We teach foundational coding and data science skills to researchers worldwide.

State of the State: Carpentry Maintainers

This post originally appeared on the Data Carpentry website

All of the great work that we do as The Carpentries is dependent on the hard work and creativity of our community of volunteers. Each of you plays a vital role in helping us fulfill our mission of spreading data skills and computational literacy to researchers and other professionals worldwide. Within our Carpentry community, there are a number of subcommunities of like-minded folks carrying out particular aspects of the Carpentry mission. This blog post is the first in a series focusing on one of our sub-communities - the Maintainers.

All Carpentry lessons are kept up-to-date and functional by a small group of Maintainers. Maintainers review pull requests and issues to their lesson repositories and also engage with the community about the overall goals and direction of their lesson. In the last months of 2017, I engaged the Maintainer group in a set of individual conversations to understand the issues facing the Maintainer community as we grow and to develop an action plan to help this group best move forward their important work.

Through this process, I had the opportunity to talk individually with nearly half (46%) of current Maintainers. The emergent themes from these conversations are detailed in the Carpentry Maintainer Interviews - 2017 Report and include:

  • Aspects of the Maintainer experience that people enjoy are the opportunity to shape the lesson, to interact with the community, the chance to learn new things, and the ability to have a larger impact.
  • Major issues that Maintainers experience are a sense of being overwhelmed, wanting more guidance and help, clarity about their roles and authority, and overall negative feelings about their level of involvement in their lessons.
  • Many Maintainers expressed interest in being more active in the community and getting to know their co-Maintainers better.

I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to talk individually with members of the Maintainer community and understand the issues they face. Based on these conversations, there are five action items in progress to help resolve the issues identified.

1) Changing to an application model for recruiting new Maintainers: To reduce feelings of guilt and pressure to be a Maintainer, we are changing to an application-based model for recruting new Maintainers.
2) Recruiting new Maintainers: In November, The Carpentries put out a call for new Maintainers to join the Maintainer team. There were 23 applicants, of whom 22 were invited to join Maintainer onboarding. Fifteen of these new Maintainers finished onboarding last week.
3) Providing training for new Maintainers: A pilot curriculum for onboarding new Maintainers is in use with the new Maintainers. Contributions are welcome!
4) Facilitating interactions among Maintainers: Monthly meetings for the Maintainers community have been scheduled and are advertised on the community calendar and Maintainer Etherpad.
5) Rethinking the Instructor checkout process: Feedback on proposed changes to the Instructor checkout process has been requested from the Maintainers and Trainers groups and any changes will be implemented in the next months.

I truly appreciate the candor of all those who have shared their experiences with being a Maintainer. Understanding the difficulties we face as a community is a necessary first step to resolving these issues. Please join me in enthusiastically thanking the Maintainers for all of the work that they do in keeping our lessons and workshops running smoothly!

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