The Carpentries Communications Strategy

Introduction

Purpose of this document

The purpose of this document is to provide a strategy for communications around projects and initiatives that The Carpentries team and community undertake.

Target audience for this document

This document was originally written for the core Carpentries team, and has now been made available to our community. It is designed as a resource to be referenced regularly, rather than as literature to be studied once and archived after.

Background

About us

The Carpentries is a volunteer-driven organisation committed to training and fostering an active, inclusive and diverse community that promotes and models the importance of software and data in research and libraries. Our community includes learners, instructors, maintainers, trainers, mentors, workshop organisers, paid employees and champions.

The Carpentries Mission

The Carpentries’ objective is to build capacity in essential data and computational skills for conducting efficient, open, and reproducible research.

Our approach to attaining this objective is threefold:

  • scaling evidence-based teaching,

  • creating inclusive environments, and

  • building communities of practice based on open principles.

Communications Objectives

To support the mission of The Carpentries effectively, our communications should:

  • Create awareness about our work:
    Our communications should articulate the purpose and value proposition of The Carpentries to facilitate uptake of our core offerings (i.e. workshops, trainings, and organisation memberships) among key audiences.

  • Encourage participation and collaboration:
    Our communications should emphasise our collaboration-driven ethos and point to the myriad of ways contributions and participation are encouraged in various Carpentries’ projects.

  • Empower our community:
    Our communications should amplify the voices and articulate the value of community members the world over, to foster a deep sense of belonging and ownership.

  • Edify our community:
    Our communications should strive to enlighten our community on pertinent issues by passing along information and discussing relevant trends on data, software, inclusive teaching, accessibility, etc

Meeting our Communications Objectives

In order to meet The Carpentries’ communications objectives, we have to carefully consider:

a. Language and Tone of our Communications

The Carpentries has a collaboration-driven ethos. In our communications, this should translate to inclusive messaging in diverse formats over different channels and as much as possible, using contextualised language, with the ultimate goal of enabling participation.

Because we cater to a distributed community, both geographically and disciplinarily, we continue to employ multiple communication models at The Carpentries, namely:

  • interactive (i.e. via Slack, email, TopicBox, Twitter),

  • transactional (i.e. via Zoom calls, workshops, instructor training, GitHub),

  • linear/broadcast (i.e. via Twitter, our Newsletter and Facebook).

The language we adapt in our communications should embody our “people first, access for all and openness” values as an organisation.

Depending on the subject and context (i.e. audience) of our communications, the tone we use should be an amalgamation of several attributes, some of which are listed in the table below. The Carpentries badge spells out where on the scale the tone of our communications should fall at any given time.

Communiations Tone Scale

The Carpentries messaging is primarily relayed via the following formats:

  • Text:
    We value accessibility and ensuring community members have access options to our content and programs. Therefore, we offer transcription of any recorded community discussions in addition to providing slide decks from those discussions.

  • Audio:
    Community Discussions that are recorded using Zoom include audio. To ensure content is accessible to as many community members as possible, audio recordings will be added to The Carpentries account on a podcast platform.

  • Video:
    As often as possible we record onboardings and other community events for dissemination to the community via The Carpentries YouTube Channel. To ensure content is accessible to as many community members as possible, we require videos to be uploaded including closed captioning in the language the discussion was recorded in.

b. The Carpentries Brand

The names “The Carpentries”, “Software Carpentry”, “Library Carpentry”, and “Data Carpentry”, and their associated logos are all trademarked, and may only be used with permission. Our current logo use policy includes guidelines on the use of trademarks and details about who to contact for questions about using and/or modifying our logo.

Formal communications should include “The Carpentries” as a proper noun. When describing lesson programs, they should be written as “Library Carpentry”, “Data Carpentry”, and “Software Carpentry”. Although more elaborate guidelines for community use are pending, members should be encouraged to use the same guidelines above, and official, unmodified versions of our logo to express their involvement with The Carpentries in presentations and talks.

c. The Carpentries Audiences

Through different projects and initiatives at The Carpentries, we primarily engage with:

  • Researchers and scientists

  • Technologists - developers at all levels, data scientists, analysts etc.

  • Librarians

  • Academics

A broader analysis of our target audiences, and specific high-level messaging for each one, will live in The Carpentries audience mapping document [currently WIP]. Useful resource: See Democrati.se’s guide to audience mapping.

d. The Carpentries Communications Platforms

Facebook

The Carpentries community members hail from 46 countries. Statistically [1,2], people in nations outside of the United States and Europe primarily use mobile web/applications to engage. Facebook is therefore a great way for them to receive communication and announcements. Recommendations for Facebook include:

  • allowing open contributions on our page, using event tools to publicise community discussions, CarpentryCon and CarpentryConnect events, and

  • using the CarpentryCon 2018 photo as the cover photo.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is primarily used for making professional connections, networking, and job opportunities. It is a good place for us to list Carpentries team members, and cross-post relevant organisation announcements, particularly targeted at potential member organisations. We have an instructors group and an organisation page.

Recommendations for LinkedIn are:

  • remove the two staff not associated with The Carpentries and encourage other team members to list themselves,

  • establish a mechanism for community members to indicate their connection to The Carpentries i.e. through LinkedIn Badges, Tags or Groups.

  • Use the existing LinkedIn group as a place where we could encourage people to post jobs to have a more standardised place for people to look and share.

GitHub

GitHub is a software development platform that The Carpentries employs to host our lessons, communicate about projects, publish our website, and collaborate openly with the community. Each lesson program within The Carpentries has several lessons that are maintained by a group of volunteers we call Maintainers. Issues and pull requests are welcome from community members on all of our lessons, and our Instructor Training curriculum.

In proposing changes to policy, committee structure, and other functions of The Carpentries, The Carpentries uses GitHub issues to collate feedback. Comments remain open for a period of time, and once feedback is collected and incorporated, we close the issue.

As many of our projects involve community members, we recommend the use of GitHub project boards to collaborate openly about projects with the community. One example of a project is the Code of Conduct Guidelines Project.

Subdomains

To allow easy access to key pages on our website, we recommend using our Carpentries GitHub organisation as follows:

  • Move our blog content to a new, stand-alone repository, and

    • set up a subdomain, blog.carpentries.org to make it easier to access our blog

    • aggregate historical blog content from Software, Data and Library carpentry into it (by scripting rather than by scraping)

  • Revive and use our Presentations repository to collate presentation slides about The Carpentries put together by the community and available under a CC-BY license

    • this will also need a dedicated subdomain, for example, presentations.carpentries.org

Gitter

Gitter is mainly used by the Library Carpentry community for sprints. The #libraries Slack channel is now primarily promoted as the preferred everyday communication platform for the Libraries community.

There is also an inactive Data Carpentry Gitter https://gitter.im/data-carpentry/Lobby and Software Carpentry https://gitter.im/swcarpentry/public.

Google Groups

Many of The Carpentries Google Groups are now lists on TopicBox.

Recommendations:

  • Identify lists that are idle and/or have been moved, reach out to the community about decommissioning the groups, and look into archiving past threads and making them available in a way that would be easy to reference in various TopicBox lists.

  • Actively manage remaining private Google groups (which cannot be private in TopicBox

Slack

The Carpentries Slack is used to receive immediate feedback from community members. Channels are driven by community members (e.g. initiatives) and staff (e.g. project related). Due to the primarily community driven approach to Slack, some channels fall idle while others remain active. A comprehensive approach to weeding channels that are idle for greater than one year will be taken. The approach will be communicated to the community and feedback will be solicited on the channels to be weeded before they are delisted.

Welcome channel

There’s a range of meaningful ways to onboard new members to our Slack community that we are open to exploring in Q2 2019, key among them:

  • The welcome bot, such as the one Maneesha Sane integrated into Slack in February 2019, which would prompt newcomers to introduce themselves and plug into the community. This option is the least tasking for The Carpentries team, but also the most impersonal.

  • Personalised messages by one of the team, such as what Erin has done for most of January and February 2019 to help newcomers feel like they belong. This is the most tasking, but by far, the best engagement practice.

    • We suggest taking this path, and adding it as a task for the communications committee (3 times a week) and the Carpentries communications team (twice a week).

    • A sample welcome message would be a variation of the one below: Hello [person] and welcome to The Carpentries Slack channel. Please read our Code of Conduct [link] and feel free to browse our Slack channels, join any that you like and contribute freely. Welcome!

We will also pin this message to the top of the Welcome channel. Welcome new members. Please read our Code of Conduct https://docs.carpentries.org/topic_folders/policies/index_coc.html

TopicBox

Topicbox is used for announcements and richer discussions which, while possible, would be too crowded and unsuited for Slack. It is also a preferred communication channel for members seeking to limit the number of channels they follow.

Since The Carpentries team has been thinking about regional or local TopicBox lists as a way to enrich community interactions by region, the Communications team will develop a strategy to adding and weeding out idle lists and get feedback from the community before delisting.

Discuss is where The Carpentries community comes to amplify their own opportunities, suggestions, and observations. The popularity of discuss is somewhat due to its ease of use as a general all purpose communications channel. Instead of dividing the channel into separate channels such as jobs, announcements, events, etc., we will inform the community to use tags such as [Job], [Announcement], [Event], etc. in the subject of their posts. These instructions/reminders will be:

  • primarily included in the Topicbox “About” section, or

  • where necessary, sent via email reminder to the community every 3 to 6 months. We will scan Discuss for themes for the past 6-12 months to determine if there are additional tags to include.

Twitter

Due to historical timelines, Software Carpentry has the highest number of Twitter followers. Data Carpentry, The Carpentries and Library Carpentry accounts have comparatively lower follower counts. Our current Twitter strategy is:

  • to primarily use The Carpentries account, and run an open campaign to encourage Software Carpentry, Library Carpentry, and Data Carpentry followers to follow our central account.

  • creating 5 - 10 versions of a given message and scheduling them over a 4-8 week timeframe i.e. no more than three tweets on a given subject on any week, prioritising each post for one of the 10 major time zones: Los Angeles (PT) 9am, Denver (MT) 12pm, Chicago (CT) 12pm, New York (ET) 12pm, Paris (CET) 4pm, Cape Town/Helsinki (EET) 8pm, Sydney (AET) 10pm, Hong Kong (HKT) 8am, Tokyo (JPT) 12pm, Shanghai (CT) 9pm.

  • to improve engagement by

    • embedding images and videos to tweets where possible, and providing alternative text for these audio-visuals as described here.

    • reacting to stories from the community by retweeting, liking mentions, and flagging threads for response by specific team members as much as possible, rather than by using the organisation account. Chris Erdmann made a good point about implementing this tactic so as a way to coming across as relatable to our community. This would mean flagging specific tweets for response by the Memberships team, Workshops Administration team, Infrastructure team, Leadership team, etc from team member’s personal accounts.

    • celebrating Carpentries wins by congratulating new Instructors, contributors to our repositories and other community initiatives like the newsletter, etc

    • running several campaigns on our socials in any given week i.e.

      • come to event tweet 1

      • apply for job tweet 1

      • subscribe to YT tweet 1

      • read post by Mark tweet 1

      • come to event tweet 2

      • give us feedback on issue x tweet 1

      • see resource by ally organisation tweet 1

Website and Blog

The Carpentries blog posts allow community and staff members to share announcements with the broader community. Major mechanisms for sharing include the website, Twitter, the newsletter, and Slack. As with lessons, the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license will be extended to all website content, including blog posts.

Recommendations:

  • Employ schema to improve direct traffic to Carpentries blog posts, lessons, workshops, and events.

  • Narrative blog posts from people guided by questions

  • Additionally, we will use Discuss,Slack, Twitter and GitHub conversations as the basis for setting up a community-led communications committee in the last quarter of 2019. Their primary mandate will be:

    • To identify pertinent issues / conversational trends that resonate with several people

    • To help community members draft, edit and publish blog posts to the main Carpentries blog

    To onboard this communications committee, we need:

    • A communications starter kit for The Carpentries.
      This will be a one-pager that links to relevant resources - photos to use, logo repository, our Code of Conduct, blog and blog repo links, etc

      • A checklist to guide the communications committee in identifying relevant topics in community conversations, soliciting posts and guiding the blog post drafting process

      • A list of tasks that are in the communications committee’s scope of work i.e.

        • Implementing meaningful ways to onboard new members to our Slack community that we are open to exploring from Q1 2020

YouTube

YouTube is used primarily to share community discussion and event videos. To reach 100+ subscribers, which will allow The Carpentries to have a custom URL i.e. youtu.be/carpentries, search and discovery of the channel can be improved through the use of engaging keywords, (like data science), and video content/covers. We will continue to point the community to the channel via social media channels like Twitter.

Newsletter

Our current Carpentry Clippings strategy is efficient, A team member (Maneesha) and community volunteer (Malvika) work together to solicit and organise contributions - making sure staff members submit updates, and then writing, formatting, and publishing content from them. Some content curation is also involved i.e. for “Tweet of the Week” and “Toolshed (Posts from our Past)” sections.Going forward we will actively deliberate on what we are sharing via the newsletter and why and determine a strategy for improving our open and click rates, which currently stand at 30-40% and 3-6% respectively.

Zotero and FigShare

We don’t communicate in these places, but they are places where our publications and presentations can be found. We will have a strategy for what content we put in these locations and the metadata to include so that our community can find these resources more easily.

e. Inclusivity in our Communications

All of our communications will include welcoming and inclusive language per the expected behaviours outlined in The Carpentries Code of Conduct (CoC).

A note about our CoC

The Carpentries is dedicated to providing a welcoming and supportive environment for all people, regardless of background or identity. This is true for both our in-person events, virtual events, and all internal and external communications. Everyone who participates in The Carpentries activities is required to conform to the Code of Conduct.

Localisation efforts at The Carpentries

The Carpentries is intent on creating inclusive spaces in which communities from diverse backgrounds can thrive. Contextualising the resources The Carpentries creates is a big part of this. The Community Development team sees it as a positive step toward community growth and sustainability at hyper-local levels that is worth exploring in different ways from April 2019

  1. Translations
  2. Several of our lessons have been translated through the tireless efforts of our community members. A framework to guide community groups interested in translating our lessons into other languages will be prioritised in Q2, 2019.

  3. Message broadcast and communication discussion timings
  4. Our communications plan will include a strategy to broadcast messages via Twitter and multiple other communication means at different times such that our global community is able to engage in discussion threads at times that are convenient for them. Additionally, we strive to offer community discussions during multiple times to fully engage our community members who live all over the world. We invite community members to pose discussion times that are suitable for their locality by completing the call for community discussion facilitators form. For sub-community events (e.g. teaching demonstrations), we provide a platform for community members to schedule their own events and provide Zoom room access for them.

  5. Community Cookbook targeting local The Carpentries communities
  6. The Carpentries Community Cookbook was developed to collect ‘recipes’, or practical tips to aid in creating strong local communities. Contributions to this cookbook are welcome through GitHub issues.