Category Archives: Workplace

The Work-Place, or, Catching a Catfish Online

I will be offline for a couple of days so I will not be able to post at my usual frantic pace. Instead, I decided to write something that will take you a couple of days to read through: a very long, meandering post, full of personal anecdotes. But there is a common theme throughout and I hope you see where I’m going with it and what conclusions I want you to draw from it.
Pigeons, crows, rats and cockroaches
I was born and grew up in a big, dirty city and I am not going back (my ex-Yugoslav readers have probably already recognized the reference to the good old song Back to the Big, Dirty City by my namesake Bora Djordjevic of the uber-popular Fish Soup band). I spent the first 25 years of my life in Belgrade, population 2 million. No, I did not feel uncomfortable there. I knew every nook and cranny of the city. I walked around town most of the time, even if that meant two hours at a brisk pace in the middle of the night from the northernmost part of Zemun all the way home south of center.
And I still think that it is a great city – a wild mosaic of architecture from Roman and Ottoman times, through the Austro-Hungarian time, the pre-WWII Serbian and early Yugoslav kingdom era and the Tito communist period, to the Milosevic decade and Wes Clark’s enriched uranium. Steeped in history, yet not trying to live in it. Some cities try to keep looking the same the way they did a century or two ago when they were at the hight of their influence. Stratford-upon-Avon keeps trying to look as if Shakespeare is still living there. Not Belgrade. Far too confident in its 11 centuries of history to care about anything but youth and future. It can be dizzying walking around – there may be an old mosque from the times of Turkish occupation embedded into the remains of the Roman fortress, looking down the street of houses built in Austro-Hungarian style in one direction, in soc-realist style in another direction and overlooked by a huge green-glass modern hotel. There is great art and the ugliest kitch standing side-by-side, European hyper-intellectuals walking side-by-side with peasants, bookstores sinking under the weight of philosophy books and Gypsies collecting scrap metal – and all equally poor.
But it hurts one’s throat to arrive in Belgrade (at least it did in 1995, the last time I went to visit, when my father was still alive). Clean air is not the first priority when the retirees are waiting for months to get their pensions. That is why I escaped whenever I could – summers in our small weekend house at the base of the Mt.Avala just about 20 minutes south of Belgrade when I was a little kid, a couple of weeks at the Adriatic coast every summer when I was little before that became too expensive, teenage years spent on the Danube river in Eastern Serbia in the village my father grew up in, and many years, day after day, at the Belgrade racecourse and the surrounding woods.
Back in 1989 or so, the rats at the racecourse got really numerous and big. Ten-pounders, some of them, I bet. They were not afraid to walk around in the middle of the day. They chased, caught, killed and ate our barn cats. Our terriers were afraid to approach the feed-rooms. We forbade the kids from going to get horse feed. Even we adults banged on the doors before going in. But gradually, we moved all the grain into bins and barrells, plugged all holes, reinforced the walls, and kept the floors as clean as possible. There was just not enough food around any more to sustain such a huge population. As it always goes, after a boom, there is a bust. The rat population collapsed and dissappeared as suddenly as it initially appeared.
I grew up in a small appartment on the 7th floor. My school (K-12) was a walking distance from home. I took a bus to school anyway, being an owl and a late riser, but I had plenty of time to walk home after classes and stop by various food establishments, or parks, or the Natural History Museum, or the library, or stealing cherries and appricots from trees along the route…

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I Want This Job!

It has ‘Coturnix’ written all over it, don’t you think? I am even wearing my PLoS t-shirt right now as I am typing this!
But, why is it necessary to move to San Francisco? My wife is terrified of earthquakes and CA is one state she always said she would never move to.
Looking at the job description, everything can be easily done sitting in my pajamas here in Chapel Hill, or on a submarine, or on the Moon. It’s all online:

PLoS ONE Online Community Manager
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit advocacy and publishing organization located in the China Basin area of San Francisco, California. We publish a growing collection of Open Access scientific and medical journals whose complete contents are freely available online. Our long-term goals are to create an online “public library of science” containing every scientific and medical paper ever published, and to develop the information technologies needed to maximize the value of this resource. For more information about PLoS, visit
Job Description
PLoS ONE is a high volume, efficient and economical system for the publication of peer-reviewed research in all areas of science and medicine. But what makes PLoS ONE really different happens after publication – users are able to annotate, comment on, and rate articles. To facilitate and moderate this post-publication interaction, we’re looking for someone with a scientific background to help guide PLoS ONE through high growth, gather feedback from the online community and keep discussions on topic.
You will be responsible for managing the PLoS ONE user community, monitoring the discussion threads, expanding membership and organically growing the site based on community feedback. PLoS ONE will be adding new technology to foster relationship-building throughout the year and you will help shape this technology. You will also work with focus groups and external communities to gather feedback and promote PLoS ONE.
This should not be your first role with an online community. We would like a couple of years experience working directly within an online community, preferably with an online scientific community.
This is a full-time, permanent position available immediately at our San Francisco office, and we are looking to fill it as soon as possible. Our salaries are competitive for nonprofit organizations, but less than comparable salaries in the corporate environments. Compensation is dependent on qualifications. PLoS offers a benefits package which includes vacation, 401(k), health, vision and dental coverage.
The responsibilities of the Online Community Manager include, but are not limited, to the following:
* Field questions from the online community.
* Work to grow the number of participants and activity on the site.
* Moderate the discussions threads and forums (which will be scientific in nature).
* Help keep the online community free of spam and on topic.
* Create and implement specific policies to guide positive growth in the online community.
* Identify problems and create solutions to social and technical problems in the forums.
* Translate online community requirements into business opportunities.
* Work with marketing team to develop e-marketing campaigns specific to the online community.
* Communicate technical issues to the web team and advise the online community on issues.
* Use an in-house Content Management System to update the website.
* Perform statistical analysis using web logs.
* Upload files to Unix servers using standard and secure FTP programs.
* Carry out other technical and site administration duties as required.
Knowledge Skills and Abilities
* 2-5 years of “hands on” professional experience with moderation and management of online communities, specifically online scientific communities. Compulsive participation a plus.
* Strong understanding of online communities, blogging and current online culture.
* A broad understanding of and enthusiasm for science.
* Strong verbal and written communication skills for monitoring online communication.
* Must work well with others; be willing and able to support end users in a constructive manner.
* Understanding, experience and comfort with Open Source technology.
* Proven ability to effectively analyze and communicate complicated technical and social issues to a management team.
* Good judgment and the ability to handle multiple conflicting goals without active supervision.
* Sense of humor and the ability to handle screaming masses of highly opinionated scientists without going insane.
* A passion for and an understanding of how to leverage Web 2.0 tools for social change.
* Must be passionate about working with the scientific community.
* Excellent analytical and problem solving skills.
* BA Degree or equivalent experience.
Application Procedure
If interested please send resume and cover letter to and use the job title as the subject of your email. No phone calls or visits, please. Principals only – email from recruiters will be ignored.

If there is any aspect of this job that you think I am unsuited for, let me know. If there is another person who you think would be a great candidate for this, let that person know.
Update: Actually, a total move to SF is not out of question (now that we discussed this at home). Still, SF is the most expensive city to live in (so people are leaving for the sub/ex-urbs and adding to the rush-hour traffic even more). I was thinking I could start out in SF for a month or two, then work from here and just go to SF when needed.