Suggestions thread for questions for the 2015 EA Survey

post by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-13T22:50:38.288Z · EA · GW · Legacy · 59 comments
From David Moss, Tom Ash, and the rest of the EA Survey team
 
Preparations for the 2015 Effective Altruism Survey are underway!
 
The 2014 Survey provided interesting information about such topics as: how much the EAs who took our survey were donating and where, what causes they support, what diets they eat or don't eat and many other things. It also made possible projects such as EA Profiles, the EA Donation Registry and the Map of EAs. And it let us put many people in touch with local groups they didn’t know about, and establish presences in over 60 new cities and countries so far.

As a community project run through .impact, we are soliciting suggestions and requests about questions that you would like to see included on this year's survey. 

For example, do you want to know more about EAs' ethical and meta-ethical beliefs? Whether they regard EA actions as an obligation or an opportunity? How they respond to the trolley problem? What kind of jobs they have? In response to community suggestions we are considering adding some of these questions. We're also considering removing other personal questions that we've already gathered recent data on, such as gender, diet and religion.

Anything you might like to know more about or questions you would like asked, please suggest them here! 
 
If you have suggestions about the survey other than about questions to include (e.g. about distribution etc.), there will also be opportunities to discuss these. We'll soon add a second post soliciting broader suggestions. And the ultimate place to discuss anything about the survey is as always a .impact meeting - in particular the survey deep dive that will be held on Sunday 24 May at 9pm UTC (2pm Pacific, 5pm Eastern, 10pm London). A Google Hangouts link to join will be posted in the Facebook event for this at that time. It'll be a chance to talk directly with the survey team and help work things out.

59 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ClaireZabel · 2015-05-14T07:54:18.286Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We're also considering removing other personal questions that we've already gathered recent data on, such as gender, diet and religion.

Really don't think you should cut these. We're trying to diversify the movement, and the survey seems like on the of only comprehensive ways to see if it's working. W/r/t the diet question, I think that's incredibly valuable and useful information for EAA. I'd be interested to also know how many EAs changed their diets after becoming EAs.

Replies from: tomstocker, ClaireZabel, Vincent_deB
comment by tomstocker · 2015-05-14T12:44:34.623Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

could always put it at the end with an opt-out for that section?

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T15:45:39.267Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Good point, I suppose putting them at the end decreases or removes some potential problems with including these questions, such as that they might lead people to drop out. Every single question should be optional, just like last year.

comment by ClaireZabel · 2015-05-14T07:55:26.973Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Also, EA is young and growing so fast. A lot can change in a year.

Replies from: Peter_Hurford
comment by Peter_Hurford · 2015-05-15T12:28:10.157Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We could ask people what they attribute their diet change to. Same with donation changes. (Disclaimer: Clearly I don't claim self-reports are fully reliable, but there is usually some signal in them.)

comment by Vincent_deB · 2015-05-14T15:52:15.436Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

W/r/t the diet question, I think that's incredibly valuable and useful information for EAA.

That's likely true, but I presume the reason for considering removing it was that people would feel uncomfortable/judged/guilty and so stop completing the rest of the survey, which would be a large cost. Last year I was happy or even keen for people to know all my other answers, but didn't want to be judged on failing to be vegetarian.

Replies from: ClaireZabel, Peter_Hurford
comment by ClaireZabel · 2015-05-14T16:33:57.941Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

People might also feel judged if asked how much they donate, but asking this is part of assessing what part of EA principles they're adopting, and how effective EA is at actually driving behavior change in self-identified EAs, which is sort of the point of the survey.

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-21T20:55:08.188Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

That's a pretty convincing point, at least to me personally. I think that - just as we give a separate opt in/out for sharing your past or planned donations on the EA Donation Registry, whether or not they choose to share their answers in general via an EA Profile -we might want to consider having diet not be publicly shared. That's assuming there's no great benefit to having a commitment device and inspirational/motivational registry for diet, or that EA Profiles/the EA Survey aren't the right place for them.

comment by Peter_Hurford · 2015-05-15T12:28:42.290Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

EA is kinda inherently judgey in this way.

Replies from: xccf
comment by xccf · 2015-05-15T19:12:23.242Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This seems more true for those who take an obligation-oriented perspective than an opportunity-oriented perspective.

Personally, I am concerned with animal suffering but I'm not a vegetarian. I agree with Katja Grace: "I am personally not a vegetarian because I don’t think it is an effective way to be altruistic." I also agree with Chris Hallquist (who is vegan) that vegan activism seems like a relatively bad way to help animals in the long run. (It's hard to measure how vegan activism might polarize people away from caring about animals, which would make passing a law more difficult.) And that's not even accounting for the fact that, like Nick Beckstead, I think the far future is of overwhelming importance and it's dubious to me that my avoiding animal meals now will have any significant positive effect on it.

comment by Dale · 2015-05-15T04:11:26.447Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think you should have more forced choices and fewer write-ins, to make data analysis easier. It seems that write-in boxes turn everyone into a special snowflake.

Replies from: Peter_Hurford
comment by Peter_Hurford · 2015-05-15T12:29:07.999Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is very true. Write-in boxes are the enemy of the person who does the data analysis.

comment by tyleralterman · 2015-05-15T22:04:39.092Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yearly salary range (helpful for getting sponsorships in the future of EA events if the average yearly salary turns out to be high)

comment by Denis Drescher (Telofy) · 2015-05-14T07:50:11.972Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The question “whether they regard EA actions as an obligation or an opportunity” could be split into which view they prefer now, and which got them interested in EA in the first place.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:57:16.209Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Here are some suggestions from the Facebook thread which you could upvote or downvote. Alas this could mean losing precious precious karma, but I guess there's no other way to get these votes here (?) so I think I'll live with that ;)

Replies from: Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash, Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:58:07.064Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

how confident are you that you'll be an EA in 5 years? 10?

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:59:41.129Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Some question that gets at whether they find talking to other EAs to be unpleasant b/c we're too verbally aggressive VS would prefer more forthrightness

Replies from: tomstocker
comment by tomstocker · 2015-05-14T07:53:14.087Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

'have you found conversations with effective altruists persuasive?'(y/n/haven't talked/mixed) 'Why so?' (freetext)

Replies from: Vincent_deB
comment by Vincent_deB · 2015-05-14T15:53:37.889Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This would make it especially valuable to get people on the fringes of EA (who've been exposed but not wholely 'signed up') to take the survey. I remember it was open to them and anyone else last year.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:58:21.490Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

have you taken a different job than the one you would have taken, for EA reasons?

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:58:15.930Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

how many people in your life know how much you give?

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:57:57.847Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

(if no local EA chapter) if there were a local chapter, would you attend?

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T02:09:29.991Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'd upvote this one, as I'd use the results for my work creating new EA presences.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:57:52.417Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

how much time do you spend thinking about where to donate?

Replies from: tomstocker
comment by tomstocker · 2015-05-14T07:58:15.382Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

If its beyond a certain threshold, a few questions getting their subjective cost/QALY (or equivalent) estimates for AMF, Dwtw, SCI, givedirectly and their best alternative bet in freetext might be interesting. I have the feeling that people's subjective estimates are quite variable.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T02:00:18.102Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Forced choice with no 'other' option: which topic primarily made you discover EA: philosophy and ethics, charity, or rationality?

Replies from: Owen_Cotton-Barratt
comment by Owen_Cotton-Barratt · 2015-05-14T11:08:27.594Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Seems like making this a forced choice might mean you lose people from completing the survey.

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T15:42:44.122Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yep, I presume the person suggesting this question (Josh Jacobson) only meant that there should be no 'other' option. Partly for the reason you state, every single question should be optional, just like last year.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T02:00:07.794Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Some IQ proxy question

Replies from: Peter_Hurford
comment by Peter_Hurford · 2015-05-15T12:29:29.131Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Let's not do this.

Replies from: Larks, Tom_Ash
comment by Larks · 2015-05-16T02:21:55.845Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Why not? LW and SSC do this without issue, and IQ is a very important variable for many things. What's the point of doing a survey if not to understand your population?

Replies from: toron, ChrisJenkins, Peter_Hurford
comment by toron · 2015-05-16T17:15:09.580Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

LW and SSC do this without issue

I've taken those surveys for years, and it's true that they've often contained questions that would get this (EA) community's jimmies severely rustled, without any problems or complaints or concern trolling. At least, that's my impression, as someone more familiar with the rationalist community than the EA one.

comment by ChrisJenkins · 2015-05-16T12:37:42.705Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The best IQ proxy questions are demographic variables anyway (age, years of education, and occupation), which predict about 50% of the variance in full-scale IQ - see papers shared here: http://jmp.sh/b/V717o7yuqvQutQYTHIMh

It wouldn't be hard to plug data we're going to get anyway into Crawford's regression equation - the only extra work would be plugging in occupations to the standardized occupational classification system. Reporting it could be bad PR, but it wouldn't hurt for anyone who's interested to take a look.

Replies from: RyanCarey
comment by RyanCarey · 2015-05-16T13:16:09.896Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Not convinced that we want to measure iq but I think the whole point of doing it would be to see if eas are on the whole a lot smarter than would be predicted by demographic variables, like LessWrong seems to be. However, LessWrong's annual process of measuring their iq and then arguing about whether or not it's accurate is a bit of a fiasco, and probably not one that we want to engage in.

Replies from: ChrisJenkins
comment by ChrisJenkins · 2015-05-16T16:17:02.191Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I haven't read any of LW's debates on this, so I'm not sure why one would be interested in whether the relationship between demographics and intelligence in EAs is weaker than usual, or what that would imply about EA. Mainly, I'd like to know by what routes people with predicted-to-be-average intelligence and average educational backgrounds are coming to EA, so I hope age, years of education, and occupation will be included so that the option exists of using the estimation techniques referred to above.

Having said that - intelligence research is politically toxic, and I'd also worry that people could spread bad ideas about how to use IQ estimates (e.g., general bragging rights, or "the smartest EAs focus on X, so we should pay more attention to X"), so I wouldn't argue for including anything related to IQ estimation in publicly-announced results.

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-16T16:57:53.574Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Mainly, I'd like to know by what routes people with predicted-to-be-average intelligence and average educational backgrounds are coming to EA, so I hope age, years of education, and occupation will be included so that the option exists of using the estimation techniques referred to above.

Last time we asked about age, income last year and highest level of education completed. Pending the community feedback we were planning to keep these, and add a free text box for 'current occupation or career'. Does that all cover it OK? Is asking for years in education better, and if so why? Is it comparable across countries? Is it years of post-secondary education?

Having said that - intelligence research is politically toxic, and I'd also worry that people could spread bad ideas about how to use IQ estimates (e.g., general bragging rights, or "the smartest EAs focus on X, so we should pay more attention to X"), so I wouldn't argue for including anything related to IQ estimation in publicly-announced results.

I personally agree, though the survey team as a whole will be influenced by the community view (which hasn't had a strong consensus in favour of asking about IQ, either last time or - so far - this time).

comment by Peter_Hurford · 2015-05-16T12:23:40.096Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I doubt it would be done without issue here and I doubt the information would be useful for any purposes. But I'm willing to consider otherwise.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-15T15:56:01.393Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Agree, would have downvoted if I could, but have upvoted you instead!

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:59:59.371Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

How many older siblings

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:59:49.137Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Do you believe in acting now or investing to act better later?

Replies from: Telofy
comment by Denis Drescher (Telofy) · 2015-05-14T07:39:48.889Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This question would be more valuable when it makes clear that it asks for an assessment for the specific respondent at that time. Something like “Do you believe that for you at the moment it is better to act now or invest to act better later?” Then the answers could be faceted by age, student status, or other applicable demographic data (if the power is sufficient).

Some may also consider external factors like the availability of vaccines or progress of prioritization research, but for most the personal factors will probably weigh heavier in this decision, and we wouldn’t be able to distinguish that afterwards.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:59:45.186Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Simple mamogram-style question

Replies from: xccf, tomstocker
comment by xccf · 2015-05-15T19:20:04.082Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think a question measuring reflectiveness could also be interesting ala the Cognitive Reflection Test.

Replies from: toron
comment by toron · 2015-05-16T17:02:04.400Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Could you expand on that?

comment by tomstocker · 2015-05-14T07:51:07.411Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

?

Replies from: pappubahry
comment by pappubahry · 2015-05-14T11:43:41.374Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think this is referring to a common probability question, e.g., example 3 here.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-19T20:39:46.104Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Did you fulfil your plan or pledge for last year? (answer to always be anonymous)

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:59:54.977Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Do you think EA should be a broad church or a committed core?

Replies from: tomstocker
comment by tomstocker · 2015-05-14T07:49:43.260Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

False dichotomy. Perhaps 2 questions here, 1 about diversity, 1 about strength of committment. Example wording (Likert responses?) "How much do you think EA should focus more on strengthening existing strategies for improving the world compared to broadening into new ones?" "How much do you think EA movement building should focus on increasing the commitment and coordination of current EAs as opposed to recruitment and outreach?" and perhaps "In recruiting and reaching out, who should be the primary target?" (example answers: people that are most likely to identify with EA, people with the most to offer in terms of time and resources, people from different walks of life that can reveal EA's blindspots)

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T01:57:31.636Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

What colour is this dress?

Replies from: Telofy
comment by Denis Drescher (Telofy) · 2015-05-14T07:42:29.561Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

A test question to see how much you have to correct for people’s unwillingness to let you lose comment karma, right? ;‑)

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T08:24:30.985Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Heh, I just copied and pasted people's suggestions from Facebook. This was one of the most upvoted ones!

Replies from: Telofy
comment by Denis Drescher (Telofy) · 2015-05-14T08:48:14.752Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Haha! Probably all people who wanted to indicate that they got it, not that they thought it’s a valuable survey question. On the other hand it would make the survey funnier, especially without the photo, which may increase people’s motivation to finish it.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2015-05-21T21:43:39.291Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

How about a question that goes something like "If you donated less than 10% of your income, why not?" (or "If you didn't donate, why not?") with answers like "I'm a student", "I'm not earning to give", "Tough year financially", "Procrastination", "Saving to donate later", "Financing my startup", "10% is too much of an ask", etc.

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-07-18T17:38:09.513Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I do think this would be really valuable to find out - I didn't upvote only because doing so is a tricky diplomatic issue and can put people off, and I don't think the survey is the best place for it for those reasons.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T02:28:17.355Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

What do people think of asking or not asking about demographic details that are sometimes sensitive, or associated with sensitive issues? Two examples would be religion and gender; as I said, we're thinking of cutting these, having already gathered data on them last year anyway. Another would be race, which we didn't ask about last year because no one could come up with clear benefits that were sufficient to justify it. It wasn't clear what use it'd be to find out that there are at least 200 Asian EAs.

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T02:29:54.919Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

In the Facebook thread Alex Rattee says: "I think that religion questions are interesting- from personal experience as a committed Christian involved in Christian social justice circles there are a lot of people readily primed for being very generous who should be v. up for a good amount of the EA logic. Would be good to track the growth/lack of it in such communities"

I replied: "We're open to following the community view on that Alex. Do you or others think people might find the question offputtingly personal? How many?"

He said: "So I can only speak for evangelical Christianity really but that grouping definitely wouldn't find it offputing, they/we're out to spread the word about Jesus so typically we relish opportunities to let people know, maybe there are nice mutual arrangements to be made, where Christians and EA's agree to listen to each others pitch for 20 mins... on a serious note though I think targeting evangelical Christianity would seem to me to be a good route for some EAs to be going down".

Replies from: dominicroser
comment by dominicroser · 2015-05-14T08:13:32.306Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Doesn't seem to personal for me (and, generally speaking, a good idea)

comment by Tom_Ash · 2015-05-14T02:07:46.303Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

David Barry: "Rather than total donations for the year and list of charities donated to, the amount donated to each of those charities. (I also made this request in a forum thread a while back.)"

Me: "David, that's the format we've moved the EA Donation Registry to (the 2014 survey data there will switch to that format too once someone finishes converting it - limited resources have slowed this down). I'm curious whether anyone thinks that format in the survey would slow them down or be too onerous, leading to dropout?"