I did what is apparently known as “astroturfing,” using a fake ID to try to get attention for GiveWell. Why did I do this?
1. I had a horrible lapse in judgment.
2. I have been low on sleep, and running around like a madman. I’d like to think that had something to do with it, but if you want to dismiss that and just call me an idiot, I can’t argue with you.
- I used an old Ask Metafilter account to pose a question about where to find a good charity (the kind of question I was asking everyone I knew a year ago), then I created a new account as Holden0 to answer it with GiveWell (I didn’t intend to hide the fact that the GiveWell link itself came from me, the founder of the project – but posing the setup question as an outsider was completely inappropriate).
- I made two blog comments and sent ten emails from a handle that did not identify me.
- I also made numerous other comments from a handle that did identify me (“Holden”), but did not put up front that I was the founder of the project.
This was a horrible lapse in judgment. I was simply trying to make comments that would not be immediately dismissed as “plugs,” but rather explored on their merits. I now recognize that by not disclosing my identity, I created the appearance of an “objective” observer, and that was wrong.
I hope as you read this, you can identify with having a horrible lapse in judgment. Everything that is true of me is something that has been untrue of me in a moment of weakness, and that includes the value of honesty, which remains the most important one. I hope you can recognize that the best thing I can do is admit it immediately, apologize, and not try to hide anything. That is what I am doing. I hope you still believe in me as someone who will admit to his lapses and mistakes, if not someone who can be counted on to be free of them.