User:Amrav/Minimum Viable Maintainer

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You're thinking of becoming a Metakgp Maintainer. Great! We need more people like you. This document aims to give practical advice on the minimum you need to do to be an effective Maintainer.

Encourage disagreement, handle it well

You probably have great ideas. Wonderful, fantastic, brilliant, perfect ideas. Unfortunately, people are complicated, and will invariably disagree with you. You must quickly learn to handle disagreement, have productive conversations, and build trust with the people you're leading. Get into a growth mindset because this is hard. Read some good books about handling disagreement (I like this and this). If people are unhappy, it's your fault. Yes, it's really that simple.

Focus on one thing, get it right

Inexperienced leaders tend to have grandiose visions and vague plans. Pick one thing that you will do really well – developing a single project, increasing active members, adding pages to the wiki – and become the best at it. Thinking that you need to have a finger in every pie as a Maintainer is a misconception. You won't fail because you didn't give enough things your attention, but you will fail if you don't give at least one thing enough of your attention. Lead by example, pick one or two things, and show everyone that you're doing those really well.

Build trust

If you're in charge of making decisions for me, I should feel like you listen to me and respect my voice. It's a very human thing. It's nice to do this automatically wherever possible (eg. blind auditions, fair voting mechanisms), but fundamentally a group held together by self-interest but not trust will fall apart very quickly. As a leader, it's your job to figure out what people care about, and represent their concerns fairly. Perceptions are important, and you may seem biased even when you're not – be mindful of how your words/actions would appear to others.

Communicate effectively

  • Have an agenda; prepare beforehand
  • Speak briefly and clearly, listen more than you talk
  • Be able to summarise others' points after you've heard/read them in a way they agree with – this shows you understand
  • Be transparent, especially about things that go wrong. Explain why it happened, what you're doing to fix it, and how to prevent it from happening again.

Analyse instead of arguing

When people get into heated discussions, they start arguing for their position instead of understanding what they're actually interested in achieving. You must help guide the conversation into a productive mode. Some suggestions for doing this:

  • Zoom out ("we want to attract more people" – why, what are we trying to achieve?)
  • Define and use objective criteria ("we don't have enough good articles on the wiki" – what is a good article?)
  • Ask for burdens of proof – what evidence would make someone change their mind about something? ("I think women are just not interested in joining" – if we ask 20 women candidates, and at least 5 say the culture is a barrier, would that change your mind?)

Where's all the cool stuff?

"I thought I was supposed to organise events, collaborate with other societies, and be the face of Metakgp!"

Well, those are some of the things maintainers will end up doing. But it's the day-to-day stuff that's much harder, more fascinating, and ultimately, what will matter in driving Metakgp forward.

Guidelines for maintainer proposals[edit | edit source]

Good proposals avoid some common failure modes.

  1. Keep it short, put only the important stuff, and use simple language (Complex language induces cognitive overloading, makes it harder to understand, and makes your proposal less credible)
  2. Most ideas have been thought of and tried before - explain why they failed, and what you will do differently (Optimism bias: I'm less likely to fail compared to the average person)
  3. Give concrete, measurable targets for success/failure. It should be easy for a reader to say, for example: "one month later, the candidate met 3 targets, and missed 2" (Being specific forces you to think in "near-mode" instead of "far-mode")
  4. Explain what you're optimistic about (strengths), and what you're worried about (weaknesses) (taking a balanced view provides a framework to make strategic decisions)
  5. Pick one or two goals as your "minimum achievable goals". Even if you don't do anything else, you will do these at a minimum. If you do complete these, you can always do more (Underestimating complexity is easy, correcting course and prioritising later is hard).