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Comment by chrissmith on Making Effective Altruism more emotionally appealing · 2015-10-14T15:15:00.663Z · EA · GW

I was about to delete my post (thanks Gleb_T for the quick change of name) but noticed a downvote. Could that person come forward and explain why they thought my post was unhelpful?

Comment by chrissmith on Making Effective Altruism more emotionally appealing · 2015-10-13T16:49:55.629Z · EA · GW

I don't particularly object to the content of the post, but could you please consider rewriting the title?

"Overcoming emotional resistance" honestly sounds like something deeply unpleasant pick up artists write about coercing women into unwanted sex (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickup_artist#Practices)

Comment by ChrisSmith on [deleted post] 2015-09-02T08:37:25.435Z

I really enjoyed reading this post, and I'm pleased to see an effective altruist making a case for family planning as an effective cause. You sound particularly well informed about development issues - have you laid out your personal or professional background somewhere? I've asked to join your Effective FP facebook group

Comment by chrissmith on The career questions thread · 2015-06-29T19:39:20.159Z · EA · GW

My guess for maximising salary would be something which is going to make you into a quant trader or financial engineer. There is a useful discussion on this site: https://www.quantstart.com/articles/Why-a-Masters-in-Finance-Wont-Make-You-a-Quant-Trader

Comment by chrissmith on The career questions thread · 2015-06-29T19:34:44.174Z · EA · GW

Strongly urge Trinity.

It will be easier to get a job in almost any sector with a degree from Trinity rather than a degree from Galway (particularly outside Ireland), you will probably meet more interesting/driven people there, and you can try to make your PPES degree more quantitative if you want through particular choices (eg the econometrics option in third year economics or quantitative methods in fourth year economics), although it is certainly too early to be making specific choices about modules at this stage!

As others have said, it will also keep your options broader, which is valuable for all of us but particularly those of us who are still trying to work out what we are particularly good at.

Comment by chrissmith on The career questions thread · 2015-06-29T19:25:51.072Z · EA · GW

Ryan is a more experienced programmer/coder than I am. As a time-poor beginner, I found the MITx course on R much, much easier to use (and far more interesting) than the John Hopkins courses on Coursera. They also have two decent courses on Python, the second of which is more relevant to statistical applications.

MITx course on R - https://www.edx.org/course/analytics-edge-mitx-15-071x-0 MITx course(s) on Python - https://www.edx.org/course/introduction-computer-science-mitx-6-00-1x-0 https://www.edx.org/course/introduction-computational-thinking-data-mitx-6-00-2x-0

Comment by chrissmith on June Open Thread · 2015-06-04T23:52:29.858Z · EA · GW

As someone who really admired George Monbiot as a teenager, I'm slightly surprised to hear him described as an effective altruist in spirit.

I admire his transparency and his willingness to change his mind, but he does strike me as someone quite committed to an ideology (generally a progressive one not too far from my own!) around issues like state intervention and ownership/delivery of public services. I'm also not convinced that rewilding is a promising or cost effective way of tackling the environmental issues which he (quite possibly rightly) prioritises so much. I'm not saying I don't think he is a good person, but I am saying it seems a stretch to think of him as an effective altruist in spirit. Do you know him personally?

I actually think the argument in his piece is pretty good as someone who works in one of the industries he is upset about. I can think of several friends, none of whom would consider themselves effective altruists, who have indeed followed the sort of path he outlines. All too often, people do not make differences from the inside.

I take your point that there are counterexamples where people do good from inside (I would hope to consider myself here, as someone donating 15%+ and triggering donations from colleagues worth around twice that last year) but as a general phenomenon his piece is pretty sound. A rebuttal would be difficult, but a response could go along the lines of "Not all City workers" or similar. Do you think this would still be valuable?

Comment by chrissmith on Suggestions thread for planning and executing the 2015 EA Survey · 2015-05-24T16:01:34.544Z · EA · GW

Great suggestion Stens!

I'm happy to trial draft versions of the survey

Comment by chrissmith on Suggestions thread for planning and executing the 2015 EA Survey · 2015-05-24T15:39:42.539Z · EA · GW

My main additional comment to the below is that we should be relatively unconcerned with people failing to finish a long survey - we are talking to individuals who are committed to doing a significant amount of good in the world. The relative cost of a few extra questions is low compared with the cost of missing out a question which allows us to better understand the movement and therefore change the world.

Comment by chrissmith on Suggestions thread for planning and executing the 2015 EA Survey · 2015-05-24T15:36:29.625Z · EA · GW

I'm going to reproduce a comment I wrote at the time the 2014 results were released in order to have them on the agenda for the call later on. I remain convinced that each of these three practical suggestions is relatively low effort and will make the survey process easier, the data more reliable and any resulting conclusions more credible:

Firstly, we should use commercial software to operate the survey rather than trying to build something ourselves. These are both less effort and more reliable. For example, SurveyMonkey could have done everything this survey does for about £300. I'm happy to pay that myself next year to avoid some of the data quality issues.

Secondly, we should use live data validation to improve data collection, data integrity and ease of analysis. SurveyMonkey or other tools can help John to fill in his age in the right box. It could refuse to believe the 7 year old, and suggest that they have another go at entering their age. It could also be valuable to do some respondent validation by asking people to answer a question with a given answer, removing any random clickers or poor quality respondents who are speeding through (eg "Please enter the number '2' in letters into the textbox to prove you are not a robot. For example, the number '1' in letters is 'one'")

Thirdly, we should do more testing by trying out draft versions with respondents who have not written the survey. It is very, very hard to estimate how people are going to read a particular question, or which options should be included in multiple choice questions. Within my firm, it is typical for an entire project team to run through a survey several times before sending it out to the public. Part of the value here is that most team members were not closely involved in writing the survey, and so won't necessarily be reading it in the way the author expected them to read it. I would suggest you want to try any version of the survey out with a large group (at least twenty) of different people who might answer it, to catch the interpretations of questions which different groups might have. Does the EA affiliation filter work as hoped for? Are there important charities which we should include in the prompt list? It does not seem unreasonable to pilot and redraft a few times with a diverse group of willing volunteers before releasing generally.

Comment by chrissmith on May Open Thread · 2015-05-04T20:49:32.768Z · EA · GW

I have not seen any extended discussion of it, but I know of individuals in this position (ie considering leaving jobs where they are earning to give) and I'm sure Benjamin Todd, the executive director of 80,000 Hours, will be aware of other examples. Obviously, career decisions are intensely personal, so I don't think either of us can say much publicly about any such individuals.

I think exploration of leaving earning to give jobs is a (small) gap in Effective Altruist discussion at the moment - but then we're only less than four years past the point when 80,000 hours was founded! Perhaps more writing on the topic will appear in the coming few months and years.

Comment by chrissmith on EA Survey bar chart plotter · 2015-03-24T11:41:33.014Z · EA · GW

This is useful and cool - thanks!

Comment by chrissmith on The 2014 Survey of Effective Altruists: Results and Analysis · 2015-03-21T19:37:23.565Z · EA · GW

Happy to answer these any time, and happy to help out next year (ideally in low time commitment ways, given other constraints).

Comment by chrissmith on The 2014 Survey of Effective Altruists: Results and Analysis · 2015-03-20T01:51:54.353Z · EA · GW

Thank you to the survey team for completing what is an easy-to-underestimate volume of work. Thank you also to the many who completed this survey, helping us to both understand different EA communities better and to improve this process of learning about ourselves as a wider group in future years.

I have designed and analysed several consumer surveys professionally as part of my job as a strategy consultant.

There is already a discussion of sample bias so I will leave those issues alone in this post and focus on three simple suggestions to make the process easier and more reliable for when this valuable exercise is repeated next year.

Firstly, we should use commercial software to operate the survey rather than trying to build something ourselves. These are both less effort and more reliable. For example, SurveyMonkey could have done everything this survey does for about £300. I'm happy to pay that myself next year to avoid some of the data quality issues.

Secondly, we should use live data validation to improve data collection, data integrity and ease of analysis. SurveyMonkey or other tools can help John to fill in his age in the right box. It could refuse to believe the 7 year old, and suggest that they have another go at entering their age. It could also be valuable to do some respondent validation by asking people to answer a question with a given answer, removing any random clickers or poor quality respondents who are speeding through (eg "Please enter the number '2' in letters into the textbox to prove you are not a robot. For example, the number '1' in letters is 'one'")

Thirdly, we should do more testing by trying out draft versions with respondents who have not written the survey. It is very, very hard to estimate how people are going to read a particular question, or which options should be included in multiple choice questions. Within my firm, it is typical for an entire project team to run through a survey several times before sending it out to the public. Part of the value here is that most team members were not closely involved in writing the survey, and so won't necessarily be reading it in the way the author expected them to read it. I would suggest you want to try any version of the survey out with a large group (at least twenty) of different people who might answer it, to catch the interpretations of questions which different groups might have. Does the EA affiliation filter work as hoped for? Are there important charities which we should include in the prompt list? It does not seem unreasonable to pilot and redraft a few times with a diverse group of willing volunteers before releasing generally.

The analysis throws up several interesting conclusions, and I have learned a lot by reading through it. The main shocks are: the relatively low levels of donations in $ terms by many self-identified EAs, the relatively low proportion of EAs identifying chapters/local groups as a reason for joining or identifying with the community and, (for me) the encouragingly high proportion of respondents who are vegetarian or vegan.

I'm going to set aside some time in May to go through the data in a 'consulting' sort of way to see if that approach throws up anything interesting or different to others and will circulate with the survey team before publishing here.

Comment by chrissmith on The 2014 Survey of Effective Altruists: Results and Analysis · 2015-03-20T01:09:59.845Z · EA · GW

I regularly do this when designing consumer surveys as part of m professional work - the concern in those instances is that respondents are mainly completing the survey for a small monetary reward and so are incentivised to click through as fast as possible. To help my own survey development skills, I participate in several online panels and can confirm that whilst not exactly standard practice, a non-negligible proportion of online consumer surveys will include questions like this used to screen out respondents who are not paying attention.

This is less of a concern for the EA survey, but is almost costless to include such a screening question so seems like an easy way to help validate any resulting analysis or conclusions.

Comment by chrissmith on Initial research into corporate fundraising · 2015-01-27T20:59:07.108Z · EA · GW

These materials should be useful for peer-to-peer fundraising as well.

To pick an example from a mainstream charitable context, Macmillan Cancer Support produce materials which explain what cancer is, why it is a problem and how they (Macmillan) tackle it (something close to their theory of change). These materials are mostly designed for peer-to-peer fundraising, but would also be useful for me if I wanted to promote Macmillan in a corporate fundraising case as well.

http://be.macmillan.org.uk/be/default.aspx

(Disclosure - I'm the management consultant Tom is referring to in the opening post)

Comment by chrissmith on Can you think of any fundraising ideas? · 2014-12-20T01:06:17.361Z · EA · GW

One value adding activity which Charity Science feels well placed to carry out would be putting together the sort of promotional packs which charities with larger fundraising budgets do to support sponsored events, but which most charities favoured within the Effective Altruism movement don't.

I found it difficult to find a simple introduction to SCI and the work they did when I was pitching it as a charity for my work's annual charity auction. (NB: Materials seem to have improved since I did this - http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/schisto/whatwedo Opportunity may well remain, within and beyond SCI)

Comment by chrissmith on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-14T19:45:55.216Z · EA · GW

Niel and Rob. I understand that you are both extremely capable people, but I am pleased to see that part of the funding would go towards seeking professional help in promoting the books.

My main question is around whether or not you see this as a one-off funding request, or part of an ongoing program that will need funding for several years?

Comment by chrissmith on Where are you giving and why? · 2014-12-14T19:14:59.713Z · EA · GW

I am donating donating 60% to SCI, 20% to AMF and 20% to GiveDirectly. I reviewed this at my last pay rise, and would expect to do the same at my next one (all being well, April). Research suggests these are all good groups which address global poverty. When I review my donations in April, I will consider expanding into supporting EA groups or other more meta opportunities where good options exist.

After the GiveWell hesitation around AMF earlier in the year, I decided that I wanted to give my money to more than one charity. Previously, AMF had been the main organisation I gave to. There are two mean reasons I decided to diversify my giving.

Firstly, doing so acts as a sort of personal emotional hedge. Let's say that a new study comes out and finds that deworming treatments have some awful long term consequences. I would feel awful about the literally thousands of pounds I have given SCI. This wouldn't be 'rational' - I gave SCI this money because they had a high expected value at the time. I acted on the best available information. But I would feel terrible and guilty, and it would put me off trying to do good through personal donations in the future.

Secondly, a diverse giving portfolio means (I hope) that I can encourage other people to give more. Giving to a variety of organisations means I can have interesting discussions about who I give to. Unconditional cash transfers are an exciting new area, and I'm keen to see them supported. A few of my (non-EA) friends and relatives can be very sceptical of charities, associating them with street fundraisers and high salaries for senior figures (I think high salaries are perfectly justified - but there is general resistance to them among the general public in the UK). GiveDirectly gives me a group I can talk about which gets around a lot of those issues. I'm less sure on this second argument, but for me the first is sufficient in any case.

One thing which surprised me this year was how much money I managed to raise beyond my own donations. I will have donated around £5,500 this year, but could fairly attribute another £4,000 from fundraising. With a colleague, I managed to get SCI chosen as a recipient organisation for a work charity auction, which raised just over £6,000 for SCI (I have attributed half of this to me) And by taking part in Live Below the Line I received just over £1,000 - mostly from colleagues. I am surprised that the proportion of money I have moved to effective charities this year through my own personal donations is so small.

Comment by chrissmith on Should we launch a podcast about high-impact projects and people? · 2014-12-02T00:57:35.160Z · EA · GW

I would listen to the podcast, and I also think it is worth spending some time on. The closest thing I listen to is Development Drums (http://developmentdrums.org/) which is excellent and technically fairly simple, following a very similar format to the one you have suggested.

It's definitely worth thinking about how what you are doing would be different to what other EA groups are doing, and not just other podcasts but also other media through which various groups publish. My suggestion would be that it is something which is less explicitly EA than something like this forum, than Giving What We Can, than the facebook group - because there are already forums for the EA core to discuss issues and a podcast is unlikely to be the best environment for it in any case, and because I think we want to be reaching related groups rather than just ourselves (the sorts of movements that people who studied economics, philosophy or social science at university or who identify as generally progressive/left politically). I like the idea of a broader range of topics than current full time EA groups are investigating. Maybe (if you are doing it), it could overlap with OvercomingBias?