This post is a manual that tries to cover most things you might want to do on the Forum, with emphasis on things that are tricky or unintuitive. (It’s adapted and expanded from an older post called “How to use the Forum.”)
Some of these things are only possible when you’re logged into an account on the Forum, but it’s very easy to make an account.
Key Forum resources:
- 🖋️ Write on the EA Forum
- 🦋 Guide to norms on the Forum
- 🛠️ Forum user manual (this page)
Please let us know in the comments or at email@example.com if this post is missing something you think it should include!
Table of contents
- Getting started with the Forum
- The Frontpage
- Karma and voting
- Forum accounts
- The EA Wiki & other resources
- Getting feedback on your writing
- Getting help (& who runs the Forum)
- Writing and publishing posts
- Two different editors: WYSIWYG and Markdown
- Inserting things into your writing
- Publishing a post
- Your first post won’t appear on the Frontpage straight away
- Adding co-authors to a post
- Types of writing on the Forum (not everything is a “post”)
- Once something has been published
- Tagging posts
- Putting together sequences of posts
- Seeing post metrics or analytics
- Spam and other things we remove
- Finding and engaging with content
- Customizing the Frontpage with tags
- Subscribing to mailing lists and newsletters
- Other views of posts on the Forum
- Bookmarking content
- Looking at your past upvotes
- Following users
- Other things you can do on the Forum
- Events, groups, and community spaces
- Report something to the moderators
- Give feedback, suggest features, or report bugs
Getting started with the Forum
When you go to forum.effectivealtruism.org, you see what’s called the “Frontpage.” This shows you a bunch of recent posts (posts that are more upvoted by Forum users stay at the top for longer), some recommended posts from the Forum’s history, and “Recent discussion,” which shows comments and new posts in purely chronological order of posting.
If you’re logged in, you can also customize what you see on your frontpage. See the appropriate section here.
Karma and voting
Karma is similar to “likes” on other platforms and is inspired by Reddit. When you upvote posts and comments, you give their authors karma points (or take away points when you downvote). On the Frontpage, higher-rated posts are more visible.
For content you think is especially good or bad, you can give a “strong upvote” or “strong downvote” by clicking and holding (or double-tapping on mobile).
As you get more karma, your upvotes on others’ posts and comments will begin to award more karma.
The karma score on a post (or comment) is the net total amount of karma that the post (or comment) has. For instance, if one person upvoted a post (with the usual +1 upvote), three people strong-upvoted the post (with +2 strong-upvotes), and one person downvoted the post (with the usual -1 downvote), the post would have a total of 6 karma (and 5 "votes").
You don’t need any karma to post, comment, or vote.
Some things are “karma-gated,” which means that only users over a certain karma threshold can do those things. We generally do this to avoid making it easy to create spam accounts. For instance, it’s currently only possible to add co-authors if you have over 10 karma, which is a rule we set up to make sure that people wouldn’t be constantly adding high-profile users as co-authors to get extra credibility. (If you want to add a coauthor and don’t have 10 karma, you can also reach out to us, and we’ll help you with that.)
Making an account
You can start using your account straight away, but note that your first post won’t appear on the Frontpage straight away. You should also consider writing a bio.
Once you’ve set a username, you should be able to change it one time by yourself. To change it again, you’ll need a moderator’s help.
To change your username, you should go to your profile (you can click on your username in the top right corner), then click on “Account settings," and change your Display Name. (This is also where you can change the email address associated to your account.) There’s a chance that this option is currently buggy — let us know if you encounter issues.
Note that if you've started a shortform post (if you've ever written a shortform, you'll see the overall post as "[Username]'s shortform" in the list of posts on your profile — the comments on the post are your shortform posts), its title, which by default includes your username, will not be changed alongside your username. If you'd like, you can manually edit the title of the post.
In order to maintain a good culture and prevent impersonations, you can’t change your username many times. To change your username again, you should contact us. If you do, please share a link to your profile.
We have a few norms about usernames; please check and respect them.
Messaging other users
You can direct message any other user on the Forum by finding their profile (you can click on their username or search for it), then clicking ‘Message’.
You can then draft a message (and format it as you’d like). To send it, click “SUBMIT.”
You can also add other users to the thread (like a group chat) and give the conversation a title by clicking “Conversation Options.”
The EA Wiki & other resources
Note that the Forum also houses the EA Wiki, which organizes content and explains some core concepts. You can read about the Wiki here, and look at the list of topics here. You can also find some curated core reading.
Getting feedback on your writing
You can submit your post to the Effective Altruism Editing and Review group on Facebook to get feedback from more people.
You can also send your post to me, and I may look at it and give some feedback if I have time.
Getting help (& who runs the Forum)
If you need help, you can contact the team behind the Forum by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The EA Forum is a project of the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA).
You can also reach out via Intercom, the little icon in the lower right-hand corner of your window.
Writing and publishing posts
You can make a new post by clicking on your username in the upper right and selecting “New Post.”
You can use posts to jot quick ideas, publish polished research, or anything in between. See more about this here.
Note that anything you write will be published under a Creative Commons license. If you wish to publish under a different license, we encourage you to instead create a link-post to an external page that has the appropriate license (link-posting will not make the linked content published under the CC BY license).
Posts appear higher up on the front page the newer they are and the more karma they have.
Two different editors: WYSIWYG and Markdown
The Forum currently offers two ways to create and format a post. You can switch between editors by checking or unchecking "Activate Markdown Editor" in your profile settings.
Our non-Markdown editor offers a user-friendly "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) interface and is generally the most intuitive way to format posts. It offers support for image uploading, code blocks, LaTeX, tables, footnotes, and many other options. You can also directly copy-paste from Google Docs and preserve most formatting (except links to internal headers — see below), including header font sizing, hyperlinks, images — and, most recently footnotes, although you'll need to use a workaround!
In case you want to use Markdown, here is a guide that discusses Markdown syntax, and we generally recommend using this Google Docs add-on to convert your Google Docs drafts (formatted as you like) into Markdown syntax.
Things you might want to insert into your writing
If you're copy-pasting from a Google Doc, you can now copy-paste footnotes in the WYSIWYG editor in the following way (which allowed us to get around the impossibility of selecting all footnotes in a Google Doc):
- Publish your Google Doc to web
- You can do this by clicking on File > Share > Publish to web
- Then approve the pop-up asking you to confirm (hit "Publish")
- Then open the link that you'll be given; this is now the published-to-web version of your document.
- Select the whole text, including footnotes, and copy that. (If you'd like, you can now unpublish the document.)
- Open the Forum text editor (WYSIWYG), and paste the selection.
If you don't want to copy-paste, you can insert footnotes manually:
When you have text in the “New Post” text box, you can add footnotes by selecting the relevant text (ending where you’d like the footnote), clicking the bracketed asterisk icon in the tooltip menu, and selecting “New footnote.”
Then you should add the footnote in the corresponding slot.
If you’ve prepared your text, with footnotes, in Google Docs, you might want to switch to the Markdown editor before transferring your post from Google Docs to the Forum.
Then, use this Google Docs add-on to convert your text to Markdown – a ‘language’ or ‘syntax’ that contains formatting instructions encoded as text. Create a “new post,” and copy the Markdown text into the text box, which is now ready to receive Markdown. To check how things will look, you can save the post as a draft. Your footnotes should appear as required.
This option is a little bit more tricky when images are involved, but there is a way around it – see next section.
Internal links (links to sections of the post)
To link to internal headers in a Forum draft, save the draft as a draft (without those links). Then open it in a second tab, and start "editing" in the other tab. Click on the relevant header in the saved draft version, copy the resulting url, and paste that wherever you want to add a link to that header.
If you paste a Google Doc into the post editor page, links to sections in the Google Doc will unfortunately still link to the Google Doc version of the post — they won't automatically transform into internal links in the post.
If you want to have images in your post, it’s simpler to use the non-Markdown editor. You can just copy-paste as you might in Google Docs, or upload images by clicking on the little paragraph/block symbol, shown in the two views below.
You can also add a text caption or click and drag to precisely resize the image.
It’s harder to insert images when working in Markdown; if you just convert a Google Doc with images into Markdown and copy it over, the images will be defunct lines of Markdown both in your draft and in the published post.
However, there’s a way around that. Turn off ‘Active Markdown Editor’ in your settings. Then copy all the required images into a New Post, and save it as a draft. Go back to your settings and switch back to the Markdown editor, then return to the draft with images. You’ll see this message:
“Click here,” and the image will turn into something like this:
This is healthy Markdown. If you copy that into a post you’re editing with the Markdown editor, that will be an image in your published post!
Inserting images into comments
When using the WYSIWYG editor, you can just copy-paste images into comments. When using Markdown, you’ll need to generate Markdown code for the images as described in the previous section, and then copy-paste that into the comment box.
To add a table into your post, click on this icon in the rich text editor:
Then you’ll see an option to ‘add table’ and select its proportions, up to 10 x 10 cells.
When you click anywhere on your table, a tooltip will appear with options to delete, add, and merge cells.
If you click ‘Cell properties’, you can change the width and height of cells. This changes the width and height of columns and rows appropriately.
Spoiler blocks help you hide text in your Forum post. When an author includes a spoiler block, readers will only see a dark grey box over the “spoilered” content, until they click on the block. (You can see an example here.)
To add a spoiler block, use the Markdown editor, then type “>!” at the beginning of every paragraph that you want to hide. (This works similar to the way block quotes work in Markdown, which is just starting lines with “>”.) (More.)
>! This text would be covered by a spoiler block.
Extra cool things
Publishing a post
When you hit “Publish” at the bottom of the draft of your post (you need to be editing the draft to publish it), your post will generally go on the Frontpage. If you don't want one of your posts to appear on the Frontpage, un-check the box marked "This post may appear on the Frontpage" before you publish. If you want the post to be more private, you might want to reach out to the moderators ahead of time. Note that:
Your first post won’t appear on the Frontpage straight away
Your first post or comment won't show up on the Frontpage immediately. (As an anti-spam measure, one of the Forum's moderators will check the first post from each new user. After that, the user’s posts will go on the Frontpage immediately by default.)
If more than 24 hours pass and you still don't see your post or comment, please contact the moderation team (email@example.com).
If you’re publishing something time-sensitive, you may want to email the address listed above, ideally in advance.
Adding co-authors to a post
(This is only available to accounts with at least 100 karma. If you’d like to add coauthors and don’t have 100 karma, you can reach out to us directly and we’ll help you.)
When you’re editing a post, you’ll see an "options" menu at the bottom. If you open it, it will show you the option of adding one or more co-authors.
Co-authors aren’t equal, and the first author is still a primary author; adding a co-author just adds their name to the top of the post and lists that post on their profile.
Only the primary author will be able to edit a post. If you want to work collaboratively with others on a piece of writing, we suggest keeping it in a shared editor like Google Docs until it's ready to publish. (Similarly, sharing the draft of a post only allows the person you’ve shared the draft with to view the draft, not edit it.)
Note that the karma from the post will now go to all co-authors.
Types of writing on the Forum (not everything is a “post”)
If you hover over your username in the upper right-hand corner, you’ll see something like:
Questions are a way to kick off a discussion or solicit answers to something you’re confused about. If you click on “New Question,” you’ll create a "question post." These have a slightly different format which separates answers from discussion about the post.
(It's totally fine to ask basic questions about EA concepts, even if you think they might have simple answers! The Forum is meant to be a resource for the whole community, including people at any level of experience.)
Questions can be really useful for other people — not just the poster. If you’re unsure about something, chances are, other people are, too. It’s also a good way to collect different resources on a given topic in one place.
Do you have an idea so strange or uncertain that you’re not sure whether to post about it? Do you have something to share, but not the time to write about it in detail?
Shortform posts are built for these cases — they represent “exploratory, draft-stage, rough, and off-the-cuff thoughts.” They let you shove an idea out into the world with minimal fuss. (If you’re still confused, that link has lots of examples.
If you select “New Shortform” rather than “New Post,” you’ll create a Shortform post that will be visible on your personal Shortform page (and the Shortform homepage), but won’t appear on the list of posts at the top of the Forum's homepage.
Cross- and link-posts
If you think readers of the EA Forum should see content from other sites (by you or by someone else), you can cross-post or link-post it.
The difference between crossposting and linkposting is:
- Cross-posts copy the whole body of an external post to the EA Forum
- (and link back to the original post). Here is one example.
- Link-posts share the link, and maybe an excerpt, a summary, and/or a note about why the poster thinks that EA Forum users would be interested. (It’s generally best to at least add a summary of the link you’re sharing.) Here is one example.
If you’re the original author, feel free to crosspost or linkpost at will. If you aren’t, feel free to link-post without checking, but please ask for permission before crossposting an entire article or post. (If the author has communicated that they don’t mind it if others crosspost, that’s also perfectly fine.
You can format posts as cross- or link-posts by selecting the link icon in the post editor (I recommend doing this if you’re not the original author and are sharing one link):
Cross-posting from (or to) LessWrong
When you draft a post on the Forum, you now have the option to automatically crosspost it to LessWrong (you’ll need to be logged in on both sites), and vice versa. While you're editing the post, you should go to "Options" on the bottom, and select "Crosspost to [LessWrong]."
If you've already published the post, you can just hit "edit" on the published version, and find the option described above in the same place. It should work as if you've just posted it on the other site.
Any updates you make in the original post will appear in the crosspost. The comment sections will be distinct, but both will prompt users to see the other.
Comments are an underrated way of interacting with the Forum. You can do a lot by commenting!
Some types of good comments:
- “Thank you for posting this!”
- “Here’s a related resource or article...”
- “I would be excited for this kind of follow-up...”
- “I agree with your overall take, but think you made a minor error here...”
To post a comment, just go to the relevant post, scroll down to the bottom, and add a new comment.
EA Forum Wiki
You can also edit the Forum Wiki. You can see how that works here.
Once something has been published
Topics help to organize posts on the Forum around subject areas and themes that are relevant to the EA community. They also work with the EA Forum Wiki. When a post comes out, users, authors, and moderators can (and are encouraged to!) tag the post with the relevant topics, which then collects the posts on the relevant topic pages and allows users who follow or de-emphasize certain topics to see the content they need.
You can find and add tags at the top of a post, right under the author’s name.
You’ll be able to select any existing tag by clicking on “Add Topic.” You can see a list of all existing topics here. Each has its own page listing all posts which have been tagged with that topic, and some have a longer explanation of the topic or concept.
Which tags to apply? Our main heuristic is that, after a quick read or skim of the post, a reader should not be surprised to see any of the tags on the post. If a post has a section on moral circle expansion (MCE) but the main topic isn’t MCE, it’s fine to add MCE as a tag. But if moral circle expansion is just discussed in a couple of paragraphs buried somewhere in the post, it should probably not be applied to the post as a tag.
If a post has already been tagged with a certain topic, you can also vote on the topic's “relevance” by hovering over the tag and upvoting or downvoting its relevance. For instance, if a post is nearly entirely about COVID, and someone tagged it with the appropriate topic, you might want to increase the weight of the topic. This can change the order of topics on the post. More importantly, though, it will change the default order of posts that are listed on the associated wiki page. That means that if you now go to the wiki page for COVID, the article whose relevance you’ve just voted on will appear higher.
(Similarly, if you’re on a wiki page for a certain topic, you can vote on the relevance of the posts listed on the page to help other users find the most relevant posts for this topic.)
You can also remove a tag from a post entirely if you think it is not actually relevant. You can do that by downvoting the relevance of the topic on a given post enough that it’s at 0 or is negative (you may need to “strong-downvote” by pressing and holding, or contact a moderator).
If you think a topic that should exist is missing, or if you otherwise think that the Wiki should change, you can find instructions for what to do on this page.
Deleting or removing posts
To delete a post, you should:
- Click the three dots under the post title and select "Move to Draft." This will already hide your post from everyone but you and site administrators.
- Once it's a draft, you can find the option to delete your post by clicking on the three dots next to the post on your user profile (where it lists your drafts) or under the title on the saved-draft page.
Putting together sequences of posts
Sequences are collections of posts on a common topic. They can also be a series of posts that are meant to be read in a sequence. (You can create sequences out of posts written by other people if you think they could be or should be read together.)
You can make a sequence by first clicking on the ‘Library’ tab in the main menu, under which you can find all the existing sequences and an option to ‘Create New Sequence’.
You should add a “banner image” (what will show across the top of your sequence when someone clicks on it – choose a large, high-quality image) and a “card image” (which is the thumbnail for your sequence when it is shown among other sequences, as in the above view).
You can then add posts to the sequence. You can see a video of how to do that here. You might add many at once if you are curating existing posts (yours only or from various authors), or one at a time as you write them.
Seeing post metrics or analytics
You can find some post analytics by clicking on the three dots under the post’s title, and selecting “Analytics.”
Here’s a version of what you might see:
Spam and other things we remove
Some content gets removed by moderators or our automatic spam detection software. We’ll also remove things that we think are harmful or otherwise go against our norms.
The current moderators (as of February 2022) are Julia Wise, Edo Arad, Vaidehi Agarwalla, JP Addison, and Lizka Vaintrob. The moderation team uses the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to contact us with questions or feedback.
Moderators can access:
- The IP address a post/comment came from
- The voting history of users
- The identity of voters on any given post/comment
This information will only be used to identify behavior such as "sockpuppet" accounts and mass downvoting. The moderators will not view or use this information for any other purpose.
See below how to report content to moderators.
Finding and engaging with content
Customizing the Frontpage with tags
The Frontpage is sorted by recency and karma score. (If you’d like to sort by something else, you can do so on the All Posts page.) If something was posted recently, it’ll be high up. If something has a high karma score, it will stay high up for longer.
You can customize the Frontpage for yourself to treat posts with a certain tag that you want to follow as if they have higher karma — meaning they will stay visible on forum.effectivealtruism.org for a longer time. You can also penalize some tags, and see less of that kind of post. A step-by-step guide of how to do this is here. In brief, go to the Frontpage, find the tags next to the "Frontpage Posts" header, search for the tags you're interested in (or want to filter out), and select "hidden," "reduced," subscribed," or "other" as appropriate.
Why might a post not be on the Frontpage?
If a post isn’t appearing on the Frontpage, it’s probably because one of the following things happened:
- The author asked moderators not to feature it on the front page.
- Moderators felt that the post was a better fit for the "personal blog" category. (You can still see those posts by changing the "personal blog" filter on the frontpage — see below.)
- The post has already drifted down, either because it didn’t get many upvotes, because many posts have been published since then, or because it has a tag that you are penalizing as described above.
- It's the author's first post, and the moderators haven't yet checked that it's not spam or irrelevant.
Posts that focus on the EA community itself are given a "community" tag. By default, these posts will have a weighting of "-25" on the Forum's front page. (See more.) You can change how these posts are displayed by customizing your Frontpage.
“Personal blog” posts
Posts that are about topics outside of effective altruism, or aren't clearly related to doing good effectively, will be placed in the "personal blog" category.
These posts will still be visible in "Recent Discussion", on the "All Posts" page, and on your profile, but they will be hidden by default in the "Frontpage Posts" section. (Users can change their filters to view "personal blog" posts in that section.)
You can also put your own post into "Personal blog" by un-checking the box that appears in the lower left-hand corner of the Draft Post page — although please note that some users will have elected to show "Personal blog" posts on their Frontpage:
If you want to, you can opt in to seeing "Personal blog" posts on the Frontpage. Find the "Show Personal Blogposts" button by the Frontpage Posts header, and click it.
Subscribing to mailing lists and newsletters
We run two main mailing lists:
- The Forum Digest comes out about once a week and shares important announcements and some of our favorite posts of that week.
- The EA Newsletter comes out about once a month and shares content, announcements, and resources we think will be useful and interesting to the wide EA community.
You can also find more EA newsletters at the Newsletter tag.
Other views of posts on the Forum
Access every post in the Forum's history, with lots of ways to filter and sort.
You can use the EA Forum Wiki to explore some key topics in effective altruism.
Collections of some of our favorite content
The “Library” page on the Forum displays some sequences and core readings
The EA Forum Prize is not currently happening, but it was awarded to posts and comments that exemplify the kind of content we most want to see on the Forum. If you want to see some of the Forum’s best content, this is a good place to start!
You can also see "Recommended" posts here.
If you come across a post you might come back to, you can bookmark it. Find the three dots under the post’s title, and click them, then select “Bookmark.” You can find all the posts you’ve bookmarked at: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/bookmarks
Looking at your past upvotes
You can find your past upvotes (and strong upvotes) from 2022 by going to https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/votesByYear/2022. To change the year, change the year at the end of the url.
Love someone's work? Click their username and you'll see the option to "subscribe to posts." You'll then get a notification when this user posts.
You can also turn on notifications for comments on a given post. Click on the three dots under the post title, and you’ll be able to “Subscribe to comments.”
You can get a filtered view of only posts that have passed a certain amount of karma. In the sidebar, you'll see the "Subscribe (RSS)" option.
If you click it, you should get a pop up that looks like this:
Which generates an RSS link like https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/feed.xml?view=frontpage-rss&karmaThreshold=30 , which would display posts over 30 karma.
Notice that by changing the number at the end, you can customize that karma threshold.
Other things you can do on the Forum
Events, groups, and community spaces
We have an updated Events page, where you can find and filter EA events by location, type (workshops, talks, reading groups, etc), online/in-person. You can also add events to your calendar (Google, Yahoo, Apple, etc) and set custom notifications.
Our Community page holds a database of EA groups, both local and online-only. You can also find more information about how to start a group, add an existing group that’s missing from the list, or edit information about a group that’s listed.
To add an event
You can hover over your username in the top right corner of the screen and select "create event." Alternatively, you can duplicate events that you created or which were created by a group you organize (if you're officially listed as an organizer of that group on the Forum).
To be added as a group organizer or add a new group that's not listed yet
You should fill out this form (or ask one of the group's other organizers to add you as an organizer). This will allow you to change the information about the group and create new events hosted by the group.
This will also give you the option of displaying that you organize this group in your public profile.
Query information via GraphQL
You can also find behind-the-scenes information and look at data about the Forum by running a query on GraphQL. You can see a tutorial here.
Report something to the moderators
If you see something that you think breaks the Forum's norms or is otherwise inappropriate for the site, you can report it by clicking the three dots next to the post or comment and selecting “Report.”
This will open a window that prompts you to enter a note that will be sent directly to the moderators, who will review the content and may remove it.
It’s okay to report something, even if you aren’t sure it broke any rules! It’s better for the moderators to know about it so that we can make a decision.
If someone sends you a private message that makes you uncomfortable, contact:
- The moderation team at email@example.com, for messages you don’t mind sharing with a group of people — for example, if someone says something rude or sends you spam. You might want to include a screenshot.
- Our contact person (currently Julia Wise), for sensitive or interpersonal problems — for example, if someone makes a threat against you, or seems to be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Give feedback, suggest features, or report bugs
To report a bug, contact us through Intercom (the chat window in the corner of your screen) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To suggest a feature, write a comment on the Feature Suggestion Thread. We see every comment someone posts, and we’ll reply if the feature gets implemented.
If you think we should add something to this post, please also let us know! You can contact us as described above, or comment on the post.
Things you might find in this post: How to post, how to use or insert certain features, like footnotes, images, tables, charts, etc. What does certain Forum terminology mean, what the point of different features is, what's the difference between posts and other types of writing, etc.
Thanks to the team at LessWrong for creating the framework we use for the Forum, and for continuing to add new functionality.
Reasoning: Applying the tag will list the post on the relevant topic page (MCE, in this case). Someone exploring posts on MCE shouldn’t see a post that happens to discuss MCE in a paragraph — tagging posts like this makes the lists of posts on topic pages less useful.