Comment author: SamDeere 21 July 2018 04:07:00PM 2 points [-]

Two thoughts, one on the object-level, one on the meta.

On the object level, I'm skeptical that we need yet another platform for funding coordination. This is more of a first-blush intuition, and I don't propose we have a long discussion on it here, but just wanted to add my $0.02 as a weak datapoint. (Disclosure — I'm part of the team that built EA Funds and work at CEA which runs EA Grants so make of that what you will. Also, to the extent that the sense that small projects are falling through the gaps because of evaluation-capacity constraints, CEA is currently in the process of hiring a Grants evaluator.)

On the meta level (i.e. how open should we be to adding arbitrary integrations that can access a user's forum account data) I think there's definitely some merit to this, and that I can envisage cool things that could be built on top of it. However, my first-blush take is that providing an OAuth layer, exposing user data etc, is unlikely to be a very high priority (at least from the CEA side) when considered against other possible feature improvements and other CEA priorities, especially given the likely time cost involved in maintaining the auth system where it interfaces with other services, and the magnitude of the impact that I'd expect having EA Forum data integrated with such a service would have. However, as you note, the LW codebase is open source, so I'd suggest submitting an issue there, discussing with the core devs and making the case, and possibly submitting a PR if it's something that would be sufficiently useful to a project you're working on.

Comment author: alexherwix 22 July 2018 02:41:17PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for your comment Sam!

Regarding the funding project, this was just meant to be one example of a possible project which could profit from integration. So I wasn't really trying to argue the merits of the projects in any detailed manner. However, to somewhat counterbalance your argument, the way I see it, it seems to make sense to try to aggregate resources around existing funding opportunities to help people try to understand the space better. From my own experience it takes some time to wrap your head around who is offering what, in what format, etc. So there seems to be room for improved coordination which may or may not involve new artifacts/software/platform to be developed. Moreover, having people be interested in this kind of topic seems to be a win for the community to me, I don't think we are at the point where returns are diminishing drastically (i.e., one CEA grant evaluator is not gonna fix everything). If you want to talk in more depth about the topic I would love for you to join the slack channel or contact me by mail: alex{at}

Regarding the meta point, this really was the gist of my post. I appreciate the positive attitude you seem to have towards a somewhat "open" model as I think that this would be an important step for the community from a technological point of view. As you say there are lots of cool things that could be done, once we have sorted out some of the basic infrastructure questions. CEA being open to integrating pull requests in this direction would be an awesome first step :)

Comment author: alexherwix 20 July 2018 10:22:37AM *  4 points [-]

Thank you Marek and the whole CEA team for taking on this project! I love your initiative and what you outline seems like a very valuable and necessary step for the EA community. If things work out as you imagine, EA could be one of the first science-driven communities with a strong "community-reviewed" journal type offering (in this vein it may make sense to introduce different types of "publications" – idea, project report, scientific publication, etc. – with different standards for review and moderation). Very inspiring!

A question that comes to my mind would be your plans and stance on making user profiles/data accessible to external partners and integrations. For example, I am investing some time into thinking about the funding pipeline in EA right now, in particular with a focus on small scale projects which seem to be falling through the cracks right now. Having a funding platform integrate with the community system and trust measures of the EA forum could be a game changer for this (for people interest in this topic get in touch on the rethink slack #ti-funding or – it's not much put down right now, but there are already some people interested in this space). Given that the Less Wrong 2.0 codebase is open source it should be possible to develop secure means of integration between different platforms if the provider of the forum enables it. Did you consider these kind of long-term use cases in your planning so far? Do you have a vision for how collaboration with "non-CEA" affiliated projects could look in the future?

Comment author: Dunja 20 July 2018 12:07:41AM *  2 points [-]

I've always found the "karma" system utterly repulsive and deeply disturbing (across online forums in general) . It's a tool that can so easily catalyze bias and censorship, to the point that it becomes way more dangerous than it is useful. And the addition of older members having higher votes is extremely dangerous in preventing new members to question ideas from the dominant majority, hence leading to dogmatism.

The assumption that this will be prevented by already existing variety of views is not at all good enough guarantee: on the one hand, all the current members may share a certain (unreflected) bias; on the other hand, some members may become less active in certain periods of time, which may break the system of the plurality of views that's supposed to keep each other's biases in check.

What's the alternative? Perhaps value-based votes, allowing you to see what like-minded people (your interest-neighbors, so to say) like. Think of and the way it ranks music that's recommended to you, given what your neighbors are listening, where you can still check the newest or most liked stuff even if it doesn't belong to your immediate set of preferences. If that's hard to implement, well that doesn't mean taking a ticket towards potentially dogmatic and undemocratic community is a way to go (where by undemocratic I mean directly impeding democratic principles, such as the ability of a community to sustain the challenge of the minority opinions, and to preserve channels via which those opinions can be heard and openly argued with).

By the way, I don't think the idea of karma has anything to do with "elitism". It has to do with in-group bias, and dangers that emerge from it, such as the censorship of the minority views. So if I weigh the danger of in-group bias vs. a bit tedious search of many posts, I'd always prefer the latter.

Comment author: alexherwix 20 July 2018 10:06:53AM *  2 points [-]

Thank you for your very interesting and thoughtful comment!

I just want to extend your thinking a little bit further into possible solutions. The blockchain space in particular has provided some interesting new ideas in terms of trust and how to organize communities around it. For example, Stellars Consensus Protocol works with "Quorum Slices" that are determined by people you trust to give you a "personal" view on the overall state. Similar you could nominate a "Member Slice" where some member votes are excluded/weighted down or weighted up in the calculation of your post weights. This would allow you to tailor what you see to your needs as your thinking evolves. So if a tyranny ensues you have the possibility of "navigating around". And depending on how you implement it, people could subscribe to your view of the forum and thus, propagate this new algorithm for weighting posts. Hope this is not too complicated... (for those interested in more details, here is a link to a graphic novel explaining the Stellar CSP:

my main point was just to agree with you that having a very hierarchical voting system may profit from some "countermeasures" that can be used in times of misuse or tyranny.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 20 July 2018 03:16:31AM *  6 points [-]

Great point. I think it's really interesting to compare the blog comments on to the reddit comments on /r/slatestarcodex. It's a relatively good controlled experiment because both communities are attracted by Scott's writing, and slatestarcodex has a decent amount of overlap with EA. However, the character of the two communities is pretty different IMO. A lot of people avoid the blog comments because "it takes forever to find the good content". And if you read the blog comments, you can tell that they are written by people with a lot of time on their hands--especially in the open threads. The discussion is a lot more leisurely and people don't seem nearly as motivated to grab the reader's interest. The subreddit is a lot more political, maybe because reddit's voting system facilitates mobbing.

Digital institution design is a very high leverage problem for civilization as a whole, and should probably receive EA attention on those grounds. But maybe it's a bad idea to use the EA forum as a skunk works?

BTW there is more discussion of the subforums thing here.

Comment author: alexherwix 20 July 2018 09:39:17AM *  4 points [-]

I really want to highlight the small point that you made in the end:

Digital institution design is a very high leverage problem for civilization as a whole, and should probably receive EA attention on those grounds.

I am personally very interested in this topic and there is a lot of depth to it. It would be awesome if this topic could gain more traction in the EA community as it seems to be one of the most important challenges for the near-to-medium term future. It may receive some conceptual attention in terms of AI alignment and more practical considerations in terms of AI development coordination but it is actually a much broader challenge than that with implications for all areas of (digital) live. If I find the time, I will try to put a comprehensive post on this together. Whoever is also interested in this topic please get in touch with me! (PM or alex{at}

Comment author: Halstead 11 July 2018 03:09:20PM *  2 points [-]

cheers, the page that mentions cool earth also discusses why we think project based deforestation approaches are unlikely to be the most cost-effective thing. We discuss this at length in the discussion of CfRN.

As for comparing to other charities, as we briefly mention, the main reasons we favour our two charities are that they have much stronger track records than the alternatives and plan to work on very high value areas. I agree that in retrospect there could probably have been more discussion of the relative merits, but the report is already very long. Having looked at the area for many months, I'd be fairly surprised if there were many better climate charities than the ones we recommend.

Comment author: alexherwix 12 July 2018 10:28:11AM 0 points [-]

Thank you for your reply :)

I will have a deeper look at it when I find the time! So the main take away from my previous comment could be that it may be useful to highlight the "surprises" in the executive summary for people who don't have the time to engage in depth and maybe provide a stronger summary of your process for reaching your recommendation (e.g., have comparative metrics like we have for poverty/health related interventions). Or maybe that's good content for a summarizing blog post?

Anyhow, thanks again for your effort to update the EA community on this topic :)

Comment author: alexherwix 11 July 2018 02:47:56PM 3 points [-]

Dear Halstead,

thank you for the effort updated information on effective climate charities is a great and valuable thing to me and probably many other EAs.

However, I had a look at the website and the report but I couldn't really find the discussion of why you do not recommend Cool Earth (searched for the name Cool Earth and only found one unrelated mention). As a past donor to that charity it would be awesome to have a direct link to that information.

Additionally, without having read the report in detail, I think it would be a great addition if you wouldn't exclusively focus on the selected recommendations but position them in context to the other options. That way I could more easily understand if I agree with your selection.

Anyhow, thank you for posting this and investing the time and effort to make this information accessible to a broader audience!

Cheers, Alex

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 10 July 2018 10:26:43AM 4 points [-]

All of your ideas listed are already being worked on by some people. I talked just yesterday to someone who is intending to implement #1 soon, #3 will likely be achieved by handling EA Grants differently in the future, and there are already a couple of people working on #2, though there is further room for improvement.

Comment author: alexherwix 10 July 2018 11:21:26AM *  0 points [-]

I generally agree but I think there may be value in coordinating different parties and part-solutions under "one roof". If you are sill in contact with the people interested in this topic, maybe direct them here to get some knowledge exchange and coordination going? Or provide more detailed information about organizations/people interested in the topic so that they can be reached out to :)

Comment author: alexherwix 10 July 2018 10:50:03AM *  2 points [-]

Hey Brendon,

I love your enthusiasm and creativity as well as a great job for putting it into words and out there! :) Writing a post like this and gaining feedback from the community seems to me to be a great first step for actually making progress on an important topic like this.

I have thought about ideas like this myself quite a lot as well and as someone experiencing funding constraints/difficulties myself I see it is a worthwhile cause to pursue (I might be biased, though ;) ).

I was also in the tech-talk and I would love to be kept in the loop on this as well as contribute where it makes sense. Maybe it makes sense to use on of the slack channels for more in-depth discussions or let's set up a special interest group call around the topic! It may also make sense to start something like a git project and use the wiki features to integrate all the valuable ideas and feedback that start pouring in this thread. Short-term it might make sense to create a project plan and look for funding to make this happen in a sustainable way. I imagine Open Phil or EA Grants may actually be interested in something like this.

I have experience in web development as well as scientific approaches to solution development (e.g., Moreover, I am working on the topic of knowledge management/integration in the context of communities which would likely be an important part of actually making this work.