Creation of a bunch of small paid jobs to help Stan operate

All,
The Stan org currently spends annually

TWG Director: $50,000
Various dev ops contractors: $40,000
YouTube manager: $10,000
Discourse manager: $10,000 (still being hired for)

It came up after the Thursday meeting that there are many more areas where a small stipend makes sense and might allow people to contribute where they can’t really afford to volunteer. This also helps with diversity–one does not have to be rich enough to volunteer.

Right now the $10,000 positions report to the exec director, me. This doesn’t have to be the case but I feel strongly that the paid positions have a manager responsible for them, hiring/firing and refining the job. The TWG director manages the contractors for example.

We have ample budget to do this, approx $500k in the bank.

Andrew, Lauren and Dan Simpson contributed heavily to the list. From Andrew’s notes:

We came up with the following positions, in no particular order:
Newsletter/mailing list coordinator
Community development director (meetups, short courses, etc.)
Youtube director
Discourse maintainer (including maintaining a Newbie category)
Social media (twitter, blog, facebook, etc.) director
Stan website director
Case Studies director
Stancon director
Documentation coordinator

Some other considerations:

A couple other things that came up were plans for each position and
general goals.

Plans:

  • Each position would report to some clearly defined person, probably but
    not necessarily in the SGB. The point is that the person who holds each
    position would be empowered to do stuff, say no to people, etc., and at
    some point there could be questions, so it’s good for the officers to not
    be standing solely on their own.
  • Once the plan is set, we’d post job descriptions and expectations on
    Discourse and post elsewhere to get a wide range of applicants.
  • We want a general code of conduct (some people said that the Numfocus
    code of conduct would be a good start), tailored as necessary for the
    specific position. One thing that came up is that the code of conduct
    should include treating people equally and always respectfully.
  • We want to give credit to the people holding these positions (i.e., put
    this on the Stan website) and also retroactive credit for the people who’ve
    been doing this work for free in the past.
  • Someone said that Stancon director is probably something that people
    would want to do just once because it’s so much work! More generally we’ll
    have to have a plan for how long each position lasts, is it renewable, etc.

General goals (in no particular order):

  • Facilitating useful technical developments
  • Communication: to power users, developers, beginning users, and
    non-users (including people who don’t even use statistics at all but we
    still want them to know what Stan is)
  • Diversity (in various dimensions)
  • Promotion of Stan and Bayes
  • Inclusion
  • Making Stan community feel “like a good thing” (this was my translation
    of something Dan S. said about people feeling that Stan is a welcoming,
    warm and fuzzy community, kind of the way R feels with Hadley as its public
    face).

I’m super-excited about this, for three reasons:

  1. These are things we need to do: the Stan newsletter, coordination and
    promotion of meetups, making the Discourse conversations more helpful to
    users at all levels, promoting Stan developments more widely, etc.

  2. By bringing in people from the Stan community to do these things, we
    can get more people involved, which should serve both to diversify the
    contributions to Stan and to take some of the load off the
    Bob/Breck/Jonah/etc. axis of people who are already doing so much.

  3. These coordinators will be in position to share credit with others.
    For example, the community development director can have a list of all the
    Stan and Stan-related meetups around the world, and also have a list of the
    leaders and Stan presenters at all these meetups. The Case Studies
    director can compile a list of everyone who’s contributed a case study
    that’s on our website. The Stancon director can compile of a list of
    everyone who’s helped in planning and running a Stancon, etc. Lauren
    pointed out lots of people in the Stan community who are not in the
    “developers” category contribute a lot but without credit. This will be a
    way to do this, also avoiding the problem of having a centralized “credit
    bureau.”

What do people think? I’ll add this to the agenda for Thursday’s meeting.

5 Likes

this is so great !

I especially like the goals of inclusion and warmth. Adding to the YouTube channel will help, e.g. for those that cannot attend talks/conferences. (StanCon 2019 talks? https://mc-stan.org/events/stancon2019Cambridge/#streaming)

Another thing that helps is pointing directly to resources. For example, instead of generally commenting that something is covered in the stan documentation, it really helps to point to the section of the documentation, link to examples and relevant threads. All of this lowers the barrier of entry into being a successful stan user. :)

3 Likes

Hear hear! I love the idea of broadening the set of roles that folks can get official recognition for, and I love each of these altruistic reasons for doing so.

It occurs to me that the developers, in all their wonderful generosity, must spend an inordinate amount of time responding to Discourse posts. Could any of that work be pushed down to one of these new roles?

3 Likes

Mariel:

We’re planning to write one-paragraph descriptions for each of these positions. But I think that to some extent it will be up to the office-holders to decide exactly how to do things. For example, the Discourse maintainer might want to take some responsibility for replying to questions, which could involve putting together an informal team of reply-ers. Or the Discourse maintainer might want to set up a Newbie category and make sure that stays helpful. Or the Discourse maintainer might want to reorganize topics in some way… I’m not sure. Ideally these positions would be held by people who value the Stan project and have the trust of the community.

It’s a tough call to figure out exactly how to set all this up: On the one hand, the positions have to be defined; on the other, it’s the nature of these positions that they involve creative problem solving, and we want people to try out new ideas.