One of the CEA's projects is the EA Forum, an online forum where more than a thousand people discuss promising causes, new research, and the EA community. This post was originally published on the Forum.
Hello! We’re the team behind the EA Forum. The EA Forum is a platform for open discussion, and we’d like to be open about the way we make it.
This is the first of a two-post series. Today, we’ll talk about who we are and how we work. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how we think about the Forum, what we’ve done, and what we plan to do next.
JP Addison is basically the only developer on the project. Sam Deere and Ben West occasionally review EA Forum-specific code or help through pair programming. Most of the code (including most new changes) is developed by the LessWrong team, after which JP ports it over to the EA Forum. We are grateful to the team for supporting some of our modifications and answering our questions.
Aaron Gertler is the other half of the Forum duumvirate. He’s concerned with the part of the Forum you’re actually here for: the content. That includes running the Forum Prize, heading the moderation team, commenting on lots and lots of posts, editing posts before publication, and helping people and organizations cross-post their content. Aaron and JP both report to Ben West.
CEA gives a lot of discretion to project leads, so we end up making most of the calls about what to prioritize.
The Forum’s moderation team consists of Aaron Gertler and Julia Wise. Aaron is the de facto head of it by virtue of the amount of attentiveness he gives it. The moderation team very rarely uses any moderation powers against users (unless they only signed up so they could share links to pirated movies). The karma system does most of that work. You can sometimes see Aaron expressing disapproval to users, but it’s generally done publicly and without his "mod hat" on. Most of the moderation workload comes from categorizing posts and approving new users (or banning them if, you know, pirated movies).
JP occasionally contributes by banning spammers or categorizing clear-cut posts, because he is a morning lark while Aaron is a night owl.
On the technical side, the code for the EA Forum is a fork (a copy of the code with some modifications) of the LessWrong codebase. The LessWrong team has more developers than we do (2.5-3.5 vs. 1, depending on how you count). They develop many features we want, and we keep our fork of the codebase (relatively) up to date with their changes.
We sometimes make changes to our fork that we don’t submit upstream. This was really common during the initial setup and is the easiest way to get our features to behave exactly how we want them to. However, it’s really time-consuming to maintain these changes. Every time we merge in the new changes to the LW codebase, differences between the Forum and LessWrong are the bane of JP’s existence.
Thus, we prefer to make changes that are also useful to LW. That way, their changes are built on top of ours.
You can see us collaborate by looking at the open source codebases. Here’s the EA Forum fork and the LessWrong original. The closed Pull Requests on the LW codebase are where you’ll find a record of our changes that we push upstream.
It’s a little silly to say this, but we should emphasize that the Forum is a community effort. Aaron and I account for a very small percentage of the total number of posts on the Forum. A well-made but empty Forum would be a boring Forum. If you remember an interesting post you liked, consider leaving a comment to thank the author!