A forum that only shows animal-welfare-related EA forum posts. The relationship between this Effective Animal Advocacy (EAA) forum and the EA forum could be similar to the relationship between the AI Alignment Forum and LessWrong. I don’t fully understand what that relationship is, but it seems that if you post or comment on the AI alignment, the post appears on LessWrong too. We could kick-start the EAA forum by showing EA forum posts with certain tags (e.g. Farmed animal welfare) in this new forum. An ability to post only on the EAA forum without posting on the EA forum would also be nice. I talked about this with a bunch of EAA researchers yesterday and all seem to agree that this would be a good idea.
What could it improve:
TL; DR: Very few animal activists comment and post in the EA forum. I think this is because they don’t feel like the EA forum is their community, and most of the content here is irrelevant to them. A forum only for animal activists might get more engagement from people who do direct work on animal issues. Without such people participating in our discussions on how to solve animal issues, we are less likely to come up with viable solutions.
Target audiences of EAA posts on EA forum include:
- EAA funders,
- Employees at animal charities (especially decision-makers),
- People who want to work in animal advocacy,
- EAA researchers,
- Some people who work on animal-related policy,
- Other animal activists and volunteers.
However, most of the comments and and posts on the EAA posts on the EA forum seem to be from very few highly engaged people who are part of both EA and animal advocacy movements. Most of these people in the categories above (especially employees at animal charities) are not engaged with other parts of the EA movement. In a way, they don’t have much reason to do that because they already chose the issue they want to focus on, and the other issues are just distractions.
The way I imagine it, if someone sends them an EA forum post that’s relevant, they will read it. But if they then go to the EA forum frontpage or something, they see a bunch of posts that are mostly irrelevant for them. I set up my tag filters to almost maximally filter for animal-welfare related posts and still in the frontpage I didn’t see a single animal-relevant post just now until I pressed “Read more”.
Sure, they can press on a tag, but those are mostly old posts. They might be irrelevant now and if they comment on such a post, barely anyone will notice so there isn’t much incentive to do so. Hence, they soon close the EA forum. They probably don’t regularly check the EA forum to see what is new here.
Also, I imagine it might feel scary for animal advocates who are not engaged with other parts of EA to comment and post in the EA forum because they don’t understand what kind of people will read it, how those people think, what kinds of posts and comments they want to see, and what are the social norms in the EA community. Because EA is not their community. Animal advocacy is their community. Most of these people have colleagues and friends who are animal advocates. Hence they understand what kind of knowledge and ideas are relevant and valued in these circles. Hence, they also have much better intuitions about what kinds of posts and comments would be useful to post, and would be well-received, which I think would make them more likely to post.
EAA really needs new ideas. We should try more strategies and see which of them work. My impression is that good ideas is a bottleneck, as there would be probably be enough funding and talent to pursue those ideas. If we had a forum that includes both EA researchers and people who are directly working on solving problems, I think it would result in more fruitful cross-pollination of ideas. This especially applies to currently neglected regions like most of Asia. We hardly get any engagement from animal activists in those regions. Hence, it’s difficult for EAA researchers like me to come up with ideas for those regions as I hardly know what problems people face there. And the ideas from people on the ground might benefit from more input from EAA researchers and other animal advocates. I think that in animal advocacy we lack a good place to discuss novel ideas.
I imagine that the reason why EA forum is not split into sub-forums for each cause area is because we want cross-pollination between different cause areas, and also ideas for new causes. But in this case I think that there is not much cross-pollination happening between animal activists and others because very few people from animal advocacy engage in the EA forum. And the few who do engage could continue to do so if it would be done in the way I suggested.
Let me know if you think that this is a good or a bad idea. If people generally think it's good, maybe someone should apply to EA animal welfare fund to hire a programmer for this or something like that.
Opinions are my own and do not necessarily express the views or opinions of my employer. I originally wrote this in the EA Forum feature suggestion thread but David Nash suggested that it should be a post so I posted it.