I’ve thought about it I realize I think of my mistakes as falling roughly into three categories:

Type 1: Too minor to think much about.

Type 2: Important enough to think about. If I notice them or someone else points them out, I can learn something that’s worth learning.

Type 3: Important enough to think about but too difficult for me to easily understand or to understand at all.

I think your question asks about where I put the boundary between type 1 on the one hand and types 2 and 3 on the other hand.

An example of the difference between a type 1 mistake and a type 2 or 3 mistake for me: A typo here and there is a type 1 mistake. But if I make lots of typos in something, that would be a type 2 or 3 mistake. Maybe I was upset when I did that typing. Maybe I didn’t understand what I was talking about. Maybe I’ve got a sticky key on my keyboard.

My guess is that overreaching comes either from making type 3 mistakes or from making enough type 2 mistakes that you can’t learn from all of them.

I fear that the topic of overreaching is an overreaching one for me. This post took me a while and I made several revisions. But I also think I have to make some tries at understanding overreaching in order to avoid it.


Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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Apr 26, 2020, 1:09:02 AM4/26/20
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On Sat, Apr 25, 2020 at 11:31 AM Anne B <anne...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Discord
>
> https://ptb.discordapp.com/channels/304082867384745994/667162736970432522/703274778320044072
>
> I wrote:
>
>>> I know I tend to overreach and not be able to see it. If anyone here thinks I’ve been overreaching recently and is willing to point me to where/how, I’d appreciate it. (I will not take no response to mean that I’m not overreaching.)
>
> Alisa wrote:
>
>> Have you shared the standard by which you judge what counts as a mistake? Have you written anything that you think contains zero mistakes by that standard? Knowing that would help me check for mistakes in your writing. That, in turn, could help you detect overreaching, because overreaching is related to the number of mistakes you make.
>
> I have not shared a standard by which I judge what I count as a mistake for me. I hadn’t thought about it. Now that I’ve thought about it I realize I think of my mistakes as falling roughly into three categories:
>
> Type 1: Too minor to think much about.

I don't put any mistakes into that category.

> Type 2: Important enough to think about. If I notice them or someone else points them out, I can learn something that’s worth learning.
>
> Type 3: Important enough to think about but too difficult for me to easily understand or to understand at all.
>
> I think your question asks about where I put the boundary between type 1 on the one hand and types 2 and 3 on the other hand.

No, I wasn't asking about that. I don't categorize mistakes that way.

You asked for feedback about whether you were overreaching. Avoiding overreaching involves managing your mistake rate, which involves understanding how many mistakes you make, which involves figuring out whether things are mistakes or not, which in turn depends on your current goals for your writing. At my level of understanding, in order to give you feedback about whether you were overreaching, I'd have to be able to check your writing for mistakes, which I think means I'd have to understand what kinds of things you count as mistakes. *That's* what I was asking about.

Maybe the following will help explain where I'm coming from. I have a list of mistakes that I try to avoid in my writing. My policy is to write a postmortem whenever I make a mistake on that list, but not necessarily for other mistakes (though I may optionally write postmortems for those too).

For example, here are the things I currently count as mistakes in my writing:

- formatting errors
- typos
- grammar errors
- false statements
- unclear statements (including unclear references)
- non sequiturs

An example of something *not* on my list of mistakes is incorrect comma usage. That's because I don't yet understand commas well. I use commas to the best of my ability, but I expect I still make some mistakes with them, and I don't plan on writing postmortems for those mistakes yet.

Anne B

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Apr 27, 2020, 4:17:45 AM4/27/20
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On Apr 26, 2020, at 1:08 AM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Sat, Apr 25, 2020 at 11:31 AM Anne B <anne...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> On Discord
>>
>> https://ptb.discordapp.com/channels/304082867384745994/667162736970432522/703274778320044072
>>
>> I wrote:
>>
>>>> I know I tend to overreach and not be able to see it. If anyone here thinks I’ve been overreaching recently and is willing to point me to where/how, I’d appreciate it. (I will not take no response to mean that I’m not overreaching.)
>>
>> Alisa wrote:
>>
>>> Have you shared the standard by which you judge what counts as a mistake? Have you written anything that you think contains zero mistakes by that standard? Knowing that would help me check for mistakes in your writing. That, in turn, could help you detect overreaching, because overreaching is related to the number of mistakes you make.
>>
>> I have not shared a standard by which I judge what I count as a mistake for me. I hadn’t thought about it. Now that I’ve thought about it I realize I think of my mistakes as falling roughly into three categories:
>>
>> Type 1: Too minor to think much about.
>
> I don't put any mistakes into that category.
>
>> Type 2: Important enough to think about. If I notice them or someone else points them out, I can learn something that’s worth learning.
>>
>> Type 3: Important enough to think about but too difficult for me to easily understand or to understand at all.
>>
>> I think your question asks about where I put the boundary between type 1 on the one hand and types 2 and 3 on the other hand.
>
> No, I wasn't asking about that. I don't categorize mistakes that way.

Okay. I don’t want to put in the time now to decide if these types are a helpful way of thinking about mistakes, so I’ll abandon the idea for now.

> You asked for feedback about whether you were overreaching. Avoiding overreaching involves managing your mistake rate, which involves understanding how many mistakes you make, which involves figuring out whether things are mistakes or not, which in turn depends on your current goals for your writing. At my level of understanding, in order to give you feedback about whether you were overreaching, I'd have to be able to check your writing for mistakes, which I think means I'd have to understand what kinds of things you count as mistakes. *That's* what I was asking about.
>
> Maybe the following will help explain where I'm coming from. I have a list of mistakes that I try to avoid in my writing. My policy is to write a postmortem whenever I make a mistake on that list, but not necessarily for other mistakes (though I may optionally write postmortems for those too).
>
> For example, here are the things I currently count as mistakes in my writing:
>
> - formatting errors
> - typos
> - grammar errors
> - false statements
> - unclear statements (including unclear references)
> - non sequiturs
>
> An example of something *not* on my list of mistakes is incorrect comma usage. That's because I don't yet understand commas well. I use commas to the best of my ability, but I expect I still make some mistakes with them, and I don't plan on writing postmortems for those mistakes yet.

I’m still confused about overreaching. My answers don’t fit what you’re asking very well. But here’s what I’ve got.

The mistakes I’m interested in are:

- Saying things that aren’t true
- Tackling topics that are too complicated for me
- Doing too many different things at once
- Any other overreaching-type mistakes that I don’t see but maybe someone else does

According to my FI learning plan, I’m focusing on studying Simply Scheme and trying out conflict clouds. Are those an appropriate level of difficulty for me to be working on? Am I going too fast with either of them? Am I getting ideas wrong in them and building on those wrong ideas?

Am I spending too much time writing about things other than Simply Scheme and conflict clouds? I’ve written several posts in the past week about other topics. Should I not have done that?

Am I spending too much time on FI in general?

Again, I think this thread is overreaching for me. But I also think I have to figure out how to not overreach and I can’t think of a simpler way of addressing that.


P.S. I re-read these two overreaching articles over the past few days:

https://fallibleideas.com/overreach

https://elliottemple.com/essays/life-overreaching-correcting-error

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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Apr 28, 2020, 12:08:04 AM4/28/20
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On Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 04:17:42AM -0400, Anne B wrote:

> On Apr 26, 2020, at 1:08 AM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> On Sat, Apr 25, 2020 at 11:31 AM Anne B <anne...@gmail.com> wrote:

>>> On Discord
>>>
>>> https://ptb.discordapp.com/channels/304082867384745994/667162736970432522/703274778320044072
>>>
>>> I wrote:
>>>
>>>> I know I tend to overreach and not be able to see it. If anyone here thinks I’ve been overreaching recently and is willing to point me to where/how, I’d appreciate it. (I will not take no response to mean that I’m not overreaching.)
>>>
>>> Alisa wrote:
>>>
>>>> Have you shared the standard by which you judge what counts as a mistake? Have you written anything that you think contains zero mistakes by that standard? Knowing that would help me check for mistakes in your writing. That, in turn, could help you detect overreaching, because overreaching is related to the number of mistakes you make.
>>>
>>> I have not shared a standard by which I judge what I count as a mistake for me. I hadn’t thought about it. Now that I’ve thought about it I realize I think of my mistakes as falling roughly into three categories:
>>>
>>> Type 1: Too minor to think much about.
>>
>> I don't put any mistakes into that category.
>>
>>> Type 2: Important enough to think about. If I notice them or someone else points them out, I can learn something that’s worth learning.
>>>
>>> Type 3: Important enough to think about but too difficult for me to easily understand or to understand at all.
>>>
>>> I think your question asks about where I put the boundary between type 1 on the one hand and types 2 and 3 on the other hand.
>>
>> No, I wasn't asking about that. I don't categorize mistakes that way.
>
> Okay. I don’t want to put in the time now to decide if these types are a helpful way of thinking about mistakes, so I’ll abandon the idea for now.

I didn't mean to discourage you from pursuing that line of thought. I only meant to say that it didn't seem to be related to my questions.

>> You asked for feedback about whether you were overreaching. Avoiding overreaching involves managing your mistake rate, which involves understanding how many mistakes you make, which involves figuring out whether things are mistakes or not, which in turn depends on your current goals for your writing. At my level of understanding, in order to give you feedback about whether you were overreaching, I'd have to be able to check your writing for mistakes, which I think means I'd have to understand what kinds of things you count as mistakes. *That's* what I was asking about.
>>
>> Maybe the following will help explain where I'm coming from. I have a list of mistakes that I try to avoid in my writing. My policy is to write a postmortem whenever I make a mistake on that list, but not necessarily for other mistakes (though I may optionally write postmortems for those too).
>>
>> For example, here are the things I currently count as mistakes in my writing:
>>
>> - formatting errors
>> - typos
>> - grammar errors
>> - false statements
>> - unclear statements (including unclear references)
>> - non sequiturs
>>
>> An example of something *not* on my list of mistakes is incorrect comma usage. That's because I don't yet understand commas well. I use commas to the best of my ability, but I expect I still make some mistakes with them, and I don't plan on writing postmortems for those mistakes yet.
>
> I’m still confused about overreaching. My answers don’t fit what you’re asking very well. But here’s what I’ve got.

>
> The mistakes I’m interested in are:
>
> - Saying things that aren’t true

Ok.

> - Tackling topics that are too complicated for me
> - Doing too many different things at once

I specifically asked about and gave examples of *writing* mistakes. Those two aren't writing mistakes per se, but I guess they could result in a type of writing mistake you listed above: saying things that aren't true.

> - Any other overreaching-type mistakes that I don’t see but maybe someone else does

I think that "unclear statements" would be a worthwhile addition to the list of mistakes you're interested in. That plus false statements covers a lot of ground.

> According to my FI learning plan, I’m focusing on studying Simply Scheme and trying out conflict clouds. Are those an appropriate level of difficulty for me to be working on? Am I going too fast with either of them? Am I getting ideas wrong in them and building on those wrong ideas?

Other people might be able to answer directly, but if you want feedback from me on those questions, it would help me if you could specify a recent post where you think you didn't make any false or unclear statements.

[snip rest]

Elliot Temple

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Apr 28, 2020, 12:19:51 AM4/28/20
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Did you? I don’t see it in the paragraph with "Have you shared the standard by which you judge what counts as a mistake?"

> Those two aren't writing mistakes per se, but I guess they could result in a type of writing mistake you listed above: saying things that aren't true.
>
>> - Any other overreaching-type mistakes that I don’t see but maybe someone else does
>
> I think that "unclear statements" would be a worthwhile addition to the list of mistakes you're interested in. That plus false statements covers a lot of ground.
>
>> According to my FI learning plan, I’m focusing on studying Simply Scheme and trying out conflict clouds. Are those an appropriate level of difficulty for me to be working on? Am I going too fast with either of them? Am I getting ideas wrong in them and building on those wrong ideas?
>
> Other people might be able to answer directly, but if you want feedback from me on those questions, it would help me if you could specify a recent post where you think you didn't make any false or unclear statements.

One of the advantages of Alisa’s list is it’s more designed for being things Alisa can judge for himself are errors. They are issues he knows enough about how to evaluate when they’re pointed out.

BTW I’m guessing the intent of “false statements” is to refer to *factually* false statements, while the intent of "things that aren’t true” isn’t.

Elliot Temple
www.elliottemple.com

Anne B

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May 1, 2020, 11:42:35 AM5/1/20
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On Apr 28, 2020, at 12:07 AM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 04:17:42AM -0400, Anne B wrote:
>
>> On Apr 26, 2020, at 1:08 AM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>>> On Sat, Apr 25, 2020 at 11:31 AM Anne B <anne...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>>>> On Discord
>>>>
>>>> https://ptb.discordapp.com/channels/304082867384745994/667162736970432522/703274778320044072
>>>>
>>>> I wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> I know I tend to overreach and not be able to see it. If anyone here thinks I’ve been overreaching recently and is willing to point me to where/how, I’d appreciate it. (I will not take no response to mean that I’m not overreaching.)
>>>>
>>>> Alisa wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> Have you shared the standard by which you judge what counts as a mistake? Have you written anything that you think contains zero mistakes by that standard? Knowing that would help me check for mistakes in your writing. That, in turn, could help you detect overreaching, because overreaching is related to the number of mistakes you make.


>>> You asked for feedback about whether you were overreaching. Avoiding overreaching involves managing your mistake rate, which involves understanding how many mistakes you make, which involves figuring out whether things are mistakes or not, which in turn depends on your current goals for your writing. At my level of understanding, in order to give you feedback about whether you were overreaching, I'd have to be able to check your writing for mistakes, which I think means I'd have to understand what kinds of things you count as mistakes. *That's* what I was asking about.
>>>
>>> Maybe the following will help explain where I'm coming from. I have a list of mistakes that I try to avoid in my writing. My policy is to write a postmortem whenever I make a mistake on that list, but not necessarily for other mistakes (though I may optionally write postmortems for those too).
>>>
>>> For example, here are the things I currently count as mistakes in my writing:
>>>
>>> - formatting errors
>>> - typos
>>> - grammar errors
>>> - false statements
>>> - unclear statements (including unclear references)
>>> - non sequiturs
>>>
>>> An example of something *not* on my list of mistakes is incorrect comma usage. That's because I don't yet understand commas well. I use commas to the best of my ability, but I expect I still make some mistakes with them, and I don't plan on writing postmortems for those mistakes yet.
>>
>> I’m still confused about overreaching. My answers don’t fit what you’re asking very well. But here’s what I’ve got.
>
>>
>> The mistakes I’m interested in are:
>>
>> - Saying things that aren’t true
>
> Ok.
>
>> - Tackling topics that are too complicated for me
>> - Doing too many different things at once
>
> I specifically asked about and gave examples of *writing* mistakes. Those two aren't writing mistakes per se, but I guess they could result in a type of writing mistake you listed above: saying things that aren't true.
>
>> - Any other overreaching-type mistakes that I don’t see but maybe someone else does
>
> I think that "unclear statements" would be a worthwhile addition to the list of mistakes you're interested in. That plus false statements covers a lot of ground.

That’s a good suggestion.

So I definitely want to know if I’m making false statements or unclear statements.

I think checking for false statements and unclear statements would reveal whether I was "Tackling topics that are too complicated for me”. My guess is that trying to write about something that I don’t understand very well would result in writing false statements and/or unclear statements. However, if I tackle things that are too complicated for me and don’t write about them, then looking at my writing wouldn’t help me find out that I’m doing it.

"Doing too many different things at once” might or might not result in writing statements that are false or unclear. Again, I might do things that I don’t write about. I don’t have a clear idea of what “too many” means here or how to measure it.

>> According to my FI learning plan, I’m focusing on studying Simply Scheme and trying out conflict clouds. Are those an appropriate level of difficulty for me to be working on? Am I going too fast with either of them? Am I getting ideas wrong in them and building on those wrong ideas?
>
> Other people might be able to answer directly, but if you want feedback from me on those questions, it would help me if you could specify a recent post where you think you didn't make any false or unclear statements.

I haven’t been checking my writing specifically for false or unclear statements.

There might be false or unclear statements in my recent writing that I’d catch if I looked over it carefully. And there might be false or unclear statements in my recent writing that I wouldn’t catch but someone else would.

My questions now are:

1. Should I be making more of an effort to not write false or unclear statements? One thing I can do to answer this is to look over my recent writing and see how many false or unclear statements I can find. That would give me an idea of whether my current efforts are enough.

2. Do I still write false and/or unclear statements even when I make my best effort not to? If I do, I think that would indicate that I am writing about topics and ideas that are too complicated for me. You or someone else could help me answer this question, but I don’t yet have something to show you that I’ve made my best effort on. What I have is things I’ve made my current usual effort on. I need to answer question 1 for myself before I consider question 2. I appreciate your offer and I’ll get back to you with something if and when I’m ready.

3. Am I trying to do too much at once? My impression is yes. I’m going to try to back off a bit. I may not be very successful at backing off without more concrete steps to follow.


Anne B

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May 1, 2020, 11:43:19 AM5/1/20
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I should have written "false statements" instead of "things that aren't true". "things that aren't true" includes more than just false statements; it also includes statements that are neither true nor false. Statements that are neither true nor false might not be mistakes.

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 2, 2020, 1:51:32 AM5/2/20
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On Tue, Apr 28, 2020 at 12:19 AM Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> On Apr 27, 2020, at 9:07 PM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>>> On Apr 26, 2020, at 1:08 AM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>>>>> On Discord
>>>>>
>>>>> https://ptb.discordapp.com/channels/304082867384745994/667162736970432522/703274778320044072
>>>>>
>>>>> Alisa wrote:

>>>>>> Have you shared the standard by which you judge what counts as a mistake? Have you written anything that you think contains zero mistakes by that standard? Knowing that would help me check for mistakes in your writing. That, in turn, could help you detect overreaching, because overreaching is related to the number of mistakes you make.

>>>> You asked for feedback about whether you were overreaching. Avoiding overreaching involves managing your mistake rate, which involves understanding how many mistakes you make, which involves figuring out whether things are mistakes or not, which in turn depends on your current goals for your writing. At my level of understanding, in order to give you feedback about whether you were overreaching, I'd have to be able to check your writing for mistakes, which I think means I'd have to understand what kinds of things you count as mistakes. *That's* what I was asking about.

>> I specifically asked about and gave examples of *writing* mistakes.
>
> Did you? I don’t see it in the paragraph with "Have you shared the standard by which you judge what counts as a mistake?"

No. I was wrong. I thought I said that, but I didn't.

I remember looking at my "Have you shared ... ?" paragraph before writing "I specifically asked ...". Maybe I only saw what I was expecting to see. I could have looked at it more critically in light of what I was planning to claim about it, as if I were trying to find a bug in someone's code, but I didn't.

The only plausibly-useful way I've come up with so far to categorize this mistake is to put it into a category of mistakes that are caused by *looking for non-refutation instead of refutations*, i.e., looking for things that are consistent with my ideas instead of for things that contradict them. One thing I could do that might help avoid this kind of mistake in the future is to practice looking for refutations.

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 2, 2020, 1:54:48 AM5/2/20
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On Tue, Apr 28, 2020 at 12:19 AM Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> On Apr 27, 2020, at 9:07 PM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> I think that "unclear statements" would be a worthwhile addition to the list of mistakes [...]. That plus false statements covers a lot of ground.
>>
>> [...] it would help me if you could specify a recent post where you think you didn't make any false or unclear statements.
>
> One of the advantages of Alisa’s list is it’s more designed for being things Alisa can judge for himself are errors. They are issues he knows enough about how to evaluate when they’re pointed out.

Yeah.

> BTW I’m guessing the intent of “false statements” is to refer to *factually* false statements, while the intent of "things that aren’t true” isn’t.

I don't know what "*factually* false statements" means. I searched the web for "factually false statement" as well as for "false statement of fact", which I guessed might mean the same thing, but I didn't find anything that helped me understand them. Judging by the title, Wikipedia's page on "False statements of fact" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_statements_of_fact ) should be helpful, but I didn't see a place where it explained clearly what a false statement of fact *is*, or how that differs from something that merely isn't true.

Elliot Temple

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May 2, 2020, 2:10:11 AM5/2/20
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Do you know which ideas are considered facts and which aren’t?


Elliot Temple
www.elliottemple.com

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 5, 2020, 12:40:45 AM5/5/20
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On Sat, May 2, 2020 at 2:10 AM Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> On May 1, 2020, at 10:54 PM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> On Tue, Apr 28, 2020 at 12:19 AM Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

>>> On Apr 27, 2020, at 9:07 PM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>>>> I think that "unclear statements" would be a worthwhile addition to the list of mistakes [...]. That plus false statements covers a lot of ground.
>>>>
>>>> [...] it would help me if you could specify a recent post where you think you didn't make any false or unclear statements.
>>>
>>> BTW I’m guessing the intent of “false statements” is to refer to *factually* false statements, while the intent of "things that aren’t true” isn’t.
>>
>> I don't know what "*factually* false statements" means. I searched the web for "factually false statement" as well as for "false statement of fact", which I guessed might mean the same thing, but I didn't find anything that helped me understand them. Judging by the title, Wikipedia's page on "False statements of fact" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_statements_of_fact ) should be helpful, but I didn't see a place where it explained clearly what a false statement of fact *is*, or how that differs from something that merely isn't true.
>
> Do you know which ideas are considered facts and which aren’t?

No. Here's a guess: in general, true ideas are facts and false ideas aren't facts.

http://www.websters1913.com/words/Fact :

> Reality; actuality; truth; *as, he, in fact, excelled all the rest; the fact is, he was beaten.*

That seems consistent with my guess.

Here are a few uses of *fact* from Atlas Shrugged (emphasis added):

> She faced with astonished indignation the ugly *fact* of feeling pain, and refused to let it matter.

> She could not doubt the fact of what he had been; she could not doubt the *fact* of what he had become; yet one made the other impossible.

> To love money is to know and love the *fact* that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men.

In those sentences, the word *fact* seems to refer to something that is true, something that is actually the case.

Elliot Temple

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May 5, 2020, 12:49:38 AM5/5/20
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No.

Do you know what an opinion is and how matters of opinion compare with matters of fact?

Elliot Temple
www.curi.us

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 5, 2020, 10:41:51 AM5/5/20
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Here's a guess: An idea is someone's *opinion* if they believe it but are not, or should not be, fully confident of it.

http://www.websters1913.com/words/Opinion :

> That which is opined; a notion or conviction founded on probable evidence; belief stronger than impression, less strong than positive knowledge; settled judgment in regard to any point of knowledge or action.
>
> *Opinion is when the assent of the understanding is so far gained by evidence of probability, that it rather inclines to one persussion than to another, yet not without a mixture of incertainty or doubting.*

Here's a guess as to how matters of opinion compare to matters of fact: matters of opinion are ideas of which ~no one should be confident; matters of fact are ideas of which some people (e.g., experts, people with knowledge) should be confident.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20matter%20of%20opinion :

> Definition of *a matter of opinion*
>
> —used to say that something is based on opinion
>
> "He's doing a terrible job." "That's a *matter of opinion*."

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 5, 2020, 4:15:51 PM5/5/20
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I retract those guesses. I came up with a counter-example and some better guesses.

Here's the counter-example: According to [1], barring some kind of breakthrough, we will never know the approximate value of tan(9^9^9^9). But it does have a value, so even though no one should be confident about what its value is, I don't think people would call its value a matter of opinion.

Here's my new guess: people call an idea an opinion if they think *there is no fact of the matter*. In other words, people call an idea an opinion if they don't think it corresponds to something in objective reality that people could in principle agree upon.

[1] https://www.quora.com/What-real-numbers-will-we-never-know-even-the-approximate-value-of

Elliot Temple

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May 6, 2020, 2:08:42 PM5/6/20
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Try some bing searches like

> fact vs. opinion

look around for standard meanings/explanations (not fancy math or CR epistemology).

Elliot Temple
www.fallibleideas.com

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 7, 2020, 2:04:42 AM5/7/20
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On Wed, May 06, 2020 at 11:08:38AM -0700, Elliot Temple wrote:

> Try some bing searches like
>
>> fact vs. opinion
>
> look around for standard meanings/explanations (not fancy math or CR epistemology).

I tried your suggestion. It now seems to me that the fact/opinion distinction has to do with things like proof, evidence, and objectivity. People seem to use "fact" to refer to ideas that they think can be proven or disproven by objective evidence. People seem to use "opinions" to refer to ideas that are not facts and that reflect the holder's point of view, feelings, or values.

Below are some relevant quotes from pages I read on the subject. They are all listed on the first page of Bing results for [fact vs opinion]:

https://www.journalism.org/2018/06/18/distinguishing-between-factual-and-opinion-statements-in-the-news/ :

> whether members of the public can recognize news as factual – something that’s capable of being proved or disproved by objective evidence – or as an opinion that reflects the beliefs and values of whoever expressed it.

https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-fact-and-opinion.htm :

> Generally speaking, a fact is something that has actually happened or that is empirically true and can be supported by evidence. An opinion is a belief; it is normally subjective, meaning that it can vary based on a person's perspective, emotions, or individual understanding of something. For example, biological differences between males and females are a fact, while a preference for one gender over the other is opinion.
>
> Subjective and Objective
>
> According to most definitions, something is a fact if it matches objective reality. For something to be objective, it must be outside of the mind and not be based on feelings or biases. This is the opposite of an opinion, which is what an individual thinks or feels about a subject.

https://www.registerednursing.org/teas/distinguishing-between-fact-opinion-biases-stereotypes/ :

> A fact: A fact is a truth. A fact is a statement of truth that can be verified and is able to be proven as true.

> An opinion: An opinion is a statement that reflects an author's or the speaker's point of view, beliefs, perspective, personal feelings, and values; opinions cannot be verified and proven to be true or false like a fact can be verified and proven to be true...

https://www.ereadingworksheets.com/free-reading-worksheets/fact-and-opinion-worksheets/ :

> I teach students that a fact is any statement that can be proven: “there are 10,000 feet in a mile.” Even though this statement is incorrect, I teach students that this is still a fact, even though it is not true.

This is a page by a teacher. It provides several worksheets with statements to be classified as fact or opinion. I did the problems on the first worksheet, and checked my answers against the answer key. They were the same.

https://www.ereadingworksheets.com/reading-worksheets/fact-and-opinion-worksheet.pdf :

> Fact and Opinion
>
> Directions: Read each statement and then circle whether it is a fact or opinion. Explain your answer.

> 1. The fastest land dwelling creature is the Cheetah.

Fact. You could do some research on the top speed ever observed in the wild for each creature. Or maybe computer simulations would show it.

> 2. Michael Jordan has a career average of 30.4 points per game.

Fact.

> 3. George Washington was the first President of the United States under the Constitution.

Fact.

> 4. The ugliest sea creature is the manatee.

Opinion. (They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.)

> 5. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Opinion.

> 6. There seems to be too much standardized testing in public schools.

Opinion.

> 7. Prison is one of the worst places on the planet.

Opinion.

> 8. It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.

Opinion.

> 9. Sister Carrie was written by Theodore Dreiser.

Fact.

> 10. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won eleven Oscars (Academy Awards).

Fact.

> 11. Oranges contain both calcium and vitamin C.

Fact.

> 12. The television show The Simpsons is just not as funny as it used to be.

Opinion.

> 13. Diamonds are the hardest substance on Earth.

Fact.

> 14. McDonalds sells more hamburgers than any other restaurant chain in the world.

Fact.

> 15. Horse manure smells awful.

Opinion.

> 16. The price of gas has grown to become too expensive.

Opinion.

> 17. KFC has engineered “chickens” that do not have beaks and are double breasted.

Fact.

> 18. The more money someone has the more successful they are.

Opinion.

> 19. Vegetarians are healthier than people who eat meat.

Opinion.

> 20. Cell phones emit radiation that may or may not cause brain cancer.

Fact.

> 21. Students have a lot harder time in school than the teachers.

Opinion.

> 22. Popular music today is not as good as it was in the past.

Opinion.

> 23. It is illegal to yell out “Fire” in a crowded movie theater.

Fact.

> 24. People should not be allowed to talk on cell phones in a movie theater.

Opinion.

> 25. Drug dealers belong in prison.

Opinion.

Elliot Temple

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May 7, 2020, 3:13:42 PM5/7/20
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On May 6, 2020, at 11:04 PM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Wed, May 06, 2020 at 11:08:38AM -0700, Elliot Temple wrote:
>
>> Try some bing searches like
>>
>>> fact vs. opinion
>>
>> look around for standard meanings/explanations (not fancy math or CR epistemology).
>
> I tried your suggestion. It now seems to me that the fact/opinion distinction has to do with things like proof, evidence, and objectivity. People seem to use "fact" to refer to ideas that they think can be proven or disproven by objective evidence. People seem to use "opinions" to refer to ideas that are not facts and that reflect the holder's point of view, feelings, or values.

Yeah. The dichotomy doesn’t hold up 100% with correct epistemology but is reasonably understandable.

A fact is roughly something where you don’t have to use judgment, you have no choice about what to conclude and reasonable people ought to agree. Whereas opinions involve complex thinking that leaves room for discretion and disagreement. And people associate things like empirical observation, measurement, definitions/naming/identification (“that is a tree”), math and logic with facts. This is partly because those are areas where our culture has some more skill than some other areas. And it’s partly related to stuff like empiricism and inductivism. More broadly it’s related to massive overreaching by ~everyone in a lot of the areas labelled “opinion”. Also some confusion about context: people think ice cream flavor judgments are subjective because different people have different preferences. But that’s kinda like saying (bizarrely) that car designs are subjective because people vary in size so the ideal seat design isn’t the same for everyone.


> Below are some relevant quotes from pages I read on the subject. They are all listed on the first page of Bing results for [fact vs opinion]:
>
> https://www.journalism.org/2018/06/18/distinguishing-between-factual-and-opinion-statements-in-the-news/ :
>
>> whether members of the public can recognize news as factual – something that’s capable of being proved or disproved by objective evidence – or as an opinion that reflects the beliefs and values of whoever expressed it.
>
> https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-fact-and-opinion.htm :
>
>> Generally speaking, a fact is something that has actually happened or that is empirically true and can be supported by evidence. An opinion is a belief; it is normally subjective, meaning that it can vary based on a person's perspective, emotions, or individual understanding of something. For example, biological differences between males and females are a fact, while a preference for one gender over the other is opinion.
>>
>> Subjective and Objective
>>
>> According to most definitions, something is a fact if it matches objective reality. For something to be objective, it must be outside of the mind and not be based on feelings or biases. This is the opposite of an opinion, which is what an individual thinks or feels about a subject.
>
> https://www.registerednursing.org/teas/distinguishing-between-fact-opinion-biases-stereotypes/ :
>
>> A fact: A fact is a truth. A fact is a statement of truth that can be verified and is able to be proven as true.
>
>> An opinion: An opinion is a statement that reflects an author's or the speaker's point of view, beliefs, perspective, personal feelings, and values; opinions cannot be verified and proven to be true or false like a fact can be verified and proven to be true...
>
> https://www.ereadingworksheets.com/free-reading-worksheets/fact-and-opinion-worksheets/ :
>
>> I teach students that a fact is any statement that can be proven: “there are 10,000 feet in a mile.” Even though this statement is incorrect, I teach students that this is still a fact, even though it is not true.

Calling falsehoods “facts” is misleading. This will confuse students. 10k feet in a mile is an alleged fact that, on investigation, turns out to *not* be a fact. That doesn’t make it an opinion either. It could be someone’s opinion but it wasn’t this teacher’s actual opinion.

Instead of calling it a fact, you can call things a *factual matter* or a claimed/alleged/purported fact.

It’s a matter of fact, not opinion, whether there are 10,000 feet in a mile. But it isn’t a fact that there are, b/c saying that implies it’s actually true/correct.
It’d be better if the quiz was to say whether these were *factual matters* or *matters of opinion*. What you’re really doing is judging what category the statements go in.

I agreed with your answers. That’s based on some culturally standard guesses about meanings. Some of them are actually ambiguous, e.g. what counts as a “substance” for diamond being the hardest substance? Is a single proton a “substance” and if so is that harder than diamond? I don’t know. So you couldn’t exactly judge the claim as true or false without better defining what it means. And trying to interpret what the asker may have meant, if you can’t get clarification, can get into the realm of opinion and judgment.

Elliot Temple
www.fallibleideas.com

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 8, 2020, 4:08:48 AM5/8/20
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On Tue, Apr 28, 2020 at 12:19 AM Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> On Apr 27, 2020, at 9:07 PM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> On Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 04:17:42AM -0400, Anne B wrote:

>>> The mistakes I’m interested in are:
>>>
>>> - Saying things that aren’t true

>> I think that "unclear statements" would be a worthwhile addition to the list of mistakes [...]. That plus false statements covers a lot of ground.
>>
>> [...] it would help me if you could specify a recent post where you think you didn't make any false or unclear statements.

> BTW I’m guessing the intent of “false statements” is to refer to *factually* false statements, while the intent of "things that aren’t true” isn’t.

I intended "false statements" to refer to *all* false statements, not just false statements of fact. The distinction that people commonly make between opinions and statements of fact is unintuitive to me. When I took the quiz on opinions vs statements of fact [1] (see also Elliot's reply [2]), I frequently had to try to guess what I thought the questioner was looking for in order to get my answers to match the answer key.

[1] https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/LGDePsm8FO8/0P32-oU_AgAJ

[2] https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/LGDePsm8FO8/nrrJJpRqAgAJ

Elliot Temple

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May 14, 2020, 2:45:22 PM5/14/20
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Do you mean that you edited your answers *after* looking at the answer key, and you got some wrong before looking at the answers?

And if you’re saying you’re trying to avoid all errors, that runs into a major problem: you aren’t able to judge whether X is an error for all types of errors. So you have a goal that you can’t evaluate success or failure at. So that’s not actionable. So you must actually be either acting in an aimless, non-goal-directed fashion or be acting according to some other unstated goal.

Elliot Temple
www.fallibleideas.com

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 14, 2020, 11:03:33 PM5/14/20
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On Thu, May 14, 2020 at 2:45 PM Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> On May 8, 2020, at 1:08 AM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> On Tue, Apr 28, 2020 at 12:19 AM Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

>>> On Apr 27, 2020, at 9:07 PM, Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

>>>> On Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 04:17:42AM -0400, Anne B wrote:

>>>>> The mistakes I’m interested in are:
>>>>>
>>>>> - Saying things that aren’t true

>>>> I think that "unclear statements" would be a worthwhile addition to the list of mistakes [...]. That plus false statements covers a lot of ground.
>>>>
>>>> [...] it would help me if you could specify a recent post where you think you didn't make any false or unclear statements.

>>> BTW I’m guessing the intent of “false statements” is to refer to *factually* false statements, while the intent of "things that aren’t true” isn’t.

>> I intended "false statements" to refer to *all* false statements, not just false statements of fact. The distinction that people commonly make between opinions and statements of fact is unintuitive to me. When I took the quiz on opinions vs statements of fact [1] (see also Elliot's reply [2]), I frequently had to try to guess what I thought the questioner was looking for in order to get my answers to match the answer key.
>>
>> [1] https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/LGDePsm8FO8/0P32-oU_AgAJ
>>
>> [2] https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/LGDePsm8FO8/nrrJJpRqAgAJ

> Do you mean that you edited your answers *after* looking at the answer key, and you got some wrong before looking at the answers?

No, I don't mean that.

> And if you’re saying you’re trying to avoid all errors,

No, I'm not saying that I'm trying to avoid *all errors*. When I say that I'm trying (in my writing) to avoid *false statements*, I'm referring to a particular kind of error.

> that runs into a major problem: you aren’t able to judge whether X is an error for all types of errors.

I see what you mean. I think that criticism that applies to multiple items on my writing checklist [1], namely: *false statements*, *unclear statements*, *non sequiturs*, and *formatting errors*.

> So you have a goal that you can’t evaluate success or failure at. So that’s not actionable. So you must actually be either acting in an aimless, non-goal-directed fashion or be acting according to some other unstated goal.

I think that makes sense.

As a tangent, here's one reason that my writing checklist has the items it does. Writing postmortems for errors is valuable, but I feared I would be overwhelmed if I tried to write one whenever I learned of any error in my writing. That's because I make lots of writing errors that I already know about (including misusing commas and organizing things poorly). I expect I also make other errors that I don't know about. I expect I would also make the aforementioned kinds of errors in my postmortems, which would then trigger other postmortems. So I made a list of errors that I thought I could avoid well enough to not be overwhelmed by writing a postmortem ~every time I learned that I made an error on my list.

I intended that my writing checklist would grow as I learned. For example, I intended to add *misusing commas* and other grammar errors once I learned enough about those things.

Aside from maintaining a narrow list of postmortem-worthy mistakes, there are other approaches I could use to decide when to write a postmortem without being overwhelmed. Brainstorming:

- When I learn of an error in my writing, I could roll dX and write a postmortem if it comes up 1.

- I could write a postmortem for at most X mistakes per week (or per post).

- I could decide not not to write postmortems for errors in my postmortems.

Possibly in combination with the above, I could try to get faster at writing postmortems. That way I could write more of them without being overwhelmed.

[1] My writing checklist is a section of what I've been calling my Paths Forward doc: https://hg.sr.ht/~petrogradphilosopher/fi/raw/pf.md?rev=default . (It's really more of a learning plan. I intend to move the learning plan stuff into a separate doc at some point.)

Elliot Temple

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May 16, 2020, 2:18:31 PM5/16/20
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Better to do goals where you make fewer (relevant aka decisive aka failure-causing) errors so you don’t need to limit post-mortems or limit error categories that you pay attention to. Better if you pay attention to all errors that cause failure at your goal(s). If that’s too many, pick goals that are more achievable for you instead of ignoring some errors (even temporarily) and therefore failing. Better to pick easier goals and succeed than pick harder goals and fail. (There is some common sense that tries to say otherwise. Work on something hard (X), fail but learn a lot. What’s going on there is success at many sub-goals of X. And you’d be better off if success at X was never your goal, so you didn’t expect X to happen and didn’t fail. If your goal was to learn about and explore some X-related stuff and succeed at some sub-goals, and then you succeeded as planned, that’d be better. Such things can be done with hard Xs. There are many ways your goals can deal with hard or advanced things without setting you up for failure.)

Elliot Temple
www.curi.us

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