How do you feel about the main EA facebook group?

post by JanBrauner · 2020-02-12T21:20:27.006Z · score: 19 (9 votes) · EA · GW · 1 comment

This is a question post.

Contents

  Answers
    47 JanBrauner
    8 Sanjay
    5 Aaron Gertler
    4 Max_Daniel
None
1 comment

Referring to this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/

I submitted my thoughts as an answer but I would be interested in other opinions.

Answers

answer by JanBrauner · 2020-02-12T21:39:02.420Z · score: 47 (24 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

So this is my very personal impression. I might be super wrong about this, that's why I asked this question. Also, I remember liking the main EA facebook group quite a bit in the past, so maybe I just can't properly relate to how useful the group is for people that are newer to EA thinking.

Currently, I avoid reading the EA facebook group the same way I avoid reading comments under youtube videos. Reading the group makes me angry and sad because of the ignorance and aggression displayed in the posts and especially in the comments. I think many comments do not meet the bar for intellectual quality or epistemic standards that we should have EA associated with. That's really no surprise, online discourse is not particularly known for high quality.

Overall, I feel like the main EA facebook group doesn't shine a great light on the EA movement. I haven't thought much about this, but I think I would prefer stronger moderation for quality.

comment by David_Moss · 2020-02-13T10:11:16.073Z · score: 25 (12 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I agree that the main EA Facebook group has many low quality comments which "do not meet the bar for intellectual quality or epistemic standards that we should have EA associated with." That said, it seems that one of the main reasons for this is that the Facebook group contains many more people with very low or tangential involvement with EA. I think we should be pretty cautious about more heavily moderating or trying to exclude the contributions of newer or less involved members

As an illustration: the 2018 EA Survey [EA · GW] found >50% of respondents were members of the Facebook group, but only 20% (i.e. 1 in 5) were members of the Forum. Clearly the Facebook group has many more users who are even less engaged with EA, who don't take the EA Survey. The forthcoming 2019 results were fairly similar.

At the moment I think the EA Facebook group plays a fairly important role alongside the EA Forum (which only a small minority of EAs are involved with) in giving people newer to the community somewhere where they can express their views. Higher moderation of comments would probably add to the pervasive (we will discuss this in a future EA Survey post) sense that EA is exclusive and elitist.

I do think it's worth considering whether low quality discussion on the EA Facebook group will cause promising prospective EAs to 'bounce' i.e. see the low quality discussion, infer that EA is low quality and leave. The extent to which this happens is a tricky broader question, but I'm inclined to hope that it wouldn't be too frequent since readers can easily see the higher quality articles and numerous Forum posts linked on Facebook and I would also hope that most readers will know that online discussion on Facebook is often low quality and not update too heavily against EA on the basis of it.

It also seems worth bearing in mind that since most members of the Facebook group clearly don't make the decision to move over to participating in the EA Forum, that efforts to make the EA Facebook discussion more like the Forum, may just put off a large number of users.

comment by riceissa · 2020-02-13T02:55:31.257Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This has been the case for quite a while now. There was a small discussion back in December 2016 where some people expressed similar opinions. My guess is that 2015 is the last year the group regularly had interesting posts, but I might be remembering incorrectly.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-02-15T01:41:20.417Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

By "interesting posts", do you mean original writing that hasn't been posted elsewhere first?

comment by riceissa · 2020-02-16T02:30:53.731Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think that's one of the common ways for a post to be interesting, but there are other ways (e.g. asking a question that generates interesting discussion in the comments).

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-13T00:45:55.714Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Do you have the same feeling about comments on the EA Forum?

comment by JanBrauner · 2020-02-14T22:00:11.464Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

No

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-02-15T01:51:23.357Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

You may be missing a lot of good comments on YouTube videos (at least, if you watch entertaining content that gets a lot of upvotes). Now that comments are filtered by a sort of "magic algorithm" (which I assume is similar to the Forum's -- recency and upvotes), top comments on positive/entertaining videos are regularly very funny and occasionally provide interesting background context.

That said, I can't speak to intellectual content, and I'm sure that "controversial content" comments are still terrible, because they lead to more upvoting of negative content that one side or the other wants to support.

answer by Sanjay · 2020-02-14T10:55:31.858Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you to JanBrauner for raising this. I have had similar concerns.

However I don't think stronger moderation is the answer, especially since it's hard to moderate the comments, which is where most of the poor quality content arises.

Instead, it perhaps needs more concerted efforts from those who have thought about EA ideas more carefully to (nicely and constructively) help to improve the quality of the discussion.

This means participating in the EA facebook group more actively, rather than spending less time on it and just paying attention to the forum (which candidly, is what I've found myself doing)

answer by Aaron Gertler · 2020-02-15T01:48:24.169Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

The group seems very reasonable as a default place for people to be regularly reminded of EA topics as they go about their day. 

I can't think of a single large (5000+ people) Facebook group that regularly features interesting original discussions that aren't intruded on by aggression, trolling, memes, etc. In that context, I'm glad that the Facebook group has:

  • A good selection of top-level posts, thanks to the efforts of moderators
  • A much better tone of discussion than most large groups (it's very rare to see someone openly insult someone else without a moderator stepping in, and I saw quick action the one time I reported an aggressive comment)
  • A good amount of reasonable advice being given in response to quick questions (e.g. how to best persuade a company to add a charity to their matching program). Not all questions get good answers, but few seem to get bad answers.

I think that an outside observer who knew nothing about EA would look at the group and at least think "okay, these seem like well-meaning people who run a lot of different projects". If they thought the discussion was especially aggressive or low-quality in an epistemic sense, and saw his as a reason to think poorly of EA, I'd question their ability to take Internet norms into account.

(That said, the discussion quality seems much lower than on the Forum, in smaller EA Facebook groups, or on Discord, and I understand why someone would feel dismayed at the thought of how much better it could theoretically be.)

answer by Max_Daniel · 2020-02-19T11:14:51.014Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I almost never read the EA Facebook group. But I tend to generally dislike Facebook, and there simply is no Facebook group I regularly use. I think I joined the EA Facebook group in early 2016, though it's possible that it was a few months earlier or later. (In fact, I didn't have a Facebook account previously. I only created one because a lot of EA communication seemed to happen via Facebook, which I found somewhat annoying.) Based on my very infrequent visits, I don't have a sense that it changed significantly. But I'm not sure if I would have noticed.

1 comment

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Julia_Wise · 2020-02-13T22:06:27.825Z · score: 18 (10 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

The Facebook group has nearly 18,000 members, most of whom are new to EA. If you remember it being different in 2015, it was. But it also had a third as many people.