Hiring a new tech person, revisiting expectations April 27, 2016 2:35 PM   Subscribe

I mentioned yesterday in the post about pb moving on that we are, in turn, hiring a new tech person. We're looking both within and outside the MetaFilter membership, so please put the job listing out there! But this is also a big transition for the site, so I want to talk a bit about my, and your, expectations as we go through this process.

The job listing:

First, on the job listing: unlike past hiring situations for mods where we've looked solely within the MetaFilter community, we're asking in this case for applicants both from the userbase and outside of it. There's a few reasons for this:

- The specific total collection of technologies we use for the site is a little idiosyncratic, and so while I'm hopeful we have folks in the MetaFilter community who will end up being a good fit for them, I'd like to cast the net wider than that to make it more likely we get an ideal candidate.

- Unlike a moderator position, this tech role has just about zero requirement of site culture knowledge and no expectation of direct interaction with the userbase, and so neither an established familiarity with the MetaFilter community nor a specific facility for community interaction is a major requirement the way it is with moderator candidates. Someone can do this job without necessarily "getting" MetaFilter going in.

- We're likely to be able to draw from a more diverse pool of candidates by casting a wider net on this; to that end, we've put some explicit language of inclusiveness in the job listing and we're aiming to—and encourage MeFites to—make an effort to put the listing out there in places where a broad range of candidates will have a chance to see it and apply.

If you have specific folks or organizations who you think would be a good target for sharing the job listing, please feel free to pursue that directly and/or to let us know about it at the contact form.

What's next:

Though pb is leaving, he isn't gone immediately; he'll stay on through the end of May in some capacity, and help with the hiring and training process to the extent that he's able while also helping wrap up a couple site development projects that are in progress.

But saying goodbye to pb (beyond just being a big deal because he's awesome and we'll miss him) means we have the need to do a few things, each of which I'll talk about a little:

1. Hire new tech staff to handle the site maintenance and development

Of which see above, obviously, but I want to give some context for how that job description came together. It's a subset of what pb has been doing over the years; specifically, the subset that's most vital to find a replacement tech person to handle as soon as possible. The primary requirements are about the basic server maintenance that's key to make sure the site is secure and stable and backed-up in case of catastrophe; the secondary ideal-candidate stuff is about site development skills that we'll need to fill in the long run but are less immediately necessary. There's also a lot of things pb does that aren't on there at all, and I'll talk about that below.

The motivation here is to focus on site continuity first by finding a candidate who fits that role very well, and to build from there toward site development concerns in the long run. Whether that's via a candidate who can fill both roles, or via additional contracting or part-time hiring for dev purposes, will depend on how this initial hiring process goes; with the development aspect, though, we at least have the opportunity to take a little more time.

2. Reevaluate how we handle and distribute tech-related tasks

Some of the stuff pb has done over the years ended up being a pb task out of circumstance and momentum; there's lots of little bits of non-moderation-related admin-facing stuff that came out of something or other he and Matt worked up, for which they just took responsibility as a result. We're revisiting that stuff and moving a lot of little tasks over to me or to the mod team as a whole to make this transition smoother and to clarify the boundaries of the tech role.

3. Reset expectations about tech staff interactions with the site

We have been very lucky, both the moderation team and the MetaFilter community, to have had pb's cheerful and detailed participation on MetaTalk and communication on the contact form as part of the mix over the years. But it's not an essential part of keeping the site running, and while it's possible that future tech staff will be inclined toward similar interactions it's not an expectation in the hiring we're doing now.

So for the time being we're going to aim to have the moderation staff mediate any tech-related issues. That doesn't fundamentally change things for MetaFilter members—you'll still report bugs and request features and so on via the contact form and MetaTalk as usual, and you'll hear back from staff—but the expectation at least for a while should be that the mods will act as facilitators for tech-related discussions rather than having a direct line to tech staff.

4. Reset expectations about the pace and schedule of site development

My expectation is we'll need to put a temporary kibosh on new feature development for the site as we manage this transition away from pb's involvement. He's the person who knows by far the most about MetaFilter's home-grown codebase, which has played a huge role in his ability to be quickly responsive to a variety of requests small and large, staff- and user-initiated, and it will take time to route around the loss of that.

As a result, some of the rainy day stuff on our To Do list will stay rainy for a while; likewise, non-critical bugs and feature tweaks will most likely have to be deferred and batched up for a while as we sort out the higher priority site continuity issues and figure out the best new approach to managing CF/dev stuff.

I've had pb work on some documentation of our codebase and processes, and I'll work with him in the coming weeks to get myself better oriented with all of that as well so I can help with future training and orientation for development work down the road, and potentially take on smaller changes/tweaks/fixes myself as I become more familiar with CF and the details of the site code. One way or the other, I'm certain that in the long run we'll get back into a good if potentially somewhat different rhythm for getting bug fixes and development done.

Thanks everyone for your support as we go through this change; hopefully it will be largely invisible, but your understanding and patience with any bumpiness we do encounter along the way will make a big positive difference.
posted by cortex (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 2:35 PM (59 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Wow, mefi runs on Windows Server/SQL Server? For some reason, that surprised me to see!
posted by primethyme at 3:07 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Huh. I thought MetaFilter ran on ColdFusion errors the way Mario Flappy Bird runs on Super Mario World bugs.
posted by Bugbread at 3:55 PM on April 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

On a non-joking side, I don't think item #2 really makes any sense to someone who isn't already on the admin staff. If it's important enough to list here, you might want to give some more detail so people know what you're talking about.
posted by Bugbread at 3:57 PM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

On the #2 front, for example, while we don't look at people's MeMail unless they specifically give us permission, we (rarely) look at their sent mail volume if someone reports something that looks spammy. Heretofore that's been a pb-only thing, but we're adding it to be mod-visible because there's no need to lock it down and if we don't have a full-time tech person it's counterproductive for them to be the only one to have access to it. There are probably dozens of those little things that pb just does for us that we can definitely do for ourselves instead, and will.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:04 PM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yeah, sorry for the sort of insidery nature of point #2 there. More on that front, pb's been the clearinghouse for ColdFusion error emails, which I now receive as well and will look at making available to the whole team; he's been handling a number of little FanFare queue/processing tasks that started as Matt+pb tasks before Matt left; and some semi-tech contact form things have fallen into his wheelhouse pretty naturally but are things we can manage on the mod side.

Like r_n said, it's those dozens of little thing. This shouldn't generally affect users but there may be the occasional hiccup as we realize one or another detail didn't get documented on the way out.

Is there a reason no salary range is indicated? This is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Because it's gonna depend a lot on the specific circumstances. As much as I have a decent idea of what we're looking for in a potential candidate, their specific skillset and experience is going to have a lot of influence on what the position looks like, whether it's part-time or very-part-time, and whether this is a ready-from-day-one thing on all fronts for them or something that involves accommodating some professional development from the get-go in an otherwise good candidate.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:19 PM on April 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

So, on #3: Would you say that the mods, will take the comments from the users and bring them down to the software engineers?

(sorry not sorry)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:29 PM on April 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Not sure it's my place to say it but I think this means you should be more selective about the ponies that make it through the queue to public discussion, because spending mod and community time on things that there isn't dev time to handle is wasteful, especially since mod time is also very precious now.
posted by gingerest at 5:37 PM on April 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Pony Tuesday's!
posted by clavdivs at 6:07 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I very much hope the careful and deliberative approach you are taking in this search pays off in both attracting great candidates and in helping to set the stage for success in terms of expectations and interactions. I know nothing about code, but I like the way this is being framed and discussed.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:54 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I totally see where your at not trying to find the exact perfect pb-clone but the devs interaction of some degree with the various user bases, mod and posters being bases that have a pretty unique overlap, is one of the strengths of this "app" and should certainly be on the "good to have" criteria.
posted by sammyo at 8:41 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

How is this not posted in jobs, man?
posted by boo_radley at 10:01 PM on April 27, 2016

It is?
posted by saeculorum at 10:04 PM on April 27, 2016

Ahhhhhh!! I want to work for metafilter so badly!!! But I have no computer skills other than checking gmail and .....reading metafilter. Occasionally I can download something or update my iphone..... But if MF ever needs an event / party planner.., hostess with the mostess, I'm your girl!!
posted by pearlybob at 6:54 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just put some BS on your resume, pearlybob, you'll be fine!

Maybe ask the mods to delete your comment though.
posted by ODiV at 8:25 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I posted the job ad and immediately got feedback from programmer friends that as written this looks very unappealing because it is a part-time contract position which requires a pretty large skill base.

I know (or think I know) that MetaFilter treats employees quite well, but it may be that this is not obvious to the outside world of non-member candidates for the job. Posting an explicit salary scale might help.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:05 AM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

Yeah I can't imagine you're going to get any good outside candidates with this. Part-time with no hours specified and no pay indication, a less common technology platform and language, no idea how long it would continue to exist... it's not impossible but you're going to need to promote this far and wide to get it in front of the small number of folks who it will apply to and appeal to.

You might be better off putting it out for bid to smaller consultancy shops; make ongoing maint and hosting part of the fee, have enhancements etc be something you pay separately for. You'd get a larger pool of possible takers while also removing this risk you're taking by having a Lottery (or Bus, if you're more negative) risk of 1 person.

It's not impossible. If this was my area of specialty and I didn't already have a flexible pure-virtual gig I could imagine it as something that would interest me for family sake. But even then I'd be tempted to keep on walking unless I could have a discussion about salary range before putting much time into it. Why invest an hour of my time, unpaid, in someone who didn't want to do the work of creating a compensation schedule? I have complete faith that you're earnest in this statement, cortex, but I have heard that same thing from earnest-sounding people for twenty-plus years and in most cases it's because they're ignorant of the market or trying to lowball or both.
posted by phearlez at 11:03 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

I want to echo what anotherpanacea said. I work in tech, have done dev work, in theory know a lot of the right kind of folks to point at this, but - without the context of "oh, I know metafilter!" it looks like a big range of knowledge on some not-terribly-exciting technology that's part time and with unspecified compensation. Which is... not really appealing at all. I happen to know this community and I happen to know this could be a really cool gig; looking at it "From the outside" this is not something I'd want to point a friend at or pass around.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:03 PM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Vis-a-vis the recent diversity discussion, there are a number of places where "coders of color" and similar groups congregate and blog (like Black Girls Code, for one, I don't have much time just now to find others but I know they exist). It would be good outreach to make sure you post this listing in spots like that (not just depend on members to know about those places and do it on behalf of the site, but take an active approach).

I also echo the recommendations that you need to "sell" this job a little more. If you haven't yet heard of MetaFilter, why would you want to work here? What's special or different? What's the work culture like? Why would they proud to be associated? More description would be really helpful. Right now I would be a little reluctant to share that among my network without adding a whole lot of context myself.
posted by Miko at 1:14 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you're doing the right thing by not listing compensation (too high or too low's going to shut out viable candidates), but I do think the job ad reads a little stiffly. A modified form of the "depends on specific circumstances" more candid language could be a useful explanation on the pay, too. I've passed the ad around, though, and had some interested replies, so I think it meets a functional level of attractiveness as is.
posted by michaelh at 1:25 PM on April 28, 2016

fwiw, I did tweet it (the job listing, not this meta). I think everyone should totally tweet it. or something. I added to the tweet that it is #workfromhome and they are looking for diverse applicants.
posted by Michele in California at 1:48 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

To be honest I kinda agree that this ad wouldn't look great from the perspective of someone who wasn't already in love with the idea of working for MetaFilter. Part time, 1099, broad skill requirements, no posted salary? If I didn't know this site better, I'd say it sounds like you're looking for a desperate doormat that you can walk all over without having to offer benefits or pay real wages. I see job ads like that in my field too, and I avoid them because they're generally not for anywhere that I'd want to work.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the feedback on the presentation; that's an interesting angle on the "without MeFi context" issue in particular, which definitely comes back to looking beyond just the site being a new idea for us. (Hiring for a tech position at all also being new ground, obviously.) I'll think about how I can rework the listing a bit to try and sell it more specifically to folks who can't take it as a given that MeFi is a solid place to work.

It would be good outreach to make sure you post this listing in spots like that (not just depend on members to know about those places and do it on behalf of the site, but take an active approach).

Absolutely, and that's something we're working on; I've touched base with a couple groups of folks directly, as have a couple other folks on the team already I believe, and we're working on rounding up more good targets for making the job posting visible.

I'm encouraging MeFites to also do this because (a) it's a new thing that we're looking beyond just the site and I want to be super explicit that it's okay and encouraged to spread it around, and (b) I know that whatever we can manage as a small team to track down and accomplish there, we still have a much smaller set of leads there than the assembled userbase. I think we're best off if basically everybody gets out and pushes on this; the idea is very much not that everybody else does so that we don't have to, or anything like that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:21 PM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

A few thoughts, with regard to making the job advertisement more attractive to outside candidates. These are all unknowns that, if I were thinking about applying for this job, I'd be concerned about. Depending on how desperate I was, I might simply pass on a job advertisement that didn't provide answers to at least some of these questions:

You say the job is part time, but you don't describe what the actual hours will be like or what the availability expectations are. How many hours a week will the candidate be expected to put in? Will they be during regular business hours, or will they have to be available at unusual times? Will there be regular hours, or will their schedule vary from week to week and day to day? Will there be on-call time where they're expected to drop everything if there's a fire that needs fighting, and how will they be compensated for that? If I were a random outside candidate and I saw that none of this was listed, I'd assume the worst.

Relatedly, is there potential for this job to become a full time position? You say that "for a good match it will be a long-term position," but that combined with the fact that it's a contracting gig makes it sound like there's no potential for advancement and that they could be fired at any time. If the potential exists for it to become a more regular job, under what specific circumstances would that transition happen? It's OK if there's no potential for advancement (it will disqualify you in the eyes of some potential candidates, but in that case they're not people who would be happy working here anyway) but I'd want to know going in whether this part-time contracting gig had the potential to turn into a real job, or whether it was strictly a fill-in-the-gaps side job that was unlikely to become anything more substantial.

Most importantly though, what is the salary range? Even if it's a broad range, I'd want to know what it is. What would you pay a minimally-qualified candidate? What would you be willing to pay for a perfect one? Many people who know that they have strong skills and could get jobs fairly easily at any number of places (and it sounds to me like the kind of candidate you want will be one of those people) simply will not bother wasting their time and energy applying for a job when they have no idea if it is going to pay enough to be worth having. (It is far from a given that an unknown potential employer is willing to pay enough to make a job worth having.) Even if it's something like "anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000 a year depending on skillset and experience," that would at least allow potential candidates to measure themselves against the list of desired skills outlined in the advertisement and get a rough sense of whether the job is worth bothering to apply for.

Is there a system in place whereby a hire who had some gaps in their skillset could get their pay raised by filling in those gaps over time? Would you be willing to negotiate a schedule of pay raises contingent on acquiring specific additional skills? Would you be willing to help pay for training in those skills? This ties into the whole potential-for-advancement thing above; if you make it clear that you'll make it worth the new hire's while to continue their professional development in directions that are useful to MetaFilter, that will make the job more attractive to many candidates. If you are unwilling or unable to do that, say so and save some time all around.

These are all questions that, if I were applying for the job, I would want answers to at some point during the hiring process, sometime before I accepted any offers. They're all questions that you should be prepared to answer for candidates, and there's no reason you can't at least give a general version of those answers right in the job advertisement. It'll make you look much more like a well-organized, fair-minded employer who understands the needs of his employees and is willing to be candid about what he can and cannot do to satisfy those needs. Even if the job has crummy hours, low pay, and no opportunity for advancement, your applicants will at least be coming in with realistic expectations. It helps nobody to attract a bunch of applicants who will simply end up bailing at some point during the hiring process when they realize the job isn't a good fit for them, and it doesn't help MetaFilter to drive away potential applicants (and those who might otherwise be the strongest candidates) by being coy about some of the most fundamental aspects of what the job will be like.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:46 PM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]

Hmm. I just revisited the hiring process suggestions from Nonprofits With Balls (via a recent FPP). It looks like MetaFilter is doing a good job in some of the categories, but "Disclose salary on job postings" is first on the list. Potential applicants might also appreciate knowing that you'd prefer to hire an existing MeFite if possible.

So yeah, while I'm confident MetaFilter would be an awesome place to work, it definitely wouldn't be apparent to outsiders from this listing.

I've heard that if at all possible you should wait until the pool of good applicants has at least three people who aren't straight-cis-white-men before hiring. Of course, I probably heard that via MeFi, so y'all may already be aware of it. (-:

(Nitpicking aside, it looks to me like a nice clear listing, and y'all have done an excellent job of keeping the required skills to a minimum, the application process simple, et cetera. I would totally want this job if I were qualified and not tired of staring at screens.)
posted by sibilatorix at 7:12 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

"These are all questions that, if I were applying for the job, I would want answers to at some point during the hiring process, sometime before I accepted any offers. ... It'll make you look much more like a well-organized, fair-minded employer who understands the needs of his employees and is willing to be candid about what he can and cannot do to satisfy those needs."

Can affirm that cortex was very upfront about these things during my interview process and very concerned about ensuring that the limitations of a part-time position were a good match for my work needs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:21 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm sure he was! I don't mean to imply that I think cortex is a bad boss or that MetaFilter would be a lousy place to work; if I had the qualifications to work here (in any capacity) I'd be gunning for any opening that was offered. I'm just saying that if I didn't already know this place, I'd be deeply suspicious of an advertisement for a part-time contracting gig that listed no information about availability expectations, pay range, or career development. Suspicious enough that I'd probably not even consider applying unless I really, really needed a job ASAP.

It doesn't matter if he's upfront about that stuff in the interview process if it never makes it to the "hmm, maybe I'll send in a resume" stage. There are a zillion job ads out there with similar blank spots in them, and many of them are for miserable trash jobs. I know this isn't one of those jobs, but I don't think it would be obvious to an outsider that that's the case. It was different for your position Eyebrows, because the applicants were all coming from inside the community and good candidates were naturally going to be people who already had a deep familiarity with MeFi. This situation is rather different in that regard.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:31 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

The specific total collection of technologies we use for the site is a little idiosyncratic,

as we sort out the higher priority site continuity issues and figure out the best new approach to managing CF/dev stuff.

Is this two jobs? Job 1 for someone to conceive and manage a transition from one (or several) system/s to another system (a consultant?), and Job 2 for someone to maybe manage things once they've been set up, and learn as they go to facilitate newer tech ideas?
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:43 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

(Just thinking that if the breadth of experience and functions required are nonstandard for the likely applicant pool, it might be easier to attract two different kinds of candidates, with different breadth of experience [and/or salary expectations]. If indeed things can be split up that way.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:49 PM on April 28, 2016

by "this" I mean the job. Not the quoted bits, which with the job description are what suggested to me that the job in question might have potential to be two jobs. My job is getting some sleep if I can, sorry if I'm being confusing.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:57 PM on April 28, 2016

I think you're doing the right thing by not listing compensation (too high or too low's going to shut out viable candidates)

With respect, I am going to discount the idea that there are people who look at a salary and think "nope, no way I'll do the described job for that much money." The people who do not apply because it is too low are not going to take the job after applying, interviewing, being offered the position... and finding out that the salary is too low. Shutting them out preemptively is in everyone's interest.

I don't want to beat on this drum a long time or be in a back and forth about it, but in my twenty-cough years in the industry my compensation has gone up and down, and down several times very deliberately because of work-life and fringe benefit tradeoffs. On those occasions I went into it with a clear understanding of what sorts of payoffs I was looking for, and the expected salary range was not a secret ahead of time.

The jobs that I did not take were the ones where my initial contacts left me thinking that I was at a severe informational disadvantage, either because there was a deliberate effort being made to leave me in the dark or because the organization was just incompetent to suss out what a competitive salary and job categorization was for the area. They were only rarely hostile, like the one who angrily demanded a complete salary history from me but refused to provide any expected compensation and benefits information. But consistently they led me to think this is not an organization that is behaving like they expect to come up with a mutually beneficial partnership.

I don't think Metafilter is that kind of place, but that's the sort of message this posting communicates. Outsiders who haven't been watching metatalk for years don't have a sense of how the place operates, so they need some initial communication about what sort of culture and priorities will be applied to this position, as well as some clue of how valued they'll be. Being vague about both time commitment and compensation evokes every place that is willing to burn goodwill for the sake of saving $20 on the budget and is going to want heaven & earth moved... but within the 29 hours they have budgeted for that week. Oh, and next week it'll need to be 20.

I don't know if that's an age thing for me and you won't have this problem with newer coders (though I think that's going to be its own sort of problem for ColdFusion) or if I'm just twitchy from years of trying/wanting to work in the nonprofit space where this seems to be a bigger issue. But I think if you want flexible and bottle washers who are also cooks that you should better sell those aspects of the gig. You get 10 bonus points from me for never saying ninja or rock star but you may want to better sell the flexible hours (assuming they are) and autonomy and do your best to communicate the things that are certain and tied down.

And if they're not, then better sell that this is a job that someone will make their own. Talk about the things that you'll want done, what sorts of ideas/initiatives you hope they'll bring to the table. Is there any open source community around CF? Can any of the bits of MF be opened so they can get outside collaborators? Run contests? Could future enhancements be on different platforms? Is MF's growth areas likely to be more server-side backend work or more UI stuff?

I'm sorry to be such a drone-on about this, but I think MF is pretty great and imagine it must be a nice group to work with. You'd never get that from this posting, nor any indication that you'd want to come poke around and learn more and that's a shame.
posted by phearlez at 8:07 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

It's pretty basic labor justIce to provide a salary range. Even if it's a very wide range, it is a powerful communicator of the potential of the role and its possible fit with career stage. These murky salary arrangements depending entirely on "negotiatons" (this always favors men) are one of the huge reasons for the male/female pay disparity, for instance. Communicating the floor and ceiling gives applicants a lot of good information about the window they can negotiate within, and lets people know clearly if the job simply can't match their current expectations .
posted by Miko at 8:48 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

The detailed thoughts on providing more specific information about the job have been really useful. Framing something like this is new to me, and I'm realizing from the discussion here that while I may have done a good job of creating a job listing that was strictly speaking correct—it communicates our skill-based needs and the basic scope of the job—I could amend it to do a better job of conveying the character and points of flexibility in the job we're hoping to fill. I'll take this all into account and look at revising the job listing tomorrow to do a better job of explaining to potential candidates the actual intended shape of the job and where our ability to accommodate folks lies.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:33 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

If for some reason you don't want to publish the salary range, you could insert a line saying something like "salary range available upon request." It's not quite as helpful to the cause of fair labor as being more transparent, but it does say that you won't be cagey about it if someone writes and says, "I'm interested, but I need to know the range before I take the trouble to apply." In that case, you'd just need to make sure you give the same range to everyone and that you have some potential wage definition structure in mind before negotiations start, something that has steps tied to scope and skills, so you have a firewall to prevent the workings of implicit bias in one or the other party.
posted by Miko at 6:34 AM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

If for some reason you don't want to publish the salary range, you could insert a line saying something like "salary range available upon request."

Yeah I don't love this but it at least makes it a topic that it's okay to bring up up-front, rather than what we have all been indoctrinated with which is you don't bring it up till you've gone through interviews. That's just not really in anyone's interest, and means a lot of people just walk on by.

I don't know what your vision for the coming years is like but you might - if what the job is depends so strongly on who the hire is - consider breaking out the description into the "this is the stuff that absolutely must be done to keep the roads rolling, and we plan for an average of X hours a week devoted to this" and the "this is the sort of thing we anticipate doing in the coming year and anticipate X hours a week on it." The "part-time" category is so nebulous that this would go a long way towards giving someone an idea of (a) does this work in my financial needs and (2) is this something that can fit into my life time-wise.
posted by phearlez at 7:09 AM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't really want anybody applying first and foremost because they need the money and like the number they see in a listing or anything like that.

Since this is the topic of conversation already anyway, I thought I'd bring this quote in from the December hiring thread.

I think what you're saying is that you don't want to hire someone who will work for a few months, go "YAY I MADE BANK" and skip out on the job? And/or you don't want someone who invents a resume and you have to fire them two weeks later? If it's something along those lines, I see your point. You probably want someone who will love their job.

Will not listing the salary stop people who need the money from applying? In my opinion, not necessarily. I won't apply for jobs that don't list what they'll pay unless I need the money.

It could be helpful to think about the socioeconomic class of people who might apply for a job because they need the money. Does needing money mean they won't be a great candidate? In my opinion, not necessarily.
posted by aniola at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2016

Also, since I'm writing a cookbook, I can't help but read your job posting in the context of recipe formatting. They're actually pretty similar.
posted by aniola at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2016

(That's not 100% true. I might apply for a job I was really, really excited about if it didn't list a salary.)
posted by aniola at 10:28 AM on April 29, 2016

Oh hey and page 6 lists some of the places you can post the job locally.
posted by aniola at 10:38 AM on April 29, 2016

Most people who take a job do it mainly to make money. What the salary range does it tell someone whether they can afford to take the job, given their financial picture, and whether they see the compensation as commensurate with their skills and with other opportunities in the labor market. It helps people avoid exploitation and helps both parties avoid wasting time on an application that would end up being withdrawn at the negotiation stage.

When I've hired recently, the very first round of contact to say, the 8 best resumes has been a phone screen to say "Just to review the job structure, the hours are XYZ, the salary range is XYZ, it's at XYZ place in the org chart." It's helpful to get clear on expectations at the start. Often, someone will bail out at that phase if the description hasn't been clear. Best practice is definitely moving toward making the range clear.
posted by Miko at 11:39 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a web developer/server admin, I would dearly love to work for MetaFilter, but have to nth the concerns above. The various uncertainties are definitely causes for hesitation and concern. One other question I would have is if y'all are open to eventually moving to a different stack that might serve MeFi's needs better?
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:08 PM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's been implied already, but I'd like to make it clear that (as I understand it) a lot of well-qualified people read "pay scale negotiable based on experience and skillset" as "pay scale negotiable based on experience and skillset [and gender, color, and sexual orientation]" and will be inclined to pass on a job ad that doesn't list a pay range for that reason. It's a well-established fact that people who aren't white, heterosexual, cismales tend to come off worse in salary negotiations than people who are.

I'm absolutely not saying that that's what you're trying for here (though one should never discount the potential for unconscious bias, even when one is trying hard to consciously avoid discrimination) but I definitely think that marginalized people will prefer to apply for jobs where they feel confident that their skin color/gender identity/sexual orientation isn't going to translate into reduced pay. Putting the salary range right up front in the job estimate (even if it's a broad range!) helps mitigate those types of concerns and therefore makes the advertisement more appealing to people with a diverse range of backgrounds.

And frankly I find it somewhat bizarre that you'd want to withhold the pay range because you're concerned that if you list it you might only get applicants who need the money. I thought "needing money" was the main reason why people have jobs in the first place, rather than hobbies or volunteer gigs? When I'm looking for a job, I have in mind a minimum amount of money that I need to make in order for the job to be worth having. I have financial needs and goals, and if a prospective job can't satisfy them then I'm not taking it regardless of how much fun it looks like.

Like Miko said, there are tons of jobs out there that I can't afford to have because they don't pay enough for me to live my life. I only have a certain number of hours per week that I can devote to a job, and I need those hours to yield a certain minimum amount of money or else my life will fall apart. How enjoyable the job sounds is a secondary consideration. If I can't afford to have it then it's not an option for me, period, even if the job is for a Chief Baby Walrus Cuddler, my office is on a floating castle, and I get to commute on a company-provided flying unicorn. Everyone who isn't independently wealthy does a similar calculus when they're looking for work, and making an applicant jump through hoops before they can get an answer to the "can I even afford to do this" question is a waste of everybody's time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:53 PM on April 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

If I ever write a book on business (for my own entertainment because who would buy that shit?) it will be titled

Quit Fooling Yourself
You don't have a single employee who would keep working for you after they hit the lotto

posted by phearlez at 12:59 PM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

And frankly I find it somewhat bizarre that you'd want to withhold the pay range because you're concerned that if you list it you might only get applicants who need the money.

As a quick note on this: that's from a different discussion, about a different job listing, with different assumptions about the familiarity a candidate would have with the site, several months ago. It feels a little weird to have an answer given in that other context transplanted here and then dug into as if it were something I'd just said upthread rather than in response to a different situation.

But, yes, to be clear: I'm hearing what folks are saying about the virtues of finding a way to be more up front about payscale stuff regardless of it being potentially all over the board, especially with the assumption in this case that most potential candidates won't be familiar with MetaFilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:01 PM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

The pay issue seems to have gone off the rails a bit (old ruby joke :-) I had to do a reality check for my own perception and went to indeed.com and clicked a few random software jobs and none had an explicit rate. The is some standard language like "competitive salary", "Competitive startup salary", "depending on experience", I've certainly seen at times a range but pretty broad. Using some standard boilerplate phrases may not be a bad idea.

It's usually the last topic and in the corporate world often done through a placement agency with no direct numbers at an interview. But fraught, rates are everywhere from jaw dropping silicon valley reports to a full google clone for $399 from a dev in an unnamed country somewhere.
posted by sammyo at 1:31 PM on April 29, 2016

OK, totally my bad; I didn't read carefully enough. I thought I was responding to something much more relevant. I stand by what I said in a general sense, but I acknowledge that it doesn't apply very well to this situation. I hear you that you're looking for a way to be more upfront about pay (though I still suggest that posting a salary range directly in the job advertisement, even a very broad one, is the best and simplest way to do that) and I'll back off now. I've been beating this drum a lot today and I think it's getting a bit weird. I'm confident that whatever happens the new hire will be well treated, and that's the most important thing. Not the only important thing, but the biggest one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:36 PM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

My apologies, I snagged on that comment last time and assumed that was still relevant to this situation. I was mostly trying to say something like what Miko said.

Thinking about admin/hr type stuff just generally really interests me, but it's y'all's job to think about it for Metafilter and you seem to do a fantastic job of it.
posted by aniola at 2:01 PM on April 29, 2016

No worries, I did get the general intent in any case. I think it was just, yeah, the streams got crossed in the process of response-to-response-to-quotation stuff, wanted to clarify.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2016

Also, I'd meant to note this but lost track of it:

You might be better off putting it out for bid to smaller consultancy shops; make ongoing maint and hosting part of the fee, have enhancements etc be something you pay separately for.

That's a possibility, yeah, and I've chatted with a couple folks in that territory about the possibility of taking that approach. We'll try this hiring process first because I feel like it's a better fit and a better opportunity to match up a good candidate with a dedicated position on the team rather than a consultancy relationship, but if we do end up having troubling making the right fit that's a good possibility, whether long-term or just to give us more time to refine and revisit the search.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:19 PM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

One other question I would have is if y'all are open to eventually moving to a different stack that might serve MeFi's needs better?

Could happen, yeah. ColdFusion is certainly the weirdest thing in the mix, there. Rewriting MeFi on a more open and broadly used platform would be a big project to tackle and so I have no immediate plans there, but it's certainly something to consider in the long run.

CF is also the least important aspect of getting someone hired in the short term—the core thing here is maintaining continuity of basic db and server maintenance—and so as I'm reworking the job listing I'm deemphasizing some of the web dev aspects to simplify and clarify the core position.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

ColdFusion is certainly the weirdest thing in the mix

Only because you accidentally missed out Gopher.

That was an accident, right? Right?
posted by GeckoDundee at 3:03 PM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

It is unlikely that the gopher server, mature tech that it is, will develop any new major security or stability issues in the near future, but should it do so I will endeavor to manage the situation myself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:08 PM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

Alright, I've updated the Jobs post with revised text. Main changes based on discussion in here and some further thinking:

- Added a paragraph up top describing MeFi briefly and the way the role will fit into that.
- Stripped down the listed requirements. In practice what is most important right now is getting the admin/maintenance skills in place; CF development is a nice bonus but as I said in the text of this MetaTalk it's something that we can take a lot more time on if we need to, so a strong candidate just on the server side would be an okay outcome. Also stripped a couple of borderline-dev items out of the remaining required skills block, along the same lines.
- Added an explicit payscale. That it'll depend a lot on the circumstances remains true, but that will at least offer some realistic expectations on what we can afford.
- Rewrote and elaborated the paragraph about schedule stuff to give an explicit estimate of range of hours, emphasize the flexibility of the schedule, and convey that for a good candidate interested in doing so there is potential for the hours and responsibility to grow.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:02 PM on April 29, 2016 [11 favorites]

Welp, I feel like that does a pretty comprehensive job of addressing my own concerns, anyway. There's a pay range, hours and availability requirements are discussed, and there's at least a mention of what kind of growth potential the job offers. I like that it leads with a brief description of what makes MeFi special and interesting, as well. To me, the new version is a much more attractive ad with a lot less ambiguity in it. I really appreciate your being willing to listen to feedback (even when it isn't always delivered perfectly) and make changes based on what you hear from the userbase. That kind of openness and responsiveness from the admins is one of this site's real strengths, and I particularly appreciate it here. Thanks.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:33 PM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Hot damn - kudos for the re-write and listening to the community. Well done cortex. (Pretty quick turnaround as well.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Great job on this rewrite. This is something I'm enthusiastic to share. Thanks so much for sharing it and being open to the hopes and ideas of the community. I hope you get lots of great applicants.
posted by Miko at 5:07 PM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like the new ad. Since that's a narrower range of pay I than I imagined, I agree now it makes sense to include it.
posted by michaelh at 5:33 PM on April 29, 2016

No way I could do that job, although I'm good at the job I do. But I am curious, how did this job get 18,203 miles away from me? Is there some special travel involved?
posted by scottymac at 8:58 PM on May 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think that's a great rewrite. If I was forced to pick anything to alter I might have put something in the community bit at the top about a commitment to equality/diversity, but it seems well addressed farther down.

I will reiterate my thought that if your number 1 focus is stability and maintenance that you might consider just bidding that out to small firms on a fixed price basis. Being a small operation with only one tech person to keep the roads rolling would give me agita and I am a tech person.
posted by phearlez at 8:21 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I second phearlez. I worked at small consulting shops for a bit (A Coldfusion one, even) and this is exactly the sort of thing they do.
posted by zutalors! at 8:22 AM on May 2, 2016

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