All of SamDeere's Comments + Replies

Announcing, powered by EA Funds

We do, although it looks like it's not showing on the site. I'm just fixing the issue, will update when it's there.

Thanks for the info
The 2021 EA Funds Donor Lottery is now open

What's the logic here? Expected value is the same in all cases right?

Yep, the expected value remains the same, it's just a suggestion to encourage people make an entry that has a non-negligible chance of winning. As we say in the preceding sentence, there's no minimum entry size, so if you want to enter with a very long shot, that's entirely possible.

Can you share who the guarantor is this year? 

As in previous years, the lottery is guaranteed by funds held at CEA on behalf of Carl Shulman.

Donating crypto on EA Funds: more coins, low fees

We currently only require an email address to make deposits under $500k (so if you have an email address that doesn't identify you then this would get you most of the way there). With larger donations we'd likely need to collect more information for KYC purposes. 

The system as described above isn't really set up to take deposits from smart contracts. The main issue is that EA Funds doesn't  take 'unrestricted' funding (as a normal charity would), and in order for us to allocate the donation correctly, we need a matching payment record from the do... (read more)

Update: I've written the email. The Giving Block [] seems to support the features I am looking for, I would be keen to know your opinion on them.
Happy to take this conversation further on email
Charitable Giving With Crytpo In the US (How-To & Taxes)

Thanks for this writeup. I'd also add that EA Funds accepts cryptocurrency donations, is tax-deductible in the US (501[c][3]), the UK, and the Netherlands, and doesn't charge additional fees (fees are just whatever our exchange charges us, which is typically on the order of 0. 2% or lower). Donations can be made to any of our four Funds, or to a list of ~40 supported effective non-profits.

At the moment you need to get in touch with us directly to make  donations, we support ~20 coin types, and our minimum donation size is $1,000+ or equivalent. Howeve... (read more)

A Comparison of Donor-Advised Fund Providers

DAFs do make it much easier to donate appreciated stock, and this is good advice. However, if you want to make a donation of appreciated assests and you aren't able to set up a DAF, EA Funds accepts donations of stock (in the US) and cryptocurrency (US, UK, and NL) for donations of more than $1000 (no promises that you won't have to send a fax to your broker if you want to donate stock, but in general that hasn't been the case for most of our donors who are donating from Vanguard etc).

AMA: JP Addison and Sam Deere on software engineering at CEA

For EA Funds this is something that we’re planning to do very soon. It’s something that’s always on the backburner (as shipping features always tends to take priority), but now that there’s a new website that has much better global control of component styling, this is something where I think we can get some easy wins.

Glad to hear!
AMA: JP Addison and Sam Deere on software engineering at CEA

Not really (we’ve sporadically used Personas in the past, but not very systematically), but I’ve actually just been doing more reading on this. I expect that (at least for EA Funds) Jobs-to-Be-Done will be a big part of our user research project going forward.

Yeah I think Jobs-to-Be-Done has been getting more popular recently, and is the more useful one of the two frameworks. It's possible to mix the two too so you have one or more personas and you list their jobs-to-be-done.
AMA: JP Addison and Sam Deere on software engineering at CEA

TL;DR; – For Funds/GWWC, the frontends are React (via NextJS) running on Vercel (previously a React SPA running on Netlify). The backend is a bunch of Node.js microservices running on Heroku, connected to a Postgres DB (running on RDS), and wired together with RabbitMQ. We’ve migrated most things to TypeScript, but a lot of the backend is still JS. A lot of business logic is written in SQL/plpgSQL.


EA Funds and GWWC have been on the same platform since 2017, and share the same backend. 

The frontend was a pretty standard React SPA written in JavaScri... (read more)

AMA: JP Addison and Sam Deere on software engineering at CEA

We run a pretty lightweight version of Agile. We’ve tried doing more or less of the ‘canonical’ Agile/Scrum methodologies at various points, and settled on what we have because it works for us. Basically, JP and I have a weekly meeting where we set sprint goals, broken down by number of story points (where one story point = ~ half a day of productive dev work). These tasks are added to a kanban board that we update throughout the week as things progress. We do daily check-ins with each other, and with our respective managers, to discuss progress/challenges... (read more)

Thanks for explaining, sounds like a good process! Cool too that you two do some pair programming
AMA: JP Addison and Sam Deere on software engineering at CEA

For EA Funds (and the pledge management parts of GWWC), that’s me. For the Forum it’s JP. We’re both devs first and foremost though, so we get a lot of input from other people (Aaron who manages the content side of the Forum, Luke Freeman who runs GWWC, Jonas who runs EA Funds, Ben West who manages the Forum team and who is a former tech  startup CEO etc)

AMA: JP Addison and Sam Deere on software engineering at CEA

I think the biggest challenges we face are related to capacity rather than specific skills. So, a really productive fullstack dev could have a huge impact just by virtue of helping us to ship things faster, and cover more surface area. 

That said, a few things that I think would be great to have more of:

  • Experience with analytics/measurement/telemetry and using the insights to drive development of new features or content
  • Exceptional UX/UI chops, to give sites a visual lift and ensure that user flows through our sites are really good
  • A dedicated product management skillset, conducting user research and using that to inform subsequent iterations of each product
AMA: JP Addison and Sam Deere on software engineering at CEA

I’ll first caveat by saying that I haven’t worked at either a typical startup or big tech company.

I think that there’s probably not a huge difference between CEA and a very early stage startup. I think that the most relevant dimension is just scale – currently we’re two devs working on a bunch of different projects, which means a high degree of autonomy and ownership over the code in a way that I expect is similar to a lot of small startups. We’re obviously a more mature org though, so we do have a lot of processes in place (CI, a dedicated Operations team... (read more)

Why you should give to a donor lottery this Giving Season

The Centre for Effective Altruism UK (the legal entity behind EA Funds' UK operations) is registered in the Netherlands as a tax-deductible charity.

When you get to the payment page you can select which country you'd like to donate in. To donate in a way that's tax-deductible in the Netherlands, select 'UK/NL' as your country, and then optionally select EUR as your currency code. You can donate via credit card or SEPA transfer.

ETA: I've updated the relevant FAQ entry to make this clearer.

Why you should give to a donor lottery this Giving Season

Yeah, I think ‘never’ is correct for donor lottery winners thus far. I’d guess this situation would be pretty rare in practice (even as we run more lotteries), but we want people to be informed that there are some constraints. People have generally checked in with us beforehand if they’ve got something of an edge-case in mind, and the only times I can remember saying a hard ‘no’ were for partisan political organisations (which we can’t make grants to).

4Jonas Vollmer2y
I haven't checked with our ops/legal team, but here are some examples of grants I personally would guess we probably can't make: political lobbying and partisan campaign funding, supporting individuals without a clear public benefit (e.g., giving people money to free up their time without an explicit expectation that they will do something good for the world), religious missionary work to save souls from hell, supporting very specific groups (e.g., distributing unconditional funding to all members of a particular EA group). Basically there needs to be a convincing common-sense argument that the grant is for the public benefit.
Why you should give to a donor lottery this Giving Season

Yeah, I think the case of people not wanting to donate to EA Funds because of social/community dynamics (even if they think, on reflection, that they can't outperform EA Funds) is an interesting one. I guess that if someone is unsure if they can beat EA Funds (or some other 'boring'/deferent option) but that they feel like they'd be subject to social pressure to do something different regardless, that they could always enter anonymously (this doesn't solve the problem of people wanting to prove to themselves that they're good grantmakers, but hopefully goe... (read more)

Why doesn't EA Fund support Paypal?

Thanks for the question! There are two separate things here, which I'll address separately.

  • Adding PayPal as a regular payment option to EA Funds that you can select when you're on the website making a donation (which would attract transaction fees)
  • Using the PayPal Giving Fund (which is fee-free) to donate to EA Funds

PayPal as a regular payment option

We've considered adding PayPal support, but it hasn't been a priority as we've found most donors are able to use one of our other payment methods (e.g. credit cart/bank transfer/check). Adding new payment metho... (read more)

Thanks for the detailed answer!
Donating effectively does not necessarily imply donating tax-deductibly

I think that for most donors this can be disregarded. Even if the marginal use of your additional tax dollars is still pretty good (e.g. 10% as valuable as your best charitable option), you're still better off donating to the charity. In extremis, it would imply that your best marginal donation option would be to voluntarily pay more tax, rather than donate. 

While it seems in theory possible that the marginal dollar that your government spends is more effective than your best charitable donation option, I'd guess that in practice this is almost never ... (read more)

Okay, I suppose that's vaguely legit. They are in broadly the same space. And also the new name is definitely better.
Thanks. I can see why they would be concerned!
Donating effectively does not necessarily imply donating tax-deductibly

Yeah, both good points. To further complicate things, if you're concerned about the net costs of your donation (e.g. both the transaction fees, as well as the administrative costs involved) then sometimes paying the transaction fee means that it's actually cheaper overall to process the transaction. For example, the service paid for by the credit card fees on EA Funds (Stripe) allows us to automate almost all of the accounting, saving a huge amount of person-hours and keeping running costs lower. Obviously there's a break-even point, and for larger donations it definitely makes sense to seek to avoid percentage-based fees.

How are the EA Funds default allocations chosen?

First, I'll note that we're actually planning to change this system (likely in the next week or two), so that instead of first seeing a default allocation, donors will choose their own allocation as the first step in the donation process.

To your question, the current EA Funds default allocation was chosen as an approximation of some combination of a) a representative split of the cause areas based on their relative interest across EA, and b) a guess at what we thought the underlying funding gaps in each cause area will likely to be. It's definitely intende

... (read more)
2Peter Sølling2y
Hi Sam Thank you so much for your good and thorough answer. I see from the payout overviews that the actual distribution of donation amounts between the four focus areas the past three years has followed more or less exactly the distribution indication on the sliders. Plus minus one or two percent. Now that the sliders disappear, does that mean that any future donor will not get any EA recommendation on how to balance her donation between the four areas? Or is there a recommended balance somewhere else? I remember here Steve Pinkers words on the EA website front page: Effective altruism — efforts that actually help people rather than making you feel good or helping you show off — is one of the great new ideas of the 21st century. Should EA also help people in finding this hard balance, that tabs into the emerging school of patient longtermism and other academic concepts? Kind regards, Peter
Announcing the 2019-20 Donor Lottery

Update – winners have been drawn!

Thanks everyone who participated this year. The lotteries have been drawn and both had a winner!

Congratulations both!

Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

Yeah, this is something that's definitely been discussed, and I think this would be a logical first step between the current state of the world and hiring grantmakers to specific teams.

Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

Yeah, the Fund balances are updated when the entries for the grants are entered into our accounting system (typically at the time that the grants are paid out). Because it can take a while to source all the relevant information from recipients (bank details etc), this doesn't always happen immediately. Unfortunately this means that there's always going to be some potential for drift here, though (absent accounting corrections like that applicable to the Global Development Fund) this should resolve itself within ~ a month. The November balances included ~ half of the payments made from the Animal Welfare and Meta Funds from their respective November grant rounds.

OK, thanks for explaining how this works!
Which Community Building Projects Get Funded?

[meta: apologies for the belated response]

Thanks again for the thoughtful comments. I agree that the numbers should have been higher; that was an oversight (and perhaps speaks to the difficulty of keeping these numbers accurate longer term). I’m not sure how I missed the extra 80K and Founders Pledge grants (I think they came from an earlier payout report that I forgot to include in my calculations). I’m sorry  that this wasn’t done correctly the first time around. 

I’ve since removed the grant amounts (leaving just the grantees/grant categories),

... (read more)
Thanks for cleaning up this data Sam! I also appreciate your putting together that spreadsheet. It’d be great if the fund pages could link to it to make that info more easily accessible. And over time, I’d love to see that file evolve to include additional data about each funds’ grants with corresponding subtotals. I think that would be a big aid for donors trying to understand what types of grants each fund makes.
Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

Most Fund balances are in general reasonably accurate (although the current balances don’t account from the latest round that were only paid out last month). The exception here is the Global Development Fund, which is still waiting on the accounting correction you mentioned to post, but I’ve just been informed that this has just been given over to the bookkeepers to action, so this should be resolved very soon.

I was asking about the end of November balances that were displayed throughout December. It sounds like those did not reflect grants instructed in November if I’m correctly understanding what you mean by “the current balances don’t account from the latest round that were only paid out last month”. Can you clarify the timing of when grants do get reflected in the fund balances? Do the fund balances get updated when the grants are recommended to CEA? Approved by CEA? Disbursed by CEA? When the payout reports are published? FWIW, I’d find it most helpful if they were updated when the payout reports are published, since that would make the information on the fund pages internally consistent. Thanks for the update on the Global Development Fund!
Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

1. I don’t have an exact figure, but a quick look at the data suggests we’ve moved close to $2m to US-based charities that don’t have a UK presence from donors in the UK (~$600k in 2019). My guess is that the amount going in the other direction (US -> UK) is substantially smaller than that, if only because the majority of the orgs we support are US-based. (There’s also some slippage here, e.g. UK donors giving to GiveWell’s current recommendation could donate to AMF/Malaria ConsortiumSCI etc.)

2. Due to privacy regulations (most notably GDPR) we can’t, b

... (read more)
1. Thanks for sharing this data! 2. Ah, that makes sense re: privacy issues. However, I’m a bit confused by this: “we do send out email newsletters with updates about how money from EA Funds has been spent.” Is this something new? I’ve given to EA Funds and organizations through the Funds platform for quite some time, and the only non-receipt email I’ve ever gotten from EA Funds was a message in late December soliciting donations and sharing the OP. To be clear, I’d love to see more updates and solicitations for donors (and not just during giving season), as I believe not asking past donors to renew their giving is likely leaving money on the table.
Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

Yeah, that’s interesting – I think this is an artefact of the way we calculate the numbers. The ‘total donations’ figure is calculated from donations registered through the platform, whereas the Fund balances are calculated from our accounting system. Sometimes donations (especially by larger donors) are arranged outside of the EA Funds platform. They count towards the Fund balance (and accordingly show up in the payouts), but they won’t show up in the total donations figure. We’d love to get to a point where these donations are recorded in EA Funds, but i

... (read more)
Got it, thanks for clarifying!
Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

It’s hard to say exactly, but I’d be thinking this would be on the timescale of roughly a year (so, a spinout could happen in late 2020 or mid 2021). However, this will depend a lot on e.g. ensuring that we have the right people on the team, the difficulty of setting up new processes to handle grantmaking etc.

Re the size question – are you asking how large the EA Funds organisation itself should be, or how large the Fund management teams should be?

If the former, I’d guess that we’d probably start out with a team of two people, maybe eventually growing ~4 p

... (read more)
I was asking about how large the EA Funds organization itself should be, but nice to get your thoughts on the management teams as well. Thank you!
Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

I agree with you that on one framing, influencing the long-run future is risky, in the sense that we have no real idea of whether any actions taken now will have a long-run positive impact, and we’re just using our best judgement.

However, it also feels like there are also important distinctions in categories of risk between things like organisational maturity. For example, a grant to MIRI (an established organisation, with legible financial controls, and existing research outputs that are widely cited within the field) feels different to me when compared t

... (read more)
Yeah, I think the current ontology is a pretty reasonable/intuitive way to address a complex issue. I’d update if I learned that concerns about “risk of abuse” more common among donors than concerns about other types of risk, but my suspicion is that concerns about “risk of abuse” is mostly an issue for the LTFF since it makes more grants to individuals and the grant that was recommended to Lauren serves as something of a lightning rod. I do think, per my original question about the LTFF’s classification, that the LTFF is meaningfully more risky than the other funds along multiple dimensions of risk: relatively more funding of individuals vs. established organizations, more convoluted paths to impact (even for more established grantees), and more risk of abuse (largely due to funding more individuals and perhaps a less consensus based grantmaking process). Now that the new Grantmaking and Impact section lists illustrative grants for each fund, I expect donors will turn to that section rather than clicking through each grant report and trying to mentally aggregate the results. But as I pointed out in another discussion [] , that section is problematic in that the grants it lists are often misrepresentative and/or incorrect, and even if it were accurate to begin with the information would quickly grow stale. As a solution (which other [] people [] seemed interested in), I suggested a spreadsheet that would list and categorize grants. If I created such a spreadsheet, would you be willing to embed it in the fund pages and keep it up to date as new grants are made? The maintenance is the kind of thing a (p
Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

Good question. My very rough Fermi estimate puts this at around $750/grant (based on something like $90k worth of staff costs directly related to grantmaking and ~120 grants/year). It’s hard to say how this scales, but we’ve continued to improve our grant processing pipeline, and I’d expect that we can continue to accommodate a relatively high number of grants per year. This is also only the average cost – I’d expect the marginal cost for each grant to be lower than this.

I don’t have a great sense of grantmaker overhead per individual grant, but I’d estima

... (read more)
Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

Yeah, I’d love to see this happen, both because I think that it’s good to pay people for their time, and also because of the incentives it creates. However, as Misha_Yagudin says, I don’t think financial constraints are the main bottleneck on getting good feedback or doing in-depth grant reviews, and time constraints are the bigger factor.

One thing I’ve been mulling over for some time is appointing full-time grantmakers to at least some of the Funds. This isn’t likely to be feasible in the near term (say, at least 6 months), and would depend a lot on how the product evolves, as well as funding constraints, but it’s definitely something we’ve considered.

Thanks for answer! Another option in this vein would be to pay a Secretariat to handle correspondence with grant applicants, collecting grantmakers' views, giving feedback, writing up the recommendations based on jot notes from the grantmakers, etc. I'm not sure how much time a competent admin person could save Fund grantmakers, but it might be worth trying.
Effective Altruism Funds Project Updates

Meta: Just wanted to say thanks to all for the excellent questions, and to apologise for the slow turnaround on responses – I got pretty sick just before Christmas and wasn’t in any state to respond coherently. Ideally I would have noted that at the time, mea culpa.

Did Fortify Health receive $1 million from EA Funds?

Hi HStencil,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments here. 

Late last year I was working on updating and formalising the scope of each of the EA Funds, and in discussions with Elie and others at GiveWell, we updated the wording of the scope to explicitly include projects that were more indirectly serving the mission of the Fund:

In addition, the Global Health and Development Fund has a broad remit, and may fund other activities whose ultimate purpose is to serve people living in the poorest regions of the world, for example by raising additional funds (e.g.

... (read more)
Hi Sam, thank you so much for explaining all of that — it’s all good to know. I certainly wouldn’t ask you to refund any of my donations (though I do appreciate the offer). There’s just one more thing I’d like to flag. Recently, I noticed the “Scope and Limitations []” page on the EA Funds website for the first time, which says it exists in part “to set clear expectations” for donors. The section dedicated to describing the scope of Global Development Fund reads, “The Global Health and Development Fund makes grants that aim to improve the health or economic empowerment of people around the world as effectively as possible,” giving the following as examples of “expected recipients”: It seems to me that the One for the World grant falls outside of the scope of those expected recipients. I understand that the expected recipients list is intended to be non-binding and that “if a Fund’s management team decides that a grant fulfils the Scope/Limitations, and the spirit of the Expected Recipients section, they may recommend the grant.” However, if it’s reasonably likely that the Global Development Fund will make more grants to movement-building organizations down the road, do you think that perhaps the expected recipients list should be updated to reflect that? Finally, the webpage says, “Where a grant is determined to be ambiguous with respect to scope . . ., approval may require additional scrutiny.” If I understand correctly, you now agree that the One for the World grant was “ambiguous with respect to scope,” but on account of your prior understanding of the Fund’s prior scope, you did not feel that way at the time of the grant. Accordingly, I assume that the One for the World grant did not receive additional scrutiny. Is that correct? Thanks again for engaging with me here. I’m grateful for the thought.
Announcing the 2019-20 Donor Lottery

The money is kept aside as the first tranche of backstop for future donor lotteries – if someone wins, we'll first draw from this pool of money to cover the pot, and then we'll use the lottery guarantor's money to cover any remainder.

I was confused by this as well. Does "no winners" mean "the backstop funder won"? If not, how can there not be a winner?

Did Fortify Health receive $1 million from EA Funds?

Thanks – yeah, I agree, and we should have let donors know about this sooner.

The Payout Reports shouldn't affect the Fund Balance, as that number is calculated directly from our accounting system. That said, this means it's subject to some of the vagaries of bookkeeping, which means we ask donors to treat it as an estimate. At the moment we're waiting on a (routine) accounting correction that should be posted once our most recent audit results are finalised, which  unfortunately means that the current figure is somewhat inaccurate.

The Payout Report total would have been inaccurate as that's calculated by summing the figures from the published payout reports.

Thanks for explaining how this works Sam. I’ve got a few followup questions about fund balances. The animal [] and meta [] fund pages both show new grant reports with November payout dates- are these grants reflected in the fund balances? Both funds have end of November fund balances that are the same ballpark size as their November grants, suggesting they might not be updated. This makes sense. Generally speaking, how accurate should we expect those estimates to be? Is it possible to say something along the lines of “we expect the fund balance estimates to be accurate plus or minus 10% and generally not off by more than $100,000”?

Okay, that makes sense – thanks for explaining.

One other thing: Any chance you or Catherine have an estimate of when we can expect a full write-up on the One for the World grant to be published? I'm curious mostly because it seems like a slightly atypical use of the Global Health and Development Fund (perhaps a better fit for the Meta Fund, from which One for the World received a grant earlier in the year).

Did Fortify Health receive $1 million from EA Funds?

Thanks HStencil for flagging this. As Catherine said, the process of publishing reports can take some time, which is why there's been a delay adding these grants to the EA Funds website. However in the interests of transparency I've added placeholder payout reports for both the Fortify Health grant, as well as another recent grant to One for the World which is also waiting on the full report. We'll update these reports as soon as GiveWell has completed their publication process.

Thanks for responding, Catherine and Sam (and also for posting those payout reports on EA Funds). I understand that the process of releasing a comprehensive write-up on each grant may take some time, but to me, it seems better (as policy) to at least let donors know about the existence of new grants within, say, 30 days of their being made than to not disclose them at all for months. I understand there are pitfalls to releasing the information that a grant was made without also explaining the process and justification behind it, but at least as I understan... (read more)

Which Community Building Projects Get Funded?

Fund managers are appointed by CEA on the recommendation of the Fund Committee (in the case of the Meta Fund, my understanding is that currently all committee members have input on the decision, with equally-weighted votes, though this is not the case on all Fund teams). My understanding from conversations with members of the Meta Fund team is that the last recruitment round considered candidates from several locations, with an emphasis on trying to find someone from the Bay Area. At least two promising candidates (both based in the Bay) were approached, b

... (read more)
Thanks for this background info Sam! Glad to hear that people from more places were considered in the last recruitment round. Were there any candidates from the US-excluding-Bay (which has more EAs than the UK, Bay Area, and Australia combined)? Did the candidates from the Bay who were approached give any reasons for why they couldn’t/wouldn't take the position (e.g. is the volunteer nature of the role a limiting factor)? I’ll email you some nominations (and FWIW, if the fund managers agree this is a priority it’d be great to also solicit nominations in higher profile places like the EA newsletter).
Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the replacement so bad?

A quick update to say that one of the features that seems to have prompted the initial post – the lack of the ability to manage recurring reported donations – has now been implemented. You can access it from the Recurring Donations tab in the Pledge Dashboard sidebar:

Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the replacement so bad?

These are all great suggestions William, thanks for providing them. I'll take them into account as we're making future updates to the platform – no promises on a timeframe re current tech capacity constraints unfortunately, but I think they're all very sensible ideas and would constitute significant improvements.

Will CEA have an open donor lottery by Giving Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019?

For the last two years we've run a donor lottery through the December Giving Season, drawn in January, and we intend to do this again this year-end. Assuming that preparations go well, we'll aim to have this open by Giving Tuesday.

Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the replacement so bad?

To add to this, I re-analysed the EA Survey responses on cause areas, restricting to just Giving What We Can Members:

Obviously there's a selection effect where the members who take the survey are more likely to be more involved with EA, but I think it's still instructive that Giving What We Can members are a fairly broad church with respect to cause areas, and that it's reasonable to offer different cause areas to them as a default setting on EA Funds.

Disclosure: I work at CEA, and am the person primarily responsible for both EA Funds and the technical imp

... (read more)

I don't feel either of these reply's address my points very well (as a member who signed the pledge prior to 2014).

As far as I can tell you accept the first point I made and don't address it. Ok, me. I think the funds are fine you just haven't done the work of showing they are better than other donation routes at all.

In regards to the second point you get very fixated on the default slider setting being representative of the most engaged members of the community. I don't want yet more peer pressure to donate to what the most engaged members of think.(And

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JP's Shortform

Is there a way to give Algolia additional information from the user's profile so that it can fuzzy search it?

1JP Addison3y
We could probably add a nickname field that we set manually.
Ought: why it matters and ways to help

The success of our factored evaluation experiments depends on Mosaic, the core web interface our experimenters use.

Is Mosaic an open-source technology that an applicant would be expected to have existing familiarity with, or an in-house piece of software? (The text of the job ad is a little ambiguous.) The term is unfortunately somewhat ungoogleable, due to confusion with the Mosaic web browser.

What grants has Carl Shulman's discretionary fund made?

It has some investigations in progress but hasn't made any grants yet. It was used to back the late-2018 Donor Lottery.

Any update on this? 

(It has now been 2 years since my original post.)

Hey Sam, any updates?

Announcing an updated drawing protocol for the donor lotteries

Re 1, this is less of a worry to me. You're right that this isn't something that SHA256 has been specifically vetted for, but my understanding is that the SHA-2 family of algorithms should have uniformly-distributed outputs. In fact, the NIST beacon values are all just SHA-512 hashes (of a random seed plus the previous beacon's value and some other info), so this method vs the NIST method shouldn't have different properties (although, as you note, we didn't do a specific analysis of this particular set of inputs — noted, and mea culpa).

However, the point r

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Announcing an updated drawing protocol for the donor lotteries

The NIST Beacon is back online. After consulting a number of people (and notwithstanding that we previously committed to not changing back), we've decided that it would in fact be better to revert to using the NIST beacon. I've edited the post text to reflect this, and emailed all lottery participants.

Announcing an updated drawing protocol for the donor lotteries

AFAIK offers to run lotteries for you (for a fee), but all participants still need to trust them to generate the numbers fairly. It's obviously unlikely that there would in fact be any problem here, but we're erring on the side of having something that's easier for an external party to inspect.

Trusting doesn't seem so bad (probably a bit better than trusting IRIS, since IRIS isn't in the business of claiming to be non-manipulable). I don't know if they support arbitrary winning probabilities for draws, but probably there is some way to make it work. (That does seem strictly worse than hashing powerball numbers though, which seem more trustworthy than and easier to get.)
Announcing an updated drawing protocol for the donor lotteries

The draw should to have the following properties:

  • The source of randomness needs to be generated independently from both CEA and all possible entrants
  • The resulting random number needs to be published publicly
  • The randomness needs to be generated at a specific, precommitted time in the future
  • The method for arriving at the final number should ideally be open to public inspection

This is because, if we generated the number ourselves, or used a private third-party, there's no good guarantees against collusion. Entrants in the lottery could reasonably say '

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Announcing an updated drawing protocol for the donor lotteries

Agree with the sentiment, but we're most definitely not rolling our own crypto. The method above relies on the public and extremely-widely-vetted SHA256 algorithm. This algorithm has the nice property that even slightly different inputs produce wildly different outputs. Secondly, it should distribute these outputs uniformly across the entire possibility space. This means that it would be useless to bruteforce the prediction, because each of your candidates would have an even chance of ending up basically anywhere.

For example, compare the input strings 1111

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EA Funds - An update from CEA

Hey Eli – there has definitely been thinking on this, and we've done a shallow investigation of some options. At the moment we're trying to avoid making large structural changes to the way EA Funds is set up that have the potential to increase accounting complexity (and possibly audit compliance complexity too), but this is in the pipeline as something we'd eventually like to make happen, especially as the total holdings get larger.

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