Community Maintainer Lead: Recap, Update, and What's Next

Some of the projects Dan has been working on along with what's next for the Maintainer community

The Community Maintainer Lead

The Community Maintainer Lead is a volunteer position at The Carpentries with the main goal of supporting the lesson Maintainers. Angela Li was the first to have this role, where she worked on the Lesson Maintenance Handbook to help give new and existing maintainers more guidance on how to Maintain a lesson. When I took on the role after Angela, I wanted to help build the Maintainer community within and between individual lessons.

What was done in 2021

The Maintainers have monthly meetings where changes to the lessons are done with “Requests for Comments” (RFCs). The main problem I worked on last year was trying to figure out who are the “active” Maintainers for each lesson. This problem stemmed from a lot of internal feedback about new Maintainers not knowing how to resolve issues because none of the listed co-Maintainers were reachable. While the Lesson Maintenance Handbook tried to help with getting started, one of the fundamental problems we discovered was that Maintainers would no longer have time to Maintain their lessons and have no formal way to notify and step down as a Maintainer.

This led to a lot of lesson Maintainers who were listed but inactive, and made it difficult to know which lessons needed more help.

Counting the number of Maintainers

RFC#11 did a count of the Maintainers as listed by the lesson listings for each of the Lesson Programs. At the time, there were 161 listed Maintainers across 54 official lessons.

Maintaining Active Maintainers

RFC#15 contained a lot of ideas for how to get more Maintainers engaged, and combined the ideas of RFC#11, RFC#12, RFC#13, and RFC#14. We ended up settling on implementing a Maintainer yearly check-in so that the Maintainers have a means to step down, know who their other co-Maintainers are, and provides a more accurate list for The Carpentries to know which lessons need more Maintainers to recruit for.

Having a more accurate list for recruitment also allows us to be more explicit in listing which exact lesson repositories are looking for Maintainers. In the past, a more general call for lesson Maintainers would be made and then people were assigned based which lessons seemed they needed help or were inactive. The yearly check-ins are described in RFC#19.

Moving forward, some kind of mechanism of retaining credit for Maintainers will be done using a badging system (Alumni and Active maintainers) as described in RFC#20.

Maintainer Onboarding

Erin Becker and I (mostly Erin), also worked on revamping the Maintainer Onboarding process and documentation. We used this set of materials to onboard a wave of new Maintainers across 3 sessions in 2021. Erin will be leading another round of Maintainer Onboarding starting in June 2022 - check out her recent blog post for more details and how to apply. The Maintainer yearly check-in process that just happened will greatly help with finding and assigning the next wave of lesson Maintainers.

Other Ideas

In order to help keep the Maintainer community engaged, a few other ideas were described in RFC#21. Here, we tried to provide a time for Maintainers to ask general questions outside of the Maintainer meetings, and also spotlight specific lessons to help engage Maintainers. This idea hasn’t been formalized yet, and could be a system to explore in the future on how to implement.

What’s next

The Community Maintainer Lead is a new and changing role. If there’s any feedback on what worked, what didn’t work, and what the position should be doing I’ve opened RFC#22 for people to let us know what kind of support you would like to see.

Stepping Down

More recently, I’ve defended my dissertation and I’ve taken on 2 educational jobs. Since so much is in flux at the moment, I won’t have the capacity to continue with planning out the next broad steps for the Maintainer community and have started the process of stepping down as the Community Maintainer Lead. We’ll be announcing my replacement soon, and I’ll help onboard them as I slowly transition out. I won’t completely disappear from The Carpentries, and hope to see folks in community discussions and meetings.

I hope I left the Maintainer community in a better place, and thank you for allowing me to help build the community.

Dialogue & Discussion

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