Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 04 July 2017 10:58:04PM *  10 points [-]

EDIT: It's been over a week, and it seems particularly important that CEA answer this.


I see some significant disadvantages to this, to the point that it should be reconsidered.

EffectiveAltruism.org is designed around making EA welcoming and appealing to newcomers. The EA Forum is quite the opposite... it is in depth, can involve controversial ideas and discussions, and can sometimes have a less welcoming tone in the content and comments.

They're really polar opposites in terms of EA, and by bringing the two together in the same domain and with the same front-end you're closely associating them. This violates Marketing 101, bringing two things together that are positioned so differently.

By sharing the same domain, they two will be closely associated in search, and by changing the front-end the association will be much stronger.

Is the intention for the forum to have more newcomers on it? I fear it will become like the Effective Altruism Facebook page in depth of content and usefulness.

Or alternatively if the forum content doesn't change, it will turn off newcomers and detract from the utility of the main EffectiveAltruism.org site.

I'd like to further understand the plan for bringing these quite different things together, and how you might mitigate the dilution of the forum.


Small side note: Forum.effectivealtruism.org has some SEO disadvantages (v. EffectiveAltruism.org/forum), and the way you implement this transition from a technical standpoint will also affect SEO significantly, so I urge you to consult with somebody about proper ways to do so.

Comment author: SamDeere 14 July 2017 09:00:45PM 2 points [-]

Hey Josh, thanks for the comment and sorry for the wait on a response.

The TL;DR is that I think that the branding changes provide a small amount of upside in terms of consistency, and have low risk of downside, because I don't expect that they'll significantly change discoverability, forum composition, or that they'll counterfactually change people's impressions of the different parts of the EA online space.

Our primary motivation is to reduce the proliferation of very similar domain names that all correspond to different things (e.g. effective-altruism.com is the Forum, previously effectivealtruism.com was the Doing Good Better site etc). From our perspective it seems useful to consolidate community assets under the same domain, both from the perspective of users seeing them as part of a broadly unified whole, and in the longer term, from a technical perspective (e.g. easier to share logins between different sites on the same domain). I agree that it's probably good to keep some branding differentiation between the Forum and the front page of EffectiveAltruism.org, however I think it's disingenuous for us to pretend that there's no overlap.

Perhaps a good analogy is YCombinator/Hacker News — the front page presents a more welcoming, informative front, whereas Hacker News has a pretty intense community and may not always be welcoming to newcomers. However, I think people are generally pretty good at understanding that the organization and the user-generated content are different things, while understanding them to be part of the same broad sphere.

I wholeheartedly agree that the Forum is a more advanced part of the community, and it's certainly not our intention to try to dilute the quality of conversation or flood it with newcomers who may lack the context to meaningfully contribute to some of the more in-depth discussions or may find the tone unwelcoming. However, this seems like an issue of discoverability. The Forum is already pretty discoverable (fourth result for 'effective altruism' on Google), so if someone totally new is doing a wide survey of what the EA online space is like, they'll find it (and it already has 'Effective Altruism' in the name...). However, we're not planning on adding additional links to it from the www domain, or changing how we market it in other channels — I don't expect this change to significantly change the composition of people posting on the forum, nor do I expect that it significantly changes how people will view the broad idea of 'effective altruism' (especially not relative to the status quo).

Given that there's already a strong association between EA and the EA Forum, I don't think the exact domain matters that much. If we didn't want there to be any association, we should probably take the words 'effective altruism' out of the title and have a completely different domain. This isn't something we're currently considering.

I'd prefer to use a subdomain rather than a nested route because it's a significantly simpler DNS/server setup. I think the SEO point is a bit counter to the other points. I agree that it will have some SEO implications, but if the issue is discoverability, then actually making the Forum less discoverable in a random search seems to work more to your purposes (as above, currently the Forum is the fourth result on Google). In terms of implementation, we're planning to rewrite the old domain to the new one (using 301 redirects and keeping the old domain active to prevent broken links). I'd also planned to advise Google of the domain change using Search Console. I'd be very happy to hear from you if there are additional steps that you think are important here.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 03 July 2017 02:41:30AM 7 points [-]

Can you speak to any plans on the horizon other than changing the domain name, even if long term?

Comment author: SamDeere 04 July 2017 03:26:18AM *  3 points [-]

Short-medium term: some minor UI changes, to bring branding more into line with the rest of effectivealtruism.org

Longer term ideas (caveat — these are just at the thought bubble stage at the moment and it's not clear whether they'd be valuable changes):

  • I think there's appetite for a discussion space that's both content aggregation as well as original content. This might take the form of getting a more active subreddit (for example) happening, but plausibly this could be something specifically built-for-purpose that either integrates with or complements the existing forum.

  • We've thought about integrating logins between the webapp on EffectiveAltruism.org (what is currently just EA Funds) and the forum to avoid the need to manage multiple accounts when doing various EA things online

  • We've also thought a bit about integrating commenting systems so that discussion that happens on various EA blogs is mirrored on the forum (to avoid splitting discussions when cross-posting).

If there are things that you think would be useful (especially if you've been able to give this more thought than I have) that'd be great to know, with the caveat that we're pretty restricted by developer time on this, and the priority is ensuring ongoing maintenance of the existing infrastructure, rather than building out new features.

[eta spaces between dot points]

Comment author: RandomEA 03 July 2017 01:17:06AM 0 points [-]

Once you make the domain change, both effectivealtruism.com and effective-altruism.com will redirect to effectivealtruism.org. Have you considered purchasing effective-altruism.org and redirecting it to effectivealtruism.org to avoid any confusion?

Comment author: SamDeere 03 July 2017 06:50:53PM 1 point [-]

Yep, this is already in place! Try going to www.effective-altruism.org

In response to EA Funds Beta Launch
Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 28 February 2017 05:45:22AM 2 points [-]

On my browser (Chrome on a Macbook), the EA funds just spins forever, even when refreshing or reopening in a new tab. I notice, however, when I open in Incognito mode, it works fine. This could suggest that my uBlock, Privacy Badger, or other plugin is messing with the site?

Comment author: SamDeere 28 February 2017 07:39:13AM *  4 points [-]

Thanks for this

There was an issue with refreshing security tokens. I've just pushed a fix for this — if you refresh (or failing that, a hard refresh - e.g. Cmd+Shift+R) then the issue should resolve itself. I suspect that it works in incognito because you don't have any cookies set. If you're still having issues, try clearing cookies for the page*.

If that doesn't fix it, it'd be amazing if you could send the log from your Chrome console to tech[at]effectivealtruism[dot]org (open by pressing 'Cmd+Shift+J', save by right-clicking on the console background and selecting 'Save as...).

*Help on this if anyone needs it: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95647?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

11

CEA Staff Donation Decisions 2016

In the lead-up to the December giving season, we asked some of the staff at The Centre for Effective Altruism where they're planning to donate this year. This is something  GiveWell  have done before, and we hope it's a useful resource for others thinking about donating. Read the whole post... Read More
Comment author: AndyMorgan 11 May 2016 09:34:19AM *  1 point [-]

\Hey everyone,

My recent accomplishment is that I've completed building an API to anonymously record donations made to charities, with the intention of allowing organisations like Giving What We Can and EAHub to automatically update the donation records of their members and to measure their impact (I figured there must be an easier way than individuals manually entering their donations).

At the moment I'm going to start working on integrating it with those organisations, and charities that are the most popular with effective altruists, but I'd also really be interested to hear any suggestions for possible applications for it that I could build?

Maybe something like a web application that exports all your donations to a CSV file?

Or maybe a Facebook plugin (is that what they're called?) that displays your donation total on your profile page?

I'm all ears.

It's currently set up to record a donor ID, a charity ID, the amount donated, a reference number, the date, and the time the database record was created.\

Comment author: SamDeere 11 May 2016 11:10:59AM 2 points [-]

Hey Andy, I'm currently working on something very similar as an upgrade to Giving What We Can's My Giving dashboard. Did you want to shoot me an email at sam.deere@givingwhatwecan.org to discuss — either as an opportunity to collaborate or to work out if there's significant overlap?

Sam

Comment author: kierangreig 09 December 2015 03:10:59AM *  10 points [-]

Hi Michelle,

Thank you so much for answering questions like this. I think it’s really worthwhile :). When you have a free moment it would be great if you could answer these questions. Unlike Peter I have only 6 questions:

1.) Should GWWC’s realistic impact estimate include the % of people each year who fulfill their pledge? For instance, the summary of the 2014 Giving Review states that 20-55% of people who pledged from 2009-2013 didn’t fulfill their pledge in 2014.

2.) On what information is the ratio of actual donations to pledged donations used in GWWC’s most recent realistic impact estimate based upon?

3.) Is the current technique that GWWC uses to calculate counterfactuals more likely to overestimate or underestimate GWWC’s impact given that the counterfactual percentage of all future donations is estimated when people initially take the pledge rather than when they make their donations in subsequent years?

4.) In Nick Beckstead’s 2013 quantitative performance review of GWWC he noted:

it is very unclear to what extent the new members are a result of the activities of GWWC’s staff, rather than organic growth.

What is your response to this?

5.) Around 6 months ago GWWC’s realistic impact estimate was a ratio of 60:1 and it’s now 104:1. Why has this number changed and do you expect it to change that much in another 6 months?

6.) It seems that GWWC’s comparative advantage is in generating and maintaining pledges for effective charities. Given that there is a large overlap between GWWC’s and GiveWell’s charity recommendations and GiveWell being in a better position to continue charity evaluations, why is it worth GWWC continuing charity evaluations?

Comment author: SamDeere 09 December 2015 01:51:07PM *  5 points [-]

Hi Kieran,

Michelle is in a better position to answer some of these, but I'll answer the ones I can. I'd also suggest having a look at the comments section of our last fundraising prospectus, which covered some similar ground and which may provide more detail to some of your questions.

1) This is largely covered in the step Accounting for members donating a different amount than they pledged, which uses data from members who have reported their donations in My Giving, and comparing their actual donations with their pledges. The upper bound estimate in the Giving Review (80% of people keeping their pledge) uses the same dataset, but only takes into account a binary 'pledge met' vs. 'pledge not met'. The ratio of pledges to donations (117%) has more bearing our calculations because it captures both people who donate less than they pledge, and people who donate substantially more. Overall, due to people on average donating more than their pledge, the ratio is actually larger than 1:1 (so, even if only 80% of members hit their pledge amount, the number of people donating more than their pledge means the cohort as a whole donates more than it pledges).

The only quibble that you might have here is whether this cohort (people who report donations in My Giving) donates at a substantially different rate than people who don't report their donations (after we've factored out people who have both gone silent, and stopped donating, as per the earlier Accounting for membership attrition step). We have good reason to think this isn't the case (we know a lot of people personally who choose not to use My Giving, but who keep their pledges), but if you were more pessimistic about this, you could downweight the Ratio of Actual Donations to Pledged Donations in the spreadsheet (currently 1.17).


2) As above, this was calculated using data from members who have reported their donations in My Giving, and taking the ratio between their pledged amount and their reported donations, averaging over all members. See this section of the impact page for more info.


3) To clarify, are you talking about the impact of changes to members' income over time, or asking whether we're accounting for potential changes to donation patterns over time which affect the counterfactual ratio?

We're currently calculating our counterfactuals based on the amounts members say they would have donated without us — we haven't modelled behaviour changes into the future, and I'm not sure what we'd base such a model on. Whether it's conservative or optimistic is unclear, but I'd say that this is probably a wash — it's hard to know whether people's predictions of what they would have donated are overall optimistic or pessimistic. In our conversations with members, many people who say that they would have donated 10% without us also tell us that we're a useful commitment device (indicating that perhaps they wouldn't stick to their 10% without us, and that our counterfactual impact is actually greater than what we've accounted for in the model).

If you're just talking about the effect of members' income on the counterfactuals (because the calculations assume they will be static, when in reality income is likely to rise) then we think the calculation is fairly conservative. See the Donations Pledged By Members section of the impact page:

This methodology relies on the accuracy of members’ predictions about their future income. In general we have found that these predictions seem conservative, as most people underestimate their future earning potential[7] . If members do not estimate their future salary, we use the median salary for their country. We think that is a fairly pessimistic assumption, as our median member has an expected earning potential higher than the median wage[8] .

Footnotes 7 and 8 expand on this:

  1. For example, many members estimate their future income will be the same as their current income, even though they are at the beginning of their careers - in reality, income typically increases throughout a person’s career

  2. For example, many members attend prestigious universities and/or are pursuing careers that have an average salary much higher than the median wage

See also this comment made on the last prospectus for some discussion of the effect of modelling changing income over time. Using the same model with the updated figures yields a ratio of between 69:1 (using a fairly arbitrary starting pledged amount of $4,200,000 which produces donations over members' careers equivalent to the $344 million pledged amount, but accounts for income growth) and 157:1 (assuming that the current pledges correspond to current income levels, and that all members are at the beginning of their careers). You can play with this assumption by editing the figure in cell C2 on the 'Calculations' sheet of this spreadsheet, and the income growth rates at the bottom of the column.


5) We've taken into account an additional year (2014), where we had strong growth, but where our costs were not significantly higher. Our membership more than doubled (386 in 2009-13 vs 792 in 2009-14) but our costs only went up by around 40% (£238k in 2009-13 vs £332k in 2009-14). The assumptions have remained essentially the same, so the difference in those ratios accounts for most of the difference (with a less significant amount being due to small changes in membership attrition and counterfactual pledge ratios).

As we note in the caveats, we do expect this amount to go down in future as our staff costs increase, and we don't want people to fixate on it as a predictor of our impact. We see it more as a sanity check of whether we're a good bet, vs giving money to other effective causes.

The degree to which this will change significantly in future really depends on how strong our member growth vs. costs growth is. If the cost of creating a new member hits diminishing marginal returns soon (not at all unlikely), then it's likely to drop back fairly quickly. We don't see this as particularly troubling — so long as our absolute number of members keeps increasing and the ratio is positive, then we're still a good bet.

We doubled staff numbers over 2015 (3 > 6) and we're hiring again now (6 > 8 or 9, depending on fundraising), so it's likely that this will push it back down. We think that maximising future membership growth will be contingent on broadening the skillset of our team (and just having more hands on deck to do outreach work would be a huge help!). Expanding the team, strengthening our organisation, and increasing our growth rate seems very important right now (and much more important than maintaining this ratio at the current level). My guess is that it will settle somewhere between 20:1 and 60:1 — not quite as impressive as 104:1, but still suggestive that we're making a big difference!

(This difference is similar to the reason that we don't think that using "overhead" is a good measure of a charity's effectiveness. In effect, this is our overheads increasing, but so long as this leads to greater (counterfactual) overall member growth and donations to top charities, then we should be happy for the ratio to drop.)


6) Hauke, our Director of Research answers this question here. The short version:

  • Supplement GiveWell research and find new charities within our comparative area of advantage (global poverty reduction)
  • Independently check GiveWell recommendations and provide resilience to the effective charity evaluation system
  • Provide supervision for students/early career researchers who want to focus on effectiveness
  • Ensure in-house credibility when talking about top charities and fact-checking all of our public-facing material

Hope that helps!

Comment author: SamDeere 08 December 2015 11:22:46PM 3 points [-]

I've updated our impact page to include a spreadsheet that you can use to test our Realistic impact calculation. Find it under the "Spreadsheet" header.

Also, preparing this spreadsheet for public use revealed a minor error in our workings (the original spreadsheet was using an out-of-date figure for Proportion of people who say we've affected their choice of charity) — this has been corrected, and the impact ratio has accordingly shifted slightly from 103:1 to 104:1.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 01 July 2015 10:02:42AM 0 points [-]

Hi Sam,

I'd like to know how Rob Mather thinks AMF could increase their impact and if so, by how much, e.g. more specifically, what kind of person they'd need to work for them to achieve this.

Comment author: SamDeere 01 July 2015 10:46:06PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for this Denise — would you like to discuss this in person? If so, happy to add you to the Skype.

5

Opportunity to talk to Against Malaria Foundation founder Rob Mather

Rob Mather from the Against Malaria Foundation (one of Giving What We Can / GiveWell's top charities) has kindly offered to take some time to chat to supporters over Skype. The format will be a Skype conversation of around 1-2 hours, where participants will have the opportunity to ask Rob... Read More

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