MichaelDickens comments on CEA is Fundraising! (Winter 2016) - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 07 December 2016 05:10:38AM 1 point [-]

I don't believe organizations should post fundraising documents to the EA Forum. As a quick heuristic, if all EA orgs did this, the forum would be flooded with posts like this one and it would pretty much kill the value of the forum.

It's already the case that a significant fraction of recent content is CEA or CEA-associated organizations talking about their own activities, which I don't particularly want to see on the EA Forum. I'm sure some other people will disagree but I wanted to contribute my opinion so you're aware that some people dislike these sorts of posts.

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 07 December 2016 05:51:41AM *  17 points [-]

I feel that 1-2 such posts per organization per year is appropriate and useful, especially since organizations often have year-end reviews or other orienting documents timed near their annual fundraiser, and reading these allows me to get oriented about what the organizations are up to.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 07 December 2016 03:25:31PM 5 points [-]

1-2 posts per year seems arguably reasonable; one post per month (as CEA has been doing) is excessive.

Comment author: RyanCarey 07 December 2016 03:39:35PM *  6 points [-]

I guess the key is that every update post must either convey substantial info that will change people's actions, or genuinely solicit strategic input.

Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 07 December 2016 10:20:23PM *  4 points [-]

Perhaps the top-level comment is more intended to convey the belief that monthly update posts ought to live on CEA's website, rather than the forum, and it is not specific to this (different type of) post.

Comment author: RyanCarey 07 December 2016 03:14:58PM *  9 points [-]

I like that this is being debated. Personally, I think that organization-related posts are great because organization-related material is action-related material, and the whole point of the forum is to get people to combine big EA ideas with action.

I agree that if the front page was half-covered by CEA content (including research and updates) at all times of year, then this would be bad, but I would guess that if you amortize it, they make up like 5% of content.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 07 December 2016 01:12:07PM *  9 points [-]

While I disagree with Michael and don't think we should discourage EA orgs from posting fundraising documents,* I'm disappointed that his comment has so far received 100% downvotes. This seems to be part of a disturbing larger phenomenon whereby criticism of prominent EA orgs or people tends to attract significantly more downvotes that other posts or comments of comparable quality, especially posts or comments that praise such orgs or people.


(*) I work for CEA, so there's a potential conflict of interest that may bias my thinking about this issue.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 07 December 2016 08:42:34PM 7 points [-]

I downvoted because I found the tone negative and hyperbolic. It won't kill the forum. I think a good norm the community is to always steelman before criticising. This would make us more welcoming and constructive.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 07 December 2016 10:08:39PM *  4 points [-]

I agree that, other things equal, we want to encourage critics to be constructive. All things considered, however, I'm not sure we should hold criticism to a higher standard, as we seem to be doing. This would result in higher quality criticism, but also in less total criticism.

In addition, the standard to which criticism is held is often influenced by irrelevant considerations, like the status of the person or organization being criticized. So in practice I would expect such a norm to stifle certain types of criticism more than others, over and above reducing criticism in general.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 08 December 2016 03:52:58AM 8 points [-]

I think we should hold criticism to a higher standard, because criticism has more costs. Negative things are much more memorable than positive things. People often remember criticism, perhaps just on a gut level, even if it's shown to be wrong later in the thread.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 07 December 2016 08:44:23PM 7 points [-]

Also there's now 14 comments debating this issue and 0 comments debating how much funding CEA should get, which is a vastly more important issue. So this comment derailed the thread.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 18 December 2016 11:06:27AM 1 point [-]

If the CEA is seriously seeking feedback from unaligned EA community members on how much funding the CEA should receive, I have all kinds of thoughts on this I'll write up as a top-level post when I get the chance.

Comment author: RyanCarey 07 December 2016 03:10:53PM 3 points [-]

Yep, it's helpful to emphasize that upvotes and downvotes should be allocated according to whether (as indicated when you hover over the button), you "found this useful", or "didn't find this useful", not based on agreement!

Comment author: Owen_Cotton-Barratt 07 December 2016 07:10:49PM *  3 points [-]

I know this is the stated meaning, and I usually think it's correct to act on. In some cases when usage deviates from this, though, I'm not actually sure that people are making a mistake.

I think that happens most often on short statements of opinion. In such cases, there's not much ambiguity about how useful the comment was (opinions are always somewhat useful but don't contain amazing new insights). It's more useful to get a cheap instant poll of how widespread that opinion is in the community.


  • I'm not confident in this, but to the extent that it seems wrong it would be if we thought posting short opinions was generally unhelpful. (I'd find that claim more plausible of LW, but still dubious there.) Otherwise to convey the information about distribution of opinions lots of people need to post.
  • Separate buttons as Benito suggests below might well be preferable. In particular they'd avoid ambiguity of things like the case in hand, which will be mostly read as an expression of opinion but also gives some considerations for.
  • This "instant poll" effect is to my mind the strongest reason for having voting scores on posts be public anyway. Maybe if there were separate buttons only the "agree/disagree" one would get displayed, and the "useful/not-useful" would be used to determine display-order for posts.
  • I was going to down-vote Ryan's comment to express that I disagree ;) But then I noticed that it was unusually helpful that he'd raised the point explicitly as it made it easier to have this conversation, and didn't know what to do.
Comment author: RyanCarey 08 December 2016 01:18:17AM 4 points [-]

The primary role of the vote buttons is to create the incentive gradient that determines which comments (and commenters) we get to have. This is perhaps the most powerful tool we have for incentivising some types of commentary. So I think we should practically always vote according to what comments we want to exist. On the margin, I think everyone (including you, based on your last bullet!) should vote more on usefulness.

Comment author: Stefan_Schubert 07 December 2016 04:13:01PM 0 points [-]

Yes - perhaps the text (particularly of the downvote button) should be changed to something that clarifies that.

Comment author: Benito 07 December 2016 04:23:31PM 1 point [-]

I definitely use the down vote button a lot to expressive negative affect, which is strongly influenced by 'disagree'. Having separate buttons could be pretty awesome.

Comment author: RyanCarey 08 December 2016 01:10:40AM 2 points [-]

It would also be terrible UI to have two 'up' and two 'down' buttons with different meanings.

The nearest thing that would be feasible would be to have, as does LessWrong, a polling feature.

Comment author: Owen_Cotton-Barratt 08 December 2016 09:39:43AM -1 points [-]

You could give a little (3x3? 5x5?) voting grid: usefulness is one dimension, agreement is another. Users have the option of hiding one of the dimensions, and maybe this is the default.

Comment author: mhpage 07 December 2016 08:55:38PM 4 points [-]

This document is effectively CEA's year-end review and plans for next year (which I would expect to be relevant to people who visit this forum). We could literally delete a few sentences, and it would cease to be a fundraising document at all.

Comment author: Sean_o_h 07 December 2016 01:17:00PM *  4 points [-]

As a representative of an org (CSER, and previously FHI) who has periodically posted updates on these orgs on the EA forum and previously LW, it's very helpful to hear opinions (both positive and negative) on desirability and frequency of updates. I would be grateful for more opinions while it's under discussion.

Thank you Michael for raising the question.

Comment author: Joey 08 December 2016 07:02:51PM 6 points [-]

Given all the interest in this (fairly unrelated to top post) topic I wonder if it makes sense to do a different post/survey on what would be the ideal posting frequency for EA orgs on the EA forum. I know CS would be very responsive to information on this and I suspect all the other EA orgs would be as well.

It also seems a bit hard to deal with criticism that falls along somewhat contradicting lines of a) you're not being transparent enough, I want more things like the monthly update and b) you're too spammy, I want to see less things like the monthly update. (I do know there is a difference between number of posts and given information, but limiting number of posts does make it harder).

Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 08 December 2016 09:40:34PM 2 points [-]

Well more transparency and EA Forum posts don't have to be correlated. For example, I have read much of the updates posted on Charity Science web properties, and I think that's a fine place for many of them to continue to live.

Comment author: Sean_o_h 08 December 2016 09:05:19PM *  1 point [-]

Yes. I agree with those who have pointed out that this derailed an important CEA conversation (and regret, in hindsight, contributing to this - my apologies), but the questions Joey raises are ones that it would be v useful to have more info on, in the context of a separate discussion.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 18 December 2016 11:09:01AM 0 points [-]

Who would you suggest run such a survey? Usually, these sorts of things would be run by EA orgs, but in this case I'd be wary of almost any EA org running it since they've got such strong institutional motivations/incentives to interpret or present the data in a biased way.

Comment author: Sean_o_h 07 December 2016 01:40:16PM *  3 points [-]

If enough people feel the same as Michael, is there a case for having a forum subsection where e.g. updates/fundraising/recruitment calls for EA orgs could live?

Disadvantages I could see

  • 'branching' the forum complicates and clutters it at a point where there still isn't a huge amount of volume to support/justify such structures.

  • these updates might get less visibility.

Advantages (in addition to the forum being kept more free for discussion of EA ideas)

  • These updates would then all be clustered in one place, making it easier for a reader to do an overview of orgs without digging through the forum's history.
Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 18 December 2016 11:10:20AM 0 points [-]

I could make a links post of all EA orgs' (semi-)annual reviews (if they have one up), and make it its own top-level post.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 07 December 2016 08:02:54PM 4 points [-]

December is giving season due to the US tax year. This is an appropriate place for orgs that are asking for funding to post their updates, and pitches for future funding, and receive comments on them.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 07 December 2016 12:01:28PM 2 points [-]

I disagree.