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Givewell Board Meeting Transcript

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The following is a transcript of the first 7 minutes of the GiveWell Board meeting audio


(Preliminaries, hellos, etc.)

STARTS: 00:26

Tim Ogden Holden, you want to start off with um I guess with the summary of events. I think the attachment roughly covers that which has gone on. Do you feel that it doesn't, and or maybe we wanna highlight the key points so that everyone's on the same page?

Holden Karnofsky Yeah I mean the key points to me are that, um, you know, a lot of, Elie and I engaged in quite a bit and unfortunately we didn't systematically track, just posting comments and you know, talking about GiveWell and giving our arguments and they were posted under our names and nearly all the activity was under our names because we weren't trying, we weren't really interested in trying to hide anything um but in a lot of those comments we didn't say "I'm from Givewell, this is what I do" ...

... and so there's, there's behaviour that I haven't catalogued, although the MetaFilter community did largely catalogue it, that falls under that heading and I don't see, I see that behaviour as kind of, we should have disclosed what we're about and we should have disclosed where we were from but you know, we were making no attempt to hide our identities...

... so it falls under that category for me and we also did not, we didn't bash other charities, we questioned other people's recommendations of them, we said "what do you know about what they do?" and then we absolutely did criticise CharityNavigator's methodology as we do contstantly.

... So that's one category of behaviour and then there's a different category which really only happened at the end, which when I was looking for a way to get a little last-second traffic before the new year hit, and I was overzealous and I posted under names which did not identify me ...

... and so the the specifics are, I used a couple of old accounts I had that were under the name Geremiah, which is my middle name, which doesn't identify me, and so I asked a question on LifeHacker, which was you know "can you help me to find a good charity to donate to" [???] made a comment on LifeHacker the next day, LifeHacker's a blog, you know, just saying "I like Givewell dot net better than CharityNavigator" when they wrote about CharityNavigator and then I did, I sent ten emails to bloggers, using basically a [keyhole?] account I had created, just saying "hey Givewell dot net helped me make a donation you should check it out" ...

... and finally I did the Ask MetaFilter thing where I asked a question, "I'm looking to make a donation, can you help me?" then I created another account Holden, you know, with the name Holden, Holden-zero, and said you should try GiveWell dot net and when someone responded to that, criticizing it, I was logged back in as Geremiah, and I marked the Holden answer as Best Answer, and I defended the Holden answer, as Geremiah ...

... so that was, all of that activity falls under the category of using false and anonymous identities and it was wrong and the explanation I can tell you what was going through my head, I think the large point I wanna make is that honesty's a really important value to me, really important to me not to withhold information and I recognise that our values of honesty and transparency were compromised by those actions that I took and I think those two things can simultaneously be true, that I compromised those values and that I hold those values very strongly, and I don't intend to ever do that sort of behaviour again and I made a lapse of judgement in thinking about what it meant to do this kind of behaviour and how deceptive it was ...

... and I can go more into that but basically, I had a certain thought in my head of how people would read these comments and didn't think they would see them as objective thought they would just check them out, it would bring em to check out Givewell on the merits and it didn't occur to me that a lot of people would see these comments from non-identifying handles as being you know, objective, trustworthy, people with no connection, and so anyway I was wrong and what I did was wrong and it compromised the values that are very important to me, so, that was the deceptive behaviour ...

... and then finally there's the issue of how I responded when called out and I maintain that I basically acted appropriately when called out the first thing I did was [laughs] I didn't know what to do, I was in a very emotional state and I just kinda went on that thread and asked them what I should do, and thought up the idea of making a donation because I'd broken their rules, that's how I was thinking of it, I broke their rules, I should make something up to them ...

... and then someone said that could be interpreted as a bribe and I said "forget it, not doing that" and that I never meant it as a bribe and in fact my original offer said in so many words -- it's in the attachment -- that I don't mean this as a bribe, and then there was a good suggestion, from a community member, to make a public apology, so my initial public apology was only for the MetaFilter transgression, and then they said, you'd better, we wanna know everything you've done that's deceptive and so I put in some thought, and took a little time, and put everything I could think of and then they went and found the stuff that I had named ...

... I wanna be clear, that, there was not any cases of, when I went from the MetaFilter apology to the general apology, I put everything in there that I new of and also everything that they had found, so that's where we are and that's my version of events, it's in the attachment, it pretty much syncs up with the MetaFilter version of events, I mean they also made some other claims, but, that's, what I've given you is a complete and true account of my misbehaviour.

ENDS: 06:56


Please note, the text has been broken up for easier reading and the elisions (...) do not indicate pauses as such.