How to use the Forum

by Julia_Wise 1y5th Sep 201817 comments

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Effective altruism is a joint effort. Our goal is to make the EA Forum the central place for collaborative discussion about how to do the most good we can.

What we’re aiming for

We encourage:

  • Writing that is accurate, kind, and relevant to the discussion at hand.
  • Scout mindset: “The drive not to make one idea win or another lose, but to see what’s there as honestly and accurately as you can.”
  • Clarity about what you believe, your reasons for believing it, and what would cause you to change your mind.
  • Making concrete predictions where possible.
  • Summary articles: Distilling previous ideas and debates can be really useful, because it allows people to get up to speed quickly and build on previous knowledge.

We don’t worry much about:

  • Polish: We’d rather hear an idea that’s presented imperfectly than not hear it at all.

We discourage (and may delete):

  • Unnecessary rudeness or offensiveness
  • Materials advocating major harm or illegal activities
  • Abuse
  • Spam
  • Other behavior that interferes with good discourse

Other pointers:

  • When you disagree with someone, approach it with curiosity: try to work out why they think what they think, and what you can learn from each other.
  • When you criticize someone’s point, consider doing so supportively.
  • Keep an eye out for ways you might be biased — ideologies, people, or causes that you’re particularly attached to.
  • Try to focus on important questions, and the important parts of important questions to keep content useful and to the point.
  • You can flag material that you think is inappropriate for the site, and the moderators will take a look.

Signing up

Anyone is welcome to sign up for an account on the Forum. However, your first post or comment won't show up right away. As an anti-spam measure, one of the Forum's moderators will check the first post or comment from each new user before automatically approving their future posts and comments.

If more than 24 hours pass and you still don't see your post or comment, please contact Aaron Gertler, our lead moderator.

Finding content

See this post for information on how we sort posts into different categories.

Frontpage posts

This is the space for most material about how to do good effectively.

All posts

Select the “Daily” section to see posts in all categories, sorted chronologically.

Community

This is the place for posts about the EA community itself (including EA organizations) rather than object-level discussion.

Following users

Love someone’s work? Click their username and you’ll see the option to “subscribe to this user’s posts.” You’ll see their new posts in your notification area.

Writing content

Update: You can get feedback on drafts you've written, or ideas for a post you'd like to write, from Aaron Gertler, a Forum moderator and CEA content writer.

You can make a new post by clicking on your username in the upper right and selecting “new post.”

You can use posts to jot quick ideas or questions, to publish polished research, or anything in between.

A post will be more visible to other users as it gets more upvotes.

Personal blog posts

By default, your posts will be published to your personal blog on your profile page. Other users can follow your page to see notifications when you post.

Link posts

We encourage you to post links to content from other sites. You can do this by selecting the link icon when you go to make a new post. When you post links, please either quote or write a summary of the content to get discussion going.

Frontpage and Community posts

If you're writing about ideas relevant to doing the most good, and which might be useful even to people who aren't closely involved with the EA community, your post will be moved to the "Frontpage" section and be visible on the front page of the forum.

If you’re writing about the EA community itself, giving an organizational update, or discussing strategies for community building, your post will be moved to the “Community” section, which can be accessed from the forum's sidebar menu.

For more on this distinction, see this post.

Question posts

You can select "Ask Question" from the main menu to create a "question post". These have a slightly different format which separates answers from discussion about the post. They work for any question, but we hope they'll be especially useful to people who are new to effective altruism and want to learn more.

(It's totally fine to ask basic questions about EA concepts, even if you think they might have simple answers! The Forum is meant to be a resource for the whole community, including people at any level of experience.)

Karma

When you vote articles up and down, you give the users karma points. The karma points are equal to the number of upvotes minus the downvotes, and by default, the higher rated posts are more visible. The karma is the number shown next to each post or comment.

You don’t need any karma to post, comment, or vote.

Voting

You can vote up or down on posts and comments. For content you think is especially good or bad, you can give a “strong upvote” or “strong downvote” by clicking and holding (on a computer) or double-tapping (on mobile). The strength of your votes is affected by your level of karma; more details here.

You are encouraged to also leave constructive feedback about what was helpful or unhelpful about the material you’re voting on:

“That example helped clear things up for me.”

“I didn’t find this relevant.”

“Mass voting” on large portions of a user’s content simply because it belongs to that user is not acceptable. Please judge each post or comment on its own merits.


Aside from mass voting, you can vote using any other criteria you choose. If it helps, you could consider these recommendations from a forum which uses the same voting system. Here’s an edited excerpt:

Conversational Flow (normal votes): Use normal votes when you like (or dislike) the effect a comment has on a conversation.

  • “Ah, good point.” (+)
  • “Hmm. This gives me something to think about.” (+)
  • “Thanks for citing your sources!” (+)
  • “I think this contains an error.” (-)
  • “This is technically fine, but annoying to read.” (-)
  • “I don’t think you’re being very charitable.” (-)

Important Content (strong votes): Use strong votes when you think other people should go out of their way to read something (or definitely avoid it).

  • “I learned something new and useful.” (++)
  • “The argumentation or thought process here improved the way I think.” (++)
  • “This contains many factual errors or a lot of bad reasoning.” (--)
  • “This is literally spam.” (--)

Profile

Let other users know more about you. To edit your user profile, click your username in the upper right and select “Profile.”

It’s fine to make a pseudonymous account in order to express views you wish to keep anonymous. It’s not acceptable to vote multiple times on the same material, to use multiple accounts to express the same opinion multiple times, or to impersonate other people.

Moderators

Currently (as of March 2019), moderators are Denise Melchin, Aaron Gertler, and Julia Wise, and the moderation team uses the email address forum-moderation@effectivealtruism.org. Please feel free to contact us with questions or feedback.

Moderators can access

  • The IP address a post/comment came from
  • Voting history of users
  • Identity of voters on any given post/comment

This information will only be used to identify behavior such as “sockpuppet” accounts and mass downvoting. The moderators will not view or use this information for any other purpose.

Support

If you notice a bug, have a question about using the Forum, or want to offer a suggestion, you can reach our support team using Intercom (the blue chat box on your screen). You can also email the team at forum-support@effectivealtruism.org.


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