- In 2021, the EA Hub built volunteer capacity, made technical progress. During this period ~1500 people joined or were onboarded to the platform, roughly doubling from the 2020. (Read More)
- However, in Fall of 2021, after being rejected from the EA Infrastructure fund and learning of CEA’s updated strategy in this space, we chose to suspend future work and plan to retire the Hub in the future. (Read More)
- The EA Hub will remain live with existing functionality until it is ready to be replaced with a new platform, at which point we are planning to retire it. We are working closely with CEA to ensure a smooth transition to the new system, and Hub users will receive notice at least 1 month before we shut down the Hub. (Read More)
- We are excited to see more work in the space of improving online connections. (Read More)
The EA Hub is one of the oldest volunteer projects in the EA ecosystem. The first version of the EA Hub was started by the Local Effective Altruism Network (LEAN) in 2015, to provide an online platform for EAs to connect with each other as well as with EA groups, projects, and helpful resources. In 2015 the Hub had EA profiles and groups (and maps), a donation registry, links to actions for EAs to take, a nascent wiki, and hosted the results of the EA Survey. There has been limited interest from other meta organisations to do work in this space. The codebase was deprecated and the EA Hub was relaunched in 2019 with a new codebase and team.
A new leadership team (Vaidehi, Victor & Seb) started work in Fall 2020. Starting in 2020 the Hub was fiscally sponsored by, but otherwise independent from, Rethink Charity. Our vision for the EA Hub was to be “an online platform that enables collaboration and facilitates connections between people in the Effective Altruism movement to make it easier to learn, network, collaborate on projects, and find career opportunities.” We believe that improving community infrastructure for projects, individuals, and groups will help initiatives build traction more effectively. Read more about our team’s plans.
2021 in Review
Our goals for 2021 included securing funding, developing new features, maintaining the existing platform, and improving our volunteer capacity. We also developed our strategy and coordinated with stakeholders.
- We made significant technical progress, with feedback from several EA community builders from around the world.
- The Hub profiles nearly doubled in 2021 to ~3200 profiles. Of the new profiles, we onboarded 700+ people from EA conferences in 2021, including EAG Reconnect and the EA Fellowship Weekend.
- We recruited and worked with a team of 5-6 volunteers (in addition to our core team) regularly contributing to the Hub in technical and non-technical roles.
We applied to the EA Infrastructure Fund for the funds needed to reach the level of professionalism appropriate for this project. As we explain below, EAIF rejected us because they felt it would be less valuable because of similar work planned by CEA.
After learning about CEA’s plans, we deliberated and decided to suspend further work on the EA Hub.
Our reasons for suspending development and plans to retire the Hub
The main reason for our decision is that we found out that the CEA Online Team plans to introduce features on the EA Forum that would be similar to the EA Hub’s.
Background: The new Hub team (Vaidehi, Seb, and Victor) started work in Fall 2020 and were in contact with various staff at CEA from that point on to get feedback, coordinate, and share progress.
- In Fall 2020, CEA’s strategy was not yet set and they were uncertain about their future plans. Based on the information we received from them, we felt that working on the Hub was worthwhile.
- In early 2021, CEA's Online Team started hiring to grow from 1 to 3 developers. We reached out to coordinate but at the time they had not decided what the team members were going to work on. Many of the projects that they could work on didn’t overlap with the Hub’s features, so this was a small negative update on whether it was worth continuing work on the Hub.
- In summer 2021, we applied and received the rejection from the EAIF. The primary reason cited by the EAIF was that they expected that CEA would be introducing features to connect EAs, which seemed similar to those we had planned for the Hub in the near future. We reached out to CEA, who confirmed this. In particular they informed us that:
- They plan to work on infrastructure for connecting individuals for mentorship, collaboration, socialising, and other purposes. CEA told us that they are unsure if they will pursue any of those specific ideas. However, the general direction is similar to what the Hub was planning to do.
- They intend to improve Forum profiles, although they do not have specific timelines or plans since we last spoke to them.
- (They also introduced the Community and Events feature, although we had been in touch with them about this.)
We generally think competition is good, but in the case of community services, we believe centralization is very important to reap network effects and potentially create a better user experience. Initially, we had planned to work closely with CEA to integrate the Hub and Forum (e.g. through a Single Sign On) to create a more integrated experience.
Since CEA has changed their strategy to be more closely aligned to the Hub’s vision, we think that it is better to have one platform. We also feel that CEA is better positioned (in terms of their funding, position in the community, and time) to maintain and develop such a platform.
You can see a brief statement summarising CEA’s online plans (as of Feb 2022) written by Ben West from CEA below:
A fundamental problem facing any platform which attempts to connect its users is what is sometimes called the “cold start problem”: nobody is going to use your platform if other people aren’t on it, but other people aren’t going to be on your platform because they also are waiting for others to join.
CEA is fortunate to have several online products with existing user bases, e.g. this Forum. Our hope is to integrate connection-building features with these existing properties, thereby avoiding the cold start problem. E.g. Users who are browsing this forum for interesting articles might also be interested in browsing for events.
We have already released a few products related to online connection building:
- Our Virtual Programs, which have in total brought a couple of thousand people together to discuss EA topics through 8 week fellowship programs.
- A new events page, including hiring a data entry firm to crosspost events from a long list of Facebook groups, mailing lists, etc., making it a relatively comprehensive listing of all EA events.
- A new version of effectivealtruism.org, which better points people to our Virtual Programs. VP enrollment increased 50% the month after it was released.
- We released and made a bunch of improvements to the community page. We are planning to release an even newer version of this in the next couple weeks from when I am writing this, so it might be available when you are reading this.
We have written more about our future plans to support connections via the forum here. Feedback on either our general strategy or specific use cases is always appreciated!
We believe the ultimate goal of the EA Hub — to improve coordination in the global EA community — is very valuable (that’s why we were working on it!). We are happy that CEA is also focusing on this, and have shared our work to date with them.
We would be excited to see the following features developed on the Forum and other online products in the near future:
- Easy-to-use, searchable global community directory
- New ways for EAs to connect with each other (e.g. offering services, mentorship etc.)
- Matchmaking (we are talking to CEA’s Events team about this)
We think it’s important for the community to take an active role in helping develop community infrastructure and encourage you to share your suggestions for new features or services you would benefit from on CEA’s recent forum post or the Forum features suggestion thread.
What does this mean for Hub users?
For the foreseeable future, the EA Hub will remain live, but we will no longer be actively developing it. When we make the decision to shut down the Hub, we will notify users via email at least 1 month before it goes down. We will post updates about any changes to the current status of the Hub to the Forum (both editing this post & creating new top-level posts when needed) as well.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you to all the volunteers over the past several years who have worked on making the Hub possible.