Berkeley REACH Supporters Update: September 2018 2018-09-16T23:56:30.973Z · score: 63 (26 votes)
REACH Panel Nomination Form 2018-08-24T23:57:09.227Z · score: 16 (5 votes)
Reflections on Berkeley REACH 2018-06-08T00:02:15.588Z · score: 126 (47 votes)
Patreon for funding the Berkeley REACH 2018-04-09T01:08:33.925Z · score: 2 (1 votes)
Welcome to Berkeley Effective Altruism Community Group 2018-03-15T04:53:16.177Z · score: 14 (3 votes)


Comment by stardust on No Really, Why Aren't Rationalists Winning? · 2018-11-04T21:23:29.660Z · score: 38 (17 votes) · LW · GW

What does winning look like to you? Lots of rationalists have pretty successful careers as programmers, which depending on what they are going for, could be considered winning. Is it that they aren't "winning" by your definition, or theirs?

Can you describe the thing you think rationalists are failing at, tabooing "winning"?

Comment by stardust on The Bizarre Behavior of Berkeley Rationalists · 2018-10-20T20:22:50.690Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you don't want to have the conversations yourself and don't know who to talk to about it, consider reaching out to one of the members of the REACH Panel

Comment by stardust on We can all be high status · 2018-10-10T22:12:05.584Z · score: 18 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to point out that high status does not automatically equate with happiness/high life satisfaction. Status comes with responsibility, including dealing with people nitpicking all of your public decisions and statements, and even some private aspects of your life.

If anyone is trying to get status in order to feel safe and comfortable, they are confused about how status works.

I'll note that I got significantly higher status after deciding to ignore what all the "high-status" people were telling me to do and instead did an ambitious project that most of them told me was doomed to fail. And maybe it is doomed to failure and I just don't see it yet. But I think that if you're trying to become high status by checking all the boxes that the current high status people tell you to, it's not likely to work.

That said, I don't think everyone should go rogue and start projects that high status folks think are doomed (0 or negative expected value). I also don't think doing so has made me especially high status, just slightly above average rather than a fair bit below.

Comment by stardust on Rationalist Community Hub in Moscow: 3 Years Retrospective · 2018-09-17T05:09:58.587Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Whoops, I requested access to the slack then forgot about this. Haven't actually gone on the slack yet.

Comment by stardust on Berkeley REACH Supporters Update: September 2018 · 2018-09-17T05:05:54.900Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Just now saw the edit.

The regular meetups REACH hosts get ~50 people to attend at least four EA meetups a year when they wouldn't have attended any.

This seems plausibly already the case? There were no EA meetups in Berkeley before I started REACH.
Most of the EA meetups draw 8-25 people and it's not always the same people (there's a core set of 4 or so who are usually there).

As a result of the things they learned at those meetups, at least ten people change where they're donating to or what they're prioritizing in the next year.

This I'm not sure about, happy to hear any anecdotes if this is the case for anyone!

At least five people join the community via REACH events/staying there/interacting with people staying there, and at least one of them is doing useful work in an EA priority area.

I would say at least 5 people have become significantly more involved in the community than they would've in the counterfactual. Some of them are at least applying for jobs in EA priority areas.

Comment by stardust on Berkeley REACH Supporters Update: September 2018 · 2018-09-17T01:41:21.727Z · score: 15 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I am not very good at making up numbers in this way and have stopped trying. I am not a superforecaster :) So I'm not going to make any actual predictions, but I'll give some categories where I see potential for impact.

First, let me give an overview of what has been achieved so far based on the metrics I have access to:

  • number of visits (909 logged visits between 4/26 and 8/30, with about 300 unique visitors -- this is a lossy collection strategy, not everyone who comes in actually signs in, I'd guess at most 80% of visits get logged, but again, I'm bad at estimates. Thanks to Alison Eliot for transcribing the written sign in sheet!)
  • number of events (~3-6 per week since April, the events have all been on the google calendar at, so I could figure out the exact numbers if it was important but I don't feel urgency around it right now. Looks like about 90 that have been posted on FB.)

Here's a sample of testimonials from the REACH survey in July, in response to the question "If applicable, describe a time that REACH really made a difference for you."

Every time I go to REACH I meet new people and find ways to help out. I love REACH and I'm excited to help make it a successful community center.
It really made the idea of hosting (co hosting to be accurate) a meetup feel less intimidating.
Default place to meet up, has made it way easier to make friends and get connected to the community, perfect space to run AR games, lots of randomly running into people and becoming friends
I learned what actually Focusing is, there.
The EAG pre party was great and I'm glad I can direct people to REACH for meetups
Moving to the Bay it is good to know there is a "default couch" available if I need crash space on a particular day
Kind of every time I visit. I am meeting so many more of our community, I am actively contributing. I can feel a difference in me after every single visit.
1) I have made at least one friend that I don't think I would have met otherwise.
2) Before arriving in Berkeley I worried about finding cool people to socialize with of of work. REACH solved this problem for me, I just have to go there.


Some possible things I could see trying to measure in the future:

  • Number of people hearing about and getting a job based on an interaction at REACH (I don't know if this has happened yet or not)
  • Plan changes in the 80k sense (people deciding to move toward more effective jobs, do earning to give, etc)
  • Number of EA projects that began as a result of conversations at/facilitated by REACH
  • Cross-pollination of related projects (e.g. someone at one X-risk org meeting someone at another X-risk org that they wouldn't have otherwise met/spent time with exchanging useful information that helps with coordination across projects -- I believe this one has happened a few times already)
  • Other forms of collaboration (e.g. when Malcolm was visiting, I let him know about a Complice room feature request that would be helpful for REACH, and he worked on it with me in the room giving input on design decisions -- we could've had this collaboration over fb messenger, or could've met up somewhere else, but having a default place to do it made it much more likely to actually happen, and lead to quick feedback loops)
  • Number of fulfilling romantic relationships fostered (this is of arguable value, and measuring the fulfilling part seems hard)
  • REACH Panel dispute resolutions? (this could end up being net negative if it ends up just stirring up drama, but I think there are some important conflicts in the community that need to be addressed and currently are not)
  • Mental health outcomes? (I'm not confident that REACH can do anything concrete for mental health in the community, but people have self-reported that the structured coworking days have been good for their productivity/motivation which had been flagging due to depression/anxiety)
Comment by stardust on Rationalist Community Hub in Moscow: 3 Years Retrospective · 2018-08-25T19:01:54.500Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't had a chance to read through this in detail yet, but I'm surprised I hadn't heard of this before! I'd be interested in chatting and comparing notes. I'll post a more detailed comment in a few days (I'm way overscheduled for the next few days).

Comment by stardust on Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH · 2018-08-23T07:28:07.134Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Jan, I'm curious after seeing REACH again this month if you still have the same impression as before.

Comment by stardust on Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH · 2018-07-01T03:08:41.776Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · LW · GW
I disapprove the epistemics surrounding REACH. E.g. the "Reflections on Berkeley REACH" post does not represent reasonable criticism of REACH the author was aware of, and in contrast includes a call to discourage public negative comments

I actually had more of a response to your email in the original draft, and was advised to cut it for the final version by multiple people as being too personal/specific for a public post.

I admit that I am not perfectly rational, and have never tried to be. Harsh public criticism of me and my project hurts me, and I prefer avoiding pain whenever possible. Critical feedback that is not framed in an overly aggressive way is definitely welcome, and if I get super harsh feedback I will recover, but I will be sad about it. I assume this is how most people feel, but given the level of harsh criticism on LessWrong plus typical mind fallacy, it seemed worth spelling out here.

Comment by stardust on Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH · 2018-07-01T02:55:23.293Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Further update: the lease has been signed! REACH is on for at least 14 more months!!! (The lease starts Aug 1 and goes til Aug 31 for some reason.)

Still figuring out how to fund management of the space, and still appreciate further contributions.

Comment by stardust on Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH · 2018-06-28T02:55:12.984Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ooh, neat!

Comment by stardust on Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH · 2018-06-28T02:54:17.028Z · score: 30 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Update: The bare minimum "making rent" goal of $5k/month on Patreon has been reached, along with around $1500 in one time donations today!

To really be sustainable, we need more like $6.6k/month, but the swell of support has been really great, thank you all! <3

Comment by stardust on Reflections on Berkeley REACH · 2018-06-13T23:38:50.793Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is the first time the space had been so full, and it coincided with me being quite busy volunteering for EAG. In retrospect, maybe I should not have done that :P

I like the idea of putting nametags/other marker of who is in what room, which would also help with the "is it ok to use this room for a private conversation or is someone staying in it?" question (often answerable by visual tells but still).

I do have sheets and towels available, but given how close we were to max capacity, I wasn't sure if I'd have enough and didn't want to promise that. I definitely could've been cleared about what to expect, though.

Thanks for the feedback!

Comment by stardust on Reflections on Berkeley REACH · 2018-06-13T21:33:54.789Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think it *could* be financed by room rentals, but that would require raising prices which kinda defeats the point of the guest rooms. I would then need to optimize harder in the AirBnB direction, which would mean less focus on being good for community events and hanging out.

It's also possible that it could be funded by people paying to cowork or host events there, but again, I want to keep the barriers to entry for using the space fairly low.

There are certainly options we could pursue that would take it in a more commercial direction that would probably make money, but then it wouldn't have the ethos I'm attempting to create, and I'd want to pass the project off to someone else.

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T21:41:19.725Z · score: 24 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. For me, events at REACH are a good way to get to know new people and decide if I trust them enough to invite them to more private events. I think a lot of folks in the community are already at capacity for how many social connections they can keep up and so don't end up wanting to get to know new people.

I think some of this stems from the fact that many people seem to prefer talking to folks one on one which makes it hard to parallelize social time. My personal preference is for groups of 5-10, sometimes within a larger social setting, and have been sorta trying to impose this preference on others through doing things at REACH :P

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T21:19:43.840Z · score: 27 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sorry that happens to you.

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T21:18:29.174Z · score: 17 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, yeah, it did happen at last summer's solstice, I had forgotten. I was not involved with the winter solstice and didn't know about similar problems there.

I do agree that house parties are often selective, but I have never seen an event with a topic (as opposed to a purely social party) have more interest than the space allowed, which was the category of thing that was in my head when I said "event" above. I consider house parties to be more about hanging out with friends than about "the community" or whatnot.

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T20:55:11.607Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps? I am not sure if if there is even a coherent top-tier. If there is I am not part of or aware of it.

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T20:53:24.105Z · score: 28 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think funding REACH before there was a track record would've been financially risky. I chose to take that risk personally because I didn't see how it would happen without someone doing something risky. It certainly would have been nice to have gotten support from CEA right away, but I don't think they were wrong to choose to focus resources on people who'd been working on community building for longer, and likely had fewer resources to spare.

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T17:54:21.503Z · score: 37 (10 votes) · LW · GW

CEA turned down my proposal because there were other, more established groups than REACH with clearer track records of success and better thought out metrics for success/failure applying for the same round of grants. I am working on building up a track record and metrics/data capture so that I can reapply later.

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T17:51:49.529Z · score: 17 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm working on building up a similar reproducible set of operating guidelines for REACH and would be very interested in comparing notes.

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T17:49:24.867Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think I've ever seen an event with more people interested than able to attend in Berkeley. If anything, it's difficult to get people to come out for events.

Comment by stardust on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-20T17:47:08.107Z · score: 55 (14 votes) · LW · GW
A couple friends of mine who were early attendees of a CFAR workshop lived in the Bay Area for several months in 2013, and returned home with stories of how wondrous the Bay Area was. They convinced several of us to attend CFAR workshops as well, and we too returned home with the sense of wonderment after our brief immersion in the Berkeley rationality community. But when my friends and I each returned, somehow our ambition transformed into depression. I tried rallying my friends to try carrying back or reigniting the spark that made the Berkeley rationalist community thrive, to really spread the rationalist project beyond the Bay Area. 

You seem to be conflating "CFAR workshop atmosphere" with "Berkeley Rationalist Community" in this section, which makes me wonder if you are conflating those things more generally.

The depressive slump post-CFAR happens *in Berkeley* too. The thriving community you envision Berkeley as having *does not exist,* except at CFAR workshops. The problem you're identifying isn't a Bay-Area-vs-the-world issue, it's a general issue with the way CFAR operates, building up intense social connections over the course of a weekend, then dropping them suddenly.