EA forum content might be declining in quality. Here are some possible mechanisms.

Note: This was originally posted as a shortform with the first 8 points, and I added more based on the replies to that shortform.

  1. Newer EAs have worse takes on average, because the current processes of recruitment and outreach produce a worse distribution than the old ones

  2. Newer EAs are too junior to have good takes yet. It’s just that the growth rate has increased so there’s a higher proportion of them.

  3. People who have better thoughts get hired at EA orgs [edit: or have other better things to do] and are too busy to post. There is anticorrelation between the amount of time someone has to post on EA Forum and the expected quality of their post.

  4. Controversial content, rather than good content, gets the most engagement.

  5. Although we want more object-level discussion, everyone can weigh in on meta/​community stuff, whereas they only know about their own cause areas. Therefore community content, especially shallow criticism, gets upvoted more. There could be a similar effect for posts by well-known EA figures.

  6. Contests like the criticism contest decrease average quality, because the type of person who would enter a contest to win money on average has worse takes than the type of person who has genuine deep criticism. There were 232 posts for the criticism contest, and 158 for the Cause Exploration Prizes, which combined is more top-level posts than the entire forum in any month except August 2022.

  7. EA Forum is turning into a place primarily optimized for people to feel welcome and talk about EA, rather than impact.

  8. All of this is exacerbated as the most careful and rational thinkers flee somewhere else, expecting that they won’t get good quality engagement on EA Forum.

  9. (pointed out by Larks) “We also seem to get a fair number of posts that make basically the same point as an earlier article, but the author presumably either didn’t read the earlier one or wanted to re-iterate it.”

  10. (pointed out by ThomasW): “There are many people who have very high bars for how good something should be to post on the forum. Thus the forum becomes dominated by a few people (often people who aren’t aware of or care about forum norms) who have much lower bars to posting.”

  11. (pointed out by John_Maxwell) “Forum leadership encouraging people to be less intimidated and write more off-the-cuff posts—see e.g. this or this.”

  12. (pointed out by HaydnBelfield) “There is a lot more posted on the forum, mostly from newer/​more junior people. It could well be the case that the average quality of posts has gone down. However, I’m not so sure that the quality of the best posts has gone down, and I’m not so sure that there are fewer of the best posts every month. Nevertheless, spotting the signal from the noise has become harder. ”

  13. (I thought of this since last week) The appearance of quality decline is an illusion; people judge quality relative to their own understanding, which tends to increase. Thus even though quality stays constant, any given person’s perception of quality decreases.

  14. (edited to add) Stagnation; EA Forum content is mostly drawn from the same distribution and many of the good thoughts have already been said. Contributing factors may be people not reading/​building on previous posts (see also (9)), and lack of diversity in e.g. career specialties.