- Beta Readers are Great
By Holden Karnofsky 2 min read

Beta Readers are Great

Back in January, I posted a call for "beta readers": people who read early drafts of my posts and give honest feedback.

The beta readers I picked up that way are one of my favorite things about having started Cold Takes.

Basically, one of my goals with Cold Takes has been to explain my weirdest views clearly, but it's hard to write clearly without detailed feedback on where I'm making sense and where I'm not. I have lots of preconceptions and assumptions that I don't naturally notice. And writing a blog alone doesn't get me that feedback, because:

  • Most people don't want to explain how they experienced a piece - if they aren't enjoying it, they just want to click away.
  • And the people who do want to help me out (e.g., friends and colleagues) aren't necessarily going to be honest enough, or representative enough of my target audience (which is basically "People who are interested in my topics but don't already have a ton of background on them").

I've tried a bunch of things to find good beta readers, from recruiting friends of friends (worked well for a bit, but I've written a lot of posts and it was hard to get sustained participation) to paying Mechanical Turk workers to give feedback (some was good, but in general they were uninterested in my weird topics and rushed through the readings and the feedback as fast they could).

The people who came in through the recruiting call in January have been just what I wanted: they're interested in the topics of Cold Takes, but they don't already know me and my thoughts on them, and they give impressively detailed, thoughtful feedback on their reactions to pieces - often a wonderful combination of "intelligent" and "honest that a lot of the stuff I was saying confused the hell out of them." Getting that kind of feedback has been a privilege.

So: THANK YOU to the following beta readers, each of whom has submitted at least 3 thoughtful reviews (and gave permission to be listed here):

Lars Axelsson

Jeremy Campbell

Kanad Chakrabarti

Craig Chatterton

Justin Dickerson

Ethan Edwards

Edward Gathuru

Stian Grønlund

Bridget Hanna

Tyler Heishman

Adam Jermyn

Elliot Jones

Ed William

Scott Leibrand

Evan R. Murphy

John O’Neill

Jaime Sevilla

Josh Simpson

Joshua Templeton

George Thoma

Martin Trouilloud

Morgan Wack

Kevin Whitaker

Arjun Yadav

Patrick Young

If you want to sign up as a beta reader, you can use this form. I have a bunch of drafts coming on AI, as I'm working on a sequel to the most important century series (working title is "The Most Important Century II: So What Do We Do?")