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Upvoting Is an Act of Community Building

It probably helps people feel welcome to the community.

 

For myself:

I've been mostly a lurker around international EA activities for about 5 years, feeling that all the orgs have some wow factor that I could never touch. I think this mostly changed because (A) I met some people in EAG (they were actually real people, which really surprised my brain), and (B) I got brave and posted something, and it got 70+ upvotes pretty quickly.

I know, this is stupid, I'm supposed to pretend not to care about upvotes, whatever. Looking back, I think this might have been pivotal for past-Yonatan's sense of being accepted into a community, of having someone in the important EA community care at all for.. I don't know, my attempts at helping? about me? And it lead me to, well, behave differently.

Looking at myself now, I am posting and commenting a lot, I have two more drafts almost ready to go (one for CEA! They asked me for something! Unimaginable if you'd ask me 6 months ago. I tried acting cool and said I'd be happy to help, if you're curious. Hey Ben if you're reading this! Ok I'm off topic).

Anyway if you're reading my shortform, you now know my "dark secret" of caring a ton about upvotes, and I hope that my "coming out" will remind you that it's probably true for many others too.

For myself, I try, when I remember, to upvote stuff a lot, only if I actually like it of course, but I try to be somewhat lighter on the trigger, especially with community members who are not yet so involved

Working out using VR really works

1. The amount I work out is not constrained by willpower anymore, it is constrained by how much my body can handle and how much free time I have
2. The best workout game I found is "thrill of the fight", I have some tips before you try it. Also, not everyone will like it
3. Trying a game for ~10 minutes isn't enough to "get it". Most games in VR aren't polished enough, don't have a good tutorial, it will take more time to decide if you like them
4. I wish someone would have told me this sooner
5. Still unclear: Can I build muscles using VR? So far seems promising, but I'm less certain about this part
6. I only have it for 2 weeks, so maybe you'll think I'm going to grow out of it, but I don't think so myself. It's literally playing games

AMA

Update: Still addicted. 

Yesterday I was feeling a bit bad (headache) but still tried to play as much as I can.

Avoid this failure mode:

I recommend not downloading games that are not workouts. I downloaded such a game and got addicted to it instead, spent a long time on it (it didn't make me tired, so I could play for a long time), and I didn't get the health benefits from it.

(Why doesn't anyone give this warning?)

So I did end up getting a Quest 2 based on this advice. 

The game, “Thrill of the Fight”, as you recommended, is exactly everything you say! It is fantastic  for fitness and many other VR games seem promising.

Not exactly scientific, but my sense is that this is a general sentiment (maybe there’s some subgroup that doesn't benefit and this is hard to see).

It’s not obvious you could get such fitness benefits from VR.  

I think the information here is an incredible signal to noise, and really generous and transparent for you to share it.

Off topic, but Ian Fitz, the dev who built "Thrill of the Fight" seems like a great guy. 

He is focused on a great product and seems to embody a lot of virtues (transparency, technical detail, being present in their community).

Here’s some tidbits from him:

At least in my limited experience, this is an huge amount of engagement and attention to detail. 

Can you give a little more information on the games/apps you found problematic?

As you know, some games such as "Thrill of the Fight" are great exercise. Other games in this "healthy" class might include "Beat Saber" or "Pistol Whip". These might provide great exercise too, but I'm unsure. Was the above one of the problematic games, or was it something else? 

 

Also, have you tried "Supernatural" or other fitness apps?

Beat Saber & Pistol Whip:

See here

FitXR

This one is unusual: It's price is a subscription ($10/month, w a free trial).

I like this because it gives the developers a strong incentive to keep me addicted for long.

I played it a few times (the FitXR boxing mode specifically) and I like it.

Intensity:

I'd rate the workout as "medium to hard" and I wouldn't be surprised if it will become "as hard as I can take"

Problematic games

These were not fitness games, just some other non-fitness game that got me addicted. I assume that telling you its name would be a small info hazard because you'll be curious to try it, but if you message me, I'll give you the name

Supernatural

Didn't try it

Interesting! How often and for how many hours per week do you work out now in VR (and how many hrs not in VR per week now)? And how often and for how many hours did you work out per week before?

Trying to answer your question: I estimate I do 30-60 minutes per day in VR, plus about 5 minutes without VR (doing TRX or pullups once in a while)

Before VR: There is a ton of variance. At good weeks I'd do 2-3 rollerblade trips per week (each is several hours) plus ~10 minutes per day of something like pullups (which is also something I can say more about) [I haven't been in a "good week" for at least 3 months]


This questions seems a bit "wrong"  because:

  1. The intensity of the workout can be extremely high
    1. 2-3 minutes in this specific VR game were enough to get my brother extremely exhausted for about half a day
    2. My activity tracker (Oura ring [note it is optimized for sleep tracking, not workout tracking]) rates many VR sessions as "exceeds the hight of our chart", it is literally off the charts . Note this is higher than the hardest parts of rollerblade trips that I do with groups that are better than me and really like going up hills, followed by going up even more hills
    3. My subjective experience matches this. I recognize when my body goes into extremely high pulse levels, and I can say more about sore muscles and so on
      1. I am already able to do 3-5 rounds of this crazy game (3 minutes each), which would be unimaginable a few weeks ago
      2. This means (A) I'm getting more fit, but also (B) the workouts are really short. I can currently tire myself out completely in about 15 minutes, which makes asking about "how much time I spend working out" like the wrong metric, I think
    4. [Note you don't have to play this crazy game, or you can play it more calmly, if all of this sounds too extreme. But to me it is exciting]
  2. The only reason I'm not working out right now is in order to be productive. I literally need willpower in order to not-work-out, this is crazy. I'm saying this in case you're trying to figure out if I'm ABLE to get enough sports out of VR

Thanks for the info! Yeah intensities of workouts matter too. 

The amount I work out is not constrained by willpower anymore...I literally need willpower in order to not-work-out, this is crazy.

The best workout game I found is "thrill of the fight"

This is really compelling.

I'm pretty sold, more than from any product ad I can think of! (also thinking $FB might be undervalued?)

 

Can you elaborate a bit more (in a few sentences) on the setup, e.g:

  • What headset or specific electronic gear do you use or recommend?
  • How much computing power is needed?
  • What physical space or equipment do you need (can you do it in an empty room or do you need a treadmill or something)? 

My setup is "oculus quest 2" (amazon link) (I have the 128GB version though it doesn't seem like an important decision) with only the gear that comes out of the box, no need to even connect it to a computer.

I think I might get some extra items like a fancy head strap, but for now I'm using the default one and I'm pretty happy with it.

physical space: You need a room with space.

How much space: The game that requires most space that I saw so far is "thrill of the fight" which strongly recommends at least 1.5*2 meters (and I'd add a bit more in all directions to make sure you're not too close to punching a wall by mistake).

 

Treadmill or something: I don't use anything like that, but also remember that there is an element of personal fit here, some people like treadmills, I don't.

 

I'd like to add a few more things:

  • If I were you, I'd consider this "a promising direction to explore" and not "problem solved", because
    • I only have this for 2 weeks, I'm not an "expert". (But I'd hope that my friends would recommend this to me without waiting to be "experts", so here I am)
    • Lots of VR games are not polished, you might have to look for some that you like
      • This is an important mindset to keep in mind. As I like to say, "keep your expectations low and you'll be positively surprised"
  • Does boxing in VR ("thrill of the fight") sound like something you could potentially enjoy? This game is an outlier in how much of a good workout it is, as far as I can tell.
  • You could also try playing at a friend's place for a few hours before buying (or if none have it, then you'll find yourself showing it to them. :) )
  • You'll have to spend some more money on games. Each game costs about $8 to $40
  • For reviews, my friend recommends: https://uploadvr.com/
  • A Telegram bot to tell you when game prices drop: https://t.me/questStoreWatch
    • I recommend buying a few games at full price of course

I'm pretty happy this is useful to someone, feel free to ask things. :)

Thanks!  This is really informative.

5. Still unclear: Can I build muscles using VR? So far seems promising, but I'm less certain about this part

Stronger By Science is my go-to for the technical & academic questions on muscle-building. I think they would probably say no to building muscles with VR. They would still think working out using VR is a good idea though, if: 1) it helped you build an exercise habit; 2) you develop proficiency with specific movements ; and, 3) you become more body aware--all without getting injured. This is always a huge problem in the gym, especially for new people--there's a lot of learning the hard way and the resulting injuries set people back sometimes months or years. 

Here's their summary on strength-training:
https://www.strongerbyscience.com/complete-strength-training-guide/

Thank you very much! Even just having a go-to for this topic is helpful for me

2. The best workout game I found is "thrill of the fight", I have some tips before you try it. Also, not everyone will like it

What are your tips?

Tips for Thrill Of The Fight

Safety

  1. Configure the game (the "guardian") to keep some space from things like walls, so you won't punch them by accident
  2. Don't straighten your elbow completely when you punch (keep it a bit bent), otherwise you might damage it in real life
    1. For the same reason, don't do strange bad things with your posture, such as bending your spine sideways
    2. Generally bad pain is bad, you know.
    3. I can say more about this if it would help

End your first round early, maybe

Consider doing the first round for only 20 seconds or so to avoid becoming overly exhausted without noticing (this has happened to one person I saw).

How to stop?

  • You can just take your headset off. If you're like me, you're totally going to forget this, but you can.
  • You can also "hug" your opponent for ~5 seconds to end the fight.

Tips that would appear in a Tutorial, if it would exist, I think

Consider skipping this if you want to investigate the game's mechanics completely by yourself, hpmor style, but here goes:

  • I'd start by fighting the "dummy". You can see your stats on the right of the dummy, including how much damage your last punch did. Then go to "fight"
  • The game cares a lot about how strong you punch
    • Many punches you do will be too weak and do 0 damage
    • To see how much damage you did, check the color the punch when it hits (you'll see)
      • blue = zero damage
      • yellow = nice damage
      • red = a ton of damage
  • You can doge, including by ducking (great workout if you ask me)
  • You can block. If your opponent's punch hits your glove before it hits you, it will do zero damage to you
  • Professional boxers on Youtube say that this game is reasonably realistic (even if not perfect), I'd take that as a prior for most uncertainties that I have (mainly around what technique to use)
  • Consider starting at "easy"

There are even more tips in Youtube tutorials, but I would personally prefer to only be told about the ones I wrote here before I started playing

Is the game scary?

My brain was all like "omg this person is coming to hit us! nooo!!"

I fixed this by doing one round where I let the opponent hit me as much as he wanted, and my brain was indeed surprised that nothing bad happened in real life, but then it let me play

Other recommendations for games for workouts

Beat Saber

This is the most polished everyone-likes-it game as far as I can tell.

The harder difficulties are not only cognitively harder, they are also better workouts.

I recommend starting from the tutorial (and if you show the game to anyone: Don't explain it to them, just show them the Tutorial)

Intensity: I rate it as "medium workout"

Pistol Whip

Similar to Beat Saber, but with guns (and less overall polished).

As most games, it doesn't have a reasonably good tutorial (though I'd do what it has (nobody understands the "armor", don't worry)), and if a friend would start playing it, I'd give them a few pointers. Tell me if you want those

Intensity: I rate it as "medium workout"

See external recommendations

Like this one:

https://uploadvr.com/best-quest-2-fitness-exercise-apps/

I haven't tried almost any of them

Working at arxiv.org - what do you think?

A leading career option for me is joining them, and among other things rebuilding their tech (which is originally from 1991).

Thoughts? (consider forwarding this question to people involved in meta-science, that would help me!)

 

I specifically think:

  1. My professional interests and skillset are very well fitted for this kind of thing.
  2. I have some vision for improving arxiv, for example "let people tag an article as your-code-doesn't-run" (and upvote existing tags). I hope to disincentivize people from publishing nonsense (knowing that others will see whatever tag becomes most upvoted on their article).
    1. The dream would be to create a mature karma system like stackoverflow, where people could get reputation by things that help the community, and not only from publishing. Of course this is a very complicated thing to do, but arxiv are in a perfect position to do it.
  3. I'm not an academic, maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about
  4. Having EA run arxiv sounds potentially useful, maybe?
  5. Is advancing science bad because it will help get AGI sooner?

 

[#meta-science]

Software for Ukraine

We just set up a tiny production system that helps coordinate busses for refugees from Ukraine using Whatsapp, with a UI in Google Sheets.

We built it on Tuesday, and already on Wednesday it was used to coordinate several busses.

:)

At least one person (from the overqualified team I worked with) is a person who'd probably pick up an EA software project if they'd know which one.

This is one of the reasons I asked people to pitch ideas to EA CTOs (a post that I wish got a lot more attention)

EAG(x) tips

Epistemic status: I've been to 2 EAGs, both were pretty life changing, and I think my preparation was a big factor in this.

My tips:

Have some kind of vision

Take ~5 minutes to try to imagine positive (maybe impossible) outcomes. Consider brainstorming with someone. 

For example "org X hires me" or "I find a co-founder" or "I get funded" (these sound ambitious to me, but pick whatever's ambitious to you).

Bad visions in my opinion: "meet people", "make friends", "talk to interesting people". Be more specific, for example, if you'd meet your new best friend at EAG, what exactly would you do together? What exactly would you talk about? Better would be "Looking for someone to co-work in VR 3 times a week", if that's what friendship means to you.

Is anyone having trouble with the vision section? Let me know, I'll try to help

Swapcard #1 most important part

"how can I help people" + "how can people help me".

Be specific.

"I want to hire senior backend developers" is specific.

"I want to meet people" is pretty bad.

This is where your vision goes.

If you write your wish here, someone might make it come true! (aka Playa Provides)

Swapcard #2 most important part

Tags.

Mark based on how you want people to find you when they search for who to network with. 

1-on-1s are more important than lectures

I think that if you can learn something from a forum post and/or youtube, like "what cause areas exist" or "what's the cutting edge in animal welfare", it's a shame to waste potential 1-on-1 meeting time on those things (except at special cases, like if you already went over all the posts).

Reach out

Be specific with your request (same link).

If you're having trouble being specific, and your only agenda is to "talk", consider going back to the "vision" section.

My secret: Post something just before EAG(x)

I did it both times and linked to my swapcard profile, and many people who care about the same things I care about knew that I'd be really happy to talk to them

Amazing! Things I would add for newcomers:

  1. (If corrolated with your goals) Reach out to speakers/filter 10+ years of exp beacuse it is usually a good filter for people who you can learn from the most
  2. Ask friends/EA staff who have already been to conferences if they can reccomend who to talk to
  3. Order a motel close to the conference is usually very comfortable (use on booking filters: less than 1 mile + over 8 rating + best price to rating ratio)
  4. Sleeping together with other members of your community is fun for feeling comfortable at the conferences, and having someone from 'back home' to share you experinces with (however, this might make it a comfort zone to not get to know other people)

If you're not applying to EA orgs because of too-low-salaries, tell them

Or anonymously:

Why tell them?

Because they don't know. "Why don't people apply?" - they ask. But this is basically a blind spot: If nobody gives them feedback, they won't know.

Are you not applying because of something else?

  • You're better fit for E2G?
  • The teams are too small?
  • There's no local team in your area?
  • Something else?

This is valuable information.

If enough people share this, it will save doing a user research project. Please be one of the people that shares, help understanding what's going on!

From a software engineering point of view there are a couple of things that would potentially put me off applying to an EA-org:

  • Lack of mentorship (this is somewhat covered by your small teams point but this is the specific part that I think of). I'm sure this isn't true for all EA orgs but the appeal of ie FAANG is that I am very confident that I'll be able to get mentored by engineers at the top of the field, who likely already have a lot of experience mentoring, having good structures for mentors and are generally empowered to be great at that. 
  • Small scope/scale for projects, particularly for frontend work. In SWE a big part of your career capital comes from being able to say you've worked on projects that are really big and/or really fast. There are plenty of fullstack jobs at EA orgs around at the moment but a lot of them are basically look after a website or build an app which will serve a niche community. 

I think there has been discussion before about SWEs feeling like EA orgs don't offer them enough career capital, but I can't remember where and it doesn't appear to have updated me much in favour of the EA orgs.

  1. Scott Alexander had a really hard time evaluating donation causes
  2. EA has a ton of articles about how to evaluate charities

What's going on?

Should we stop writing these guides?

Do we need better guides?

Do we need some measure like "would this guide make Scott Alexander's work easier"?

Applicants to ACX grants were almost by definition not working on problems with well-established solutions (in EA or otherwise), eg nobody was applying for an ACX grant to distribute bednets. That made the grants more difficult to evaluate than many popular EA causes, and also made it hard to rely on previous work.

  1. Totally agree
  2. The concern I'm raising is something like "our articles only help for [something like] well established solutions". Or in other words, there is no situation where [someone is able to vet an org and this was only true because of reading the article]

 

The other example I have in mind is trying to help people in Israel find an impactful job, especially in tech. We can offer them 100 pages of theory on how to vet companies, but almost no concrete companies to recommend

The "Better Twitter that promotes high quality discussions" that everyone dreams about - might start from this shortform feature

Especially given the critical mass of people who have high quality discussions around here.

What do you think?

Are there important missing features that would make you transition your social network activity here?

My attempt to help with AI Safety

Meta: This feels like something emotional where if somebody would look at my plan from the outside, they'd have obvious and good feedback, but my own social circle is not worried or knowledgable about AGI, and so I hope someone will read this.

Best bet: Meta software projects

It would be my best personal fit, running one or multiple software projects that require product work such as understanding what the users actually want.

My bottle neck: Talking to actual users with pain points (researchers? meta orgs with software problems? funders? I don't know)

Plan B: Advocacy

I think I have potential to grow into a role where I explain complicated things in a simple way, without annoying people. Advocacy seems scary, but I think my experience strongly suggests I should try.

Plan C: Research?

Usually when I look closely at a field, I have new stuff to contribute. I do have impostor syndrome around AGI Safety research, but again, probably people like me should try (?) [I am not a mathematician at all. Am I just wrong here?]

Bottle neck for Plans B+C: Getting a better model

What model specifically: If you'd erase all information I heard about experts speculating "when will we have AGI" and "what's the chance it will kill us all?", could I re-invent it? could I figure out which expert is right? This seems like the first layer, and an important one

My actionable items:

  1. Talk to friends about AGI. They ask questions, like "can't the AGI simply ADVICE us on what to do?", and I answer. 
    1. We both improve our model (specifically, if what I say doesn't seem convincing, then maybe it's wrong?)
    2. I slowly exit my comfort zone of "being the weird person talking about AGI"
  2. Write my own model, post it for comments
    1. Maybe my agreements/disagreements with this?
    2. Seems hard and tiring

What am I missing?

Give me the obvious stuff

> Give me the obvious stuff

I expect that people that read shortforms on the EA forum are not those that would give useful advice, and I think there are a lot of people that would be happy to give advice to someone with your skills

Related, "my own social circle is not worried or knowledgable about AGI", might it make sense to spend time networking with people working on AI Safety and getting a feel for needs and opportunities in the area e.g. joining discussion groups?

 

Still, random questions on plan A as someone not knowledgable but worried about AI

  1. Why product work only for meta orgs? Random examples that I know you know about: Senior Software Engineer at Anthropic, and they were looking for someone to help with some dev tooling. They seem to require product skills / understanding what the users actually need. (Not asking about Anthropic in particular, but non-meta in general)
  2. What would make it easier to clear the bottleneck of talking to actual users with pain points?
  3. What happened to the idea of internal prediction markets for EA orgs? I think it has potential and an MVP could be simple enough, e.g. I received this proposal for a freelance project a few days ago from a longtermist (non AI safety) EA org that made me update positively towards the general idea

we want an app that lets people bet "[edited] bucks" via slack, and then when the bet expires a moderator says whether they won or lost, and this adjusts their balance. If this data was fed into airtable, I could then build some visualisations etc

This would involve a slack bot/ app hosted in the cloud and an airtable integration

Let me know what you think! I'm super excited about this for helping us hone our decision making over time i.e. getting everyone in the habit of betting on outcomes, which apparently is a great way to get around things like the planning fallacy :D Also the /bet Slack interface seems very low friction & would be very easy for people to interact with


Not sure if any of this helps, but I am really excited to see whatever you will end up choosing!

Related, "my own social circle is not worried or knowledgable about AGI", might it make sense to spend time networking with people working on AI Safety

I don't think it will help with the social aspect which I'm trying to point at


 

 and getting a feel for needs and opportunities in the area

[...]

What would make it easier to clear the bottleneck of talking to actual users with pain points?

I think it's best if one person goes do the user research instead of each person like me bothering the AGI researchers (?)

I'm happy to talk to any such person who'll talk to me and summarize whatever there is for others to follow, if I don't pick it up myself


 

e.g. joining discussion groups?

Could be nice actually


 

Why product work only for meta orgs?

I mean "figure out what AGI researchers need" [which is a "product" task] and help do that [which helps the community, rather than helping the research directly]


 

Internal prediction markets

I'm in touch with them and basically said "yes", but they want full time and by default I don't think I'll be available, but I'm advancing and checking it

Downvoting without explaining: An act of anti-community-building?

:(

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/MBDHjwDvhDnqisyW2/awards-for-the-future-fund-s-project-ideas-competition?commentId=GHnzmGogQq6p5mjxc#RprmhhxJgJt4FhtHB

 

Remember the illusion of transparency. Whatever is bothering you might not be as obvious to others as it is to you.

You can still downvote, just remember it has emotional consequences

I'm sorry for your experience, I tried to compensate for it a bit:

I think your comment is modest and conscientious about it.

 

So my guess with that happened is that people didn't like this statement:

It created an unofficial list of EA ideas that is likely to contain all the high quality ideas that weren't funded yet.

First off, I guess one reason people disagreed with this statement, is that in some views, it's very unlikely to be true. Myself, I have an aesthetic that the best things in the best instantiation of EA are really great and hard to see. So defining the frontier of EA by any one list doesn't make sense.

Secondly, there are principled longtime EAs who have focuses that differ from the underlying priorities/worldview that drives interest in the FTX contest. So for these people, canonizing the list as the frontier of EA projects is objectionable. This objection is heightened by what they might see as the indirect way of going about it (note that the FTX leaders are careful not to do this). At the same time, these very views makes it hard to comment. My guess is that this sentiment drove your downvote, but I don't really know. 

EA Orgs: Not enough people filling out your form? Maybe it has too many mandatory fields

TL;DR Philosophy: Adding mandatory fields means [saving time in calls you have with applicants] at the expense of [reducing the amount of applicants]. Is this a tradeoff you are interested in?

TL;DR recommendation: Make all the fields optional except for (1) CV/linkedin, and (2) email. Then, in the first call, ask whatever's missing

Q: But the fields help us filter

A: Yep, you'll get more bad applicants if you do this 

Q: What if we get too many applicants?

A: Then stop this. My suggestion will get you lots more bad applicants and a few more good applicants, I think. If that's not a good tradeoff for you, dump it. I think it is totally legit to prioritize your own time!!! As my friend says, "know the stats of the card you're playing"

Q: Probably nobody drops out of our form anyway

A: Well, my priors from startups are that long forms sure do hurt the funnel, but maybe in your specific case these priors are wrong?

I'd recommend you do hallway testing: Grab someone in the hall, ask them to fill out your form, watch them do it.

Or save stats about how many people start your form and how many complete it. You can do that easily by posting a bit.ly link that leads to your application form, it will count how many people click it. Better but harder: Google Analytics.

You don't know it until you measure it.

Q: Everyone who drops probably doesn't want it bad enough!

  1. Maybe there's a better way to check if someone "wants it bad enough"? This doesn't sound like an intentional decision
  2. Are you telling your candidates that you are letting them do extra work to make sure they "want it bad enough"? (If you're asking for a cover letter, then the answer is implicitly yes)

Q: Give us practical examples! Since when do you write such theoretical posts anyway?

You're right, here are some examples:

  1. "What makes you a good fit for this role" - hits directly on people's impostor syndrome, which is so common in EA that I am going to bet that even you, dear anonymous reader, have impostor syndrome
  2. "How do you define good" - is a question that I am personally stuck on in the 80k hours form. This is so stupid. They WROTE that I'm not supposed to spend too long on it. I'm usually totally a "do things quickly" person. But here, I admit it, this is my situation. Or maybe I don't want their advice enough to be worth their time? I don't know

Q: Tell us your real opinion, it must be super controversial!

How did you know?? It's like you're reading my mind..!

Ok, I think that if you're hiring from a small pool of EAs (who're full of impostor syndrome regardless of their skill level, and who spend hours writing applications) and if you're struggling to get more to apply, and this is important enough to be worth your management focus... HAVE ZERO REQUIRED FIELDS.

I said it. Zero.

If you only get someone's email: You'll have a mailing list of people interested in working for you, is that so bad? (Well maybe it is, in which case don't do that)

I expect most people will fill in lots of the fields, and you can interview those people first, and then you can chose to invite the people who only submitted their CV, or send an email to everyone who only submitted their address, probably better than having them drop out of your form.

And a very few people (bots) will probably submit empty forms. Yes.

And if this doesn't work out, revert back to mandatory fields.

Optimization: Delegation

The person who does the first call and asks "what's your experience with EA" doesn't need to be the startup's founder. This task can be delegated

At least do hallway user testing, like, once

I wonder if 80k have ever done this for their enormous form. If they see this post, do hallway testing once, decide to make the form easier, and get 10% more applicants from now on, could I get a cookie?

Or save stats about how many people start your form and how many complete it. You can do that easily by posting a bit.ly link that leads to your application form, it will count how many people click it. Better but harder: Google Analytics.

A lot of form builders record this automatically, as well. Typeform does, for example.

(In case you are interested: the "Why are you a good candidate for the role(s) of ___" question you alluded to above causes a bit less than 1% of applicants to drop out of the CEA application form.)

Ok, I stand convinced!

Update: Somebody at EAGx told me that they didn't contact me virtually because I have too many fields in my Calendly

(While I'm ranting about other people having too many fields in their forms)

Brainstorm: How can I talk to EAs who are very senior software developers?

I'm working on understanding and solving problems around EA orgs having trouble hiring strong engineers, and for this I'd like to do some "user research".

I believe I already made progress in this area for EA, but I don't want to elaborate too much in case some developer will read this and it will bias my user research.

Could someone help me contact such people / suggest ideas on how I could do it?

It will be a ~15 minutes conversation (I'm flexible if you prefer interacting in some other way)

Open Philanthropy emailed me - I passed some screening for a position I am totally unqualified for

April Fools? X_X

My EA origin story

hpmor (read, translated)

Loved it, set up the Hebrew crowed sourced translation project, we translated everything and printed it. I estimate over 1000 people bought a copy, not counting online readers, and the number is probably way higher, which I'm really proud of :)

The sequences / Rationality A to Z (effected me a lot)

One of the most influential things I've read. While reading it:

  • I noticed I'm not happy in an important partnership and broke up. Main technique: slowly changing my mind
  • I decided that the meat industry is indeed bad, yep

Not counting smaller things, or things from more than a month after finishing it

Lesswrong Israel

People who'll geek out about priors with me!

EA Israel

Here's a 2016 intro to EA I found myself doing (Hebrew link), I discussed return-on-investment of donations and was especially excited about translating 80k material. I still consider career advice to be a topic very close to my heart, and 80k to be an unusually important org.

EAG London (2020? 2019?)

My first interaction with the international community, which I considered to probably be scary superhuman people that know everything and I was afraid to even bother them with my email. I know, silly. If you feel like I used to, I hope you feel more comfortable to reach out.

Just before EAG I posted my offer for coaching software developers, which many people replied, met me at EAG, and until today I keep talking to developers, mostly over video.

EAG changed the way I see myself in the EA community.

Other projects

EA Colabs (volunteer's board)

I used to be active there, trying to connect volunteers (collaborators) to projects that need them

Looking for the most impactful tech companies in Israel

Maybe I'll write about it sometime

Rant: How to make new employees sad they joined your company

TL;DR: To avoid predictably-sad employees, advertise your company honestly, including the bad parts.

Longer and more sarcastic:

How to make new employees sad: 

  1. Advertise your company as being perfect, including: Your culture, best practices, and team. Use vague sentences like "of course not everything is perfect", but hide the concrete negative things that could give new hires an accurate picture in advance
  2. Let them discover the real situation a few months after joining
  3. Act surprised

For me personally: When considering joining a company or cofounder, a major thing that "turns me on" is when they tell me about the bad parts. It's obvious that those parts exist, the question is whether we can speak about them.

P.S

I also believe in this for employees, and for romantic relationships

Personal Assistants provide more value than the time they save

Handling bureaucracy not only takes time: For some of us, it's stressful and icky and aversive.

I'd happily spend an extra hour building software (fun!) instead of spending that hour on paperwork (which would deplete my willpower for the rest of the day).

-Written in appreciation to all the PAs out there

I don't have direct experience, but others I know have successfully used Magic

https://getmagic.com

How is nobody stressed out about countries freezing the assets of an entire country, practically changing the records of the banks to something else? Are we confident this will only happen in situations that we think are good and moral?

[I'm not an economist]

Of course we can't be, but sanctions are also nothing new. And rogue countries like Russia also understand how sanctions work and would already use them if it could. 

The Neglected Consideration When Planning a Social Network:... Network Effects

Lots of people dream about better social networks that promote higher quality discussions, even me! Some challenges, like "which logo to pick", are things that can be solved along the way. Others, like "why would anybody join a social network if almost nobody is there?" are (I claim) a core part of the plan and need to be addressed in advance.

"If you give the same answer 5 times, write a post"

This isn't meant as discouragement, it is meant as "this is an important thing-not-to-ignore"

For example, if someone wants to open a startup, I first make sure they understand that most startups fail. This is not a knock-down argument to not-open-a-startup, it is just something important to notice and take into account.

This post is a similar thing-to-notice beyond the normal considerations of a startup.

What similar considerations do I think people miss?

A social network has snowball effects. This is nothing new, but I think it's useful to state them explicitly: 

  • More users lead to more users
  • More content means more users reading content means more users writing content
  • More money means more comfortable features means more engagement means (in modern social networks) more money

And so on. 

Common suggestions to sacrifice an element of the snowball effect without explaining what would balance it out:

  1. "We won't optimize for engagement"
    1. Or "By optimizing for engagement plus something else, we will get more engagement than someone optimizing only for engagement"
  2. "We won't charge money"
  3. "We won't show ads (and so we'll make less money)"
  4.  "We will charge money from the users directly" (which means more friction for getting users, which means less users)
  5. "We will only allow high quality content"
    1. This probably means less content
    2. TL;DR of my "moderation is expensive" rant [skip if obvious]
      1. If writing a machine learning algorithm that could recognize low-quality or false arguments would be easy: then somebody would have done it and made billions of dollars, which means a lot of people are already working on it. If you solve that: that's your startup right there.
      2. Similarly true for "hiring and managing 10,000 moderators"
      3. Similarly true for gamification, but that's a whole other rant
      4. this (Scott Alexander on Moderation)

Why would anybody join a social network that hardly has anyone in it?

AKA "initial critical mass".

Q: Isn't advertising enough? People will see the vision and high quality content and all join!

A: This is called B2C marketing and we have priors for how well it works. TL;DR: Incredibly expensive.

The standard trick for getting critical mass, btw, is starting with a niche, like Facebook started with a specific university, or Amazon started specifically with books. The reason is that the specific interesting question is not "how many users exist in the platform", but instead "if I'll enter the platform, what's the chance I'll find something I want?" - so if the social network only has a few people but they're all my close friends, then that's probably good enough. [I can elaborate on marketplaces]

Which leads to "do you know your users or are you building something based on your imagination of them?"

But that is already a typical startup question.

Maybe join others like yourself?

People are already building:

  • The Fediverse (an open source decentralized social network)
  • The EA Forum / Lesswrong (seem very promising to me due to very high quality discussions and a critical mass of people that resonate with me a lot)
  • And others

I would really try to avoid planning to do the same thing like one of these platforms, only with less development time, less users, less content, and so on. Imagining you have lots of users and a lot of high quality content is not enough, you've got to design some snowball effect to lead there (or at least that's my claim).

Better answers, I think:

  • "There is a specific critical feature that I think the other social networks are lacking and [because of reasons] I think will make a big difference"
  • "Good idea, I want to join them and build my idea as a feature in one of those platforms!", for example I happen to know that CEA want to build some features for connecting people, maybe that's your idea?

Great answers!

I hope this was useful!

Please argue with me and help me improve both my opinions and my writing's usefulness

<3

Thanks for insights. Now I am working a smaller idea - "EA directory of ideas" to address previous flaws from social network idea. It is many times simpler idea (than a social network) and solves many specific problems that exist right now. I am searching for feedback, wrote you a PM.

Edit: Solved

Anybody from Prague coming to EAGxOxford?

There's a product (an Oura Ring) that I ordered to Prague and I really want to pick up at Oxford if I can, but it's unclear how to make the delivery

Help?

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Meta Grant Making Idea

TL;DR: Get others to predict the grant maker's answer. But not with a prediction market.

Longer:

Today an EA told me their funding request got rejected and they got no feedback about it. (Frustrating!)

They asked me to help them guess why they were rejected, and I offered some different ideas (one was "this specific fund doesn't know how to vet [some aspect of your idea]".

Wouldn't it be great if the original grant maker could review what I wrote, and respond with correct/incorrect, or maybe mark the part that was most correct if any?

This way,

  1. The applicant would get some feedback
  2. We'd find out if I can correctly predict what grant makers would say (which would suggest maybe I could be a grant maker)

I would personally submit 10 such guesses (on tech ideas), just as a way to test my ability, for the small chance I'd be any good.

Would some grant maker comment on this? I know nothing about your domain (except that it's confusing)

Thx!

A few quick things:
- I agree that many grantmakers don't have enough time to give much feedback, and that this leads to suboptimal outcomes.
- I think it's pretty difficult for people outside these organizations to help much with what are basically internal processes. People outside have very little context, so I would expect them to have a tough time suggesting many ideas.
- In this specific proposal, I think it would be tricky for it to help much. A lot of what I've seen (which isn't all too much) around grant applications is about people sharing the negative information they have about applicants. I imagine this would be exceedingly awkward to show publicly.

If people want to help with the larger grantmaking process, some things they could do include:

  • Advise groups requesting money. See if you could provide useful feedback (I think many groups could use a bigger team of advisors)
  • Help newish people to write more content on the EA Forum and similar. This can be a proving ground for some grant organizations.

I'm the person Yonatan is referring to. His feedback and your general feedback are very helpful, so thank you for that! I have been a lurker within EA for years and will write more content on the EA forum, including requesting feedback on the idea (soon). Hopefully that will help, although I don't know because I didn't get feedback. 
 

Before I move into why I think grant makers should provide short feedback I want to be clear:  I'm completely comfortable with being rejected and I completely understand that grant makers are very busy. 
 

Having said that, I think grant makers should feedback the applications they reject. It doesn't have to be more than 1-2 lines and one minute to write. I have applied to EA 6 months ago and got rejected and applied again last month and got rejected again. I had a lot of encouraging talks with EA's (although criticism as well)  and was more convinced this was going to get funding. I have no idea if they hated the idea and they think it will never work, or if they think it doesn't fit them, they are not able to evaluate properly, etc. The potential impact of knowing why is very large. It might help me improve the idea, maximize the impact or pursue other paths that are more impactful and effective. I think that one minute feedback has a high expected value. Knowing why will also help me decide whether to reapply or not, either saving the grant makers future time if I don't or improving the idea so it has more impact if I do. Feedback might help EA get less reapplications of higher quality, increasing overall impact and reducing the time to review. Win-win?

If I could ask EA Infra Fund one binary question about your grant, it would be "did you reject me because this idea is not in your domain?"

Here's my super quick take, if I were evaluating this for funding:

Startups are pretty competitive. For me to put money into a business venture, I'd want quite a bit of faith that the team is very strong. This would be pretty high bar. 

From looking at this, it's not clear to me promising the team is at this point.

Generally, the bar for many sorts of projects is fairly high.

Ok, for the record this is very far from my guess.

The closest thing I said was "Intra Fund don't know how to evaluate startups, and specifically market places"

Update: A grant maker [Edit: They said this is a bad description of them] told me why this wouldn't work

Are you able to relay what they said about why it wouldn't work?

I asked for permission now to share it