joshjacobson comments on Changes to the EA Forum - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 04 July 2017 10:58:04PM *  9 points [-]

EDIT: It's been over a week, and it seems particularly important that CEA answer this.

I see some significant disadvantages to this, to the point that it should be reconsidered.

EffectiveAltruism.org is designed around making EA welcoming and appealing to newcomers. The EA Forum is quite the opposite... it is in depth, can involve controversial ideas and discussions, and can sometimes have a less welcoming tone in the content and comments.

They're really polar opposites in terms of EA, and by bringing the two together in the same domain and with the same front-end you're closely associating them. This violates Marketing 101, bringing two things together that are positioned so differently.

By sharing the same domain, they two will be closely associated in search, and by changing the front-end the association will be much stronger.

Is the intention for the forum to have more newcomers on it? I fear it will become like the Effective Altruism Facebook page in depth of content and usefulness.

Or alternatively if the forum content doesn't change, it will turn off newcomers and detract from the utility of the main EffectiveAltruism.org site.

I'd like to further understand the plan for bringing these quite different things together, and how you might mitigate the dilution of the forum.

Small side note: Forum.effectivealtruism.org has some SEO disadvantages (v. EffectiveAltruism.org/forum), and the way you implement this transition from a technical standpoint will also affect SEO significantly, so I urge you to consult with somebody about proper ways to do so.

Comment author: SamDeere 14 July 2017 09:00:45PM 1 point [-]

Hey Josh, thanks for the comment and sorry for the wait on a response.

The TL;DR is that I think that the branding changes provide a small amount of upside in terms of consistency, and have low risk of downside, because I don't expect that they'll significantly change discoverability, forum composition, or that they'll counterfactually change people's impressions of the different parts of the EA online space.

Our primary motivation is to reduce the proliferation of very similar domain names that all correspond to different things (e.g. effective-altruism.com is the Forum, previously effectivealtruism.com was the Doing Good Better site etc). From our perspective it seems useful to consolidate community assets under the same domain, both from the perspective of users seeing them as part of a broadly unified whole, and in the longer term, from a technical perspective (e.g. easier to share logins between different sites on the same domain). I agree that it's probably good to keep some branding differentiation between the Forum and the front page of EffectiveAltruism.org, however I think it's disingenuous for us to pretend that there's no overlap.

Perhaps a good analogy is YCombinator/Hacker News — the front page presents a more welcoming, informative front, whereas Hacker News has a pretty intense community and may not always be welcoming to newcomers. However, I think people are generally pretty good at understanding that the organization and the user-generated content are different things, while understanding them to be part of the same broad sphere.

I wholeheartedly agree that the Forum is a more advanced part of the community, and it's certainly not our intention to try to dilute the quality of conversation or flood it with newcomers who may lack the context to meaningfully contribute to some of the more in-depth discussions or may find the tone unwelcoming. However, this seems like an issue of discoverability. The Forum is already pretty discoverable (fourth result for 'effective altruism' on Google), so if someone totally new is doing a wide survey of what the EA online space is like, they'll find it (and it already has 'Effective Altruism' in the name...). However, we're not planning on adding additional links to it from the www domain, or changing how we market it in other channels — I don't expect this change to significantly change the composition of people posting on the forum, nor do I expect that it significantly changes how people will view the broad idea of 'effective altruism' (especially not relative to the status quo).

Given that there's already a strong association between EA and the EA Forum, I don't think the exact domain matters that much. If we didn't want there to be any association, we should probably take the words 'effective altruism' out of the title and have a completely different domain. This isn't something we're currently considering.

I'd prefer to use a subdomain rather than a nested route because it's a significantly simpler DNS/server setup. I think the SEO point is a bit counter to the other points. I agree that it will have some SEO implications, but if the issue is discoverability, then actually making the Forum less discoverable in a random search seems to work more to your purposes (as above, currently the Forum is the fourth result on Google). In terms of implementation, we're planning to rewrite the old domain to the new one (using 301 redirects and keeping the old domain active to prevent broken links). I'd also planned to advise Google of the domain change using Search Console. I'd be very happy to hear from you if there are additional steps that you think are important here.