In this update: New features, moderation updates, and a call for new moderators.
Since the new version of the EA Forum is a fork of LessWrong, it's easy for us to pull new updates as they arrive on there. If we think that a new LessWrong feature is likely to also be a good fit for the Forum, we will likely merge it into our site.
Floating table of contents
This week, we are merging a major update which introduces a floating table of contents to the left of posts. This is a much-requested feature on the Forum which should help readers track the structure of longer posts, and we’re really pleased to have it. The table of contents tracks three levels of headers, and picks up on the header formats from the WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) and Markdown editors. It interprets stand-alone bold text as a header.
Users can now retract their comments, which does not delete them, but will strike through the words while leaving them visible. (You can also un-retract a comment.)
This allows users to designate that they no longer endorse a past comment without deleting it entirely. We may implement more features related to retracted posts in the future (e.g. suppressing notifications for them, alerting users who replied to a comment that was later retracted).
We have also released a new type of post: a Question post.
This allows users to pose questions, which can then be answered. Answers are shown below the question; there's also a comment section for clarifying and interpreting the question, and for other thoughts which aren’t quite answers. You can see questions on this page of the Forum, and they will also be posted to the Frontpage/Community sections as appropriate.
We think that this is an important feature for three reasons: First, this will give newer community members a place to receive high-quality answers to their questions. Second, those questions can encourage more knowledgeable members to write up content which is likely to be useful to the community. Finally, this can allow the community to make intellectual progress more reliably. The person who knows that a question is important is unlikely to be the best person to answer that question, and we hope this feature can match up people-with-questions to people-with-the-skill-to-answer-questions more reliably.
Post page redesign
In order to accommodate the question format, the Post page has been redesigned.
For more details on question posts and the table of contents feature, please see the announcement post on LessWrong.
The Forum team has been in touch with lots of organizations and writers in the community, to ask for permission to cross-post their content. We encourage you to cross-post content from your blog or website, and to get in touch if you’d like us to do that for you. (We’ll post your content under your account, with formatting that works for the Forum — for example, by removing anchor links that only work in HTML.) We also encourage you to cross-post good EA-related content that you stumble across on the web. Cross-posting helps more people to find the best content and creates a space for moderated discussion.
Until now, we have been moving all blog posts to the Frontpage or Community sections (see more on this distinction here). We are tentatively planning to relax this, and leave some types of post on people’s personal blogs. However, we are still likely to move the majority of posts to either Frontpage or Community.
Personal blogs are hosted on your user page (https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/user/[your username], for instance, see here). Other users can follow your blog if they wish, and they’ll see notifications when you post. Personal blog posts are also included in the “all posts” view of the Frontpage section.
We are more likely to move posts to Frontpage/Community if:
- They receive lots of upvotes, and a high ratio of upvotes to downvotes
- They are of broader relevance to the community, pursuing more interesting and important questions
- They are clearly written and engaging
- The analysis is high-quality (though it might still be brief and/or incomplete)
The reasoning for this change is:
- Some users have expressed that they would feel more comfortable posting to the Forum if some of their lower-quality/less broadly relevant content was kept on their personal blogs. In general, we’d like to remove barriers to users posting content.
- Some posts have met our Frontpage guidelines, but nevertheless not been posts that we would want to promote.
- For instance, there was a post (now deleted by the user) asking, hypothetically, why EA-type thinking couldn’t be applied to other areas of ethics, suggesting that violence might be justified for utilitarian reasons (without advocating for that violence). Whilst this post didn’t violate our guidelines for the Forum, and we think that it’s good that it was an opportunity for the poster to hear counterarguments, we don’t feel that this is the kind of content that we want to promote more broadly, or content that we want to endorse by actively moving it to Frontpage.
Our main worry about doing this is that it complicates the job of moderators, and introduces more judgement calls. We want to maintain the cause-neutral, community-driven atmosphere of the Forum, and we will try to do that in all of our decisions. We’re happy to talk about this more in the comments section.
Call for new moderators
Howie Lempel is stepping down from moderation duties in order to focus on his new full-time job. We’re very grateful for the work he’s been doing to moderate posts, and to shape the policies that we’re following.
This means that we’re looking for new moderators. This volunteer role takes 1-3 hours per week. Ideally, we’re looking for someone with a good knowledge of effective altruism, sound judgement, previous activity posting/commenting on the Forum, and some experience with building online or in-person communities. If you’re interested, please fill in this application form.