➡️  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.

This page might evolve. If any information seems inaccurate or you think we should change something, please let us know. You can find a past version of this page here

If ever worried or confused about something, you can contact the team behind this platform at forum@effectivealtruism.org

The essentials of Forum discussion

In brief: writing that is kind, relevant to the discussion at hand, and honest.

  • Be kind.
    • Stay civil, at the minimum. Don’t sneer or be snarky. In general, assume good faith. We may delete unnecessary rudeness and issue warnings or bans for it.
    • Substantive disagreements are fine and expected. Disagreements help us find the truth and are part of healthy communication.
  • Stay on topic.
    • No spam. This forum is for discussions about improving the world, not the promotion of services.
    • Don't derail conversations in irrelevant directions.
  • Be honest. 
    • Don’t mislead or manipulate.
    • Communicate your uncertainty and the true reasons behind your beliefs as much as you can.
    • Be willing to change your mind.

In picture form:

Strong discussion norms

(We enforce these.)

What we encourage

In brief: writing that is kind, relevant to the discussion at hand, and honest. Note that the more sensitive a topic is, the more these norms matter and will be enforced. 

  • 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 discourage (and may delete or edit out)

  • 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
  • Misleading titles or "clickbait.” If we think a title is overly "clickbaity," we may ask you to modify it. This includes:
    • Titles in all-caps (change them to title case)
    • Gratuitous numbers or adjectives in the title (E.g. translate "10 Ways To Do X" to "How To Do X," and "14 Amazing Ys" to "Ys." Exception: when the number is meaningful, e.g. "The 5 Platonic Solids."[1])
    • Titles that promise something grand without specifying what it is, like "An amazing opportunity"
  • Other behavior that interferes with good discourse (including actions that aren’t part of a discussion, like mass-downvoting)
  • Doxing — or revealing someone's real name if they are anonymous on the Forum or elsewhere on the internet — is prohibited.[2]
  • Misgendering deliberately and/or deadnaming gratuitously is not ok, although mistakes are expected and fine (please accept corrections, though). More details are in the footnote.[3]

Softer discussion norms and tips

Some things people seem to forget

  • The Forum is public. Anyone can see what you post on the Forum.
  • We’re all wrong sometimes; assume you are, too. Be willing to change your mind.

What we think is useful (but not as crucial as the strong norms)

What we don't worry about

  • How polished the writing is
    • 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.

Special situations and topics

Broadly; the more sensitive something is, the more other norms matter. This means that as a discussion is getting heated or there’s strong disagreement, new comments should be more thoughtful and substantive. 

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.
  • It’s ok to disengage from a discussion. (And you don’t have to respond to every comment.)
  • 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.
  • Respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize.
  • Assume good faith.

An update to Graham's hierarchy of disagreement, courtesy of Bob Jacobs.

Politics on the EA Forum

Our policy about politics is outlined in this post. In brief: 

The following types of posts will be in the “Personal Blog” category (meaning that they will not appear on the Forum’s homepage, but will appear in “All Posts,” in the author’s profile, and on any relevant tag pages):

  • Posts advocating for or against a specific political candidate or group of candidates (e.g. “Why effective altruists should vote for candidate Y”)
    • This policy also applies to posts which neutrally solicit opinions on a particular candidate, since those opinions are generally going to be advocacy for or against the candidate, which risks leading to the same issues.
  • Posts discussing policy issues with only tenuous connection to the main EA cause areas (e.g. “What John Smith’s position on gun rights means for EA voters”)

Some political content will continue to receive “Frontpage” categorization:

  • Posts discussing general systems for evaluating any political candidate (e.g. “Candidate Scoring System, Third Release”)
  • Posts discussing policy issues that are directly connected to core EA cause areas (e.g. this post on a campaign to boost Canadian development assistance)

Job ads or other announcements regarding your work

We do not allow spam or commercial messaging not related to EA. We also don’t allow clickbait or other things that interfere with good discourse. However, you may want to advertise an impactful job or opportunity on the EA Forum, which is fine — people have found good applicants on the Forum before, and we’re here to ultimately take action. But you should follow some guidelines: 

  • Don’t try to sell it. Try to inform people about the opportunity instead of persuading them to join. It’s nice to mention the weaknesses and downsides of the opportunity, although this doesn’t mean that you should downplay its strengths.
  • Make the connection to effective altruism clear, even if it seems obvious to you (unless your organization is a household name in EA). Consider making a case for why this sort of work is particularly impactful (is it neglected?), or why it might be a useful experience for people interested in effective altruism. Alternatively, you can prominently link to other sources that explain these connections. 
    • If you share a job ad that also has interesting content — an explanation of your work and its theory of change, some interesting and relevant news, etc. — more people are likely to see it.

You can check past examples that have done this well. Here’s an ad for an executive assistant position, a job listing for the AGI Safety Fundamentals program, a fellowship announcement, and an announcement about a new organization. There are also many examples in this thread (although these are comments, not posts), and many examples here.

A new user’s first post

A user’s first post will generally stay off the Frontpage at first while an admin checks that it is not spam and doesn’t break norms. 

Norms for other things on the Forum

Voting norms

“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: 

ActionIf…Not if…
Strong-upvote
  • Reading this will help people do 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.
“I agree and want others to see this opinion first.”
Upvote
  • 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.
“Oh, I like the poster, they’re cool.”
Downvote
  • There’s a relevant error.
  • The comment or post didn’t add to the conversation, and maybe actually distracted.
“There are grammatical errors in this comment.”
Strong-downvote
  • It contains many factual errors and bad reasoning
  • It’s manipulative or breaks our norms in significant ways (consider reporting it)
  • It’s literally spam (consider reporting it)
“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:

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. 

Voting activity is generally private (even admins don't know who voted on what), but if we have reason to believe that someone is violating norms around voting (e.g. by mass-downvoting many of a different user's comments and posts), we reserve the right to check what account is doing this. If we suspect that someone is using multiple accounts to vote on the same post, we also reserve to check whether the accounts are related, and check their voting history.

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:

  1. You can't impersonate other people. This includes famous people who were alive in the 21st century.
  2. You can't use multiple accounts to vote on the same post or comment, or to express the same opinion multiple times.
    1. If you break the rules with a pseudonymous account and we want to place restrictions on you (e.g. by banning you from using the Forum for some time), we will be placing these restrictions on you, not on the particular account. By default, we will not check to see whether you have a different account. However, if we have reason to believe that you are using a different account to get around these restrictions (e.g. if we think you’re using your named account after we have banned your pseudonymous account), or are violating norms by using multiple accounts (e.g. sock-puppeting), we reserve the right to check if this is true, which can include checking to see if the accounts are associated. Additionally, if you seriously breach Forum norms in a way that leads us to place certain restrictions on you, we reserve the right to make a public note to explain our reasoning behind bans and restrictions publicly, even if that threatens a user's anonymity. You can see more about this in the section on privacy and pseudonymity. 

In general, we think that real names are good for community bonding, and we encourage you to use yours. But it's not required.

Please try to avoid creating throwaway accounts routinely, and when you do create an anonymous account, we think it’s better if the name is memorable rather than “AnonymousAccount123,” as it allows the Forum to still feel like a community. 

We also do not allow doxing — or revealing someone's real name if they prefer anonymity — on the Forum. If you have concerns about someone's identity (e.g. you think they're impersonating someone, banned/dangerous, or otherwise breaking the norms in some way), please feel free to reach out. 

Editing the EA Wiki or "Topic" pages

Anyone can contribute to the Wiki (once they have at least 10 karma). 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. 

Private messaging other users

Be civil and respectful when messaging other users.

 If you plan to directly message more than 10  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.

Can I translate or reuse Forum content?

Yes: everything published after December 1, 2022 is available under a CC BY 4.0 license. For anything published before that date, unless it specifically has a license clause, we encourage you to contact the author for permission.

What happens when we moderate

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. 

How we think about moderation

As mentioned before: 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. 

We want to make sure that important ideas can be discussed on the Forum safely, and we want to encourage good discourse and not let the Forum devolve into a hostile environment. 

List of moderator comments

For more on how we moderate, you can see our list of past moderator comments.

The moderation team

The current moderators (as of August 2022) are Edo Arad, Lorenzo Buonanno, and Lizka Vaintrob (we will likely grow the team in the near future). Julia Wise, Vaidehi Agarwalla, JP Addison, Ollie Base, Ben West, and Aaron Gertler are on the moderation team as active advisors. The moderation team uses the email address forum-moderation@effectivealtruism.org. Please feel free to contact us with questions or feedback.

The following information is accessible to moderators but will only be used to identify behavior such as "sockpuppet" accounts and mass downvoting, in situations where we have strong reason to believe that an account is used to get around a ban (or other restriction), or in the case of severe safety concerns. The moderators will not view or use this information for any other purpose.

  • The IP address a post/comment came from
  • The voting history of users
  • The identity of voters on any given post/comment

Privacy and pseudonymity

We will never share any information about IP addresses. Besides this, however, we reserve the right to explain our reasoning behind bans and restrictions publicly, even if that threatens a user's anonymity. We will use our judgement here, and we won't be trying deliberately to de-anonymize anyone, but if, for instance, we'd normally say that we're banning a user for violating our norms in a particular way (e.g. by using sockpuppet accounts to vote on something multiple times), we'll say that even if saying it shares some information about the identity of the user. 

We take privacy and pseudonymity very seriously; we want users to be able to use the Forum without worrying that they will be de-anonymized. We will try to maximally protect privacy and pseudonymity, as long as it does not seriously interfere with our ability to enforce important norms on the Forum. Please let us know if you have any questions about this. 

Contact the moderators or report inappropriate behavior

  • forum@effectivealtruism.org reaches the team that runs the Forum.
  • forum-moderation@effectivealtruism.org 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.

Reporting something

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 forum-moderation@effectivealtruism.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.

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 forum@centreforeffectivealtruism.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. 

Some key Forum resources

  1. ^

    This guidance and a couple others in this post are taken from https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html  

  2. ^

    If you have concerns about someone's identity (e.g. you think they're impersonating someone, banned/dangerous, or otherwise breaking the norms in some way), please feel free to reach out to the moderators or the Forum team.

  3. ^

    Misgendering deliberately; if a person's preferred pronouns are known, please use them. Note that making a mistake is entirely fine, we merely expect acceptance of corrections when someone points out the mistake. On the flip side, corrections should not assume ill intent without good reason to do so. 
     

    Deadnaming deliberately and gratuitously is also not allowed. We follow Wikipedia's policy here; if a person was known publicly by a name that is no longer in use, it is permissible to clarify this at the top (e.g. "[Current name] (previously known as [Old name])"), but the person should primarily be referred to by their preferred name. If a person's previous name was never well known, it should not be listed. If you see incidents of this, please flag them and ask authors to remove them. 

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New Comment
1 comment, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:30 AM

Typo thread:

The comment or post didn’t add to the conversation, and maybe actually distracted.

Should be detracted.