Aaron Gertler

I ran the Forum for three years. I'm no longer an active moderator, but I still provide advice to the team in some cases.

I'm the Communications Officer at Open Philanthropy. Before that, I worked at CEA, on the Forum and other projects. I also started Yale's student EA group, and I spend a few hours a month advising a small, un-Googleable private foundation that makes EA-adjacent donations.

Outside of EA, I play Magic: the Gathering on a semi-professional level and donate half my winnings (more than $50k in 2020) to charity.

Before my first job in EA, I was a tutor, a freelance writer, a tech support agent, and a music journalist. I blog, and keep a public list of my donations, at aarongertler.net.

Sequences

Wiki Contributions

Comments

Most successful EA elevator pitches?

Zach's comment linked to a study of different "elevator pitches" for giving. That study has also been discussed on the Forum.

I've seen a bunch of threads on Slack/Facebook where groups share elevator pitches and other introductory materials, and I wouldn't be surprised if this question has been asked before on the Forum, but I don't have time to hunt down other threads at the moment. (You may want to try asking in the EA Groups Slack or in EA Group Organizers to see if anyone knows about past threads or wants to share a current pitch.)

Bryan Caplan on EA groups

I didn't expect it to get as many votes as it did, but I think people just like hearing nice things — there's not really anything to miss.

Most of the top posts of all time have 2+ karma per vote, while this post has less. That lines up with many people reading it, most people liking it, but few people loving it.

How to use the Forum

(Note: No longer a moderator, just thinking out loud.)

If this is meant to be forum rules, it's not where it needs to be. I have not seen a TOS or a set of rules before I got an account, and as a forum veteran I was looking for those.

The "About the Forum" page is linked from the main menu, which appears on every page of the Forum. I assume that the title made it sound like it wasn't worth checking to look for rules, which is helpful to know.

Things that could make the rules easier to find, in case moderators want to try a change:

  • Adding hover text to the "About the Forum" page, as some of the other menu links have, which specifies that rules are here
  • Splitting the rules onto their own page (which could be a natural transition if we eventually set up a more comprehensive guide to editing than we now have)

Social norms are not universal. Netiquette varies by website. What exactly do you mean by 'rude'?

Are there any sites that you think do a good job of defining terms like "rude"?

I checked a few places with good reputations. Here's r/ChangeMyView, which keeps things really simple but has flourished nonetheless:

Here's Hacker News, which offers more specific advice than the above, but generally seems to be at a similar level of specificity/simplicity to the EA Forum:

Quora has this, and is much more thorough than the Forum (the "Be Nice, Be Respectful" page is very detailed). 

Do you favor something like their approach? It's more "universal", maybe, but also much less concise — and it seems like those things will always trade off with each other.

How to use the Forum

Thanks for the notice — looks like we just merged this feature from LW! Thrilled to now be removing this from the post.

Rowing and Steering the Effective Altruism Movement

A competition for steering-type material seems like a reasonable contest theme (along the lines of the contests we had for creative writing and Wiki entries).

Now that I won't be running any future events, I'm not sure what the best place to put ideas like this is. Perhaps a comment here (I imagine that future EA Forum leaders will check that thread when thinking about contests).

I've also added your idea to the document I'll send our next Content Specialist, but that's a really long document, so having the idea in more places seems good!

(Finally, when the next specialist is chosen, they'll probably introduce themselves on the Forum, so you could set a reminder to contact them directly with this idea later on!)

How Big a Problem is Status Quo Bias in the EA Community?

If a post is meant to be private to a certain audience, maybe it's better not to share — I just think sharing is a good default outside of extenuating circumstances.

Should the Aravind Eye Care System be funded in lieu of The Fred Hollows Foundation?

TLYCS moves relatively little money compared to GiveWell, and cataract surgery rarely comes up on the Forum. That's where my point came from. (Note that my explanation is meant to be a guess at why AECS hasn't gotten much attention, not an argument that it shouldn't get much attention.)

My rough summary of GiveWell's cataract research (as of 2018): it seems cost-competitive with other work, but there's a lot of uncertainty around cost-effectiveness estimates and they've struggled to find orgs that meet their standards for monitoring and evaluation.

*****

Do you think maybe headings or infographics would be more appropriate?

I don't think infographics are necessary, or even headings in a short post like this. I just think removing most or all of the bold text would help. (There are other things I'd edit to make some sentences more clear, but I don't have time to talk about them — as I recommend below, reading your post out loud might help you see what is or isn't clear.)

Bold text tells us to stop and really focus on something, but if that happens three times in a given sentence, it breaks up how people typically read.  It might help to read your post aloud, but raise your voice for all the bold text and see if the result feels natural.

Cybersecurity as a career

While this post (on reducing catastrophic risk through a career in infosec) isn't strictly about protecting the United States (and EA, as an international community, isn't especially focused on U.S. interests), it's the most relevant one I'm aware of for your question.

How Big a Problem is Status Quo Bias in the EA Community?

In cases where you do this, I strongly recommend linking back to the original question on Facebook. This lets people see any edits someone has made to the question + the answers they've already gotten (so that someone doesn't waste time writing something on the Forum that's redundant with something on Facebook).

Rowing and Steering the Effective Altruism Movement

Here are two promising first steps, which I'd love to see publicised much more widely.

This recommendation appears briefly in the middle of a long post, but it seems like one of the most concrete things someone could do (and among the easiest).

Have you considered just doing this yourself by writing a separate post that highlights these two opportunities? (And maybe talking to Will/Jonas first to see if there are details they would add?)

Will's comment might already be the most popular in the Forum's history (not sure), but it wouldn't hurt to have more eyeballs on his and Jonas's comments! I'm very interested to see what projects people submit to them for funding.

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