8

How to get more EAs to connect in person and share expertise?

In short: Personal communication between EAs seems valuable and is not happening nearly as much as it could. Especially for newcomers and people outside hubs and especially face-to-face via Skype or Hangouts. I invite you to share ideas on how to increase communication and actually implement them.


The problem

For newcomers

EA is growing and lots of new people live in areas where the EA presence is not as strong. It's been observed that there’s often a long lag time before new people even communicate with other members of the community - in my case 10 months. Having well-connected EA friends locally seems to help new people get connected quickly. The newcomers I've talked to were all excited to have easier opportunities of connecting to EAs personally. (Peter Hurford has previously written about getting new EAs connected).

For getting information

Another area where lack of communication decreases our efficiency is sharing information. To give an example: A friend of mine was interested in patent law. She had to do her own research and likely missed some information. Another friend of mine works in patent law and would be happy to talk. They don't live in the same country, but have EA friends in common who could set them up. But they would never end up talking to each other because our information economy is inefficient. Another factor is that the less connected people are often shy about reaching out to the busy, high-performing EAs they don’t personally know.

 

The opportunity

If you don’t live in a hub, you only very rarely get to personally talk to EAs who are knowledgeable about a specific topic you’re interested in. However, having conversations via Skype and Hangouts can be very insightful and motivating: They have changed e.g. my next career move, my major and motivated me to join volunteer projects which I didn’t even know existed. These are extremely high gains for little time investment. Other EAs report that personal communication is more effective than written exchanged at getting them to actually implement ideas or act on advice.

Seeing how widely distributed we are geographically, Skype and Hangouts seem plausibly like a channel where we could increase communication a lot.


Ideas?

So in this thread I invite you to share your ideas on how to increase communication between EAs. Since we’re great at coming up with ideas and not implementing them, I also invite you to: 1) Just look into and implement your own idea and see what happens 2) Comment on other people’s idea and say that you would like to work on it (or look into it) with them. Then get in personal contact. As mentioned above, the last part is crucial for actually getting things done.

If you don’t have the time to implement anything, don’t feel discouraged from posting your thoughts, there’s no obligation. If you’re one of the people who haven’t been in contact with EAs much, implementing such an idea is a great way to get exposure.

Let me know if any work gets done as a result of this post.

 

Existing systems

We have some systems in place. They aren’t solving the problem right now (mostly they’re not used as much), but I’m mentioning them to increase their use and encourage improvements.

  • The EA buddy system exists, but isn’t working quite that well. Suggestions welcome!
  • The .impact volunteer workforce owns a bunch of chatrooms which are open to anyone. They get a lot of activity on Sundays when .impact holds its workathons, but people occasionally hang out there at other times to answer questions or connect you to someone. .Impact also has weekly hangouts to do EA work together.
  • Offer your skills or get advice from someone on Skillshare.im.
  • Of the people who join the main EA facebook group some will be greeted by an admin.
  • The EA Hub has an offers section which is currently not yet searchable. I suggest  searching for the area of expertise like this and then contacting that person. If the area is listed under "What can you bring to the effective altruism community" it's probably safe to contact them. Works sometimes.

Comments (51)

Comment author: AnneWissemann 19 August 2015 07:02:55PM 9 points [-]

Actually, I will give an ignite talk at EA Global Oxford that is extremely relevant to this topic. This is the short pitch [edit: not so short anymore]:

Malcolm Ocean and I are working to set up a co-working space for EAs based on the format of the LW Study Hall. Just like the LWSH, which has been around for >2 years now, it will be a 24/7 web-chat with optional video streaming where people work on their own projects, probably in pomodoros and chat during the breaks.

Why does this solve your problem? If this becomes as well frequented as the LWSH (which seems plausible given the success of the LWSH which has been stably frequented while being on a buggy platform with little to no official moderation), it will create a network of more or less regular users who know each other and can refer people within the network. Over 2 years, I've personally met more than 200 people via the LWSH. Since Malcolm will host the site, he can also easily add functionalities. I've suggested adding a "project board" or similar to delegate/search for tasks, or we could connect the site to one of the existing boards. It will later also be possible to not only announce to other users of the chat what you're currently working on, but also other info, e.g. "looking for web designer". Finally, you can just meet there to co-work on EA projects remotely.

How is this different from .impact's chat rooms? (I haven't been in these chatrooms before, so I don't know how well frequented they are or what their chat experience is. These are my experiences with other rooms/the LWSH.) The video seems to be a key factor in creating the feeling of "I'm interacting with a human being". Plus, since Malcolm hosts the site, he'll do support and add more features. And you'll get a nudge to be productive while you are around. Win-win!

When will this be up? The current plan is to launch the hall within 2 weeks after EA Global (that is, by mid-September). Malcolm or I will post here again then.

Also, if you're at EA Global, do come to my ignite talk. It'll have screenshots to show what the site looks like, and you'll hear more. Or, if you miss the talk, talk to me! I'm one of the people in the blue staff shirts. :)

Comment author: jonathancourtney 20 August 2015 11:16:57AM 3 points [-]

Looking forward to hearing more about this at EA Global Oxford!

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 19 August 2015 07:36:29PM 3 points [-]

Awesome, I was totally thinking this should be created and now it's on the way! I actually hope it gets even more frequented than the LW study hall. This project could also help by letting people casually ask questions in the breaks. When this comes out I think this deserves to be heavily promoted so that everyone in the target audience hears about it! And in my experience people can need a bit of a push (e.g. I didn't get on the LWSH the first time I heard about it).

Does your suggestion about the project board include the possibility for teams to set open their own chatroom to work on a project? That would sound very beneficial to me. Working together remotely can be tough and this could help with both coordination and motivation.

Comment author: AnneWissemann 04 October 2015 05:47:19PM 1 point [-]

It will definitely be possible to open new rooms. Actually, every Complice user can do this already via https://complice.co/rooms/.

For non-Complice users, there will be a bunch of existing "breakout" rooms once the EA Study Hall is officially open. I think it's a great way to use a room! As I have a Complice account, I can also open a specific named room for a team wanting to work on something for a longer period of time. There is no qualitative difference between a "generic" breakout room and a special team room, though, so I guess it'd be more cosmetic / keeping non-team EAs from popping in.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 20 August 2015 01:18:14AM 2 points [-]

A page on the .impact hackpad, or on this Forum, should be made after your EA Global talk, and/or when the new coworking space goes up. If there will be notes/slides from the talk, I'd be happy to help in drafting a post annoucing the coworking space.

Comment author: MalcolmOcean 19 August 2015 07:19:42PM 2 points [-]

:D

I'll add that since this will be hosted in the context of Complice, which is a larger app, it may not make sense for me to add too many EA-specific features to it. So short-term it'll probably look like linking to and/or pulling data from other sites like skillshare.im

But yeah, I do want to make a really great place for EAs to hang out online and to get to know each other while also being productive! So if there are ways for me to do that then I'm excited to work on them :)

Comment author: Sindre 30 August 2015 08:12:32PM 1 point [-]

I got so excited by your lightning talk! Can't wait to check it out!

Comment author: WilliamKiely 19 August 2015 02:58:21AM 9 points [-]

The 10 karma requirement to make your own posts on this forum makes it difficult for new people to share their own ideas here. Perhaps reducing it to 2 would be better.

I've been aware of this forum for a few months and have checked back to it a couple dozen times, but still don't have 10 karma because searching out for posts where you can make insightful comments to get 10 upvotes isn't actually that easy or quick.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 19 August 2015 02:22:30PM 3 points [-]

This is a good point. The EA Forum people have been working on bringing the karma requirement down further. More updates soon. :)

Comment author: WilliamKiely 19 August 2015 03:50:58PM 4 points [-]

Cool, thanks. Some people just brought me up to 10 Karma, so I'm going to write a post on one idea tonight and publish it here.

Comment author: Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) 19 August 2015 11:04:45PM *  2 points [-]

We actually already took it down to 5 at Ryan's request. :) It's probably a good idea to get that (re)announced in the post about the Forum you're working on Peter. But William's post makes me think that's no longer in effect - can you confirm William?

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 20 August 2015 01:15:06AM 1 point [-]

This is a good point. The EA Forum people have been working on bringing the karma requirement down further. More updates soon.

In the meantime, William makes the case for the rest of us to be biased in favor of upvoting more often. I myself upvote almost every reply I receive, and upvote any comment from which I learn something, even if I'm not personally invested or interested in that particular thread.

Comment author: Nekoinentr 20 August 2015 03:33:36PM *  0 points [-]

I'm not sure I agree, that would lose some of the information signal of upvotes.

Comment author: WilliamKiely 19 August 2015 02:51:58AM *  8 points [-]

I just met several EAs in person for the first time last night after following the community online for over a year. Here's the process:

I was travelling and knew I'd be in the Chicago area for two weeks. Upon arrival I searched for Chicago EA groups on Facebook, found one and asked if there were any meetups happening. There weren't, but people were interested and we set one up (Facebook event). 8-10 people showed and we had some good discussions. Pretty simple.

Takeaways:

(1) Create EA Facebook group for your area if there isn't one already

(2) Join the EA Facebook group for your area

(3) Attend meetups when travelers or new people express interest in meeting up

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 19 August 2015 02:23:50PM 5 points [-]

Another takeaway: If there isn't a meetup, you can request one and it will probably just happen.

Comment author: HaseebQ 23 August 2015 10:07:20PM 6 points [-]

One thing I'd really love to see happen is for live Workathons to spread to other cities outside of SF. To my mind, they represent the best part about EA: people coming together, and getting important shit done.

One soft goal that I have for the next year is to get Workathons going in at least 5 other cities besides SF. In places like NYC, Oxford, and Bern, there are definitely enough critical mass of EAs that this kind of event could be organized on a weekly basis.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 23 August 2015 10:09:04PM 3 points [-]

Yeah, this would be awesome. I've loved seeing the Workathons spread so far. You can learn more about them on the .impact FB page.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 25 August 2015 01:18:20AM 1 point [-]

Charity Science has four employees and has at least one, maybe two, interns for the next few months. There are three other effective altruists who live in the area, so they'd join in too. I'd organize them, except I live one town over from where Charity Science is located, and I currently work on the weekends. Is the goal for the Workathons to always be on Sundays, coordinated across the world? Either way, Vancouver, Canada could host a Workathon too.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 23 August 2015 11:21:36PM 0 points [-]

Great idea! Are you in a position to make it happen? If not, whose help could you need? Anyone from those places interested?

I'll cover the NYC.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 23 August 2015 11:22:47PM 0 points [-]

Trondheim should also qualify.

Comment author: jonathancourtney 20 August 2015 11:14:34AM *  6 points [-]

I just wanted to +1 this post! In general I agree there needs to be more opportunity for open communications with new EAs! This is why I think developing new local presences/chapters for EA is so important (cue, shameless plug of what I am working on!).

I should also note that all of us at Giving What We Can are always happy to chat with new people in the movement! Alison Woodman (alison.woodman@givingwhatwecan.org) is a great first point of contact, and I am also always happy to chat! (jonathan.courtney@givingwhatwecan.org)

An idea that just sprung to mind is that it might be good to have google hangouts happening every week/every other week for people in regions where there isn't already local presences set up, to enable this kind of connection.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 20 August 2015 10:50:05PM 0 points [-]

Re: Hangouts, absolutely I've been thinking the same thing. Both for the more isolated and conference calls about specific topics. Maybe with an expert. (Like the one with Matthew Gertzel about EA policy). I'd be happy to make these happen, anyone want to cooperate?

Comment author: ImmaSix 19 August 2015 06:30:05PM 5 points [-]

Small idea: a second regular Hangout workathon at a time that is more friendly for European or Asian timezones.

Somewhat bigger: organize an EA-coworking weekend. People from different countries/cities come to together for a few days in a central place to on EA related or personal projects, for example finding out the destination of your next donation. This would require people to travel, but it might be worth it. I won't have the resources to organize it myself in the next few months, but feel free to take over the idea.

Even bigger: organize more weekend camps. GBS Switzerland organized a few summer and winter camps in Switzerland, and there is the LessWrong community weekend. At the latter, a lot of people from outside hubs attended.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 20 August 2015 01:57:40AM *  1 point [-]

I'm guessing you're based in Europe.

Small idea: a second regular Hangout workathon at a time that is more friendly for European or Asian timezones.

Most of the project leaders for .impact, like Ozzie Gooen, Tom Ash, Patrick Brinich-Langlois, Giles Edkins, and Peter Hurford are based in North America. So, it would be a challenge for them to organize a Hangout workathon that is friendlier to Eurasian timezones. However, the .impact team won't be adverse to a second regular Hangout workathon. Each of us becomes part of the .impact team when we take the lead a new project. Contact Ozzie Gooen or Peter Hurford to let them know you want to start a second regular workathon for Europeans, if that's something you'd want to do.

organize an EA-coworking weekend. People from different countries/cities come to together for a few days in a central place to on EA related or personal projects, for example finding out the destination of your next donation. This would require people to travel, but it might be worth it. I won't have the resources to organize it myself in the next few months, but feel free to take over the idea.

This is easier in continental Europe because everything is so much closer together than on other continents. I don't think having people from different countries come together is very feasible outside of continental Europe. I'll help brainstorm some nexuses where people from nearby cities can come together for coworking weeknds or camps, though, using the global map of EA groups:

  • Pacific Northwest Weekends/Camps: This would be between Vancouver, Canada, and Seattle, Washington, United States. They're in different countries, but both along the border, and also only three hours drive away from each other. It won't be a co-working weekend, but I'm trying to organize a gathering of effective altruists from both these cities. In the future, I'll try bringing in effective altruists from Portland, Oregon for this as well, in which case we'd most likely all meet in the central location of Seattle.

  • San Franscisco Weekends/Camps: This would be for effective altruists from Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, where there already are lots of effective altruists. A camp for all of California would likely take place in Berkeley or SF.

  • South Bay Area Weekends: This would be for effective altruists who are closer to the heart of Silicon Valley than the northern side of San Francisco Bay, where San Francisco is. This would include effective altruists living in Mountain View or San Jose, likely because they work at a nearby company such as Google or Facebook. I believe there is a sufficient number of effective altruists in the South Bay Areato justify separate meetups than just going to the San Francisco one(s), which might actually take a few hours' drive to get to, rather than ~1 hour. They could do camps in the North Bay (see San Francisco)

  • New Mexico; Texas; Oklahoma Weekends: Apparently each of these states has multiple effective altruism meetups. I don't know how many effective altruists each of these states are home to, but it could be sufficient to justify a whole weekend or camp gathering. These states are sufficiently far apart I doubt doing an interstate gathering for only one weekend would justify the time expenditure of traveling between the states. Camps would likely take place in Arizona or Texas

  • Midwest Weekends: Between Wisconsin and Illinois (Chicago), I know Ben West, Peter Hurford, and Gina Stuessy organize Midwest meetups. I don't if these include members of the Michigan (Detroit) and Ohio meetups. One or two hubs for coworking meetups could likely be organized here. I'm guessing the bigger the meetup, the more likely it is efforts would be made to accommodate members from all four states with meetups in the midwest.

  • East Coast Weekends/Camps: So, this is nearby Washington, D.C. The meetup organization there is pretty solid. They already did coworking weekends to the point they founded and received funding for EA Policy Analytics. There are nearby (enough) meetups in Virginia and Maryland if they wanted to hold some sort of EA camp. A smaller coworking weekend could justify being centered in Virginia to accommodate effective altruists from Virginia and North Carolina.

  • Pennsylvania Weekends: Pennsylvania has four EA meetups. That's likely enough to justify it's own coworking weekend. If there was some kind of camp they could make the trip up to Boston or New York (see Boston; New York).

  • New York Weekends/Camps: Effective altruists all the way from Pennsylvania to Conneticuit could come together for a coworking weekend or camp. I figure there's enough effective altruists in New York to justify coworking weekends even if other states aren't included. Camps in New York might be difficult, so it might make sense for everyone to go to Boston.

  • Northeast Weekends/Camps: Between the student clubs at Harvard and Yale, the substantial number of effective altruists in Boston proper, and the few other surrouding meetups, coworking meetups could be organized here. Boston might be the best nexus to host some kind of camp on the eastern seaboard as well.

  • Eastern Canada Weekends: Coworking weekends could be hosted for the effective altruists in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. Bigger meetups like this for the rationalist communities in these cities have taken place in the past. Effective altruists from eastern Canada could likely make their way to a camp in New York or Chicago easily enough (see New York; Midwest).

Group together nearby locations and choose a nexus for them as needed based on the scale and ambition of whatever EA gathering one is planning. Boston might work best for effective altruists from the Northeast and the Midwest coming together. New York or Boston would likely work best for effective altruists from the entire east coast to come together. San Francisco would work best for all effective altruists on the west coast to come together. Brainstorming for other continents continued in next comment.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 20 August 2015 02:14:36AM 1 point [-]
  • Brazil Weekends/Camps: Coworking weekends or camps could be hosted in Sao Paulo, and the efffective altruists from Buenos Aires, Argentina could go as well if they could afford it. These would most likely be organized by IEFHR.

  • Mexico Weekends/Camps: Apparently there are three effective altruist meetups in Mexico. I hadn't ever heard about that before I checked the map today, so I'm guessing there relatively new. They may have enough members among the three meetups in Mexico to justify a coworking weekend; camp seems less likely. I would've included them on the above list, but I dont' think it would be so easy for the effective altruists in South/Central Mexico to make it to, e.g., California or Arizona for a camp there. Mexico is also likely to far away from Brazil to justify these effective altruists traveling there on a semi-annual basis or whatever it would be.

  • Australia Weekends/Camps: Considering there is an EA Global event in Melbourne, Australia this year, that would be the natural location for a coworking weekend there. Effective altruists from New Zealand could make it to Melbourne for a camp as well.

  • Europe Weekends/Camps: I'm not covering this much, because, as ImmaSix pointed out, GBS/GBS Schweiz mostly already has this covered. Coworking weekends or smaller camps aside from a full European camp could work in England/UK, Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavian/Northern European coworking weekend/camp centered in either a city in Denmark; Hamburg, Germany; or Stockholm, Sweden.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 19 August 2015 01:21:34AM 4 points [-]

For newcomers

Jonathan Courtney of Giving What We Can is who I consider the best person to contact about this.

For getting information

I want to work with Tom Ash to integrate Skillshare into the Effective Altruism Hub, build for it a survey which gets coverage of people's skills and expertise, and then imports those answers directly into their profiles on the EA Hub for them. From there, people can contact each other directly, which is already a component of the EA Hub. The next step, so people seeking info on the EA Hub could find other effective altruists to help them with a specific task more easily, would be to add a search function to the EA Hub. I know less about how this would be done, but this is my outline for the order in which things would be done. At some point in this process, there would need to be a concerted and strategic push to get as many skilled persons as possible to fill out and complete their profiles on the EA Hub. That way, the EA Hub would serve as a cross between Facebook and LinkedIn, except only spefically for effective altruists all over the world. I just started the conversation with .impact last week, so none of these projects have started yet, but we're working on it.

Something I could get up much quicker is rebooting the EA Buddy System, which is a system whereby effective altruists could contact each other over Skype or email when they don't feel connected to the community, and want to integrate more with someone relatable. Giles Edkins founded the EA Buddy System in 2014, but the project languished as he, I, and a couple other volunteers failed to coordinate, or just didn't have the spare time. Launching it again should be easy, as I know how to do it all, and the main bottleneck would be finding more volunteers across various characteristic dimensions such as professional sector of work, prioritized EA cause, timezone (for ease of scheduling, e.g., Skyp calls), geographic location, and other demographic dimensions. I can have a post explaining all this, rebooting it, and seeking volunteers within 24 hours.

Giles Edkins led the Buddy System before, but when I contacted him about it via Facebook about one month ago, he didn't respond. I'm assuming he's indisposed for time, by being busy with other EA projects (which I know he works on lots) and his job and personal life and whatnot. Until I hear back from him, I'll assume leadership of rebooting the EA Buddy System. I have new design ideas for it anyway. I'll get on it now I know there's demand from others.

Conclusion: I drafted this comments before I even reading your post. We've independently converged on all the same ideas. Awesome. Let's get organized to get all these started.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 19 August 2015 07:26:41PM 4 points [-]

Integrating Skillshare and the EA Hub sounds exciting! Most of the comments so far have focused on connecting newcomers - this one could solve the expertise problem.

I've also heard of a 'EA Nexus' project in the pre-planning phase that aims to solve roughly the same issues. If you haven't already, you can contact Roxanne Heston or Oliver Habryka about this.

I endorse rebooting the buddy system as well! How can we make it so that new people will actually find it? Giles helped me on Slack with this post, you can probably reach him there. I also think that framing the system more in terms of "help me get connected" or "connect me to someone to talk about..." rather than "I'm stuck, I need a buddy" would make more people want to use it.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 19 August 2015 09:26:41PM 2 points [-]

I was talking to Tom on Facebook, and apparently connecting Skillsahre with EA Hub, and also implementing a search function into the Hub, are projects underway. I'm guessing whatever designs they intend to implement are better than me starting a design from scratch, so I'll help out with what's already happening. I'll talk to Roxane and Oliver for the reasons cited above, as well as to address my own concern that the EA Hub, and the EAG/EA-Outreach team making two different websites which serve the same purpose might be confusing and divide the EA community in half in terms of what online resources they think they're supposed to use. Maybe we can all work together. Delegation might get difficult soon, as the number of people involved is likely approaching ten, a big nubmer, and we're not all on the same page, if we include the EA Outreach team in all this. Starting the design of online tools soon instead of more discussion seems a good idea.

Comment author: Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) 18 August 2015 10:37:27PM *  4 points [-]

[Meet people where you live]

This is a standard idea, but worth a mention. Look at the list and map of EA groups - or indeed the map of EAs - and find one near you, then drop them an email to get in touch. People on the map have contact forms linked at the top of their EA Profiles.

Comment author: ImmaSix 19 August 2015 05:45:02PM *  3 points [-]

The possibility exists, but how many people have ever done this in practise?

Irrespective of how many other people do it (please don't worry about that too much), I would encourage everyone to overcome their shyness and actually ask for help, information or social support by whatever medium. Personally, I felt delighted when someone sent me a question. Even though I am quite busy, responding was probably well worth my time.

Comment author: Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) 19 August 2015 11:02:11PM 1 point [-]

Anecdotally, I've heard of a few from people writing in to me saying "thanks for the map, I met awesome person X on it which let to fruitful thing Y". But I've only had a few emails to that effect, so I have no idea how common it is! I expect people are indeed shier than they need to be, effective altruists tend to really like talking to other like-minded people. :)

Comment author: zdgroff 19 August 2015 04:32:35PM 1 point [-]

It's tough because people often don't live near you! I think the only places where there are lots of EAs are big cities, unless I'm missing something (which would be good news!).

Comment author: ImmaSix 19 August 2015 05:39:37PM *  1 point [-]

I'm afraid you are right.

If no other EAs live near you, you might consider to travel and couch surf in EA hubs. I've done this a few times in the UK, Switzerland and Berlin, and people were surprisingly welcoming.

Unfortunately I cannot reciprocate, because I live in a very EA-low area and will stay there in the future.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 18 August 2015 08:55:28PM 4 points [-]

Local meetups can do outreach to new EAs. At Stanford EA we have had a lot of EAs join us when they found out we existed. We haven't done a great job of publicizing our existence and we're not sure how to do better, but we've still gotten a good number of new members who had found out about EA and wanted to talk with people in person.

So if you are part of a local EA meetup, encourage new EAs to join you. If there's no EA meetup in your area, consider starting one.

Comment author: ImmaSix 20 August 2015 08:16:54PM *  3 points [-]

Another factor is that the less connected people are often shy about reaching out to the busy, high-performing EAs they don’t personally know.

Most of the discussion here has been about the facilities, mostly online like EAhub, skillshare, LWSH, EASH, buddy systems, hangout events, and meetups. Even when the facilities are excellent, user-friendlly and findable, people might be too shy to actually ask.

Overcoming shyness is something different from creating tools, and probably more difficult. What could we do about that?

Some ideas (it would be great if you came up with something better):

  • explicitly claiming that requests for help are welcome

  • example stories of how individuals got connected and benefited from the connection

  • possibility for anonymous questions

Some of them are already implemented to some extent.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 25 August 2015 01:21:40AM 1 point [-]

The Buddy System ins't a software system; it's made of people. So, we can try doing whatever we think is best with it. I can reach out to some effective altruists I know who do work in specific areas, such as finance, or social work, so effective altruists who have need to talking to someone with that expertise would have someone they know they can talk to. I can ask these acquaintances to volunteer for the EA Buddy System if they feel like. They're wouldn't be any pressure.

Eventually we'd be able to include from this the possibility for anonymous questions, and examples stories of how individuals got connected and benefited from that (with the prior express permission of both parties involved, of course).

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 23 August 2015 11:16:00PM 1 point [-]

Yes, this hits the core of the issue in my perception. Tools are merely a way to make contacting people feel more safe. A determined non-shy EA will find the right person to talk to even without them. But often extended contact with EAs is needed before people feel safe doing this. How to would you make it obvious that people are happy to be contacted and asked to skype or so?

Comment author: Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) 20 August 2015 08:33:17PM 0 points [-]

One option would be for someone to come up with a specific call to action (like EAs declaring somewhere visible that certain sorts of approaches are welcome), and then get that call to action out there to EAs and try recruiting them for it. I don't suppose you or others in EA Netherlands would be interested in that Imma?

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 23 August 2015 11:12:16PM 0 points [-]

Can you flesh this out a little Tom? I'm not sure who you want to recruit for what. The people with knowledge for offering to talk?

Comment author: zdgroff 19 August 2015 04:34:19PM 3 points [-]

I think a buddy system is good, but I think it would have to be more rigorously enforced and actively promoted, since buddies will tend to neglect each other given the common tendency to be afraid of meeting new people. Aside from that and meetups, a lot of it probably has to be organic.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 20 August 2015 02:15:44AM 3 points [-]

more rigorously enforced and actively promote

I'm working on this. I shall be the bulldong the Buddy System needs to thrive! >:3

Comment author: zdgroff 20 August 2015 01:52:05PM 1 point [-]

DxE (animal activism network I organize with) has a buddy system that's pretty extensive, so let me know if I can give you any support/advice. :-)

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 20 August 2015 05:55:06PM 0 points [-]

At this point, just let me know any pitfalls or mistakes we'd run into that we'd otherwise only learn through experience. Thanks.

Comment author: William_S 20 August 2015 01:43:31AM 2 points [-]

Idea: allow people to sign up to a list. Then, every (week/2 weeks/month) randomly pair up all people on the list and suggest they have a short Skype conversation with the person they are paired with.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 18 August 2015 09:28:08PM *  2 points [-]

[Creating a dedicated facebook group]

The members there could ask things like “I want to talk to someone about patent law as a career” or “Can you connect me to an EA who has thought about the decision to have a child”. The group members would either offer to talk themselves or select the best person to talk to outside the group. This is simply a way of making it easier to get people to connect people to other people. This mechanism isn't working very well for use because we are so widely distributed. I’ve offered this connection service before and the demand hasn’t been huge, but the connections made seem quite useful.

This would have various advantages over existing approches:

  • Projects on a separate website get less traffic than facebook, which everyone already uses.
  • Existing groups are clearly not being used to facilitate conversations (although they could!). Especially not by the kinds of people I would like to get more connected. I have my doubts that these groups will be used for the purpose in question, but am happy to be proved wrong. Many people seem to need a space where it is explicitly encouraged to ask to talk to strangers over Skype in order for them to actually feel safe doing it. The group wouldn’t need to have many members: It is enough if the members collectively know most of the movement so they can set up the person who wants talk with the right conversation partner.
  • If this fails, it’s a cheap experiment. It might also help us learn about the pitfalls and the kinds of needs out there to find better ways of accommodating them.
  • I think it’s more promising to have people connect people to other people. Approaches of the type ‘everyone lists their skills’ rely on everyone actually filling everything in. They require you to update continuously. They don’t help you find the best person when there are multiple candidates. Real people can do all that and even have a sense of who has time and who doesn’t.

Drawbacks:

  • Some people find it annoying to have more facebook groups. As someone who is not annoyed I’m currently unsure how much more annoying that would be than having fewer with more going on, so I wonder what others think. A counter point would be that only the people who want to be involved in this group need to be.
  • People who are not as well-connected may still be unaware of the group or hesitant to post there.
  • I ran an experiment where I offered to find people conversation partners about their topic in question and it didn’t get that many requests.
  • It might just end up not being used like other attempts.
  • Issues I forgot?

Data points: - More well-connected EAs I’ve talked to seem to be in favor of using existing venues while new people have been excited to have a ‘safe space’ where it’s encouraged to ask for a connection.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 19 August 2015 01:25:17AM 2 points [-]

I've started this "EA Careers and 80,000 Hours Discussion" group on Facebook. It's primary purpose is for individuals to take advatange of the effective altruism and 80,000 Hours members networks to ask or offer questions or advice about how to making career decisions. That may cover much of what you're looking for here. It's existed for just over a week, and it already has 270 members.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 19 August 2015 10:04:20PM 1 point [-]

I think this group is useful by encouraging more people to ask for careers advice and I'm already using it. It doesn't however encourage people ask for a connection. That's the part that not so well-connected people are often not comfortable with doing in the existing groups.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 20 August 2015 12:44:13AM 0 points [-]

Yeah, my tacit goal of starting the group is get all the people who could or would offer the best advice, or are the most well-connected within effective altruism so they can point newcomers to other experts they know, would be in one place so we could convince them all at once to use the new resources on the Effective Altruism Hub, like the "what can you offer" section, and the integration of Skillshare, when they've been completed. The Facebook group acts as an interim resource until we have a better system to connect others.

Go ahead and create an additional Facebook group to meet the other goals you made in the OP, if you think it's worth it.

Comment author: SoerenMind  (EA Profile) 20 August 2015 10:53:43PM 0 points [-]

I'd be happy to create this if people want it. Just don't want to annoy the ones I talked to who say we have too many fb groups. So if anyone is for or against this let me know via a comment or vote.

Comment author: egastfriend 24 August 2015 12:57:12AM 1 point [-]

We could definitely use more human-to-human connection in the EA community!

I think some of the posts here assume that people who are new to EA will reach out to local EA groups or ask to be connected to people. I think that most people are kind of shy.

It's better if we can create a system that pulls people in, rather than waiting for them to reach out. 80,000 Hours used to have this kind of setup -- you reached out for career advice, and then we would try to get you on Skype to connect socially and introduce you to other EA’s (even if they didn't have time to do full coaching). Unfortunately, that funnel doesn’t exist anymore.

However, maybe we could set it up that when people create a new profile/account on some of the EA websites, we can have a volunteer team reach out to them and connect them to people in the same area or field of interest. I call it the EA Welcoming Committee.

Thoughts?

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 25 August 2015 01:15:40AM 1 point [-]

This isn't too different from what I'm intending with the EA Buddy System. It's not set up to be an EA Welcoming Committee as well, but it could be. I'll talk to Tom Ash about integrating something like this on the EA Hub.