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Update 5 Mar 2023: starting an Airtable HERE as a prototype (WIP) to make things more concrete and motivate discussion. 

Note: I'm posting this medium-baked, hope to improve. [1]

  • Has anyone started a list of 'small quick win' EA projects in tech, data, operations, research, etc.? 

I am intentionally not yet drafting/sharing an MVP Airtable in this post because, if something like this already exists or is imminently being planned (e.g., by the EA Forum), I don’t want to add to the information clutter. I will wait a few days for the response to this post and then 

  • share the link to the best tool or initiative here,
  • if nothing exists, share something here (as well as maybe in a ‘new link post’ to boost the signal.) Feel free to share specific suggestions in the comments now, but better to wait or return to share them in the Airtable or link I’ll share soon.


The idea

Has anyone started a list of 'small quick win' EA projects in tech, data, operations, research, etc.? If not, I suggest we start one, I could initiate an Airtable. And maybe we add bounties or 'apply and get a small amount of direct funding' to these?[2]


 I'm thinking

  • Projects 1+ people have high confidence that it has substantial value (or many people suspect it has value)
  • Could be done in a short amount of time (less than 1 week) by a trained professional,
  • Or perhaps across a semester (less than five months) as a student project
  • Tangible and attributable ... someone could get credit/kudos/karma for doing it, and put on their CV
  • Can be done by one person (or a small group) without much supervision, allowing the do-er to get reputation and a sense of ownership

 

Disambiguation: This is somewhat distinct from the maintained database of specific, ~guided, EA-aligned research projects I suggested for the Effective Thesis Project.

 

'Project managing' these unmanaged projects

Looking at past and ongoing examples (see below), I suspect what limited these in the past was ... i. someone puts up a list. ii. lots of people chime in, iii. people look at it and say 'those seem interesting' ... and no one revisits the list. Some people may actually pursue some of these projects but the list doesn't get updated, so people can't give feedback, maybe people lose motivation, or maybe people duplicate work.

I'm not sure how to fix this, precisely, but I suspect that this 'actionable list' needs to have some project management, tracking, or feedback tied to it. There are systems and tools for this. Something like:

  • People who make suggestions sign up as 'manager/advisor/reporter' (I forget the project management term, I'll call it 'Principal') or nominate someone, or ask for nominations
  • People can sign up to say "I want to do this, here's my case"
  • The Principal can endorse one or more people to do this, the "Do-er" and this gets noted in the database/proj-man. They agree on a general path and timeline, and when the Do-er will report back
  • The Do-er updates on the progress

 

What I've seen/what exists

EA Forum tags

  • I created the EA Forum tag Data and tech projects -- shall we use it?
  • Other tags: Task Y is rarely used, and seems to be focusing on 'big project themes'. Student projects tag ... tends to be used for broad research themes rather than specific deliverables

 

Maybe close to this

EA tech initiatives, 'ideas' sheet comes close, and might be mergeable with this, but it seems sparsely populated and maybe not monitored/maintained?.

Annotated List of Project Ideas & Volunteering Resources: A list of lists from the Local Career Advice Network. Seems like a useful starting point, but, in all this content, it's hard to find standalone quick-win projects like the ones I mention above. Lots of 'themes' and areas one could pursue, as well as projects other people are doing. Very little gets project management or any opportunity to follow up, and there are so many lists and lists of lists that it is overwhelming (and I don't think these are reconciled with one another).

EA Summit project ideas notion: These are mainly very big ideas. Not specific; mainly brainstorming. No tools for 'signup' or project management are given (that I could find). The list seems undated, so I don't know how current it is.

 

Big research/ project themes

Central directory for open research questions

Concrete Project lists -- big projects, not so much specifics

 

Some specific ideas (for real, and as examples)

As examples, and for their own value, I add some projects of the sort I mean here. I have not set up any 'project management' system for these, but maybe if this post generates such an initiative, or locates an existing database and proj-man system, I'll add them there. Meanwhile, feel free to comment or DM me if you want to pursue these specific projects.

Slack and Discord consolidation

Idea: I suggested to the organizers of the EA forum that there could be a “Slack and Discord czar” who could set up a database of groups and channels and suggest consolidations and closures.

Note: this would seem to be a sub-component of  "EA could use better internal communications infrastructure'

The project: this would start with a public survey and data synthesis of what's out there, and some concrete proposals for consolidation.

Estimated time commitment: (Very rough guess) 20-40 hours for first report

Beneficiaries: General EA and EA organizations

Desirable skills for Do-er: Some data management/data science ability, understanding of Slack and Discord. To get buy-in and make this implemented: good communication and leadership skills and connections.

Principal: ?? (I David Reinstein could do so but only very light-touch)


Put 'EA Houses' on a map

Mapping the EA houses, as was started here by Alex Long, but in a way that automatically updates.

Beneficiaries: Nonlinear, General EA participants
 

'Athletes earning potential' for HIA

Link to earlier comment in context for this

Data-driven Fermi/Monte-Carlo estimates of The expected value and distribution of lifetime income of an athlete by sport, at each point in their career and rating

I expect/recall there is already some work on this that might be applicable ... also having to do with the literature on 'superstars'?

Simple (or as sophisticated as desired). This could naturally be a part of an undergraduate or Msc dissertation or one-term project. It could also connect to a PhD thesis. Will demonstrate very marketable skills for research and business careers.

Desirable skills/background: Quantitative modeling -- aptitude, interest, and/or coursework (econometrics, business, statistics.data science, etc. ) Interest and background knowledge of sports/athletics.

Estimated time commitment: Minimum of 20 hours, but more time will do a lot more. I guess 80 hours is a pretty good target. Ideally over ~4 months to 1 year.

Beneficiaries: This may inform HIA decision-making in terms of their general approach, their value calculations, as well as which athletes to focus on.

Principal: Someone at HIA?

 

'Cost to save a life' interactive calculator/promotion

 

 

 


 

  1. ^

    As I learn more and get your suggestions, I'll incorporate them in. This post also straddles the margin of 'post' and 'question'. 

  2. ^

    Why funding even if they have reputation rewards? As a credible signal of value, to give people another motivation to carry it through, and perhaps to buy time for the do-er.

  3. ^

    But consulting the community will often be helpful ↩︎

Comments4
Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:05 AM

I literally had the same thought about four days ago, followed by "I bet someone already tried this." I'm pleased to learn someone did. Happy to volunteer as a project manager and I'll probably want to do one or more of these myself, they look like good learning experiences. 

The main challenge seems to be spreading the word, convincing lots of groups to use the same tool (and integrating any existing tools). 

This is a great idea David and could be super impactful. I especially like the organisation of regular channel consolidation. Social and internet communities I think suffer a lot from specialisation entropy and a system to reverse this is great hygiene. I would also like a 'bounty board's for small projects with budgets for 'guns for hire' RA s/PAs that would make some surge tasks move from the unfeasible to feasible catatories for orgs.

Thanks. If this gets going we might integrate it with a bounty board.

Update 5 Mar 2023: starting an Airtable https://airtable.com/shrNps2rJwQxR0PVS as a prototype (WIP) to make things more concrete and motivate discussion.

A colleague suggested making connections with https://www.super-linear.org/