Join us in welcoming Nathaniel Porter as our new Maintainer Community Lead!

Announcing our new Maintainer Community Lead

Hi Carpentries community!

My name is Nathaniel and I’m excited to be taking on a new role with The Carpentries as Maintainer Community Lead. I’d say it’s a new hat for me, but if you’ve seen me on a call or workshop around the Carpentries, you’ll probably recognize me more by my flat cap (which I don’t intend to replace) than my face.

A headshot of Nathaniel Porter in a grey cap and red shirt on the
Virginia Tech campus

I can’t claim to be building the community; our past leads Vini, Daniel, and Angela have done a fantastic job already, with a little help from the infrastructure team in making things easier. But I do hope to help mobilize and build community among Maintainers both Carpentries-wide and within lessons and programs (more on that below).

I am the Data Education Coordinator and Social Science Data Consultant in the Virginia Tech University Libraries. My PhD is in quantitative Sociology (Penn State) but the winding road to get there also passed through East Asian Studies, Japanese, Theology, and Leadership. In my daily work, I’m responsible to help Virginia Tech researchers to find and use the social science data and tools they need, as well as supporting our Carpentries community here (20+ instructors and 8-10 workshops per year) and teaching with data in other workshops and courses. My research focuses on data pedagogy and best practices.

Thanks to the flexibility of my data education role, I’ve been involved in The Carpentries in a variety of ways - as an Instructor, Trainer and local community lead, as well as a Maintainer (Instructor Training), Curriculum Advisory Committee member (Data Carpentry: Social Science), and Trainer Leadership. I’m also part of a cohort supported by IMLS and UCLA that is designing new Library Carpentry lessons related to open science. All of which is to say, I’ve been on many sides of community and lesson maintenance, which I hope will help me mobilize our community.

So what does a Maintainer Community Lead do and what do I hope to bring in specific? The Maintainer Community Lead’s primary role is to recruit, connect, and coordinate Maintainers. This includes hosting monthly Maintainer meetings, where I will build on the recent success of topical focuses to build skills and make the work of maintenance easier while we create community. It also includes working with recruiting and onboarding new Maintainers and coordinating with curriculum leads, as well as encouraging and equipping non-maintainers to contribute effectively.

Most of all, what I hope to do is build a stronger sense of community. Carpentries-wide that likely will mean bringing back co-working corrals and encouraging active engagement through asynchronous platforms like Slack. But I also plan to work with Maintainers for specific programs, lessons, and tools to coordinate sub-communities of interest to meet occasionally to support and encourage others with similar challenges rather than replicating each other’s work unnecessarily.

The strength of The Carpentries is in its diverse and inclusive community, and our curriculum teams - developers, Maintainers, contributors, Lesson Program Governance members, and Curriculum Advisors - are a key part of that. Lee Vinsel, a colleague at Virginia Tech, researches the chronic neglect of maintenance and he co-authored a New York Times article that really encapsulates why I’m a Maintainer and why I want to be in this particular role - “Let’s get excited about maintenance!”

So let’s do just that. Whether you’re a veteran Maintainer or just exploring, I invite you to engage with our community (and with me directly) in meetings (the next one is November 15), on Slack, by sharing your ideas, and by considering formal roles. I know I’ll be there, and I hope to connect to as many of you as possible this coming year!

Dialogue & Discussion

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