In short: Personal communication between EAs seems valuable and is not happening nearly as much as it could. Especially for newcomers and people outside hubs and especially face-to-face via Skype or Hangouts. I invite you to share ideas on how to increase communication and actually implement them.
EA is growing and lots of new people live in areas where the EA presence is not as strong. It's been observed that there’s often a long lag time before new people even communicate with other members of the community - in my case 10 months. Having well-connected EA friends locally seems to help new people get connected quickly. The newcomers I've talked to were all excited to have easier opportunities of connecting to EAs personally. (Peter Hurford has previously written about getting new EAs connected).
For getting information
Another area where lack of communication decreases our efficiency is sharing information. To give an example: A friend of mine was interested in patent law. She had to do her own research and likely missed some information. Another friend of mine works in patent law and would be happy to talk. They don't live in the same country, but have EA friends in common who could set them up. But they would never end up talking to each other because our information economy is inefficient. Another factor is that the less connected people are often shy about reaching out to the busy, high-performing EAs they don’t personally know.
If you don’t live in a hub, you only very rarely get to personally talk to EAs who are knowledgeable about a specific topic you’re interested in. However, having conversations via Skype and Hangouts can be very insightful and motivating: They have changed e.g. my next career move, my major and motivated me to join volunteer projects which I didn’t even know existed. These are extremely high gains for little time investment. Other EAs report that personal communication is more effective than written exchanged at getting them to actually implement ideas or act on advice.
Seeing how widely distributed we are geographically, Skype and Hangouts seem plausibly like a channel where we could increase communication a lot.
So in this thread I invite you to share your ideas on how to increase communication between EAs. Since we’re great at coming up with ideas and not implementing them, I also invite you to: 1) Just look into and implement your own idea and see what happens 2) Comment on other people’s idea and say that you would like to work on it (or look into it) with them. Then get in personal contact. As mentioned above, the last part is crucial for actually getting things done.
If you don’t have the time to implement anything, don’t feel discouraged from posting your thoughts, there’s no obligation. If you’re one of the people who haven’t been in contact with EAs much, implementing such an idea is a great way to get exposure.
Let me know if any work gets done as a result of this post.
We have some systems in place. They aren’t solving the problem right now (mostly they’re not used as much), but I’m mentioning them to increase their use and encourage improvements.
- The EA buddy system exists, but isn’t working quite that well. Suggestions welcome!
- The .impact volunteer workforce owns a bunch of chatrooms which are open to anyone. They get a lot of activity on Sundays when .impact holds its workathons, but people occasionally hang out there at other times to answer questions or connect you to someone. .Impact also has weekly hangouts to do EA work together.
- Offer your skills or get advice from someone on Skillshare.im.
- Of the people who join the main EA facebook group some will be greeted by an admin.
- The EA Hub has an offers section which is currently not yet searchable. I suggest searching for the area of expertise like this and then contacting that person. If the area is listed under "What can you bring to the effective altruism community" it's probably safe to contact them. Works sometimes.