Content creation

Essentially, making knowledge easily accessible seems to have lots of benefits. Also look at question-and-answer sites (e.g. StackOverflow, by providing good programming answers, may be making programmers much more productive, which helps to produce more output, etc.).

Note that content creation is an odd cause (it is more of a “cause schema”) because for each cause, there is the question of creating content for that cause.

Note also that this wiki is itself a result of content creation.

Also look at things like Patreon and Gratipay.

Consider also the difficulty Quora/Yelp/reddit have with monetizing their product.

Also look at automated content generation.

Some examples:

Importance

• One thing to consider is the historical argument that many ideas have greatly influenced the world (e.g. the scientific method, various religions), and that these wouldn’t have spread without “content creation” (in a form that is different from today, mostly through books and real-life interaction instead of online). In this sense the magnitude of the value of “content creation” seems quite large and the sign positive overall.
• One must also keep in mind that the importance of any particular topic of content creation can only be a fraction of the total importance of content creation in general.1

Also consider the entertainment value of content creation; see e.g. The Unsung and also Robert Winslow’s remark:

Laughter and amusement are good things of which I want more in the world, so if your content can create more of these good things, then you are making the world a better place.

Tractability

The actual act of content creation is relatively low-key; see for instance Robert Winslow:

[I]f you can only handle the stress of working so many hours a week, and you find content creation a relaxing pursuit, then you can improve the output of your leisure time by creating content.

Of course, more concentrated forms of content creation, like the GiveWell blog, take more effort, although the mere act of creating content still is very tractable.

It is more important to consider the topic one is investigating and hoping to create content for. Thus tractability depends greatly on the specific type of content and it is hard to remark in general about how tractable content creation is.

Neglectedness

Clearly this depends on the type of content that is created. There do seem to be particular topics that are neglected; see for instance User:Brian Tomasik/Pages to create or improve and Open Research Questions - Foundational Research Institute.

• Value of Wikipedia
• Media for development
• The Value of Wikipedia Contributions in Social Sciences | Essays on Reducing Suffering
• Content creation can also help with differential intellectual progress by e.g. promoting cosmopolitan thinking
• The value of content creation and Having “ideas that are lying around”
• See also this discussion on the Cause Prioritization Discussion Group about the value of creating new cause-specific websites
• One idea in need of exploration is that of “learning by doing”. In other words, content creators may claim that they can build expertise in a subject better than if they had merely read about a topic. In other words, we can instantiate an argument like the following that Eliezer Yudkowsky makes in a comment on LessWrong:

The life lesson I’ve learned is that by the time you really get anywhere, if you get anywhere, you’ll have encountered some positive miracles, some negative miracles, your plans will have changed, you’ll have found that the parts which took the longest weren’t what you thought they would be, and that other things proved to be much easier than expected. Your successes won’t come through foreseen avenues, and neither will your failures. But running through it all will be the fundamental realization that everything you accomplished, and all the unforeseen opportunities you took advantage of, were things that you would never have received if you hadn’t attacked the hardest part of the problem that you knew about straight-on, without distraction.

• The trade-off of more pageviews versus “better content”, e.g. A Plus (aplus.com) versus the GiveWell blog.
• Issa’s Content creation page
• Digital Content Creation (looking through, there don’t seem to be any particularly relevant essays, but it might be interesting to look through)
• For BuzzFeed, see:
• Possible case-studies to look into to see how much content creation can influence people’s outlooks on life/actions:
• Anecdote by Peter Thiel in The Education of a Libertarian:

As a Stanford undergraduate studying philosophy in the late 1980s, I naturally was drawn to the give-and-take of debate and the desire to bring about freedom through political means. I started a student newspaper to challenge the prevailing campus orthodoxies; we scored some limited victories, most notably in undoing speech codes instituted by the university. But in a broader sense we did not achieve all that much for all the effort expended. Much of it felt like trench warfare on the Western Front in World War I; there was a lot of carnage, but we did not move the center of the debate. In hindsight, we were preaching mainly to the choir — even if this had the important side benefit of convincing the choir’s members to continue singing for the rest of their lives.

• Reddit:
• Staffers hardly touch a thing. Instead, the site’s easy-to-post format turns scads of its young, mostly male, college-educated visitors into unpaid contributors, or Redditors. Despite a clunky user interface that has barely been updated since 2005, Reddit attracts 3.4 billion page views a month, putting it among the 70 most visited sites in the U.S. and bigger by far than any of Advance’s other digital properties.

[…]

What’s Reddit worth? That question fascinates people in San Francisco’s startup-crazed SoMa district. One answer would be to look at its market value per user, a method often used by venture capitalists and stock pickers. Google is currently priced at about $220 per search user. Facebook is more like$50. Yelp is at $17, Pinterest$30. Reddit counts 43 million unique users a month. On that basis, a Yelp-like valuation would put Reddit at more than $700 million. That’s the optimist’s case. Value Reddit strictly on the basis of its skimpy current revenue and its inability so far to turn a profit, and the site probably falls short of even$50 million.

[…]

The most pertinent clues to Reddit’s value can be found in the company’s incorporation papers, which were quietly updated in Delaware a few months ago. Advance has recapitalized Reddit, taking the site out of its Conde Nast division and allowing Reddit employees to own a sizable minority of newly issued stock. As part of that recapitalization, Advance bought $20 million of convertible preferred stock in Reddit and put in provisions saying that if Reddit is ever sold for less than$240 million, the conversion terms will be rejiggered so that Advance comes away with a bigger slice of Reddit and employees get less.

Those calculations imply that Reddit is already on track to be worth at least $240 million. If Advance owns two-thirds of Reddit, a guess that informed people don’t dispute, then the New York publishing company’s original$5 million purchase could yield a windfall of \$160 million or more someday, for a 30-to-1 or better payoff.

• On branding: see e.g. A VC’s Guide to Building a Startup Community on Quora (there are many more articles on content creation for branding)

• For MIRI’s causal influence some key elements I would highlight are:

• The Singularity Summit playing a key causal role in getting Max Tegmark interested and the FLI created.
• Bringing the issue to Stuart Russell’s attention, resulting in Stuart’s activity on the issue, including discussion in the most popular AI textbook, his involvement with the FLI grant program, etc.
• Contributing substantially to Nick Bostrom’s publication of Superintelligence, which played a key role in getting Elon Musk involved (and thus funding the FLI grant program), and eliciting favorable reviews from various others (e.g. Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, etc.
• The technical agenda helping to demonstrate some approaches that could work.
• Drawing attention to the issue by a number of the academic researchers who have taken FLI grants, and some of OpenPhil’s advisors.
• Causing OpenPhil to be quite familiar with the issues, and ultimately to enter the area after seeing the results of the FLI conference, getting a sense of expert opinion, etc, as discussed on their website.

1. A similar reasoning has been given by Carl Shulman on the ability of MIRI (specific group) to reduce AI risk (general cause):

For myself, I think the cause of AI risk reduction, in total and over time, has a worthwhile small-to-medium probability of making an astronomical difference on our civilization’s future (and a high probability that the future will be very powerfully shaped by artificial intelligence in a way that can be affected by initial conditions). But the impact of MIRI in particular has to be a far smaller subset of the expected impact of the cause as a whole, in light of its limited scale and capabilities relative to the relevant universes (total AI research, governments, etc), the probability that AI is not close enough for MIRI to be very relevant, the probability that MIRI’s approach turns out irrelevant, uncertainty over the sign of effects due to contributions to AI progress, future AI risk efforts/replaceability, and various other drag factors.