➡️ 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 email@example.com.
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.
- Some relevant concepts are epistemic legibility, reasoning transparency, and Double-Crux
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
- Deliberate flamebait or trolling
- 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.")
- 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)
- Hate speech or content that promotes hate based on identity.
- Revealing someone's real name if they are anonymous on the Forum or elsewhere on the internet is prohibited.
- 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.
We may remove such content or take other measures (such as bans). If you think the moderation team has removed something unnecessarily or acted inappropriately, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
- Encourage others when they do something you think is helpful.
- If you like a post, tell the author
- Upvote things you appreciate
- Include a summary at the top of your post so that readers can easily understand your main points.
- We like this example of how to format brief highlights and this example of a longer summary.
- Summaries become more useful the longer your post is, and aren’t very important for posts that can be read within a few minutes.
- Try to avoid using sensitive or unnecessarily controversial examples if they’re not central to your point.
- Use headings, especially for longer posts (they make it easier to navigate)
- Try to formulate a short, clear title for the post/question.
- 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
- Include pictures, visualizations, or graphs.
- These don’t have to be polished!
- Note that you can embed charts from Our World in Data.
- 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.
- Emphasize action items to increase the chance that your post has your 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 here.
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.
You can see the full policy on sharing personal information here. Personal information is sometimes ok to share, depending on how sensitive it is, how relevant it is to a discussion important for effective altruism, and how public the information is elsewhere. We may encode or remove some kinds of information.
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 Frontpage for users who haven't modified the default settings, 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.
Policy on bots and AI-generated content
We are tentatively allowing AI-generated content, including bots, on the Forum (when it isn’t spam). However,
- Bots — users that post without direct human involvement — must be identified as bots. Please put “(bot)” in the name of the user, like “User (bot).”
- If you have a special use case for a bot that requires the bot to appear human to most users, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to seek permission.
- If we become aware of a bot that doesn’t have “(bot)” in its username, we may edit the username.
- While we are generally pretty light on moderation, we plan to be very strict when it comes to moderating bots and AI-generated content. If we think that a bot is off-topic, spammy, or generally producing low quality content, we ban the bot and remove its comments without hesitation. Karma scores on bots and AI-generated content may be used to decide whether to remove it. If we have banned a bot that you run, please ask us for permission before running a new bot.
- If you, as a human, use an AI to help you compose your content, which you then post under your own name, that’s fine.
We may change this policy in the near future.
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.
Guidance for running contests, bounties, or prizes on the Forum
You can run contests, bounties, or prizes on the Forum, provided that the announcement post contains a statement like:
This contest is sponsored by (your name) and neither Effective Ventures Foundation or CEA USA are responsible for this contest.
If you would like a tag which can be applied to all submissions for your contest to help organize responses (e.g. GiveWell Change Our Mind Contest), please contact the moderation team.
Besides that, we expect Forum users to communicate with integrity on the Forum (don’t be dishonest) and this applies here, too. Please follow some guidelines:
- Do not announce a prize on the Forum if you are not certain you will follow through with the reward. If there’s any particular or specific special uncertainty around this (e.g. if you’re still in the process of securing funding), make that uncertainty clear.
- If, for some reason, you can no longer hold your commitments (e.g. if you promised bounties but cannot pay them), please announce that as soon as you can in a way that people can see. Please also modify the original post.
- Set a deadline by which you will announce prizes, and make a public note of prizes by that time. If you need to delay, share a note about the delay.
- If winners are not announced publicly (e.g. they have requested to remain anonymous), announce that the contest has been closed in such a way that non-winners are aware that they did not win.
- Other notes and suggestions
- Try to limit criteria changes mid-contest, especially around eligibility. We don’t want people to work on the expectation of a chance at a prize and later find out the criteria changed.
- Make the process for entering or submitting something to the contest clear: how should entries be submitted? Do they need to meet any conditions? Is anyone disqualified from entering the contest (e.g. because they can’t be paid via the process you’re using)?
Norms for other things on the Forum
Voting on a post helps to organize the Frontpage — it’s a signal of what you think would be useful for others to read in order to do more good — and provides feedback to the poster.
When you’re voting, don't do the following:
- “Mass voting” on many instances of a user’s content simply because it belongs to that user
- Using multiple accounts to vote on the same post or comment
We will almost certainly ban users if we discover that they've done one of these things.
Additionally, please avoid:
- Asking your friends or coworkers to vote on a post, especially if you might be biased (e.g. because the post is criticizing your work, or because your friend wrote the post)
- We think sharing a post in a public channel and saying “Hey, I quite like this post that summarizes my organization’s work is cool, check it out” is fine. If you see a message like this, evaluate the post on its own merits; don’t just go upvote because someone you know wrote it.
- But posting — or even worse, saying this on a call — “Hey, everyone, please go upvote this post that our organization just shared, we need everyone on the Forum to see it” is bad. Even worse is asking people to downvote criticism of something you work on.
- Deferring entirely to someone else (your vote should be your own)
Additionally, please try to judge each post or comment on its own merits; don’t just vote based on whether or not you like the poster’s other activity.
Other than that, you can vote using your preferred criteria. Here are our suggestions:
|Strong-upvote||“I agree and want others to see this opinion first.”|
|Upvote||“Oh, I like the poster, they’re cool.”|
|Downvote||“There are grammatical errors in this comment.”|
|Strong-downvote||“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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Appealing a moderation decision or giving the moderation team feedback
You can appeal a moderation decision or policy (for yourself or for someone else) by filling out this form. We're working on a formal process for reviewing submissions to this form, to make sure that someone outside of the moderation team will review every submission, and we'll update this page when we have a process in place. The moderation team, the Forum team, and some people from the Centre for Effective Altruism will have access to submissions. Note that you can submit responses anonymously.
You’re also welcome to contact the moderation team at email@example.com or the Forum team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Lorenzo Buonanno, JP Addison, and Lizka Vaintrob (we will likely grow the team in the near future). Julia Wise, Ollie Base, Edo Arad, Ben West, and Aaron Gertler are on the moderation team as active advisors. The moderation team uses the email address email@example.com. 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
- 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). Note that other employees at Effective Ventures Foundation might see anything you write via Intercom.
- 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.
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 email@example.com.
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
- 🖋️ Write on the EA Forum
- 🦋 Guide to norms on the Forum (this page)
- 🛠️ Forum User Manual
This guidance and a couple others in this post are taken from https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
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.
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.
Should be detracted.