The Best of EA in 2016: Nomination Thread

Basic Idea

The CEA team is thinking of creating a list of the best content from the Effective Altruism community during 2016. This would be distributed on effectivealtruism.org and potentially in the EA Newsletter and elsewhere.

The goals of the project would be to:

  1. Help busy people stay up-to-date with the best content from the community;
  2. give some additional recognition to EAs that work hard to produce excellent content.

We'll figure out some method of choosing the winning content and will distribute it in December.

The goal of this thread is to get a sense of how valuable people think this project would be and to solicit nominations for some of the best content of the year.

What we're looking for in a nomination

We're looking for the best content from around EA. The term "content" is intentionally vague since we're interested in forum posts, personal blog posts, blog posts from EA organizations, podcasts, videos, even particularly good posts on social media. If it made you think or changed your mind then it's likely something worth nominating.

We're mostly interested in content from the "EA community" broadly conceived, but it may make sense to include content that is relevant to the EA community but produced elsewhere. So, feel free to nominate any content that you think is especially good.

Some prompts to help 

Below are some prompts you might use to help remember some of your favorite content.

  • What was the most important thing you changed your mind about this year? What made you change your mind?
  • What was the most surprising thing you learned this year?
  • What was the best content you read about in some of the major cause areas (e.g. global poverty, animal welfare, far future, EA community building, Cause X, bio security, open borders and others)?
  • What was the best post from the blog of an EA organization?
  • What was the best post from someone's personal blog?

What we need from you

  • Please upvote this post if you think this is a worthwhile project (the response we get here will, in part, determine how much time we spend on this).
  • Please post a link to your favorite content and, if you have time, a quick explanation of why you liked it. (Please post a single article per post so that we can get up/downvoting data on each article).
  • Please upvote posts you also found impactful.


Comments (56)

Comment author: ea247 09 November 2016 01:31:34AM 4 points [-]

The most recent EA survey might be a good thing to include.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 08 November 2016 03:42:49AM 7 points [-]

I believe that when people describe content as "best", what they usually mean is "most fun to read", which is probably not what you want. People naturally like things better when they're fun to read, or when they "feel" insightful. People enjoy reading motivational blogs, even though they're basically useless; people do not enjoy reading statistics textbooks, even though they're extremely useful. I don't believe I personally can do a good job of separating posts/articles that are important to read and ones that I enjoyed reading.

On the other hand, I cannot think of a better strategy for curating good content than asking people to submit the posts they like best. Maybe something like peer review would work better, where you get a small group of people who consciously optimize for finding valuable articles, not necessarily interesting ones?

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 09 November 2016 02:49:16PM 4 points [-]

I've thought about this some more and I have some idea of the kind of process I would use if I were trying to curate the best content in EA.

I don't trust myself to make intuitive judgments about which posts are best--I'm going to end up picking the ones that were the most fun to read. I believe I could mitigate this by creating an explicit checklist of the things I would want in a "best of" post, and then look for posts matching it.

Actually the #1 thing I'd look for in a post is, did I do substantially more good as a result of reading this post? Sometimes it's obvious how something you read helps you do good and sometimes it's more vague, but you should at least be able to say why a post substantially benefited you if you're going to nominate it as a "best of" post.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 12 November 2016 05:10:06AM 3 points [-]

This is a pretty difficult test to pass. Some things I read that did cause me to do noticeably more good include:

  • Peter Singer's All Animals Are Equal, because it played a significant role in me becoming vegetarian (and later vegan) and taking animal welfare seriously
  • GiveWell's writeup on VillageReach because it taught me that finding good charities is hard and you shouldn't rely on naive cost-effectiveness estimates
  • GiveWell's suggested questions to ask when evaluating charities (I don't know if this is still on the site)
  • Brian Tomasik's The Importance of Wild Animal Suffering because it convinced me that wild animal suffering is important
  • Brian Tomasik's cost-effectiveness analysis on factory farming interventions
  • The book The Intelligent Asset Allocator, which ostensibly has nothing to do with doing good, but helped me learn how to better manage my investments which indirectly enables me to do a lot more good
  • Alexei Andreev's Maximizing Your Donations via a Job

None of these are from 2016 so they're not eligible. As far as I can remember, the only things I've read in 2016 that caused me to do substantially more good were charities' writeups about their own activities.

Comment author: BenMillwood  (EA Profile) 20 November 2016 08:52:17AM 1 point [-]

Givewell's suggested questions to ask are at their Do-It-Yourself Charity Evaluation Questions page.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 08 November 2016 05:23:21PM 1 point [-]

Agree with this. I'm not yet sure how we'll select the best posts, but I think it will be some combination of votes and talking with experts to distill the content down.

Comment author: Ben_West  (EA Profile) 13 November 2016 07:23:25PM 2 points [-]

When I saw the title of this post I thought it would be "greatest accomplishments of 2016". Just commenting to note that I would prefer reading that instead of "most interesting content of 2016".

Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:40:48PM 2 points [-]

Agree with Joey. Seems like most of the benefits from this could come with small amounts of effort. Suggestions as replies.

Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:49:31PM 11 points [-]
Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:48:10PM *  5 points [-]

ACE on Charities they would like to see

Disclosure: Currently I am a research intern at ACE.

Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:46:29PM 4 points [-]
Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:47:21PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:41:34PM 3 points [-]
Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:43:00PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:45:32PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:44:43PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: kierangreig 09 November 2016 04:43:42PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 09 November 2016 12:06:53PM 3 points [-]

[epistemic status: this pattern-matches behaviour I've seen on LessWrong before, so I'm suspicious there may be a mass downvoter here. It could be a coincidence. Not above 40% confident at this point. Feel free to ignore.]

Someone keeps consistently downvoting Kerry's comments. I've been on LessWrong for a while, where that was an occasional nuisance for everyone, but a real bother for the few users who go the brunt of it. I imagine there's a future for the EA Forum where the almost universal upvoting stops, and more downvoting begins. In all honesty, I'd think that'd lead to healthier discourse. However, I'd like to denormalize mass downvoting all of one user's comments. Whoever you are, even if you're really mad at Kerry right now, I think we can at least agree we don't want to set a precedent of only downvoting comments without giving feedback and why we disagree. I'd like to set a precedent we do.

Joey and Michael have both weighed in that they think a CEA team spending a lot of time on this relative to a little time isn't worth it. Kerry agreed. Be assured CEA staffers aren't wasting time and valuable donor money, then. Even if you think this whole thread is a stupid idea of Kerry's, and his suggestions are stupid too, please come out and say why so whatever problem you perceive may be resolved.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 09 November 2016 03:06:28PM 1 point [-]

I've spent enough time on forums to know that you can't stop people from voting politically by asking them politely. I think a better solution is to automatically detect mass-downvoting and nullify those votes in the source code. https://github.com/tog22/eaforum/issues/47

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 09 November 2016 05:10:58PM 1 point [-]

Can any mods see where the down votes come from and if there's a patter?

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 09 November 2016 07:45:31PM 2 points [-]

It should be theoretically possible, but it sounds like a good deal of work. I've put off wanting to work on it until there's public demand for it. Sounds like the public demand might be mounting.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 11 November 2016 06:05:47PM 0 points [-]

What about doing a poll on FB (instead or additionally, idk)? Or a private poll elsewhere? (FB is good because people can comment explanations.)

Comment author: Joey 09 November 2016 01:03:56AM 3 points [-]

I think the difference between putting fairly minimal time into this (but still doing it) vs a lot of time seems fairly minimal. Suggestions as replies to this post.

Comment author: Joey 09 November 2016 01:08:37AM *  4 points [-]
Comment author: Joey 09 November 2016 01:07:58AM 7 points [-]

Open Philanthropy hits based giving http://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/hits-based-giving

Comment author: Joey 09 November 2016 01:05:59AM 5 points [-]

A bunch of stuff Michael Dickens has written. His quantitative model post came to mind first for me. http://effective-altruism.com/ea/xr/a_complete_quantitative_model_for_cause_selection/

Comment author: Joey 09 November 2016 01:11:15AM *  3 points [-]
Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 11 November 2016 06:02:08PM *  1 point [-]

"Altruism, numbers, and factory farms": https://sentience-politics.org/philosophy/altruism-numbers-factory-farms

Sentience Politics recently published a page on the significance of factory farms, which also includes discussion on why it's important to consider numbers and compare suffering.

(Disclaimer, I work at SP/EAF.)

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 11 November 2016 06:03:51PM *  1 point [-]

And FRI and SP both have articles on wild animals, not sure which is better for purposes here. SP's is a bit more introductory/accessible maybe, and also expresses more philosophical arguments for why we should care; FRI's a bit more academic and does not address some typical introductory reactions.

FRI's: https://foundational-research.org/the-importance-of-wild-animal-suffering/

Comment author: lukeprog 13 November 2016 05:02:20AM 3 points [-]

Seems like this one should probably count for 2009 rather than 2016…

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 11 November 2016 06:04:01PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: CalebWithers  (EA Profile) 13 November 2016 08:55:14AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: CalebWithers  (EA Profile) 18 December 2016 07:52:06AM *  0 points [-]
Comment author: lukeprog 13 November 2016 04:42:02AM 1 point [-]

I like this idea. I'll make some suggestions (not already made elsewhere on this page) as replies to this comment.

Comment author: lukeprog 13 November 2016 04:50:28AM *  6 points [-]
Comment author: lukeprog 13 November 2016 04:43:05AM *  3 points [-]
Comment author: lukeprog 15 November 2016 05:30:28AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: lukeprog 13 November 2016 05:08:42AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: lukeprog 13 November 2016 04:54:49AM 1 point [-]

Seems hard to pick one post in particular from the 80k blog; maybe I'll have to nominate the book when it comes out.

Comment author: arunbharatula 10 November 2016 09:44:46AM 1 point [-]

Does something count as 'from the EA community' if it is 'discovered by the EA community' where it existed elsewhere earlier? I only just discovered counterarguments to the 'logic of the larder': http://www.qalys.org/animal-welfare.pdf That might be the highest impact EA-relevant piece of info to me this year.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 15 November 2016 11:56:21AM 0 points [-]

Some posts from 80k that I think moved the research agenda forward:

Comment author: Ben_Todd 15 November 2016 11:57:03AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Ben_Todd 15 November 2016 11:56:47AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Ben_Todd 15 November 2016 11:56:38AM 0 points [-]

https://80000hours.org/articles/problem-framework/ (this is still in progress though)

Comment author: Ben_Todd 15 November 2016 11:56:29AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 08 November 2016 05:47:28PM *  0 points [-]


Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 08 November 2016 05:29:25PM 0 points [-]

I'll start things off by putting some of the content I really liked as replies to this post.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 08 November 2016 05:37:35PM 9 points [-]

GiveWell's post on why they recommend SCI even though deworming might have close to zero impact.

I thought this was a really good look at how GiveWell things about expected value with respect to their top charities and helps rebut the claim that EAs are mostly concerned with high certainty charity donations.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 08 November 2016 05:31:16PM 2 points [-]

Rob Wiblin's post on how much voting matters

The post updated me massively in the direction of voting being extremely important. Plus, if he's right about how much voting matters, the impact of the post is likely to be pretty massive.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 08 November 2016 05:42:01PM 0 points [-]

Concerns with Intentional Insight

This might not be the best post to share with more casual EAs, but it was extremely well researched and raised an issue that needed to be addressed.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 09 November 2016 03:25:43AM 4 points [-]

This is the sort of post I was talking about in my other comment--fun to read and easy to agree with, and therefore popular, but not particularly important.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 08 November 2016 05:48:12PM 1 point [-]

Will's opening talk from EA Global

Lots of good content here although I'm particularly fond of his discussion of Cause X

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 08 November 2016 05:38:37PM -2 points [-]

GiveWell's classic April Fools joke

This post was controversial, but I laughed long and hard and really enjoyed seeing a more human side from them.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 09 November 2016 09:15:30AM 5 points [-]

A big purpose of awards is to send a signal about what kind of work will get recognized. If we give awards to joke posts, expect more joke posts.

I actually think the best use of awards is to recognize posts that are not the kind of content that spreads virally. Pageviews already serve as an ego boost for most authors. We should reward serious boring posts, in the same way the Nobel Prize is given out for serious boring research.

Comment author: michaelchen 10 November 2016 02:16:16AM 0 points [-]

The link "View test writeup" seems broken. It brings me to a login page rather than the actual joke post. Did they take it down?