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John_Maxwell_IV comments on Open Thread #40 - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 13 July 2018 10:02:35AM *  6 points [-]

This sounds like it might be a bad idea to me. I just wrote a long comment about the difficulty the EA community has in establishing Schelling points. This forum strikes me as one of the few successful Schelling points in EA. I worry that if subforums are done in a careless way, dividing a single reasonably high-traffic forum into lots of smaller low-traffic ones, one of the few Schelling points we have will be destroyed.

Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 17 July 2018 10:58:44AM *  2 points [-]

Another problem would be when creating extra sub-forums would result in people splitting their conversations up more between those and the Facebook and Google groups. Reminds me of the XKCD comic on the problem of creating a new universal standard.

I think you made a great point in your comment on that people need to do ‘intensive networking and find compromises’ before attempting to establish new Schelling points.

Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 17 July 2018 10:32:57AM *  0 points [-]

Hmm, would you think Schelling points would still be destroyed if it was just clearer where people could meet to discuss certain specific topics besides a ‘common space’ where people could post on topics that are relevant to many people?

I find the comment you link to really insightful but I doubt whether it neatly applies here. Personally, I see a problem with that we should have more well-defined Schelling points as the community grows but that currently the EA Forum is a vague place to go to ‘to read and write posts on EA’. Other places for gathering to talk about more specific topics are widely dispersed over the internet – they’re both hard to find and disconnected from each other (i.e. it’s hard to zoom in and out of topics as well as explore parallel topics that once can work on and discuss).

I think you’re right that you don’t want to accidentally kill off a communication platform that actually kind of works. So perhaps a way of dealing with this is to maintain the current EA Forum structure but then also test giving groups of people the ability to start sub-forums where they can coordinate around more specific Schelling points on ethical views, problem areas, interventions, projects, roles, etc. – conversations that would add noise for others if they did it on the main forum instead.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 17 July 2018 10:43:12PM *  4 points [-]

Yeah. I feel like the EA community already has a discussion platform with very granular topic divisions in Facebook, and yet here were are. I'm not exactly sure why the EA forum seems to me like it's working better than Facebook, but I figure if it's not broken don't fix it. Also, I think something like the EA Forum is inherently a bit more fragile than Facebook... any Facebook group is going to benefit from Facebook's ubiquity as a communication tool/online distraction.

You made a list of posts that we’re missing out on now... those kinda seem like the sort of posts I see on EA facebook groups, but maybe you disagree?

Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 18 July 2018 09:39:56PM *  0 points [-]

Could you give a few reasons why you the EA Forum seems to works better than the Facebook groups in your view?

The example posts I gave are on the extreme end of the kind of granularity I'd personally like to see more of (I deliberately made them extra specific to make a clear case). I agree those kinds of posts tend to show up more in the Facebook groups (though the writing tends to be short there). Then there seems to be stuff in the middle that might not fit well anywhere.

I feel now that the sub-forum approach should be explored much more carefully than I did when I wrote the comment at the top. In my opinion, we (or rather, Marek :-) should definitely still run contained experiments on this because on our current platform it's too hard to gather around topics narrower than being generally interested in EA work (maybe even test a hybrid model that allows for crossover between the forum and the Facebook groups).

So I've changed my mind from a naive 'we should overhaul the entire system' view to 'we should tinker with it in ways we expect would facilitate better interactions, and then see if they actually do' view.

Thanks for your points!

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 20 July 2018 02:48:53AM 1 point [-]

Could you give a few reasons why you the EA Forum seems to works better than the Facebook groups in your view?

Lol, like I said, I'm not completely sure. Posts & comments seem to go into greater depth, posts sometimes get referenced long after they are written?

I'm not certain subfora are a terrible idea, I just wanted this risk to be on peoples' radar. One possible compromise is to let people tag their posts (perhaps restricted to a set of tags chosen by moderators) and allow users to subscribe to RSS feeds associated with particular tags.