All of Holly Morgan's Comments + Replies

Why EAs should normalize using Glassdoor

Nice solution.

In a similar vein, I'd like to see more people asking "Can anyone DM me a quick review of [EA org] as a place to work / service provider?"

1Ula9d
I don't think this is such a good idea for job reviews, given that you will not be anonymous. When I left a bad workplace for a year or more I was scared to say anything negative about them publically. Glassdoor allows anonymity - which has its good and bad sides. But DM - I can see people who are positive about the workplace messaging you, but not the people that have some criticism at hand. We should not even do that, because we don't know how are you connected to our previous employee, and maybe whatever we share with you - like a warning - will be later used for litigation? I just feel like DMs will only bias a person in the positive direction, not giving a broader view from multiple perspectives? Just a thought.
You don’t have to respond to every comment

If you don’t want to engage with comments but feel awkward saying nothing, you can also share a link to this post and leave a comment response that just reads: 

Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it, but will not engage further.

 

You can also add a similar note to the end of a post, e.g. "Note: I may not respond to all comments but at least intend to read them all."

5Richard Y Chappell12d
I like this suggestion. It seems a bit less pointed than responding non-responsively.
Space Exploration & Satellites on Our World in Data

Interactive graph previews when you hover over each link! 😍

EA Survey 2019 Series: Community Demographics & Characteristics

Thanks for doing this! Quick question: Are the survey questions still available somewhere?

Four Concerns Regarding Longtermism

I think occasionally I hear people argue that others focus on longtermist issues in large part because it's more exciting/creative/positive etc to think about futuristic utopias, then some of those people reply "Actually I really miss immediate feedback, tangible results, directly helping people etc, it's really hard to feel motivated by all this abstract stuff" and the discussion kind of ends there.

But the broader Social Capital Concern is something that deserves more serious attention I think. The 'core' of the EA community seems to be pretty longtermist... (read more)

Four Concerns Regarding Longtermism

I like this. I was surprised it hasn't received more upvotes yet.

I suspect what's going on is that most people here are focused on the arguments in the post - and quite rightly so, I suppose, for a red teaming contest - and are thinking, "Meh, nothing I haven't heard before." Whereas I'm a bit unusual in that I almost always habitually focus on the way someone presents an argument and the wider context, so I read this and am like, "Omg EA-adjacent person making an effort to share their perspective and offering a sensible critique seemingly from a place of ... (read more)

3jtm1mo
I wholeheartedly agree with Holly Morgan here! Thank you for writing this up and for sharing your personal context and perspective in a nuanced way.
4Pat Andriola1mo
Thank you so much for this! I’m really curious about the “nothing I haven’t heard before” in relation to the Social Capital Concern. Have people raised this before? If so, what’s being done about it? As I said, I think it’s the most serious of the four I mentioned, so if it’s empirically supported, what’s the action plan against it?
Holly Morgan's Shortform

Following my own advice: I will not be offended if I see someone asking "Has anyone used Pineapple Operations who can send me a quick review in DM?" on the Forum or on Slack etc (although I think we're pretty low-cost to use at the moment, so maybe not the best example).

Holly Morgan's Shortform

It's OK to ask "Who can DM me a quick review of [EA-run service]?"

Problem: It's costly for EAs to find out which EA-run services will actually help them.

  1. An increasing number of EAs are offering services to the EA community
    • E.g. coaching, therapy, research, training, recruiting, tech support, consulting
  2. And it's useful to read honest reviews of services before using them
    • Especially when it's costly to trial/use them
  3. But it's awkward saying negative things about each other's work in public
    • Sometimes people do anyway, but usually wrt large orgs where it's less per
... (read more)
2Arb1mo
Strong upvote from us. Two natural places to ask are Bountied Rationality [https://www.facebook.com/groups/bountiedrationality/about/] and the EA twitter group. [https://twitter.com/i/communities/1492420299450724353]
1Holly Morgan1mo
Following my own advice: I will not be offended if I see someone asking "Has anyone used Pineapple Operations [https://pineappleoperations.org/] who can send me a quick review in DM?" on the Forum or on Slack etc (although I think we're pretty low-cost to use at the moment, so maybe not the best example).
Revisiting the karma system

From the Forum user manual:

Posts that focus on the EA community itself are given a "community" tag. By default, these posts will have a weighting of "-25" on the Forum's front page (see below), appearing only if they have a lot of upvotes.

I wonder if this negative weighting for the Frontpage should be greater and/or used more, as I worry that the community looks too gossip-y/navel-gazing to newer users. E.g. I'd classify the 13 posts currently on the Frontpage (when not logged in) as only talking about more object-level stuff around half of the time:

Tagged... (read more)

I agree that -25 may not be enough at the current stage, maybe -75 or -100 will be better.

Request: feedback on my EAIF application

Upvoted for your perseverance in trying again, the levelheadedness with which you seem to be taking feedback into account, and the courage it takes to invite public suggestions for improvement.

Request: feedback on my EAIF application

Data point: I understood "Any feedback on my EAIF application?" as intended.

Advice on how to get a remote personal/executive assistant

[Edit: The following aren't exactly "good leads," but I thought it would still be useful to share some of the comments I've heard on options people in this community have tried.]

 

Fancy Hands

"Fancy Hands is a team of US-based virtual assistants".

Comments I've heard on them from a couple of EAs:

I used various assistants over a couple of months for in total maybe 30 tasks, each about 20 minutes long (their limit per one credit). I would say that the quality varied a lot and most of the time, they did not save me any time if included coordination cos

... (read more)
Advice on how to get a remote personal/executive assistant

Mati Roy is an EA with some US-timezone friendly VAs: https://bit.ly/PantaskServices (on the website it says "We hire mainly in North America and Europe" but I think they still generally prefer to share the Google doc).

[Edit: And before anyone wastes time on CampusPA - another EA-run PA agency that I sometimes hear mentioned - I'm pretty sure they're dead now.]

Advice on how to get a remote personal/executive assistant

So pleased that you've started this conversation, james! I'm really keen to see more EAs publicly sharing their experiences with various PA services.

I’ve started using 3 remote personal/executive assistants for my work projects. Our remote assistants have been awesome and super useful...Happy to answer any questions

Do you know if these 3 have more capacity and if Virtalent UK allows clients to request specific VAs? (You're the only person I've come across so far who's given a completely positive review of a VA service - reviews tend to be pretty mixed and ... (read more)

3james1mo
I don't think my particular VAs have more capacity, but I believe Virtalent has other VAs ready to match with clients. It is unclear to me whether I’ve just gotten lucky. But with Virtalent you can switch VA and the minimum commitment is very low, which is why I think the best strategy is just to try
Advice on how to get a remote personal/executive assistant

Thanks, Lee!

Currently ~half of the PAs we list publicly or suggest privately are in the US and every one is open to working remotely.

The main differentiators from standard VA services are currently that:

  • almost all of our PAs are existing members of the EA community (some thoughts on the value of EA vs non-EA assistants here)
  • many are open to in-person work, with some even open to relocating
  • most lack PA experience
  • it's a 'matchmaking' rather than an agency model - users hire the PAs directly
Some unfun lessons I learned as a junior grantmaker

A closely related idea that seems slightly more promising to me: asking other EAs, other grantmakers and other relevant experts for feedback - at conferences or via other means - rather than the actual grantmakers who rejected your application. Obviously the feedback will usually be less relevant, but it could be a way to talk to less busy people who could still offer a valuable perspective and avoid the "I don't want to be ambushed by people who are annoyed they didn't get money, or prospective applicants who are trying to network their way into a more fa... (read more)

3PabloAMC1mo
No need to apologize! I think your idea might be even better than mine :)
Announcing the Future Fund

Upvoted because this comment was on -1 karma, I suspect unfairly given that the FTX Future Fund website says "Please post any questions you might have as public comments here" in lieu of a contact form.

2Charles He2mo
(It’s sort of bizarre this was downvoted). A number of institutions needed entity information. It seemed like this was a blocker for applications. It’s not really the fault of FTX, but not immediately having this information and having a lot of people ask, might have contributed to the sentiment that lead to the recent posts clarifying FTX’s work.
Bad Omens in Current Community Building

Oh yes I know - with my reply I was (confusingly) addressing the unreceptive people more than I was addressing you. I'm glad that you're keen :-)

Bad Omens in Current Community Building

Nice. And when it comes to links, ~half the time I'll send someone a link to the Wikipedia page on EA or longtermism rather than something written internally.

Bad Omens in Current Community Building

Maybe you want to select for the kind of people who don't find it too boring! My guess, though, is that the project idea as currently stated is actually a bit too boring for even most of the people that you'd be trying to reach. And I guess groups aren't keen to throw money at trying to make it more fun/prestigious in the current climate... I've updated away from thinking this is a good idea a little bit, but would still be keen to see several groups try it.

1Max Clarke2mo
No no, I still believe it's a great idea. It just needs people to want to do it, and I was just sharing my observation that there doesn't seem to be that many people who want it enough to offset other things in their life (everyone is always busy). Your comment about "selecting for people who don't find it boring" is a good re-framing, I like it.
Bad Omens in Current Community Building

Agreed, hence "I don't even think the main aim should be to produce novel work". Imagine something between a Giving Game and producing GiveWell-standard work (much closer to the Giving Game end). Like the Model United Nations idea - it's just practice.

Bad Omens in Current Community Building

Aye and EA London did a smaller version of something in this space focused on equality and justice.

Bad Omens in Current Community Building

I wonder if the suggestion here to replace some student reading groups with working groups might go some way to demonstrating that EA is a question.

I don't even think the main aim should be to produce novel work (as suggested in that post); I'm just thinking about having students practice using the relevant tools/resources to form their own conclusions. You could mentor individuals through their own minimal-trust investigations. Or run fact-checking groups that check both EA and non-EA content (which hopefully shows that EA content compares pretty well but... (read more)

1nananana.nananana.heyhey.anon1mo
Strong +1. This feels much more like the correct use of student groups to me.

This feels much closer to how I experienced EA student groups 5-7yrs ago - e.g. Tom and Jacob did exactly this with the Oxford Prioritisation Project, and wrote up a very detailed evaluation of it. 

My first thought on reading this suggestion for working groups was "That's a great idea, I'd really support someone trying to set that up!"

My second thought was "I would absolutely not have wanted to do that as a student. Where would I even begin?"

My third thought was that even if you did organise a group of people to try implementing the frameworks of EA to build some recommendations from scratch, this will never compare to the research done by long-standing organisations that dedicate many experienced people's working lives to finding the answers. The co... (read more)

6Max Clarke2mo
I've been very keen to run "deep dives" where we do independent research on some topic, with the aim that the group as a whole ends up with significantly more expertise than at the start. I've proposed doing this with my group, but people are disappointingly unreceptive to it, mainly because of the time commitment and "boringness".
Bad Omens in Current Community Building

| I think the solution here is to create boundaries so you're not optimizing against people.

I prefer 80,000 Hours' 'plan changes' metric to the 'HEA' one for this reason (if I've understood you correctly).

Bad Omens in Current Community Building

| Separation from friends and loved ones: Happens accidentally due to value changes.

I hope by this you mean something like "People in general tend to feel a bit more distant from friends when they realise they have different values and EA values are no exception." But if you've actually noticed much more substantial separation tending to happen, I personally think this is something we should push back against, even if it does happen accidentally. Not just for optics' sake ("Mentioning other people and commitments in your life other than EA might go a long ... (read more)

Bad Omens in Current Community Building

When I was working for EA London in 2018, we also had someone tell us that the free books thing made us look like a cult and they made the comparison with free Bibles.

6Santeri Koivula1mo
Our group sells books for a nominal price of 5 euros. This doesn't appear as cultish and also makes people possibly commit to reading the book, since if you have paid for the book, it's more likely you'll actually read it. 5€ is a small price for a book, so our group members won't need to wonder if they have money for it.

One option here could be to lend books instead. Some advantages:

  • Implies that when you're done reading the book you don't need it anymore, as opposed to a religious text which you keep and reference.

  • While the distributors won't get all the books back (and that's fine) the books they do get back they can lend out again.

  • Less lavish, both in appearance and in reality.

This is what we do at our meetups in Boston.

I believe that EA could tone down the free books by 5-10% but I am pretty skeptical that the books program is super overboard.

I have  50+ books I've gotten at events over the past few years (when I was in college), mostly  politics/econ/phil stuff  the complete works of John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith, Myth of the Rational Voter, Elephant in the Brain, Three Languages of Politics, etc (all physical books). Bill Gates' book has been given out as a free PDF recently.

So I don't think EA is a major outlier here. I also like that there are some slightly less "EA books" in the mix like the Scout Mindset and The AI Does Not Hate You.

I'm not sure what campus EA practices are like - but, in between pamphlets and books, there are zines. Low-budget, high-nonconformity, high-persuasion. Easy for students to write their own, or make personal variations, instead of treating like official doctrine. ie, https://azinelibrary.org/zines/

Increasing Demandingness in EA

assuming this is constrained by the number of PAs, though I have no idea whether it is

It is.

Brief Presentation and Considerations for an EA Common Application

EA values talent more broadly and valuable candidates should be developed and supported beyond any one hiring cycle.

 

Quick wins for EA hiring managers:

  1. In application forms, include a request for permission to share the candidate's application with people who are hiring for similar roles.
  2. Search for recently closed hiring rounds for similar roles and ask the hiring managers if they have permission to share any strong applications with you (or if they could share your ad with the strong applicants they didn't hire).

(This does often happen, but often does... (read more)

1che2mo
Yes! Exactly, these are great points! Yes! Just to add some color/texture to the comment and also the premise of the post to supporting the common application: * Several major EA organizations, whose recruiter or directors the writer/"founder" spoke to directly, passes candidates like this, exactly like you say. Some only do it within certain circles, or is ad hoc, and this can't be efficient. * Maybe because this wasn't efficient, one or more of the recruiters or executive directors of the major EA organizations was directly trying to share/develop this very common application or lent their support. This is a very "live" proposal someone should do! Execution and buy in of orgs is critical, and initial conditions are important. One key strategy is to start from the largest, best talent pools and flow down. Beginning to execute this, the writer/"founder" reached out to very respected EA orgs, who expressed interest. Their talent pools (separate and additional to the the funder mentioned in the document) would be incredibly valuable and their interest shows this strategy could work well. Yes, yes! This is a great idea! Note that the link brings one to an Airtable with thousands of rows. Exactly as you say, this is a huge opportunity. At the same time, there's both a huge task and a lot of institutional knowledge, relationship building, and key strategies that could make this much easier and bring candidates and organizations together. This suggests why you want a full time, multiple FTE organization, and sophisticated execution. There's so much here and the value only grows as EA grows.
Three intuitions about EA: responsibility, scale, self-improvement

I loved this post but ignored it the first time I saw it because I had a poor sense of what it would be about. But the title does act as a nice summary after someone's read the post if they're trying to find it again. Have you considered adding a tl;dr? E.g.

  1. In a global sense, there are no “adults in the room,” but EA is starting to change that
  2. It's easier to achieve big change with a startup investor mindset than a marginalist mindset
  3. EA should prioritise personal growth e.g. replace some local reading groups with working groups
2richard_ngo2mo
Great suggestion! I've added this now.
To PA or not to PA?

I've only just seen this Forum Question from Sep 2020: Has anyone gone into the 'High-Impact PA' path?

Some highlights:

  • CarolineJ found in her own case that PA work looked more like project management over time, she called it "a tough and high-impact job, that is often undervalued compared to what the person brings", and she said that important skills include organisation, communication, analytical and generalist
  • matthew.vandermerwe talks about his time as a Research Assistant and Project Manager for Toby Ord, estimating that "I think I (very roughly) added 5
... (read more)
FTX/CEA - show us your numbers!

Oh, I read it as more the former too!

I read your post as:

  1. Asking if FTX have done something as explicit as a BOTEC for each grant or if it's more a case of "this seems plausibly good" (where both use expected value as a heuristic)
  2. If there are BOTECs, requesting they write them all up in a publicly shareable form
  3. Implying that the larger the pot, the more certain you should be ("these things have a much higher than average chance of doing harm. Most mistaken grants will just fail. These grants carry reputational and epistemic risks to EA.")

I thought Sam's com... (read more)

FTX/CEA - show us your numbers!

Just noticed Sam Bankman-Fried's 80,000 Hours podcast episode where he sheds some light on his thinking in this regard.

I think the excerpt below is not far from the OP's request that "if there is no BOTEC and it's more 'this seems plausibly good and we have enough money to throw spaghetti at the wall', please say that clearly and publicly."

Sam:

I think that being really willing to give significant amounts is a real piece of this. Being willing to give 100 million and not needing anything like certainty for that. We’re not in a position where we’re like, “If

... (read more)
1Jack Lewars2mo
Very interesting, thanks. I read this as more saying 'we need to be prepared to back unlikely but potentially impactful things', and acknowledging the uncertainty in longtermism, rather than saying 'we don't think expected value is a good heuristic for giving out grants', but I'm not confident in that reading. Probably reflects my personal framing more than anything else.
FTX/CEA - show us your numbers!

Relevant comment from Sam Bankman-Fried in his recent 80,000 Hours podcast episode: "In terms of staffing, we try and run relatively lean. I think often people will try to hire their way out of a problem, and it doesn’t work as well as they’re hoping. I’m definitely nervous about that." (https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/sam-bankman-fried-high-risk-approach-to-crypto-and-doing-good/#ftx-foundation-002022)

To PA or not to PA?

Yeah hopefully the "low status" aspect is starting to change, but I think it's a reality of operations work in general that the crew will never get the glory of the cast, no matter how important they are to the final outcome (...which is sometimes a relief to those of us who don't like the pressure of being in the limelight!).

FTX/CEA - show us your numbers!

| Out of interest, did you read the post as emotional? I was aiming for brevity and directness

Ah, that might be it. I was reading the demanding/requesting tone ("show us your numbers!", "could FTX and CEA please publish" and  "If this is too time-consuming...hire some staff" vs "Here's an idea/proposal") as emotional, but I can see how you were just going for brevity/directness, which I generally endorse (and have empathy for emotional FWIW, but generally don't feel like I should endorse as such).

FTX/CEA - show us your numbers!

Yeah personally speaking, I don't have very developed views on when to go with Spaghetti-wall vs RCT, so feel free to ignore the following which is more of a personal story. I'd guess there's a bunch of 'Giving Now vs Giving Later' content lying around that's much more relevant.

I think I used to be a lot more RCT because:

  1. I was first motivated to take cost-effectiveness research seriously after hearing the Giving What We Can framing of "this data already exists, it's just that it's aimed at the health departments of LMICs rather than philanthropists" - that
... (read more)
FTX/CEA - show us your numbers!

Good to see a post that loosely captures my own experience of EAG London and comes up with a concrete idea for something to do about the problem (if a little emotionally presented).

I don't have a strong view on the ideal level of transparency/communication here, but something I want to highlight is: Moving too slowly and cautiously is also a failure mode

In other words, I want to emphasise how important "this is time consuming, and this time is better spent making more grants/doing something else" can be. Moving fast and breaking things tends to lead... (read more)

A related thought: If an org is willing to delay spending (say) $500M/year due to reputational/epistemic concerns, then it should easily be willing to pay $50M to hire top PR experts to figure out the reputational effects of spending at different rates.

(I think delays in spending by big orgs are mostly due to uncertainty about where to donate, not about PR. But off the cuff, I suspect that EA orgs spend less than the optimal amount on strategic PR (as opposed to "un-strategic PR", e.g., doing whatever the CEO's gut says is best for PR).)

Thanks so much for this comment. I find it incredibly hard not to be unwarrantedly risk averse. It feels really tempting to focus on avoiding doing any harm, rather than actually helping people as much as I can. This is such an eloquent articulation of the urgency we face, and why we need to keep pushing ourselves to move faster. 

I think this is going to be useful for me to read periodically in the future - I'm going to bookmark it for myself.

9Jack Lewars2mo
I like this. I'm not sure I agree with you that I find it equally worrying as moving so fast that we break too many things, but it's a good point to raise. On a practical level, I partly wrote this because FTX is likely to have a lull after their first grant round where they could invest in transparency. I also think a concern is what seems to be such an enormous double standard. The argument above could easily be used to justify spending aggressively in global health or animal welfare (where, notably, we have already done a serious, serious amount of research and found amazing donation options; and, as you point out, the need is acute and immediate). Instead, it seems like it might be 'don't spend money on anything below 5x GiveDirectly' in one area, and the spaghetti-wall approach in another. Out of interest, did you read the post as emotional? I was aiming for brevity and directness but didn't/don't feel emotional about it. Kind of the opposite, actually - I feel like this could help to make us more factually aligned and less driven by emotional reactions to things that might seem like 'boondoggles'.