Effective altruism is a joint effort. Our goal is to make the EA Forum a great space for collaborative discussion about how to do the most good we can.
If ever worried or confused about something, you can contact the team behind this platform at email@example.com.
In brief, what we would like to see:
- Be kind.
- The minimum expectation is civility. We may delete unnecessary rudeness and issue warnings for it.
- On the other hand, having disagreements is fine, and expected. Disagreements help us find the truth and are part of healthy communication.
- Communicate your uncertainty or the true reasons behind your beliefs as much as you can.
- Don’t mislead or manipulate.
- Discussion norms
- What we encourage (strong norms)
- What we think is useful but not as crucial
- What we don't worry about
- What we discourage (and may delete)
- Disagreement and criticism
- Relevance (what goes on the Frontpage?)
- Norms for other things on the Forum
- Voting norms
- Your profile and bio
- Consider writing a Forum bio
- Rules for pseudonymous and multiple accounts
- Editing the EA Wiki or "Topic" pages
- Direct messaging other users
- Contact the moderators or report inappropriate behavior
- Reporting something
- Moderators & past moderation
- List of moderator comments
- Give feedback, suggest features, or report bugs
- Some key Forum resources
What we encourage (strong norms)
- In brief: writing that is kind, relevant to the discussion at hand, and honest.
- A generous and collaborative approach to engaging on the Forum.
- Scout mindset: "The drive not to make one idea win or another lose, but to see what's there as honestly and accurately as you can."
- Aim to inform, rather than persuade. Be willing to change your mind.
- See Vaidehi Agarwalla for more on this idea
- Clarity about what you believe, your reasons for believing it (this could be “I have this intuition for some reason I can’t quite track”), and what would cause you to change your mind.
What we think is useful but not as crucial
- Encourage others when they do something you think is helpful.
- Include a summary at the top of your post so that readers can easily understand your main points.
- Try to formulate a short, clear title for the post/question
- Try to follow some good heuristics and discussion norms:
- Jargon: when first using a particular piece of jargon, try to provide a brief explanation of what it means, and/or a link to a good source on the topic.
- EA should taboo “EA should”
- Avoid common errors and pitfalls in writing
- It’s also nice to include pictures, visualizations, or graphs.
- Make concrete predictions where possible.
- For example, instead of saying "we should fund X," you might say "I think funding X would lead to Y or Z, as long as Q doesn't happen."
- Even if you're highly uncertain, making a prediction lets you add nuance to your views and gives people a better sense of how to interpret your claims.
- Emphasizing any action items to increase the chance that your post has the intended impact.
- For example, if you want people to take a survey, link it at the beginning of your post as well as at the end.
- You can find more thoughts and writing on discussion norms at the appropriate tag
What we don't worry about
- Polish of the writing
- We'd rather see an idea presented imperfectly than not see it at all.
- If a post is especially rough or exploratory, you could consider making it a Shortform post.
- You can help people understand how you feel about an idea by using an "epistemic status" — that is, noting how certain/serious you are at the beginning. See Gwern's confidence tags for an example of this.
- Status of the poster
- You don’t need to be an expert or accredited in any way to post about things. Just be clear about your uncertainties and level of confidence.
What we discourage (and may delete)
- Unnecessary rudeness or offensiveness
- Materials advocating major harm or illegal activities, or materials that may be easily perceived as such
- Information hazards that concern us
- Deliberate misinformation or manipulation
- Spam and any commercial messaging not related to EA
- Other behavior that interferes with good discourse
If we remove content you've shared, we'll alert you to this. We're open to discussing how something broke our rules and whether a revised version might be fine to publish.
Depending on the severity of the norm-breaking, we may take further action (like suspending an account).
We try to be pretty light on moderation, and we don’t remove everything that someone claims might violate one of our rules.
However, we do ultimately reserve the right to take what we think is the correct course of action.
Disagreement and criticism
- When you disagree with someone, approach it with curiosity; try to work out why they think what they think, and what you can learn from each other.
- When you criticize someone's point, consider doing so supportively.
- Consider taking a discussion private if you want a higher-bandwidth discussion and/or want to resolve a misunderstanding.
- Try to focus on important questions, and the important parts of important questions, to keep content useful and to the point.
Norms for other things on the Forum
“Mass voting” on many instances of a user’s content simply because it belongs to that user is not permitted. Please judge each post or comment on its own merits.
Other than that, you can vote using your preferred criteria. Here are our suggestions:
- Upvote a post or comment if:
- You think it adds something to the conversation, or you found it useful.
- People should imitate some aspect of the behavior in the future.
- You want others to see it.
- You just generally like it.
- Not if: “Oh, I like the poster, they’re cool.”
- Strong-upvote a post or comment if:
- Reading this will help people do more good.
- You learned something important.
- You think many more people might benefit from seeing it.
- You want to signal that this sort of behavior adds a lot of value.
- Not if: “I agree and want others to see this opinion first.”
- Downvote if:
- There’s an error.
- The comment or post didn’t add to the conversation, and maybe actually distracted.
- Not if: “There are grammatical errors in this comment.”
- Strong-downvote if:
- It contains many factual errors and bad reasoning
- It’s manipulative or breaks our norms in significant ways
- It’s literally spam
- Not if: “I disagree with this opinion.”
(This is adapted from these recommendations from LessWrong, a forum which uses the same voting system.)
We also encourage you to leave constructive feedback about what was helpful or unhelpful about the material you’re voting on, like:
- “That example helped clear things up for me.”
- “I didn’t find this relevant.”
- “I appreciated this post.”
In particular, if you downvote something, leaving a comment with a brief explanation is optional but can be helpful, as many users experience anxiety and confusion around getting downvoted. In general, commenting can be really helpful.
Your profile and bio
Consider writing a Forum bio
Your bio lets other users know more about you. To edit it, click your username in the upper right and select “User Profile.” See this post for ideas on writing a bio.
Please don't use your bio for advertising services and products completely unrelated to effective altruism.
Rules for pseudonymous and multiple accounts
Sometimes, it feels easier to express yourself when you are anonymous, especially if your opinion is controversial or unpopular. We allow people to create pseudonymous accounts, and you can have more than one account.
However, anonymity also has downsides. To counter them, we have the following rules:
- You can't impersonate other people. This includes famous people who were alive in the 21st century.
- You can't use multiple accounts to vote on the same post or comment, or to express the same opinion multiple times.
In general, we think that real names are good for community bonding, and we encourage you to use yours. But it's not required.
Editing the EA Wiki or "Topic" pages
As described here, anyone can contribute to the Wiki. However, the standards for content and language on the Wiki are higher and stricter than elsewhere on the Forum. The Wiki follows a Style Guide and requires a level of neutrality; you cannot use it to express niche opinions and present them as common or authoritative.
We have yet to develop formal norms for editing the Wiki, but if we believe someone has seriously violated the implied set of norms, we reserve the right to take action in the ways described above.
Direct messaging other users
Be civil and respectful when messaging other users.
If you plan to directly message more than 5 users (whom you do not know) about the same topic, please write a Forum post about this instead. We view this as spam; users have not opted into reading the messages.
Contact the moderators or report inappropriate behavior
- firstname.lastname@example.org reaches the team that runs the Forum.
- email@example.com reaches the moderators.
- You can also use the “Report” feature.
- You can also use the Intercom (the blue-green speech bubble in the lower right).
- To suggest changes or give feedback, you can also just comment on this post.
If you see something that you think breaks the Forum's norms or is otherwise inappropriate for the site, you can report it by clicking the three dots next to the post or comment and selecting “Report.”
This will open a window that prompts you to enter a note that will be sent directly to the moderators, who will review the content and may remove it.
It’s okay to report something even if you aren’t sure it broke any rules! It’s better for the moderators to know about it so that we can make a decision.
If someone sends you a private message that makes you uncomfortable, contact:
- The moderation team at firstname.lastname@example.org, for messages you don’t mind sharing with a group of people — for example, if someone says something rude or sends you spam. You might want to include a screenshot.
- Our contact person (currently Julia Wise), for sensitive or interpersonal problems — for example, if someone makes a threat against you, or seems to be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Moderators & past moderation
The current moderators (as of April 2022) are Julia Wise, Edo Arad, Vaidehi Agarwalla, JP Addison, and Lizka Vaintrob. The moderation team uses the email address email@example.com. Please feel free to contact us with questions or feedback.
Moderators can access:
- The IP address a post/comment came from
- The voting history of users
- The identity of voters on any given post/comment
This information will only be used to identify behavior such as "sockpuppet" accounts and mass downvoting, or in the case of severe safety concerns. The moderators will not view or use this information for any other purpose.
List of moderator comments
For more on how we moderate, see our list of past moderator comments.
Give feedback, suggest features, or report bugs
To report a bug, contact us through Intercom (the chat window in the corner of your screen) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To suggest a feature, write a comment on the Feature Suggestion Thread. We see every comment someone posts, and we’ll reply if the feature gets implemented.
If you think we should add something to this post, please also let us know! You can contact us as described above, or comment on the post.