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Software Engineer, the Underlay Project

Published onMar 06, 2020
Software Engineer, the Underlay Project


The Knowledge Futures Group is hiring a software developer to help us build the Underlay, a distributed public knowledge graph. We’re looking for someone with strong full-stack web development skills and an interest in semantic web and decentralized web technologies. You’ll get to work with experimental technologies, make significant contributions to product direction, and help shepherd a research project into the real world. We will pay you competitively with startups, let you work from wherever you want, and take you and your ideas seriously. Join us!

About the Knowledge Futures Group

The Knowledge Futures Group, founded as a partnership between the MIT Press and the MIT Media Lab, is a not-for-profit consortium that builds technology for the production, curation, and preservation of knowledge in service of the public good.

About the Underlay

The Underlay is an attempt to create an accessible distributed public knowledge graph for organizing, sharing, and querying semantic data. We’re drawing on on lessons learned from the Semantic Web, the centralization of data silos, and the privatization of Internet infrastructure to build a more robust knowledge ecosystem for everybody.

The Underlay is built on RDF and IPFS and works like Git: data providers curate Packages of data (analogous to a Git repo) that are published on Registries (analogous to GitHub). Data consumers find and download Packages, or query a Registry directly. Data in Packages can carry rich, granular provenance that queries can use for context-specific credibility filtering. Registries collaborate to resolve compound queries.

About The Role

  • Lead the planning and implementation of the first Underlay registry.

  • Work with the research team to identify and fill in gaps between experimental implementations and production needs.

  • Help to develop and mentor engineers and future developers on the team.

  • Champion best practices internally and externally to the open-source development community.

About You

  • You’re an experienced full-stack Web developer with an interest in connecting the world’s knowledge.

  • You’re familiar with semantic web and decentralized web technologies, or excited to learn about them.

  • You have experience implementing experimental technologies in production environments.

  • You’re comfortable designing medium-scale Web applications from the ground up. We use React, Node.js, Go, Postgres, and Heroku for our other projects, but are open to other tech stacks as well.

  • You have a solid grounding in what makes a backend secure, performant, and maintainable, and what makes a frontend snappy, intuitive, and accessible.

  • You want to work on a team that respects your ideas about the design, user experience, and ethics of software, not just the code you produce.

  • You want to build tools that empower people without preying on them.

Working With Us

  • Work with a distributed team: we have a small office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but the majority of the KFG team works from elsewhere. You’ll be expected to make a few monthly trips to Cambridge, and then come roughly quarterly after that.

  • Enjoy industry-standard perks: unlimited PTO with a yearly minimum, your own computer of choice, a comfortable office in the heart of Kendall Square – and the ability to work fully remotely.

  • Contribute to our larger mission at the Knowledge Futures Group: we’re building a future where the infrastructure to create and access knowledge is controlled by people who serve the public interest, starting with core projects like PubPub and the Underlay. As a KFG team member, you’ll be able to contribute to those efforts as well, and we’ll support any ambitions you have to publish in our journal, the Commonplace, and beyond.


If you’re interested, please send us an email with a resume or CV and brief cover letter and we’ll be in touch!

We welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds with diverse skillsets. If you have significant personal experience or engagement with low-income communities, international communities, or fields and languages that are underrepresented in academia, scholarly publishing, or open data, we strongly encourage you to apply. This job description is intended to be a guidepost, not a checklist. If you feel like you could do a great job in this role, even if you don’t exactly meet every qualification, please consider applying.


You must be legally authorized to work in the United States to apply for this role.


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