Knowledge Futures Group
The Knowledge Futures Group builds technology for the production, curation, and preservation of knowledge in service of the public good.
ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE IS POWER 📚
Public knowledge is the information we collectively generate and use to navigate life. It’s our neighborhood maps; it’s our legal codes; it’s the recorded precedents, facts, and findings that inform our futures and color our pasts. Those who don’t have access to it have less agency over their lives than those who do. We fundamentally believe that public knowledge must be a public good. We find ourselves at a time when public knowledge is not serving the public good at several scales.
KFG currently builds 3 core products. These products are designed to function as long-lived, open infrastructure. It is critical for each to find and enact an independently sustainable business model:
An open-source publishing platform for open access content. It gives publishing communities of all stripes and sizes an affordable, collaborative, and nonprofit alternative to existing models and tools. PubPub supports dozens of peer-reviewed scholarly journals and books from not-for-profit university and society-based publishers, to over a thousand communities created and maintained by individual scholars and academic departments.
The Underlay 🚀
A distributed knowledge graph that uses the Assertion Protocol to structure, store, and distribute graph data. Infrastructure and policy are increasingly being driven by rich machine-readable knowledge bases, but the most prolific ones are privately run black boxes. The Underlay is an open version of such a knowledge graph for public knowledge. It supports an ecosystem where knowledge is connected by distributed, open-source protocols anchored in registries tailored to the needs of their communities.
The Commonplace 🚀
A publication that brings together mission-aligned individuals, institutions, and organizations to discuss the many social implications of knowledge infrastructure that undergird our modern modes of information sharing and communication. Through this process, we can pinpoint emergent practices and technologies that support new ways of thinking that benefit everyone.
WE ALWAYS REFER TO OUR VALUES 🖋
Accessibility: We believe that just because knowledge is available doesn’t mean it’s truly accessible. We put ourselves in others’ positions to understand the barriers that prevent knowledge from being truly accessible to diverse groups around the world.
Conscientiousness: We value honesty and good-faith efforts to fulfill our duties and obligations as highly as success in its own right.
Curiosity: We approach challenges with an honest, experimental, problem-solving mindset. We bring an intellectual curiosity that explores problem spaces with openness and intrigue in ways that lead to important new ideas.
Egalitarianism: We acknowledge that all people deserve equality and fairness regardless of the individual circumstances of their life. We recognize that teams, especially distributed ones, are made of people who bring different perspectives, opportunities, and cultures that add to the strength of the team.
Systemic outlook: We prioritize solutions that tackle problems in systemic ways rather than iterating solely at the margins. We think systematically when we approach problems, rather than solely thinking locally.
Sustainability: We value solutions that are sustainable and durable for the long-term, even if they’re more difficult, over ones that are more expedient but less sustainable.
These values serve as the backstop for all of the work we do, from hiring to product development to day-to-day interpersonal relationships. When processes (inevitably) fall apart, return here to help move forward effectively and respectfully.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION IN OUR ORGANIZATION 🌎
It is very common for technologists to want to "make the world a better place" based on their perspective and experience alone, and end up inventing new and more byzantine systems of oppression and extraction. The best solution to this problem is diverse teams applying varied experience and knowledge towards building products that are actually useful and minimize unintended harm.
Diverse teams often create better workplaces; assuming their members are given space and authority to disagree productively, they tend to make decisions and set policies that work for the greatest number of people, avoiding toxic monocultures and cults of personality that are very common in the tech world.
The Knowledge Futures Group does not make hiring decisions before sourcing a finalist pool with sufficient racial and gender diversity. We likewise refuse to sponsor, promote, or participate in panels and discussions with insufficiently diverse participants. We dedicate time to assist in the production and promotion of Black scholarship on our content platform, PubPub. All of these policies are documented in our handbook, and we dedicate regular time for the team to discuss our own policies and actions.
Equity is fairness with context. It is accounting for individual traits and needs without glorifying individualism; it is understanding that what the scale says is meaningless without knowing who has their thumb on it, or how it was designed in the first place. It’s the lens through which to look when designing systems that are serious about meeting people’s needs.
The Knowledge Futures Group exists to build more equitable tools for producing and sharing information. But we understand that the problems we want to address in publishing and academia are variations on the same basic inequities found everywhere else, and we do not expect to make meaningful change without addressing those inequities as a whole. That starts with our team.
We hire with the expectation of adapting to new team members rather than expecting them to conform to our current shape. We set definitions of productivity and success that prioritize psychological safety and account for a wide range of communication and work styles. We aim to ensure to that everyone has what they, individually, need to be comfortable and satisfied in their work.
Inclusivity is actively and intentionally seeking out a wide range of people to help address a problem — particularly those who have been intentionally excluded in the past, or who will be affected by what you do. Inclusive teams do not just bring people into the room, or just let them speak; they aim to see everyone’s fingerprints on the work they produce, despite the inevitability of disagreement and compromise. They also examine others’ work this way, assessing who was included in its creation, and how that may affect its value.
The KFG aims for this kind of inclusivity when planning events, growing the team, and considering whose work to include in Commonplace and how we amplify content on PubPub in general. Within our team, we aim for inclusive decision-making by extending invitations without obligation to planning and design meetings, and by making the records of these meeting public to the team (and in some cases, to the wider world). We are still quite small, but we know the sense of inclusivity that comes naturally in groups of three or four does not generally scale to larger teams without attention and intention. We intend to address this head-on, and if you have ideas about how to do that, they will be valued and rewarded on our team.
SAFETY, CARE & INTENTION 🙏🏼
First and foremost, we take hiring extremely seriously, and put a lot of effort into hiring for people who align with our values. To that end, we maintain a public handbook, which includes our values and code of conduct with clear and transparent guidelines and conflict resolution steps. We ask all applicants to read the handbook before accepting an offer with us, and every employee is expected to read and agree to the handbook as part of onboarding.
But we acknowledge that intentions and values are not enough. To make sure we live our values, we train managers to act as problem-solvers and un-blockers for their reports. Every employee has a weekly 1-on-1 with their manager where they can bring up any issues and expect their manager to work through strategies to help address them.
On the team level, we host bi-weekly companywide DEI meeting where we discuss and implement specific actions we as a company can take both internally and externally to make our company safe and welcoming to employees of all backgrounds. Many of the ideas from these discussions have been added to our companywide
LEADERSHIP SUPPORT 🤲🏽
We pride ourselves on fostering an everyday culture that supports employee health and happiness. We discuss work expectations openly with all new employees, and managers check in on those expectations periodically throughout the year. We acknowledge that there is very little in our work that is of an emergency nature, and that if we hire well, our tendency will be to over-, rather than under-work. Thus, we spend time — both in group settings and one-on-one between employees and managers — emphasizing the need and ability to take breaks and create healthy routines and workflows.
In addition to our handbook, management philosophy and practice, which guide our everyday support of employee health and happiness, each year we conduct a team-wide workshop specifically focused on how we work. Many policies, like adding additional monthly holidays and creating affinity Slack channels, have come out of these workshops.
CREATING ACCESS & OPPORTUNITY ON OUR TEAMS 🏄🏽♂️
Our mission to make knowledge — which includes creation and consumption — more accessible demands that we center underrepresented voices. We believe that equitable technology cannot be developed in any other way.
We have taken the basic steps of implementing hiring and conference attendances policies and joining diversity efforts in our industries, like the Coalition for Diversity & Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC). We are also dedicating resources and time to make sure that not only our team, but the communities we serve, come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Many of these ideas have come from our regular DEI discussions. Specifically, we reserve space on our product roadmaps every quarter for building features that serve underrepresented communities, and reserve pro-bono hours from our content production team for the same purpose.
We're far from perfect, but our hope is that as we start to divert resources towards these communities, they will become a larger part of the communities we serve, which will make it natural to co-develop our products with them, and so on, in a virtuous circle.
INTERVIEW PROCESS ♟
- Trait-based initial screening interview with our Head of Product focused (30 minutes)
- Technical interview with one of our Senior Engineers, where you either review some of our source code with, or you bring a project of your own and we review it (1 hour)
- Values alignment interview with our Executive Director (30 minutes)
- Industry interest interview with our Content team (30 minutes)
. A strictly enforced minimum of 3 weeks of PTO per year, with no cap on days off after that
. Unlimited sick days (that people actually use)
. Typical federal holiday calendar, plus an extra day off in March and August, which don't have federal holidays
. Full health benefits, including dental, with company paying for all or most of the cost depending on the plan selected
. 401K plan with 3% matching
. A computer of your choice, if you need one
. A $750 remote office stipend to help you get the most out of remote work