EA Facebook New Member Report

byLarks 4y26th Jul 20159 comments


Summary: Data about where people joining the EA Facebook group first heard of EA.

EA Facebook group moderators Claire Zabel and I, with some help from Julia Wise, have been sending a welcome message to every new member when we add them. By doing so we partly aim to set a good first impression, make people feel welcome, and provide a point of contact for questions.

We also ask them to tell us where they first heard about EA. By doing this, we gather data about where new EAs are formed. Hopefully this data will be helpful for future marketing efforts. As joining the group requires moderator approval, this means we reached substantially every member who joined over the past 31 days. Obviously we're only sampling a subset of EAs - those that join the facebook group - but we are sending the message to ~100% of that subset, and no one else. This compares with the big EA census, which sampled from a much wider group, but it was less clear how representative the sample was.


The data

Between 2015/06/22 and 07/22, 375 people joined the group, bringing us to 6478 members.

Of the ~371 people we messaged*, 216 people responded. This is a 58% response rate. We then tried to fit their response into a broad category like 'Facebook' or 'LessWrong'. Here is the data in chart and table form:

28%    Friend
16%    Facebook
14%    Other
12%    Peter Singer
12%    LessWrong/CFAR/Eliezer/HPMOR/SSC/MIRI
10%    Media Article
4%    80k
4%    GiveWell
3%    Colleague
3%    Philosophy
3%    EAG
3%    Animal Rights
2%    Local Grouo
2%    NA
2%    Will
1%    Akilnathan logeswaran
1%    Family
1%    Christianity
1%    GWWC


Some notes on the data

  • The categories are not mutually exclusive.
  • 'Friend' sometimes referred to people the new member knew in person, and sometimes to an online friend - often it was unclear. Sometimes they just gave a name, and if we didn't recognise the name I often assumed they were a friend.
  • 'Facebook' tends to refer to the 'recommended groups' feature on facebook.
  • 'Other' is very broad.
  • Peter Singer does well, mainly from his TED talk and his book.
  • I grouped together LessWrong, CFAR, Eliezer, HPMOR, SlateStarCodex and MIRI.
  • I think Media Articles were often discussing the EA Global Event, but people were sometimes ambiguous, or gave a result that would have required too much investigation - e.g. 'NYT article', 'magazine article'.
  • 80k includes blog posts and talks.
  • GiveWell includes Holden
  • EAG includes Tyler Altman
  • Local Groups includes EA groups, LW groups, Philosophy groups etc.

We also have a constant problem with spam in the group. A large fraction (Jacy once estimated 80%, but I think more like 30% of the new joiners) of the accounts who attempt to join are fake accounts. In total (since the group began many years ago, and before the current moderators) 403 facebook accounts have been blocked, virtually all of which for spam. This means we must be sceptical of the 6478 members number, as many of these are probably fake accounts using the EA page to make themselves appear more credible. The new members appear to be more legitimate, but we tend to approve new members if uncertain, so there are probably fake accounts among the 375. Presumably these did not respond to our greeting.


How do these results compare to the EA census?

Some discrepancies are to be expected, as an artifact of the data collection technique. For example, we had many more people naming ‘Facebook’. The census had LessWrong as the number one source, which probably reflected the prominent link to the survey on LessWrong. However, LessWrong is still a major source in our data, suggesting that the strong result in the census was not just an artifact of disproportionate sampling.

Notably, ‘Peter Singer’ was a pretty major source in our data - much higher than in the census data. Conversely, ‘GWWC’ was a much more major source in the census than in our data. Perhaps indicating the recent bout of attention around EA global, ‘Media Article’ does well in our data, but does not appear in the survey data.

Friendship proves its worth in both data sets.


Should we change what we're doing?

  • Sending these messages and compiling the answers is somewhat time consuming for Claire and I.
  • Is this data worth gathering? Sending the messages also has other benefits, as we answer people’s questions and make them welcome. But we could save time recording the data.
  • Would it be better to send a link to an online survey, with standardised response options?
  • What other data would be most valuable? Bear in mind that we don’t want to overwhelm people!
  • What else can we do better?


Thanks to Claire to reading a draft of this post. Any errors are, of course, my own.


* A very small number of profiles do not allow messages from non-friends