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On the EA forum redesign: new EAs versus seasoned EAs

In the recent Design changes announcement, many commenters reacted negatively to the design changes. 

One comment from somebody on the forum team said in response: (bolded emphasis mine)

One of our goals on the Forum team is to make the Forum accessible to people who are getting more engaged with the ideas of EA, but haven’t yet been part of the community for a long time.. Without getting into a full theory of change here, I think we’ve neglected designing for this user group a bit over the last several years. Some of the barriers to entry for these folks include:

  • Feeling that the Forum experience (fonts, look and feel) is quite jarring, and different from a lot of the internet they’re used to.
  • Understanding what the Forum as a space is all about

This feels like a crux. Personally I think the EA forum should be a place seasoned EAs can go to to get the latest news and ideas in EA. Therefore, making the EA forum more similar to "the internet [new EAs are] used to" should not really be a priority. 

There are so many other spaces for new EAs to get up to speed. It's not obvious to me that the forum's comparative advantage is in being a space which is especially welcoming to new users. 

To my knowledge, this tradeoff between designing UX for new versus seasoned EAs has not been publicly discussed much. Which is a shame, because if the EA Forum is a worse space to exist in for seasoned EAs, then seasoned EAs will increasingly retreat to their local communities and there will be less interchange of ideas. (e.g. think about how different Bay Area EAs are from DC EAs) 

Now that Rational Animations has the human capital, budget, and experience to make high quality videos like this one, I think they should develop a more consistent brand.

They should have a consistent single face or voice of the channel. Popular edutainment channels often take off when viewer connects with a likeable personality. Examples: 

  • Tom Scott, VSauce, Veritasium, Physics Girl, ...
  • Channels which don't show their face in their typical format: Wendover Productions, 3Blue1Brown
  • Even high-budget channels like Vox are starting to lean into this format by structuring their videos more like vlogs, where the viewer connects with the presenter. example

Also just look at the comments of these videos. People engage with the content, but they also feel connected to the person presenting, and write things like "Wow I liked how excited <presenter> got when <thing> happened". 

They should mark as private or remake the old videos without Rob Miles as narrator. Personally, the old videos are a bit jarring to click on—sometimes you get a guy with an accent and a bad mic (one is ok, two makes a video difficult to understand), sometimes you get a generic overly cheery American "radio voice". 

Maybe get rid of the dogs/cats? Looking at the last year of videos (there are 8), the top 5 most viewed do not have dogs/cats in their thumbnail, and the bottom 3 do. YouTube allows for extensive thumbnail A/B testing and so if they're not doing this already, Rational Animations really should prepare more kinds of thumbnails and optimize for getting people to click on their videos (in a truthful way). Personally, when I first visited the channel, I found the dogs/cats in the Bayes video off-putting ("why are dogs/cats here? did a 12 year old girl draw this?"), but I thought they were fine in the How to Take Over the Universe (in Three Easy Steps) because they were subtle and the animation felt cohesive overall. Gender Differences in Accepting and Receiving Requests for Tasks with Low Promotability "

"We examine the allocation of a task that everyone prefers be completed by someone else (writing a report, serving on a committee, etc.) and find evidence that women, more than men, volunteer, are asked to volunteer, and accept requests to volunteer for such tasks."

Promotability isn't exactly the word that applies to EA. Instead here I mean a more nebulous term like "low promotability = grunt work, lack of prestige, lack of career capital outside of EA, lack of intellectual labor, lack of leadership displayed, lack of skills built..."

The people who do operations, event planning, and personal assistant work in EA are disproportionately women+nb. And then roles on the opposite end of the spectrum like "Independent AI Safety Researcher" are disproportionately men. Anecdotally, I see university-aged women+nb taking time away from their studies to do community building, and university-aged men taking time away from their studies to do upskilling or research. 

There's nothing wrong with ops, event planning, and personal assistant work, but I worry highly qualified women+nb are selling themselves short. 

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