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RyanCarey comments on Minor Updates - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: RyanCarey 19 September 2014 02:41:52AM *  4 points [-]

Thanks for the suggestions, Michael.

So far every comment I've seen has been insightful and thoughtful. I would like to see the karma requirement lowered soon to make it easier to get new users.

I want more users too. In terms of article creation, there are some good ones on the way so we're not yet constrained. In terms of new user-created aricles, we haven't yet had any, and so it might be useful to see some before we make a comparison. Comparing based on comments is a good start, though it's not quite the same. I think it's unlikely that I would need to decrease the karma requirement before the stated timeframe of October 10 but I think it's good to think of creative ways to increase participation.

Feature request: The ability to tag people in posts like on Twitter and Facebook

This would be an interesting feature, and I think I would like it. So far, we've prioritised bugs and I've tried not to impose excessively on the time of Trike Apps (they have made a large and entirely voluntary contribution). So far, they've done an awesome job creating the site with basic functionality. I think that before we install any new features, it would either be necessary for the code to be made public to allow other volunteer contributions, or for the site to demonstrate a lot of usage over a period of months so that we could go to Trike with a case that further development was of high value.

Feature request: Separate sections for serious in-depth writings and incomplete thoughts or discussion prompts.

I lean against creating multiple fora. Even if it was a good idea in the long run, I think that it's better to start with one forum so that it's easier to achieve a critical mass. It's no exaggeration to say that LW's Main/Discussion distinction was one of the most hated features of the site. I also think that fragmenting an online community and decreasing its usability are two of the most damaging things you can do to a budding community website. I think that we can bridge the gap by making main a bit more lenient to short questions. If the open threads are too big, and some high quality comments are being lost, then we can move whichever kinds of posts were most successful in the open threads to the main page to make more space. We could also create more specific open threads e.g. a careers open thread.

Lastly, for future reference, if you have multiple suggestions, it's often good to post them in separate comments so that users can give feedback on them independently.

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 20 September 2014 04:06:29AM 1 point [-]

I lean against creating multiple fora. Even if it was a good idea in the long run, I think that it's better to start with one forum so that it's easier to achieve a critical mass. It's no exaggeration to say that LW's Main/Discussion distinction was one of the most hated features of the site. I also think that fragmenting an online community and decreasing its usability are two of the most damaging things you can do to a budding community website.

This was interesting to me.

Here's one more idea to throw out there: Divide the posts into "major" and "minor" tags and then include a checkbox for signed-in users that says something like "filter for major posts" that would only show the important/major/fleshed-out posts. If you wanted to make sure the minor posts didn't get neglected by apathy, you could have that box become unchecked the next time the person visits. In order to maintain an impressive appearance to visitors, they would only see the major posts.

This should significantly reduce the chance that minor posts are neglected (except by people who shouldn't or don't want to see them) and would be expandable to a more extensive tagging system in the future.

Comment author: RyanCarey 20 September 2014 04:51:34AM *  1 point [-]

This is a fair suggestion.

I guess my take on this is that most people care about reading good quality material a lot more than they care about length. For example, lots of Wei Dai's early posts on LessWrong were short but incisive, so they got upvoted.

Even a checkbox with tags has disadvantages - Even if posts are categorised in stealth, if half of the posts are hidden a lot of the time, this complicates the experience of a new user. It's hard to get users to add tags and boring to have to tag things myself. This is all to benefit some fraction of users, maybe a quarter, who can then hide short posts. On balance, I lean towards simplicity.

So if people have great links or questions, I think they should just post them to the front page. If they get 10+ karma and 10+ comments there, then it's an appropriate place for them.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 22 September 2014 05:29:12PM *  1 point [-]

"This is all to benefit some fraction of users, maybe a quarter, who can then hide short posts."

It's interesting that you view this more from the reader's perspective. Perhaps a good idea since readers are in the majority. To me the main benefit would be for the posters. It can be daunting to post a simple question (perhaps about an issue that confuses you) in a place where everyone will see it among a bunch of thought-out posts. Therefore I would welcome giving posters the ability to check "minor" if their post meets the criteria according to their own judgement. Even in the discussion section of LW some users including myself are literally too shy to post certain kinds of questions/content. I just wanted to bring that too attention.

Certainly this should wait until after the karma requirement is decreased to see how things develop then. I am assuming that things won't radically change, but that's a judgement call.

My intuition is that with an option like the one Jess suggested there would be a lot more posts in general, would you agree? If that's the case and the kinds of posts that we currently see should be visible just like they are now, except there's a checkbox "display minor posts" somewhere. This sounds to me like a forum that people would describe as uncomplicated. All in all this approach seems less complicated to me than having dedicated threads titled 'ask a stupid question' etc.

Comment author: Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) 20 September 2014 06:30:42AM 0 points [-]

I like the major/minor idea, and tag filters generally. (Side note: I wasn't sure whether upvoting Jess' comment would be sufficient to express this.)

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 24 September 2014 10:23:30AM 0 points [-]

Less Wrong has various other special threads. I want there to keep being open threads, effective altruist quote threads, welcome threads, and meetup announcements on this site. Additionally, we could borrow from Less Wrong:

  • 'What Are You Working On?: a (bi)monthly thread on which users can showcase their current activities. Of course, such a thread on this forum would be specific activity at least tangential to effective altruism. Still, it could act as a way for effective altruists to find collaborators, and other volunteers, a la : this could be a thread here for effective altruists to share the life-changing mistakes they've made. Like with procedural knowledge gaps, such a repository seems especially, crucially important for effective altruists, due to the specific and demanding lifestyle choices some of us may make.

If this forum never develops its own wiki as Less Wrong did for itself, or the existing effective altruism wiki remains stagnant, then I believe repository threads such as these should be linked from the home page of this forum. I believe it will make more sense to start these repository threads later, when this forum gains more users.

Overall, between periodic threads, repositories, and other special threads, specifically labeled as such when they're posted, I believe fragmenting this thread as Ryan cautions against isn't necessary.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 19 September 2014 08:40:05PM 0 points [-]

So the main reason LW's Main/Discussion distinction was criticized is that the Discussion section lacks a critical mass? And would you say this is the main argument against subforums? This would be useful to know I think - when the argument is on the table we can start thinking about solutions ;)

Also, how can we make main more lenient to short questions, except by lowering the karma requirement?

Re: Fragmenting the community: Do you think this would also occur if we have subforums like 'career', 'donations', 'causes' etc. or rather if we had 'poverty', 'animals', 'x-risk'?

And thanks for thinking about this intensively and putting in the time to respond to so many comments!

Comment author: RyanCarey 20 September 2014 01:32:43AM 3 points [-]

Hey Soeren. My main reasons for having only one forum are critical mass considerations, fragmentation considerations and useability considerations. However, even if we thought this was a desired feature, it would require significant further argumentation to decide that it was more important to develop this feature than, for example, ironing out bugs in the mobile and Firefox versions of the site.

Apart from the suggestions I made above about making the forum more lenient to short questions (moving mid-length content from the open thread to the main page, making topic-specific open-threads), I can think of a few interesting possibilities: we could have "Ask me anything"-style interviews, where people can ask short questions of a particular users. Another would be a "Ask a silly question" thread. I also think we'll just gradually establish a norm that not everything on the front page needs to be blog-length. An incisive question can fit too.

I think 'career', 'donations', 'causes' is better than poverty, animals, x-risk. Good suggestion.

No problem.