I’d like to run a very rough survey to get a better sense of: 

  • How you feel about the Frontpage change we’re currently testing
  • What changes to the site — how it's set up and organized — you think could help us have discussions better
  • What conversations you'd like to see on the Forum
  • And more
Give us your input


 

Comments34
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Upvote/downvote button at the bottom of posts only, not the top. This would make votes more about what people who have read or skimmed the post think, and less about title and author

Similarly with comments. Especially with long comments on mobile it's pretty awkward to go back up and find the vote buttons after finishing reading a comment so I usually vote after reading the first screenful of the comment, before scrolling down, and then go back and change my vote if it was really wrong.

(Could duplicate the buttons, at the top and bottom on long things?)

FWIW I often vote on posts at the top without scrolling because I listened to the post via the Nonlinear podcast library or read it on a platform that wasn't logged in. Not all that important of a consideration, but worth being aware of. 

Keep posts “going” longer and interacting with and building the wikis more… rather than starting new posts that cover the same ground. Focusing on new insights on the themes/issues/questions . (Ok I’m emphasising the content/wiki here a bit more than the discussions per se)

Some specific suggestions:

  • emphasize and reward the wikis more and contributions to them… have these show up in feeds more.

  • suggest post authors add to specific wiki entries? Specific karma bounties for this?

  • karma for tagging others’ posts well (not sure how to make that work though)

  • autosuggestions for wiki connections and previous posts while you are composing new posts (As in Stackoverflow)

  • if I interact with a post (comment, like, like a comment, vote) … new comments and edits to the post show up in my feed

  • tags for shortforms, shortforms in feeds for tags you care about … enabling wiki content to build up from targeted short forms … perhaps specifically tagged as “wiki” and with that tag?

  • hackathons, sessions, rewarding “we created or improved this wiki entry” at live events and meetings

  • tools to make it easier to add to wiki from second brain and wiki systems (obsidian, roam, notion, etc., maybe even slack )

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

Discussions should come to conclusions. Currently we often talk for ages, but I feel it often doesn't go anywhere. I would prefer we had a process to:

  • find things we all agree on
  • save the key arguments
  • agree to run a poll/do research to find more information

Discussions should come to conclusions. Currently we often talk for ages, but I feel it often doesn't go anywhere

I think this is an inevitable consequence of intellectual/political diversity. For example, conservatives and progressives have fundamentally different values, and as such are unlikely to come to the same conclusions from a social justice debate, other than basic stuff like "murder and assault is bad". 

I think trying to come to one single conclusion from all the discussion will probably just end up alienating whichever group is in the minority on that particular issue. This is especially the case when decided by an "upvote/downvote" poll, which could even encourage factionalism and brigading. 

I actually think we should be encouraging people to be more okay with not coming to an agreement. a heated debate will often end only when one side gets exhausted and tired with it, which isn't particularly pleasant for anyone. I think a norm of being like "I'm bowing out of this discussion, here are the key arguments I made, here are things I agree with the other person about, etc" should be encouraged. 

So I think that in many discussions "murder and assault is bad" is a reasonable conclusion along that axis. And there are many axes of discussion.

Look at FTX. I reckon we could agree that:

  • FTX crash hurt lots of random people
  • On balance it seems like Alameda's trades were bad at the time
  • It has caused much goodwill to evaporate for EA and while our new reputation might be more accurate, it may now be too harsh on us
  • Individual EAs had a sense that SBF took large risks, but its unclear how that should transfer to reporting

Those might seem like pretty simple conclusions, but agreement is good! It helps us move forward and figure out what we disagree on. I think it would be genuinely healthy for community discourse if in the Bostrom/Cotton-Barrett cases we could have found where the baseline agreement was. I think that makes a lot of people feel safer.

edit: I'd appreciate some comments on where you lot disagree

Baseline agreement is good, and I think that in general there should be more comments "stating the obvious", so it is clear that there are things we mostly agree on. 

However, "everyone agrees on this" statements will only capture a very small part of the issue. For example, say we ask the question: "what should be EA's relationship with cryptocurrency in light of FTX?". It's a perfectly valid question, and one that sparked a lot of interesting discussion. But given that some people think crypto is the currency of the future and our best insurance against tyranny, and others think it's a worthless ponzi scam that should be banned outright, you'll never get a consensus answer. I think that's fine! The discussion is still valuable, people get more information, and consider more arguments, and are ultimately more informed coming out than in. 

Suggestion: Norm Pledges and Badges.  Optional pledges that users can take to profess our commitment to good discourse and behavior, ideally with badges we can display on our profiles or attach to our username.

Effect: Reduce people's anxiety about using the forum and even about engaging with the EA community as a whole.[1] Seeing these around the forum can increase trust and welcomingness and affirm to those who are nervous that engagement is usually low-cost. 

Examples: Please see my profile Bio! The implementation I've done is way more clunky than what the Forum Team can implement, but you'll get it. I've made pledges to: 🤝 Fresh Slate After Disagreement, 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 No Gatekeeping, 🤔Rationalist Discourse, 🦸Preferring My Primary Account, and  🙇‍♂️ Humility in Pledging.

  1. ^

    that this is a problem is evidenced by increase in new alt/anon accounts, and much discussion that it's scary to post on the forum

I would like to see the forum team:

a) Figure out the most important conversations that aren't happening

b) Make them happen

The two biggest things happening at the moment are:

a) EA community drama

b) Dramatic AI progress

Lots of discussions have occurred regarding a), but there may be meta-questions that we aren't asking. 

I'd like a polling system where you can get crosstabs above a certain number of responders (male/non-male, longtermist/not, etc). I think in many discussions we'd be surprised by what different segemnts of the community think.

And where votes aren't weighed by karma.

Give all accounts 1-point default votes. Or at least make the default agreement-votes 1-point, so agree-polls are accurate! (For those who don't know, high-karma accounts get 2-point default vote)

This is not an argument for a change to strong-votes. I am just sad I lost my 1-point default vote and sad to realize this default inequity. Til there is poll functionality everyone needs a way to give a single vote. I might or might not care if we had polls, idk.

So my stance is that upvotes and downvotes should stay as they are, but agree and disagreevotes should count for 1 and maybe show strong votes differently. I would like to know what a pure 1 person 1 vote poll says on the point, in many cases.

Yes I like that idea too. I'd leave it up to the forum team to decide which is better (all default votes=1, or only default agreement-votes=1). I expect they'd choose that one. [I'm agree-voting your comment for that, other people can do so too]

Wow I'm really surprised at the disagrees here. Please see the upvotes (count em, 2) on this comment as evidence that I and others with high karma are literally unable to do a 1-point vote. 

For me, the 2-vote rule is an anti-troll/brigader mechanic, so I'd need to see a good way to combat those threats first.

That is a good point for protecting upvote/downvote differentials

Can we make it far easier to understand the markdown/formatting guidelines? I feel there there are a ton of difficult and unnecessary barriers to writing top level posts. 

 

A live draft that shows what your post will look like would help a ton.

By default, I think most users already have a "what you see is what you get" editor, where you format text by selecting it.

You can make sure the Markdown editor has not been enabled on the settings page

Got it! I guess a live draft and a little link to a page that explains markdown stuff would be nice on the page while you’re writing the post?

Also it seems like some markdown stuff works and some doesn’t like [linking things](in this format)

some doesn’t like [linking things](in this format)

I think you might not have Markdown editing mode selected then? Because if I put:

 [example](https://example.com)

it shows up as "example".

I don't understand why users would use markdown, unless they already knew it.

I’m used to markdown from other rationalist forums and I guess it just makes it easier for me. Also the editor does incorporate some markdown features like# for headers, but leaves out others. So it’s confusing.

I think the forum should encourage breaking up comments instead of having one comment with many points.

If my comment makes several different points, then it's an advantage to let people vote or comment on each of my points separately.

Right now, there is a "cost" as well as a norm in the forum of writing long comments. imo this is worth changing

wdyt?

 

Adding: It will also add to a culture that is good in my opinion, where it's encouraged to link to existing conversations rather than having the same conversation multiple times. It's less "elegant" to link to a comment that also has 3 other unrelated points in it

It would be nice if authors could tag their own posts as "community". For example, I've just posted something in that category and a process of "wait for a mod to notice and move it" means it spends time unfairly crowding out object level discussion.

(This is more of a vision than a solution, hope it still helps)

I have a dream! And in this dream, there is a central place to have each conversation, as opposed to having each conversation in multiple places. 

As an example to imagine: "Does Org X advance safety more or capabilities more?"

This has sub questions, like "is advancing capabilities bad?" and so on.

Instead of having each conversation again and again each place it comes up, I think it would be much better to have a community-built "FAQ" or so, organically built, by linking conversations to each other.

I imagine someone replying "the question of whether capabilities are good or bad is discussed in this LINK", which has the best arguments for each side, and the best sub-arguments, and so on.

The situation today is often more like "the question [...] was discussed in at least 10 different places, here are some of them: ...", which is hard to read, hard to add to the conversation, hard to know if I got all the important viewpoints, and so on.

I think we can do better, and I specifically think this could be an important step towards the forum becoming a place with high quality conversations, and with readable+accessible information, clear marked curxes, and so on.

 

I'm not sure how to do this; my starting point would maybe be "look for some of these things that are discussed several times", and then ask people (or something?) why they didn't add it all to the same place (?) I'm not sure, this seems like non-trivial product work which is too advanced for me to just pull out of my hat or to invent many features around; so I'm just pitching it as a vision for now

There's some good suggestions here already, so I don't want to duplicate those. Instead, I want to offer a perspective that the (perceived) quality of discussion on the Forum is downstream of broader events in the EA movement. For example:

  1. The perception of there being an increase in poor quality epistemics[1], that's a topic that has generated a lot of ongoing discussion on the Forum. But the major events that kicked that off seem to have been the response to 'Open EA Global' and the FTX crash.
  2. The debate about 'normie EA'[2] vs longtermism, again, seems to have been boosted by the fallout from FTX, and whether and to what extent the philosophy of longtermism is at fault for these crises.
  3. The recent discussions around community norms, tradeoffs, and power dynamics have come from a number of cases of alleged and admitted sexual assault and harassment in the community. 

I'm going to link back to a previous comment I made when the initial announcement of the changes to community. I sense I haven't really changed my mind on this (though Lizka if you are reading I really appreciated your response, even if I disagree with parts of it :) ). I'm still unsure if this is a positive change or not for the Forum and EA. I sense, perhaps unfairly, that some people believe that the problem is community posts themselves, and that the more we downsample, downweight, or plain remove them the better Forum discussions and epistemics will be. I think I just completely disagree. I'm not even sure that there really is a community vs object-level distinction. Everything is part of the world! It's all one wave-function![3] EA learning how to conduct itself better as a community has a real, causal effect on its priorities, choices, and effectiveness. The Community is not an epiphenomenon.

To conclude, in some ways this isn't a solveable problem, and maybe it shouldn't be. If the EA Community itself is turbulent, then the Forum will be to. The solution to the latter will come with a solution, or improvement, to the former.

  1. ^

    I disagree with this take fwiw

  2. ^

    I hate this typology but it seems to have some legs?

  3. ^

    Dive down the rabbit-hole here if you must :)

I think that EA Forum is already really great. It's searchable, sortable, has tags, has voting and is a place for many engaging discussions. I spend a lot of time on it (more than 95% of users according to last EA wrapped). I am grateful to the forum team for managing this place and making discussions accessible and transparent.

I think forum could be further improved and made great through design and functionality upgrades and high transparency about traffic, voting, comments, heavy personalisation, comment sorting, improved searchability, bias display, attitude scoring etc. 

I Imagine it as a very powerful dashboard  with frequency and distribution charts on most popular topics, topic ranking, author ranking (e.g. not only by karma but also by total words submitted, total comments submitted, when did the upvotes happen (e.g. timelines), debate heat ranking, other kinds of heat maps, granular data which way community is leaning on a given topic, topic voting information based on IP locations, heat maps based on IP locations, same things based on time, demographic information of votes (as suggested by Nathan Young) etc etc. How many people are online right now, and where are they, viewing figures over time, and more. Several poll topics from Nathan's pol.is polls post FTX could be co-opted, selected to give a getter picture of the community, provide a powerful tool for knowledge and for working together to make the community stronger, and more anti-fragile.  

I can imagine a tremendous and powerful tool that would make engagement and knowledge acquisition and dissemination faster and more effective. And it would make debating points a lot more transparent without having to have deep knowledge and background to know where the poster/commenter comes from and what’s their potential bias. It could never be perfect but it could be so much better. 

This is just a brainwave, but if there is substantial voting/engagement on this comment, I can elaborate further/write a detailed post/engage with the forum team to clarify or develop further. 

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