Evan_Gaensbauer comments on Leverage Research: reviewing the basic facts - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: ole_koksvik 04 August 2018 04:50:49AM 36 points [-]

Evan, thank you for these comments here. I just wanted to register, in case it's at all useful, that I find it a bit difficult to understand your posts sometimes. It struck me that shorter and simpler sentences would probably make this easier for me. But I may be totally ideosyncratic here (English isn't my first language), so do ignore this if it doesn't strike you as useful.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 04 August 2018 05:46:42AM *  -1 points [-]

Thanks. This is useful feedback :)

Yeah, to be fair, I was writing these comments in rapid succession based on information unique to me to quickly prevent the mischaracterization of the EA Summit next week. I am both attending the EA Summit next week, and I am significantly personally invested in it as representing efforts in EA I'd like to see greatly advanced. I also have EA projects I've been working on I intend to talk about at the EA Summit next week. (In spite of acknowledging my own motive here, I still made all my previous comments with as much fidelity as I could muster.)

All this made me write these comments hastily enough that I write in long sentences. Mentally, when writing quickly, it's how I condense as much information into as few clauses as possible in making arguments. You're not the first person to tell me writing shorter and simpler sentences would be easier to read. In general, when I'm making public comments without a time crunch, these days I'm making more of a conscious effort to be more comprehensible :)

But I may be totally ideosyncratic here (English isn't my first language), so do ignore this if it doesn't strike you as useful.

This is useful feedback, but English not being your first language is a factor too, because that isn't how "idiosyncratic" is spelled. :P

I also would not expect effective altruists not fluent in English to be able to follow a lot of what I write (or a lot of posts written in EA, for that matter). Often because of the continually complicated discourse exclusively in English in EA, I forget to write with a readership which largely doesn't speak English as a first language. I'll keep this more in mind for how I write my posts in the future.

Comment author: Milan_Griffes 04 August 2018 05:01:53PM 16 points [-]

when I'm making public comments without a time crunch

My hunch is even when there's a time crunch, fewer words will be bigger bang for buck :-)

Comment author: Khorton 04 August 2018 05:13:43PM 13 points [-]

Seconded. As a time-saving measure, I skip any comments longer than three paragraphs unless the first couple of sentences makes their importance very clear. Unfortunately, that means I miss most of Evan's posts. :(

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 04 August 2018 11:38:59PM 1 point [-]

Would it help if I included a summary of my posts at the top of them?

Often I write for a specific audience, which is more limited and exclusive. I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with taking this approach to discourse in EA. Top-level posts on the EA Forum are made specific to a single cause, written in an academic style for a niche audience. I've mentally generalized this to how I write about anything on the internet.

It turns out not writing in a more inclusive way is harming the impact of my messages more than I thought. I'll make more effort to change this. Thanks for the feedback.

Comment author: Raemon 05 August 2018 08:41:16PM *  14 points [-]

FYI, I a) struggle to read most of your posts (and seem like I'm supposed to be in the target audience)

b) the technique I myself use is "write the post the way I'd naturally write it (i.e. long and meandering), and then write a tldr of the post summarizing it with a few bullet points... and then realize that the tldr was all I actually needed to say in the first place.

Comment author: Khorton 05 August 2018 11:46:34AM 5 points [-]

Yes, an early summary would help. It doesn't have to be very formal; just a clear statement of your argument in the first paragraph.

If you're going to argue multiple things, you could use different comments.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 04 August 2018 11:21:25PM 3 points [-]

Of course. What I was trying to explain is when there is a time crunch, I've habituated myself to use more words. Obviously it's a habit worth changing. Thanks for the feedback :)

Comment author: ole_koksvik 09 August 2018 11:55:03PM 1 point [-]

Yes, the old adage: "I don't have time to write short texts."

Comment author: nbouscal 04 August 2018 05:08:07PM 28 points [-]

I’m unconvinced that ole_koksvik’s fluency in English has anything to do with it. Fluent English speakers misspell words like “idiosyncratic” regularly, and I and other fluent English speakers also find your posts difficult to follow. I generally end up skimming them, because the ratio of content to unnecessary verbosity is really low. If your goal is to get your evidence and views onto the table as quickly as possible, consider that your current strategy isn’t getting them out there at all for some portion of your audience, and that a short delay for editing could significantly expand your reach.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 04 August 2018 11:47:16PM 3 points [-]

Yeah, that has become abundantly clear to me with how many upvotes these comments were receiving. I've received feedback on this before, but never with such a strong signal before. Sometimes I have different goals with my public writing at different times. So it's not always my intention for how I write to be maximally accessible to everyone. I usually know who reads my posts, and why they appreciate them, as I receive a lot of positive feedback as well. It's evident I've generalized that in this thread to the point it's hurting the general impact of spreading my message. So I completely agree. Thanks for the feedback :)