Posts

Retrospective: Tools for Collaborative Truth Seeking 2023-03-27T09:30:09.533Z
Polis: Why and How to Use it 2023-02-01T14:03:04.638Z
Forecasting tools and Prediction Markets: Why and How 2023-01-31T12:55:41.074Z
Squiggle: Why and how to use it 2023-01-30T14:14:06.009Z
Excalidraw: Why and How to Use it 2023-01-28T11:09:02.611Z
Loom: Why and How to use it 2023-01-26T14:34:14.781Z
Excalidraw: Why and How to Use it 2023-01-26T14:28:47.546Z
Visualisation of Probability Mass 2023-01-25T15:09:40.953Z
Guesstimate: Why and how to use it 2023-01-24T14:16:20.639Z
Visualisation of Probability Mass 2023-01-23T19:39:57.575Z
Guesstimate: Why and How to Use It 2023-01-23T19:37:31.192Z
Announcing Introductions for Collaborative Truth Seeking Tools 2023-01-23T16:04:29.149Z
Enter Scott Alexander's Prediction Competition 2023-01-05T20:52:36.551Z
Trying to keep my head on straight 2022-11-19T16:03:06.714Z
Some frames I liked from Atlas 2022-10-24T11:20:34.207Z
Two Guts 2022-10-21T10:01:30.460Z
Epistemics-Improving Activities for Groups and Friends 2022-10-10T13:11:45.054Z
LW4EA: Fact Posts: How and Why 2022-10-10T12:08:57.167Z
Calibrate - New Chrome Extension for hiding numbers so you can guess 2022-10-07T11:21:51.937Z
Our Boring Advice For Teens 2022-10-07T11:13:45.202Z
What are all the things you can embed into forum posts? 2022-10-05T16:13:04.398Z
Things I did in my job search I recommend 2022-10-04T13:12:47.923Z
Scattered Takes and Unsolicited Advice (new ones added to the top) 2022-09-30T15:10:25.273Z
Transparency for improving weird feelings around community building 2022-09-30T15:09:32.701Z
About going to a hub 2022-09-30T15:08:00.145Z
The Onion Test for Personal and Institutional Honesty 2022-09-27T15:26:34.847Z
Advice I Give to People Who Don't Currently Have an EA Job and are thinking of transitioning 2022-09-16T16:58:32.975Z
List of lists of EA-related open philosophy research questions 2022-05-03T16:14:59.409Z
What is the new EA question? 2022-03-02T20:40:40.899Z
ChanaMessinger's Shortform 2022-01-08T19:10:23.756Z
How To Raise Others’ Aspirations in 17 Easy Steps 2022-01-06T00:18:46.426Z

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EV UK board statement on Owen's resignation · 2023-03-17T19:05:08.939Z · EA · GW

Here’s my current understanding (certainty has been more difficult to achieve than I’d like, in part because the time period of Owen’s involvement traverses a number of changes to the structure of CEA and related organisations, possible there remain errors here but have tried to be clear about my level of certainty):

• Looks like in 2014 (or possibly 2013), he joined some part of the CEA legal entity, eventually working at the Global Priorities Project (which was legally part of the CEA umbrella organisation) as Director of Research. He believes he was part-time, I couldn’t confirm.
• He reports he started working primarily at FHI in 2015, but may have continued to have a part-time advisory role at CEA the umbrella organisation (I couldn’t confirm).
• He started working with the main part of CEA (CEA-the-project) in summer 2017, part-time (16 hours a week). His part-time contract starting then describes him as “advisor to the CEO” and reporting to the CEO
• He is described by a CEA employee there at the time as being trusted to give input on many CEA teams. This involved things like participating in staff discussions on Slack and at some meetings, and giving more input on specific projects.
• At least one of the incidents that led to the woman reporting to Julia (as described in Time) happened after he started working for CEA-the-project.
• The advisor position is described by a few people who have a general but not super precise sense of how things were at the time as probably signifying that he was independent from the rest of CEA, given space to think about high level things, but not likely meant to imply peers with the CEO (I hope it’s clear from my hedging words that there’s uncertainty here).
• Between 2017 and 2019, he was at a number of CEA team retreats and involved in conversations about CEA leadership.
• In 2018 he was setting up the Research Scholars Program at FHI.
• His last contract with CEA the project is March 2019, reporting directly to the board, still described as an advisor, with even more limited time (8 hours a week)
• He was, as you point out, one of the people on the hiring committee for CEA’s executive director in 2019.
• He stopped working at CEA-the-project July 2019, and was appointed a trustee  (of EV, then called CEA) March 2020.
• From descriptions by others at CEA, from 2020-2023, both in the role of trustee and more generally in the community he had big input on strategic questions and was a trusted senior advisor type; I don’t know how much weight goes on the CEA aspect versus the more general aspect.

My own interpretation is that it seems like there were two parallel tracks:

1. Owen was doing work for Global Priorities Project, then moving to FHI, then setting up the Research Scholars Program, and ongoingly doing his own work / research
2. People running or high up in CEA trusted Owen quite a bit on strategic questions, and he was given roles that let him give thoughts and strategic input on CEA activity. Starting at least in 2017, he was involved in or spearheaded at least some CEA projects and was involved in important conversations about leadership at CEA. I don’t know how much advising he did beyond that, could have been a lot or a little, but was in a position where his views were given a good amount of weight.

In terms of evaluation, as you mention in your original comment, I do think things in this category will be inputs to both our internal Community Health review and the external investigation occurring.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on ChanaMessinger's Shortform · 2023-03-15T11:21:33.293Z · EA · GW

(Written in a personal capacity) Yeah, agree, and your comment made me realize that some of these are actually my experimental thoughts on something like "facilitating / moderating" sensitive conversations. I don't know if what you're pointing at is common knowledge, but I'd hope it is, and in my head it's firmly in "nonexperimental", standard and important wisdom (as contained, I believe, in some other written advice on this for EA group leaders and others who might be in this position).

From my perspective, a hard thing is how much work is done by tone and presence - I know people who can do the "talk about a bayesian analysis of harassment" with non-rationalists with sensitivity, warmth, care, and people who do "displaying kindness, empathy and common ground" in a way that leaves people more tense than before. But that doesn't mean the latter isn't generally better advice, I think it probably is for most people - and I hope it's in people's standard toolkits.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on ChanaMessinger's Shortform · 2023-03-13T16:00:24.274Z · EA · GW

Some experimental thoughts on how to moderate / facilitate sensitive conversations

Drawn from talking to a few people who I think do this well. Written in a personal capacity.

1. Go meta - talk about where you’re at and what you’re grappling with. Do circling-y things. Talk about your goals for the discussion.
1. Be super clear about the way in which your thing is or isn’t a safe space and for what
2. Consider starting with polls to get calibrated on where people are
3. Go meta on what the things people are trying to protect are, or what the confusion you think is at play is
4. Aim first to create common knowledge
5. Distinguish between what’s thinkable and what’s sayable in this space and why that distinction matters
6. Reference relevant norms around cooperative spaces or whatever space you’ve set up here
1. If you didn’t set up specific norms but want to now, apologize for not doing so until that point in a “no fault up to this point but no more” way
7. If someone says something you wish they hadn’t:
1. Do many of the above
2. Figure out what your goals are - who are you trying to protect / make sure you have their back
3. If possible, strategize with the person/people who are hurt, get their feedback (though don’t precommit to doing what they say)
4. Have 1:1s with people able
8. If you want to dissociate with someone or criticize them, explain the history and connection to them, don't memoryhole stuff,  give people context for understanding
1. Display courage.
9. Be specific about what you're criticizing
10.  Cheerlead and remind yourself and others of the values you're trying to hold to
11. People are mad for reasonable and unreasonable reasons, you can speak to the reasonable things you overlap on with strength
Comment by ChanaMessinger on Suggestion: A workable romantic non-escalation policy for EA community builders · 2023-03-10T18:07:57.296Z · EA · GW

Yeah, happy to clarify; to reiterate I’m very sympathetic to what Will said about how EA isn’t about making sure you have the personal life you want to have. What I’m sympathetic to in the sentence I quoted (while not necessarily agreeing with the whole article, which I didn’t intend to imply by quoting the sentence) was the healthiness of feeling a certain protectiveness over your personal life. While I intended my comment in a personal capacity (and should have said so), it also seems to me to be a matter of community health that people (including when I think particularly of women’s experiences) are able to set boundaries around how much EA takes over their lives, ends up taking away things that are nourishing or important to them, or makes unsustainable demands.

I think you’re right that the sentence doesn’t really, on its own, help us figure out what the right limits are on what’s appropriate and what’s not, and where the “this is personal” line can get drawn. I’m pretty open to a wide range of possible norms, including those that ask for people to act quite differently in their personal life than they otherwise would because it’s better for the world, and I’m quite up for figuring out the right consequentialist view on it (I personally take on sacrifices in that direction, and think it’s appropriate that many others do as well). I read Ozy as agreeing with this, given their paragraph here[1].

I do think there is some tension here. I take it as part of the Community Health team’s job to navigate that tension and figure out what overall helps the community be a place where people can flourish and do their best work. Sometimes this isn’t hard - harassment and assault and abuse of power and so on aren’t categorically out of our remit just because they sometimes happen in people’s personal lives - and sometimes it’s more complicated.

Not the least bit my intention to trivialize the discussion, and the team cares a tremendous amount about figuring these things out well.

1. ^

"I of course believe that effective altruists should follow common-sense sexual ethics, which includes not hitting on people in your chain of command, avoiding any pressure into sex, and being careful about relationships with coworkers, with people much younger than you, and people you have power over. I support a norm of no cuddle piles or flirting at effective altruist retreats, meetups, events, or afterparties; effective altruism can certainly set the norms at official EA events, and it makes sense to me that these should be asexual spaces. I agree that certain people, by virtue of their position, grant the effective altruism movement more say in their romantic lives. A grantmaker, a charity founder or executive, or a community organizer should take great care to make sure they don’t have sex with anyone they might wind up with power over.)"

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Consent Isn't Always Enough · 2023-03-09T02:52:45.350Z · EA · GW

Yeah, broadly agree (and feel confused about how much I feel like it applies to me personally - like, I feel reasonably comfortable making personal sacrifices in how I organize my personal life for EA reasons, and I imagine others do, too, including with the frame of personal obligation. I just think it's can also be quite healthy for people to have a more protective attitude towards their private life - noting that Ozy points to a lot of constraints on people's personal behaviors they are with and also that depending on what Ozy means I'm not necessarily in full agreement with the piece).

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Consent Isn't Always Enough · 2023-03-08T20:04:34.274Z · EA · GW

Also (though I'm not sure I fully agree): https://thingofthings.substack.com/p/on-demandingness-polyamory-and-effective

Comment by ChanaMessinger on A statement and an apology · 2023-03-08T19:57:28.763Z · EA · GW

For what it's worth, my model is that anything with intense emotional openness and big potential emotional shifts (like circling, like some parts of EA) are both high potential reward (self-improvement, self-knowledge, cool and intense experiences) and higher risk (destabilization, being vulnerable to others' narratives). I believe Anna Salamon talked about this as a mistake when she discussed CFAR doing a lot of circling without being attendant to the power dynamics between people in the circle.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on A statement and an apology · 2023-03-08T19:55:24.141Z · EA · GW

(Speaking in a private capacity) Fwiw, I suspect that >90% of the worlds in which I found the masturbation comment uncomfortable, I would have found your suggested comment uncomfortable.

I don't know what the vibe of the situation was here, but speaking to the more general case: in my experience, one thing about vulnerability is that if someone comes off as needy (which can be easy to do by accident), it can amplify other discomforts, because then I'm being put in a position of power or control over this person's shame or other bad feelings, so then I feel like it's on me to fix their bad feelings.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on FTX Poll Post - What do you think about the FTX crisis, given some time? · 2023-03-08T19:46:26.859Z · EA · GW

I think EA institutional processes need to change to make things like the FTX crisis less likely in future

[Taking out "significantly", in case that's significant for the karma, idea stolen from OllieBase below]

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Guesstimate: Why and how to use it · 2023-03-08T19:42:21.860Z · EA · GW

Have passed on to the team!

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Suggestion: A workable romantic non-escalation policy for EA community builders · 2023-03-08T19:40:26.202Z · EA · GW

I'm very sympathetic to this but also really resonate with

The purpose of the effective altruism community is not to make effective altruists happy or to get them relationships, and by the same token the purpose of my personal life is not to improve the health or public relations of the effective altruism movement.

From this piece.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Suggestion: A workable romantic non-escalation policy for EA community builders · 2023-03-08T19:39:29.330Z · EA · GW

"don't do X within Y time period" is also broadly how high school program rules in the EA space I'm familiar with work (though Y is significantly longer, but it's especially relevant when you have junior counselors close to attendees in age)

Comment by ChanaMessinger on ChanaMessinger's Shortform · 2023-03-07T13:59:44.493Z · EA · GW

Not all "EA" things are good - just saying what everyone knows out loud (copied over with some edits from a twitter thread)

Maybe it's worth just saying the thing people probably know but isn't always salient aloud, which is that orgs (and people) who describe themselves as "EA" vary a lot in effectiveness, competence, and values, and using the branding alone will probably lead you astray.

Especially for newer or less connected people, I think it's important to make salient that there are a lot of takes (pos and neg) on the quality of thought and output of different people and orgs, which from afar might blur into "they have the EA stamp of approval"

Probably a lot of thoughtful people think whatever seems shiny in a "everyone supports this" kind of way is bad in a bunch of ways (though possibly net good!), and that granularity is valuable.

I think feel very free to ask around to get these takes and see what you find - it's been a learning experience for me, for sure. Lots of this is "common knowledge" to people who spend a lot of their time around professional EAs and so it doesn't even occur to people to say + it's sensitive to talk about publicly. But I think "some smart people in EA think this is totally wrongheaded" is a good prior for basically anything going on in EA.

Maybe at some point we should move to more explicit and legible conversations about each others' strengths and weaknesses, but I haven't thought through all the costs there, and there are many. Curious for thoughts on whether this would be good! (e.g. Oli Habryka talking about people with integrity here)

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EV UK board statement on Owen's resignation · 2023-03-07T10:35:25.368Z · EA · GW

[Sorry for delay, there were a number of retreats / conferences recently]. Looking into this atm, hoping to know better what the timeline is going to be on getting this info (some people who know more than me have some out of office time) by the end of this week, will update then on timeline for getting a comment written, feel free to ping me if I haven't.

Edit March 10: Still waiting to get records and info back. Will come back to this in a week if I haven't updated by then.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Nathan Young's Shortform · 2023-03-06T19:42:08.970Z · EA · GW

Oh, sorry! TAPs are a CFAR / psychology technique. https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/wJutA2czyFg6HbYoW/what-are-trigger-action-plans-taps

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Nathan Young's Shortform · 2023-03-05T19:19:39.318Z · EA · GW

Not a generally used phrase, just my attempting to point to "a TAP for asking Chesterton's fence-style questions"

Comment by ChanaMessinger on How can we improve discussions on the Forum? · 2023-02-23T20:27:03.781Z · EA · GW

Maybe there should be a "top to read" in each tag? (This may already exist)

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EV UK board statement on Owen's resignation · 2023-02-22T22:37:24.767Z · EA · GW

Got it - I have lots of thoughts here! Overall, the team has been wanting more contact people for a long time, and I’m definitely in favor of some versions of that (subject to considerations of tractability and prioritization). I still think there might be a few things you mean, but here are some thoughts.

1. You might mean something like “a different team doing the same work but with different funding and institutional affiliation”.

This might be good. It does bear coordination costs, and for instance it might mean we don’t see problematic patterns as easily. I’m not sure what us setting this up would look like; it takes a lot of trust to vouch for someone to handle tradeoffs and a variety of situations with sensitivity; in general if we found someone with the same skillset as people on our team who had free time, we’d want to hire them! (And this would allow syncing up on approach and process; with more separation, we might put ourselves in a position of vouching for someone where we couldn’t mentor or observe their process; that seems potentially problematic). This would take the kind of work and effort where likely we’d have to be quite sure it was the top priority for our team.

2. You might mean something like having people who aren’t connected to Community Health but pass on information to the Community Health team, perhaps to allow for:

• Greater anonymity
• Wider variety of people so that more of the community has someone they know and feel comfortable with
• Non-CEA support, but still having important information about concerning behavior passed on.
• Passing feedback to the Community Health team

Some considerations:

• To some extent this exists in the form of contact people for city and university groups, and to some extent in the form of friends - if you have a friend who tells you a concerning story, and they’d rather you convey it to Community Health with some details anonymized, that is just fine by us (and happens pretty often)
• We were already looking into programs to allow real-time textual anonymous communication before this incident; that might make some people feel more comfortable talking to us and seeing what thoughts, advice or ideas we have before or instead of deanonymizing themselves
• Something I wish more people knew is that contact people are happy to just give advice about sticky situations; not every call has to be a “report”
• If we pay people, they do have a connection to Community Health, so supporting this financially may undermine one of the goals. That said, it’s not a blocker; it could still be a good idea on net or we could try to get outside funding
• It can be hard to convey stories with enough detail to make it clear why we should take certain actions without deanonymizing people
• See the point above about trust required for vouching.
• I’m not yet sure how many more people would get support via doing this, despite it seeming good - seems like we’ll learn from this situation

Comment by ChanaMessinger on A statement and an apology · 2023-02-22T01:06:49.172Z · EA · GW

Hi Keller -

Regarding

> Right now, I have not been able to discern any plan from the Community Health team more extensive than "Julia screwed up and will try not to do that again."

(Note that I’m speaking as interim head of the Community Health team)

I’m planning on spending significant time over the next several weeks on the plan I laid out in this comment (which is on a different top-level post, so you might have missed it if you are only reading this post’s discussion).

There will also be an internal reflection process. Julia and Nicole are going to do retrospectives on this situation, which will then get discussed with me, Ben West (as transition coordinator at CEA), and some senior management and/or trustees of the EV entities, possibly looping in others at CEA or EV as well.

Further steps are yet to be decided (and some will depend on the information we learn), but could include having other members of the team do assessments of the process and decision-making in this situation and getting opinions on this situation and our approach generally from other people who do similar or analogous work, in and out of EA.

Discussing retrospectives with senior management, plus whatever other steps are most appropriate, are all ways of feeding into decisions about what we should do going forward, for instance if we should have different processes or approaches to cases, or certain kinds of cases.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EV UK board statement on Owen's resignation · 2023-02-21T18:57:39.264Z · EA · GW

Thanks for your comment and kind words.

I'll respond to the second set of questions here (we'll respond to comments from the other post there).

I can’t speak to the external investigation since I’m not involved (it’s going through the board so as to be external to my team).

In terms of our internal investigation, since I don’t currently know the form it will take there’s not much I can precommit to, but I definitely think we should publicly say new processes or other changes we’re putting in place (or if none, that it’s none), so that people know how we’re planning to approach things in the future.

I think the categories you’ve laid out are good ones though I don’t yet know if those will end up being exactly the categories I end up using as Ben and I go through this - appreciate you writing them up and flagging them. My strong guess is that relevant categories will include (as I noted in things I wanted to keep in mind during reflection) conflicts of interest and powerful people in EA.

I want to also address some elephant-in-the-room feeling (which may not be relevant to you, but feels important to say), which is that as I go into this only knowing what I learned recently, it feels important that before an investigation is finished to be able to “split and commit”. I want to hold onto multiple hypotheses, including

• that we made serious mistakes and should change a lot
• that our processes need serious change
• that with the information they had at the time, people acted reasonably
• that people didn’t act reasonably but that the processes are basically fine, since no process is going to yield no mistakes.

I don’t put equal weight on all those hypotheses, but I do want to be able to hold them, and at the end of the investigation, to say publicly what conclusions I’ve come to about those things.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EV UK board statement on Owen's resignation · 2023-02-20T22:44:02.895Z · EA · GW

Hey Joshua - can I ask you to clarify more what you mean about what kinds of people to support? I can imagine a few different things you might be pointing at being important.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-20T18:20:22.367Z · EA · GW

Hi Peter - these posts (from Owen and from the UK boards) + comments from me and Julia on the latter have just gone up that might have the information and comments you're looking for.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-20T18:19:49.136Z · EA · GW

Hi Simon -

Two posts (from Owen and from the UK boards) + comments from me and Julia on the latter have just gone up that might have the updates you're looking for.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-20T18:19:06.976Z · EA · GW

Hi Marzhin -

Two posts (from Owen and from the UK boards) + comments from me and Julia on the latter have just gone up that might have the information and comments you're looking for.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EV UK board statement on Owen's resignation · 2023-02-20T17:52:29.179Z · EA · GW

Meta: I’m writing on behalf of the Community Health and Special Projects team (here: Community Health team) at CEA to explain how we’re thinking about next steps. For context, our team consists of:

• Me, Chana Messinger: Normally I specialize (from a community health lens) in EA projects that involve high schoolers or minors, and community epistemics; since November, I’ve been the interim head of the Community Health team
• Nicole Ross, the usual team head, who has been focusing on EV US board work since the FTX crisis, and when she transitions back to community health work, she plans to prioritize thinking through what changes should happen in EA given everything that happened with FTX
• Julia Wise, who usually serves as a community health contact person for the EA community, but has been working primarily on other projects for a few months
• Catherine Low, who serves as a contact person for the EA community among other roles
• Eve McCormick, project manager and senior assistant
• An affiliate and various contractors

In this comment I’ll sometimes be referring to Effective Ventures (EV) UK and Effective Ventures (EV) US together as the “EV entities” or as Effective Ventures or EV.

Where things stand and next steps:

Someone came to Julia in 2021 with information about possible misconduct by Owen Cotton-Barratt, a few years after the events they were reporting. Julia took steps at the time in response, described here. In 2021, when Nicole became her manager, Julia told Nicole that there were concerns about Owen’s behavior, but as far as they remember Julia didn’t share many details at the time.

Earlier this month, after reading the TIME piece, Julia filled me and Nicole in on more details, and then later we informed the rest of the Community Health team about what had happened. We're now looking back on whether Julia or Nicole made mistakes in handling this, and whether we should change things about our processes going forward.

As the post notes, an external firm is going to give us their independent assessment; I think this is important, and I’m grateful to the trustees of EV UK and EV US for helping to organize it. There will also be an internal reflection process. Julia and Nicole are going to do retrospectives on this situation, which will then get discussed with me, Ben West (as transition coordinator at CEA), and some senior management and/or trustees of the EV entities, possibly looping in others at CEA or EV as well.

Further steps are yet to be decided (and some will depend on the information we learn), but could include having other members of the team do assessments of the process and decision-making in this situation and getting opinions on this situation and our approach generally from other people who do similar or analogous work, in and out of EA.

Things we will be keeping in mind as we reflect:

• potential conflicts of interest, the role of power in EA, and our own incentives as a team
• that crucial details can differ between people or be misremembered over years
• that the best response to a pattern of making people uncomfortable (for example) can be different from the best response to an isolated incident
• that there are important selection effects on what we get to hear, and that we certainly don’t have all the information we would ideally want to have

We are also going to continue our normal work. We are available for calls concerning issues in the community, and you can reach out to us via relevant team members’ emails or our form (which can be anonymous). Feel free to also use the general form or forms for specific team members to give us feedback, questions or other thoughts and perspectives, on this situation or more generally.

Forms

We are also considering many possibilities for proactive work to make the EA community safer and better at dealing with this kind of situation (some of which are already happening, and will continue).

If instead you’d like to share thoughts or feelings about this situation to someone not on the team, Habiba IslamLuzia Bruckamp and Rockwell Schwartz have all kindly volunteered to be listening ears not working at CEA. (Habiba works for 80,000 Hours, which along with CEA is an Effective Ventures project, and Rockwell is paid via CEA Community Building Grant. Luzia is an EA community member who volunteered to help on Twitter.) If you have feedback for the Community Health team you’d like them to pass on, they’re happy to do that, at whatever level of anonymizing / aggregating you wish. They are all volunteering for this additional work, so may have limited time slots available, but will communicate that with you. (Note that these people were asked in an informal capacity and have not been formally assessed or trained by our team.)

There are also resources external to our team that may be useful, such as those compiled by RAINN

I’m going to do my best in the comments to answer questions people have, with all the obvious caveats about ones I can’t answer or won’t be able to answer quickly.

My heart goes out to everyone who has suffered from sexual harassment or misconduct in this community. I’m sorry, and I care deeply about making sure our team is equipped to handle these issues well.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Excalidraw: Why and How to Use it · 2023-02-16T02:15:51.230Z · EA · GW

I'm doing AGI Safety Fundamentals right now and they use Miro, and I like it a lot; for the purpose of running a class, I'd use Miro over Excalidraw based on my current experience with both. For more general diagram-making, I'm not yet sure, but if you end up having thoughts we'd love to add them to the post.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Excalidraw: Why and How to Use it · 2023-02-16T02:15:28.055Z · EA · GW

I should clarify the inspiration to pick excalidraw originally came from Nuno's recommendation, I then played with it and liked it, just so that people don't double update :)

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Excalidraw: Why and How to Use it · 2023-02-16T02:14:21.482Z · EA · GW

Yeah, I think you're right and this was a mistake of mine.  I picked this list via generating  possibilities from friends, Twitter and my own use, then asking for feedback on an epistemics slack, and primarily picking the most easy-to-use-seeming ones in each category (Edited to add: and because I liked the idea of not necessarily picking the absolute best things but just getting more of this kind of thing used), but it would have been worth doing a little digging into competitors in each to make sure we weren't missing some good things + being able to give more context.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-16T00:30:54.561Z · EA · GW

Just to be clear so I don't look better than I deserve now (and possibly worse in some future timelines), the "hope" is operative there; I wish I could make a firm commitment, but I can't. But it gives us a starting point that we can come back to if needed.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-15T18:51:19.813Z · EA · GW

No, it's a reasonable question. I hope to be able to answer these questions better next week. I'm really sorry, I know that's not very helpful.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-15T18:48:31.413Z · EA · GW

I totally understand how you're seeing your role and why you're pushing here. I'm really sorry, I can't answer questions right now, but really hope to be able to next week.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Nathan Young's Shortform · 2023-02-15T18:35:54.583Z · EA · GW

I really liked Nate's post and hope there can be more like it in the future.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on BenMillwood's Shortform · 2023-02-15T18:34:48.413Z · EA · GW

I would really like this. I've been thinking a bunch about whether it would be better if we had slightly more bridgewater-ish norms on net (I don't know the actual structure that underlies that and makes it work), where we're just like yeah, that person has these strengths, these weaknesses, these things people disagree on, they know it too, it's not a deep dark secret.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on BenMillwood's Shortform · 2023-02-15T18:33:44.803Z · EA · GW

I have a doc written on this that I wanted to make a forum post out of but haven't gotten to - happen to share.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on ChanaMessinger's Shortform · 2023-02-15T18:27:52.379Z · EA · GW

A point I haven't seen is that the "Different Worlds" hypothesis implies that if you consistently have an experience, especially interpersonally, you should on the margin expect it to happen more often relative to what conventional wisdom says.

Example: If your reports or partners consistently get angry when you do X, then decent chance that even if that isn't all that common, you're inadvertently selecting for people for whom it is, so don't update as far down on the likelihood of it happening again as you otherwise might

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Plans for investigating and improving the experience of women, non-binary and trans people in EA · 2023-02-15T14:00:11.332Z · EA · GW

Forum mods can add tags, not anyone who works at CEA (and not all forum mods work at CEA)

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-14T23:46:53.500Z · EA · GW

We are working actively on this, but it is going to take more time. As a general point (not trying to comment on this situation in particular), those are not the only two possibilities, and I think it's really crucial to be able to hold on to that in contexts where there's issues of legality, confidentiality and lots of imperfect information flow.

Edit note: I at first had "local point" instead of "general point", which I meant in a mathy way, like the local logic of the situation point rather than speaking to any of the context, but looking back I don't think that was very clear so I've edited to clarify my meaning.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on What improvements should be made to improve EA discussion on heated topics? · 2023-02-14T22:26:03.215Z · EA · GW

Did a pass at this: [Shortform here]
Features that contribute to heated discussion on the forum

Interpersonal and Emotional

• Fear, on all sides
• Political backlash
• What other EAs will think of you
• Just sometimes the experience of being on the forum
• Trying to protect colleagues or friends
• Speed as a reaction to having strong opinions, or worrying that others will jump on you
• Frustration at having to rehash arguments / protect things that should go without saying
• Desire to gain approval / goodwill from people you’d like to hire/fund/etc you in the future
• Desire to sound smart
• Desire to gain approval / goodwill from your friends, or people you respect
• Pattern matching (correctly or not) to conversations you’ve had before and porting over the emotional baggage from them
• Sometimes it helps to assume the people you’re talking to are still trying to win their last argument with someone else

Low trust environment

• Surprise that something is even a question
• I think there's a nasty feedback loop in tense situations with low trust. (This section by Ozzie Gooen)
• People don't communicate openly their takes on things.
• This leads to significant misunderstanding.
• This leads to distrust of each other and assumptions of poor intent.
• This leads to parties doing more zero-sum or adversarial actions to each other.
• When any communication does happen, it's inspected with a magnifying glass (because of how rare it is). It's misunderstood (because of how little communication there has been).
• The communicators then think, "What's the point? My communication is misunderstood and treated with hostility." So they communicate less.
• Not tracking being scrupulously truth-telling out of a desire to get less criticism
• Not feeling like part of the decision making process, opaqueness of the reasoning of EA leadership
• Not understanding how and why decisions that affect you are made
• Feeling misunderstood by the public, sometimes feeling wilfully misunderstood

Something to protect / Politics

• Trying to protect a norm you think matters
• Trying to protect other people you think are being treated unfairly
• Trying to create the EA you want by fiat / speech actions
• Power / game theoretical desires to have power shift in EA towards preferred distribution
• Speed - a sense that the conversation will get away from you otherwise

Organizational politics

• An interest in understanding the internals of organizations you’re not part of
• An interest in not-sharing the internals of organizations you are part of
Comment by ChanaMessinger on ChanaMessinger's Shortform · 2023-02-14T22:24:35.389Z · EA · GW

Features that contribute to heated discussion on the forum
From my observations. I recognize many of these in myself. Definitely not a complete list, and possibly some of these things are not very relevant, please feel free to comment to add your own.

Interpersonal and Emotional

• Fear, on all sides (according to me lots of debates are bravery debates and people on "both sides" feel in the minority and fighting against a more powerful majority (and often it's both true, just in different ways), and this is really important for understanding the dynamics)
• Political backlash
• What other EAs will think of you
• Just sometimes the experience of being on the forum
• Trying to protect colleagues or friends
• Speed as a reaction to having strong opinions, or worrying that others will jump on you
• Frustration at having to rehash arguments / protect things that should go without saying
• Desire to gain approval / goodwill from people you’d like to hire/fund/etc you in the future
• Desire to sound smart
• Desire to gain approval / goodwill from your friends, or people you respect
• Pattern matching (correctly or not) to conversations you’ve had before and porting over the emotional baggage from them
• Sometimes it helps to assume the people you’re talking to are still trying to win their last argument with someone else

Low trust environment

• Surprise that something is even a question
• I think there's a nasty feedback loop in tense situations with low trust. (This section by Ozzie Gooen)
• People don't communicate openly their takes on things.
• This leads to significant misunderstanding.
• This leads to distrust of each other and assumptions of poor intent.
• This leads to parties doing more zero-sum or adversarial actions to each other.
• When any communication does happen, it's inspected with a magnifying glass (because of how rare it is). It's misunderstood (because of how little communication there has been).
• The communicators then think, "What's the point? My communication is misunderstood and treated with hostility." So they communicate less.
• Not tracking being scrupulously truth-telling out of a desire to get less criticism
• Not feeling like part of the decision making process, opaqueness of the reasoning of EA leadership
• Not understanding how and why decisions that affect you are made
• Feeling misunderstood by the public, sometimes feeling wilfully misunderstood

Something to protect / Politics

• Trying to protect a norm you think matters
• Trying to protect other people you think are being treated unfairly
• Trying to create the EA you want by fiat / speech actions
• Power / game theoretical desires to have power shift in EA towards preferred distribution
• Speed - a sense that the conversation will get away from you otherwise

Organizational politics

• An interest in understanding the internals of organizations you’re not part of
• An interest in not-sharing the internals of organizations you are part of
Comment by ChanaMessinger on Doing EA Better · 2023-02-13T23:32:31.702Z · EA · GW

Fwiw I think there was an acknowledgement of soft power missing.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-12T03:31:44.710Z · EA · GW

Yup, your point seems quite reasonable to me. I'll be thinking about it!

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-11T18:03:45.854Z · EA · GW

Thanks for bringing this up; we have talked about approaches like this [having an external affiliate], and have done some early considering of the costs and benefits.

One thing I want to flag is that “All of this relies on a team member at CEA first reading and responding to the complaint, of course” is not quite true, since people can make an appointment to call a contact person and talk at the beginning of the call about level of confidentiality without revealing anything about the concern. (This has happened with me [note: I don’t usually take cases, it was a special situation], and we talked through my confidentiality policy before proceeding).

Appreciate the flag about our confidentiality policies being vague. We have confidentiality policies listed here but had thought talking it through with each person would allow us to convey more nuance and specificity to their situation; I’m going to take another look at the current setup.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on A personal reflection on SBF · 2023-02-10T17:10:29.432Z · EA · GW

Fwiw, for common knowledge (though I don't know everything happening at CEA), so that other people can pick up the slack and not assume things are covered, or so that people can push me to change my prioritization, here's what I see happening at CEA in regard to:

"finding some other way to successfully heed the 10, which requires distinguishing them from the background noise--and distinguishing them as something actionable--before it's too late, and then routing the requisite action to the people who can do something about it"

• I've been thinking some about it, mostly in the context of thinking that every time something shifts a lot in power or funding, that should potentially be an active trigger for us as a team investigating / figuring out if anything's suss. We're not often going to be the relevant subject matter experts, but we can find others and ask a bunch of EAs what they personally know if they're comfortable speaking.
• It's also been more salient to me since reading your comment!
• Maybe stronger due diligence than normal financial checks on major EA donors shouldn't actually be my team's responsibility, in which case we should figure out whose it is.
• The community health team as a whole is doing thinking about it, especially via the mechanism "how do we gather more of people's vague fuzzy concerns that wouldn't normally rise to the level of calling out / how do we make it easier to talk to us", but also at some point planning to do a reflection on what we missed / didn't make happen that we wish we'd did given our particular remit
• Nicole Ross, the normal manager of the team, who's been doing board work for months, has been thinking a lot about what should change generally in EA and plans to make that reflection and orienting a top priority as she comes back.
• The org as a whole is definitely thinking about "what are the root causes that made this kind of failure happen and what do we do about that", and one of my colleagues says they're thinking about the particular mechanism you point to, but conversations I've been a part of have not emphasized it.
• There's a plan to think about structural and governance reform, which I would strongly assume would engage with the question of better/alternate whistleblowing structures as well as other related things, and only end up not suggest them if it seemed bad or other things were higher priority.

If my colleagues disagree, please say so! I think overall it's correct to say this particular thread isn't a top priority of any person or team right now. Perhaps it should be! But there are lots of threads, and I think this one is important but less urgent. I'd like to spend some time on it at some point, though. Happy to get on a call and chat about it.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Nathan Young's Shortform · 2023-02-08T21:06:07.019Z · EA · GW

Someone asked me the other day how long I thought this kind of thing should be and I said longest seemed like 6 months.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-08T16:46:22.493Z · EA · GW

Want to confirm that I got this email when I woke up this morning; Julia and I are discussing it right now (it is still morning Eastern Time, so we had not gotten to it by the time you wrote this comment, though we were planning to talk about it during this meeting before we saw your comment). Thank you very much for sending it our way, we will be in touch shortly.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on A personal reflection on SBF · 2023-02-07T20:50:40.410Z · EA · GW

I really really like this kind of accounting of people's thinking and mistakes; I think it's a kind of "cognitive apprenticeship" that makes what is usually invisible (the inside of people's heads) visible + does some great modelling of owning mistakes. It also has a great "speaker for the dead" quality,  just telling things as they are (at least I hope! That's definitely the vibe).

I'm really interested in improving "mechanisms for incentivizing and aggregating this sort of knowledge", and have some thoughts in that direction; if people have more, I would like to hear them.

(A lot of the time lately when I write a comment this nice right after reading something (maybe 2 of the last 3? 2of the last 4 or 5 if you use different definitions, I wish I'd more tempered later, so I'll come back and edit if that's the case).

Comment by ChanaMessinger on [Atlas Fellowship] Why do 100 high-schoolers need \$50k each from Open Philanthropy? · 2023-02-07T19:01:20.446Z · EA · GW

I really like both of these comments for talking about their meta principles for assessing this kind of thing explicitly!

Comment by ChanaMessinger on The number of burner accounts is too damn high · 2023-02-07T18:30:05.868Z · EA · GW

Huh, I feel mixed about this. I want there to be ways and places to just talk and not have an all things considered opinions and not be too strongly judged for it (and I know some people hold to a "what's the best thing this person has done/said" standard rather than "what's the quality of the average thing they said"), for epistemics and probably because it's sensible in a bunch of ways, but it would also be confusing to me if people's behavior on the public internet didn't give evidence of the kind of employee they are or their views in ways that might matter? Maybe we're just litigating how much of a grace buffer there should be (where maybe we agree it should be pretty big).

Comment by ChanaMessinger on I No Longer Feel Comfortable in EA · 2023-02-05T22:05:35.949Z · EA · GW

Seems really healthy and good to figure out what parts of it work for you and what parts don't, and not feel like you need to answer for the parts that don't.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on [Atlas Fellowship] Why do 100 high-schoolers need \$50k each from Open Philanthropy? · 2023-02-05T13:59:10.134Z · EA · GW

Fwiw I think metamour is much closer to like 1.5- order gap, or can be, than e.g. friend of a friend.