1895 karmaJoined Mar 2020Copenhagen, Denmark


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The joy in righteousness


This is a new one to me! Interesting!

To identify one crux with the idea of using morality to motivate behaviour (e.g. "abolitionism"), is the assumption it needs to be completely grassroots. The argument often becomes: did slavery end because everyone found it to be morally bad, or because economic factors ect. changed the country fundamentally.

It becomes much more plausible that morality played an important role, when you modify the claim: Slavery ended because a group of important people realised it was morally wrong, and displayed moral leadership in changing laws. 

While I don't think that was inappropriate, it seems fair to give Owen at least some lead time to prepare a statement of his perspective on the matter. 

I think your right about this, and have changed my mind. 

I would generally view reaching out to a reasonable number of active Forum participants individually as not brigading. This is less likely to create a sufficient mass effect to mislead observers about the community's range of views.

I think about it this way. If a post was written critically about me, I would suspect 5-10% of people that know me in the community to see it, and 0.5% to comment. If I reach out to everyone I have ever been friendly with, I expect these numbers would be 50% and 5%, respectively. In other words, there would be 10x more comments defending me if I reach out to friends than if I don't. 

I think for independent observers, reading comments in fictional scenario above, it's useful to know whether comments were of unsolicited or not. 

A small group of strong-vote wielding users can significantly effect the course of discussion on the Forum through their voting.

Totally agree. Why would the same not be true of comments? 

I wrote a report for CE on an AMR idea; the cost-effectiveness analyses of which will be released soon and I will post here when they are!

Hey Akhil, is there any update here? 

Astroturfing and troll farms are different from friends and people on your side saying their opinion

This is correct. What I am talking about is brigading

Astroturfing and troll farms are only similar in the mechanism behind their ability to distort public opinion. That mechanism is: People are influenced by the tone and volume of comments they read.

Are you saying you're against people being allowed to tell their friends and supporters about something they consider to be unethical and encouraging them to vote and comment according to their conscience?

Yes, this is brigading. There are things you can do mitigate this brigading effect, for example: (1)  Begin comments with "I am here from ..." or "This post was shared by...". (2) Commenters acknowledge, when asked, that the post was shared with them.

Take your case (i.e. Ben Pace's post on nonlinear), neither (1) or (2) was done. In fact, I found myself needing to comment alluding to this effect, after I confirmed this was the case with one of your collaborators. 

Why would it be bad if he was given advance warning about this report?

Some people -  to be completely frank, like yourself - will use advanced notice to schedule their friends, fans and colleagues to write defensive comments. A high concentration of these types of comments can distort the quality of the conversation. This is commonly referred to as brigading

This strategy is so effective, that foreign governments have setup "troll-farms", and companies have setup "astroturfing" operations to benefit from degrading the quality of certain conversations on the internet.  

Also, it does say in the document that Owen was given advanced notice. His document says that he saw the draft and disagreed with aspects of it that they didn't address in the post. 

I would create a distinction between giving someone a read of a draft ahead of time, and actively communicating the date and time something is posted. 

Edit: Added third paragraph, changed wording on first sentence of second paragraph. 

There's been some complaints from a banned EA Forum user that the timing of this post, and the timing of comments that bolster the character of Owen, have been coordinated. Whilst I think it's unlikely this is the case, I would love to see the following: 

- Confirmation from OP (@EV UK Board) that Owen was not given advanced warning on the posting of this report. Or if he was, some discussion around the potential issues with doing so. 

- Some further discussion in the EA Forum team, and perhaps rules set, on coordinated posting (AKA "brigading"). 

In the business context, you could imagine a recruiter having the option to buy a booth at a university specialising in the area the company is working in vs. buying one at a broad career fair of a top university. While the specialised university may bring more people that have trained in and are specialised in your area, you might still go for the top university as talent there might have overall greater potential, has the ability to more easily pivot or can contribute in more general areas like leadership, entrepreneurship, communications or similar.


I think this is a spot on analogy, and something we've discussed in our group a lot.

Meta note: I'm not going to spend much more time on nonlinear threads, since I think it's among the poorer uses of my time. With this in mind, I hope people don't take unilateral actions (e.g. deanonymizing Chloe or Alice) after discussing in this thread, because I suspect at this point threads like these filter for specific people and are less representative of the EA community as a whole.

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