We are in the process of implementing a major project on the Forum — turning our current system of tags into a full-fledged “EA wiki”.
Under this system, many of the tags used for posts will also serve as articles in the wiki. Many articles in the Wiki will also serve as tags that can be applied to articles.
However, there are exceptions in both directions. Some tags don’t make sense as wiki articles (for example, “EA London Update”). And some articles are too narrow to be useful tags (for example, Abhijit Banerjee). These will be marked as “wiki only” — they can be found with the Forum’s search engine, but can’t be used to tag posts.
The project is made possible by the work of Pablo Stafforini, who received an EA Infrastructure Fund grant to create an initial set of articles.
Why is an EA wiki useful?
EA content mostly takes the form of essays, videos, research papers, and other long-form content. If you want to find a simple definition of a term, or a brief summary of a cause area, you often have to find a particular blog post from 2012 or ask someone in the community.
A wiki can serve as a collection of definitions and brief explanations that help people efficiently develop their understanding of EA’s ideas and community.
It can also host more detailed articles that wouldn’t have a reason to exist elsewhere. Even if no one person wants to e.g. summarize all the major arguments to give now vs. later, ten people can each contribute a small portion of an article and get the same result.
CEA tried to do some of this with EA Concepts, a proto-wiki with well-written articles on a range of topics. But the project was deprioritized at one point and never picked back up — mostly because it takes a lot of time and energy to create and maintain anything close to a complete list of important concepts in effective altruism.
The EA Forum seems like a better way to do this, for a few reasons.
Why host this on the EA Forum?
There have been multiple attempts to create an EA wiki before, including EA Concepts, but none have really taken off. It’s hard to get the necessary volume of volunteer work to compile a strong encyclopedia on a topic as broad and complex as effective altruism.
Building a new wiki on the EA Forum has a few advantages over using a separate website:
- Constant attention: Hundreds of people visit the Forum every day. While tag pages don’t get many edits now, we’ll be doing a lot of work to promote them over the next few months. Anyone who visits the Forum will be prompted to contribute; if even a small number decide to help, I think we’ll have a larger collection of volunteers than any past EA wiki project.
- Strong SEO: The effectivealtruism.org domain gets a lot of traffic, which means it tends to show up in search engines for relevant terms. Once we’ve set up a collection of heavily cross-linked wiki articles, I expect that the articles will begin to draw a lot of new visitors to the site.
- Automatic updates through tagging: While the whole “articles are tags” thing can feel weird at times, it also means that many articles will be attached to an ever-growing list of relevant posts.
- Professional support: The Forum is run by CEA and draws from the technical work of developers from both CEA and LessWrong. We constantly add new features, and if something breaks, we have the resources to fix it. CEA’s resources also allow us to provide incentives for Wiki editing (more news on that soon, but not in this post).
What are the next steps?
Pablo’s approach involves setting up as many relatively short articles as possible, to give editors something to work from. He started by creating ~150 “stubs”, or one-sentence articles, that he expects to develop in the coming months (he has begun to expand some already). He will continue to add more content for the foreseeable future, but all of his articles are open for editing — he plans to incorporate editors’ efforts as he goes, and appreciates the help (the project is too big for any one person).
We’re still in the process of setting up everything we’ll need for what I plan to call “the festival” — a time of intense tagging and editing where the community gets together and really kicks things into gear. The festival will include prizes for the most helpful editors, and perhaps other treats. (Update: A previous version of this post mentioned the use of a progress bar to track tagging, but we're already at 80+% of posts with 25+ karma having tags, so there isn't much progress left to make; we'll skip the bar.)
That said, we’ll still be keeping track of edits and tagging efforts before then! If you want to help out, don’t wait for the festival — there’s a lot of good work to be done, and you can get a head start on winning a cool prize :-)
You can see all of our tags on the Tags Portal, and many of our “wiki only” articles on this page (I’m still adding the last few — check back in a day or two).
Within the next month, we plan to have a single page which includes every tag, sorted by category (likely similar to LessWrong’s portal).
Note that we’ll be merging a lot of tags in cases where Pablo’s additions overlap with existing tags (e.g. “Meat Alternatives” and “Animal Product Alternatives”). However, we’ll combine material from both tags in the process, so good edits will be kept whatever happens.
Start your edits!
We’re really excited about the potential of the Forum’s wiki, and we hope to see lots of edits — this is a great way to make a visible contribution to the community in just a few minutes.
Some types of edits that can be valuable:
- Adding more details about the topic
- Adding links to other related tags
- Adding references to material people can use to learn more about the topic
Try to take the perspective of someone who doesn’t know much about the topic and just stumbled across it. What should that person know? Can you explain that in a way that doesn’t require specialized knowledge of other EA topics? What other things might they want to read if this topic interests them?
Other ways to contribute:
- Tagging. This whole project will work much better if posts are reliably linked to relevant tags. This doesn’t just mean adding a tag for the first time — upvoting tags you think fit a post especially well is also helpful!
- An easy first step is to make sure your own posts are well-tagged.
- To steal from LessWrong’s excellent guide to tags:
- “Think of tagging as creating a curated list of material on a topic that someone interested in that topic would want to find. If a post touches on a topic but extremely tangentially, it might not be worth tagging it. If a post is low quality but technically discusses a topic, it isn’t necessary to tag it either.”
- Tag creation. If a term doesn’t come up as a tag when you search for it, it doesn’t exist on the Forum. If you think it should, create it!
- More from LessWrong: “A good heuristic is that a tag ought to have three high-quality posts, preferably written by two or more authors.”
- Tag suggestion. If you think some tags should be merged, notice a duplicate tag, etc., you can leave a comment on this post, or send me a private message on the Forum (if you comment on the tag itself, we may not see it for a while).
- Keep in mind that the wiki is very much "under construction" — if you notice something obvious that should be fixed, assume that you are correct and that we're unlikely to object. We appreciate your help!
- If you want to suggest that we add a tag, but don't want to create it yourself, you should share your idea on Michael Aird's tag suggestion post, where others might see it and offer feedback.
If you have ideas for features that could improve the tagging system or the Wiki, please let us know in the comments.
Note that you can see a further-along version of the system at LessWrong (FAQ). If you see something on that site, assume it’s possible for us, though we may not have it set up yet.
This sounds very interesting and promising! I'm glad Pablo, CEA, and the LessWrong team are doing this work, and hope a bunch of site users will also (continue to) help out as you suggest.
I suspect some readers of this post might be interested in previous discussion about or attempts to create EA-related wiki-like things. If so, they can find some at the Wikis tag.
In-page search for pages to link to
Ideally it would be really easy to link to other pages in this EA wiki. I think the normal nomenclature is [[page]] and if there were a search feature as well, it would lead to everything being more networked.
That seems like an interesting question. I'm wondering if one reason to use a separate Wiki is that some EA-relevant topics might not meet Wikipedia's notability requirements (i.e. couldn't get their own article there).
How familiar are you with Wikipedia? I ask because I've been an editor for 17 years (though only active at certain periods) and my sense is that Wikipedia's notability standards would be a very poor criterion to judge whether the EA Wiki should have an entry on a given topic. Such standards are in line with a "deletionist" editing philosophy for which I don't see a plausible justification (see Gwern's In Defense of Inclusionism for discussion) [I now see that Aaron had already linked to this essay]. Furthermore, even if those standards were justified for Wikipedia, I don't think they would be for a specialized wiki, which is meant to be of interest to a much narrower audience and whose criteria for inclusion should reflect this specialist focus.... (read more)
I'm somewhat sympathetic to the points you make in the first paragraph, though I don't think they will apply universally. E.g. I would expect that"hinge of history" or "patient philanthropy" are both relatively unlikely to go stale in an EA Wiki and won't meet Wikipedia's notability criteria. (Though not sure, I'm not that familiar with these criteria.)
I feel less compelled by your second paragraph. I would guess that most of the actual work to get concepts into the mainstream, establish notability etc., will need to be done outside of Wikipedia: e.g. actually founding a nonprofit, publishing a paper, and getting established media to write about you. So by the time you even have a chance to convince other Wikipedia editors that some topic meets their notability criteria, a lot of work has already been done - and the community doing that work may well be able to make good use of a Wiki that can already support them while doing that work.
Those concepts definitely fail to meet Wikipedia's notability standards, and I think they are a good example of why those standards are inadequate for the EA Wiki.
As you stated, there are some advantages to running this project through Wikipedia:
However, there's no reason we can't leverage a lot of this with the Forum's wiki. In many or even most cases, I'd expect that the "further resources" section of an article will include a link to the topic's Wikipedia page (or some other detailed resource).
And I'd hope that the people who already work on EA-related Wikipedia pages will keep doing so; I agree with you that this seems really valuable for helping to make EA ideas more mainstream.
However, there are some issues with trying to run everything through Wikipedia // benefits to making a wiki here:
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- As Max said, there are notability concerns about a lot of potentially good content. And my impression is that over time, Wikipedia has become progressively more strict about what qualifies as "notable" (see this Gwern essay, though perhaps things have gott
Thanks Aaron! Consolidating my replies to a few different comments here.
I think the notability concerns are real, and greater than I’d originally thought. Pablo has lots of experience as a Wikipedia editor and I don’t, so I’ll defer to him. And it does seem quite telling that Pablo originally tried the Wikipedia approach for a “few months and felt pretty disappointed with the outcome.”
That said, I’m still pretty sure there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit in terms of content that’s notable, EA relevant, and not on Wikipedia. “Longtermism” is a good example. I also suspect (though more experienced Wikipedia people should weigh in) that if we made good progress on the low hanging fruit, terms like “hinge of history” and “patient philanthropy” would be perceived as considerably more notable than they are now. (FWIW, I also think that having tags for things like “hinge of history” is a perfectly reasonable Minimum Viable Product alternative to a dedicated Wiki.)
To clarify my position, I do think a dedicated EA Wiki would be extremely valuable. But I think there’s a significant chance that a dedicated EA Wiki won’t be completed and/or maintained. That’s what’s happened to multiple pre... (read more)
Thank you for your thoughtful and extended feedback. I appreciate the time you have taken to raise a number of valid concerns. I will just respond to a few of your points, since much of what you say is in reply to Aaron's previous comment, and I don't want to interfere with that conversation.
I think the worry that the Wiki may fail due to insufficient contributions is very real. As you note, none of the previous attempts to build something like what we are trying to accomplish here have succeeded. And it appears that this is a common phenomenon with general efforts to create specialist wikis. Forecasting is one of my hobbies, and I'm well aware that the base rates aren't in our favor.
This was is fact my primary concern back when I was considering this project for a grant application. The reason I eventually decided to go ahead—besides feeling that I had a somewhat higher shot at success than my predecessors based on my experience editing Wikipedia and the insight this experience gave me about my capacity to feel motivated long-term by a project of this nature—was that I thought I could gain more information by just trying things out for a few months. The money costs fo... (read more)
Darius Meissner and I are in the process of writing exactly such a document.
Making a Wiki successful is always about seeding content. There's a lot of past content that could be copied over and updated, but it's not pleasant work, so it's good that Pablo has a grant.
I think it would be helpful if wiki only tags had an icon marking them as such and a programmatic way to request that the tag be unlocked and added to a post.
Allow every page to have a karma rank and then advanced search and ranking
Want to find the best EA books? Rank them by Karma
Want to find the EA orgs in animal advocacy? Search them by that filter. Etc etc.
Allow pages to have numerical entries
This is a database, so it might as well have room for numerical entries. Allow pages around projects to have estimates of number of staff, spending, etc etc added and searched.
Low friction editing
I'd love to see it being very easy to suggest an edit on a page, even if that edit requires approval. An edit button at the top which immediately allows you to add suggestions for instance.
Even better would be that all pages are editable all the time and that anyone can type as they read, but I doubt that will be popular (though it would generate much more editing).
I think this Wiki has a decent shot at success, similar to other niche resources like SEP and Wolfram Mathworld, given the clear need, and Pablo's and engineers' efforts. And it would be super-useful if it does so.
Two current bug/feature requests:
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- It's currently very unclear where to find the Wiki content. For example, I expected to find it here and also here. Reading this discussion (by Pablo and Michael), I expected to see the Wiki page being discussed, or at least a link to it, but I couldn't.
- I think the idea that you're presenting Wiki pages as mo
If what you're after is a list of all wiki-only tags (which I believe are "the wiki content" as it stands), then a partial list is available here. Aaron linked to that in the original post here:
(If you just meant the link to the relevant Forethought page, then Aaron's reply to you here already covers that.)
Suggestion: Make it so that, when editing a tag page / wiki entry, you can see a preview, like you currently can for posts and like you can on Wikipedia.
I think there's no reason to do this when using the default editor, but it'd be handy when using markdown. (I keep getting the formatting or links a bit incorrect when using markdown.)
Suggestion: Make it so the tag labels in the "Related entries" section of an entry automatically update when someone changes the name of a tag.
I just changed the tag "Global dystopia" to be called just "Dystopia", then realised that the old tag label would still be included as a "Related entry" for at least one other entry. I can change this manually, but that takes up some time and requires that I know which other entries mention that entry in the "Related entry" section (or that I do some sort of search to find them, which would take more time). So it'd ... (read more)
Suggestion: Some way of displaying quantitative info about how much someone has contributed to this EA wiki
Off the top of my head, I see roughly two options for what info to display, and roughly three options for where to display this.
Options for what info to display:
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- Just the total number of pages the user has created, edits they've made to pages, and comments they've made on the discussion/talk pages associated with wiki pages
- The user's "wiki karma"; a parallel system similar to the current Forum karma system but separate from that. People could upvote or
Allow the submission, search and ranks of jobs.
There is no reason why the EA forum shouldn't become an even more effective jobs board than 80k.
Combine EA hub profiles and EA forum profiles and then allow them to be easily tagged
Have you thought of how to address link rot? I could imagine it making sense to automatically store one archived version of each external link using perma.cc or something!
1. An equivalent of pingbacks on wiki entries for when other entries link to them
2. Pingbacks for when a wiki entry links to a post
On 1: I recently made an entry on the APPG on Future Generations. In Related entries, I included the entry on Institutions for future generations. That latter entry is the larger thing of which APPG on Future Generations is just one example, so it doesn't necessarily seem worth adding APPG on Future Generations to the Related entries section of the Institutions for future generations entry, but it'd still be nice i... (read more)
Suggestion: A way to see all the tags/entries I've made or edited
Maybe this already exists? This also overlaps with some things that have already been suggested, I think.
Wikipedia have a version of this.
Reasons why this'd be handy include:
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- Then I can watch over those entries like a good shepherd, perhaps fixing up other people's edits that are useful but make it a bit messy, mess up the flow, aren't perfectly clearly phrased, etc.
- Then when I retire I can look back at all the entries I contributed to, in the way normal people might look at pictures of their
Quick question to understand how I can help here: Is this about editing the texts on the tag pages themselves or about writing articles that plug gaps in the content that is covered by the articles that have a certain tag? If it’s the first, is there a way to quickly get a ranking of the most stub-like tag pages?
Thanks! I love this!
I expect many people currently use tags primarily as handy ways to find or share collections of posts on a given topic (I know I do), and I think that that usage is quite valuable.
But if some wiki entries are long, then users won't immediately see the list of posts which have the associated tag.
Users might not even be aware that there is such a list further down on the page (they might think the page is just a wiki entry). E.g., this could come up if I shared a tag page with someone as a way of saying "here are some posts you might want to chec... (read more)
One question I have about this is who the main target audience(s) for this wiki are? I think there are a few ways one could operationalise that question, such as:
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- What percentage of readers do you expect/hope will be quite engaged members of the EA community, vs less engaged members, vs people who've heard of EA but never engaged, vs other people?
- What kinds of EAs do you expect to make the most use of this wiki?
- E.g., people who work at EA orgs, people who don't work at EA orgs (who might therefore have a harder time getting oriented to key ideas and resourc
I find Roam a fantastic database building tool and it might be good to just use it here rather than building our own.
I don't think this is a great suggestion since I think we'll want different features, but if it could be built on top of Roam, I think it would be much better.
That sentence seems to be more about suggestions about tags than suggestions of tags. For the latter, people are also welcome to comment on this post I made last year: Propose and vote on potential tags.
Or do you think that it's now better to centralise such suggestions in comments on this new post instead? I'd guess it's... (read more)
A focus on user experience.
The core aim should be to make this database something that EAs actually use to find things in their daily lives.