We want to encourage a broader, public conversation around effective altruism and longtermism. To that end, we’re offering up to 5 awards of $100,000 each for the best new and recent blogs. We’re also making grants to promising young writers in the community.

You can learn more about the project and get on our radar here

Why does this matter?

Top-of-funnel community growth in EA is slower than it could and should be. At the same time, EA is relatively underrepresented in intellectual discourse compared to newer and smaller movements like Progress Studies. EA is producing a ton of thoughtful writing, but the majority takes place in internal discussions and private documents. For some discussions, this would be the only sensible way to have them. But having other discussions in public should help to raise the salience of EA in the broader discourse and bring more people in. It could also help spark new ideas. 

 Further, we think EA needs more strong writers who can share key ideas in prestigious and popular venues — to persuade people to work on the most pressing issues of our time and to advance our thinking about them. We want to incentivize EAs to develop those skills. 

What’s the plan?

We want to jumpstart these ambitions with the Blog Prize. Over the course of 2022, we want to find the very best new blogs exploring themes related to effective altruism and longtermism. Up to 5 winning bloggers will receive a prize of $100,000 each. (We were inspired by Tyler Cowen’s “Liberalism 2.0” blog prize). You can read more about our rules and guidelines on our website.

The judging panel for the blog prize is me (Nick Whitaker), Leopold Aschenbrenner, Avital Balwit, and Fin Moorhouse. Most blogs will be considered via our self-nomination form, but please feel free to send us recommendations

What next?

We hope this can be a first step towards a more ambitious effort to support an ecosystem of public-facing writing for EA and longtermism. We believe that EA blogs could soon make up a major part of the general blogosphere, finding audiences (and potential EAs) we wouldn’t have found otherwise. Hopefully, we will also inspire the writing of foundational blog posts and posts that evolve into great projects

To help potential bloggers, we’ve compiled a “How to start a blog” guide. We’re also offering mentorship on writing and editorial strategy to bloggers amid our private Slack community of bloggers. Self-nominate your blog on our website if you’d like to join. We have fostered a lively community for discussion, cross-promotion, and peer-to-peer feedback. Eventually, we hope to offer bloggers seminars from established EA writers.

While this is our first big announcement, stay tuned for future plans and follow ongoing efforts from Effective Ideas to build and foster a written media ecosystem for EA. Watch this space.

This project is supported by FTX Future Fund and Longview Philanthropy.

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As someone pretty new to this forum and the effective altruism community (not the ideas though) it’s shocking to see how much money the EA community seems to spend on funding projects by it’s members.
 

$100,000  is significantly more money than most people earn per year, and a ton more than most blogs earn.

Maybe this is a good use of this money. I just wanted to express this in case folks who are used to this type of funding  forget how surprising it can be to a newcomer. 

Hello there, and welcome to the forum! I understand how the number can seem surprising, but here is a little more background from Nick that might have gotten buried below: "Yes, this is a serious amount of money. That said, writing a good blog takes a lot of time, and note that the expected value for any particular blogger will be relatively low. If 100 bloggers apply (which we expect to be a lower bound given the traction), it's $5k for the work of a part-time job over a year. Obviously, Cowen using the same number makes it a bit of a Shelling Point and the number has some viral appeal as well. But we also want to convey how valuable we think writing like this really is: we think the very best entrants really will deserve this. For instance, we have in mind that the breakout successes from the competition might begin writing full-time, or even become public intellectuals within EA. We think the $100,000 amount is the right amount to encourage that kind of ambition. But note that we’re not committing to giving any particular number of these prizes ("up to five")— we’re planning to use an appropriately high bar in judging the blogs." 

100k for a "blog" might seem silly, but it is  about the content not the format. Good ideas change the world, or could possibly save it. One of my favorite quotes about the power of new knowledge: "Civilizations starved, long before Malthus, because of what they thought of as the ‘natural disasters’ of drought and famine. But it was really because of what we would call poor methods of irrigation and farming – in other words, lack of knowledge. Before our ancestors learned how to make fire artificially (and many times since then too), people must have died of exposure literally on top of the means of making the  fires that would have saved their lives, because they did not know how. In a parochial sense, the weather killed them; but the deeper explanation is lack of knowledge. Many of the hundreds of millions of victims of cholera throughout history must have died within sight of the hearths that could have boiled their drinking water and saved their lives; but, again, they did not know that. Quite generally, the distinction between a ‘natural’ disaster and one brought about by ignorance is parochial." (The Beginning of Infinity, by David Deutsch)

In my prior career I worked with a lot of organizations that offered prizes and fellowships to artists, including writers. $100k is on the high side for a prestigious writer's fellowship, but not absurdly so. I see the amount as being well targeted for an experienced part-time writer who has been blogging on top of a day job or other commitments and wants to make the leap to full-time but doesn't feel like they have the runway. It feels harder for me to justify giving an award of that amount to a brand-new blogger; the counterfactual impact would have to be extremely clear.

I've been around for a few years and it definitely shocked me!

The large prize size and other contest choices might be more principled and have a better explanation than it appears.

 

So my headcanon about what is going on is that they are aiming for the “tail value” of a strong publication. So the prize amount is to get writing of that quality. 

Getting into these places could be incredibly valuable. But this access is not fungible by design (you shouldn’t be able to buy it with money). This explains why they don’t say this explicitly. 

So that's basically a response to your comment.

Maybe to see this another way, imagine telling someone, “Hey, want to get a prize for writing? It just has to be an interesting blog that is consistent with this thing called EA.” A lot of talented people might perk up and ask, what’s “interesting/EA”? I think that could be super valuable if well executed. With this amount, you can go into any community of writers in the world with that story.

More headcanon:

  • Another model is to use many small grants. But there's less splashy publicity. It would also be harder to allocate smaller prizes, so many would go to existing EAs or their friends. That has a different theory of impact and seems less virtuous.
  • A big prize is easier to observe, and the results give an unusually clear feedback loop for the project. It's bad to add a lot of pressure to a new project, but the ceiling for the possible winners is high.
  • For disciplines/domains with lower funding, this sort of prize could be paradoxically more appropriate. It’s harder to see many other fields where this amount would be the top prize.

Another reason the OP might be shy, is that “tail value” and “flow through effects” are spicier motivations, for a new project, even if the EV is large.

 

$100,000  is significantly more money than most people earn per year

There are a lot of things going on, and maybe what I wrote above isn’t the heart of your question. If you care about the bigger issue of comp and history, there are some principled answers. But I'm just some random dude and it's not clear it's appropriate for me to write some giant manifesto about it unless there's demand from you.


 

Thanks for adding this. Just as a point of clarification:

Another model is to use many small grants. But there's less splashy publicity. It would also be harder to allocate smaller prizes, so many would go to existing EAs or their friends. That has a different theory of impact and seems less virtuous.

We are also making a few small grants to capture good, known writers in EA and on its margins. We view both models as worthwhile. 

I've been in EA for 5+years and I agree this is a shocking amount of money. Even assuming that starting a blog is useful, I doubt that the incentive for someone to start a blog would be substantially different if the prize was let's say $15,000

Just to give one data point to the contrary: I have just read this and now I am seriously thinking about starting a blog. (I have been thinking about starting a blog for a long time,  but this might push me to actually get going on it, I don't think if the prize were $15,000 that would be the case.)

EA is producing a ton of thoughtful writing, but the majority takes place in internal discussions and private documents. For some discussions, this would be the only sensible way to have them. But having other discussions in public should help to raise the salience of EA in the broader discourse and bring more people in. It could also help spark new ideas. 

 

Any thoughts about making some of this discussion available to bloggers so they can popularize it? Asking bloggers unconnected to the EA network to reinvent or equal the level of discourse that the top people have among themselves sounds much harder than figuring out a way to get the originals to the public.

I agree that this would be very valuable. I work at an EA org and even I miss out on a lot of discussions that happen between top people,  on googledocs or over lunch. Things must be much worse for people not at EA orgs. 

It would be useful if some of the top people could share why they prefer not to make these discussions public. I would guess that one reason is that people don't want arguments which they haven't backed up in  formal ways to be classed as "the official view of EA leaders". Creating a forum for posts with shakier epistemic status seems valuable

I imagine often context is missing that would be effortful to add, e.g.

  • „this is only my private believe“
  • things coming off as slightly crazy and anti-social, like seemingly failing to appreciate the value of individual lives when doing cold-blooded Utilitarian analysis Communication is often tailored to an audience and if the potential audience includes random people on the internet and future employers you will automatically invest the context.

In some cases the discussions contain plausibly sensitive info, eg about individual people or about stuff that might cause problems when public.

The first two issues are the whole point of laundering your opinions through bloggers. 

I don't mean the bloggers should post the documents publicly, or even a play-by-play of the documents ("First Will MacAskill said, then Peter Singer said...") . I mean the bloggers should read the documents, understand the arguments, and post the key points/conclusions, perhaps with a "thanks to some anonymous people who helped me develop these ideas".

I agree the last issue is important, but this could be solved by good channels of communication and explanation about what should/shouldn't be posted.

Perhaps an enterprising blogger could start an interview-format blog, where they interview EA authors of those "internal discussions and private documents" and ask them to elucidate their ideas in a way suitable for a general audience. I think that would make for a pretty neat and high-value blog!

I was discussing this with a friend who raised some interesting points (but didn't wish to post themselves). Most of the below comes from them, with some of my own input: 

  • They had concerns that the $100,000 prize might change the dynamics of the EA blogging landscape a lot, because this is a very large amount of money for any new blog. I'd be curious how the team decided on the $100,000 prize amount, as opposed to say a $10,000 or $25,000 prize. 
    • (note: The Liberalism 2.0 prize this was inspired by was also for $100,000, but I'd still be interested to know the thought process for our community)
  • They were also concerned about some unintentional biases that may arise from this contest. For example, there could be a bias where people publish what they think funders will reward (rather than what they actually would). 
    • Bloggers could have a (conscious or subconscious) bias towards things that are ultimately positive towards EA and longtermism (with authors potentially hiding their actual thoughts and objections). 
      • This could be something like a careful, nuanced, but ultimately super positive with no/few real negatives about EA and longtermism because that’s what they think will probably be what the reviewers want"
      • One challenge could also be that sometimes people have valid criticisms of EA and longtermism that are hard to explicitly state in the way that EAs and longtermists communicate, but are still real criticisms. 
      • My friend gave the example of this critique which push back against some of the expected value calculations of longtermism. This critique may seem obviously wrong to longtermists, but seem reasonable given the way the OP's saw it discussed in the Greaves  / MacAskill strong longtermism paper they discuss (Strong Longtermism, Irrefutability, and Moral Progress which builds on Against Longtermism)

Would be keen to hear your thinking on these points!

Thanks for sharing this Vaidehi.

I'd be curious how the team decided on the $100,000 prize amount

Yes, this is a serious amount of money. That said, writing a good blog takes a lot of time, and note that the expected value for any particular blogger will be relatively low. If 100 bloggers apply (which we expect to be a lower bound given the traction), it's $5k for the work of a part-time job over a year. Obviously, Cowen using the same number makes it a bit of a Shelling Point and the number has some viral appeal as well.

 But we also want to convey how valuable we think writing like this really is: we think the very best entrants really will deserve this. For instance, we have in mind that the breakout successes from the competition might begin writing full-time, or even become public intellectuals within EA. We think the $100,000 amount is the right amount to encourage that kind of ambition. But note that we’re not committing to giving any particular number of these prizes ("up to five")— we’re planning to use an appropriately high bar in judging the blogs.

Bloggers could have a (conscious or subconscious) bias towards things that are ultimately positive towards EA and longtermism.

Thanks for sharing this concern, it’s an important one to address. To clarify: we are not planning on rewarding entrants for cheering for EA or longtermism; we’re planning on rewarding entrants for effectively engaging with ideas relating to EA, longtermism, and issues we are interested in

And that includes criticism. If entrants have novel, good-faith, and action-relevant criticisms or ‘red teams’ of any aspect of EA, we’re very excited to hear them! 

We're signaling that we are serious about this with our grant recipients: We've made grants to people with major criticisms of longtermism and EA and people who are interested in the topics but lukewarm about standard approaches. We're also funding people who are diametic to the for-against axis, like a forthcoming series from thinkers in different religious traditions on how they think about the long term. For additional inspiration, here are some of our favorite critiques so far from the forum.

That said, writing a good blog takes a lot of time, and note that the expected value for any particular blogger will be relatively low. If 100 bloggers apply (which we expect to be a lower bound given the traction), it's $5k for the work of a part-time job over a year.

I worry that this creates a weird dynamic. Only people who are financially well-off already can afford to invest a lot of time for a small probability to win a lot of money. These are normally not the people who need money the most. And if these people started blogging because of the money, they might not be very motivated to continue once they get this $100,000. At the same time, some talented writer who can't afford to spend a lot of time on blogging will continue to not be able to do that. Also, I hope that you will give feedback to applicants to prevent someone from putting a lot of time into this hoping that they get the money and then never getting any money. I guess I'm surprised about this $100,000 or nothing granting approach, it doesn't seem optimal to me. 

Just to illustrate, my thought process after reading this post was that maybe I should reduce my hours at work and start a blog. But then I thought that I'm really privileged to be able to do that and that this format further rewards privileged people.  And that if I got $100,000, I might take some time off from EA work and blogging which I wouldn't do otherwise.

But maybe I'm misunderstanding some things. It's also unclear to me how developed a blog should be before you apply.
 

for an example of a different model, drew devault, who's fairly well-known in the free software community, offered $20 to anyone who started a blog, with another $20 if there was an additional 3 posts in the next half year. it seems to have resulted in a number of new blogs, including several that are still active now, 2.5 years later.

Very interesting structure. Will investigate incorporating it into our plans in the future.

I just want to pipe in to say that I think this is a cool example; the structure of "extremely small prize for doing the thing at all" seems like a nice way to build up the funnel of new blogs in a more even-handed way.

I think even "technically flawed" critiques could actually be very useful, because developing arguments against that which are more easily accessible will probably be helpful in the future. (disclaimer I'm currently on a sleeping med making me feel slightly loopy, so apologies if the above doesn't make sense)

I’m really glad that you want to support EA-adjacent writers and spread EA ideas to a wider audience. I think this is crucially important work and I’m really happy that you’re taking it seriously.  This prize has given me a nudge to take my own EA-adjacent blogging more seriously! 

Like many others, I have concerns about the amount.  I think it’s overkill and, as others have said, it may be easier for the privileged to take a gamble on winning the prize, while great writers who don’t have the option of cutting down their working hours will still be neglected.  
Another concern that others haven’t mentioned is PR. I don’t think EAs always need to be super ‘image focussed’ and paranoid about PR, and indeed sometimes we skew too far in that direction. But it seems some concern is appropriate here because part of the aim of the project is to spread EA ideas to people who are not already in the movement. I think if one of the first things I heard about EA was ‘this is a movement whose stated aim is to spend money super efficiently to do the most good, and they just spent $500,000 paying people in/adjacent to their community to write blogs that are vaguely supportive of their community’, that would seem suss to me. It seems cronyish. Of course, *I* can easily believe that good blogs could create way more than $500,000 of value by bringing people into the movement, improving decision-making, etc. But that involves *already* thinking in very EA ways and trusting the community to be acting in good faith and not just trying to enrich their friends.

As an alternative way of incentivizing good writing: a thought I’ve often had is making a google doc of all the blog posts that “live rent free” in my head - blogs whose main idea has seeped into my consciousness, blogs that I constantly recommend when certain topics come up. I bet many EAs, if they introspect, have an internal list of blog posts like this. You could ask a large-ish number of trusted people about which specific blog posts have been most influential for them, and grant awards for blogs that are cited by many people (or offer to pay those bloggers to do it full-time for a while, if they want). If you are interested in funding more popularizing writings, you could choose people who are newer to the movement or more ‘adjacent’, rather than hardcore EAs who will choose something niche. 

Does this prize draw a distinction between a website versus a blog? As an example of something that's more "website" than "blog", think of Gwern's website or imagine a scaled-down individually-run version of 80,000 Hours .

Why websites?

I. Emphasis on structure

The reason I ask is that it seems to me that there are many benefits to creating content that's a little more formal and a little more data-oriented. Blogs tend to treat individual posts as one-offs, even if they're arranged into a sequence. By contrast, websites can break local arguments off into chunks, without requiring that each one be individually fascinating.

II. Emphasis on tight, interconnected argument across posts

For example, I've appreciated (and disagreed with) 80k's writings on researcher productivity power laws. Although I have written quite a few reviews of LW blog posts for the annual review, I don't really perceive most blog posts there as making tight, specific arguments about particular topics. They are more about exploring a set of ideas than arguing for a specific conclusion. This is OK, but it means that it's hard to really falsify them. By contrast, it feels potentially productive to do an epistemic spot check or counterargument against an 80k article, or, say, GiveWell analysis.

III. Timelessness

Blog posts seem to be about setting a conversational agenda, outlining a rough heuristic, or sometimes about assigning a label to a widely useful framework (i.e. Elizabeth's "epistemic legibility"). There's an immediacy to them that is also ephemeral. By contrast, when I read a website, I am usually there for my own purposes, and am interested in scrutinizing in a relatively timeless argument itself, rather than in participating in a conversation. Since the maintainers of the website are generally, at least in theory, equally invested in the quality of the entire website, rather than in steering the conversation the latest post, it feels potentially productive to contact them with alternative views.

IV. Potential to scale

In addition, websites don't have the same expectation of a single authorial voice that a blog has. If I was running a website, and received a cogent rebuttal of one of my articles, then I could potentially, with the author's permission, host it with their byline. Scott's done that for his reader-sourced essay contests and book reviews. But there's still a sense that he's giving these authors a spotlight, rather than taking some sort of personal responsibility for the quality of their offerings. And although some blogs have more than one writer, websites are focused on a theme rather than a personal, and seem to have greater potential to scale up the writing team if it proves useful.

Why not websites?

One major advantage of blogs over websites is that blogs do a great job of starting a conversation. They serve a similar function to a daily newspaper. This stands in contrast to a website like 80,000 Hours. If they update their web pages or add new articles, I don't expect that this will draw immediate, concentrated focus in the way that a new post on somebody's blog will.

Another is that blogs are convenient for the author to start. No need to buy a domain name or think in any sort of depth about how to structure the website overall. You can just write down whatever's on your mind on a given day and hit "publish." One reason potentially to exclude website-building from this contest would be to ensure that you want to send a message that this activity, specifically, is what you're interested in. But it seems more like you're trying to foster information-generating talent than to ensure that talent is expressed in a certain form.

It may look like this argument is weaker because it's only two paragraphs long. But I think that the ability to set the daily conversation is a form of immense power. I think the daily drip of content does more to create a sense of personal identity than any website ever can. If the goal is to shape the conversation, rather than to provide information and arguments, I think a blog (or its scaled-up version, the newspaper and magazine) is the right choice.

Who cares?

People can do whatever they want with blogs and websites. But I think there's value in coming to some kind of tentative model for what our common goals are, and how our production of content contributes to those goals. "Best blogs" implies "best for some purpose," and suggests that the prizerunners have at least some notion of a strategic goal here.

Not only do I think that the purposes of websites vs. blogs is an interesting topic in its own right, but I also think that making the prizerunner's intuitions about what our goals should be is valuable both for potential writers and as a form of transparency for this community. I don't demand that transparency (such calls for transparency are often framed as a demand). I am simply inviting it!

I strongly agree with you, and would add that long content like Gwern's (or Essays on Reducing Suffering or PredictionBook or Wikipedia etc.) are important as epistemic infrastructure: they have the added value of constant maintenance, which allows them to achieve depth and scope that is usually not found in blogs. I think this kind of maintenance is really really important, especially when considering long-term content. I mourn the times when people would put a serious effort into putting together an FAQ for things—truly weapons from a more civilized age.

I have read blogs for many years and most blog posts are the triumph of the hare over the tortoise. They are meant to be read by a few people on a weekday in 2004 and never again, and are quickly abandoned—and perhaps as Assange says, not a moment too soon. (But isn’t that sad? Isn’t it a terrible ROI for one’s time?) On the other hand, the best blogs always seem to be building something: they are rough drafts—works in progress.

Gwern, “About This Website”, 2021

On the other hand, most blogs to me seem to be epistemic fireworks (or, maybe more nicely, epistemic tinder that sparks a conversation): read mostly when released, and then slowly bit-rotting away until the link falls stale. (Why don't people care more about their content when they put so much effort intro producing it‽).

I find it ironic that the FTX Long Term Future Fund is giving out a price to a medium that is so often so ephemeral, so much not long-term, as blogs (what value can I gain from reading the whole archive of Marginal Revolution? A lot, probably, but extremely little value per post, I'm likely better off reading Wikipedia.). What's next? The $10k price for the best discord message about longtermism? The best tweet? (”It's about the outreach! Many more people read tweets and discord messages!”)

We strongly recommend that your blog has some form of RSS/newsletter. This makes it easier for people to find and read (and much easier for us to judge). 

At the same time, I love and generally encourage the idea of building a website around the content along the lines you describe, for the reasons you enumerate. This is the big downside of Substack.

Thanks very much for the response!

It sounds like you're interested both in the quality of the content and in its convenience, visibility, and readership. But it doesn't necessarily need to have the journal-like structure of a blog. The RSS/newsletter would be a way to keep regular readers apprised of new content. But it doesn't necessarily have to be primarily meant to be ingested in chronological (or reverse-chronological) order.

I regularly write posts on lesswrong (and cross-post when applicable to alignmentforum). Am I a blogger? I certainly describe myself that way. But I get a strong impression from the Effective Ideas website that this doesn’t count. (You can correct me if I’m wrong.)

I guess the question is: do we think of lesswrong as a “blogging platform” akin to substack? Or do we think of it as a “community forum” akin to hacker news? (Or both!)

The same question, of course, applies to people who “blog” exclusively on EA Forum!

You might say: Maybe my lesswrong posts don’t constitute a proper “blog” because people can’t see just my posts, separated from everyone else’s lesswrong posts? Ah, but they can! Not only that, they can also view just my posts on my solo RSS feed, or my solo twitter, or an index of my posts on my personal website!

For my part, I find lesswrong to be a nice “blogging platform”, and have not so far felt tempted to set up a separate substack / wordpress / whatever. If I did, I would probably wind up cross-posting to lesswrong anyway, and the end result would just be a split-up comment section and more hassle posting and editing, with no appreciable upside, it seems to me. However, maybe I’d do it anyway, if eligibility for this giant prize is on the line. Is it?

Good to hear that you are writing on LessWrong. We are all big fans. But one of our guiding principles for this project has been to incentivize getting content in venues where they get beyond a core in-group. From the outside, it's easy to see LW as for rationalists (and EA Forums only for EAs). Standard blogs feel more neutral to outsiders. And while standard blogs don't require a different tone and context assumptions, they often have them. So we view blogging and LW (and similar venues) as complementary but distinct things.

 So we ask that qualifying blogs are not on LessWrong, though crossposting every post would be permissible. And I would also encourage others to do prizes for LessWrong posts, etc. 

I assume it's fine to prominently link to the EA forum or LW as the place to leave comments? Like e.g. cold takes does.

Yes, that's fine. 

If I did [set up a separate substack / wordpress / whatever], I would probably wind up cross-posting to lesswrong anyway, and the end result would just be a split-up comment section and more hassle posting and editing, with no appreciable upside, it seems to me.

This is exactly why I post on Less Wrong and then link to it from my personal website instead of crossposting. I wrote a program that crawls Less Wrong and then generates links on my personal website.

I especially like how reliably the Less Wrong moderation team prevents spam in the comments. Spam was a chronic annoyance when I ran my own comments section.

I think this is a very interesting project, and I hope it produces lots of great new writing.

I'm wondering what you think the likely effects (if any) might be on the EA Forum?

I see them as compliments! I expect blogging encouraged by the prize will on average require less context to read, and will often be done by people who aren't members of the EA community. I hope that as authors and readers think more about these topics, they will find their way here.

I'm curious why do you expect blogging to  "often be done by people who aren't members of the EA community"? Are you advertising this in other places and is this your way of trying to get more people into EA? Do you want long-time members of EA community to apply as well? Sorry if that's too many questions.

Are you advertising this in other places and is this your way of trying to get more people into EA?

Yes, much of the advertising/outreach targets people who know what EA is (and have generally positive feelings about it)  but don't consider themselves members of the community. 

Do you want long-time members of EA community to apply as well?

Yes, we're excited long-time members to apply, especially if they are writing in a way that is accessible to wider audiences. Note that this doesn't necessarily mean writing simplistic or introductory posts, just ones that are accessible to a wider audience. Cold Takes is a great example of this. 

I would expect people to just cross post relevant posts?

Why do we think say progress studies has more blogs? In some way, do you think this forum reduces other blogs? Or does progress studies contain more economists who like to write? Or something else?

Maybe they have more funding (vis-à-vis their goals)... I guess their main goal is to get more attention to a well-defined agenda, while I think EAs are usually more concerned with debating things.

Hypotheses: 

  1. We have strong models for how to do a popular blog about progress (Tyler Cowen, Anton Howes, Jason Crawford, etc). We have fewer of those sorts of models for EA.
  2. Progress studies, as it exists, sort of only is blogging, so all intellectual effort is channeled to it. EA encourages people to do lots of other things.
  3. Progress studies is innately better suited for blogging. This seems unlikely to me. But I do believe some subjects (philosophy stands out) are harder to blog about. Related: History seems especially easy to podcast about. 

Summarizing it: would you say we are more "foxes", Progress Studies is more "hedgehog"?

Progress studies is innately better suited for blogging. This seems unlikely to me.

On the other hand, I'd say that Progress Studies is better suited for "catchy blogging". Perhaps I'm still thinking of it as fox v. hedgehog... but I think content about how the world has improved since the industrial revolution and can keep improving is more likely to get engagement from the avg internet joe than something like "how to do good better? it turns out it's quite hard, and unsurprisingly it costs time and money, indeed"... or you could say that psychological traits predicting interest in Progress (and I am not even considering political implications) are more prevalent than those predicting interest in EA.

Having said this, I really like the idea of the contest, it's a very generous incentive to start new blogs... but what's the theory of change here? I'm truly curious about what you'd expect to achieve. For instance, do you think people who are talented and well-positioned to start new influential blogs will do it because of this contest? Or (which is an often neglected positive effect of awards) this will mostly help identify and promote new talented bloggers, who'd otherwise take a long time to be noticed?

Can you say a bit about how you would think about blogs of people who already work in EA orgs, where their blogging is adjacent or related to their work (aka 'the day job')?

To elaborate, I have a bunch of ideas I'd like to write up relating to effective altruism and longtermism but I've been lacking a push to do this. So I'm quite excited about this prize as a motivation (excuse?) to finally get going. However, the stuff I'd write would be kinda in the Happier Lives Institute's wheelhouse, except I'd be minded to do hotter, more personal takes. So, I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing the judges would be excited about, or it would seem weird to enter a competition for doing something that's a bit like my day job - particularly as the blogs might eventually try to be grown into HLI working papers and/or academic papers. I couldn't see anything about whether people have to be writing in a personal capacity, outside their normal hours, need to be doing it unpaid, and so on.

On a separate note, I wonder how much the organisers have thought about 'funging' and incentive risks, e.g. people blog instead of writing academic papers because there are now much higher rewards to the former than before.

I see the site lists "our bloggers", including Aria Babu, Sam Enright, Stian Weslake, etc. Are these people who are on your team (and not competing for the prize), or are these people who have already entered the competition?

This is really exciting! Props to a beautiful, clear website and a launch that created a buzz. This initiative is the nudge I needed to get serious about starting that blog-thing I've talked to friends about.

What proportion of the content for such a blog/website should be EA-related? I'd love to write about EA ideas, but I'm also drawn to topics in philosophy of mind, mental health, and like... existing. Could you see a successful blog dip into a wide variety of topics, or would you be more excited about a blog where nearly every post has a clear connection to EA? 

We don't have any precise guidance on this. From our rules:

While blogs should generally explore these ideas, not every post needs to be on-topic to qualify. (Your foremost goal is to write an interesting and thought-provoking blog!)

Hopefully that helps. If you want a heuristic, aim for 50% of your content to connect to the topics enumerated in the Rules section of our website. Of course, related content will be especially important in the judging process. 

I follow Vaidehi’s sentiments and it is good that she is responded to. 

However, I think the project looks really good.

Seriously, just look at it. The content and advice is really excellent too.

 

You say something that seems important to the "theory of change":

Further, we think EA needs more strong writers who can share key ideas in prestigious and popular venues

 As you know, writing well isn’t enough to get published in very popular venues. 

Are you able to elaborate on any pipeline/expertise/strategy to getting into major publications (especially ones not known to be EA aligned)? For example, will everyone or selected writers get mentors with that experience, will there be pitching advice, figures or staff from publications as guests? Will you share writeups in some form?

 

Developing these competencies in EA seems good, because EA traits like modesty,  conscientiousness, consideration for others, don’t always lead to publicity.

Sure! First I'll say that I'm an editor on Works in Progress and we're always excited to read interesting pitches from EAs. We might also consider building more small magazines. I've heard rumblings of a few projects in this space.  Eventually, I'd like (me or someone else) to develop relationships with editors at traditional outlets to help EA writers (hopefully some of whom emerge in the Blog Prize) pitch them. Young Voices is a fascinating model here. Feel free to reach out to discuss plans along these lines further.

In the future different types of rewards could probably improve results of initiatives like this. Currently the small chance of big rewards for major commitments very strongly selects for people who can afford to commit a large amounts of personal risk and time to it. 

Blogging is also extremely long-tailed in impact (=vast majority of blogs have no readers), so ultimately it seems that this sort of reward selects for people who A) can afford to spend significant time on writing, and B) consider it OK to spend time pursuing a prize with an activity that is very likely to have no impact.

The way blogging and more generally writing usually seem to work, is that people do it well due to intrinsic motivation. It is hard to pay directly for quality content, especially if you want it to continue independently of financial incentives.

As an alternative, giving many small rewards with little uncertainty for the recipients, would result in many people trying blogging, without so many adverse selection effects. Most of the participants would probably not continue blogging, but it would increase the absolute number of people who try blogging, and through that increase the odds of finding great bloggers who would've otherwise not blogged.

In more general form, it seems that this sort of prizes would work better to motivate tasks that people are already doing, as a way to increase their commitment and quality. For example, prizes for research, or retrospective blogging prizes.

Thanks for these comments.

In the future different types of rewards could probably improve results of initiatives like this.

We're likely going to announce subsequent prizes as this project develops. "Best critique of longtermism" will probably be the first. Please let me know if you have any ideas.

Giving many small rewards with little uncertainty for the recipients, would result in many people trying blogging, without so many adverse selection effects.

This is what we are doing through our grant making program. Feel free to refer people to nickwhitaker@effectiveideas.org. We want to make sure that financial restraint doesn't prevent potentially high quality bloggers from starting blogs.  

I'd also be interested to hear about the quantity of blogging you'd want in a year. I assume there's some cut-off of the amount of stuff you would need to produce to be considered. It would be good to know what this is so people can think if they have enough time to give this a fair whack of the whip.

We're pluralists here (and on most things): One incredible, timeless post could win the prize. A constant stream of interesting thoughts could also win. As a heuristic, I think 2 longer posts a month (>500 words) or 4 shorter posts a month is a good blogging pace.

Is it fair to say that prize winners will be people who are coming up with original ideas? Would someone who is great at taking existing ideas and repackaging them in an engaging piece of writing (e.g. a really engaging and accessible introduction to longtermism) have a chance of winning?

I just wanted to point out that if you want to participate but don't necessarily need $100,000, you can pledge to donate a part of the prize if you get it.

 I'm curious to hear how you came to settle on the prize-structure of the contest.

For example, why few but large prizes, as opposed to a pay-per-post model?
What thoughts have you given to the opportunity cost of people you encourage to write blogs? 

What is your opinion of Medium for starting a blog, compared to Substack?

There is no mention of "Medium" in that page, that's why I asked on the Forum.