BrianTan

I'm the co-founder of EA Philippines and a community building grantee of the Centre for Effective Altruism. I was formerly a Senior Product Designer at First Circle, a FinTech company in Manila. You can reach out to me at brian@effectivealtruism.ph or add me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianctan/.

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Donating money, buying happiness: new meta-analyses comparing the cost-effectiveness of cash transfers and psychotherapy in terms of subjective well-being

This is amazing work! I have a bunch of thoughts, which I'll number so it's easier for you or others to respond to. Sorry that this comment is a bit long; you can respond to the numbers one-by-one instead of all at once if you'd like:

  1. I would love to hear what GiveWell's response is to your findings here. As you show, I think there's a strong case to be made for why StrongMinds should be a GiveWell top charity. I'm definitely not an expert in this though, and maybe there are good reasons GiveWell or others have for why StrongMinds shouldn't be a GiveWell top charity.

    It will likely take some time before GiveWell would be able to make StrongMinds a top charity, but it would be exciting if StrongMinds (or any mental health charity) could make it to GiveWell's list of recommended charities as early as the end of 2022. It would be nice to hear from GiveWell about the following too if they:
    1. do push through with doing moral weights work related to SWB (which I think would be valuable and important to do)
    2. will assess the cost-effectiveness of task-shifted psychotherapy in low- and middle-income countries, i.e. by creating a program review on it
    3. plan on doing anything else with regards to assessing interventions in terms of SWB
  2. I'm looking forward to HLI's report on the cost-effectiveness of deworming in terms of SWB! I'm also looking forward to your reports on other interventions you think might be just as cost-effective (or even better) than StrongMinds.
  3. Just thought I'd share this here: I and Shen Javier from EA Philippines recently got a grant from the EA Infrastructure Fund to lead a 6-month part-time research project to find the top mental health charity ideas in the Philippines. This is our follow-up project as part of our participation in Charity Entrepreneurship's 2021 incubation program, specifically their region-specific research track. We have recently hired 3 part-time research analysts (all with more background in mental health and research than Shen and I) to help us with this project.

    Our goal is to find 1-2 charity ideas that are highly cost-effective to implement in the Philippines (and competitive with StrongMinds), and that Charity Entrepreneurship will be willing to incubate in 2022. These reports of yours will likely be very useful for us, which is why I took the time to read this report and browse through some of the others linked here. And I can see how we can build off and learn from this research in various ways.  We'll probably email you within the next couple of weeks to schedule a call with you and/or Joel, with more specific questions about HLI's research and to get advice about our project!
  4. You talk about how you estimate the long-term effects on SWB of StrongMinds and psychotherapy via modeling it as exponentially decaying. I want to understand this better - does this mean you are saying that improvements to subjective wellbeing are high post-treatment, and then basically decrease a lot (eventually to zero) over time? Is this saying that these beneficiaries become depressed again, or is this saying that their continuous lack of depression is more going to be due to other factors (and not due to the initial StrongMinds program)? If none of what I wrote above is correct, feel free to explain it better.
  5. Hope it's okay I ask this publicly, but feel free to respond privately if you'd like: How much time did each of these reports take (on cash transfers, psychotherapy, StrongMinds, and this summary report)?
  6. (Optional) Do you see HLI  possibly  becoming like GiveWell in the future, but with charity recommendations based on which ones improve subjective wellbeing the most? Although maybe you'd want another organization to do the charity analysis, while you focus on the intervention analysis or bigger-picture research questions.

    This might make sense as a vision if GiveWell doesn't plan on recommending some charities that do well on improving SWB  (i.e. StrongMinds). Hopefully GiveWell does though.
  7. (Optional) I'm not sure if you'll answer this, since you probably are quite uncertain, but do you tentatively think that donating to StrongMinds would be better than donating to any of the life-saving GiveWell top charities (i.e. AMF)? I know you've written about this before here, but I wonder if you have updated views on this.
List of EA funding opportunities

Thanks for making this. Did you consider making this into an Airtable? It could also be a Google spreadsheet, but I think an Airtable would work better. 

An Airtable would be slightly easier to manage and update over time than a post, and it would also be easier to filter and scan through (i.e. if you had columns for cause areas, usual grant amounts, and application deadlines)

Forum Update: New Features (October 2021)

Thanks! I think these updates are good. Some thoughts/suggestions:

  1. Maybe instead of saying "unique clients" you can say "unique devices" in the note about the data collection issue.
  2. I'm unsure about how valuable or apt "Views by unique devices > 5 minutes" because some Forum posts take less than 5 minutes to read. So that data point will be irrelevant for those points.
  3. I think some people will not know what "Bounce rate" is, so maybe you still need an icon that people can click or hover on to explain what that means and/or how it's calculated. Maybe you can also say in that tooltip that "The lower the bounce rate, the better".
I’m Offering Free Coaching for Software Developers in the EA community

This is nice of you to offer.  Could I or others refer EAs who are still taking their undergraduate degree, but are interested in and/or working towards a career in software development? 

I know ~3 Filipinos interested in EA who are 3rd year or 4th year university students, and might want to have a call (or more than one, i.e. a monthly mentoring call) with someone who could give them some advice or mentorship about software engineering.

Forum Update: New Features (October 2021)

On #3, yeah I'd be interested to hear other's views too.

On #4 and 4.5, ah I see. Personally I think # of reads (i.e. # of views where the user spent at least 50% of the time it takes to read the article) or average time spent would be more interesting to me than the bounce rate, although I'm unsure.

Listen to more EA content with The Nonlinear Library

Got it re: Google assistant, EA Forum podcast, and Speechify!

Re: Natural reader:

  1. do you use the Premium or the Plus plan? The Premium plan is only $5/month if paid annually, while the Plus one is $9/month if paid annually.
  2. Have you tried using the mobile app? I downloaded it just now. The reviews aren't great but maybe the latest update fixed some issues. I don't think it has the ability to let you queue next articles though, so I might try out @Voice again.
Listen to more EA content with The Nonlinear Library

This is cool! I have some specific thoughts and questions on the TTS software that you list for personal use, and how other TTS / podcast options might compete with this Library:

  1. What I personally do to listen to an article I'm on is I say "Read it" to the Google Assistant on my phone, and it reads aloud any article I view on my phone in a really nice AI voice. They have a few nice voices to choose from, with different accents. I think it's even a bit more human-like than the current one used by The Nonlinear Library, which is already pretty human-like. So I think I'm likely to stick to using my Google Assistant than the Library, although this could be useful for when I want to download and listen to EA articles when I'm offline.

    My phone is a Google Pixel 4a running Android 11, but I think this read aloud feature is probably available on any Android phone with Google Assistant. Have you tried using it? If yes, what made you not mention it in this article? I haven't tried using Evie, and I think I tried @Voice before and wasn't pleased with it. 

    My guess is the Google Assistant is a bit better (in terms of ease of use and voice quality) than Evie or @Voice. It has these 2 other cons though (aside from not being usable offline), so maybe that's why it might still be valuable for Nonlinear to make the Nonlinear Library:
    1. There's no way to queue a next article to read out loud
    2. Once you close the app, it doesn't save where you are at
  2. Have you or others you know tried Speechify as a TTS? I know the founder. I tried it before and they have nice premium voices, but I find it somewhat expensive at around $140/year.
  3. Do you pay for Natural Reader? If yes, do you generally recommend the paid plan?
  4. I guess there's less need now for the EA Forum podcast now that we have the Nonlinear Library?
Forum Update: New Features (October 2021)

Glad to hear! Numbering my responses:

  1. To clarify, the data collection issue was in getting the daily # of views by unique devices in the first half of 2021 right? That's unfortunate, but anyway hopefully it doesn't happen again. 
  2. I don't see anything at all about that note on posts older than June 2021. So yes it would be good to mke that noticeable.
  3. Yeah I think this dashboard would be more useful than the current implementation. It would take authors 3 clicks to go see the analytics of their post currently, and it's much more valuable and easier to see in one table which of my posts got more views, reads, and karma. 
  4. In the table or in the individual view, you might even want to include a stat for "read ratio" like Medium does. I wonder though if what the EA Forum should count as a "read" is not just views >10 seconds, but more like a "view where the user spent at least 50% of the estimated time it takes to read that article." An average time people spent on the post could be useful too.
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