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Re: [givewell] Re: Update on general aid issues [REVISED FOR RESEARCH LIST]

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  • Holden Karnofsky
    We ve discussed this a bit. A couple of thoughts: - Our charity-specific work is already being rolled out to the website. We recently published the Stop TB
    Message 1 of 6 , Apr 24, 2009
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      We've discussed this a bit.  A couple of thoughts:
      • Our charity-specific work is already being rolled out to the website.  We recently published the Stop TB review and will soon be publishing a couple more.
      • I've been doing the "issues pages" as blog posts, but I think at this point I'm going to switch over to publishing them directly on the website and just announcing/linking them on the blog.  The difference is more or less one of formatting (and to a lesser extent tone), but this seems appropriate.
      • We're going to experiment with using the blog for more conversational, less tightly referenced points - the big picture more than the details, with the aim of provoking conversation even before we have all the references in order.  Eventually the two will meet - we'll have "highlights" pages on the polished website that are also well-referenced - but putting those pages together now would not be efficient.

      On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 11:59 AM, psteinx <psteinmeyer@...> wrote:

      Speaking only for myself, I am looking more for a higher level of polishing and publishing rather than a particular level of detail. i.e. Rather than putting effort into blog posts and detailed e-mails to this list, I'd rather see you guys make more of an effort to put the research and content into publishable form.

      IMO, neither blog entries nor e-mails on this list should be the final goal of GiveWell research.

      Perhaps you are a bit gunshy about putting content onto the main website until it is in "final" form. Personally, I'd like to see content go up sooner, and if it gets revised later, so be it.

      By having so many stages to your research (you read a bunch, take some rough notes, eventually collect the rough notes and e-mail this list, maybe make a blog post, and finally, perhaps weeks/months later, put content on the main site), I think you are creating more work for yourselves.

      As for level of detail - clearly there needs to be some cascading there. I think bulletpoints (with links) are needed at the high level, and don't have a strong opinion at this time on the exact shape of the more detailed levels.

      I *do* think that when there is research on both sides of an issue (some researchers say "A", others say "not A"), that you should provide some color on your opinions of the strength of the relevant research, rather than simply throwing in links to the research and letting the reader decide. The links are nice (and important), but most readers won't go through the research in detail - that's GiveWell's job. You don't have to make an absolute pronouncement (A is *clearly* correct) - feel free to shade your opinion according to the strength of the arguments and research. And sometimes, an issue will be quite unresolved or the two sides will be equally strong - it's ok to say that too. But one way or another, I think you should express some opinion about the relative strength of the arguments on contested issues.

      --- In givewell@yahoogroups.com, Holden Karnofsky <holden0@...> wrote:
      > I'd appreciate some clarification on this, and should probably start with
      > some clarification on our end.
      > There are 3 possible levels of detail for these writeups:
      > 1. Lowest level of detail: highlights. These will be pages along the lines
      > of those currently on the front page of givewell.net (on the left). They
      > will present key points as engagingly as possible. They will not be
      > footnoted, but will link to more detailed writeups. A working bullet-point
      > summary of these highlights is currently available via the top link on this
      > page: http://www.givewell.net/wiki/index.php?title=Links_for_2009_report.
      > The 5-6 "best" (most engaging) will go on the front page of the report as
      > links.
      > 2. Medium level of detail: these will essentially be the blog posts we've
      > made so far (linked from section 2 of this page:
      > http://www.givewell.net/wiki/index.php?title=Issues_pages). Changes will be
      > very minor: things like replacing "I" with "we," as well as updating to
      > incorporate new information we've found (and cutting comments like "we're
      > still looking for more"). Aside from these minor changes and the visual look
      > (text, colors), these pages will be identical to the ones we currently have
      > on the blog.
      > 3. Highest level of detail: Phil mentioned at one point that he would like a
      > higher level of detail on a blog post such as
      > http://blog.givewell.net/?p=344 - giving our view of the specific merits and
      > flaws in various studies, rather than simply pointing to others' literature
      > reviews and stating things like "Some believe in a moderate positive
      > relationship, often with the caveat that aid works better where existing
      > institutions are stronger (more below) or that aid has diminishing returns.
      > Others believe that there is no relationship or that there is insufficient
      > evidence." I think it is likely that we will not create pages along these
      > lines.
      > The blog posts we have are closest to #2; putting them on the main website
      > would involve extremely minor changes. The "finished product" will include
      > #1, but I don't believe this is the right time to do more work on this.
      > Before we discuss further, we should clarify (1) which of these 3 levels of
      > detail you're looking to see in its finished form and (2) whether you've
      > seen all the material we already have, particularly the Word doc I referred
      > to as a preview of #1 (and which addresses the question of what the
      > high-level bullet points will be).
      > On Sat, Apr 18, 2009 at 7:21 AM, Lindy Miller Crane <hellolindy@...>wrote:

      > >
      > >
      > > I have to agree here, and furthermore would like to see some very concise,
      > > high-level bullets published on the web, catering to busy people who want
      > > the bottom line with LINKS to research and analysis but not the whole
      > > research dump.
      > >
      > >
      > > On Fri, Apr 17, 2009 at 5:36 PM, psteinx <psteinmeyer@...> wrote:
      > >
      > >>
      > >>
      > >> I skimmed through the 3 linked pages.
      > >>
      > >> One specific point - under "Harms of aid", you briefly mention the concept
      > >> of "if it isn't doing enough good, it's doing harm." To be clear, from my
      > >> perspective, this is a very different thing. Trying to get donations to do
      > >> the most good is basically the overall concept of GiveWell, and to try to
      > >> bring that concept into this sub-area muddies things up.
      > >>
      > >> As a donor, I am genuinely concerned about the potential for my donations
      > >> to do net harm. I'm far less worried about the potential to give some money
      > >> to charity A now but to discover later on that charity B is 20% more
      > >> effective. I take it as basically a given that I will probably not find the
      > >> absolute best charity - I'd be happy to be in the ballpark.
      > >>
      > >> What I worry about is that some charity that seems appealing now is in
      > >> actuality either worthless or actively harmful. Perhaps I would make a
      > >> donation now and discover this later, perhaps I would not discover it.
      > >> Either way, it's a situation to be avoided, for me.
      > >>
      > >> ===
      > >>
      > >> More generally, I would like to see a greater push to translate the
      > >> research you appear to be doing into content formatted for the web and
      > >> slotted into the right place (roughly, anyways) on your website. I see
      > >> references to blog posts and of course there are these rough notes
      > >> themselves, but I worry that if you wait and try to do one big epic document
      > >> and push it out on the web, it will be overwhelming, and a less effective
      > >> approach than tackling areas one or two at a time and updating the website*
      > >> on a more frequent basis. I realize there are interdependencies in your
      > >> research and things you find out while researching issue B may impact your
      > >> ideas on issue A as well, but still, if you don't publish anything about A
      > >> until you've also fully researched issues B through Z, I think you will find
      > >> your task more difficult.
      > >>
      > >> *The polished, non-blog, non-wiki website.
      > >>
      > >>
      > >
      > >
      > > --
      > > Lindy Miller Crane
      > >
      > > **We are the ones we have been waiting for.**
      > >
      > >
      > >

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