What's Changing With the New Forum?

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Effective Altruism ForumResearch summary
Frontpage

This post is a guide to how the new Forum differs from the original.

Some of these topics -- for example, the new karma system and moderation standards -- are discussed in more detail in the Forum’s initial announcement post. The announcement is a few months old, so this guide adds up-to-date information on certain topics.

We also have a more general guide to the new Forum, which covers discussion norms and post creation. Some of the guide’s material is repeated in this post.

If you have questions or feedback about the forum, use the blue speech bubble in the lower-right-hand corner of the screen to get in touch!

Categories

Posts on the new Forum are split into two categories:

Frontpage posts are timeless content covering the ideas of effective altruism. They'll usually be posts that are useful or interesting to a wide range of readers, but they can also discuss more advanced ideas.

Community posts include discussion of particular issues within the community, or updates from organizations. This content may not have ongoing relevance, but is useful for increasing coordination in the community in the short term, and discussing important community matters.

We’ve made this a separate category so that new users can learn about the ideas before they engage with the community, and so that people can select which types of content they want to engage with.

If your post is about applying EA methodology and perspectives to the world, it will be moved to Frontpage. It will go to Community if it is focused on the EA community. Keep in mind which section you’re writing for with each post.

If a post seems to fit both sections, it will be moved to Community by default, so that users around the world can discuss ideas on Frontpage without having to keep up-to-date on community issues.

You can view either category on its own page, or use the “All Posts” view to see everything. We may add more categories later, but these are the only active ones.

Norms

We’ve been talking with users about their experience engaging with the Forum, and have some suggestions for altered norms that will resolve some of the issues they raised.

What sort of posts do we encourage?

  • We encourage summaries and explanations, and see them as the foundation of intellectual progress. Debate is important, but high-quality debate is difficult unless each side’s point of view has been clearly explained, with sources that support their claims.
  • We encourage original research. We hope that students, academics, and independent researchers will post their work on the Forum, even if it’s incomplete or unpublished.
  • We encourage unpolished and shorter-form posts. We’d rather hear an idea that’s presented imperfectly than not hear it at all. If you're struggling to polish an idea, or a piece of writing, others in the community may be able to help -- but only if you share it! Our karma system pushes popular posts to the top of the page, so you don't have to worry that your post will “crowd out” other content.
  • We encourage linkposts. You can contribute a lot to the Forum by sharing interesting material, whether or not you wrote it yourself. By sharing to the Forum, you make it easier for others to find the idea, and create a space to discuss it.

Discussion norms

In the past, we’ve received feedback from some users who found posting on the Forum to be intimidating. Posts sometimes got a lot of criticism without many positive suggestions, which led to brief and unproductive discussion.

We want users to feel comfortable and secure about posting new content. To this end, we encourage the use of supportive skepticism. It’s fine to criticize an idea, but it’s even better to support its strongest parts, do your best to patch the holes in it, and be kind when handing it back to its owner. The goal of the Forum isn’t to defeat bad ideas; it’s to find good ideas, even when they appear in the context of a flawed argument.

We also accept anonymity. Many users publish under their real names, but we’d rather you publish under a pseudonym than not publish at all.

Moderation

On the old EA Forum, moderators mostly focused on removing spam and offensive posts. We don’t want to have much stronger moderation, but we do want to be a little more active, mostly aiming to encourage the best users and maintain the norms we’ve set out above.

We will do this according to our moderation guidelines. Mostly, this will simply involve giving positive feedback to contributors, and we expect to use moderation powers (e.g. deleting comments) very rarely.

Features

Reading and Commenting

  • When you view a list of posts, those you haven’t read (or that have new comments) are highlighted in blue.
  • When you view a list of posts, you’ll only see titles by default, but you can preview the content by mousing over a title and clicking “show highlight”.
  • You can click a user’s name to be taken to their profile; from there, you can see their past posts and comments, message them, and (new feature!) subscribe to their content (you’ll get a notification whenever they post).
  • You can turn your vote into a “strong vote”, which adds or subtracts more karma, by holding the vote button for an extra moment. Your upvotes and downvotes gain karma as you accumulate karma; see this post for detailed numbers, and this post for suggestions on when to use strong votes.

Writing

  • The default post editor is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), so posts will look the same on the Forum as they do in your editor.
  • You can use Ctrl-4 (Cmd-4 for Macs) to add LaTeX to a post; this is especially useful for formatting equations. We like this guide to writing math in LaTeX.
  • You can request automatic cross-posting from your personal blog to the EA Forum, as long as you write about EA-relevant topics. Please fill in this form if you would like us to do this for you.

Prizes

CEA will fund monthly prizes for the best posts published on the EA Forum. (We will do this for 3 months, and will consider further funding based on results.)

The prize amounts are as follows:

  • First: $999
  • Second: $500
  • Third: $200

The first contest covers any posts made in November.

The winning posts will be determined by a vote of the moderators (Max Dalton, Howie Lempel, Denise Melchin, and Julia Wise) and the current top three Forum users (Peter Hurford, Joey Savoie, and Rob Wiblin).

The moderation team uses the email address forum@effectivealtruism.org; feel free to contact them with questions or feedback.

15 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:41 AM
New Comment
Posts on the new Forum are split into two categories:
Frontpage posts are timeless content covering the ideas of effective altruism. They should be useful or interesting even to readers who only know the basic concepts of EA and aren’t very active within the community.

I'm a little confused about this description. I feel like intellectual progress often requires presupposition of fairly advanced ideas which build on each other, and which are therefore inaccessible to "readers who only know the basic concepts". Suppose that I wrote a post outlining views on AI safety aimed at people who already know the basics of machine learning, or a post discussing a particular counter-argument to an unusual philosophical position. Would those not qualify as frontpage posts? If not, where would they go? And where do personal blogs fit into this taxonomy?

Hi Richard, I think you're right that "basic concepts" is incorrect: I agree that it's important to discuss advanced ideas which build off each other. We'd want both of the posts you mention to be frontpage posts. I'll suggest an edit to Aaron.

By default, we're moving all content to either Frontpage or Community, since we're trying to have a slightly less active moderation policy than LessWrong. We might revisit this at some point. You can still click on a user's name to see their personal feed of posts.

Thanks for this feedback, Richard! I've edited the post to better define the Frontpage category.

Consider changing the visual format a bit to better distinguish this forum from LW. They are almost indistinguishable right now, especially once you scroll down just a bit and the logo disappears.

Thanks for the feedback, Jess! I'll make sure our tech team sees it.

It seems that now it is possible to upvote my own posts anonymously. The eternal question naturally rises: should I? In theory I think my post is useful, otherwise I wouldn't have posted it, but at the same time if I upvote it, it feels like giving a high-five to myself. On a more serious note: is this a bug or a feature?

Emanuele,

Do you mean that you're able to vote on posts when you aren't logged in? If so, that's a bug, though I haven't been able to replicate it myself.

If you mean that you can vote on your own posts from a different account you created, that's not permitted on the Forum:

It’s fine to make a pseudonymous account in order to express views you wish to keep anonymous. It’s not acceptable to vote multiple times on the same material, to use multiple accounts to express the same opinion multiple times, or to impersonate other people.

No, I mean that you can upvote your own posts with the same account you used to post them. You can even upvote your own comments with the same account you used to comment.

Edit: it seems like that now there is a pre-casted vote when you post something, but you can still turn it in a strong vote.

That's right, this is intended as a feature. All comments and posts start with a weak upvote (we assume you think the thing is good, or you wouldn't have posted it). You can strong upvote your content, which is designed as a way for you to signal-boost contributions that you think are unusually valuable. Obviously, we don't want people to be strong-upvoting all their content, and we'll keep an eye on that happening.

The new Lesswrong also has Greaterwrong, allowing people to use the old style interface if they find that easier. Is there any way to do the same for the new EA forum?

Is it possible to cross-post on LessWrong? I know the alignment forum seems to have this.

You can do link posts, but the way the alignment forum does it relies on them sharing the same database.

It seems plausible that at some point we want to build one-click functionality to crosspost between the two forums, but since they will probably have slightly different moderation guidelines, standards and focus-topics, we will probably always keep comments separate (which is not the case for the alignment forum).

Moderation notice: Stickied in Community to give context for people familiar with the old Forum.