1

[EA Database] Update and calls for help

This is a follow up to the first post I wrote calling for a better EA database of links.

 

TL;DR:

Submit links for the EA wikia here: https://goo.gl/forms/4JkRviuBBB8iDEDA2 

Link to the EA library: http://wiki.effectivealtruismhub.com/index.php?title=Library

Help update the library by using sources from here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-1j_Ta4YufdUkpXOXdxZHllamM&usp=sharing 

Help suggest improvements to the structure of the page in the comments below.

Google drive folder I'm using to store all the materials for this folder: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-1j_Ta4YufdSUFneW01MXF6dFU&usp=sharing 

 

I've been tinkering with the EA wikia library for the last few days. Briefly, I liked the wikia option over other choices we had for several reasons: (1) as a wikia page unattached to any one gmail account, it is less likely to be lost in the blogosphere (As compared to a google document, for instance); (2) it seems to have been created almost exactly to facilitate what I wanted to see in a solid database; (3) it's attached to a pre-existing EA institution/website, which means we don't have to add another website to our growing list of EA affiliates. There are some downsides, primarily that Wikia is harder to edit and not as intuitive (I think) compared to a google doc, but I don't think these were strong enough of a case against the Wikia page (I'm willing to be persuaded, though).

I have been trying to find a format that will allow the wikia to absorb more links in the future and be a better platform for a solid collection of EA links. I've based the skeleton structure of the page (almost all of the headings and subheadings are new) based on models of how the community has structured content in the past - e.g. I took the headings of cause areas from the 2015 EA survey, and the headings of the career types from a 80k article. I also stole some heading ideas from Aaron Gertler's excellent original list of articles and generally used it as a source of example links under all of the headings on the page.

From my experience in working with projects similar to this before, it seems important to get the way we format this page right the first time around (especially the way we format each line of each piece of text - we can move existing text around to new subheadings later on). For instance, Gleb_T has made the excellent suggestion that each link be classified as beginner, intermediate and advanced, which I've tried to do on the "Introduction to EA" part of the wikia page. These types of suggestions are really helpful but easy to implement only in the first few steps of setting up a project like this, after which edits can get increasingly difficult.

The biggest concern I have with the current way I'm structuring this page is that there's no natural mechanism for me to deduce which links are the most helpful to read, and then highlighting those links accordingly. Ideally, I'd like a more natural way to sort through links quickly, but besides from creating a Reddit-like forum just to organize links through (I could set up a subreddit, but I'm concerned that not enough people will upvote things through it to make it worthwhile) I don't know what else I can do.

Besides from formatting concerns the other main issue is how this page will be maintained in the future. The Wikia page relatively fine to edit once you've learned how to, but I don't expect many people to voluntarily and directly add EA links to the wikia whenever they find them. I thought the better solution would be to generally publicize a google form for interested EAs to bookmark and submit links through, and then rely on volunteers to add those links [to the actual wikia library. I'm willing to book-keep for this project for now: Over the next month, I will commit to checking the spreadsheet attached to that google form once a week and adding new links to the library. I'll also be working steadily through a to do list to update some other parts of the library. From that time onwards, I will commit to checking the spreadsheet every two weeks and adding new links to the library. I'll review this project at the 2 month mark to see if it still seems like a useful thing to continue. Incidentally I think that updating this wikia could be an activity EA groups meet up to do occasionally in the future (or that student organizations contribute to), similar to Julia's Wiki-a-thon meeting, which I heard went well.

 

Calls for help

  • I'd really like more suggestions on how to improve the line-by-line formatting of the library, similar to what Glen commented in the previous post. Once I figure out a generally good way to format the site, I'll create a formatting guide that can hopefully pass down to future wikia volunteers. 
  • I'd also like help with improving the readability of the site, and in particular find ways to (1) condense down existing content and (2) showcase the best quality content. On (1), I'd particularly appreciate if anyone knew how to hide sections of the website the way you can on normal Wikipedia pages.
  • Other comments on the general structure of the page would also be appreciated, especially if they would require substantial changes. Suggestions on better headings/subheadings for the page would be really useful.
  • I'm willing to consider ways to create this database other than the Wikia library but those kinds of suggestions would be most useful now, instead of 1 month from now.
  • Most of all, I'd appreciate submissions of links to the website, through the following link: https://goo.gl/forms/4JkRviuBBB8iDEDA2 
  • Finally, if anyone else would like to help maintain the library page, particularly people who are more knowledgeable about the community / better at using Wikia than I am, I would massively appreciate the additional help.

Any and all suggestions are welcome!

 

Comments (6)

Comment author: Gleb_T  (EA Profile) 03 August 2016 02:07:53AM 1 point [-]

Meta-comment - this is a very worthwhile project! I'm not sure if the EA Forum is the best place to use for organizing this. Perhaps creating a Facebook group devoted to working on this project would be a nice way to go about organizing it, along with posting a project description on .impact, which is a venue for these kinds of EA meta-projects.

Comment author: angelinahli 03 August 2016 03:34:32AM 0 points [-]

That seems like a good idea! I'll keep the posts on this forum here for posterity but I'll move everything to facebook in a bit / post on .impact. Thanks for pointing me to those resources!

Comment author: Gleb_T  (EA Profile) 03 August 2016 02:34:06PM 0 points [-]

You're welcome!

Comment author: peppersghost  (EA Profile) 02 August 2016 01:09:27PM 1 point [-]

I have been thinking about this. One risk is that of increasing resource proliferation, i.e. that by adding more web pages for some purpose existing ones already fulfill, it will actually make it harder for someone to find either, or deem any of them more "authoritative" than others.

So one vast improvement to this project on top of the already excellent work you have done to extend the reading list/library and that everyone involved have done by providing the reading in the first place, would be to think about where it should live and how it is presented.

Judging by what happens when you google "effective altruism" the obvious place to keep a "semi-official" reading list/library is somewhere at http://www.effectivealtruism.org/

Specifically, I would suggest that clicking "Learn more" on the start page, then "Read more about EA" at the bottom of the page, should end up on another page on the same website with this entire reading list, divided into the three suggested levels (beginner etc.) so that it is obvious where to jump in. (The read more button currently points at http://effective-altruism.com/ea/6x/introduction_to_effective_altruism/ which is a somewhat sparse and partly outdated list of reading.)

Which brings up another important aspect that could help this project a lot: to make sure outdated resources (or those that have been superseded by better ones for the same purposes) disappear from the web altogether, or even redirects to the new page once it exists. This obviously needs to happen through friendly discussion with those behind all the other pages. To make sure people end up at some pages rather than others, combined with other search engine optimization techniques, is what could really make a difference when it comes to steering people in the right direction.

However great the reading list (and let me add again that it is really great!) it won't matter if people don't find it, and the best way to make that happen is to put it in the most obvious and easiest to find place.

Sorry for the braindumpy quality of this reply, please let me know if anything is unclear and I'll try to clarify it. What are your general thoughts on the above?

P.S. By profession I'm a web developer and I'd love to help out with the more technical parts of this project, if that kind of help is needed.

Comment author: angelinahli 03 August 2016 01:11:47AM *  0 points [-]

Hmm, okay. I appreciate your thoughts - thank you very much for sharing them. I really appreciate it. I'd vastly prefer if other people also weighed in on this because I don't have any formal expertise on any of these issues, just saw an opportunity to help and took it. I also want to stress that I don't own the page and you should feel free to jump in and make changes you feel strongly about - that's the whole point of decentralized control. That being said, some thoughts:

One risk is that of increasing resource proliferation, i.e. that by adding more web pages for some purpose existing ones already fulfill, it will actually make it harder for someone to find either, or deem any of them more "authoritative" than others.

Agreed. I preferred the Wiki page over Google doc alternatives for this reason, because it was an existing page already part of the EA website complex that I could co-opt with reasonable justification. But I concede that the Wikia doesn't seem to be much used (or at least, I didn't know about it until very recently despite a lot of internet browsing around EA issues) and so perhaps this could still be considered adding another website to the list. Do you have alternative suggestions for where something like this should be hosted? If the website was sufficiently linked to from other sources (e.g. at the "Read more about EA" section of the EA site), would this solve the problem, or do others remain?

Judging by what happens when you google "effective altruism" the obvious place to keep a "semi-official" reading list/library is somewhere at http://www.effectivealtruism.org/

I think there are merits to easily edited platforms like Wikia (for instance, there is a greater chance this will be revived in the future if/when it is deemed necessary) but please feel free to correct me on this, or argue why the advantages of switching domains outweigh the disadvantages. A small concern: I was hoping that this list would be helpful beyond the mere beginner level (i.e. for people like me), for instance by referencing people to debates about EA topics they wish to learn more about. For that purpose, I'm not sure effectivealtruism.org is actually the logical place to find such a site, because I'm not sure many EAs actually hang out there currently. (Maybe I'm just the outlier? I don't know.)

divided into the three suggested levels (beginner etc.) so that it is obvious where to jump in.

I have reservations on this particular suggestion. Right now I've tried to organize the Library by topic area, and I really want to have sections under each cause area for controversies - would it make sense to supersede this structure by instead organizing by level of difficulty? What I could do instead, for instance, is just organizing by difficulty level within each section - putting Beginners first and Intermediate second. Totally open to more thoughts on this though, because I haven't thought about it for a long time.

make sure outdated resources (or those that have been superseded by better ones for the same purposes) disappear from the web altogether, or even redirects to the new page once it exists.

I was hoping if/when the library became useful enough to outcompete existing introduction sheets, it would be naturally linked to from the other places EAs generally congregate (this website, maybe in the "Getting Started" section, Reddit, sticky-posted on Facebook, etc.). Before then, it seemed presumptive to suggest such a thing :)

I've also been thinking about what to do with the additional reading lists scattered around the web, and I'm neutral on my options. What I've done now is linked to the existing lists themselves (in the first section: "EA General Reading Lists"), but I could theoretically also have absorbed the content of those lists - i.e. the actual readings within them - and just given credit to others where credit was due. If the Wikia absorbs and

P.S. By profession I'm a web developer and I'd love to help out with the more technical parts of this project, if that kind of help is needed.

That is very kind of you! I'm going to send you a PM right after I post this.

--

OK, so a brief summary of questions to resolve:

  • Do we switch domains? (I'm leaning no but I've also sunk time into this so I might be biased or blind to the most compelling reasons. This also seems like the most pressing to concern.)
  • If not, how do we make sure this list is easy to find, if/when it's better than existing resources? (I agree on a mixture of more links to the page / better SEO - anything else to consider?)
  • What to do about the other resources, again if this list becomes better than existing ones?
  • How to structure such a thing - by topic area? by difficulty level? By topic then difficulty, or difficulty then topic?
Comment author: peppersghost  (EA Profile) 03 August 2016 07:25:10AM 0 points [-]

I think the second best option is to put this on its own website, something like ealibrary.org or such. Then we would have complete freedom in modifying all parts (design, structure, meta data and similar for search engines, social link integration, etc. etc.) and it's more focused, easier to remember/point to/etc.

I did something similar with http://whatistranshumanism.org/ that is entirely based on the existing transhumanist FAQ that I felt was pure gold content-wise, but hidden deep within the H+ website, poorly laid out, not working at all on mobile, and many other things. This website is now the third result on Google when searching "what is transhumanism".

The website is hosted on GitHub meaning anyone with an account can suggest edits through pull requests, or make them directly if they have write access. Although decentralization can be a useful principle, I've found that having some sort of smaller group of editors makes vetting, structuring, and publishing a smoother process and yields a higher quality end result. Anyone is still free and encouraged to provide materials, of course.

Considering your point of view regarding difficulty-then-topic versus topic-then-difficulty, I think you are right and that your suggested structure is the better one. Topic is probably a more natural way of digging in for visitors of any level. As long as difficulty is clearly communicated (words, color coding, etc.) it will be fairly easy to navigate in the sense at the same time.

Maybe we could make an inventory of existing reading lists that could possibly be considered succeeded by this new one, and once up and running that the maintainers of these can be contacted about the possibility of being merged/redirected to the new website. (Obviously some existing ones should not follow this path and will instead be linked to from this website.) In other words, an inventory of potential "mergers" versus "co-existers".

These are some of my thoughts on your questions, looking forward to others' views.