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.
- 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.
- 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?