Aaron Gertler

18885 karmaJoined Oct 2014San Diego, CA, USA


I ran the Forum for three years. I'm no longer an active moderator, but I still provide advice to the team in some cases.

I'm a Communications Officer at Open Philanthropy. Before that, I worked at CEA, on the Forum and other projects. I also started Yale's student EA group, and I spend a few hours a month advising a small, un-Googleable private foundation that makes EA-adjacent donations.

Outside of EA, I play Magic: the Gathering on a semi-professional level and donate half my winnings (more than $50k in 2020) to charity.

Before my first job in EA, I was a tutor, a freelance writer, a tech support agent, and a music journalist. I blog, and keep a public list of my donations, at


Part 7: What Might We Be Missing?
Part 8: Putting it into Practice
Part 6: Emerging Technologies
Part 5: Existential Risk
Part 4: Longtermism
Part 3: Expanding Our Compassion
Part 2: Differences in Impact
Part 1: The Effectiveness Mindset
The Motivation Series


Topic contributions

When I started Yale's student EA group in 2014, we tried a bit of this (albeit with pharmacies, not grocery stores). IIRC, we got as far as a meeting with CVS's head of corporate social responsibility (CSR), plus a few other conversations.

The companies we spoke to were choosing large, well-known charities. This was partly because of their branding (easier to pick up positive associations from charities people have actually heard of), partly because big charities tend to have highly appealing missions (e.g. St. Jude's, which has used its "free care for children with cancer" pitch to become America's fourth-largest charity), and partly (I'd guess) because the charities were easy to work with thanks to their size and staff capacity. 

I also suspect, from these and other CSR-related interactions I've had, that changing a charity choice is hard once it's been made. The professionals I meet tend to form relationships with the charities and staffers they work with, and it's hard to tell someone you've fired them for a more effective charity (forgive the link, it was too easy a joke to make).

We don't currently have concrete plans for this, but it's something we might consider doing in the future; if we do, we'll post about it on the Forum.

I love that we're still seeing new "writing about my job" (WAMJ?) posts 2.5 years after the initial post, especially for jobs like this one that are on the obscure side (and thus unlikely to be covered by 80,000 Hours, Probably Good, or other career-focused resources). 

Thanks for taking the time to share this!

I'm an OP staffer who helped to put the post together. Thanks for the nitpicks!

I suppose I'm asking what's the benefit of this format over individual recommendations?

I see the main benefit as convenience. If I'd asked OP staff to write individual Forum posts, I'd have gotten less interest than I did with "send me a few sentences and you can be part of a larger post". Writing an entire post is a bigger hurdle, and I think some people would feel weird writing a post just a few sentences long (even if the alternative was "no post").

Why should I put any more weight on a recommendation from an OpenPhil staff rather than any other EA person who had thought a lot about this?

I don't necessarily think you should.

But I personally put at least moderate weight on recommendations from people in research roles who’ve thought a lot about an issue, inside or outside of OP. (I like the GiveWell “where our people give” posts for the same reason!) I wish we had more charity recommendations from such people. And at OP, we’ve heard from enough people who find these posts valuable that we thought it was worth putting another one together.

The Glassdoor numbers are outdated. We share salary information in our job postings; you can see examples here ($84K/year plus a $12k 401k contribution for an Operations Assistant) and here (a variety of roles, almost all of which start at $100k or more per year — search "compensation:" to see details).

Depends on the hobby and how good you are. Some things are relatively easy to monetize (you can teach lessons or do live performances), but even in those cases, you'll be competing with people who do your "hobby" as their job, and you're probably better off doing more of whatever your job is (working extra hours, freelancing...).

The thing I do is play games in tournaments, which is less common that streaming/gigging/etc., so this analysis may be of limited value, but: I've made something like $75,000 playing Magic: the Gathering and Storybook Brawl over the last four years (donating ~80% of that), but it took thousands of hours to do so, and a few unlucky turns of a card could have cost me most of the money. And I'm in the top 0.01% among people who try to play those games seriously in terms of success; many people roughly as good as me have put in more time to earn less.

Thanks! I've added a direct link to the roles now, to reduce potential confusion.

I'm not sure how many stars you should leave, but I think there are ways to write a review that successfully convey both of:

  1. This restaurant wasn't very good
  2. Vegan food is great and you should eat it

A very brief sketch of a review for a mediocre vegan restaurant:

"I was happy to find a vegan restaurant in AREA, and I thought it was cool they offered DISH. So I ordered that, as well as OTHER DISHES. Unfortunately, the food wasn't great; I thought OKAY DISH was fine, but BAD DISHES had problems; DESCRIPTION OF PROBLEMS. The service was fine, ETC., ETC.

There are some much better vegan restaurants I'd recommend that aren't too far from here; the DISH at RESTAURANT 1 is to die for, and RESTAURANT 2 has a great atmosphere for lunch dates. As for this restaurant, I'm giving two stars for food, three for service, and five for "not hurting animals", since that's a real advantage to this place over non-vegan options. I'll average that to a three, but would still recommend the other vegan places I mentioned."

I really liked this post and agree with much of it.

I ran the Forum for a while. This involved handling interpersonal conflict. At worst, the conflicts on my plate were things like "an argument between two people" or "someone having a mild breakdown in text form". These are relatively minor issues on the CH scale, but they were among the most stressful elements of my job; I'd get lost for hours trying to write the perfect moderator response, or arguing with someone in DMs about how I'd resolved a situation.

I'd find dealing with CH situations much more stressful — because of their severity, and because I wouldn't even get to write a moderator response. I thrive on being able to explain myself, and forced silence/vagueness would drive me crazy. Instead of "using quotes from a public post to describe why we've banned someone for a week", I'd have "using my best judgment about a story with multiple sides to explain why we've made a decision that will have a serious impact on the lives of multiple people, at least one of whom will be unhappy with the decision and possibly share their side on the Forum later". And I might not even be able to say what the decision was!

So while I don't know enough about internal CH matters to say that I'd agree with all their decisions, I appreciate that having to make those decisions at all — and face public scrutiny without recourse to transparency — is extremely difficult, and that there is no way to "win" every such decision.

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