The David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation was founded in 2012 and is a joint effort between Stanford's School of Engineering and Columbia Journalism School (CJS). Each year, the Brown Institute awards close to $1M in grants and fellowships to foster new tools and modes of expression, and to create stories that escape the bounds of page and screen. We are committed to radical experimentation with the potential to define new priorities and practices for both engineering and journalism.
In that spirit, the Brown Institute at CJS is overseeing a newly-funded Local News Initiative. As the first of a number of anticipated projects under this umbrella, the Senior Software Engineer will help develop an open source "smart" paywall that deploys Machine Learning (ML) to go beyond one-size-fits-all approaches to audience engagement.
Our approach will involve experimentation both with the type of actions open to the paywall, as well as the set of reader-level data used to formulate ML-based optimizations, estimating the probability of a reader subscribing in response to one of the actions. The actual ML scheme employed, complete with training data, also requires thought - for example, making sure that our choices are ethical, providing predictions that are explainable to editor and reader alike.
This is an externally funded position, with its continuation contingent on the availability of funding and performance.
The development of the "smarter" smart paywall is funded for 1.5 years initially and will create 1) a platform that applies ML to the basic metering operation of a traditional paywall by adapting how many pages a reader sees before the paywall engages, 2) up to two more forms of reader engagement, with operations that are also optimized via ML and dynamic experimentation, and 3) a user interface for scripting paywall actions and engaging with the ML application - this includes collecting data, performing experiments and eventually launching at scale. All code will be Open Source and there will be options for easy deployment via APIs and custom machine instances.
Oversee the daily operation of and overall planning for the project team, consisting of developers, a designer, and graduate students in the computational or data sciences.. Work with the Brown Institute Director, the Advisory Board, and the team's community manager to specify the functionality of the overall paywall system, and assess the range of IT infrastructures in newsrooms on top of which the product needs to function.
Create the project's formal specifications, and set technical milestones, together with the full development team. Assign specific tasks to the project's development team, supervise individual developers, and explicitly track team progress.
Identify collaboration opportunities with possibly existing development efforts in the same paywall "space" - the goal of this project is to add to an ecosystem, not duplicate effort.
This is an externally funded position, contingent on performance and the continued availability of funding.
Experience: 7+ years experience managing complex software projects and knowledge of basic product design strategies. Basic knowledge of machine learning and modern experimentation strategies like A/B testing and multi-arm bandits. Familiarity with applications of ML and their integration into larger software systems.
Experience supervising a small team of developers, assigning tasks and tracking progress.
Experience overseeing complex software development projects, and be familiar with basic design processes to elicit product requirements from a user community.
While experience in product design and implementation is important, familiarity with the news industry is desirable but not required. Experience with software for newsrooms is desirable but not required.
Equal Opportunity Employer / Disability / Veteran
Columbia University is committed to the hiring of qualified local residents.
Internal Number: 505414
About Columbia University
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