Comments on: Reality Check A revolution in time. Thu, 11 Apr 2013 01:11:28 +0000 hourly 1 By: JenniferRM JenniferRM Mon, 18 Jun 2012 00:46:57 +0000 I’ve been reading sporadically for perhaps six months but never commented before. I really appreciate the dissemination of expert knowledge and your personal passion, though I have little free time at the moment to devote to cryonics issues. In my misspent youth, I worked on a metrics team for an online video startup. A lot of what I learned is intensely banal: sex sells, engagement follows a power law, there will be a handful of regulars, a larger number of semi-regular casual users, and most people show up once and never return. The best place I know on the web to find low-effort high-impact thinking on the subject of knowledge driven web optimization is Jakob Nielsen’s newsletters on practical usability research. A lot of these techniques gain their value in light of concrete goals for a website, operationalized in terms of things that can be directly measured. Do you want people to buy a book? Do you want them to join an organization? Sign up for a mailing list? Do you want to plant seeds and water them so that many people learn each of the 200 things that will lead them to participate in cryonics 10 years from now, even if they never engage with you directly?

I wouldn’t want your blog to lose its intellectual tone in favor of “glib accessibility”… but at the same time I think some of the graphs you show (and thus some of the reality behind the data) appear chaotic because small issues (like how pithy and intriguing the titles are) are probably having outsized impacts on what is read and what isn’t. Find out why you want to click on this!

What I value about your blog is the unique voice and content that seems deeply based in both experience and theory. I predict (but am not sure) that I would be fascinated to read a lot of little “Aesops” in the form of real stories from real life, that taught you important and practical lessons related to cryonics activism.

For myself, something that has caused me to not come back to your blog regularly was the sense that I arrived late to a party that is already winding down. It seemed that you viewed the blog as a temporary experiment, were moderately dissatisfied with the outcome of the experiment, and thus were likely to not post very much of interest going forward. This was months ago, but it suggested the best content was in the past so I went trawling through the archives in a new browser window, opened about 20 of the most interesting sounding articles in new tabs, and spent spare minutes over the next few weeks reading and then closing tabs in that window (with minor tab explosions based on outlinks and tangents) boiling the intellectual gestalt down to a few of the most informative pages.

If you want to grow an enduring community of readers and commenters you need to engage people’s dopamine-driven “temporal difference learning” processes by giving them a single action that semi-reliably delivers something of surprisingly high value… basically get them addicted to your landing page. Writing more and smaller essays and encouraging readers to expect more such content extending off into the arbitrary future might be helpful here. Again, a lot depends on what you actually want to accomplish with the site, and how much of this can be operationalized in terms of website metrics. Operationalizing can be very tricky.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for my keys.”

“Where’d you lose them?”

Pointing… “Way over there!”

“Then why are you looking here?!”

“The light is better.”

By: chronopause chronopause Wed, 30 May 2012 21:57:44 +0000 My understanding is that the statistical engine only counts posts accessed directly – not those that are up on the homepage or are scrolled to by accessing the homepage. For my purposes (so far) that’s acceptable, because, if anything, it will yield a lower number of views per page – which is probably more reflective of the actual interest.

I want to be clear that I am not resistant to making the changes you suggest, I simply have no idea how to go about it. I have a singular lack of aptitude in this area, and while I am not proud of that fact, neither am I ashamed of it. Nobody is good at everything, and while I am very good at a number of things; alas, this is not one of them. I only recently discovered how to obtain statistics for individual posts by accidentally clicking on the microscopic icon which appears next to the titles of those posts which make the “top lists” on the stats page. All of my attempts to add plug ins, and to modify features, have either failed, or caused problems. This is simply not my forte.

The only person who has provided material help with the blog is Eugen Leitl, who is in Germany, has a family, a demanding job, and is, in short a busy person. Since Chronosphere was launched, I have made a number of requests for support of various kinds – everything from help in preparing a checklist to evaluate cryonics organizations, to requests for writing input, ranging from book and movie reviews, to feature articles. One person did submit an article for publication, but other than that, there has been no response. I am grateful for the comments received, but they are surprisingly few in number, albeit quite high in quality. This lack of interest, involvement and “traction” (as Mark Plus so elegantly puts it) has made me dubious about continuing my efforts here. Which brings me to to the issue of metrics.

I am critically interested in metrics because I am, first and foremost, a scientist. Numbers aren’t everything, and they can be pretty useless absent the proper context for interpretation. Unfortunately, the data I really need are, to my knowledge, not accessible. What I would really like to know is who and how many people of a certain demographic are being materially influenced by what appears here? Clearly, if all my avid readers are 90+ year old residents of care homes, the long term impact of what I’m doing here will be nil. Raw numbers of hits, or even numbers with “time on page,” don’t amount to much if the readers are not getting the message or are (for whatever reasons) completely disempowered or disinclined to act on it.

I sometimes wonder if I am repeating the Saul Kent/CSNY mistake of the late 1960s and early 1970s with CRYONICS REPORTS, CSNY’s monthly magazine. CRYONICS REPORTS had (for the time) very high production values relative to what was actually present organizationally (essentially nothing). It was, in fact, impossible for most people to understand that the magazine was essentially the work of one man – one man working pretty much alone. That misunderstanding shouldn’t be the case with Chronosphere, because, due to computing technology, I am not only producing Chronosphere alone, I am producing it in essentially total isolation. There is no “office staff” nor any “distributed staff” to consult with. Communication with Eugen regarding the mechanics of the blog is extremely difficult, because he is not here to show me, step by step, how things work. This is, BTW, why, despite the marvels of Skype and computing, people still have such synergy when they are working together in the same place; otherwise there would be none of those costly, sprawling edifices housing Google, Facebook, and other such venues in Silicon Valley. Computers give the illusion of a broad bandwidth of communication, when in reality, it is still relatively narrow. Despite the visceral disgust it evokes in me, one function of social network apps like Twitter and Facebook is to emulate the broad bandwidth of communication that exists when people are in each others’ presence. For instance, if I were to announce that I corresponded with the late Richard Fenyman, and therefore knew him well, no one would give the slightest credibility to such an assertion. However, if I stated that I lived with him for a year, well, that’s another matter altogether. [For the record, I did neither.]

And so it goes with efforts like this one. I’m doing what I do really well here. But I can’t (and won’t attempt) to do what I can’t do here ;-).

Finally, this is all just by way of explanation. The above isn’t delivered as either a rant or a complaint. Neither would do any good, and in any event, they don’t reflect my state of mind. This is just the way it is, and other than explaining that, and reaching out for assistance as I have done in the past, I don’t know that there is anything more that can be done or said. — Mike Darwin

By: Jordan Sparks Jordan Sparks Mon, 28 May 2012 04:24:16 +0000 Your stats would have been far more meaningful if the main page of your blog did not have copies of all the articles. The main page should have links only. I remember that it took me weeks to figure out that all comments were on sub-pages. An important rule of site organization is to not have the same data in two places. If I had known that you were this interested in metrics, I would have mentioned it earlier.

By: chronopause chronopause Sat, 26 May 2012 20:21:00 +0000 I’m sure your talk will be excellent! And in any event, if you gave it 4,000 times; twice to every cryonicist in the world, you would still be a refreshing speaker with a refreshing topic and much work to do. I would really like for you write an article, or put the text of your talk here, on Chronosphere, even if you publish it elsewhere, first. It is an important part of the “insight” that is being generated here – not just by my articles, but by the comments. Comments which have had equally important thoughts and insights – those from you and Cath Woof come immediately to mind.

Framing has been used with mind-boggling success by gay activists to successfully sell a lifestyle that has greater associated morbidity and mortality than moderate tobacco and alcohol abuse combined. Surely cryonics can achieve some small fraction of that success with sound science, competent communications (aka marketing) and excellence in the delivery of its physical and social services. It is now clear, or soon will be, that the extant cryonics organizations are not capable of doing that. They want to do it, they understand that the need to do it, but they simply cannot. I am increasingly convinced that, one way or another, that vacuum will not long remain unfilled. — Mike Darwin

By: chronopause chronopause Sat, 26 May 2012 20:05:12 +0000 By all means! Let see them! I have also looked at the stats for Wikipedia pages for CI, Alcor, and a number of related individuals and topics. They have been eye-opening. The Alcor Wikipedia page had ~3,5000 visitors in the last 30 days as compared with ~8,400 visitors to Chronosphere over the same time period. Now, it is likely that fractionally more of the visitors to the Alcor Wikipedia page were “serious” visitors seeking information about Alcor and cryonics than is the case with Chronosphere. However, if even half of the visitors to Chronosphere are, in fact, seeking information directly related to cryonics (the overwhelming topic on Chronosphere) then we are doing considerably better than the Alcor Wikipedia page.

That may have even more significance than it might appear at first blush, because Alcor Wikipedia page visits are likely to serve as surrogate marker (+ or – say, 50%) for the number of visits to the Alcor webpage. The number of visits to the CI Wikipedia page was 1,660 over the same 30 day period. I believe this disparity between Alcor and CI is likely in significant that both the Alcor Wikipedia and Alcor Alcor web pages offer more attractive and diverse content.

The surprising – no shocking – thing for me was to realize that cryonics and the two largest cryonics organizations attract so little (both absolutely and comparatively) little interest on the premier free go-to site for information about just about anything the world over (Wikipedia). I had imagined that if Chronosphere was getting ~8,400 visitors a month that the Wikipedia cryonics page must be getting at least several orders of magnitude more and Alcor’s own webpage vast more in the bargain. Ditto “Evidenced Based Cryonics” – “Depressed Metabolism,” and the “Cryonics Society” website. Looking for surrogates for the “popularity” of cryonics has forced me to rethink this, and to rethink the apparent “failure” of Chronosphere.

Ain’t science wonderful?

Send me your stats and I’ll integrate them, along with the others I’ve mentioned above, into the article, or an addendum to it. — Mike Darwin

By: gwern gwern Sat, 26 May 2012 15:59:45 +0000 I have one cryonics-only page for which I could provide any analytics:

By: Mark Plus Mark Plus Sat, 26 May 2012 15:54:42 +0000 >Cryonicists long endlessly for the powers of the gods – and yet, when given them in telecommunications, computing, data accessibility and analysis – they do not use them and indeed, are seemingly oblivious to their very existence

Well, gee, Mike. I guess I don’t have to give my talk next week end. You’ve done a lot of it for me.

Actually I wanted to explore whether cognitive science can shed some light on why the cryonics idea fails to communicate. Our current educational system tends to teach us a way of thinking dating probably from Cartesian philosophy in the 17th Century, which I call “Cartesian reason” (CR), that just happens to get a lot of things wrong about how the mind works according to the current findings of cognitive science.

For example, CR holds that people generally act in their rational self interest. But cognitive linguist George Lakoff argues instead that people act according to frames of values and identity/relationships, which often conflict with rational self-interest. (Lakoff has a political agenda and argues that the framing process makes people vote against their self interests when they vote for conservatives, when I don’t think that necessarily follows.) That would explain why men concede that cryonics could serve their self interest in staying alive, but they don’t want to sign up because it would upset their wives or make them lose status among their colleagues by doing something “weird.”

Similarly, the CR model holds that “the truth will set us free,” whereas cognitive science has found that the mind processes ideas through frames, again, and rejects the ones which don’t fit into the frames even if the facts and the inferences support them. Cryonics has some serious framing issues which come up every time a cryonicist talks about getting frozen “after death,” or wanting to “cheat death,” or otherwise alluding to the death frame. We would probably do better to frame cryonics consistently as a form of experimental medicine where we treat cryonauts as stabilized trauma patients with currently unknown prognoses which depend on the progress of medicine.

Unfortunately CI has already capitulated to regulation as a “cemetery,” which doesn’t help at all in framing cryonics in ways favorable to us. (That shows the disadvantages of CI’s threadbare financial model: it lacks the resources to protect itself legally, and it probably will lose other legal challenges in the future for the same reason.) We cryonicists talk a good game about our intellectual sophistication, but our adherence to the naive CR way of thinking when, for example, conservative think tanks have given conservative ideas traction in the culture through the sophisticated application of framing and the use of the media, shows that we have fallen behind the times. And we would also benefit from cracking open a neuroscience textbook and learning the subject before we post stuff about the brain on the internet which makes neuroscientists like P.Z. Myers laugh at us.

But then what do I know? I just run a motel.

By: chronopause chronopause Fri, 25 May 2012 23:07:19 +0000 Again, I find myself surprised that this article has provoked not a single comment. There is a lot of data in this post – much of which I cannot interpret. But, perhaps more importantly, there is a complete lack of context in which to interpret the data, because there are no publicly available data (that I know of) on how other on-line cryonics information venues are performing. I’m surprised that members and contributors to Alcor, ACS, CI, the Cryonics Society and other cryonics related blogs and websites do not ask for, or even demand accountability for the performance of these venues.

I can go to, which is the statistics page for the Wikipedia “cryonics” entry and discover that the cryonics page has been viewed 78,405 times in the last 90 days. What’s more, I can get far more detailed statistics, if I so choose. How do the websites and blogs of other cryonics and cryonics-related on-line venues compare?

The no-feedback problem is, to a considerable extent, an inherent flaw in the biomedical aspects of cryonics. However, in almost every aspect of cryonics operations it does not pertain. Over the ~50 year history of cryonics the most consistent complaint and the most called for item for action (by members and non-members alike) is to somehow improve or or remake the *marketing and communication* of cryonics to the world at large, and to the various micro-communities within it, that might have a special susceptibility to our message.

And yet, from this area of endeavor, which now operates mostly on-line, there is unarguably even less feedback about success or failure (or even just straightforward raw data) than there is from the physical cryopreservation process itself.

I find that incredible.

The only thing I find more incredible is the absence of curiosity about this issue on the part of the ~2K cryonicists now inhabiting the planet. Statistical engines of enormous power are now available essentially for the trivial cost in time of learning to master them, and the only slightly greater cost in time of putting them to use and reporting the data – whether it is interpreted in-house, or not.

Cryonicists long endlessly for the powers of the gods – and yet, when given them in telecommunications, computing, data accessibility and analysis – they do not use them and indeed, are seemingly oblivious to their very existence

How very strange. — Mike Darwin