As far as I’ve been able to find, there is nothing else like Gradient Descent on the Internet. That’s why I created it. If there were another forum like this one, I would have just joined that, instead of putting money, time, and effort into this site.
What else exists:
There are at least two Slack communities for students taking online courses on autonomous cars. These are the closest to what I aspire to with Gradient Descent, but 1) there is understandably a focus on course work and 2) Slack doesn’t provide the same functionality as a forum (e.g. there are channels or chat rooms rather than threads, and on the free tier old messages disappear forever).
The Autonomous Vehicles subforum on Tesla Motors Club potentially could have been (and maybe still could be) a great resource, but after years of going without any moderation, it is rife with harassment, abuse, trolling, snark, and hostility. It isn’t a good place or a fun place to learn. As a subforum of a Tesla fan club, it obviously has a pro-Tesla bias, which is also attractive to people with a strong anti-Tesla bias who want to argue with Tesla fans (or just call them stupid). Mixed in with that is Tesla owners complaining about Autopilot or software price changes or whatever, and other owners arguing with them. It ends up being a lot of discussion about Tesla stuff that isn’t directly related to the details of autonomous driving technology. So, the quality and civility of discussion is not great.
The public service that Gradient Descent can provide:
The ideal behind Gradient Descent is a learning community for people who are curious about the technical details of self-driving cars, and who want to discuss them with other people. An individual can learn a lot on their own, but two heads are better than one, and four heads are better than two. Other people can answer questions, offer good, thoughtful criticism of ideas, and share information and ideas of their own. Plus, having people to talk to about a subject makes learning a lot more fun.
The three guidelines of Gradient Descent are:
- Be kind.
- Be open-minded.
- Advance the discussion.
That means the two main purposes of the forum are to learn and to teach (without being mean or condescending about it). The purpose is not to score points, “win” arguments, make salty quips, express moral condemnation, or “inform” others of their intellectual inferiority. Patience, kindness, generosity — that’s the atmosphere I want to cultivate. A safe learning environment. That’s something unique.
The open problem:
I think there are a lot of people out there who would genuinely enjoy this forum. Even some who are already looking for something like this. The question is: how can we reach them?
One idea I just had is to sponsor a relevant YouTube channel or podcast. But this might be exorbitantly expensive. For a podcast, the going rate is $15 for a 10-second spot on a podcast per 1,000 average listeners. To be affordable, it would have to be a very small podcast or YouTube channel (assuming the rate for YouTube is similar).
Any other ideas?