How to use the Forum

post by Julia_Wise · 2018-09-05T17:22:55.831Z · score: 36 (19 votes) · EA · GW · 16 comments


  What we’re aiming for
  Signing up
  Finding content
    Frontpage posts
    All posts
    Following users
  Writing content
    Personal blog posts
    Link posts
    Frontpage and Community posts
    Question posts

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

We encourage:

We don’t worry much about:

We discourage (and may delete):

Other pointers:

Signing up

Anyone is welcome to sign up for an account on the Forum. However, 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, our lead moderator.

Finding content

See this post [EA · GW] for information on how we sort posts into different categories.

Frontpage posts

This is the space for most material about how to do good effectively.

All posts

Select the “Daily” section to see posts in all categories, sorted chronologically.


This is the place for posts about the EA community itself (including EA organizations) rather than object-level discussion.

Following users

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

Writing content

Update: You can get feedback [EA · GW] on drafts you've written, or ideas for a post you'd like to write, from Aaron Gertler, a Forum moderator and CEA content writer.

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 or questions, to publish polished research, or anything in between.

A post will be more visible to other users as it gets more upvotes.

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.

Frontpage and Community posts

If you're writing about ideas relevant to doing the most good, and which might be useful even to people who aren't closely involved with the EA community, your post will be moved to the "Frontpage" section and be visible on the front page of the forum.

If you’re writing about the EA community itself, giving an organizational update, or discussing strategies for community building, your post will be moved to the “Community” section, which can be accessed from the forum's sidebar menu.

For more on this distinction, see this post [EA · GW].

Question posts

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


When you vote articles up and down, you give the users karma points. The karma points are equal to the number of upvotes minus the downvotes, and by default, the higher rated posts are more visible. The karma is the number shown next to each post or comment.

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


You can vote up or down on posts and comments. For content you think is especially good or bad, you can give a “strong upvote” or “strong downvote” by clicking and holding (on a computer) or double-tapping (on mobile). The strength of your votes is affected by your level of karma; more details here.

You are encouraged to also 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 acceptable. 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 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).


Let other users know more about you. To edit your user profile, click your username in the upper right and select “Profile.”

It’s fine to make a pseudonymous account in order to express views you wish to keep anonymous. It’s not acceptable to vote multiple times on the same material, to use multiple accounts to express the same opinion multiple times, or to impersonate other people.


Currently (as of March 2019), moderators are Denise Melchin, Aaron Gertler, and Julia Wise, and 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


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Khorton · 2019-05-18T12:46:38.384Z · score: 20 (5 votes) · EA · GW

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: 13 (3 votes) · EA · GW

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 · GW

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 · GW

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 · GW

Ugh, thank you. What a nightmare!

comment by David King · 2018-12-23T11:32:35.802Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · EA · GW

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: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

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 aarongertler · 2019-02-11T20:23:28.816Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

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 · GW] (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 · GW

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 kokotajlod · 2018-11-08T00:45:36.494Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

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 · GW

Are there any other philosophy-related forums you recommend?

comment by kokotajlod · 2019-06-25T02:22:44.036Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

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 · GW

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 · GW

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 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 jpaddison · 2019-09-12T16:57:09.893Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

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 jwbayou5 · 2019-05-27T21:04:20.724Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

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