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Bernadette_Young comments on Pitfalls in Diversity Outreach - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Rivka_M 18 August 2015 10:23:32PM 8 points [-]

It seems to me that often conversations about diversity outreach are offputting not because anyone accidentally says something wrong but because lots of people sincerely think diversity outreach is a bad idea, and argue so.

For example, in a recent discussion someone said "for example, here's how I think we could do outreach to religious people." Someone else said "honestly, I think we shouldn't do outreach to religious people; religiosity is incompatible with effective altruism". The first person said "some religious people have the same values as we do, and don't take that Biblical law stuff seriously". The second person said "and some of them have horribly divergent sexist Stone Age values and welcoming them would destroy everything that makes EA appealing".

This conversation, I suspect, was not encouraging to religious would-be EAs. But I don't think the first speaker did anything wrong (and the second speaker did everything right, given his/her values). Should there be an expectation that we not publicly argue when someone talks about the merits of diversity, lest our public disagreement make diversity impossible to achieve even if the community ends up concluding it is beneficial?

Comment author: Bernadette_Young 19 August 2015 08:57:19AM 6 points [-]

I think anybody wanting to raise a potentially divisive or negative discussion should think carefully about how likely a given discussion is to be self-defeating, or to yield negative results that outweigh the benefits.

The setting matters a lot to this: if you post on Facebook, the discussion gets published in lots of people's feeds in a manner that posters don't control (I find 'likes' on comments I make in the EA FB group from friends I know are not members of that group). Also, the FB policy of only allowing 'upvoting' means that the degree to which people's statements are well or badly received is not well reflected. Finally the listing of threads by order of most recent comment keeps pile-ons in the current discussion.

(This also creates an important asymmetry: those who don't care about the discussion being damaging are more likely to continue it, while those who disagree might avoid voicing their disagreement in the hopes that the thread will die away.)

This forum doesn't suffer any of those drawbacks, so I believe it is a better arena for raising these issues for discussion if you reasonably believe there is something important at stake.

Comment author: KelseyPiper 21 August 2015 04:47:53AM *  3 points [-]

I really agree here - other factors that make Facebook conversations particularly inflammatory include Facebook's lack of threading, so you can't easily see who a person is responding to and if the tone of the response is appropriate to the original post, the way Facebook comment threads rapidly stack up with hundreds of comments, some only tangentially related to the original post, and the wide variance in moderation schemes. I've been disillusioned by some of the conversations on Facebook, but this comment made me more optimistic that is a platform issue, not a problem with open discussion of EA concerns.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 22 August 2015 01:24:04AM 2 points [-]

Empirically, discussions of diversity here do seem to be doing a lot better than the ones on the FB group. (I'm thinking particularly of this thread and AGB's post from a while ago.)

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 25 September 2015 04:04:07AM 0 points [-]

I've noticed that Facebook seems to "bump" discussions that get new comments to the top of the group feed. This seems like a sufficient explanation: a topic that's controversial will get more comments, which will bump it to the top of the group, which will get it more attention, which will get it more comments, etc. Controversy feedback loop!