All of Amy Labenz's Comments + Replies

Hiking: an analogy for sustainable work

Thanks for sharing! I considered including different numbers but landed here. I agree that this can also apply to numbers lower than 40 (or higher than 60) and I've had many great colleagues over time who have worked quite different hours. 

FWIW I originally shared this analogy with my team when someone was struggling and I wanted to help them feel ok about taking time off and working fewer than 40 hours a week. 
 

Hiking: an analogy for sustainable work

I probably should have mentioned that I'm Head of Events at CEA, so I'm setting the expectations and ambition level. It is much easier for me to adjust work capacity for other teammates, but I'm choosing between doing some things myself or them not happening. It is true that I could decide to be less ambitious, but I don't want to :)

I have been building lots of capacity on the team this year (maybe quadrupled FTEs on the Events Team?), but we've also added a Retreats Program and Community Events Portfolio, scaled EAG, etc. Hiring for the team has probably ... (read more)

Announcing What We Owe The Future

Pre-ordered my hardcover! I'm excited :) 

The best EA Global yet? (And other updates.)

We put a lot of emphasis on networking and tried to communicate the importance of reaching out to fellow attendees. We also worked with Swapcard to improve the networking app, and felt that this had a positive effect. In general, we think most of the connections resulted from chance conversations or booked one-on-one meetings--- and we were pleased to see that people reported having around 12 one-on-one meetings each. (We can also confirm that people who had more meetings had more connections, although causality is not clear.)

The best EA Global yet? (And other updates.)

Sure! We'd be happy for some red-teaming or suggestions on how to improve our work.

Epistemic status: See profile.

tl;dr: Skeptical about measuring "conections".

Yeah, in the abstract, I'm skeptical of the way you are measuring this, because you are measuring quantity and not quality. You don't just want "more connections", you want more connections that lead somewhere, and it's not clear to me that doubling the number of (junior) participants does this. You have a higher number of potential connections, but also a dillution effect.

So in a simple model where there are only "junior" (people looking for opportunities) and "senior" (people giv... (read more)

[Updated] EA conferences in 2022: save the dates

Thanks! The last time we hosted three (Bay, UK, East Coast) was in 2017. I’m very excited to do it again.

We planned to host two in 2019 but had to cancel the SF event due to COVID and only hosted one in-person EAG in 2021 (with the EA Picnic as a smaller in-person event this year).

Should EA Global London 2021 have been expanded?

Maybe it is important for folks to know that I have personally relaxed a lot about COVID risk. I think for most people in our target audience/demographic (young vaccinated people) the value of attending EAG is worth the risk. This is not because I think we create a space with near-zero risk of COVID exposure, but rather, as I say below, COVID is not the bulk of the risk/cost of this event. 

I don’t make EAG decisions based on my own models alone, which is why I consult community leaders and the COVID Board, and why we encouraged attendees to do their o... (read more)

Should EA Global London 2021 have been expanded?

Thanks, Nathan! It was great to see you at EA Global. 

You're right that we didn't share the specifics of our reasoning - I think that might have been the right call at the time given the tradeoffs of spending time on public communications vs. object-level preparation for the event, but I can understand how community members felt in the dark and we regret that.

To make explicit some of our reasoning: we think that the cost from COVID of the event was likely quite small relative to other costs of the conference. A back-of-the-envelope calculation from on... (read more)

"Regarding staff capacity, we have been very stretched as a team this year. I fully came back from parental leave in mid-April. We ran EAG Reconnect in March, the EA Picnic in July, the EA Meta Coordination Forum in September, and EAG London in October. For much of that time, I was the only full-time staff member on the Events Team: we had one other part-time employee and two contractors. COVID-related precautions added (rough guess) 20-40% additional production time. We brought on two part-time contractors to help with admissions processing in the final w... (read more)

7Nathan Young8mo
Thanks for the clear and thorough response Amy. It was great to see you also.
saulius's Shortform

Thanks for the suggestion! 

We've added a spreadsheet microcovid estimates for a few different scenarios to our COVID Protocol. You can see the whole protocol here. Link to the estimates here

See you soon :) 

Managing COVID restrictions for EA Global travel: My plans + request for other examples

Hi sbowman, thanks for asking! 

We are following the honor system for testing, and will not be requiring proof of the test results. When you arrive, we will ask you to confirm that you have taken one in the last 48 hours and that the result was negative. 

As for the tests themselves, a DIY kit would work. We describe some details in our COVID protocol

  • The conference venue cannot facilitate onsite testing so please take a test before you arrive and stay at your accommodation if you have a positive result. 
  • UK residents can order free test
... (read more)
Nathan Young's Shortform

Hi Nathan, 
 

Thank you for bringing this up! 

1) We’d like to have a larger capacity at EA Global, and we’ve been trying to increase the number of people who can attend. Unfortunately, this year it’s been particularly difficult; we had to roll over our contract with the venue from 2020 and we are unable to use the full capacity of the venue to reduce the risk from COVID. We’re really excited that we just managed to add 300 spots (increasing capacity to 800 people), and we’re hoping to have more capacity in 2022. 

There will also be an oppo... (read more)

2Nathan Young9mo
Thanks for taking the time to answer. That all makes sense.
Suggested norms about financial aid for EAG(x)

One thing that you might already know, but could be helpful to spell out: CEA already subsidizes much of the cost of the conference. The main reason we don’t just subsidize it all is that having some cost for attendees means they have personal investment in coming. At some past events like EAGx where ticket costs were very low, a lot of slots got wasted because people claimed the free or low-cost tickets and then didn’t show up. But we don’t want to keep people away because higher prices are difficult for them, which is why we do offer financial aid. ... (read more)

Suggested norms about financial aid for EAG(x)

Thanks for raising this! We've adjusted the wording over time but still haven't hit on something that ideally conveys the different things we'd suggest to people in different circumstances.

Here's what I think we'd suggest to people in different situations:

  • student or professional with low income who wants to come - yes, take the financial aid and come
  • professional with significant income but who's committed to giving significantly to effective charities, or who has other significant expenses (health, family, student debt) that make money tight, and who wa
... (read more)
4richard_ngo9mo
I think this would be better than the current FAQ, but it seems like what you've said above mostly rephrases the ambiguities I highlighted without doing much to resolve them. E.g. the ambiguity of "for anyone who needs them" isn't much alleviated by using phrasing like "money is tight" and "doesn't give them serious pause". I'd take a wild guess that maybe the bottom 30% of westerners (by income) would say that "money is tight" for them, and that the top 5% would say that "spending $400+ doesn't give them serious pause". But it's not clear how the remaining 65% should think about it. (And that category is probably even more than 65% for people from poorer countries.) Hence my proposal in the post that you should pay full price iff you're already donating enough that you're comfortable for EAG to take up $400+ of your donation budget (I'll edit to make this more explicit). Similarly, it also seems pretty hard to evaluate where the bar should be for "it wouldn't be that good for them to come", since almost everyone will have improved decisions/strengthened motivations/etc from EAG to some degree. Should it be twice as good as a typical weekend in order for people to feel justified in taking a spot? Four times? Ten times? The highlight of the year? This seems very hard to judge. Hence my proposal in the post that the bar you should use is the marginal next person who would be accepted to EAG (while weighing your own acceptance as significant evidence that you should go). Lastly, your proposal doesn't tell people whether they should think of EAG as "personal" or "altruistic" spending. For people who categorise these differently, their bars for marginal spending on personal versus altruistic things might be very different.
Concern about the EA London COVID protocol

Thanks for your reply! I've responded to your points separately below:

As I understand it, these two measures are more safety theater than anything else - it seems that almost all transmission is through the air, not through surfaces. But it would be good to hear about ventilation: getting lots of fresh air is one of the most effect ways of reducing transmission.

Great point about ventilation, I've added that to the protocol. See my reply to the OP:

Missing safety measures

The venue does provide surface cleaning and hand sanitizer stations, and we considered i... (read more)

Concern about the EA London COVID protocol

Hi James,

Thanks very much for sharing this feedback. 

We mentioned in the protocol that “We considered the venue rules, UK and London requirements, and World Health Organization’s guidelines when drafting this protocol. We also used these resources to draft questions for our COVID Advisory Board.

Some of the complication comes from cases where the rules from these different bodies are different from what our COVID Advisory Board recommended. The various rules and recommendations shaped the policies,  but we didn’t explain our reasoning for some of... (read more)

1Fods1210mo
Thanks Amy, I think these clarifications significantly improve the policy. I disagree on the decision not to mandate masks but I understand there will be differences in views there. However mentioning that they are encouraged may be just as effective at ensuring widespread use. That was part of my original concern, that I did not feel this aspect of norm-setting was as evident in the original version of the policy.
Concern about the EA London COVID protocol

Thanks for sharing your concerns. I’ll reply more later (baby is still sleeping on me!) but I wanted to quickly clarify that everyone must be fully vaccinated. The venue may not accept some vaccine cards so the testing backup option is for those limited cases. Sorry that wasn’t clear.

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

I think this varies based on the team. My team (Events) is very strong on Alliance Mentality and Purpose First. I think we could improve on Perpetual Beta, which is why we are emphasizing skills related to impact analysis and program evaluation in our current hiring round. 

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

One thing that CEA recently changed was to go from thinking about the org as "based in Oxford with remote staff" to "remote first".  As someone who has been a remote employee for many years now, I'm excited about this change.  What it means in practice, is that even after the pandemic ends

  • One-person-one-laptop for meetings
  • Coworking
  • Informal/social time
  • Systems to encourage +  support travel

I'm especially excited about that last bullet point. I remember January 2016 as one of the best months of my life because I worked for weeks at the Oxford o... (read more)

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

Oh, those were good too! Definitely loved the bake-off. My team’s name of Nick Bakestead was one for the books.

I also really liked the EA themed rap battle. Even though I epically choked trying to freestyle, the raps from Aaron and Louis made up for it!

And I liked when Stefan did spot on impersonations of other staff members. I think he really nailed me, Oli, and Tara!

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

Some things we do to support and improve staff morale:

  • We have weekly "Game Time" where we play a drawing game
  • We used to have in-person retreats and will again soon (which always involve a lot of silliness, including karaoke for those who enjoy it), this year we have also had various virtual events for the team, including a murder mystery type game and an elaborate clues-based game in Gather Town
  • We have had some dress-up days for staff birthdays, including one day where we all dressed up as different characters from a card game that one of our staff is good
... (read more)
2BrianTan1y
Lots of good ideas here - thanks for sharing! :)

Amy covered most of this, but to expand on a few points.

  • My favourite retreat activity was an EA-themed baking competition. Our last retreat was in December, and we also had a really nice "secret santa" round.
  • Memorable office party activities include seeing who can slide the furthest on a beanbag on a smooth floor, and trying to estimate how many average dinosaurs you'd have to have  to equal the mass of the moon.
  • Caitlin is our head of people ops. A big part of her job is supporting staff morale - both by facilitating fun things like the above, and by making sure that staff have the support they need.
AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

We also have had a bunch of workshops to help folks build their rationality toolkit: including workshops on forecasting and Fermi estimates as well as Center for Applied Rationality and Clearer Thinking content. 

I also include practical application of rationality tools in events training. For example, the project management presentation that I'll be giving at our EAGx team training this Thursday includes a handful of rationality tools in a ~15-minute presentation (including planning fallacy, Murphyjitsu, inside vs outside view, and back planning). 

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

The events team tries to feature content and promote community norms that maintain/improve the community's epistemics. 

Examples of content (these are just a few talks of many): 


A few things we have done to try to influ... (read more)

4Amy Labenz1y
We also have had a bunch of workshops to help folks build their rationality toolkit: including workshops on forecasting and Fermi estimates as well as Center for Applied Rationality [https://www.rationality.org/] and Clearer Thinking [https://www.clearerthinking.org/] content. I also include practical application of rationality tools in events training. For example, the project management presentation that I'll be giving at our EAGx team training this Thursday includes a handful of rationality tools in a ~15-minute presentation (including planning fallacy, Murphyjitsu, inside vs outside view, and back planning).
AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

Three years ago I think there was a lot of internal disagreement about the strategy. It doesn’t feel that way now. I have some disagreements with teammates now and then, but it feels like we basically agree on the direction of the company.

We also had significant teammate turnover 5 years ago and 3 years ago. I now expect teammates to stick around longer and expect leadership to stay in place for longer. This means I have more confidence that our strategy will stay the same, rather than the frequent strategy changes we saw when leadership changed so many times.

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

I’ll answer from an events perspective:

I think we could be doing a lot more to support community building using events! This is one reason I’m so excited about the two roles I posted for my team.

In particular, I’m always inspired by how well EAGx teams do. We provide them a bit of support, mentorship, and money and they create events that can be quite impactful. One of the events roles we posted, the Community Events Manager, is meant to take this to the next level by supporting a portfolio of community run events (which could include a wide range of event... (read more)

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

I love my job a lot. I think the biggest positive for me is hearing impact stories from the events where people get some amazing connection or opportunity as a result of attending. From a pure enjoyment standpoint I am a sucker for the feeling when an event starts and I get to see all of the excited EAs who have come to attend this thing that my team worked so hard to make for them. There are moments when people start streaming in and it is so busy with activity during registration and everyone looks so happy... it feels like when you buy someone a present... (read more)

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

I agree that a lot has changed!

Five years ago CEA was only had a couple of staff members and was more of an “umbrella organization” to incubate other projects. My ops role was with “CEA core” and my events role was with EA Outreach (one of the projects we supported, which no longer exists as a separate org). Julia was on the EA outreach team at that time along with a handful of teammates - I don’t think anyone else on the current team worked with us at the time. During my first 6 months or so at CEA, EAO merged with CEA core.

In terms of culture, five year... (read more)

I have a similar impression to Amy - when I came on almost 6 years ago and for several years after, things were much looser. There was not a particularly consistent strategy, hiring was sometimes very informal, and we were running a lot of projects without always having adequate staffing to do a good job.

Now things are more settled, more formalized (e.g. annual performance reviews, standard hiring process, clearer communication about who is responsible for what). We're less likely to take on big new projects, and we're focused on better performance on our existing projects.

Three years ago I think there was a lot of internal disagreement about the strategy. It doesn’t feel that way now. I have some disagreements with teammates now and then, but it feels like we basically agree on the direction of the company.

We also had significant teammate turnover 5 years ago and 3 years ago. I now expect teammates to stick around longer and expect leadership to stay in place for longer. This means I have more confidence that our strategy will stay the same, rather than the frequent strategy changes we saw when leadership changed so many times.

EA Student Summit Question

Hello! The aim of this event is to be open to students who are familiar with the basic ideas of EA, and to non-students who are also familiar with the basic ideas of EA and want to mentor students.

We accepted around 95% of student applicants to this event. In most cases where we did not accept a student’s application, the reason was that they provided so little information that we could not tell if they were familiar with EA. In some cases where we rejected applications from non-students, it was because they indicated they were primarily interested in netw... (read more)

Applications are open for EAGxVirtual 2020

Thanks for the feedback, Tyler!

To clarify: most of these questions aren’t actually *application/registration* questions for the event. Rather, they are meant to help us gather information about the community, and most are optional. I notice that you applied on May 12th - we have since gotten feedback that we should clarify that point, so we tried to make a clear distinction between the small number of application questions and the larger number of information-gathering questions. Half of the attendees got an especially long application form and shor... (read more)

4tylermjohn2y
Thanks for clarifying all of this! Given that most questions are optional I no longer have this concern, and I'm glad that you've clarified this on the application. Much looking forward to seeing you there as well!
Virtual EA Global: News and updates from CEA

Thank you! Yes, the individual videos are all scheduled to go live immediately after the conference.

Virtual EA Global: News and updates from CEA

Thanks for your kind words and for your question! We have a mix of content that we are testing:

  • AMA’s: folks asked questions on the Forum and we are conducting and recording interviews today
  • Talks: most of the talks are new recordings, which we will record today
  • “Greatest hits”: we are also showing two recordings from past EA Global conferences as a test
  • My welcome talk and the MC hosting by Nathan will be done live from our home in Detroit

We are trying to test a few different content types so that we can learn as much as we can for possi... (read more)

1MichaelA2y
Sounds great, and thanks for the response!
Virtual EA Global: News and updates from CEA

Thank you!

Yes, this time the virtual meeting rooms are limited to folks who registered for EA Global SF. This type of event is all new to us and we decided to limit the matchmaking tool for now so that we can test the format and work out the bugs. I hope it works well! If it does I’ll be excited to explore rolling it out to more people later in the year.

AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement

Thanks for the comment! Toby is going to do a written AMA on the Forum later in the year too. This one is timed so that we can have video answers during Virtual EA Global.

Applications for EA Global: London 2019 are now open

Thanks!

This year we did set a higher price, which more accurately reflects the cost of putting on the event. But it’s important to us that the ticket price not block attendees from coming, so we’re continuing the use of discount codes. We hope that people will use the discounts if that’s what makes it practical for them to attend (even if they are not low-income but are, for example, prioritizing donation).

Problems with EA representativeness and how to solve it

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your comment. To improve the breadth of EAA topics covered at EA Global, I started working with Tyler John as my first advisor in 2017. This year we have an advisory board consisting of ~25 people outside of CEA with expertise in AI, animals, biosecurity, global health & development, horizon scanning (topics that push the frontiers of EA), and meta EA, as well as a “wild card” section for additional suggestions. I’d need to check with the rest of the advisors before sharing their names.

5KevinWatkinson4y
Hi Amy, is there any progress in terms of presenting who is on the advisory boards? Or if people don't want to be named that would be useful information too.
Problems with EA representativeness and how to solve it

I agree that our selection process for animal-focused speakers in 2015 and 2016 left a lot to be desired. In 2017 we began working with advisors from specific fields to be sure we’re reaching out to speakers with expertise on the topics that conference attendees most want to hear about. This year we’ve expanded to a larger advisory board with the hope that we can continue to improve the EA Global content.

3redmoonsoaring4y
Thank you for the explanation. I still believe the 2017 and 2018 animal welfare and global poverty line-ups left a lot to be desired, but those years might have been better than 2016 at least in the choice of keynote speaker. Maybe there could be more transparency in regards to the advisory board, because without knowing those details, I don't know how to evaluate the situation. I do feel concern from CEA's history that the advisory board may favor people with close ties to CEA rather than actual meaningful representation from those fields. But I can't be confident in that without knowing the details.
2KevinWatkinson4y
I think what conference attendees most want to hear about but also worth considering what potential attendees would want to hear about. Personally i would prefer more diversity within the cause area to look at various challenges to conventional EAA whilst focussing more on philosophy and demandingness. I think in this way people could become somewhat more familiar with the broader cause area rather than in my view a tendency to focus on a fairly narrow group of organisations and individuals. Would it be possible to say who is on the advisory board?
Problems with EA representativeness and how to solve it

Joey, thanks for your post! I work for CEA and am the Curator of EA Global. I manage content for the event so I’m responding to that part of the post.

When deciding which speakers to solicit, I try to consider things like cause area representation, presenter diversity, and the development of community norms, among other things. It is really hard to get this right, and I know that I’ve fallen short of where I’d like to be on all of these.

I do think we’ve managed to improve on the representativeness dimension over the past couple of years. I know there’s roo... (read more)

2redmoonsoaring4y
On the topic of Effective Altruism Global, I'm not just concerned about the lower representation of non-x-risk cause areas, but also the speaker selection for those cause areas. In 2016 as an example, the main animal welfare speaker was a parrot intelligence researcher who seemed, I'm sorry to say this, uninformed about animal welfare, even of birds. I think the animal welfare speakers over the years have been more selected for looking cool to the organizers (who didn't know much about animal welfare) and/or increasing speaker demographic diversity (Not that this is a bad thing, but it's unhelpful to just get diversity in one cause area.), instead of actually having the leading experts on EA and animal welfare.
Applications are open for EA Global Boston

If you mean "how much is an individual applicant likely to get," again, we really don't want price to keep people away. We have some discounts available right on the registration page for $20, $50, and $100 off and we ask that people let us know if they need additional assistance. We posted them and asked that people only take what they need because our ability to discount tickets is not unlimited and we want our financial aid to be able to stretch to everyone who needs it. So please let us know when you're registering how much aid you need.

Applications are open for EA Global Boston

Our Early Bird tickets go through April 30th (and we greatly appreciate early applications). I have a call with catering tomorrow, so I should have an update on when they need our final numbers, but I'm encouraging people to get them in soon if at all possible.

Save the Date for EA Global Boston and San Francisco

Wow, great catch! Yes, I'm finalizing the contract today.

EA Global 2017 Update

Even though we have already resolved this issue, I thought I'd leave my contact information here in case anyone has a similar issue in the future: amy@centreforeffectivealtruism.org

EA Global 2017 Update

This should be up to date now, thanks!

EA Global 2017 Update

I'm sorry about the delay! I wanted to comment here just in case you haven't seen the update: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/17z/save_the_date_for_ea_global_boston_and_san/

Save the Date for EA Global Boston and San Francisco

Thanks for saving the dates!

Part of the reason that we are hosting EA Global 2017 in three locations is that we hope to include people from different communities. I am looking at a variety of venues and working to confirm the EA Global UK dates. I hope to have an update on that before too long.

Unfortunately, due to some staffing changes, we have had a bit of a delay this year in launching the EAGx application process. I hope to hire someone to help with the EAGx events soon so that we can ramp up the process and confirm some additional events. We post upcoming events here: https://www.eaglobal.org/events/

Save the Date for EA Global Boston and San Francisco

I'm currently uncertain about whether I think the live stream provides sufficient value above what is available from recording and posting the videos.

Last year, we received useful data on the live stream views:

Day 1: 914 views (average view time 14.76 minutes) Day 2: 575 views (average view time 17.8 minutes)

We were interested in the live stream in large part because we expected that it would provide access for people who were not local that could not make the event. Interestingly, the majority of video views were from the United States (660) -- particular... (read more)

Save the Date for EA Global Boston and San Francisco

Thanks for the question! I am working on the application and I hope to launch next week. I'll post on the Forum and at eaglobal.org as soon as it is up.

EA Global 2017 Update

So sorry for the delay!

Yes, they are different events. That is the EAGx Boston from last year. This year we will hold one of the three main EAG events in the Boston area. I expect the contract today so I will be able to announce dates shortly.

0HaydnBelfield5y
Excellent!
EA Global 2017 Update

Thanks for your question!

First, I should clarify that the event descriptions aren’t meant to suggest that the focus / themes will be the only thing discussed at the conference. We expect to have people who are interested in all of these things to all of the conferences. We will have workshops and community driven content, some core EA concepts, and some things that would fall into the category of “pushing the frontiers” at each.

We have themes because it is helpful for focussing the events, for getting people excited, and for encouraging people to attend m... (read more)

EA Global 2017 Update

Thanks for your interest!

We will be posting updates here, at eaglobal.org, and in the EA Newsletter (you can sign up at effectivealtruism.org).

If you’d like to provide additional feedback or planning help outside of what is available on the forms, please email hello@eaglobal.org.

1Gina_Stuessy5y
Amy, are you involved with EAGx events at all? I've had trouble reaching people at CEA regarding EAGxMadison. If you are involved in that, and could email me at gstuessy@gmail.com [gstuessy@gmail.com] that'd be much appreciated! (And sorry this is off-topic; I didn't see a way to message you directly through the EA Forum.)
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