In response to Open Thread #40
Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 08 July 2018 08:24:24PM *  17 points [-]

The EA Forum Needs More Sub-Forums

EDIT: please go to the recent announcement post on the new EA Forum to comment

The traditional discussion forum has sub-forums and sub-sub-forums where people in communities can discuss areas that they’re particularly interested in. The EA Forum doesn’t have these and this make it hard to filter for what you’re looking for.

On Facebook on the other hand, there are hundreds of groups based around different cause areas, local groups and organisations, and subpopulations. Here it’s also hard to start rigorous discussions around certain topics because many groups are inactive and moderated poorly.

Then there are lots of other small communication platforms launched by organisations that range in their accessibility, quality standards, and moderation. It all kind of works but it’s messy and hard to sort through.

It’s hard to start productive conversations on specialised niche topics with international people because

  • 1) Relevant people won’t find you easily within the mass of posts

  • 2) You’ll contribute to that mass and thus distract everyone else.

Perhaps this a reason why some posts on specific topics only get a few comments even though the quality of the insights and writing seems high.

Examples of posts that we’re missing out on now:

  • Local group organiser Kate tried X career workshop format X times and found that it underperformed other formats

  • Private donor Bob dug into the documents of start-up vaccination charity X and wants to share preliminary findings with other donors in the global poverty space

  • Machine learning student Jenna would like to ask some specific questions on how the deep reinforcement learning algorithm of AlphaGo functions

  • The leader of animal welfare advocacy org X would like to share some local engagement statistics on vegan flyering, 3D headset demos, before sending them off in a more polished form to ACE.

Interested in any other examples you have. :-)

What to do about it?

I don’t have any clear solutions in mind for this (perhaps this could be made a key focus in the transition to using the forum architecture of LessWrong 2.0). Just want to plant a flag here that given how much the community has grown vs. 3 years ago, people should start specialising more in the work they do, and that our current platforms are woefully behind for facilitating discussions around that.

It would be impossible for one forum to handle all this adequately and it seems useful for people to experiment with different interfaces, communication processes and guidelines. Nevertheless, our current state seems far from optimal. I think some people should consider tracking down and paying for additional thoughtful, capable web developers to adjust the forum to our changing needs.

UPDATE: After reading @John Maxwell IV's comments below, 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.

In response to comment by remmelt  (EA Profile) on Open Thread #40
Comment author: Denkenberger 11 July 2018 01:46:23PM 3 points [-]

I like that the forum is not sorted so one can keep abreast of the major developments and debates in all of EA. I don't think there is so much content as to be overwhelming.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 18 June 2018 02:14:29PM 8 points [-]

I've not yet had anyone say it's a dealbreaker (and of course people are allowed to buy meat from takeaways - or microwaveable burgers etc - with their spending money if they are really craving it..). Whilst frugality comes into it, the main reason for the all vegan catering is ethics.

Also, I'd put money on the 2018 survey coming out with higher numbers for veg*anism :)

Comment author: Denkenberger 24 June 2018 04:13:29PM 0 points [-]

Good backup plan. That's great that it has not been a dealbreaker for anyone.

Comment author: Denkenberger 18 June 2018 04:15:13AM -1 points [-]

This says 20% of EA is vegan or vegetarian, so I would guess less than 10% vegan. Granted, the hard core EAs you are attracting may be more likely vegan, and you are lowering the barrier if someone else is reading labels and is hopefully a good cook. But I still think you are really limiting your pool by having all meals vegan. I understand you want to be frugal, and vegan from scratch is cheaper, but animal product substitutes are generally more expensive than animal products.

Comment author: Denkenberger 18 June 2018 03:58:00AM 0 points [-]

Nice idea! The free health care in the UK helps make it low cost, though is there a probationary period for immigrants?

Comment author: Denkenberger 01 June 2018 11:33:17PM 5 points [-]

This is a great project! I agree unfunded theses are a huge untapped resource. We were trying to do something similar with our essay contest on global agricultural catastrophes, but it was not very successful. Joshua Pearce and I have dozens of ideas for effective theses, so we will reach out. Minor comment: it is good to spell out the month, because date conventions are different in the US than Europe.

Comment author: Denkenberger 23 May 2018 04:14:09PM 1 point [-]

This is very helpful. I would note that the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute does AI and is funding constrained. Of course it also does other X risk work, but I think it would be good to broaden your category to include this or have a separate category.

Comment author: Denkenberger 20 May 2018 07:59:23PM 1 point [-]

Interesting - so then interventions that do well on both long-term future and humans today like AI and alternate foods would do very well by your numbers.

Comment author: Emanuele_Ascani 13 May 2018 10:31:26AM 0 points [-]

Good point. Have you also saved/invested in order to grow the capital you devoted to donations? I plan to do just that, coupled with strategies to avoid value drift.

Comment author: Denkenberger 14 May 2018 01:30:58AM *  1 point [-]

Yes, I have invested using strategies like this, which have worked out very well. You can also get a tax deduction by donating to a donor advised fund, which can then only be used for charity. But use one like this so you can have investment freedom.

Comment author: BenMillwood  (EA Profile) 09 May 2018 07:46:08AM 0 points [-]

But this also means if you donate 50% and spend 50% of your free time effectively (like I try to do), you would be a 100% EA

If you gave 60% of your income would that make you a 110% EA? If so, I think that mostly just highlights that this metric should not be taken too seriously. (I was going to criticize it on more technical grounds, but I think to do so would be to give legitimacy to the idea that people should compare their own "numbers" with each other, which seems likely to be to be a bad idea)

Comment author: Denkenberger 12 May 2018 02:00:26AM 1 point [-]

Correct - to make this physically realistic (not able to exceed 100%), you would need to say that someone who donates 10% of money and does no volunteering is dedicating 5% of their total "potential effort." But it is more intuitive to say that GWWC is a "10%" EA.

Comment author: Denkenberger 10 May 2018 04:17:32PM *  1 point [-]

The main reason why I am glad I waited 12 years before donating in a big way is that I switched from being global poverty focused to animal welfare and then to long term future. So now I believe what I am donating to is many orders of magnitude more cost-effective than what I would have donated to 15 years ago.

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