Lorenzo Buonanno

Software Developer
3169 karmaJoined Sep 2021Working (0-5 years)20025 Legnano, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy




I'm currently (Aug 2023) a Software Developer at Giving What We Can, helping make giving significantly and effectively a social norm.

I'm also a forum mod, which, shamelessly stealing from Edo, "mostly means that I care about this forum and about you! So let me know if there's anything I can do to help."

Please have a very low bar for reaching out!

I won the 2022 donor lottery, happy to chat about that as well


Topic Contributions

Hi sphor,

I'm sorry about this, especially that this worsened your experience on the forum, I quickly wrote some reasons why it took us so long here

My personal thoughts, as I was the mod who most pushed to move this to personal blog[1]. I haven't checked this with other mods:

  • My main actionable general takeaway from this incident is that we should try to write longer and more detailed notes when taking any moderation action. We should treat moderation notes as low context communication, and we should try to expand more on things like "violates norms" or "is not clearly related to doing more good". I'm very guilty of this, e.g. I think this was a core mistake here and here. In particular, we should always try to make it clear that criticism is welcome on the forum.

My less actionable and less general thoughts on this specific case:

  • I strongly believe that this decision was not a blunder, even if it probably was a mistake:
    • As many people agreed than disagreed with the moderation comment (It was 21 agreed to 18 disagreed as of 3 days ago. After the post edits and recent discussion it's 22 to 23. People might be biased to agree, but I don't think more than to disagree in this specific case.)
    • The author agreed with the decision
    • People who agree have no reason to comment and are less likely to see the moderation comment in the first place
  • In this case, there were several considerations, which made things messy. From my perspective, this post as posted was somewhat borderline on these axes, and I can see reasonable and contradicting perspectives on: 
    • The post relevance to doing more good
    • The post breaking forum norms (i.e. the insults that have since been edited)
    • Yudkowsky relationship with EA and if that raises or lowers the bar for acceptable criticism. As an influential voice, we should allow more criticism; as a critic of large parts of EA, like AI labs and animal welfare, we should make sure criticism is kind and doesn't discourage people from criticizing EA.
  • I think, in retrospect, the ideal action might have been to take mod action in the form of writing a comment asking the author to edit the post (as they did) to keep the good parts and reduce the insults (and maybe clarify the practical relevance to doing more good).
  • I think the main reasons why we didn't reply earlier to comments are that:
    • The poster agreed with the decision, so there wasn't much to change
    • Moving the post to personal blog for whatever reason didn't remove it from the frontpage, even for logged out users (idk if this is a bug, but it just showed a little icon next to the post, which didn't seem important to fix)
    • It's obvious to moderators that criticizing anyone is ok (while following norms) so we didn't feel the need to spell it out
    • I weakly wanted to reach more of a consensus in the mod team, and hear the perspectives of all moderators
  • I was wrong in not seeing any relevance to EA. EY is much more relevant to EA for many more users than I would have thought, and social reality is much more important than I thought, and arguably is a core reason for the community section.[2]
  • I feel that the "silent majority" that reads but doesn't write on the forum wants relatively more moderation than people who write lots of comments, so we should weakly keep that in mind when getting feedback in terms of "how much to moderate" (but the feedback in terms of "how to moderate" is very useful)
  • We should probably have replied earlier, even if we didn't reach a consensus on whether it was the right call or not, potentially just to surface that we were not sure it was.
  • Mostly unrelated to the above, but I really liked some of the comments in this thread. I am grateful for the standards that many commenters hold themselves to when posting, and the time they invest in sharing their expertise and thoughtful perspectives even in threads that would naturally have a tendency to devolve into fights.

Apologies for writing this quickly[3], and again I want to emphasize that this is just my personal perspective, and I haven't asked for feedback from other mods or advisors.

  1. ^

    As I (wrongly) didn't see a strong connection between this post and doing good better

  2. ^

    I might have overreacted because I have seen people loving to hate on Yudkowsky for >10 years. There used to be a subreddit dedicated to it. I haven't found comments on either side of those discussions to be particularly true, necessary or kind. I would want this forum to have less of that, but this is my personal view and shouldn't have influenced mod action

  3. ^

    I'm writing this from EAGxBerlin

Writing only my personal perspective. I haven't checked this with other moderators or advisors.

adding something like 1 FTE or 2 x 0.5 FTE moderators wouldn't be that expensive

I think an important cost would be the opportunity cost for what those moderators could be doing.

For me personally, the theory of change for spending more time on moderation is often not that clear. My personal theory of change is that the main value I provide via moderation is to save time/energy for Lizka and JP to focus a bit more on projects that I think are extremely valuable. (Edit: This is just my personal view! I don't work for CEA, and I think they disagree with this!)

seems like moderators who joined in 2022 did a pretty good job

As one of these mods, I think I also made some pretty clear mistakes[1], even one year into this, that I think more experienced mods wouldn't have made. I think the new mods went through a better selection process, though, so I'm optimistic that it will take less time for them to make better decisions.

Tangentially related to this point, I think 99% of the moderation action on this forum comes from users (via voting, commenting, and reporting posts). I think that's how it should be, and I'm really impressed by how well users of this forum moderate discussions, compared to e.g. serious subreddits, Twitter spheres, or Hacker News.

  1. ^

    I was also the moderator who pushed the most to move this to personal blog, as I (wrongly) didn't see a strong connection between this post and doing good better.

Writing only my personal perspective. I haven't checked this with other moderators or advisors.

Overall it sounds like the Forum team may not have enough capacity to adequately deal with issues like this (according to your description it sounds like despite traveling and being busy, you were ultimately the person responsible for this). [...] In my opinion, it seems like it should be higher priority for the Forum team to expand the number of dedicated moderators who are "on call" to prevent situations like this in the future.

You might be happy to hear that this already happened to a significant amount!

There are now six active moderators, plus advisors, which is ~2x as many as there were at some points. Three of the active moderators joined in August, I think ~three weeks before this post, and the content specialist role you linked to starts with "to work with me (Lizka)", so I don't think that she's looking for a replacement.[1]

  1. ^

    I have no insider info, just going by public posts.

Writing only my personal perspective on the moderation team's approach, I haven't checked this with other moderators or advisors

my claim isn't that moderators should avoid responding to posts that criticise prominent figures in EA. But my claim is that moderators should be cautious about acting in ways that discourage critique.

My view is that all moderators agree with this! There are just many reasonable places to draw this line, though, and both different users and different moderators have different preferences and perspectives on what the bar should be and what counts as "prominent figures in EA".

In the past, we have received feedback from some users that we should have intervened in the opposite direction in other threads about prominent figures.

Is there a way to do this for community quick takes? Most of the quick takes at this moment seem to be about the community.

Sorry if this is repetitive, but I really mostly "strongly think that, like with FTX, we should wait two weeks (or more)" before evaluating the evidence and looking for what we can learn from this case.

I strongly think that, like with FTX, we should wait two weeks (or more) before forming opinions and reaching conclusions, as more information comes out[1]. But I want to quickly highlight footnote 7, as I think it might be relevant for some people and a bit buried

After this, there were further reports of claims of Kat professing her romantic love for Alice, and also precisely opposite reports of Alice professing her romantic love for Kat. I am pretty confused about what happened.

  1. ^

    I really don't know if the new information will be better or worse for Nonlinear, I just expect the picture to become clearer in a few weeks, and to be better to look for lessons then as opposed to now

if it does, I think starting to take bupropion will be in the top five most important things I have ever done, in terms of increasing my overall well-being and productivity


I'm really curious about the other four!

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