How to use the Forum

post by Julia_Wise, Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2018-09-05T17:22:55.831Z · EA · GW · 21 comments


  What we're aiming for
    we encourage
    we don't worry about
    we discourage (and may delete)
    of moderator comments
  Why you — yes, you — should post on the Forum
  Finding content
    blog posts
  Writing content
    your first post or comment approved
  Using the content editor
    an editor
    co-authors to a post
  Getting help and feedback on your writing
  Voting norms
  Your profile
    writing a Forum bio
    your username
    for pseudonymous and multiple accounts

If any information on this page seems inaccurate, or you think we should add something that isn't here, please let us know [? · GW]. Thanks!

Effective altruism is a joint effort. Our goal is to make the EA Forum the central place for collaborative discussion about how to do the most good we can.

What we're aiming for

What we encourage

What we don't worry about

What we discourage (and may delete)

 List of moderator comments

For more on how we moderate, see our list of past moderator comments [? · GW]. These include warnings for content that violated Forum rules and discussion of moderation standards.

Other advice

An update to Graham's hierarchy of disagreement, courtesy of Bob Jacobs [EA(p) · GW(p)].  Try to keep your comments blue, purple, or gold.

Why you — yes, you — should post on the Forum

Many new Forum users, and even longtime readers, report feeling nervous about publishing a post or writing a comment. The EA community has a lot of sharp writers and thinkers, and it can be daunting to submit your work alongside theirs.

In our experience, most people overestimate how strict the Forum is. A wide range of ideas could be the basis for a good post. And as we noted above, unpolished ideas are welcome!

Want to start small? Consider writing a Shortform [? · GW] post or leaving a comment in our latest Open Thread [? · GW]. You could also start by telling someone you liked their post [EA · GW]; friendly comments are always welcome!

For more on how to come up with post ideas and get feedback, check out this talk by Aaron Gertler, the Forum's lead moderator.

Finding content

All posts

Access every post in the Forum's history [? · GW], with lots of ways to filter and sort.

Frontpage posts

Most posts will appear in this section, which resides on the front page of the Forum. If a post does not, one of the following things happened:

You can still see those posts by changing the "personal blog" filter on the frontpage (see below).

If you don't want one of your posts to appear on the front page, un-check the box marked "Moderators may promote..." before you publish.

Community posts

Posts that focus on the EA community itself are given a "community [? · GW]" tag. By default, these posts will have a weighting of "-25" on the Forum's front page (see below), appearing only if they have a lot of upvotes. You can change how these posts are displayed by using...

Tag filters

You can choose to weight certain tags on the front page. If you give a tag a positive weighting, posts with that tag will show up more prominently, and vice-versa if you give a negative weighting. You can also totally hide all posts with a given tag.

Personal blog posts

Posts that are about topics outside of effective altruism, or aren't clearly related to doing good effectively, will be placed in the "personal blog" category.

These posts will still be visible in "Recent Discussion", on the "All Posts" page, and on your profile, but they will be hidden by default in the "Frontpage Posts" section. (Users can change their filters to view "personal blog" posts in that section.)

Following users

Love someone's work? Click their username and you'll see the option to "subscribe to this user's posts." You'll then see their new posts in your notification area.

Prizewinning posts

The EA Forum Prize [? · GW] is awarded to posts and comments that exemplify the kind of content we most want to see on the Forum. If you want to see some of the Forum’s best content, this is a good place to start!

Writing content

You can make a new post by clicking on your username in the upper right and selecting “New Post.”

You can use posts to jot quick ideas, to publish polished research, or anything in between.

Posts appear higher up on the front page the newer they are and the more karma they have.

Getting your first post or comment approved

Your first post or comment won't show up right away. As an anti-spam measure, one of the Forum's moderators will check the first post or comment from each new user before automatically approving their future posts and comments.

If more than 24 hours pass and you still don't see your post or comment, please contact Aaron Gertler (

Link posts

You can link to content from other sites by selecting the link icon in the post editor: 

When you post links, please add an excerpt or write a summary of the content to encourage discussion.

Shortform posts

Do you have an idea so strange or uncertain that you’re not sure whether to post about it? Do you have something to share, but not the time to write about it in detail?

Shortform posts are built for these cases — they represent “exploratory, draft-stage, rough, and off-the-cuff thoughts [? · GW].” They let you shove an idea out into the world with minimal fuss. (If you’re still confused, that link has lots of examples.)

If you select “New Shortform” rather than “New Post,” you’ll create a Shortform post that will be visible on your personal Shortform page (and the Shortform homepage), but won’t appear on the list of posts at the top of the Forum's homepage.

Question posts

You can select "Ask Question" from the main menu to create a "question post [? · GW]." These have a slightly different format which separates answers from discussion about the post. They work for any question, but we hope they'll be especially useful to people who are new to effective altruism and want to learn more.

(It's totally fine to ask basic questions about EA concepts, even if you think they might have simple answers! The Forum is meant to be a resource for the whole community, including people at any level of experience.)

Using the content editor

Choosing an editor

The Forum currently offers two ways to create and format a post. You can select your editor by checking or unchecking "Activate Markdown Editor" in your settings.

Our non-Markdown editor offers a "what you see is what you get" interface and is generally the best way to format posts. It offers support for image uploading, code blocks, LaTeX, tables, and many other options.

Our Markdown editor is necessary if you want to include footnotes [EA · GW] in your post, and could make it easier to import posts from other text editors.

Adding co-authors to a post

If you want to add one or more co-authors to your post, you’ll need to contact Aaron Gertler [EA · GW] ( Via Forum message or email, please send him the URL for your post and the Forum usernames of the co-author(s) you’d like to add.

Getting help and feedback on your writing

You can get feedback [EA · GW] on drafts you've written, or ideas you’ve had for a post, from Aaron Gertler (the Forum’s lead moderator and CEA’s Content Specialist). 

You can also submit your post to the Effective Altruism Editing and Review group on Facebook to get feedback from more people.


When you vote on posts and comments, you give their authors karma points (or remove points if you downvote). By default, higher-rated posts are more visible. 

For content you think is especially good or bad, you can give a “strong upvote” or “strong downvote” by clicking and holding (or double-tapping on mobile). 

As you get more karma, your votes will begin to award more karma [EA · GW].

You don’t need any karma to post, comment, or vote.

Voting norms

We encourage you to leave constructive feedback about what was helpful or unhelpful about the material you’re voting on:

“That example helped clear things up for me.”

“I didn’t find this relevant.”

“Mass voting” on many instances of a user’s content simply because it belongs to that user is not permitted. Please judge each post or comment on its own merits.

Aside from mass voting, you can vote using any other criteria you choose. If it helps, you could consider these recommendations [LW · GW] from a forum which uses the same voting system. Here’s an edited excerpt:

Conversational Flow (normal votes): Use normal votes when you like (or dislike) the effect a comment has on a conversation.

Important Content (strong votes): Use strong votes when you think other people should go out of their way to read something (or definitely avoid it).

Your profile

Consider writing a Forum bio

Your bio lets other users know more about you. To edit it, click your username in the upper right and select “User Profile.” See this post [EA · GW] for ideas on writing a bio.

Changing your username

At the moment, only admins can change someone's username. Please email Aaron Gertler ( if you'd like yours changed.

Rules for pseudonymous and multiple accounts

Sometimes, it feels easier to express yourself when you are anonymous, especially if your opinion is controversial or unpopular. We allow people to create pseudonymous accounts, and you can have more than one account.

However, anonymity also has downsides. To counter them, we have the following rules:

  1. You can't impersonate other people.
  2. You can't vote multiple times for the same post or comment.
  3. You can't use multiple accounts to express the same opinion multiple times.

In general, we think that real names are good for community bonding, and we encourage you to use yours. But it's not required.


The current moderators (as of May 2020) are Aaron Gertler, Julia Wise, Edo Arad, Vaidehi Agarwalla, and JP Addison. The moderation team uses the email address Please feel free to contact us with questions or feedback.

Moderators can access:

This information will only be used to identify behavior such as "sockpuppet" accounts and mass downvoting. The moderators will not view or use this information for any other purpose.


If you notice a bug, have a question about using the Forum, or want to offer a suggestion, you can reach our support team using Intercom (the blue chat box on your screen). You can also email the team at


Thanks to the team at LessWrong for creating the framework we use for the Forum, and for continuing to add new functionality.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Khorton · 2019-05-18T12:46:38.384Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I can't find a set of instructions for how to format my post. I'm using a laptop with Chrome. There are no buttons for creating headings etc, and no instructions. To be honest, I'm finding it very stressful.

Replies from: Khorton
comment by Khorton · 2019-05-18T13:36:13.487Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

As an update, I realized it's a markdown editor, looked up instructions of how to format stuff, and hated every minute of it. It's such a disincentive for me to post stuff!

Replies from: Lukas_Finnveden
comment by Lukas_Finnveden · 2019-05-18T18:30:38.996Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

If you go to "Edit account", there's a check box that says "Activate markdown editor". If you un-check that one (I would've expected it to be unchecked by default, but maybe it isn't) you get formatting options just by selecting your text.

Replies from: Habryka, Khorton
comment by Habryka · 2019-05-18T23:43:19.410Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, it's definitely unchecked by default. We are currently working on an editor rework that should get rid of this annoyance. We currently need to allow users to switch to markdown to make it possible for mobile users to properly edit stuff, but that shouldn't be a problem anymore after we are done with the rework.

comment by Khorton · 2019-05-18T18:52:31.184Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Ugh, thank you. What a nightmare!

comment by David King · 2018-12-23T11:32:35.802Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This was a helpful introduction to the forum. I previously felt slightly intimidated at the idea of posting on the forum but this post made me feel much more comfortable doing so.

comment by Teo Ajantaival · 2019-02-11T13:23:38.972Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the guidelines.

Is there any policy (or existing discussion) on commenting on old posts? Is anything relevant enough to be worth adding to posts that are years old, or do you prefer that replies (across years) become their own posts linking to the original ones?

Replies from: aarongertler
comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2019-02-11T20:23:28.816Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'd generally side with "comment", since that lets anyone else who reads the old posts see your comment, and avoids having lots of unlinked posts spring up over the years around a single central post.

If you think an older post is worth revisiting (with or without your new comment as context), you can try sharing it on social media (here's a list of EA Facebook groups) or in the next Open Thread [EA(p) · GW(p)] (I'm trying to encourage these to happen more often, since they're useful for cases like the one you mention).

Of course, sometimes a comment winds up having enough material to be its own post, and that's fine! I'd err on the side of "comment", but new ideas related to an old post may well demand posts of their own.

(I work with Julia at CEA, and I help to moderate the Forum.)

comment by Julia_Wise · 2018-09-14T13:23:55.924Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Note for now: all existing posts and comments from the old Forum will be transferred over to the new one once the final version is done.

comment by jwbayou5 · 2019-05-27T21:04:20.724Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for organizing this. There is a lot of great content here that I've found interesting and useful.

comment by kokotajlod · 2018-11-08T00:45:36.494Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Sometimes I'd like to write on a topic that is only tangentially related to EA--for example, the simulation argument. Is this a good place to do that, or should I save that sort of thing for a different forum?

Replies from: advyyy, Maxdalton
comment by advyyy · 2019-06-12T05:49:09.008Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Are there any other philosophy-related forums you recommend?

Replies from: kokotajlod
comment by kokotajlod · 2019-06-25T02:22:44.036Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Well, LessWrong is good for some philosophy-related things. That's my go-to. Other than that I don't know, alas.

comment by MaxDalton (Maxdalton) · 2018-11-08T14:41:52.402Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

As long as you make clear how it's relevant to figuring out how to do as much good as possible, that sort of content is welcome.

comment by LarissaHeskethRowe · 2019-09-12T15:38:54.973Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I notice that some writers (e.g. Hauke in his recent post about the cost effectiveness climate change interventions [EA · GW]) have something just above the comments section a note about their personal commenting guidelines. This seems like a potentially really useful feature. Not every user seems to have this though.

EDIT: I assume this relates to the feature on LessWrong described here [LW · GW] where users can add moderation guidelines to their own posts so that they can treat LessWrong like a personal blog to some degree. This seems like a good way to encourage more people to post. Is there a similar feature on the EA Forum? If so, how does it work here?

Replies from: jpaddison
comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2019-09-12T16:57:09.893Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Good noticing. One facet of the LessWrong feature is that as users pass a certain amount of karma they gain privileges. I believe that high karma users such as Eliezer (on LW) or Peter Hurford (here) can moderate their own posts, even on the frontpage. I think very low karma users may not be able to moderate posts that remain on their personal blog. Given the EA Forum's differences in how we treat the personal blog / frontpage distinction, we may want to diverge from LW's feature-set here. I haven't touched it since I was initially setting up the Forum, and I'm not sure how I left it. I'm not sure all of the features are there. Certainly we'd want to write up a user's guide for the feature. I appreciate the comment. When we were setting up the Forum it wasn't top priority, but very plausibly the landscape has changed. Without making a public commitment (😛), I wouldn't be surprised if that fix got prioritized – it does seem useful for encouraging people to post.

Replies from: LarissaHeskethRowe
comment by LarissaHeskethRowe · 2019-09-17T11:45:53.937Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hey JP, don't worry I won't hold you to anything :-) I know you guys have a lot on. I think the feature of setting your own moderation guidelines at a certain karma level is a good one. It encourages top posters and also encourages the whole community to take more responsibility for good quality conversations. If you did get the chance to figure out how this was currently working on the EA Forum (e.g. at what karma level to individuals get what moderation features) and perhaps enact something similar to the LessWrong version that would be cool. Let me know what you end up deciding to do.

Replies from: jpaddison
comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2019-10-10T14:59:35.474Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I forgot to say this when I deployed it, but own-post moderation is now available. See this part of the LessWrong FAQ for how it works: [? · GW]

Replies from: LarissaHeskethRowe
comment by LarissaHeskethRowe · 2019-10-11T12:42:44.668Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

That's great! Thanks for sorting that so quickly and for letting me know.

comment by Mathieu Putz · 2021-10-14T21:29:05.795Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Are upvotes anonymous or is there a way to view who upvoted your comments / posts? I'm not saying it should be one way or another, just curious.

comment by Mati_Roy · 2020-09-03T20:25:56.033Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Click the “Edit block” button to the left of the text box to add an image, a table, a horizontal line, or a math block.

in case anyone else is wondering, the new way to do it is to double click on text and select the image icon on the right of the menu that will appear