We spend a lot of time working on the Forum, and we’d like to hear your ideas for making it better.
Rather than post threads like this periodically, we’re just going to pin this one, so that people who find it in the future will see what suggestions have been made already.
Even if you don’t have suggestions of your own, consider upvoting ideas you like from the comments. That will have nonzero influence on the features we prioritize (though we also take many other factors into account).
If you’d rather make a suggestion privately, get in touch with us through this page [EA · GW].
I would consider something to reduce the karma users can get from commenting on controversial posts. Right now it seems easy to get very high scores by making not really that great comments in such places.
As an example, I think this comment [EA(p) · GW(p)] I made is decent. It makes a true and relevant point that no-one else had mentioned . But it's not great; the topic of that thread is not that important, and the all the comments in it, let alone mine alone, do not resolve the issue. Most importantly, that comment is definitely not over 50% as good as this article [EA · GW] I wrote. I would say the article is at least a thousand times more important, and took at least a thousand times longer to write.
I'm not sure how exactly you would do this though, as all the most obvious methods have significant drawbacks.
Maybe turn off strong voting in comments or even comment karma from counting to users' total karma in such posts? How do we decide which posts to consider controversial, though? Just the mods do it (they kept object-level election posts in the personal blog)?
One underlying reason your comment got a lot of upvotes was because the post was viewed many times. Controversy leads to pageviews. Arguably "net upvotes" is an OK metric for post quality (where popularity is important) whereas "net upvotes"/"pageviews" might make more sense for comments.
Side-issue: isn't Karma from posts weighted at 10x compared to Karma in comments? Or at least, I think it once was. And that would help a bit in this particular instance.
We no longer weigh frontpage posts 10x, though we might want to reinstitute some kind of weighing again. I think the 10x was historically too much, and made it so that by far the primary determinant of who had how much karma was how many frontpage posts you had, which felt like it undervalued comments, but it's pretty plausible (and even likely to me) that the current system is now too skewed in the other direction.
My current relationship towards karma is something like: The point of karma for comments is to provide local information in a thread about a mixture of importance, quality and readership, and it's pretty hard to disentangle those without making the system much more complex. Overall the karma of a post is a pretty good guess on how many people will want to read it, so it makes sense to use it for some recommendation systems, but the karma of comments feel a lot more noisy to me. As a long-term reward I think we shouldn't really rely on karma at all and instead use systems like the LessWrong review [LW · GW] to establish in a much more considered way which posts were actually good.
We've also deemphasized how much karma someone has on the site quite a bit because I don't want to create the impression that it's at all a robust measure of the quality of someone's contributions. So, for example, we no longer have karma leaderboards.
A topic could be controversial in society but the votes could still go mostly one way on the EA Forum itself, though. For example, I wouldn't be surprised if Democrat-favouring election posts were not scored as very controversial on the EA Forum, given the political leanings of EA. Do we also want to consider posts on controversial topics more broadly?
I'd like users to be able to attach/link a profile picture to their EA Forum profile, and that these pictures would be viewable next to their usernames in posts or comments. I think this would make the forum a bit more human and friendly!
I also like this idea. In addition to the effect you describe, I think it could help your eyes track the conversation more easily. It would also add more color to the site. Here are some reasons why I currently think it’s a little too much work. First, it’s more work than it seems, because the current layout of these comments feels very unsuited for slapping in all but the tiniest of avatars. So we’d need to substantially update the comments UI as well as build the profile upload. Also it makes the experience of engaging in the comments nicer, but my current guess is most of the value comes from people writing good posts and more people reading them [EA · GW]. I don’t see the strong causal pathway between pictures and more of that happening. — Having written that, if it caused authors to find the comment section friendlier, I could imagine them having a smaller barrier to posting. OTOH, I could imagine authors being more intimidated by the “oh crap these are real people” feeling. I’d be curious to hear thoughts from authors.
Hey JP, thanks for your thoughts! When you're saying it's a little too much work, how many weeks are we talking about? I can understand how the profile upload part might take a bit long (1-2 weeks?).
For adding in the profile pictures beside author's usernames, I would think there isn't any big UI updating that has to be done there. It's only in the comments section that things might be a bit trickier. I've made mockups for my own suggestion here, including mockups for showing these on the frontpage, post header, and two different options for how to show pictures on comments. Even just showing pictures on the frontpage and beside the author's names in a forum post page would be great, if those are easier to do than adding on the comments.
But yeah it's good that you flag that the value of the forum comes from people writing posts and more people reading them. I'm also curious about what authors think on if they would prefer to have their face in posts, as well as if they prefer to see commenters' faces!
I think this has bad effects also. It’ll make the site appeal more to “normal” people, and look less serious. It also doesn’t give us any useful information, but take up real estate and use up attention. It might make groupthink more prevalent, too; I personally have found my thinking is most honest when I am thinking alone and don’t plan to share them socially.
Related to this what does our user research say that new users think about the forum? Do they think it is minimalist or stark? I guess we could learn this, particularly if we want EA to be more representative of the global population.
Yeah I think the EA Forum team could do usability testing on users if they haven't done it yet. Maybe they could do it on people interested in EA but have never visited the forum yet. I remember the first few times I visited the forum was quite daunting - long posts, usually no pictures on posts, no faces, and no onboarding.
I'm thinking that for users not logged in (which presumably means they're new to the forum?), they could be pointed to this article (maybe with some edits to make it a better first-read for new users): https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/about, [? · GW] and then they're encouraged to sign up in the end. A link to a short 2-5 minute video on the homepage about what the forum is and how to use the forum could work too.
I think some gamification for guided onboarding could work too, i.e. upvote your first article, upvote your first comment, message an author, write your first comment, write your first post, acquire x much karma (and get a badge)
Now that we have tags, tags could be part of onboarding and a more central part of the experience too. Similar to how Medium.com encourages you to follow or subscribe to certain topics.
But yeah I wouldn't want to speak ahead too much on feature suggestions without knowing what the user research and usability testing results are first! As a UI/UX designer myself, I'd much rather see user research and usability testing be done first. My experience in using the forum might not be representative.
I do actually quite like the UX mockups for the photo idea, which I think would have the positive effects already described (friendlier impression, easier to track comments). Here are two reasons I'm less keen:
People discriminate a lot based on how people look. My impression of someone on Facebook is coloured pretty strongly by their choice of profile picture, for example. I'd predict that attaching images to posts and comments would cause people to give relatively more weight to people who (a) look like them along various dimensions, and (b) have access to good, professional photographs of themselves.
There are a lot of users of the Forum who post anonymously or under a pseudonym. If the Forum had ubiquitous images, these users would have to either (a) use no image, (b) use a cartoon/non-human image (as is/was common in Slate Star Codex comment threads, for example), or (c) use a fake photo à la thispersondoesnotexist.com. Apart from the third option, which is ethically somewhat dubious, I think this would be significantly harmful to other users' impression of these users, especially if they are in dispute with named users with real photos, in a way I don't think we want.
Both of these effects are arguably present even in the current, text-only medium, but I think to a far lesser extent. I'm not claiming these effects would necessarily outweigh the benefits, but I think they're real and important, and on balance would currently cause me to lean against images.
(Separately, I'm pretty strongly opposed to gamification, which has a big effect on my behaviour in a way I virtually always think is bad for me. I think it's quite unlikely that the Forum will implement badges/achievements/anything of this sort except karma, but if they did I'd be quite mad. And I think it's quite important that karma is given by users in response to the content you add to the site, not the developers for jumping through hoops.)
It would very dramatically improve my experience of the Forum if there were the option to hide posts. This would mean that the first page of the Forum would always be posts that were relevant to me. As it stands, whenever I visit the Forum most of the posts which I can see are not relevant to me (perhaps because I've already read them and don't want to read them again or check in on the ongoing discussion), whereas posts which are relevant to me and which I would want to visit again are invisible if they are more than a few days old.
It has. We no longer apply the same styling to h2 and h3. While you still can’t create h3s using the editor, you can paste in from google docs and they will appear correctly. Sorry for not mentioning this anywhere, it’s such an invisible change — I don’t know what I was thinking.
(Unfortunately, I will need to remake this change once the new editor ships. LessWrong does not want its posts to have more than 3 levels of headings [h1, h2 and bold text]. I don’t think that’s the right choice for the EA Forum, but sometimes their updates won’t be checked for compatibility with minor features of the Forum).
I had the same problem when posting a few days ago.
Though I think level 3 headings work for me if I use the markdown editor (e.g., a paragraph that only has "### How often have people been wrong about such things in the past?" will show up as a level 3 heading).
And when I just put a sentence fragment in a line by itself and in bold, it at least showed up in the sidebar as if it was a level three heading. (Well, one of them didn't initially work, but then I fixed it somehow - I think the fix was simple, but can't remember.)
Perhaps, by default, new posts could be anonymous until a certain karma threshold (say 30 karma) is met. After that post meets the karma threshold, the true author of the post could become visible.
That way, authors could post knowing that their reputation wouldn't be damaged if their post wasn't well received, but that they would get the credit if the post was well received.
I'd expect this to increase the number of posts (both good and bad) from hesitant new users, and I think that the increase in the number of mediocre new posts would be a cost worth paying. It's good for people to contribute and feel valued for their contribution, especially if it encourages them to make more valuable contributions in the future.
I think it'd be important that the anonymous-until-threshold was the default (i.e. opt out), so that people didn't feel embarrassed about using it.
I do think pseudonymity is the right way to solve this. It's plausible that we might want to make name-changes easier, so if you create a pseudonymous account, you can later take ownership over it more properly, if it turns out to not have embarassed you.
1. Could analytics be displayed on the forum? I think it'd be interesting to people to see how many people read different posts. This is also related to the question re: the forum prize - I reckon many authors would be more motivated by seeing that their posts are widely read than by a cash prize.
2. I often see very long posts that jump right into the introduction without summary. Could one introduce a field that is mandatory if a posts is more than 300 words long that forces the author to provide a 200 characters (or so) summary? Or something like this:
On (2), we've considered adding a summary field in the editor, but I don't think we'd make it mandatory unless we did so for a much larger character count. Whether or not we eventually implement that, I encourage anyone reading this to include summaries in their long posts!
Thanks for providing the Elsevier link -- I could imagine us linking to that as an example of how one might compose a summary.
On-site image hosting for posts/comments? This is mostly a minor QoL benefit, and maybe there would be challenges with storage. Another benefit would be that images would not vanish if their original source does.
Same is true for me (as the person who built the feature). On LessWrong the recommendations are randomized but for some reason on the EA Forum the admins/devs decided to always have them be strictly ordered by the latest highest karma posts you haven’t read, so they never change, and inevitably end up in a configuration where you’re not interested in any of the posts.
I agree it isn’t great. This was slated for a redesign, but then I deprioritized it. I should probably revisit what the right thing to do is. I’ve been meaning to randomize it, as Habryka mentioned. (I want it to not be randomized when you're logged out, which is why it’s like this. It’s supposed to be a way for newcomers to see the best of the Forum, so they don’t get lost in the weekly churn.) Maybe just randomizing it for logged-in users would be enough, but an option to hide it seems good, if more work.
While I think LaTeX is useful, it is not very intuitive or user friendly and posting long curated articles is quite tedious. It would be nice to have a feature like Elementor.
I think there would be a lot of value in a detailed how-to document for content creators explaining each step needed to go from a GDoc or WordDoc to a forum post. This would optimally include a directory for keywords like footnotes, typographical emphasis, Title/Header/Normal text functions, etc.
Double the karma weight of votes made before the new karma system was implemented. All votes used to be worth one point. For example, let's take an old post like this [EA · GW]. It currently has 43 karma and 43 votes (probably all of them are upvotes). For comparison, my newest post has 53 karma and 16 upvotes. If you think about it, that old post is clearly more endorsed by the community. There were fewer readers when it was posted and a very high percentage of them chose to upvote it and probably many would have strongly upvoted if that was an option. Nowadays, even a regular upvote by high-karma users is worth two points. Posts like that old post do not appear in forum favourites and other places like that but they should. If you doubled the karma of such old posts, the karma for that old one would be 86 instead of 43 - a much better representation of how much the community endorses that post. Ah, maybe you should even triple the karma weight. Posts like this [EA · GW] would then actually make forum favourites and I think they should.
It's not just about ranking. It's also about how much karma individual users have and (most importantly) about how worthy-of-reading a post looks when you open it based on its karma. I think that the situation where all votes made before the new system are worth one karma point is no less confusing than a system where they are worth two karma points.
Sans-serif font in body text! The comments section is absolutely beautiful to read, but I find the body text of posts very difficult. Most blogs and online news sources seem to use sans-serif, probably for readability.
Alternatively, give users the option to pick their own font. Also, maybe make text black instead of a lighter grey?
When you say "make text black instead of a lighter grey," are you referring to all of the Forum's light-grey text (e.g. voting buttons, section subtitles), or something more specific?
I tried to check on the "sans-serif is easier to read" claim but didn't find conclusive evidence; checking Google Scholar, the first study of computer readability I saw found that serif fonts were easier to read. (This is just one study, of course, and knowing that the Forum's specific body type is tough for some people really helps us.)
I meant the body text of posts could be darker - I wouldn't change the buttons or other light-grey text.
Interesting that the study found serif fonts more readable. I'm not aware of conclusive evidence in either direction, I'd just heard folk wisdom that sans-serif is more readable on a computer screen.
My general opinion is that the comments section on this forum is extremely easy to read and clean to look at, some of my favorite formatting anywhere, but personally I find the body text of posts much more difficult to read than most sites. I wonder what most people think, I wouldn't expect everyone to have the same experience.
I'd like to have the option to makepolls within a post. I recently wrote a short question post to see if an idea seems promising and I got a couple of upvotes and no comments. Having the option to get quick and cheap feedback from the community would've been useful.
i would find it helpful to establish a norm to begin posts with a short (!) 'tl;dr'-section which summarizes the main results/arguments of the article, since sometimes it is hard to tell what a post is about only from the title/the preview one gets by hovering over the link.
if im not mistaken, when you hover over the link to a post you just see the beginning of the post, right? this sometimes is not very useful. maybe you could give post creators another text field ("thumbnail"/"preview"/"tl;dr") where they can explicitly fill in what should be shown when hovering over the link. this field should probably be character limited then. this text should be displayed at the top of the post, too. (and if posters dont fill it out it could just fall back to showing the beginning of the post).
It could be cool if the EA Forum allowed for boxes of text that start off collapsed but can be expanded, in the way that e.g. Gwern's site does (here's a random example). This could be used for long sections that the author wants to signal (a) are sort-of digressions and/or (b) may be worth skipping for some people.
There are a few things authors can already do that serve a similar purpose:
Have a section that explicitly says at the top "I think this section will be of interest to far fewer people than the rest of this post, so feel free to skip it."
Move a section to the end and call it an appendix
Just link to a google doc that sort of serves as the expandable box/appendix
Move the section into a footnote
But the first two of those options seem to less clearly signal "We really think fewer people should read this than should read the rest of this post", compared to having a collapsed but expandable box of text.
And the third option might sometimes signal that too strongly, and also doesn't allow things to show up when you use the Forum's search function.
And the fourth option doesn't seem to work well for fairly long sections of text; more than a few paragraphs in a single footnote would be unusual and might be a little annoying (due to the small text). Also, that would remove the option of the author including footnotes within that section of text.
(I originally raised this idea here [EA(p) · GW(p)], in the context of whether it'd be best to include full transcripts from 80k podcast episodes when link posting them to the EA Forum. I think it could make sense to include the transcripts as collapsed but expandable boxes of text, so that terms from the transcript will appear when doing searches on the Forum - which wouldn't happen if the transcript wasn't included at all - but people don't feel like they have to read the whole transcript before they comment on the post.)
Yeah, I generally want to have a bunch more interactive elements in posts. This was historically blocked by a bunch of improvements we were making to our editor, but that is now done, and I hope that soon we can make a bunch of improvements in this space.
I think the EA Forum should allow authors to pick one of the images they attached into their post as the "preview image" when the post is shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
I don't think this feature currently exists, and I think it would help drive traffic to the EA Forum whenever posts are shared. I'm assuming that the authors would link an image that is more enticing than the standard EA forum logo, which would result in slightly higher click-through rates. Medium.com and most other CMS's allow you to pick a preview image. I think Medium.com's UI for picking a "featured image" is a good example of how to design this feature.
Hm I tried linking a recent EA Forum post with an image [EA · GW] (image is at the bottom) just now on Facebook, and the EA forum photo is still the one showing up. I tried running it via the Facebook sharing debugger and pressing "Scrape Again", but it still shows the same photo.
Very specific and small comment, but I'd like to see the "Reply" button for comments be bigger and more noticeable. I would prefer it to be an actual button (with padding and an outline), and with a message icon beside it. It's happened to me twice where I couldn't figure out how to reply to a comment until ~30 seconds of searching for the reply button.
Co-authors on posts should also share the karma of the post.
I don't know how they should, whether it's equal split, or some percentage of the whole (e.g. if there's 100 karma each person gets 75 or something).
(I noticed this on 1 account for a post the person had co-written ~6 months ago)
I worry a bit that all the suggestions are about details, whereas the macro trend is that public discourse is moving toward Twitter, and blog content linked from Twitter. One thing that could help attract new audience would be to revive the EA Forum Twitter account, automatically, or manually.
Across the internet as a whole. I agree that a lot of discourse happens on Facebook, some of it within groups. But in terms of serious, public conversation, I think a lot of it was initially on newsgroups/mailing lists, then blogs, and now blogs (linked from Twitter) and podcasts.
Yeah, I agree with this. I actually think we have an admin-only version of a button that does this, but we ran into some bugs and haven't gotten around to fixing them. I do expect we will do this at some point in the next few months.
No, sorry, though that might be a good idea. I meant an option to easily move a shortform post you have written to a top level post, because I've seen many cases where people write amazing shortform posts which might get a lot more visibility if they were forwarded to top level, perhaps after getting some feedback and comments from people who are more engaged with the forum to even look at the shortform.
That should transfer all comments and Karma with it, and simply have the option of adding a title.
I guess this should apply to all comments, not just in the shortform.
Import from HTML/gdoc/word/whatever: One feature I miss from the old forum was the ability to submit HTML directly. This allowed one to write the post in google docs or similar (with tables, footnotes, sub/superscript, special characters, etc.), export it as HTML, paste into the old editor, and it was (with some tweaks) good to go.
This is how I posted my epistemic modesty piece [EA · GW] (which has a table which survived the migration, although the footnote links no longer work). In contrast, when cross-posting it to LW2, I needed the kind help of a moderator - and even they needed to make some adjustments (e.g. 'writing out' the table).
Given such a feature was available before, hopefully it can be done again. It would be particularly valuable for the EA forum as:
A fair proportion of posts here are longer documents which benefit from the features available in things like word or gdocs. (But typically less mathematics than LW, so the nifty LATEX editor finds less value here than there).
The current editor has much less functionality than word/gdocs, and catching up 'most of the way' seems very labour intensive and could take a while.
Most users are more familiar with gdocs/word than editor/markdown/latex (i.e. although I can add Ω and other special characters with the Latex editor and a some googling, I'm more familiar with doing this in gdocs - and I guess folks who have less experience with Latex or using a command line would find this difference greater).
Most users are probably drafting longer posts on google docs anyway.
Clunkily re-typesetting long documents in the forum editor manually (e.g. tables as image files) poses a barrier to entry, and so encourages linking rather than posting, with (I guess?) less engagement.
A direct 'import from gdoc/word/etc.' would be even better, but an HTML import function alone (given software which has both wordprocessing and HTML export 'sorted' are prevalent) would solve a lot of these problems at a stroke.
Alas, I don’t think this is possible in the way you are suggesting it here. We can allow submission of a narrow subset of HTML, but indeed one of the single most common complaints that we got on the old forum was many posts having totally inconsistent formatting because people were submitting all kinds of weird HTML+CSS with differing font-sizes for each post, broken formatting on smaller devices, inconsistent text colors, garish formatting, floating images that broke text layout, etc.
Indeed just a week ago I got a bug report about the formatting of your old “Why the tails come apart” post being broken on smaller devices because of the custom HTML you submitted at the time. Indeed a very large fraction of old LW and EA Forum posts have broken formatting because of the overly permissible editor that old LessWrong and the old EA Forum both had (and I’ve probably spent at least 10 hours over the last years fixing posts with that kind of broken formatting).
If you want to import something from Google Docs, then exporting it to markdown and using the markdown editor is really as well as we can do, and we can ensure that always works reliably. I don’t think we can make arbitrary HTML submission work without frustrating tons of readers and authors.
I have also been working a lot on making the new editor work completely seamlessly with Google Docs copy-paste (and indeed there is a lot of special casing to specifically make copy-paste from Google Docs work). The only feature that’s missing and kind of difficult to do is internal links and footnotes, but I have not discovered any other feature that has been running into significant problems (that we would want, there are some others like left or right floating images that we don’t want because they break on smaller devices). So if you ever discover any document that you can‘t just copy paste, please send a bug report and I think we can likely make it work.
People can already add this information to their Forum bios if they want to, and I encourage [EA · GW] anyone who hasn't done this to do so!
I think linking a Forum bio to an EA Hub profile might backfire, in that a Hub profile might be more onerous to fill out than a quick bio (but maybe getting more Hub profiles would be worth the tradeoff?).
In StackExchange they have an option of offering bounties for questions which can be collected by answerers. If we'd have something similar here, that could serve as a good signal that someone cares about a question and has yet to get a satisfying answer.
I'd be curious about what kinds of trades people can do if there would be a process for (probably better publicly) exchanging karma. I can imagine bets being made, offers to help editing, seeking information, a bounty on finding mistakes or whatever.
I do worry about people's incentives being unfavorably changed though, but it seems to me that getting more karma is sort of aligned with doing more good. Perhaps if all trades would be on a public ledger it would mitigate the possible harms as it would be easier to see who tries to game it.
Two consecutive hyphens should autocorrect to an em dash!
That way, a parenthetical clause in the middle of your sentence - like this one - isn't offset by "space hyphen space" on either side--or, even worse, by "hyphen hyphen". Instead, autocorrect two hyphens to a nice, clean em dash—like that.
I think this is a common feature for text editors - Microsoft Word definitely uses it.
I think it would be very helpful if the forum was made easier to navigate by creating categories/sub-fora, making tags more intuitively accessible, or some other method. E.g., how do I find the most-upvoted forum posts and comments about EA investing?
I think sub-fora is a somewhat contentious issue, the counter-argument being that it's good to have the Forum be a clearing-house of EA ideas without too much splintering.
I agree the tag interface could be more discoverable. If you go to https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tags/all [? · GW] you can see a list of all tags and how many posts each one has, but there doesn't seem to be much functionality beyond a featureless alphabetical list (e.g. it would be cool to allow them to be sorted by number of posts, and for the tags page to be discoverable from the homepage).
Could we have better help for those whose content has been (heavily) downvoted?
I often see people plaintively saying something like: "My comment has been heavily downvoted, but I have no idea why!" Can the forum be more helpful for this scenario?
Not sure what the best solution is, but here's an idea:
if someone's comment/post has been downvoted enough for it to have net negative status, the UI allows the user to ask for feedback (e.g. it's an option when you click on the three dots on the top right hand side)
if they ask for feedback, the forum contacts all those who downvoted it and also some high-karma people and links to the content and asks for feedback (which they don't have to give, and which would be anonymous)
The feature could perhaps incorporate additional features
to increase the probability that people provide feedback, they could be remunerated (this could an alternative use for the Forum prize money, if it was decided that forum prizes didn't incentivise people more than the existing karma system) (perhaps there would need to be some thought given to avoiding the perverse incentive for people to give downvotes too liberally)
the system could incorporate some mechanism to make sure that users don't overuse/abuse this feature (e.g. perhaps the user has to write out and submit to the forum what they will do differently in the future before they are allowed to use the feature again)
I think this could be more useful for people who are slightly downvoted, or whose posts just don't get much attention. I remember a few recent highly-downvoted posts and comments (below -10 or so), and all of them seem to have well-written feedback; sometimes more thought was put into the feedback than the original post (not necessarily a bad thing, but going even further could be a massive waste of energy).
People who provide feedback also have to want to engage. On Stack Exchange, closing a question requires a reason, but mods and high-rep users are known to close poorly-written questions for vague reasons without providing much feedback. An even worse failure mode I see is if users are disincentivized from downvoting because they don't want to be added to the feedback list.
I also don't know what the best solution is, or if the best solution is a codebase change (as opposed to just a norm that you should avoid silently downvoting things if you can, unless feedback you agree with is already there).
But I agree this is a problem: downvoting silently achieves the function of allowing the forum to sort and filter content, but fails the function of allowing users to learn and get better.
Having the option of suggesting edits easily, as in google docs.
I think that it being easy for readers to add links, explanations and corrections might improve the quality of posts and enable better participation between commenters and the OP. Specifically, I think that we should link more, especially to other posts on the forum, and it would be helpful if that could be aided by commenters.
Technically, that could work by saving a history of versions (which would perhaps be a good idea anyway), perhaps by remembering the diffs in a git-like fashion. Then, readers can propose a new version which they edit just like any other post, which waits for the OP approval.
If you allow anyone to verify edits to the post, that would be a nice way to do a mini-wiki.
That’s actually a lot of what the LessWrong team is currently working on! I don’t know yet whether we want to allow suggesting edits on all posts, but we are planning to allow wiki-like posts that allow people to submit changes.
I've been working on something similar to this recently (I've added all my thoughts as sperate suggestions here). I am not sure you need live editing, but upovable suggestions, comments in text and requests for citations/citations seem valuable.
As far as I can tell, it isn't possible to have line breaks in footnotes (though I may just be doing something wrong). This also precludes bulleted/numbered lists, block quotes, etc. Any chance that could be changed?
Footnote support in the 'standard' editor: For folks who aren't fluent in markdown (like me), the current process is switching the editor back and forth to 'markdown mode' to add these footnotes, which I find pretty cumbersome.
 So much so I lazily default to doing it with plain text.
Yeah, this is the current top priority with the new editor rework, and the inability to make this happen was one of the big reasons for why we decided to switch editors. I expect this will happen sometime in the next month or two.
Has anyone considered a hackernews-style section? I know there is already support for posting links, but:
They act as posts, while their function is not at all like that in Hackernews. E.g.,
I don’t want my subscriptions to people show me their submitted links. At not as post notifications.
Hackernews thrives by banning editorialization. You can only submit a link with its original title (or a sufficiently neutral title in case the original title sucks. They have guidelines on their site, iirc.). The poster has no privilege over other users.
There is a culture of posting relevant links that the community finds useful. We do not have such a culture here, because we do not provide the medium and guidelines for it.
This links section will create a distributed content aggregator for our community. Considering finding relevant content in our current era is a hard problem, this can be very useful. I think a lot of us here are distasteful of surroundings ourselves with news outlets, for example. It’d be great if we could get a filtered important news list through the community. Adding features such as an RSS feed for links with X+ karma will be helpful in this endeavor.
The expectation that *ALL* EA resources should be in this forum. Ideally people would post books (with the tag "book") and then new users could see which resources the community thinks are worth reading first.
That's an interesting idea for Forum v3: a wiki for all EA materials. Newcomers could go to the Forum and find Peter Singer, Doing Good Better, and links to 80,000 Hours research + new posts every day.
I'd love to have a weekly/monthly open post, where everyone could ask questions and post small ideas. I imagine something similar to LessWrongs "Open & Welcome Thread". This could make some people more comfortable with starting to contribute to the forum.
Copying Bob Jacob's suggestion here so that people can vote:
Right now most sequences are still displaying my name, even though I didn’t write them. The mods have thankfully already changed the name for the “moral anti-realism” sequence, but ideally the other sequences should be properly credited too. Maybe the whole sequence should just be handed over to the authors themselves, since they might not like the descriptions and images I have created (I did message them). That way they can also just add new posts to the sequence without having to contact me first.
Perhaps it would be useful to have a "Sequence author" tag or something? I have also created a few sequences I didn't write just to reference the group of posts, but it would be good if the author was somehow credited.
I think it makes sense for the default "sequence author" to be the person who actually put the posts together; many sequences have a bunch of different authors represented, and users can see who wrote each post in a sequence as soon as they click on it.
However, in cases where one user sequences a bunch of another user's posts, without other posts mixed in, it seems reasonable for the second user to "own" the sequence. For all sequences of that type currently on the sequence page, someone from our team will edit the author manually (looks like the functionality may not be available on my side, so I'll talk to the devs).
I think manual edits of this type will probably suffice for now, as I don't think anyone else is going to create two dozen sequences anytime soon. Being able to assign someone else as the "owner" of a sequence could be useful eventually, though!
I would love to have more features for the Markdown editor, since I prefer it over the WYSIWYG editor. For example, I'd like to be able to upload images while editing in Markdown (like GitHub does). Also, a syntax cheatsheet would be wonderful.
Ideally, I'd like to be able to switch between the Markdown and WYSIWYG editors while editing a document, or have a rendered preview tab in the Markdown editor.
''Next" and "Previous" arrows/buttons at the bottom of a post, to move to the next/previous post - useful when you haven't read the forum for a while and want to catch up. This would obviously have to assume a certain ordering (e.g. chronological vs karma) and selection (e.g. all or excluding Community/Questions), which could perhaps be adjusted in Settings.
I'm not sure if such a feature would be worth the work it would involve, but: a very simple "editor" to very easily create probability distributions (or maybe more generally graphs that don't require mathematical formulas but just very rough manual sketching) and embed them into posts or comments could be useful. I'm not sure how often people would really use that though. Generally however, it would probably be a good thing to make probability estimates as explicit as possible, and being able to easily "draw" distributions in a few seconds and having a polished looking output could make that happen.
If this is something people would find useful, I'd be willing to spend the time to create such a component so it would theoretically just have to be "plugged in" afterwards.
The all-posts view [? · GW] gives excessive prominence to shortform posts: while for both ordinary posts and Wiki entries only titles are displayed, for shortform posts one gets to see the entire content. I suggest truncating such posts so as to show only the first line.
We should add the ability to convert posts to questions (or back to regular posts, but that's tricky because answers would have to be converted to regular comments).
Also, the editor should automatically suggest converting your post to a linkpost or question post if the title or body text matches certain patterns. For example, if you write "Crossposted from X" or "This is a linkpost" at the top, it can infer that your post is most likely a linkpost. I see a lot of posts from inexperienced users that are classified as regular posts even though they're intended to be linkposts or questions, so I think this would be helpful to them.
When editing a document, it would be nice to be able to link to headings/subheadings from the main editor when writing summaries or internally linking to other sections of a post, e.g. how it's done in Google Docs (see screenshot)
Yes, a tag is removed when its score drops to zero. As long as multiple people haven't all used the job listings tag, it can be removed by the author's downvote. And in a pinch, any admin's strong vote will suffice to drop something below zero even if it has 2-3 votes.
Could we get notifications if someone comments on a thread we started, but not as a direct reply to us? Currently, if I make a comment, I get a notification if Alice replies, but not if Bob replies to Alice. And I suspect Bob's replies would often relate to what I said and be interesting to me.
I've just noticed I can subscribe to comment replies on a thread, but I'm not yet sure if that captures replies to replies, and really I'd like this to be default for every comment thread I start (rather than me having to manually opt in every time).
(Apologies if someone else already mentioned this; I haven't read the other suggestions on this page.)
If you select "auto-subscribe to replies to my comments", you'll be subscribed to each comment that replies to one of your comments. You can combine this with a notification for "replies to comments I subscribe to". This should capture your "replies to replies", though I haven't validated this through testing.
In the time since you left this comment, have you seen evidence that this method works, or that it doesn't?
Update: I think that this doesn'twork, at least for me and in cases where I didn't start the comment thread. (Unless I'm doing something wrong.)
My specific observations:
I replied to a comment here [EA(p) · GW(p)]. I was notified when Michelle Hutchinson replied. But I wasn't notified of the various replies to her replies.
When I click on the three dots to the right of my comment, one of the options is "Unsubscribe to comment replies". So I think that means that the current state is that I am subscribed to comment replies to that comment of mine.
In my user settings, "Auto-subscribe to replies to my comments" is ticked.
In my user settings, "Replies to comments I'm subscribed to" shows the current settings as "Notify me on-site" and "Immediately".
(Is there something else I should do? Also let me know if screenshots would be useful.)
I've checked with LW's tech staff, and it looks like what you've seen is the behavior they'd expect -- it's apparently difficult to track longer comment chains in this way with the current tech setup. I'm sorry to have given you an incorrect theory.
I think I forgot about this. (Though I'd still value getting notifications for replies to replies; I just forgot to think about it or check if solutions worked.) I'll pay attention over the coming days :)
I would like to promote Wei Dai's suggestion [LW(p) · GW(p)] that it would be nice if it was possible to share drafts privately and then potentially make them public at a later point. (I think there's some chance that this is already possible, but the UX doesn't seem intuitive, otherwise I would have noticed already.)
Before implementing, it seems worth talking to users to find out whether this would actually make them more likely to share their internal work publicly at some point. It could also be good to find out whether there are any other ways that could make people more likely to share their internal work publicly.
Some of this will appear with the new editor, which has collaborative editing features built in.
but the UX doesn't seem intuitive, otherwise I would have noticed already
I admire your confidence. There's a sense in which if an experienced user doesn't know about a feature, it isn't well designed. OTOH, I assign some probability you've forgotten what the new post dialogue looks like.
I think for me personally, this would work better if there were two buttons at the end – one called "publish", one called "share as draft with users" or something like that. That puts it more in the reference class of "this is a form of publishing my work" rather than "here's some additional feature that I don't understand how it works".
Also: I notice that my wording was a bit unfriendly – apologies, I would like to retract that. :)
EDIT: It seems that drafts don't support comments. I think this is one of the main features I was hoping for.
Vaidehi_agarwalla and I thought it might be a good idea to have sequences within sequences. For example: Vaidehi created sequences [EA · GW] for the ea-survey results per year, because sometimes you want to only look at the survey results for that one year. Other times you want to look at all the survey results. If we add a new survey sequence every year it will clutter up the sequence page, but if you put them in one larger sequence it will take up less space and it will allow people to either read everything in one go, or select the "sub-sequence" they want to read and stop there.
I like listening to articles on "Voice aloud reader." I think that the easiest way to use this is to open a PDF file. So some method of converting forum posts into PDF's might be useful, even if it stripped out images, graphs etc.
(Pretty low priority, feel free to ignore if not common. It's also possible I just haven't played around with Voice Aloud Reader and similar software enough)
I'd like it if I could paste a link into the editor (for either comments or posts), then click or hover over it to see an option to automatically covert the text to the name of the page, similar to how that happens in Google Docs.
This would be most valuable to me in comments, since I usually copy posts from Google Docs anyway.
I use a lot of links in comments, and think it's valuable to do so (to connect conversations to other relevant work), but sometimes I feel a bit inclined to not bother or not write the actual title (just leaving the URL) since it's a hassle.
I feel like I remember saying this somewhere else already, and it's very possible someone else has suggested it here too.
I'd really like this for regular Forum posts and (especially) comments too; I'd like to be able to type "[[" and then start typing the name of the post, automatically see a drop down menu with posts that include that text in their name, and then just click on it to have the name appear in the text, with the right hyperlink. At the moment, I have to open a new tab, find the post, and either copy the title and then separately the link or write title and copy the link. I do a lot of linking to other Forum posts from within Forum posts and comments, so this is a little annoying.
I think ideally this would also show LessWrong posts, since people link to them fairly often too.
I say "(especially) comments" because I almost always draft posts in Google docs, where this feature wouldn't really help me, whereas I write comments in the Forum editor from the start.
The option to tag individual shortform posts (not just a user's whole shortform page, which may feature a large number of shortform posts on a variety of very different topics)
Previews for shortform posts showing up when the shortform posts are linked to elsewhere on the Forum, in the same way previews for regular posts show up [ETA: as Habryka notes below, this is already the case]
(I find the shortform feature really valuable, and I think these two things would make it even more valuable.)
Oh, whoops! Yeah, I must've seen previews of comments hundreds of times, yet forgot they existed while writing the above comment. (I had these feature ideas while getting to sleep, and it seems I did not take a moment to re-evaluate them when I woke up...)
If I am on the main page, it might be nice if center-clicking on the 'Show Previous Comment' button opened that comment tree in a new tab. At the moment you can center-click the date to open a comment in a new tab, and then separately need to click 'Show Previous Comment'.
I am curious, why isn’t the greaterwrong frontend getting adopted as the primary UI? It’s much faster, much more touch-friendly, customizable, and generally rocks. Its only downpoint is that it lacks features compared to LW, which should be solved in, say, 6 months? That would be a major QoL improvement. The LW UI frequently hangs on my iPad, it’s so bloated.
Is it hard to make here and Lesswrong more compatible? I am thinking of a cross-posting feature that has comments of both forums. Linking the accounts (for subscriptions, for example. Karma maybe.) also seems nice.
Probably this should go on LessWrong rather than here, but: it would be great if the Markdown editor could handle basic image formatting, rather than stripping out all the HTML so all my images revert to maximum-width.
Feature Request: Allow users to make their comments display as collapsed-past-a-certain-point by default.
Why? Sometimes I want to post a long comment, but feel that it's not one that everyone needs to see/read. I'd happily post the comment if I could write a summary of what it's about at the top and have the rest hidden/collapsed-by-default, but without this ability I'm often reluctant to post the comment. This is especially true when there are many comments on a post (or when I expect there will be), since I don't want the experience of other users who are scrolling through the comment section to scan it to have to see the large body of a comment that is just taking up space. It'd be much easier to navigate the comments if long-comments were mostly collapsed, and I think giving users the ability to decide exactly when their long comments collapse would be even better.
This is an interesting idea! I'll keep it in mind as something to potentially implement later (I haven't discussed this with folks on the tech side yet).
I will say that I think you may be underestimating the value of your long comments relative to the inconvenience of scrolling past them. Every comment comes with a "collapse" button that people can use, and I'd hope that anyone annoyed by scrolling will learn to use it, though I can't be sure of how often this happens.
I sometimes think of an idea for a forum post that I want someone other than me to write about, perhaps because I don't have the expertise or time to write it.
An idea could be to have a dedicated area to suggest posts for someone else to write. These suggestions could be upvoted or downvoted so that we can see what the community would most like to see written about.
It would be good to have a way to stop say twenty people then writing the same post at the same time. Perhaps people could put their name next to the suggestions that they are interested in taking on. I'm not saying that we can't have more than one person writing on a specific topic, but this could give some indication of how many people feel like they can write on the topic and are interested in doing so.
Would be interested in hearing thoughts on this idea.
On mobile, you could shrink the menu bars on the top and bottom of your screen (where the top has the Forum logo, and bottom has “all posts” and other navigation bars). Smaller navbars -> More screen space for reading -> easier to read and comment.
What page are you on when you want this? Do you spend a lot of time reading Recent Discussion on the homepage? On posts the header goes away when you scroll down and the bottom bar never appears at all.
When reading the text of a post. You’re right, it’s totally good when scrolling downwards— I’m having trouble when writing comments, scrolling up and down between the text and my comment and getting blocked by the bars.
This post [EA · GW] (which links to the calendar and other resources) has been pinned on the Community page for weeks. I could also pin it on the main page, but I have a much higher bar for that, because it means everyone will see it every time they come to the Forum (and it doesn't really fit the Frontpage category).
I posted some things in this comment, and then realized the feature I wanted already existed and I just hadn't noticed it - which brings to mind another issue: how come one can retract, overwrite, but not delete a comment?
I think in the case of regular comments there's a desire not to let people edit the record too much; if you say something you no longer endorse the intended action is that you retract it (which applies strikethrough but leaves the comment standing).
Of course, there are some issues with this setup:
One can edit one's comments freely, so it's easy enough to remove unwanted content anyway (as we see here, and in the occasional comment consisting entirely of a struckthrough ".").
If the original comment is yours and no-one has responded to it, there's no conversation to protect, so I'm not sure blocking deletion makes much sense.
Since shortform is implemented as one big comment thread, it's impossible to delete shortform posts except by asking a mod to do it (I've run into this one myself). So one has less power over one's own shortform feed than one's major posts, which seems backwards to me given the intended purpose of shortform.
We actually just deployed the ability for users to delete their own comments if they have no children (i.e. no replies) for lesswrong. So I expect that will also be up on the EA Forum within the next few weeks.
Perhaps include a short form subsection under the Forum Favorites section? It seems to me that most short form posts have very low visibility.
If the forum admins have traffic statistics, they should be able to get a better sense of the visibility issue than I can. In particular, I suspect the short form section receives a fraction of the traffic of the frontpage, but this should be verified empirically.
I was initially thinking of including a link to the tags page in the sidebar on the home page, but that is another good idea as well. Including tags in the metadata subheader under article titles on the home page would also increase the prominence/usage of this feature.
When performing a search, the search results page uses "LW Search - EA Forum" as the contents of the title tag. I doubt this is an intentional reference to this forum being a fork of the lesswrong forum, so I assume the "LW" part should be removed.
By the way, I looked for 60 seconds to find where to post this small bug report, but the only options I saw was the unlisted contact us page, which seems to send a message to content people rather than the people that work on the codebase of the forum. This page is the only place where I could quickly find a way to get a message to whomever does the technical side of the forum.
So I suppose my feature request is: Provide a new place for users to quickly submit bug reports; or, if such a place already exists, make it more prominent.
...and literally thirty seconds later, I appear to have found the bug report submission form is intended to be the Intercom on the side of every single page. I feel a little bit ashamed about this, but it just didn't occur to me that I should give bug reports there.
On the object level, the search title bug is fixed on staging and should be deployed soon. On the meta level, the contact us page is on the sidebar as well. You were correct that it reaches Aaron not me, but if it’s a technical problem it will quickly get forwarded to me. Aaron just clarified the page to say that emailing Aaron is a good way to get to me.
Do you mean to do this to comments written by other people? Because you can already do this for your own comments by editing them and making more comments. But even that is problematic if anyone already voted on the comment.
I didn't vote on it (nor do I think I should be voting on any comments in this thread), but I'd guess it has to do with the following: How do you tell edits for clarity from edits that change the meaning? You could imagine this getting heated on high stakes threads.
I also didn't vote on it but I do kind of hate this idea. I definitely don't want anyone else editing my comments "for clarity"; if they want to clarify something, they can leave a reply comment and ask if that's actually what I meant.
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