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As you may have noticed, 80k After Hours has been releasing a new show where I and some other 80k staff sit down with a guest for a very free form, informal, video(!) discussion that sometimes touches on topical themes around EA and sometimes… strays a bit further afield. We have so far called it “Actually After Hours” in part because (as listeners may be relieved to learn), I and the other hosts don’t count this against work time and the actual recordings tend to take place late at night.

We’ve just released episode 3 with Dwarkesh Patel and I feel like this is a good point to gather broader feedback on the early episodes. I’ll give a little more background on the rationale for the show below, but if you’ve listened to [part of] any episode, I’m interested to know what you did or didn’t enjoy or find valuable as well as specific ideas for changes.

In particular, if you have ideas for a better name than “Actually After Hours,” this early point is a good time for that!

   

Rationales

Primarily, I have the sense that there’s too much doom, gloom, and self-flagellation around EA online and this sits in strange contrast to the attitudes of the EAs I know offline. The show seemed like a low cost way to let people know that the people doing important work from an EA perspective are actually fun, interesting, and even optimistic in addition to being morally serious.

It also seemed like a way to highlight/praise individual contributors to important projects. Rob/Luisa will bring on the deep experts and leaders of orgs to talk technical details about their missions and theories of change, but I think a great outcome for more of our users will be doing things like Joel or Chana and I’d like to showcase more people like them and convey that they’re still extremely valuable. 

Another rationale which I haven't been great on so far is expanding the qualitative options people have for engaging with Rob Wiblin-style reasoning. The goal was (and will return to being soon) sub-1-hour, low stakes episodes where smart people ask cruxy questions and steelman alternative perspectives with some in-jokes and Twitter controversies thrown in to make it fun. An interesting piece of feedback we’ve gotten from 80k plan changes is that it’s rare that a single episode on some specific topic was a big driver of someone going to work on that area, but someone listening to many episodes across many topics was predictive of them often doing good work in ~any cause area. So the hope is that shorter, less focused/formal episodes create a lower threshold to hitting play (vs 3 hours with an expert on a single, technical, weighty subject) and therefore more people picking up on both the news and the prioritization mindset. 

Importantly, I don’t see this as intro content. I think it only really makes sense for people already familiar with 80k and EA. And for them, it’s a way of knowing more people in these spaces and absorbing the takes/conversations that never get written down. Much of what does get written down is often carefully crafted for broad consumption and that can often miss something important. Maybe this show can be a place for that. 

Thanks for any and all feedback! I guess it’d be useful to write short comments that capture high level themes and let people up/down vote based on agreement. Feel free to make multiple top-level comments if you have them and DM or email me (matt at 80000hours dot org) if you’d rather not share publicly.


 

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Initial feedback on the (first?) Episode with Chana: I liked the idea and know Chana has interesting things to say so decided to listen.

Was fun and kind of interesting but felt like I wasn't sure what I was getting out of it.

I felt like wasn't optimising for either 'usefulness' or 'fun/relaxation'. E.g. I didn't feel like I'd learned anything particularly surprising or useful by half way through the episode, and I felt like I was having less fun than I would by watching Netflix or chatting to my partner... So I stopped and went and did those things instead.

To be fair, this is a reason I don't listen to podcasts all that much in general, but since this moved further away from obvious 'usefulness' than a usual 80k podcast, it made it seem less worthwhile.

Low confidence initial Impression though and I'll probably listen to others!

Tentative recommendation: try to make the episodes more pointedly about useful, impact-relevant topics. You can preserve the chatty vibe and relatively low-effort prep but still cover important topics.

I just listened to most of the Dwarkesh episode and it seemed notably more useful to me! (And similarly fun/interesting?) I think just because of the topics you broached. E.g. Chana has useful takes on loads of impact-relevant topics but you were talking about quizzes and favourite beans. Whereas with Dwarkesh you were chatting about counterfactuals and lessons from history and career exploration and maximising impact through communications.

I like the idea of having a more casual and lighthearted version of the podcast but I agree with Jamie's comment that it's worth thinking more explicitly about what the value add is for people listening. Like you said, most of the people listening to these episodes will probably already be very involved in EA (much more so than for the main 80k podcast), and to me the first two episodes felt a bit like listening in on a random conversation at an EA party—I didn't feel like I got much out of it, and more importantly, I couldn't tell what you intended for me get out of it. In contrast, the most recent episode was much better and had a lot more directly useful insights. I know the podcast is still in its infancy and you're still 'finding your voice', so it's great to see such a big improvement only three episodes in.

As for names, I would call it something like: 'After Hours in the Office', 'After Hours with the Staff', or '80k Off The Clock'.

+1 for 80k off the clock

Agree with the analysis and quite likely to take the Off the Clock suggestion. Thank you!

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Feedback on third episode: Also really liked it! Felt different from the first two. Less free-wheeling, more clearly useful. (Still much more on the relaxed, informal side than main-feed 80k podcasts.)

Felt very useful to get an inside perspective on what 80k thinks its doing with career advising. I really appreciated Dwarkesh kicking the tires on the theory of change ("why not focus 100% on the tails?"), as well as the responses.

It wasn't entirely an easy listen. I identify with the common EA tropes of: trying to push myself to be more ambitious, but this doesn't come naturally so I end up often feeling bad about how non-agentic I am. Ex ante trying some things to see if I'm in the right tail of the distribution, figuring I'm probably not, and being kind of upset and adrift about it. 

I personally appreciate that 80k thinks a lot about doing right by people like me. It was somewhat hard to hear Dwarkesh focus so intently people at the tails, as if the other 99% of us are a rounding error, but I see the case for it and I'm not sure it's completely wrong. (I'm not supposed to be the primary beneficiary of 80k advising / other EA resources. If I voluntarily sign up to try being an ambitious altruist, and later feel bad about not (yet) succeeding, I'm not sure I get to blame anyone except myself.)

I really liked your latest especially because you discussed how you think about careers, the uncertainties you have, etc. I felt that was super helpful and gave me new perspectives and confidence in making career choices.

Feedback on first two episodes: I really enjoyed them, and was instantly sold this series. I felt like I was sitting in on a conversation with fun people having great conversations. Wasn't really sure what the impact case was for these, but they gave me a feeling I have at the best EA meetups: oh my gosh, these are my people. [1]

(Feedback on third episode in another comment)

  1. ^

    I have some reservations about this: the cultural characteristics that sets off the "my people" sense don't seem too strongly connected to doing the most good? So while I love finding "my people," it's strange that they are such a big fraction of EA, both at local meetups and apparently at 80k.

Strong +1 to this! Also, entertainingly, I know many of the people in the first episode, and they seemed significantly funnier there than they do in real life - clearly I'm not hanging out with you all in the right settings!

I will not comment on the content, I do not have a take on it. But I would like to mention that the lower sound quality makes it harder to understand and focus. Maybe too many people/microphones? I think I skipped the first episode because I did not understand.

I also had a bit of a harder time following than with "pro podcasts", but I think that is because I have a default 1.8x speed increase and aggressive trimming of silences. That works fine for the typical podcast sound and cadence but I agree it got a bit intense with these (sorry, I could not be bothered with changing the playback speed).

(as a counter-anecdote, I listened to all without noticing a difference in sound quality)

I think a 2x2 rather than 1x3 seating arrangement would be more natural. Currently it feels like you and Arden are too far away to make it a cosy chat vibe. I agree with Jamie that the topics should be impact-relevant, rather than just friends chatting about random things.

I don't think my comment is likely to be all that useful, but putting it here anyway. 

I personally find it difficult to pay attention to podcasts with more than 2 people. I tried to listen to the first episode for about 30 minutes and this one for about 5 minutes, and I couldn't comfortably follow them while paying attention to other tasks (walking around, cleaning, cooking etc.). 

I think it's likely that more diversity in the space is good though, as many of the most popular podcasts I see on e.g. Youtube tend to be more than two people. I suspect this is more related to my own personal idiosyncratic preferences, and it might be good to attract new listeners that have different preferences. I can see another commenter was absolutely enthralled! 

I also now really like the look of Dwarkesh's podcast, and plan to listen to it, and I wouldn't have known about it otherwise!

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