Posts

Creative Writing Contest: Now with more prizes! 2021-10-14T07:12:40.278Z
[PR FAQ] Tagging users in posts and comments 2021-10-02T02:50:02.511Z
Open Thread: October 2021 2021-10-01T11:10:15.818Z
EA Organization Updates: September 2021 2021-10-01T03:55:15.112Z
Honoring Petrov Day on the EA Forum: 2021 2021-09-25T23:27:43.088Z
What is your favorite EA meme? 2021-09-21T09:28:48.361Z
Clickhole's take on cause prioritization 2021-09-16T07:33:32.722Z
EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: Submission thread for work first published elsewhere 2021-09-15T08:25:40.949Z
EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories 2021-09-12T21:15:12.890Z
Open Thread: September 2021 2021-09-01T07:00:00.000Z
EA Organization Updates: August 2021 2021-08-27T11:11:38.777Z
What are the EA movement's most notable accomplishments? 2021-08-23T03:51:46.604Z
Perverse Excited Failure & Justified General Frustration 2021-08-13T23:42:38.654Z
[PR FAQ] Sharing readership data with Forum authors 2021-08-09T10:47:38.112Z
Engineering the Apocalypse: Rob Reid and Sam Harris on engineered pandemics (transcript) 2021-08-06T03:31:46.653Z
Open Thread: August 2021 2021-08-02T10:04:16.302Z
EA Organization Updates: July 2021 2021-07-31T12:20:09.509Z
EA Forum Prize: Winners for April 2021 2021-07-29T01:12:38.937Z
Writing about my job: Content Specialist, CEA 2021-07-19T01:56:14.645Z
You should write about your job 2021-07-19T01:26:59.345Z
Lant Pritchett on the futility of "smart buys" in developing-world education 2021-07-18T23:00:26.556Z
The Effective Altruism Handbook 2021-07-16T21:31:26.921Z
Effective Altruism Polls: A resource that exists 2021-07-10T06:15:12.561Z
The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020) 2021-07-03T21:47:28.540Z
Open Thread: July 2021 2021-07-01T09:16:20.679Z
New Roles in Global Health and Wellbeing (Open Philanthropy) 2021-06-29T19:48:59.625Z
EA Organization Updates: June 2021 2021-06-26T00:37:38.598Z
What are some examples of successful social change? 2021-06-22T22:51:19.955Z
Forum update: New features (June 2021) 2021-06-17T05:01:31.723Z
New? Start here! (Useful links) 2021-06-14T08:07:29.970Z
What are some high-impact paths for a young person in the developing world? 2021-06-14T05:45:15.673Z
What is an example of recent, tangible progress in AI safety research? 2021-06-14T05:29:22.031Z
Open Thread: June 2021 2021-06-03T00:43:21.010Z
Editing Festival: Results and Prizes 2021-05-29T23:16:26.703Z
EA Organization Updates: May 2021 2021-05-26T22:53:12.337Z
[Podcast] Having a successful career with anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome 2021-05-24T18:39:34.132Z
AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism 2021-05-22T15:12:58.381Z
EA Forum Prize: Winners for March 2021 2021-05-22T04:34:38.662Z
AMA: Tim Ferriss, Michael Pollan, and Dr. Matthew W. Johnson on psychedelics research and philanthropy 2021-05-13T17:48:50.819Z
Open Thread: May 2021 2021-05-04T08:26:37.503Z
EA Organization Updates: April 2021 2021-04-28T10:52:57.297Z
EA Forum Prize: Winners for February 2021 2021-04-27T09:32:08.732Z
(Closed) Seeking (paid) volunteers to test introductory EA content 2021-04-22T12:10:23.833Z
What material should we cross-post for the Forum's archives? 2021-04-15T10:06:34.186Z
Your World, Better: Global progress for middle schoolers 2021-04-11T21:57:58.572Z
Reality has a surprising amount of detail 2021-04-11T21:41:00.387Z
The EA Forum Editing Festival has begun! 2021-04-07T10:28:10.155Z
Open Thread: April 2021 2021-04-06T19:42:42.886Z
EA Forum Prize: Winners for January 2021 2021-04-02T02:58:43.260Z
EA Organization Updates: March 2021 2021-04-01T02:42:52.558Z

Comments

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-10-14T05:09:40.346Z · EA · GW

I assume this is just a general comment, but so I can be sure — did you mean to make a point about the current rules of the contest?

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Notes on "Managing to Change the World" · 2021-10-13T10:03:34.966Z · EA · GW

Great review!

Green's blog, "Ask a Manager", is really well-written. Many of the questions are a bit narrow, or "funny but rare", but I still find the blog a good way to immerse myself in the mind of someone who thinks clearly about hard problems in the workplace.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Introducing Training for Good (TFG) · 2021-10-13T09:35:55.973Z · EA · GW

Several of CEA's new hires over the past couple of years have been people older than 30 with no prior EA experience, who in at least some cases were responding to materials that were "broad" enough to include them in the discussion. This doesn't necessarily mean that we should be investing a lot of effort into reaching experienced people, but they do apply for first-time EA jobs!

Two examples of impressive older people switching into EA work (no comment on how much impact they've had in their roles):

  • Open Philanthropy's Beth Jones (led ops for Hillary Clinton's campaign, worked on Obama's staff)
  • ex-MIRI staffer Edward Kmett, one of the world's foremost Haskell programmers, who worked there for ~3 years
Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on How impactful is free and open source software development? · 2021-10-13T09:14:08.700Z · EA · GW

This should probably be a post! I'd love to share it in the Forum Digest and elsewhere — I can technically do this even when it's a comment, but I'd love to see it get a title, some tags,  its own full comment section, etc.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Ben_Snodin's Shortform · 2021-10-13T09:10:19.206Z · EA · GW

The lobbying pressure seems more important than the common knowledge.

EA orgs already spend a lot of time identifying and sharing important and simple ideas — I wouldn't call them "uncontroversial", but few ideas are. (See "building more houses makes housing cheaper", which is a lot more controversial than I'd have expected before I started to follow that "debate".)

I do think it would be worth spending a few hours trying to come up with examples of ideas that would be good to spread + calculating very rough BOTECs for them. For example, what's the value of getting one middle-class American to embrace passive rather than active investment? What's the value of getting one more person vaccinated?

Development Media International is the obvious parallel, and the cost-effectiveness of using ridiculously cheap radio advertisements to share basic public health information seems hard to beat on priors. But there are a lot of directions you could go with "civilizational epistemics", and maybe some of them wind up looking much better, e.g. because working in the developed world = many more resources to redirect.

(Speaking of which, Guarding Against Pandemics is another example — their goal isn't just to reach a few specific politicians, but to reach people who will share their message with politicians.)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Ben_Snodin's Shortform · 2021-10-13T09:02:10.919Z · EA · GW

For a billion dollars, you can buy hundreds of millions of eyeballs.

As an extreme example, a 30-second Super Bowl advertisement costs just under $6 million and reaches almost 100 million people. And that can't be anywhere near the upper limit of efficiency (I'd guess those ads are wildly overpriced given the additional status/prestige they confer).

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Is it crunch time yet? If so, who can help? · 2021-10-13T08:57:41.497Z · EA · GW

Of course, some organizations and people that do a lot of work on this problem would say that it is, in fact, crunch time. If someone decides to explore the area, "it's crunch time" is a hypothesis they should consider. I just don't think it should be their default assumption, or your default pitch.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Is it crunch time yet? If so, who can help? · 2021-10-13T08:56:24.115Z · EA · GW

One way to collect some "answers" to this is to observe the behavior of organizations that do a lot of work on this problem. For example:

  • Open Philanthropy still makes grants in several different longtermist areas
  • 80,000 Hours lists biorisk as a priority on the same "level" as AI alignment
  • FLI is using their massive Vitalik Buterin donation to fund PhD and postdoctoral fellowships, which seems to imply that "drop everything" doesn't imply e.g. "drop out of school" or "start thinking exclusively about alignment even if it tanks your grades"

Biorisk needs people who are good with numbers and computers. EA community building needs people who are good with computers (there's a lot of good software to be built, websites to be designed, etc.)

To keep the scope of my analysis limited, I'm not even going to mention the dozens of other priorities that someone with the right skills + interests might be better off pursuing. But it at least seems not to be consensus that "crunch time" is here, even among people who think about the problem quite a lot.

That said, I would never turn away anyone who wants to work on alignment, and I think anyone with related skills should strongly consider it as an area to explore + take seriously. That's the pitch I'd be making if I were in college, alongside messages like (paraphrased a lot):

  • "This seems like a good way to end up working on something historically significant, in a way that probably won't happen if you join Facebook instead."
  • "If you want to do this, there's a good chance you'll have unbelievable access to mentorship and support from top people in the field, which... probably won't happen if you join Facebook instead." (As a non-programmer, I don't know whether this is true, but I'd guess that it is.)
Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Emrik's Shortform · 2021-10-13T08:32:15.608Z · EA · GW

This is a feature we've been considering for a while! Thanks for sharing the idea and getting some upvotes as additional evidence.

I can't promise this will show up at any particular time, but it is a matter of active discussion, for the reasons you outlined and to give people a third option alongside publishing something on their own account and publishing on a second, pseudonymous account.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on The Cost of Rejection · 2021-10-12T02:41:01.253Z · EA · GW

I think feedback on job applications is far too rare given its value, for reasons others have stated and the additional reason "everyone I've ever talked to about this has complained about how hard it is to get feedback".

Here's how I handled feedback for the one hiring process I've run at CEA:

  • Anyone I rejected in the first round got an offer from me to provide feedback on their application. Looking back, I see that I didn't make this offer to second-round candidates; this seems really dumb, and I'm not sure why I didn't, though I think I did share some verbal feedback when I interviewed those candidates.
  • When someone asked for feedback, I generally wrote a paragraph or two, very quickly, sometimes copying and pasting from other feedback emails (in cases where multiple people made the same mistake).
  • Because I was mostly providing feedback on a standardized work test, that part was very quick (though giving people advice on how to copyedit better probably wasn't very valuable). My other feedback concerned unclear descriptions of their experience or confusing resumes — this seems more valuable.
  • People were very grateful for even this basic feedback. It helped that one of my most common notes was "this was above-average for all applications, but not in the top 10%, and I only took the top 10% for the second round". This let me give people some amount of confidence/comfort while still being honest about the high standards for the position.

General lessons:

  • It seems much easier to give feedback when you have a standardized task to comment on.
  • Having "opt-in" feedback seems ideal; people who ask for it will value it more, and most people won't ask (maybe 15% of the people who got my offer followed up to ask).

As an additional data point, I got very detailed feedback when I applied for a position at Ought in 2018: "You did X, which was good, but the best candidates did X and also Y, which was clearly better". This was a good learning experience and left me feeling very positive about the organization.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-10-09T10:35:24.931Z · EA · GW

Anyone can submit — we don't care about age, nationality, or any other category that immediately comes to mind.

Let me know if there's something specific you're concerned about.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Any EAs in Derby/ Derbyshire, UK? · 2021-10-07T06:30:51.789Z · EA · GW

I recommend using EA Hub's group list to find groups near you, since those are the most likely way to find individuals in your area. Looks like there are groups in Manchester and Sheffield!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Should I have my full name as my username? · 2021-10-04T10:18:39.706Z · EA · GW

Reasonable enough!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Should I have my full name as my username? · 2021-10-03T02:40:09.324Z · EA · GW

You can ask me if you want it changed.

In general, I like people using their real names — it makes the Forum feel more warm and community-ish. I think risks like doxxing seem far more likely than they are because incidents of doxxing get a lot of news coverage relative to their likelihood. In addition, what we discuss here mostly isn't very interesting to the outside world.

But in the end, of course, it's totally up to you! Everyone has their own personal standards around privacy, and the Forum is open to everyone.

(On a separate note, I imagine that the decision looks different for "John Smith" vs. "Aaron Gertler" — some names are much harder to Google than others.)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-10-01T23:55:30.430Z · EA · GW

Good question. Yes, submissions must be in English.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-10-01T09:58:13.821Z · EA · GW

Here's our new private submission form!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-10-01T09:40:08.381Z · EA · GW

We've now added a form you can use to submit your work privately, and updated the post to mention it. 

Let me know if you see anything we should change about the form, and thanks for the suggestion!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Robin Hanson's Grabby Aliens model explained - part 1 · 2021-09-30T02:55:08.777Z · EA · GW

Congratulations on hitting a new peak view count for the reborn version of the channel!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Clarifying the Petrov Day Exercise · 2021-09-30T02:11:51.463Z · EA · GW

Epistemic status: I'm still pretty confused about this whole thing, and wasn't involved in ideation. (Though I helped when asked by choosing whom to email, editing the LW email , and making a post.)

A few good people who were genuinely concerned about me mentioned to me privately that if I don't take the Red Button exercise, there could be social consequences, or it might even lead to me missing out on job opportunities in the EA Community.

I'll second Ruby in taking some blame for the overly serious/sanctimonious tone of the email, which I made some edits to before both emails were sent. I didn't make it more serious, but neither did I make it less serious, even though this whole practice feels more like a "fun social game" than "serious community ritual" to me.

To be clear, I don't know whether the aforementioned "social consequences" would exist. I wouldn't plan to think about the results of Petrov Day if I were considering someone for a job, or in any other context where I had any say in someone's EA community experience. And maybe everyone else is on the same page with me — judging by the comments here, it feels like the Forum's users generally don't take the activity seriously in its current form.

But if someone out there does plan to "impose consequences" in some form, and states that desire, I think they risk damaging our ability to do fun community things that aren't also tied to future professional success.*

 In the future, I don't want this event to be associated with social pressure or coercion, however incidentally. I've also never been enthusiastic about it in its current form, and if I'm still working on the Forum this time next year, I hope I'll be helping to produce something different for the holiday.

 

*Though fun community things can still be meaningful! The best discussion I've seen on different ways to interpret the activity, and the balance between "serious and fun", is here

Habryka's reply is a good representation of what seems valuable about the activity to me. But I wouldn't want to follow him in "losing trust" in anyone who pressed the button. (As long as they had a good reason; if the reason is "I never liked the Forum much and I wanted to watch it burn", that's obviously a bit different.)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Should We Have More Expansive Laws as an Alternative to Cancel Culture? · 2021-09-30T00:48:19.778Z · EA · GW

Yes. I didn't even read the "we" in the initial post as referring to EA, because this doesn't seem at all like something EA would be involved in, because the issue is small-scale (compared to "hundreds of thousands of people die each year" or "we are at risk of extinction"), and extremely non-neglected (huge amounts of funding and cultural capital on all "sides" of the issue). As you note, the current state of the issue seems to be "asinine and distracting".

I read "we" as "people in the broader culture", and the Forum as a place to ask a question about generic problem-solving (which is fine — over the years, people have asked questions about a variety of cause areas that aren't connected to EA).

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Summary of history (empowerment and well-being lens) · 2021-09-30T00:41:00.913Z · EA · GW

Fixed.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Honoring Petrov Day on the EA Forum: 2021 · 2021-09-29T09:48:45.505Z · EA · GW

Some of the LessWrong and Forum moderators are away at a conference, so we won't be publishing a retrospective right away, but we do expect to publish one eventually. Stay tuned!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Preventing low back pain with exercise · 2021-09-28T05:03:43.662Z · EA · GW

Are you aware of any organizations trying to combat lower back pain by encouraging exercise in the developing world? This post seems like half personal advice, half the implication that this might be a solid cause area for global health, and I'm wondering whether anyone is doing anything in the latter space.

Also, anyone who found this post interesting might also want to read this post on lower back pain.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Honoring Petrov Day on the EA Forum: 2021 · 2021-09-28T04:58:18.656Z · EA · GW

Thanks — I've updated the post.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Honoring Petrov Day on the EA Forum: 2021 · 2021-09-28T04:54:29.266Z · EA · GW

You can tag me with a quick DM for now — totally fine if you just literally send the URL of a comment and nothing else, if you want to optimize for speed/ease.

Tagging users to ping them is a much-discussed feature internally, with an uncertain future.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-09-24T17:00:15.570Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this note, Stewart.

I've edited the text to clarify that full-text works should only be published if the author has given explicit permission, either directly or by using a Creative Commons license.

The full-text suggestion was because there are lots of EA-themed works published in places like Reddit where the author's goal was clearly to show the story to as many people as possible. But you're right that it's not good to assume people will reliably repost only those stories that no one would mind having shared here. Thanks for the push to fix this.

As for WSC Friedman's note requesting an option for private submission, I expect to have an update very soon.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Emrik's Shortform · 2021-09-22T23:42:37.814Z · EA · GW

My experience as a non-PhD who dropped out of EA things for two years before returning is that I felt welcome and accepted when I started showing up in EA spaces again. And now that I've been at CEA for three years, I still spend a lot of my time talking to and helping out people who are just getting started and don't have any great credentials or accomplishments; I hope that I'm not putting pressure on them when I do this.

That said, every person's experience is unique, and some people have certainly felt this kind of pressure, whether self-imposed as a result of perceived community norms or thrust upon them by people who were rude or dismissive at some point. And that's clearly awful — people shouldn't be made to feel this way in general, and it's especially galling to hear about it sometimes happening within EA. 

My impression is that few of these rude or dismissive people are themselves highly invested in the community, but my impression may be skewed by the relationships I've built with various highly invested people in the job I now have.

 

Lots of people with pretty normal backgrounds have clearly had enormous impact (too many examples to list!). And within the EA spaces I frequent, there's a lot of interest and excitement about people sharing their stories of joining the movement, even if those people don't have any special credentials. The most prominent example of this might be Giving What We Can.

I don't understand the "menial labor" point; the most common jobs for people in the broader EA community are very white-collar (programmers, lawyers, teachers...) What did you mean by that?

 

Personally, the way I view "ordinary folk dignity" in EA is through something I call "the airplane test". If I sat next to someone on an airplane and saw them reading Doing Good Better, and they seemed excited about EA when I talked to them, I'd be very happy to have met them, even if they didn't have any special ambitions beyond finding a good charity and making occasional donations. There aren't many people in the world who share our unusual collection of values; every new person is precious.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-09-22T23:30:55.032Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the link! Sharing it one week into a six-week contest leaves me plenty of time :-)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Why AI alignment could be hard with modern deep learning · 2021-09-22T06:16:58.532Z · EA · GW

I specifically removed the notice when I cross-posted this for Ajeya, since starting a post by Ajeya with the words "guest post by Ajeya Cotra" seemed odd. I've now added a notice back in.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Open Thread: September 2021 · 2021-09-21T21:31:52.215Z · EA · GW

For some context, here’s a sample of what I’ve been working on recently for the Forum, outside of the creative writing contest:

  • Working to set up five new AMAs (uncertain how many will end up coming together) with serious thinkers
  • Presenting to the Stanford Existential Risk Initiative on the topic of “taking your summer research project and posting it on the Forum”, then helping lots of individual researchers (~10 so far) prepare to do so
  • Helping Holden Karnofsky crosspost his Cold Takes content to the Forum so that it’s available as soon as he publishes the blog versions
  • Continuing to help other people with content they submit for feedback (steady stream of 1-2 people per week)
  • Continuing to refine the Forum’s version of the EA Handbook (and serving as a facilitator for three live Virtual Program cohorts to get more input on how people experience the “official” version of this material, which has helped me improve the Forum version)
  • Creating a PR FAQ for a new metrics feature that should inspire more sharing of “serious work” by its authors, hopefully drawing more attention to it
  • Adding a lot more recent Forum content to CEA’s social media feeds, so that the best material (almost always serious work) reaches more readers. We’d been on a social media hiatus until ~two months ago, but engagement since we returned has been great!

While the creative writing contest is very visible, the vast majority of my time (as the main person trying to solicit more content for the Forum) goes towards helping people with serious work, and promoting said work.

I realize this may not speak to your point about uneasiness — I’m just sharing it for some context on the Forum’s overall trajectory and what CEA is trying to do with it.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Open Thread: September 2021 · 2021-09-21T21:29:49.235Z · EA · GW

Thanks for voicing these concerns! You've articulated a not-uncommon point of view on how the Forum ought to be used, and one that we try to incorporate into our work alongside many other points of view.

I've heard some people express a desire for the Forum to look more like a peer-reviewed journal. I've heard even more express concerns in the opposite direction — that the site feels like it has a very high bar for engagement, and any content other than serious research seems suitable only for Facebook (many of those people are trying to use Facebook less or not at all).

Other people have told me that they just really enjoy creative writing, art, jokes, etc., and want the Forum to represent that side of EA culture. Sometimes, the creative work is a big part of what drew them to the movement in the first place.

I think that examples like "The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant" show that more "creative" EA content clearly has a place in the movement, and that we'd be better off with more stories of that quality. Hence, the writing contest. 

Just as not all research on the Forum is as strong as e.g. that of Rethink Priorities, not all stories will be cultural touchstones that stand the test of time. Still, I think the gems are worth having a lot of rougher content show up.

The encouragement for people to share their work in public (rather than quietly submitting it through a form) is partly in response to feedback about the Forum's "high bar", and partly to encourage more representation for that side of EA culture. I want to encourage people to share their work and not worry as much about whether something "qualifies" to be here.

(Some of the Forum's best posts have started with an author emailing me to say something like "I don't know if this is a good fit, but I figured I would check". I don't know how many additional posts we miss because people give up without asking me.)

***

As for the Clickhole and meme posts — both of these happened as a result of my thinking about "EA art" a bunch as I worked on the contest, but I understand that having everything appear back-to-back could create a sense of unease!

I don't expect this to be a rising trend past the time of the creative writing contest — this was just a chance for me to share a couple of things I'd drafted or thought of long ago.

I think that humorous/creative posts have a place on the front page, which is explicitly about "relatedness to EA" rather than metrics of seriousness or "quality".  That said, the meme post now has negative karma notwithstanding my default vote, so people seem to agree that it's not a good fit; I've moved it to personal blog given that feedback.

I still stand by the Clickhole post being a genuinely good piece on the importance of cause prioritization, and most people seemed to like it.

*****

Thanks for suggesting concrete actions! Here are my thoughts:

Create a peer-reviewed forum on top of the EA Forum, which curates research/thoughtful content. An interface like the Alignment Forum / LessWrong would work well for this.

Are the Alignment Forum and LessWrong "peer-reviewed" in any sense that the Forum isn't? The former has limits on who can post in the first place, but that doesn't seem like the same thing. (I may be unaware of some peer-review policy on one or both sites, though.)

We've had some internal discussions about what the EA Forum's equivalent(s) of the Alignment Forum might be, and it's very possible that we'll eventually produce a space for curated research content. We're reaching the end of our current "Forum year" (September 2020 - September 2021) and considering new initiatives we may launch for 2022; this is on the list of possibilities.

Create a separate place of discourse (a Facebook group?) for fun content, perhaps linked somehow from the EA Forum.

I like Facebook, but a lot of people really don't, and that site continues to be difficult to search, filter, etc. I think the Forum has useful features that people who like "fun content" should also be able to use.

More generally, we think of the Forum's purpose as "the center of EA discussion online". Not just research, but also community building, events, announcements, AMAs, short stories, and April Fool's jokes. All of these things seem like they help communities grow and flourish.

That said, I understand the concern about whether it makes sense to have everything presented in a single feed. That's why we've been building up our tag infrastructure and encouraging people to use filters — rather than present everything to everyone, we think it's better to let people choose what they want to see. But I don't think that has to mean separate websites.

Have the fun content be hidden by default, like personal posts, so people need to opt into it.

Is this a better option than "show this by default, and let people opt out of it"?

Personal posts can literally be about anything, as long as they don't violate our rules. Humorous posts that aren't EA-related, or posts authors would prefer be less visible, are hidden by the default personal filter. Filtering out a subset of EA-related posts based on our assumption that most people don't want to see them seems like a bigger step.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Does the Forum Prize lead people to write more posts? · 2021-09-21T20:09:54.910Z · EA · GW

Your 'prize posts' also curate good content and that is valuable for forum readers, I think

I think this was a relatively valuable part of the Prize as well. However, the weekly Forum Digest now gets about 700 opens/week, which is well over the total number of views the average Forum Prize post received. If people want to track good content, the Digest is a good way to do that. (It's much less selective than the Prize, but still seems like a superior form of curation overall, given how many good posts didn't receive prizes.) 

However, the Mailchimp archive only goes back 20 issues or so — I've made a note to put up a page displaying all past Digests at some point, to make the curation more complete.
 

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Does the Forum Prize lead people to write more posts? · 2021-09-21T20:05:03.752Z · EA · GW

It ignores the potential impact of the Forum Prize on other people's writing. How many people have been inspired to write something either because of the existence of the prize itself or because of some piece of writing that they learned about because of the prize? I would bet it's not zero.

I'd also bet that it's not zero, but my experience interviewing dozens of users and surveying hundreds more suggests that the number is not very high. (I focus my interviews on people we'd especially like to see submit more content, so the Prize being relatively unimportant to them seems quite informative in that light.)

I also wanted to express that if CEA really is ceasing the Forum Prize as such, that seems like a fairly major decision that should get its own top-level post, as the prize announcements themselves do. As it is, it's buried in an article whose title poses what I think most people would consider to be a pretty esoteric research question, so I expect that a lot of people will miss it.

There will be another announcement in the upcoming Forum Prize post, which I expect to be read by more people. This post was ready before the other post, but it seemed a bit odd not to mention the decision to stop the Prize here, given the subject matter. (I'm about to note this in the above post, to clear up potential confusion.)

Indeed, I would argue that the prize adjudication process itself offers a useful infrastructure for evaluating the Forum experience. Since you have a record of the scores that posts received each month as well as the qualitative opinions of longtime judges, you have the tools you need to assess in a semi-rigorous way whether the quality of the top posts has increased or decreased over time.

Given that the number of votes remains basically fixed over time, the "record of the scores" wouldn't reveal any change in quality — we don't use a scale, just approval voting.

The judges are definitely the sorts of people I'd want to hear from w/r/t the perceived quality of top posts over time, but they are also the sorts of people who read the Forum a lot anyway (that's why I asked them to judge), so I expect I'll be able to get their opinion on this kind of thing pretty easily with or without the prize.

***

Overall, I also want to reiterate that the Forum Prize closing doesn't mean we won't be trying to reward quality posts, have judges evaluate posts, etc. — this will just be happening in other forms (using the budget we've freed up by not running the Prize). So I'm hoping that many of the benefits we looked for will be present in greater quantity with our new projects!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-09-21T17:28:46.181Z · EA · GW

If you spent $10,000 on prizes for people who did useful things in the community building / EA messaging space, and that happened to be attached to a post, it seems extremely obvious that this is okay. See, for example, EA Funds sharing information about how to apply for grants.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on What is your favorite EA meme? · 2021-09-21T09:31:57.736Z · EA · GW

My favorite is elegant, emotionally weighty, and intensely relatable:

(Original post.)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-09-20T13:22:18.304Z · EA · GW

I don't think it's because I "suggested" it. I think it's almost certainly the prize money + the fact that I heavily promoted the contest through all of CEA's channels, because CEA is running and funding it. I also shared it with many individual writers I admire, the rational fiction subreddit, etc. 

Thus, many more people have seen this than see most Forum posts. It's not "bias", just sheer numbers. (Other people are welcome to promote their own posts in lots of places — in fact, we encourage it!)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on [Creative writing contest] Blue bird and black bird · 2021-09-20T07:18:59.305Z · EA · GW

Quick notice that Dario isn't the author of the piece — your response indicated that you might have thought they were. Sorry if I misinterpreted your reply!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: Submission thread for work first published elsewhere · 2021-09-20T06:05:21.298Z · EA · GW

It's totally fine to submit anything you'd like; very little harm done if it doesn't seem like a great fit for the contest, just a few minutes of a judge's time later. (And we do pay our judges for their time.)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Fergus McCormack's Shortform · 2021-09-17T10:32:30.250Z · EA · GW

In answer to your question, I think that it's generally better to create a top-level post than a Shortform post, as long as you're comfortable doing so. Shortform serves a useful purpose, but top-level posts have a better chance of getting useful engagement.

I think this would make sense as a top-level post, and would encourage you to try sharing it in that context!

My thoughts on the checklist compilation idea: It's hard to make a given intellectual resource very popular, but if you can pull off this one, I think it could be really useful. Many EA orgs have their own private procedural checklists; just taking those and bringing them out into the public could be valuable on its own. (For example, I have a checklist for creating email newsletters in Mailchimp that I think could be useful for others who do similar things.)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Linch's Shortform · 2021-09-17T10:15:49.023Z · EA · GW

This is another example of a Shortform that could be an excellent top-level post (especially as it's on-theme with the motivated reasoning post that was just published). I'd love to  see see this spend a week on the front page and perhaps convince some readers to try doing some red-teaming for themselves. Would you consider creating a post?

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Buck's Shortform · 2021-09-17T10:11:10.865Z · EA · GW

See my comment here, which applies to this Shortform as well; I think it would be a strong top-level post, and I'd be interested to see how other users felt about tech bootcamps they attended.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Buck's Shortform · 2021-09-17T10:07:58.610Z · EA · GW

I'm commenting on a few Shortforms I think should be top-level posts so that more people see them, they can be tagged, etc. This is one of the clearest cases I've seen; I think the comparison is really interesting, and a lot of people who are promising EA candidates will have "become really rich" as a viable option, such that they'd benefit especially from thinking about this comparisons themselves.

Anyway, would you consider making this a top-level post? I don't think the text would need to be edited all — it could be as-is, plus a link to the Shortform comments.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Ben Garfinkel's Shortform · 2021-09-17T10:04:59.481Z · EA · GW

Would you consider making this into a top-level post? The discussion here is really interesting and could use more attention, and a top-level post helps to deliver that (this also means the post can be tagged for greater searchability).

I think the top-level post could be exactly the text here, plus a link to the Shortform version so people can see those comments. Though I'd also be interested to see the updated version of the original post which takes comments into account (if you felt like doing that).

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Linch's Shortform · 2021-09-17T09:32:26.256Z · EA · GW

I've previously shared this post on CEA's social media and (I think) in an edition of the Forum Digest. I think it's really good, and I'd love to see it be a top-level post so that more people end up seeing it, it can be tagged, etc. 

Would you be interested in creating a full post for it? (I don't think you'd have to make any changes — this still deserves to be read widely as-is.)

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Clickhole's take on cause prioritization · 2021-09-16T23:31:13.903Z · EA · GW

Wow, big news! I've made the necessary correction and changed the title.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Fairtrade and its criticism · 2021-09-15T22:58:14.409Z · EA · GW

I can't find where the author actually  supports their claim that food shortages were "non-existent", so it's hard to know how to respond.

I'm not even close to an expert here, but my impression (from Wikipedia and other light reading) is that most scholars credit the Green Revolution with preventing famines that would likely have happened otherwise, as well as increasing food security more generally — rather than ending a bunch of ongoing famines.

See Our World in Data for many statistics related to global malnutrition and its consequences. Things have clearly been getting steadily better since at least the 1980s, as the world has gotten better at producing food.

I won't go point-by-point through the article, but it seems clear that the author wasn't trying to present any kind of balanced view — though the same is true for most authors, on both sides of any debate. I'd recommend trying to search for information about the Green Revolution and its consequences (and about the costs/benefits of Fair Trade) from a variety of sources, rather than worrying about finding counterpoints to one specific article; that might help you figure out which facts are indisputable, how the different "sides" place value and importance on different factors, etc.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on Avoiding Groupthink in Intro Fellowships (and Diversifying Longtermism) · 2021-09-15T22:39:40.268Z · EA · GW

The EA Handbook follows a similar path to the introductory program syllabus. If you have specific suggestions for readings on S-risk (or anything else!), I'm always happy to hear them. I see the Handbook as a work in progress, and make small adjustments quite often.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on First vs. last name policies? · 2021-09-15T22:31:45.630Z · EA · GW

I use first names for almost everyone, unless I have a sense that the person I'm writing to has a strong preference for formality. 

I settled on this partly because ~everyone who's ever written to me has signed the email with their first name. I thus infer that they'd be fine with me calling them by their first name, even if we haven't spoken before.

I also feel strange when people address me as "Mr. Gertler" in writing, and strongly prefer "Aaron" — and I'd guess that many other people feel the same way.

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-09-15T08:33:17.225Z · EA · GW

Given the upvotes on your comment, I assume that other people share your preference. I've created this thread for people to suggest content without creating a top-level post. Thanks for your help!

Comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $22,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-09-15T08:31:37.821Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the further feedback. I'll think more on whether we should open some kind of private submission option, and we may end up doing so. It would be really sad if authors were forced to sacrifice future opportunities in order to participate.