How to use the Forum

post by Julia_Wise, Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2018-09-05T17:22:55.831Z · score: 71 (38 votes) · EA · GW · 20 comments

Contents

  What we're aiming for
    What we encourage
    What we don't worry about
    What we discourage (and may delete)
  Why you — yes, you — should post on the Forum
  Finding content
    Tag filters
    Personal Blog posts
  Writing content
    Getting your first post or comment approved
    Personal blog posts
    Link posts
    Shortform posts
  Getting help and feedback on your writing
  Using the content editor
    Choosing an editor
    Features of the EA Forum Docs editor
    Adding co-authors to a post
  Karma
  Voting norms
  Your profile
    Consider writing a Forum bio
    Rules for pseudonymous and multiple accounts
  Moderators
  Support
None
20 comments

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)

Other pointers:

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 [? · GW]

Access every post in the Forum's history, 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 (hence the name). Those which don't were either held back by their authors or didn't have a clear link to EA (in the eyes of the moderators).

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 [? · GW]

Posts that focus on the EA community itself are given a "community" 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 with no direct relevance to effective altruism are designated as "Personal Blog," and will be hidden from the front page by default. You can remove the hidden-by-default filter as you could any other filter. 

Following users [EA(p) · GW(p)]

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 [? · GW]

The EA Forum Prize 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 (aaron@centreforeffectivealtruism.org).

Personal blog posts

By default, your posts will be published to your “personal blog” on your profile page. Other users can follow your page to see notifications when you post.

Link posts

We encourage you to post links to content from other sites. You can do this by selecting the link icon when you go to make a new post. 

When you post links, please either quote or write a summary of the content to get discussion going.

Shortform posts

Do you have an idea that seems so uncertain, or so strange, 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 meant to be used in cases like these — to quote the Shortform homepage [? · GW], they represent “exploratory, draft-stage, rough, and off-the-cuff thoughts.” They let you shove an idea out into the world with minimal fuss. (If you’re still confused, that homepage 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 in the main list of posts on the front page of the Forum.

Question posts [? · GW]

You can select "Ask Question" from the main menu to create a "question post." 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.)

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.

Using the content editor

Choosing an editor

The Forum currently offers three ways to create and format a post. You can select your editor in the menu at the bottom of the “New Post” text box:

  1. EA Forum Docs
    • While this editor is technically in beta, we recommend it.
    • If you don’t see this editor available, go to your User Profile, click “Edit Account,” and select “Opt into experimental features.”
  2. Markdown
    • Allows for more advanced custom formatting than the EA Forum Docs editor (and is, for now, the only way to add linked footnotes [EA · GW] to a post).
    • If you don’t see this editor available, go to your User Profile, click “Edit Account,” and select “Activate Markdown Editor.”
  3. Draft-JS
    • This was the Forum’s initial editor. It offers fewer features than the EA Forum Docs editor, and we don’t recommend using it unless you’ve experienced a bug with EA Forum Docs.

Features of the EA Forum Docs editor

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 (aaron@centreforeffectivealtruism.org). Please send him the URL for your post and the Forum usernames of the co-authors you’d like to add.

Karma

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 large portions 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.

Rules for pseudonymous and multiple accounts

You don’t have to share information about yourself, and it’s fine to make a pseudonymous account if you wish to remain anonymous. However, we don’t permit impersonating other people, voting  multiple times on the same material, or using multiple accounts to express the same opinion multiple times. 

(We also encourage you to use your real name if you don’t strongly prefer anonymity; we think it helps with community bonding if people know who they’re talking to.)

Moderators

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 forum-moderation@effectivealtruism.org. 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.

Support

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 forum-support@effectivealtruism.org.

20 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Khorton · 2019-05-18T12:46:38.384Z · score: 27 (9 votes) · 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.

comment by Khorton · 2019-05-18T13:36:13.487Z · score: 17 (4 votes) · 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!

comment by Lukas_Finnveden · 2019-05-18T18:30:38.996Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · 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.

comment by Habryka · 2019-05-18T23:43:19.410Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · 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 · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Ugh, thank you. What a nightmare!

comment by David King · 2018-12-23T11:32:35.802Z · score: 18 (10 votes) · 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 · score: 7 (6 votes) · 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?

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2019-02-11T20:23:28.816Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · 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 · score: 5 (4 votes) · 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 · score: 4 (3 votes) · 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 · score: 4 (4 votes) · 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?

comment by advyyy · 2019-06-12T05:49:09.008Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Are there any other philosophy-related forums you recommend?

comment by kokotajlod · 2019-06-25T02:22:44.036Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · 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 · 2018-11-08T14:41:52.402Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · 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 · score: 2 (2 votes) · 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?


comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2019-09-12T16:57:09.893Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · 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.

comment by LarissaHeskethRowe · 2019-09-17T11:45:53.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · 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.

comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2019-10-10T14:59:35.474Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · 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:

https://www.lesswrong.com/faq#What_moderation_actions_can_I_take_on_my_own_posts_ [? · GW]

comment by LarissaHeskethRowe · 2019-10-11T12:42:44.668Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

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

comment by Mati_Roy · 2020-09-03T20:25:56.033Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · 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