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Greg_Colbourn comments on EA Hotel with free accommodation and board for two years - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 07 June 2018 04:15:37PM *  1 point [-]

I think 80k make a good case for why it's important to have EAs in ops roles here.

Comment author: Khorton 07 June 2018 09:58:12PM 4 points [-]

Several of the reasons listed in that article don't matter for the hotel because the hotel manager will be the only full time member of staff. For example, the hotel manager won't be likely to switch into other roles/be promoted at the same organization and won't need to communicate with other staff about EA-specific things. Additionally, the article suggests that being involved in the EA community is a benefit, but not the only thing to consider when hiring. That sounds about right to me.

I would seriously consider splitting up the hotel manager role and the community mentory person. It's hard enough to find an awesome cook who can do 17 people's laundry, keep everything clean, pay all the bills, and keep everything legal. Requiring them to be one of a couple thousand EAs IN THE WORLD sounds really hard.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 08 June 2018 11:19:54AM 0 points [-]

the hotel manager won't be likely to switch into other roles/be promoted at the same organization

But they would be in at the ground level of a new organisation that could potentially grow (if the model is franchised, or expands to supporting digital nomads). It should be seen as an exciting opportunity to co-create and mould an institution.

and won't need to communicate with other staff about EA-specific things.

But they will need to communicate with lots of EA guests about EA-specific things.

splitting up the hotel manager role and the community mentory person.

I'm open to doing this as a plan B. A good manager should be able to optimise/outsource the tasks they find tedious though.

Comment author: Liam_Donovan 10 June 2018 05:59:29AM *  4 points [-]

From my perspective, the manager should 1. Not (necessarily) be an EA 2. Be paid more (even if this trades off against capacity, etc) 3. Not also be a community mentor

One of the biggest possible failure modes for this project seems to be hiring a not-excellent manager; even a small increase in competence could make a big difference between the project failing and succeeding. Thus, the #1 consideration ought to be "how to maximize the manager's expected skill". Unfortunately, the combination of undesirable location, only hiring EAs, and the low salary seem to restrict the talent pool enormously. My (perhaps totally wrong) impression is that some of these decisions are made on the basis of a vague idea of how things ought to be, rather than a conscious attempt to maximize success.

Brief arguments/responses:

  • Not only are EAs disproportionately unlikely to have operations skills (as 80K points out), but I suspect that the particular role of hotel manager requires even less of the skills we tend to have (such as a flair for optimization), and even more of the skills we tend not to have (consistency, hotel-related metis). I'm unsure of this but it's an important question to evaluate.

  • The manager will only be at the ground floor of a new organization if it doesn't fail. I think failure is more likely than expansion, but it's reasonable to be risk averse considering this is the first project of its kind in EA (diminishing marginal benefit). Consequently, optimizing for initial success seems more important than optimizing for future expansion.

  • The best feasible EA candidate is likely to have less external validation of managerial capability than a similarly qualified external candidate, who might be a hotel manager already! Thus, it'll be harder to actually identify the strong EA candidates, even if they exist.

  • The manager will get free room/board and live in low-CoL Blackpool, but I think this is outweighted by the necessity of moving to an undesirable location, and not being able to choose where you stay/eat. On net, I expect you'd need to offer a higher salary to attract the same level of talent as in, say, Oxford (though with more variance depending on how people perceive Blackpool).

  • You might be able to hire an existing hotel manager in Blackpool, which would reduce risk of turnover and guarantee a reasonable level of competence. This would obviously require separating the hotel manager and the community mentor, but I'm almost certain that doing would maximize the chances of success either way (division of labor!). I'm also not sure what exactly the cost is: the community mentor could just be an extroverted guest working on a particularly flexible project.

  • Presumably many committed and outgoing EAs (i.e. the people you'd want as managers) are already able to live with/near other EAs; moving to Blackpool would just take away their ability to choose who to live with.

Of course, there could already be exceptional candidates expressing interest, but I don't understand why the default isn't hiring a non-EA with direct experience.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 11 June 2018 01:40:02PM 0 points [-]

vague idea of how things ought to be, rather than a conscious attempt to maximize success.

I would say it’s a bit more than vague ;) I think it’s important to have someone who really understands and shares the goals of the project. Someone who doesn’t get EA is not likely to care about it much beyond seeing it as a means to get paid. It would then be largely up to part time volunteers (the other Trustees) to direct the project and keep it aligned with EA. This scenario seems more likely to lead to stagnation/failure to me.

less of the skills we tend to have (such as a flair for optimization)

I think a flair for optimisation is needed in any kind of ops role. The more you optimise, the greater your capacity (/free time).

and even more of the skills we tend not to have (consistency, hotel-related metis)

Conscientiousness would be required. But there are a fair amount of EAs with that trait, right?

optimizing for initial success seems more important than optimizing for future expansion.

In practice I think these are mostly the same thing. The more initial success there is, the more likely expansion is. The point I was making is that the manager will have a large stake in the course the project takes, so it will depend on what they make of it (hence meaning it should be seen as an exciting opportunity. I mean yeah, there will be some amount of “boring” (mindfulness promoting?) tasks - but it could be so much more fun than “Hotel Manager in Blackpool” initially sounds).

less external validation of managerial capability than a similarly qualified external candidate, who might be a hotel manager already!

In many ways this won’t be a typical hotel (non-profit, longer term stays, self-service breakfast and lunch, simplified dinner menu, weekly linen/towel changes, EA evening events etc), so I’m not sure how much prior hotel experience is relevant. Really anyone who is a reasonably skilled generalist, passionate about the project, and friendly should be able to do it.

I expect you'd need to offer a higher salary to attract the same level of talent

Salary is open to negotiation (have amended ad).

require separating the hotel manager and the community mentor

I think that once everything is set up, the day-to-day management of the hotel itself won’t require full time hours. Would prefer to have one full time employee rather than two part-time employees, but as I’ve said previously, I am open to splitting the role.

division of labor

As mentioned above, part of optimisation can be outsourcing tasks you are less good at (or don’t like doing). e.g. hiring someone else to do the cooking or laundry (depending on how much you value your time/money).

Comment author: Khorton 11 June 2018 05:17:40PM *  4 points [-]

"In many ways this won’t be a typical hotel (non-profit, longer term stays, self-service breakfast and lunch, simplified dinner menu, weekly linen/towel changes, EA evening events etc), so I’m not sure how much prior hotel experience is relevant. Really anyone who is a reasonably skilled generalist, passionate about the project, and friendly should be able to do it."

I think this is where we disagree. It's taken me years to develop the (rather basic) domestic skills I have. I think it would be quite a challenge for someone like me, who can competently manage a household, to competently manage a hotel with 17 people. For example, when I organized EA London's weekend retreat and oversaw the housing, cooking and cleaning for 25 people, it was really hard and I made some significant mistakes.

This worries me because a large majority of the EAs I meet in London are worse at cooking/cleaning/household management than I am. If I'm not currently capable of the task, and most EAs are less capable than I am, then I wonder who CAN do the job.

There are a couple of things I might be wrong about: maybe people are better at domestic tasks outside of London, or maybe there are one or two exceptional candidates (and that's really all it takes!). But based on my experience, I really don't think "anyone who is a reasonably skilled generalist, passionate about the project, and friendly should be able to do it" - or at least, not to a high standard, not right away.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 12 June 2018 01:36:48PM 0 points [-]

when I organized EA London's weekend retreat and oversaw the housing, cooking and cleaning for 25 people, it was really hard and I made some significant mistakes.

Would be interested to hear more details about this (fine to PM).

Also, it's unlikely to be 17 guests all at once to start with, things are ramping up gradually so far (have a few people booked in over the next few weeks), so the learning curve should be relatively gentle.