KW Rationality Report – Summer 2023

This was going to be a discord post but then it got really, really long. So now it’s here instead.

Feedback Form Results (N=11)

Attendance Stats

For context, meetups have been happening at a weekly clip since January. At the time this form was sent out, there had been 25 meetups so far this year.

Overall Rating

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Seems like people are pretty satisfied with most things, I’m comfortable awarding myself an A- based on this chart. Seems like I’m overall better at enabling things at my meetups than actually running them, and I can also do a little more discord wrangling.

Ratings of Specific Meetups

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People seem to be pretty happy with the events in general.

There’s a few people who dislike when we do things that are too “normie” without any sort of rationalist component, like when we just went skating, or the tea tasting meetup – pretty fair! In retrospect I think skating should have been an auxiliary event (event that doesn’t take up the weekly main slot). There also were a few events where I could have leaned into a more rationalist framework to contrast with the more normal social things we were doing. In the future, I’ll put more of an effort into ensuring that mainline events will have a noticeable rationalist slant, unless it’s like a truly extenuating thing.

There also seems to be a preference for meetups that were weird and involved more active stuff. This is pretty expected.

An overwhelming preference for the amount of unpleasant experiences to stay the same has been duly noted >:^)


I got a new job and now Fridays work a lot better for me for hosting meetups. I’d be fine to keep them on Thursdays if it turned out that Fridays don’t work well for most folks. But based on the results it seems like Fridays work just as well as Thursdays, so Fridays it is going forwards.

If regular attendance drops pretty significantly in practice (say, if fewer than 50% of meetups from now until the end of September get 8+ people), I’d consider moving them back to Thursdays.

Summery Stuff

I’ll try to get traction on the first 4 things. Jeez, is it almost August already?? I’m realizing that maybe I’m pretty bad at organizing bigger events.

Re cottage: I don’t think there’s enough traction/$ in KWR for it to make sense, but someone brought up a joint thing with maybe the Ottawa rats. I might also reach out to some Toronto folks? And maybe we can do a little shindig in the fall or winter.

Freeform Notes

First off, lots of you left really nice, positive notes! Thanks guys😊
I won’t talk about them at length here because my head is already sufficiently big, but they were really sweet <3

A few things got brought up in multiple comments so I’ll discuss them in more detail here:

Being More Rational(ist)

Have you ever thought about hosting CFAR like events?

Or since we our club is about rationality, maybe we should talk about Bayes rule or cover common biases. Fostering good epistemics seems important, but I’m not if it’s something that you can control in a group setting.

I do think hosting more CFAR-ish workshops could be good. I haven’t actually attended any CFAR workshops so you’ll be getting them thirdhand at best.

Bayes rule and common biases – honestly, the reason that I haven’t done a meetup on this is that it’s difficult to plan a compelling meetup around – the content just seems very 101! Until you get into the math, and then it’s, well, math. If any of y’all can point me towards some sort of simple math game that we can play to better internalize bayesian stats I’d be happy to run it.

For the field trip, I think it was a bit far from usual rationalist stuff. Which would be fine if we spent some time after the field trip discussing stuff we saw there in more rationalist terms, and how they could be useful for us. But I realize this may not have been done only due to time constraints.

Yeah, I also kinda felt like we should have done more discussion on the rationalist stuff after the farm field trip! Mostly it was logistically hard since the farm was far from any sort of secondary venue, it went on longer than expencted, and it would feel bad plopping down in a circle in this nice woman’s field to be audibly skeptical at her lol.

I think perhaps if we do something like this again, I’ll set up a bar or something for us to meet at afterwards to discuss.

Discussion Unevenness

I feel like the intellectual environment… I guess I feel like it could use some work. We have a few people who have a lot of raw brainpower and/or knowledge and/or are good at quickly coming up with things to say, and they tend to dominate the intellectual discussions we have. At the same time, I don’t necessarily want discussions to proceed at the pace of the person who’s following along the least. Still, a lot of the time, I feel out of my depth and can’t participate, or feel like there’s something vaguely wrong with what someone is saying but can’t quickly come up with a rebuttal, or feel like I want to ask a follow-up question but don’t know what to ask. I don’t really like these feelings. I guess that part of this is that I need to level up to participate fully in our discussions. But I think we could change something about the way discussions are run to improve this, too.

I like the Discord but I don’t participate much. I think part of me feels like I should be posting semi-polished messages in there, especially during a serious discussion. And that doesn’t feel worth the investment a lot of the time. Or the same thing happens in Discord as at in-person meetups where I feel like the other people in the conversation have much more knowledge of the discussion topic than me so I defer to them.

Thanks for this feedback. I think we can definitely change the way the discussions are run to improve this somewhat – will think on this more. One thing I’ll pilot is reminding people at the beginning of meetups that it’s ok to do group moderation and to try to equalize the amount of discussion in the group (i.e. if you’re noticing that you’re speaking more than average, try to speak less; and if you’re noticing that you’re being quiet, speak up more).

Some of this does feel kind of internal, though, and I’d like to encourage you to say more things that sound confused, ask questions, and say things like “that doesn’t sound right but I’m not sure why”.

This goes doubly for the discord – don’t think about polish, just poast! The same way that the optimal amount of fraud is non-zero, the optimal amount of bad posts is non-zero. KWRD can and should have so many more bad posts in it than it currently does. I promise I’ll let y’all know very loudly if the quality of the discord is getting bad.

I get the idea behind having set mingling/switchover times during meetings where the group is large enough to need to split into subgroups, but I often feel a bit trapped when the conversation in my subgroup turns to something that doesn’t interest me. (It seems like it often tends to drift more towards bappable topics when you are not in the same subgroup. Perhaps I should carry a newspaper too…)

Something I want to make more explicit is the idea that you’re allowed to move between groups, but I think I’ve been a bit worried that that’ll just result in clumping. Ideally, people should feel free to change groups whenever, but also keep an eye out on group sizes, and voluntarily split off if they realize the group they’re in is getting large. We can try putting this in practice.

Intellectual environment: I put a “Good” not “Great!” because I think about half the discussions in the events I’ve been to have been thought-provoking or model-updating kinda thing, the rest were more social and fun – I don’t have a specific preference for this breakdown but I know I can contribute more as well so this one is on me as well haha!

That’s a good clarification! I do want to keep it a mix of social/fun and content that can lead to epistemic updates, so I’m pretty satisfied with the mix that you report.


yeah I wish the discord was a slightly more toxic. Jk I really like how it’s setup currently.

I think the Discord is great, but I wish the level of activity was more consistent. Some days the Discord is very active and I spend a lot of time on it (which I enjoy). And then it goes quiet for many days afterwards. I think I would prefer more consistent activity because a consistent level of socializing is good, or something. I also realized there is no real way to enforce this.

If you want to see more activity in the discord, post more! I can also try to stimulate discussion in the discord a little more, but I don’t think that’s going to be a priority for me in the near future – I’d like to work more on making the IRL meetups more polished first.


I like the snacks. I eat enough unhealthy snacks the rest of the week lol

I love the snacks.

it’s a really fun group to be a part of and I hope to attend more meetings soon and eat more of your not-at-all-aggravatingly-healthy food:)


I found that the snacks were more appealing (positively connotated) when they were placed on a central table rather than off to the side, and when they were composed of ~separate pieces rather than a handful of granola or cutting off a slice of something then and there. It felt much more sanitary, to be able to observe what was being touched how.

Noted! I’m trying to do a new thing too where people have plates that they can pile snacks on and return to discussions with plates of snacks.

IRL Feedback

In addition to the form, some folks provided feedback at an in-person session, and through some small group/one on one conversations. Here are my notes:

  • People were interested in doing more summery stuff, like barbecues, starrgazing, day trips out to other towns.
  • People liked meetups that were more focused on “doing things” – field trips, sports, authentic relating, lightning talks, etc.
  • Despite liking readings meetups less, they should absolutely be kept for group identity purposes. There’s a sentiment that coming to readings meetups was like eating your vegetables; healthy but not particularly thrilling.
  • EA collabs are good and we should do more of them. My ideal amount might be something like twice a school term, so 6 times a year.
  • For readings meetups, the format where we stick together in a large group to do a mostly facts-based summarizing of the readings, before splitting up into small groups for discussion, is pretty good.
  • I spazzed out when teens first started joining the meetups and I should have been more chill/made less of a deal about it. (Fully agree with this! Sorry teens!)

On Metameetups

  • The plan was to have a meetup every 6 months or so focused on checking in on the group and making it better.
  • So far, we’ve had 2 metameetup events, and they were both very poorly attended and that makes me :-(. Going forwards, I plan on gathering most feedback from forms instead.
  • There might still be metameetup events, but if they happen they’ll be half metameetup and half something else.

Looking Forwards

With all of this info, here are some things I’m aiming to do in the second half of the year:

  • Continue to feed you all “aggravatingly healthy” snacks.
  • At events, find a time to do a regular spiel about what we’re here for (tenatively: to advance the act of rationality, and to make you better, wiser, or weirder), and something that enables people to feel better about group automoderation (blah blah equalizing conversational tempo).
  • Also try to encourage people to move around in discussions more.
  • And in general experiment more with ways of getting people to feel comfier participating and having better quality conversation.
  • Hold mainline events to more of a rationalist standard.
  • Try to head off my propensity towards the planning fallacy and organize some summer events, dangit. Concretely: let’s try to do a stargazing trip and a barbecue by the end of August. I’ll also reach out to the Kitchener tour guide I like.
  • Sort of relatedly – I really want to work on the bus factor of this meetup, so I’ll still be calling on the rest of y’all to run things once in a while.

Ok, whew! I think that’s all I have to say about KWR. Thanks for reading this far if you did, and thanks for continuing to come to my silly little events. They’re not as cool without you there.

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