Is EA Growing? Some EA Growth Metrics for 2017

This post was co-au­thored by Peter Hur­ford and Joey Savoie.

The EA Sur­vey team at Re­think Char­ity (in­clud­ing my­self) re­cently re­leased ini­tial data from the 2017 EA Sur­vey and will have more to fol­low it up. KBog made a com­ment on the EA Fo­rum notic­ing that the 2015 EA Sur­vey had 2532 par­ti­ci­pants, whereas the 2017 EA Sur­vey only had 1837 par­ti­ci­pants. Does this mean that EA is de­clin­ing in growth?

It’s hard to say, and the EA Sur­vey team will have more anal­y­sis on this, look­ing deeper at what the data in the EA Sur­vey tells us about EA mem­ber­ship growth and churn, if any­thing. How­ever, Joey Savoie (un­re­lated to the EA Sur­vey team) and I (Peter Hur­ford) were cu­ri­ous to look a bit more at other met­rics of po­ten­tial growth to get a clearer pic­ture. Prior anal­y­sis on this has been done by Vipul Naik at the end of 2016 and by Eric Yu at the be­gin­ning of 2016 (in a post that I spon­sored the cre­ation of).

Joey and I thought it would be a good time to try to re-check the data and see if things have changed. We com­piled the fol­low­ing data from var­i­ous sources to look at EA growth rates.

Type of data

Sep 2014 to Aug 2015

Sep 2015 to Aug 2016

Sep 2016 to Aug 2017

The EA Face­book group (via so­cio­graph.io)[1]

1547 posts

471 authors

920 commenters

1924 re­ac­tors[2]

1374 posts

521 authors

1055 commenters

2710 reactors

696 posts[3]

400 authors

1089 commenters

2872 reactors

New Giv­ing What We Can pledgers

618

770

1150

Num­ber of 80,000 Hours im­pact-ad­justed sig­nifi­cant ca­reer changes

184.8

631.3

1202

Google in­ter­est in “effec­tive al­tru­ism” (rel­a­tive scor­ing)[4]

16.94

28.4

38.2

EA wikipe­dia data (desk­top pageviews)[5]

51,100

70,500

77,800

New EA Newslet­ter sign-ups

Didn’t re­ally ex­ist[6]

11,167

35,554

EA Fo­rum pageviews

309,961

345,202

390,463

New EA Red­dit sub­scribers[7,8]

308

869

1484

Type of data

Jan­uary 2014 to Dec 2014

Jan­uary 2015 to De­cem­ber 2015

Jan­uary 2016 to De­cem­ber 2016

Non-OpenPhil GiveWell donations

$13.3M

$40M

$30-40M (math)

OpenPhil GiveWell dona­tions[9]

$8M

$70M

$50M

To­tal OpenPhil donations

$30.2M $34.2M

$126.4M

OpenPhil + non-OpenPhil GiveWell donations

$21.3M

$110M

~$80-90M

To­tal non-OpenPhil donors

9044

14,287

No data available[10]

To­tal recorded money ac­tu­ally donated (not pledges) from Giv­ing What We Can members

$7.1M

$7.0M[11]

No data available

80,000 Hours Newslet­ter Subscribers

262

23,000

76,000

Type of data

EA Sur­vey 2014

EA Sur­vey 2015

EA Sur­vey 2017

EA Sur­vey re­spon­dents

813

2532

1837

To­tal amount of recorded dona­tions in EA Survey

$5.2M

$6.8M

$9.9M[12]

Ad­di­tional Face­book Data

As an ad­min of the EA Face­book group, I was also able to ac­cess the built-in statis­tics, but they only go back 60 days. Right now, as of 30 Au­gust 2017, the EA FB group has about 8629 “ac­tive users” in the last 60 days as defined by Face­book (user has viewed, posted, com­mented, or re­acted in the group). The last 60 days also saw 99 posts, 2073 com­ments, and 7042 re­ac­tions. 339 mem­bers were added in the past 60 days, to a to­tal of 13,407 mem­bers right now. Com­par­ing the past sixty days to the past 28 days shows roughly lin­ear growth, but I would not ex­pect to be able to see a trend in only two months of data, even if EA was grow­ing very quickly.

This data is not very use­ful right now since it only goes back 60 days, but it might be valuable as a time cap­sule, since a year from now we could re-do this post and com­pare the num­bers for the group as of 2018 to these archived num­bers.

Com­men­tary

Over­all, it’s hard to get a good sense of a trend from only two to three data points for each trend. It looks like EA is grow­ing some­what and that the growth rate is some­what lin­ear, but it varies de­pend­ing on the source and I would definitely want to see more data to be sure. A lot of the growth rate can vary de­pend­ing on how much marginal re­sources or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Cen­ter of Effec­tive Altru­ism put into in­ten­tion­ally grow­ing a par­tic­u­lar source (e.g., the EA Newslet­ter) ver­sus let­ting a source grow or­gan­i­cally (e.g., the EA Fo­rum).

I don’t re­ally know what kind of growth rate I was ex­pect­ing prior to see­ing this data, so I can’t say if this does or doesn’t sup­port my hy­pothe­ses about move­ment growth. Joey and I are try­ing to hold off from hav­ing firm ad­di­tional opinions un­til we can look at the data more. I think it would be ideal to cre­ate con­crete pre­dic­tions around where these num­bers will be within one year or so (e.g., see here, here, and here). We cer­tainly in­vite dis­cus­sion and pre­dic­tions on this.

Ac­knowl­edge­ments

This post was co-au­thored by Peter Hur­ford and Joey Savoie. Thanks to Vipul Naik and Issa Rice for putting to­gether some of the source data used in this re­port and refer­ring us to the cor­rect places for get­ting EA Fo­rum and EA Wikipe­dia pageview data, and thanks Pas­cal Zim­mer for sup­ply­ing data on the EA Newslet­ter. Thanks to Kerry Vaughan for pro­vid­ing data on pageviews for the EA Fo­rum in 2017, thanks to Rob Wiblin for some 80,000 Hours statis­tics, and thanks to Zeke Sher­man for point­ing out Red­dit statis­tics.

End­notes

[1]: So­cio­graph does offer to show mem­ber growth over time as a paid fea­ture, which I got via a 14-day free trial, but the data looked in­cor­rect and un­us­able.

[2]: I be­lieve “re­ac­tors” re­fer to the num­ber of peo­ple who like, haha, love, etc. I am not sure if this in­cludes shares, but I do not think that it does.

[3]: It’s worth not­ing that the EA Face­book group en­gages in rea­son­ably heavy mod­er­a­tion of Face­book posts and prob­a­bly (my in­tu­ition as a Face­book mod) re­jects about five posts for ev­ery one post that reaches the page. Given that mod­er­a­tion may have changed over time, it’s not clear how much to read into this de­cline in the post count.

[4]: Th­ese num­bers are not search vol­umes—they’re the mean rel­a­tive “score” for that year, rel­a­tive to the search vol­ume for the high­est day be­tween Jan­uary 2004 and the end of Au­gust 2017.

[5]: See some more wiki data here and here.

[6]: The EA Newslet­ter was re­launched and first had reg­u­lar con­tent and mar­ket­ing in Oc­to­ber 2015.

[7]: Both r/​Effec­tiveAltru­ism and r/​smart­giv­ing have been si­mul­ta­neous EA sub­red­dits since Septem­ber 2012. r/​smart­giv­ing was the de­fault EA sub­red­dit un­til an in­ten­tional mi­gra­tion on 28 Feb 2016. From Sep 2016 - Aug 2017, r/​effec­tivealtru­ism had +1484 sub­scribers (1068->2552) and r/​smart­giv­ing had +93 (1466->1559); from Sep 2015 - Aug 2016, +869 (199->1068) for r/​effec­tivealtru­ism and +230 (1236->1466) for r/​smart­giv­ing; and from Sep 2014 - Aug 2015, +91 (108->199) for r/​effec­tivealtru­ism and +308 (928->1236) for r/​smart­giv­ing. I will use r/​smart­giv­ing num­bers for the 2014-2015 pe­riod and r/​effec­tivealtru­ism num­bers for all pe­ri­ods af­ter that, to re­flect the tran­si­tion. Note that this growth will there­fore in­volve some in­her­ent dou­ble-count­ing as peo­ple who were sub­scribed on r/​smart­giv­ing re-sub­scribe on r/​effec­tivealtru­ism. Pageviews for red­dit were calcu­lated via http://​​red­dit­met­rics.com/​​.

[8]: Red­dit ad­min stats go back a year for pageviews. Look­ing at this, there were ~65,350 pageviews be­tween Sep 2016 and Au­gust 2017. We can keep this num­ber in this com­ment as a time cap­sule and then if/​when we do a Growth Met­rics 2018 we can com­pare the pageviews to this num­ber.

[9]: Money from the Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject is counted for the year in which the grant is an­nounced, which may be differ­ent from the year the grant is de­cided or the year the grant money is ac­tu­ally dis­persed.

[10]: GiveWell has not yet pub­lished their Met­rics Re­port for 2016 data.

[11]: Th­ese num­bers come from differ­ent sources, so I don’t know if they are di­rectly com­pa­rable.

[12]: The EA Sur­vey 2017 recorded dona­tions from both 2015 and 2016. This is 2016 data only. There was $6.7M in dona­tions recorded for 2015 in the 2017 EA Sur­vey.