Recently, I've been hearing a lot about new online groups related to EA, such as Slack workspaces, Discord servers, and Facebook groups.

Creating a new online group has advantages and disadvantages over just joining an existing one.

Some advantages:

  • A new online space can be valuable when it has a unique focus (e.g. non-human animals and longtermism, EA and engineering) and a lot of people might be interested in that area.
  • It can also be valuable if you want to create a new space with a similar focus area as an existing one but with a different moderation style. Moderation can make or break a community, so having alternative spaces with different approaches to moderation can be valuable to many people.
  • Users may prefer one platform to another. For example, I feel like I can be more authentic on Discord than on Facebook, and I find being part of multiple online communities on Slack cumbersome.

Some disadvantages:

  • The creation of multiple spaces with similar focuses can lead to fragmentation. For example, I created the EA Public Interest Technologists Slack space (now called Effective Public Interest Computing), but a lot of similar communities exist, such as the Software, Data, and Tech EA Facebook group (for tech in general), EA Software Engineering Discord, EA Tech Network (for EAs working at tech companies), and EA Creatives and Communicators.
  • People have to join yet another Slack workspace or Discord server. Slack workspaces are especially annoying to join as you have to create new login credentials for each one (or you can link your Google account if the workspace allows it). I prefer Discord servers because they are less inconvenient to join, but users can only join up to 100 servers at a time.
  • The creation of spaces across multiple platforms (Facebook, Discord, Slack, etc.) can also lead to frustration as users have to set up accounts on multiple platforms in order to participate in all the communities they want to. This is exacerbated by the fact that you have to create new credentials for each Slack workspace you join (see above).

What should we do about all this proliferation and fragmentation? Do we need a new non-proliferation treaty for online community spaces?

16

New Answer
Ask Related Question
New Comment

2 Answers sorted by

I agree. Fragmentation and duplication is frustrating. Not sure what the solution is though.

  • Maybe a database that defines and outlines categories of platform, allows voting for the preferred platform, and makes it clear which has the biggest network?

  • Willingness to merge or shut down platforms that are mainly duplicated by other larger ones?

  • Facilitating connection and interoperability between platforms?

There are numerous benefits, however. A bubbly community can plausibly:

  1. appeal to a larger group of people due to market segmentation.[1] The "perfect pasta sauce flavour" that will maximise your profit is a selection various flavours so you can appeal to more of the market.
  2. correspondingly, due to a proliferation of more varied roles for each bubble, you could increase productivity due to specialisation of labour.
  3. resist some of the damage caused by information cascades due to slower (and less centralised) transfer of information.
  4. inspire more tight-knit belonging, trust, and intra-cooperation due to bubbles being smaller (more tribe-size rather than nation-size). It's easier to speak informally in a group you mostly know, compared to a larger group where there's a greater separation between perceived high-status and low-status. This is good both for encouraging open discussions, inspiring confidence, and for just feeling happier.
  5. increase the variation of group models, and thereby increase the chance of discovering new group models that work better than any we've tried before.
  6. with greater ease fine-tune social status gradients within each bubble due to having fewer people that influence you (same effect that leads to cults, but it can also lead to good things).
  7. probably more stuff here I forget.
  8. Edit 3 months later: Forgot to say that bubbliness reduces outbreeding depression and memetic swamping (ht. Holly), a more solid argument for why bubbles can be more effective at what they do due to specialisation (faster adaptation to selection pressure).
    1. Memetic swamping also leads to social recession/depression due to everyone being optimised for norms and cultures that aren't adaptive for any group of people, it's just an unhappy compromise. Bubbliness has a chance of reversing some of that damage.

But speaking at such an abstract level like this has limited usefwlness, and you should probably optimise stuff case-by-case.

  1. ^

    "Market segmentation is a marketing strategy in which select groups of consumers are identified so that certain products or product lines can be presented to them in a way that appeals to their interests." (wikipedia)