What Is The Project Registration Database?


The Project Registration Database is a project to build a central record of experiments and projects before they implode and no one wants to write about them at all. Right now it's meant to be used by members of the LessWrong Diaspora, but in theory there's no reason it couldn't serve a wider audience.

Contents

Features

Search - This wiki site's standard search feature indexes the entries, letting you do full text search over them.

Blockchain Backing - To help fulfill the core function of a preregistration database, we've implemented trusted timestamping with OriginStamp.

RSS - An RSS feed of entries is available.

Frequently Asked Questions

What sort of project is eligible?

The following types of project are eligible:

So what should I know before I use this?

You should be familiar with the general concept and purpose of a preregistration database. The quality of your entry will probably be significantly improved if you answer the questions on our project litmus test page before filing.

How does this trusted timestamping business prove I made an entry?

It doesn't. By default our database does not prove the identity of a filer (this is impossible to do in a simple web form). If you would like to be able to prove you're the one that submitted a particular entry, or remove the ability for you to claim you didn't make an entry later, you should either sign the entry yourself with a cryptographic key or have a trustworthy witness do that for you. If you do not have a trustworthy witness who is familiar with public key cryptography, the administrator of this database is willing to perform some witness functions for you by request. Email jd@fortforecast.com for more information.

Who is sponsoring this?

This database is sponsored by FortForecast.

Why preregister?

Well, it helps us keep track of what's being tried in the community. It stops the selection bias where only successful ideas are reported. Knowing about the things that didn't work is important but harder to record once the lack of success is known.

Sounds nice, but what's in it for me?

In general how I would like the incentives to work is that when you register, that makes you more likely to get assistance and recruits for whatever you're doing. If you're taking some kind of useful action towards a broadly community-aligned goal, that's good and you should let us know so we can help you. Right now towards this end we've added an RSS feed that interested parties can follow. In the future we're looking at trying to build up a support network or workshop that will help you if you register with a well formed idea and credible movement towards working on it.

This process is also meant to help organize your project for success. A large part of why I'm doing this is that I want to get people in the habit of putting the contact info for their project out there, and if their project doesn't have contact channels, creating them so we can interact. Letting people know where to go for updates will help build the audience and engagement that will keep you going through the rough periods. Ideally it will also make you more credible if people reading your success stories know you're not shy about the ones which aren't quite as fun to crow about.

That whole blockchain bit seems like way too much complexity, why?

Because it's easy, adds value and there's no real reason not to. Seriously, this is like a handful of days of extra effort to implement on a project that would otherwise be an arbitrary web form. Nothing is lost by doing it, quite a bit is plausibly gained.

How do I verify a timestamp?

Timestamps can be verified through the following steps:

Blockchain Backing

You may have read that this database is blockchain backed and wondered precisely what that means. The short version is that each entry is hashed, and then submitted through OriginStamp to the Bitcoin blockchain. However just as likely your question isn't how this is done so much as why. The long answer then is as follows.

Why Trusted Timestamping For A Preregistration Database

Theoretical Motivation: To prove that an administrator of a preregistration database has not modified entries in a way which favors a party since their submission.

Practical Motivation: I have a handful of practical motivators for solving this problem.

User Request - The original person who proposed I build a preregistration system insisted on a trusted timestamping feature.
Proof Of Effort - Ultimately my system is currently ‘'just a web form”. When the effort to create something is low enough there are reasonable questions about the creators commitment. This is a hopefully original contribution that proves I care about the problem.
Provably Trustworthy - Being able to program a trusted timestamping behavior allows me to use technical means to achieve the sort of trust Twitter and other social media services have for proving time socially.
Augments Social Trust - Certain kinds of lies become a lot harder to pull off if there’s a provable record of when a document was made. While this system doesn’t prove authorship, it does help forestall claims like “you just made that up to assist your argument!”.
Technically Feasible - Realistically I looked at the effort required to do this and said “Well wait, if I put in a few more days of effort I can leverage Bitcoin as a trustworthy 3rd party, that’s an obvious win.”