Stephen Clare's Shortform

post by Stephen Clare · 2022-06-14T11:13:25.653Z · EA · GW · 8 comments

8 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Stephen Clare · 2022-06-14T11:13:25.830Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think it's possible there's too much promotion on the EA Forum these days. There are lots of posts announcing new organizations, hiring rounds, events, or opportunities. These are useful but not that informative, and they take up space on the frontpage. I'd rather see more posts about research, cause prioritization, critiques and redteams, and analysis. Perhaps promotional posts should be collected into a megathread, the way we do with hiring.

In general it feels like the signal-to-noise ration on the frontpage is lower now than it was a year ago, though I could be wrong. One metric might be number of comments - right now, 5/12 posts I see on the frontpage have 0 comments, and 11/12 have 10 comments or fewer.

Replies from: HaukeHillebrandt, Locke
comment by Hauke Hillebrandt (HaukeHillebrandt) · 2022-06-14T17:55:16.583Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Agreed- people should look at https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/allPosts [? · GW]and sort by newest and then vote more as a public good to improve the signal to noise ratio.

We might also want to praise users to those who have a high ratio of highly upvoted comments to posts - here's a ranking:

1 khorton
2 larks
3 linch
4 max_daniel
5 michaela
6 michaelstjules
7 pablo_stafforini
8 habryka
9 peter_wildeford
10 maxra
11 jonas-vollmer
12 stefan_schubert
13 john_maxwell
14 aaron-gertler
15 carlshulman
16 john-g-halstead
17 benjamin_todd
18 greg_colbourn
19 michaelplant
20 willbradshaw
21 wei_dai
22 rohinmshah
23 buck
24 owen_cotton-barratt
25 jackm

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1vew8Wa5MpTYdUYfyGVacNWgNx2Eyp0yhzITMFWgVkGU/edit#gid=0

Replies from: Linch, Charles He
comment by Linch · 2022-06-14T18:48:07.726Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1vew8Wa5MpTYdUYfyGVacNWgNx2Eyp0yhzITMFWgVkGU/edit#gid=0

needs to grant access.

We might also want to praise users to those who have a high ratio of highly upvoted comments to posts

One thing that confuses me is that the karma metric probably already massively overemphasizes rather than underemphasizes the value of comments relative to posts. Writing 4 comments that have ~25 karma each probably provides much less value (and certainly takes me much less effort) than writing a post that gets ~100 karma.

comment by Charles He · 2022-06-14T19:04:45.697Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There is a population of highly informed people on the forum. 

The activity of these people on the forum is much less "share new insights or introduce content", but instead they guide discussion and balance things out (or if you take a less sanguine view, "intervene"). 

This population of people, who are very informed, persuasive and respected, is sort of a key part of how the forum works and why it functions well. Like sort of quasi-moderators.

This comment isn't super directly relevant, I guess the awareness of this population of people, as opposed to some technology or maybe "culture" thing, is good to know and related to the purpose of this thread. 

Also many of those people are on that list and it's good to be explicit about their intentional role, and not double count them in some way.

comment by Locke · 2022-06-14T15:47:29.043Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It seems like there should be a way to get a graph of comments on front page posts over time going? :) 

comment by Stephen Clare · 2022-07-12T17:32:36.221Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Death by feedback

It's not unusual to see a small army of people thanked in the "Acknowledgements" section of a typical EA Forum post. But one should be careful not to get too much feedback. For one, the benefits of more feedback diminish quickly, while the community costs scale linearly. (You gain fewer additional insights from the fifth person who reads your draft than you do from the first, but it takes the fifth person just as long to read and comment.)

My biggest worry, though, is killing my own vision by trying to incorporate comments from too many other people. This is death by feedback. If you try to please everyone, you probably won't please anyone. 

There are lots of different ways one could write about a given topic. Imagine I'm writing an essay to convince EA Forum readers that the resplendent quetzal is really cool. There's lots I could talk about: I could talk about its brilliant green plumage and long pretty tail; I could talk about how it's the national animal of Guatemala, so beloved that the country's currency is called the quetzal; or I could talk about its role in Mesoamerican mythology. Different people will have different ideas about which tack I should take. Some framings will be more effective than others. But any given framing can be killed by writing a scattered, unfocused, inconsistent essay that tries to talk about everything at once.

Sure, go ahead and get feedback from a few people to catch blunders and oversights. It's pretty awesome that so many clever, busy people will read your Forum posts if you ask them to. But don't Frankenstein your essay by stitching together different visions to address all concerns. It's important to recognize that there's not a single, ideal form a piece can approach if the author keeps gathering feedback. "Design by committee" is a perjorative phrase for a reason.

Thanks to absolutely nobody for giving feedback on this post.

Replies from: MichaelDickens
comment by MichaelDickens · 2022-07-12T21:13:01.849Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I have some feedback on this post that you should feel free to ignore.

In my experience, when you ask someone for feedback, there's about a 10% chance that they will bring up something really important that you missed. And you don't know who's going to notice the thing. So even if you've asked 9 people for feedback and none of them said anything too impactful, maybe the 10th will say something critically important.

Replies from: Stephen Clare
comment by Stephen Clare · 2022-07-13T09:45:12.774Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hm, maybe. I still think there are diminishing returns - the first person I ask is more likely to provide that insight than the 10th.

Under your model, the questions I'd have  are (1) whether one person's insight is worth the time-cost to all 10 people, and (2) how do you know when to stop getting feedback, if each person you ask has a 10% chance of providing a critical insight?