2011 Second Board Candidate Chat Follow-Up Five

The second 2011 Board candidate chat ended with questions pending — both those submitted live by chat attendees, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions were delivered in batches to the candidates following the close of the chat, and they were asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses could be publicly posted. Responses are posted in the order that they were received by the OTW Elections officer.

Fifth batch: Questions submitted to candidates at 16:05/4:05pm UTC 1 November 2011; answers due before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 2 November 2011.

One:

What do you see as the role of the Board in soliciting user, member, staff and volunteer feedback? How will you prioritize this during your term as a Board Member?

Lucy Pearson

I feel that a lot of feedback should come to the Board via the committees, so it feeds up from the individual projects and their users to the Board. This is an effective means of helping give Board a focus and ensuring that committees can get stuff done on the ground – oftentimes feedback about a project can best be acted on by the volunteers and staffers who work on that specific project. However, I think it is also important to have a more direct way for the Board to get feedback about some issues, as I think the work of the Board can often feel rather remote, especially to volunteers and members who never work directly with Board members. So, I’d like to explore ways of opening up the channel between Board and all OTW stakeholders – I think that one good way of doing this would be the regular Board news posts which I would like to institute. I’ve found with the AD&T posts that they encourage people to ask questions and bring ideas: I think if Board talked more in public about what we were working on, people would be encouraged to give their thoughts and feedback.

I’d also like to explore ways of soliciting feedback for specific projects – often feedback is tricky because if you ask general questions (or a lot of questions) you get a whole lot of feedback which you don’t wind up acting on. So, I’m wary of broad-brush feedback/information gathering, but I think it can be very effective to say ‘here is the specific discussion we’re having and we have these possible courses of action’ and allow people to weigh in directly – that way you get feedback you can use and which people can see you have used.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

Some of this is already the job of other committees, and in those cases, the job of the board is to support them as needed and then keep out of the way, and also listen openly to what they find. For example, Volunteers & Recruiting committee now does a yearly survey of all staff and volunteers, including confidential feedback, Internationalization & Outreach committee is putting the finishing touches to a public survey, Fanlore and the AO3 regularly ask for user comments on their news posts, Journal have space for comments on their articles, Support and Abuse do a great job handling AO3 feedback, and Development & Membership and Webmasters and Communications get a ton of feedback via various channels. I think the Board’s role is looking at the bigger picture, taking input from all these sources and organising the strategic planning process. I’d prioritise it by making sure that the strategic planning gets all the Board support it needs, and incorporates all that feedback. I’d also consider how we can use all of this more efficiently, so that no feedback falls through a gap and gets ignored, so people can give feedback in a way that suits them, and so we don’t have too much extra work to collate feedback from more sources than necessary.

(I’ve mentioned strategic planning in other places – for those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s the term in non-profits for getting input from all stakeholders – the people mentioned in the question – on broad initiatives and goals, and then turning that with the help of the board into a plan for the next 3-5 years which can be agreed and posted publicly.)

Betsy Rosenblatt

I see soliciting feedback—either directly or indirectly, through committee-based surveys, site use analysis, or other tools—as an important responsibility of the Board, and I see that responsibility as having, in the most general sense, three aspects. The first is solicitation of internal feedback from volunteers and staffers, to maintain an open working relationship between the Board and the committees. The second is solicitation of feedback from users and members, to stay aware of the ways in which the organization as a whole is serving these constituencies and how it can improve. The third, which may seem elementary but is essential, is listening to the feedback and making decisions based on it.

Nikisha Sanders

This is a tricky question because I see it two ways. I think the board as a whole absolutely *must* seek input from users, members, staff, and volunteers in making decisions, and has a responsibility to ask for and respond to both positive and negative feedback given directly to the board. However, there are times when it isn’t appropriate for the board to have a hand in the process of gathering or responding to feedback because it’s better delegated to a given committee. The role of the board in this second instance is to back up the committee and allow the committee members or chair to take the lead.

As for how I will prioritize soliciting feedback, I think keeping lines of communication open between myself and the committee(s) to which I serve as liaison will be a hugely important factor. I intend to do that with a regularly scheduled check in over email, IM or phone as is preferred and possible, with the committee chair, and I also would like to be able to attend committee meetings as an observer if the committee is open to it so the committee chair isn’t my sole point of contact.

In reaching other parts of the org, I plan to make it clear from the beginning of my service as a board member that I, personally, welcome feedback and want to be in conversation with people about OTW. I’ve tried to do that throughout the election process so far, by the means mentioned above and by engaging in relevant comment threads, as well as by opening a post on my journals for people to ask questions and leave comments.

I think the board as a whole will have to take a proactive stance in making users, members, staff, and volunteers aware of what issues we’re handling and when. Publicly posting agendas before meetings and notes after the meetings, both with an appointed contact person for that meeting date, would be one step in doing so.

Julia Beck
Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011; added to post 4:22pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Simply put, two aspects: one is to open more avenues for conversation about the OTW, and make it easier to find them. There has already been excellent conversation about both; for example, there is a lot of conversation in private journals, but journals tend to be hard-to-find bubbles of friends (and for finding linkspams, you need to be *in* the journalsphere already). A relatively simple first step could be a opt-in directory of OTW staffers’ journals; and a bigger might be centralized external forums that provide a more level, less top-down discussion space. (To go all meta, let’s have feedback about that! What would make you more willing to talk to us?)

The second aspect is to change our communication style (both internal and external) to be more open and honest, while remaining respectful. We can implement all the avenues in the world for our members and users to talk to us; if you don’t feel you can be candid and that we will listen, you won’t use them. There is a perception that the only mode of communication we accept is squee, and while I understand and, to a degree, defend the up-beat tone of most OTW communication, it’s setting a tone barrier for feedback. Not productive.

(One thing I feel we’re already doing well is feedback rounds for in-progress projects. I loved the way the Fanlore committee solicited several rounds of heavy feedback instead of implementing their new category scheme straight away. Massive kudos to them — I know it was extremely exhausting for the committee, but worth it, and worth emulating.)

Internally, I helped advocate for internal forums and do hang out there when I can, and while I understand that not everyone can or wants to interact there (completely optional space!), I’ve been thrilled (and, admittedly, gratified) to see interesting and productive conversations between volunteers and staff that couldn’t have happened elswhere. I hope we’ll change the org-wide meeting to a more open, discussion-centered format soon.

How I’ll prioritize both aspects: by lobbying inside Board and among committees, recruiting communications-related personnel, putting in the work (draw up proposals, form work groups etc.) and by trying to lead by example. I’ve written a couple of “that thing you did was not okay, here’s why, can we talk?” emails internally, and while it was hugely, hugely stressful to do so, I really hope I can encourage people to talk to each other directly more, so that this sort of candid feedback becomes normalized (and you don’t need to be a 2+ years chair or Board
candidate to dare write them).

I understand feedback as growing out of conversation. I want us to have more, and more honest conversations both internally and externally, and I hope my ideas will help us have them.

Naomi Novik
Response received at 11:59pm UTC 3 November 2011; added to post 2:46am UTC 3 November 2011.

I’m increasingly trying to think of specific practical answers to these questions, so here is an idea: put together an OTW Board suggestion/feedback box and set aside ten minutes of every Board meeting right at the beginning to go through however many of the messages we can. For any message that invites action, decide quickly: no at least for now, need to consider more at length (add it to agenda for next Board meeting), or yes absolutely to be sent along to relevant committee.

If we respond to each such message and share this suggestion form on each blog post, I think it would really encourage a lot of creative feedback.

Two:

Julia and Jenny both mention sustainability as one of their priorities for the Board in their candidate statements, and I’ve seen the term also mentioned in other discussions of the election by both members and staff. My question for all the candidates is what do you see as the biggest challenge to sustainability within the OTW, and how will you work towards ensuring a sustainable future for the org during your time on the Board.

Lucy Pearson

One big challenge is that as a volunteer org, we can’t always easily recruit for specific skillsets. If someone suddenly leaves (which is quite likely if their day-to-day life suddenly alters in some way), you can’t guarantee that you will be able to replace them; more importantly, there’s no way of guaranteeing that someone who is awesome at the job they do will also be awesome at training someone else to do it. (This is all true for any org, of course, but extra true when people are volunteers and there’s no possibility of buying in expertise.) So, there’s the threat of someone leaving and their tasks being undone, or someone else taking on way too much to fill the gap.

I think the Board can help work for sustainability by working with committees to identify opportunities for training and mentoring. I’d like for as many people as possible to work on the basis that part of their job is training a potential successor (albeit we have to recognise there are some people for whom this model does not work). Maybe there is someone who’s not an expert at a task, but is good at teaching other people the basics and knows how to find good information. Sometimes committees just need a helping hand to see that there is a gap, perhaps because someone who was active is now less active, and once they’ve recognised that they can train and support someone to fill the gap.

The other thing Board can to is help to maintain flexibility. Sometimes a project has to be delayed or altered to fit our resources at the time – that’s not a fail, but a pragmatic decision. Sometimes a committee or an individual needs particular provisions to enable them to meet their goals, and Board can help support that flexible way of working. Reminding people that processes aren’t set in stone and that they can come up with new ideas really helps sustain the org and stops it collapsing in on itself with a mass of outdated procedures.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

Like many organisations, we have a lot of people who are very good at their jobs and don’t tend to delegate much. Of course, we also have people who are good at delegating. I think the biggest challenge is to have more of the OTW culture be about the job that needs to be done, not the person doing it, so that it can be passed on to someone else if the original person needs a break, and so that others can learn. Every person brings different things to a role, but it’s helpful to recognise when someone is doing two jobs at once, and actually that could be done by two different people in the future if we needed, or indeed when two different jobs would be more efficient if they were done by the same person. This will set us up much better for the long term.

I’ll work towards it both by demonstrating good practice in my own work, and in encouraging others to do the same. I’ll also support Volunteers & Recruiting committee in the training they run, and all the committees I liaise with in making sure that staff can move around roles if they want to.

Betsy Rosenblatt

The biggest challenge I see to sustainability within the OTW is that the OTW has a lot of moving parts, and each part requires a lot of work and attention to run smoothly. Making those parts run is a labor of love for many, but even a labor of love can start to feel like toil if it’s too demanding or under-recognized. I plan to work toward sustainability by promoting retention and programs that do not require constant attention to continue operating.

Re: Retention- Naturally, people will come and go from any organization, but I see one key to sustainability as maintaining a steady core of staffers and volunteers as much as possible. The more happy people stay with the organization, the more institutional memory it retains, and the more smoothly it runs. Each committee will know best how to manage its workload, but I see the role of the Board as setting priorities and facilitating that management in a way that doesn’t overburden workers or push them away. This requires vigilance in maintaining a manageable workload for staffers and volunteers (and proposing adjustments to staff size and project priority as necessary to maintain these things); and public recognition of the hard work and accomplishment of the scores of staffers and volunteers that make the organization function.

Re: program supervision- One key to sustainability of any organization is creating frameworks that allow projects to continue without constant attention. This doesn’t mean that any of the organization’s projects can or should be ignored—quite the opposite—but in the best world, we can focus our energy on improving our offerings, rather than maintaining them. I think some of our programs do that very well already, but I’d like to take a good look at how we can improve in making our programs “run themselves” so we can offer as much as possible without the need for an even larger battalion of volunteers.

Nikisha Sanders

The biggest challenge to sustainability I see is time. First, there’s relative time, meaning that we are a young organization in the grand scheme of advocacy organizations and fan-run projects. However, we function nearly entirely online, and internet time works differently than regular time. Everything is more immediate in a virtual environment, and situations can completely reverse course in the time it takes to grab a cup of coffee from the kitchen. I think we sometimes struggle to balance those two pieces; the speed at which we need to get things done to keep up with an online membership base and the speed at which we as an organization, with certain policies and regulations we must follow, can reasonably move.

Secondly, there’s personal time. No one in OTW gets paid for the work we’re doing, which means most of us have jobs or school to attend to. Some people have children and/or partners at home or other family obligations, others have illnesses that limit the organizational work they can do in a day, and we all have plain old bad days from time to time. All of those things impact our ability to work on OTW projects. They also cut down the time we have to mentor other people in the organization, and when combined with the relative internet time, it makes the work of keeping OTW going from day to day a pretty large task.

The single biggest thing I can think to do individually is to be realistic in what I set out to accomplish in comparison to the time I have, and to encourage and enable others to do the same. We also have to be willing and able to make time to take a good, hard look at where we are in our work for OTW and where we want to be in the future. As an organization, I think we have to do the same things on a bigger scale; recognize where we are, identify where we want to go, and be honest with ourselves about how long or short a time it may take to get there.

I’ve already been working toward those goals by having conversations with board, staff, volunteers and members about their current involvement and what they would like to see themselves and the organization doing in the next few years. I’ve indicated in other answers that I intend to continue those conversations and, hopefully, introduce a more formalized space for committee chairs to engage similar dialogue. It’s a priority for me to keep building connections on an individual basis and to be able to make introductions between people who have shared interests in areas of OTW work so no one has to take on a project in isolation and so no idea is discarded based solely on a fear of a lack of support.

I also understand that Internationalization & Outreach is working on a survey that will give us a better idea of what interests and ideas there are about the future of OTW, and I have already had several conversations with Julia about how those results can form the foundation for a strategic plan for the organization. The strategic plan itself would serve as a road map for the next several years, identifying organizational goals and objectives from every committee with input from current and past members, staff, volunteers, board members, and those actively engaging our projects like TWC and AO3. Having a clear and fully articulated idea of where we’re going will let us better set priorities and make use of the time and volunteers we have, and hopefully minimize the amount of burn out people experience. I am completely committed to seeing this happen during my time on the board, or to, at the very least, have the process well underway.

Julia Beck
Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011; added to post 4:22pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Hmmm, the single biggest challenge. It depends on the project, honestly, so I need to pick two interconnected challenges: the first is making our potential volunteer pool larger, that is, getting the word out about the OTW to communities who are skeptical about OTW, or don’t know us at all yet (i.e., communication & outreach). The second is making the OTW the sort of environment where people stay, not leave in frustration because they run into invisible barriers, or get tangled up in up in opaque structures. I talked about outreach in the first batch of questions (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/2011-second-board-candidate-chat-follow-one) and to my answer re. feedback above, because I honestly believe that communication is key here (both talking to the public, and for volunteers talking amongst themselves).

Naomi Novik
Response received at 11:59pm UTC 3 November 2011; added to post 2:46am UTC 3 November 2011.

I think the biggest challenge to our sustainability (though one I am confident we can meet) right now is that the archive is growing really fast. Our colocation bill is already $800 a month and our awesome new servers that we bought last year are already getting lonely and looking around for company, which is also going to drive up the monthly fee. Our coders, support, testers, and wranglers team is facing more and more demand. And the danger is, we outgrow our resources and we don’t raise enough money and recruit enough help to keep things running smoothly, and get into a crisis mode where we don’t have enough time or money or help to do the broader coding work that’s needed to address problems fundamentally, and instead are constantly playing catch-up and jumping from one disaster to the next.

What we really need to do is marshal the Archive user base. If you’re reading this, you know about the OTW and get that the OTW funds the Archive, and so if you care about the archive you care about the org. But most AO3 users don’t even know the name OTW for the most part. We’ve been more focused on making the archive awesome than tooting our own horn 🙂 and I think that’s been the right priority and what we needed to do for people to get — because a lot of people initially didn’t — that THIS is what we’re doing. We’re not trying to take over fandom, we’re building really awesome stuff! For you! and you! and you! And the success of the archive means we’ve done a good job.

But now we need to:

– get up clear and obvious fundraising and volunteering links and get the banner that is in the works up for our next fundraising drive;

– let people know from the moment they are invited that this is funded by fans like them and we really need support for the archive to continue to thrive;

– get the Support board up to distribute the work of our beleaguered support team, and to be a pipeline into support, wrangling, testing, and coding.

And from there we have to get creative. AO3-themed swag may be a good thing for us to get into as a complement to the OTW membership drive swag? But those are the really obvious and clear ones.

Three:

Many candidates are talking about transparency and the need for better communication. I am a casual user of the AO3 and have no idea what these buzzwords mean in a ‘real world’ context, why they’re important to someone like me, and what the candidates are actually planning to change.

Lucy Pearson

Essentially, I want people at all levels to have more idea about what the org is doing, and I want them to have the chance to comment on that. To take the AO3 as an example – I think it is very useful for people to know what we are working on, why some features are built and some fixes are made, but others aren’t, and how we make those decisions. If I were an AO3 user donating money to the OTW, it would be important to me to know that, for example, our recent bout of 502 errors was due to problems configuring the servers and the database and not, say, because a rogue committee member spent the money for new servers on currant buns! Likewise, if I were a tag wrangler it would be important to me to know that coders were working on a new tag feature, because it might have implications for what I was doing. I know that day-to-day, many people don’t want to read all the details of what the whole org does – they might have more interest in one specific project, but not be too fussed about the others. However, it’s important that if they do have questions, that information is there for them to find, or there is a clear way for them to ask the question.

My one big thing I want to do towards this is to do regular public posts about what the Board is up to, so that members can see what these people they voted for are actually doing, and to encourage and support committees to talk more in public about what they do. I think this is a pretty huge project, actually – I’ve put a lot of work into developing Archive communications and we still don’t cover everything I’d like – but I think it will be useful for everyone. And also, it’s fun! Transparency isn’t (or shouldn’t be) some onerous duty – a lot of the time it’s a sheer joy to be able to talk publicly about what awesome things are going on!

Jenny Scott-Thompson

It means you’ll hear about major new features earlier, so that you don’t get big changes sprung on you as a surprise. It means we get feedback while things are still in progress and we can more easily make changes, so that once changes are complete, they can be even better! It also means that there will be more volunteers working on the AO3 behind the scenes, so the site will be better and faster, with more of the features that users like you have suggested, tags getting wrangled more quickly, and so on.

Betsy Rosenblatt

Good question! It’s easy to get caught up in buzzwords without getting to what they mean. Here’s how I see transparency and communication working for a casual user of the AO3:

– For you to get all you want out of the archive, the organization needs to be able to know what aspects of the archive work really well for you, what aspects you think can/should be improved, what you use the archive for, and what you would like the archive to do that it doesn’t yet do. Getting that information from you, using it to improve your archive experience, and making sure you know everything the archive has to offer, is the essence of communication.

– Now let’s say there’s a decision made about the AO3 that you particularly like or dislike—rules about what it allows or doesn’t allow, for example—and you want to understand why the decision came out the way it did. Being able to know how the organization came to its decision, and the reasons for the decision (so you can celebrate it or argue for change, depending on your preference!) is the essence of transparency.

– What am I actually planning to change? I think we can do an even better job of getting feedback and applying it, getting information about the OTW and its offerings into the hands of users, and making interested members feel like they are included in the organization’s deliberative processes. I don’t think these things require huge changes, but rather refinements in process and attitude.

Nikisha Sanders

I really appreciate this question because I’ve been where you are, and I continue to be in a number of contexts. One of the struggles of both non-profit work and participating in fandom is that both seem to require a whole new set of language skills and shorthand, and once you’ve got it down, you don’t notice you’re using it all the time.

To me, transparency breaks down to operating openly and simply, and better communication means making information available to anyone who seeks it, insofar as is possible without compromising confidentiality. Transparency also means being able to explain and provide rationale for making a particular decision or the way a given issue has been handled. Having written policies and procedures that are widely known and shared will help with that, but we also have to have a means of questioning and/or commenting on those decisions. That’s where better communication comes in, by making it clear who to contact about a given issue to start, and making every effort to respond with as much information as is reasonable.

Basically, I want other people to be able to easily see and understand how we’re working as an organization and on our various projects, why we’re doing things a certain way, and who is involved. If they can’t, they should be able to easily ask those questions, know they will reach the right person/people to give an answer, and receive a prompt and clear response. I would like to make sure we are documenting everything we should be, making that documentation available in appropriate locations, weeding out materials that are no longer useful, and updating things as needed. I would also like to see us be direct and concise in how we talk about the organization and our projects, without getting bogged down in specialized language that can act more as a barrier to participation than an aid to it.

For you and other casual users of AO3, or any of our other projects, all of this means OTW having the internal structure it needs to keep those projects going, even if lead staff on a project leave, take vacations, or catch flu. It also means making it easier for volunteers to participate, donors to give, and feedback to reach the right eyes and ears, giving us the means to improve the projects you value.

Julia Beck
Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011; added to post 4:22pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Transparency means that you, as a casual user, can find out what’s actually going on inside OTW, if you want to, and that you know what we did with your feedback. As a fan-driven organization, we depend on our users’ trust and involvement (we can’t think of all the ways you might want to use the archive ourselves, for example). It means that you can easily find accessible and relevant information and ways to get involved. (The recent Open Houses are good examples for measures that help improve transparency.) Right now, only a couple of people on a committee level have the sort of broad overview to know why something is happening, or not happening, and when and what is in progress, or being planned; and volunteers are often just as confused and intimidated as casual users are. (You shouldn’t have to sign up as a volunteer to get access to that sort of information, anyway.)

It doesn’t have to be important to everyone, and the admin posts and spotlights on AO3 are doing a good job of keeping users up to date and informed. That’s not true across the organization as a whole yet, so we need to do a better job to get people involved and invested by reaching out, and by actively soliciting feedback.

Naomi Novik
Response received at 11:59pm UTC 3 November 2011; added to post 2:46am UTC 3 November 2011.

Yes, there’s been a lot of that, sorry: jargon is contagious, and when someone says it in the question I tend to repeat it in the answer, even though I recognize it’s problematic and can mean different things to different people.

Here’s what I mean:

Transparency: that we provide enough information about us publicly that someone who is interested (and a lot of people have a legit interest either because they use our services or might volunteer or give us money) and willing to do some poking about and reading can figure out roughly how the org works, what we’re working on, get a sense if things are moving ahead smoothly, and on a fairly up to date basis — say monthly.

Sustainability: that we’re doing well enough at raising money and at recruiting and keeping volunteers to keep chugging along.

And these things are important to you, archive user, because that tells you you don’t need to worry that the org is going to keel over and die taking the archive you like with it. 🙂

Board Candidate Chat Two Follow-Up Questions: Fourth Set

We’ve got our fourth batch of questions and answers from our candidates ready for your perusal! You can read those questions and answers here, on the OTW Elections website. Answers are listed in the order they were received, and any responses received after the deadline will be added to that page as soon as possible, with any post-publication changes noted. Emphasis in these responses is on immediate answers rather than polished essays — just as in the chats.

At this point, we have five questions left! Three of them are currently with the candidates, and you can expect them around 24 hours from now — they were sent to candidates at 16:00/4:00pm UTC 1 November 2011, meaning they are due before 16:00/4:00pm UTC 2 November 2011.

We’d also like to remind all of our voters that tomorrow, 2 November 2011, is the deadline to assign a voting proxy (see our Elections timeline here). We know that the extended, electronic ballots that we use should make proxy voting unnecessary in most cases, but a voter might decide they need a proxy if the 48-hour voting period falls during a time when they may not have internet access, or when they have other commitments.

To assign a proxy, send an email from the account you used when you last donated, addressed to both elections-chair@transformativeworks.org and your proxy. State in the email that you wish to assign your proxy to the recipient, and include your legal name. Your proxy must reply to you and to elections-chair@transformativeworks.org to accept the responsibility, and to give us their legal name. Proxies remain in place for six months and cannot be revoked, so they aren’t a back-up plan! Our elections website has a FAQ section on proxy voting with more details, if you think this may apply to you.

2011 Second Board Candidate Chat Follow-Up Four

The second 2011 Board candidate chat ended with questions pending — both those submitted live by chat attendees, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions were delivered in batches to the candidates following the close of the chat, and they were asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses could be publicly posted. Responses are posted in the order that they were received by the OTW Elections officer.

For any questions addressed to a specific candidate or candidates, only the addressed party/parties were required to answer. However, if anyone else so chose, they could also submit answers — the questions are open to all.

Fourth batch: Questions submitted to candidates at 16:30/4:30pm UTC 31 October 2011; answers due before 16:30/4:30pm UTC 1 November 2011.

One:

Hi, I was reading the answers to the question Betsy and Naomi were asked about concrete plans that were posted in the follow-up to the first chat, and I still didn’t see specific, concrete plans that they expect to initiate, carry out, or guide from the Board. Maybe I misunderstood the question? I would like to hear their concrete plans and priorities, though. Naomi’s answer seemed to be meditations on how to work in a group, which I thought was a very small-scope perspective on the question. Betsy’s seemed to answer the question, for me, but it was still vague and nebulous. Could they both expand on this, please?

Two:

With regards to Naomi Novik’s answer in the last chat and in the follow up: As one of the two who asked for follow up, I want to clarify that the question was what, specifically will you be working on as a board member and how. The original question was also aimed at what, individually, we are seeing as priorities, not at our philosophical approach. I think the list you’ve presented is absolutely great as a set of guidelines for how we all go about the general work of the board. However, it still doesn’t address what you, as an individual, intend to bring to the table. Will you focus on building communication in the organization, helping to put in place a long term strategic plan, work on increasing the transparency of the organization by finding means of actively using member feedback? Are you offering yourself up as someone who will work with the board and staff to set ground rules for how we conduct business? In short, what will you actually be doing as a board member?

I am continuing to push at this question because I haven’t had the chance to work closely with you before, and I really do want to understand where you’re coming from and what your priorities are in terms of concrete work we would be doing as board members. The philosophical standpoint is, of course, immensely important, but so is the ability to articulate the steps needed to fulfill that philosophy.

Lucy Pearson

I guess I already answered this, but as it was probably a bit of a tl;dr I’ll summarise some of my main goals here:

1. Work on Board communications so that people inside and outside the org have more idea what the Board is up to, and work with committees across the org to improve communications generally. I’m modelling this on my work with AD&T and the Archive.

2. Work on promoting an agile, lightweight set of procedures which help make things work smoothly within the org and give people an idea of what they are doing (especially in areas where we need to think more consciously about things like outreach and diversity which can fall by the wayside without conscious effort), without bogging the org down with too many rules or becoming too inflexible.

3. In terms of things I have never been involved with before – I can see my professional skills (as an academic) being important to support Journal. TWC is quite a specific OTW project which would probably benefit from having (another) Board member who works in the field, I don’t have many specific plans in that area (I talked about my dreams in a previous question), but rather see myself as someone with skills and understanding of the academic world which will be useful in supporting whatever the Journal team see as important.

4. Mentor, support, cheerlead. Really, if I can do three years on the Board and come out the other side with the committees I worked with saying ‘Lucy was an awesome Board liaison who helped us achieve our goals’, I will be satisfied. The org is nothing without the hard work of the committees and volunteers; the Board looks at the big picture and also (or as part of that) works to support that amazing initiative and energy.

Betsy Rosenblatt

I feel like my answers to this question are necessarily a bit vague—not because I don’t have priorities and plans, but because so much of being part of a Board is knowing how to work with other Board members, working to build consensus, and doing whatever the group as a whole requires. I have a lot of experience on boards and committees, and one of the many things I’ve learned through those experiences is that marching into a deliberative body with an agenda of concrete demands is often a recipe for tension and dissension, and that’s not an environment I want to create. I agreed with Naomi that one of my concrete priorities is to facilitate the smooth and collaborative working of the Board; the reason for that agreement is my experience on boards and committees that have run smoothly, and those that haven’t. My concrete plans for keeping the Board collaborative and effective are, frankly, very similar to Naomi’s—it seems like we have had similar board experiences!—and include being responsive, volunteering creative ideas, acknowledging and praising the good ideas of others, recognizing when discussions are getting tense, stepping forward for my priorities and back for things I am less attached to, and other fundamental cooperation-type approaches.

I also, naturally, have concrete ideas and priorities that I want to guide from the Board. These relate broadly to goals in the legal arena, improved communication, and outreach/inclusiveness. I want to note that at least some of these can be described as “more/better of what we already do.” This shouldn’t be mistaken for complacency, but rather a sense that concrete ideas don’t always have to be ideas for drastic change.

*acting as a liaison between the Board and the Legal Committee;

*reaching out to and coordinating with other copyright advocacy organizations and legal scholars. We do some of this, but we can and should do more;

*seeking out opportunities for legal advocacy not only in the judicial and legislative sense (which we do currently, and should continue avidly) but also in the context of encouraging and assisting legal scholars, since legal scholarship is often influential in shaping copyright policy around the world;

*instituting a regular e-mail update from the Board, much like those used by the EFF and the Citizen Media Law Project (among others) that describes the OTW’s current activities as well as other items of interest to the OTW’s mission. I envision this as being similar to the newsletter and links roundups that we currently do, but as reaching a wider audience of people who may not regularly check the blog, including members and non-members whose interest we want to foster!

*researching what areas of fandom (be they fan communities, or segments of fan communities) we are underserving, and reaching out to active voices in those areas to determine what we can do to make the OTW more inviting, welcoming, and functional for them. As the other candidates noted (especially Julia, in her discussion of what I/O is doing), this is something that the organization is doing already; I hope to bring fresh eyes to the problem to help with the effort.

By singling out these concrete plans, I don’t mean to imply that those are the only things I want to do on the Board. But I see my chief concrete goal as a very broad one: help the organization fulfill its overall goals. That means reaching out to the membership with open ears to see what we are and aren’t doing well; doing more of what’s working, and changing what’s not. From that process, concrete plans emerge.

Naomi Novik

The initial question came as a follow up to my saying that my first priority was to have a functional and effective Board; maybe it helps if I clarify that though my answer was framed as “this is what a team needs,” that I think that each item on that list demands good faith effort from each and every member of the Board to achieve each item? So for instance when I say that you need people who will step back from an argument, or that you need creative people to invent solutions, what I mean is that as a Board member, I make the effort myself to do each of those things. Also, I know these questions had to come in by the end of the second chat; since then I’ve also described a bunch of concrete ideas in my various other follow-up answers that hopefully will have given some idea of some other specific things that I would like to do: opening the internal wiki, adding 1:1 meetings where feasible, adding a monthly report from the Board down, reducing our gatekeeping and streamlining our internal procedures in general, and maybe putting on a con. 😀

I’m thinking how to answer further, and here is my best shot.

If you read the earlier questions about the server name poll, you probably gather that it was really a tough and unpleasant situation to live through at the time. And I can say that my experience from this year is there is still tension from that lingering throughout the org, which has still not been resolved, which I feel is slowing the org’s progress and also just making a bunch of our staffers and volunteers unhappy, including several of the Board/candidates.

And the highest priority thing that I want to do if I am elected is find a way to resolve this. How exactly, I can’t tell you, because it is going to depend on who else gets elected, what kind of relationships we can form when we’re in a room talking with one another, how open we are to one another.

But I have built and run teams many times and in many ways, and I am good at coming up with creative solutions, and I can also give you one specific thing that I would really push for: at our first meeting, I would suggest that everyone on the new Board come up with one concrete thing that they want to do which we can all agree, unanimously and without arguing, would at least not be hurtful for the org, and which we can reasonably accomplish in say the first month or two of the term. Whether that’s something like, successfully recruiting X volunteers for project Y, a new tool for Fanlore, a new org procedure, a new archive feature, OTW t-shirts — anything, just something doable that we can agree on without pain. And then, that we work as a team on getting each one of those concrete things to happen.

I think there is not a lot better for making people happy and feeling like a team than succeeding at once together and individually — for everyone to be able to say, OK, I wanted that, and I made that happen, and you helped! And it can really help to break down existing tension and unhappiness.

That wouldn’t be a panacea — I mean, no one was really arguing about server names by the end, I don’t think; there were some real differences underlying that were exposed, and we’d still have to work to resolve those. But I would really argue for first doing some repair work just to clear the air, and I would personally work on each and every one of those concrete things that I could contribute on as much as I could.

Three:

Hi again, I wanted to pose a question that is similar to one that was asked previously: can the candidates talk about the specific things they have done while working in the OTW over the past year that have promoted organizational sustainability? I’m interested particularly in something I’ve seen in OTW materials before: “We’re building the builders.” How have the candidates carried that out recently as applied to volunteers and future leaders of the organization? I’d be especially interested if they could talk about both technical and non-technical roles, and about how they expect to “build” future board members once they join the board.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

The most obvious things all come under my role as training lead, which I’ve held for the past year. Before that, I also did work on the Volunteers & Recruiting committee, but that doesn’t count as “recently”. I am currently mentoring a coder intern, which means sitting in chat for about 5 hours every Tuesday to walk her through our training and help her with a project. I’ve also run several training sessions for coders over the past few months, from the public session advertised on the OTW blog to more informal sessions with both new and returning coders. I’ve been mentoring one of our mid-level coders for several months as well. And earlier in the year I led a big project to revamp all our coding training materials, and I’ve been helping the testers do the same for theirs. That’s almost all on the technical side. On the non-technical side, I’ve been chatting informally with various friends in the OTW, sharing my experience and skills, as well as giving some non-technical support and advice to the people I’ve been mentoring for coding.

One thing I’d love to set up if I get elected is more cross-committee mentoring on “soft skills” – having someone outside your committee to bounce ideas off has been a big help for me over the past year, and I’d like to pass that on to others. The biggest thing that I think will help build future board members is giving more people in the OTW the opportunity to get cross-committee experience if they want. Part of this will come naturally as we improve internal communication – people will be more aware of org-wide trends and things that affect other committees outside their own area – and partly it will be a culture of mentoring and encouraging our staff to gain experience in team-working, mediation and other useful skills.

Lucy Pearson

(I’m going to talk about a bit beyond the past year, as following my term as AD&T chair I took a little bit of a rest, and i feel like I could do that partly because of the work I’d done previously to promote sustainability!)

This year: Mentored and supported current AD&T chairs Amelia & elz, drawing on my previous role as AD&T chair; worked with awesome coder mumble to produce Archive release notes, gradually shifting more of the task onto her (in order to distribute communications for the Archive; this is ongoing); worked within AD&T and Support to share my knowledge and generally mentor and support new staffers worked within AD&T and Support to share my knowledge and generally mentor and support new staffers (Support totally don’t need me now, which is awesome – Matty, the current chair, deserves a huge shoutout for her work on sustainability). I also took a bit of a rest and thus sustained myself, which is actually the bit that is the easiest to overlook!

2010: Was AD&T chair, mentored and supported my whole team (which helped ensure there were chairs to come after me!); mentored the new Tag Wrangling chairs as the new committee formed; helped out with the new Support committee.

2009: Set up new training procedures for coders, rewrote the training docs, mentored and supported several new coders.

For the future: My biggest goal is to be a good support for committee chairs, ensuring people have the training and mentoring they need to do an often difficult and demanding job! I think having a good Board liaison who really supports the chair can make the difference for a whole committee. Mentoring chairs is really a great way of building future Board members – I don’t think it’s essential to be a chair to be a Board member, but there are a lot of related skills and it’s also a nice stepping stone. Being closely involved with a chair and their committee also helps you to identify other people who have skills can be used, and to encourage chairs to use them (or connect them with another place in the org if you can see they would fill a gap) – again, encouraging people to build on their existing skills and to take on more responsibility is both good in itself and helps ensure there’ll be more Board candidates in the future.

One specific thing I’d like to set up is a regular review of staffing needs to help chairs look at what’s happening in their committee and see where people or projects need more support (it can be hard to remember to do this kind of review when you’re in the thick of it). I’d also like to pass some of my specific skills on in places where they are needed, especially in terms of communications. Apart from that, I plan to be responsive to the committees and help ensure they get what they need when they need it!

Betsy Rosenblatt

I like this question, because it’s something I have been doing without thinking about, and it’s good to think about how I can improve. I’ve done two things: first, I’ve worked together with others on the Legal committee on collaborative projects like responding to fan inquiries and updating the Wikipedia page on Legal Issues in Fanfiction. I think of this as fostering sustainability because each of these projects has involved being responsive to how much time and experience the other people on the projects have to devote, and trying to keep them happy with their level of work and involvement. The other thing is word-of-mouth recruitment. I joined the OTW, and then the Legal committee, because friends suggested it would be a good fit; now I’m paying that forward. I am naturally pretty effusive about the OTW, and encourage friends—lawyers, legal scholars—to get involved when they share my interests in fair use and fandom. This is the sort of gradual process that I expect will, eventually, yield new Legal committee members.

But this is something I can do more of, and do better. I like the idea of “building the builders,” and as part of my role on the board, I foresee myself not only continuing to bring people into the organization from the outside, but also communicating directly with volunteers and staffers and encouraging them to take on leadership roles they seem suited to.

Naomi Novik

Actually, over the last year I have been taking a leisurely break as just an ADT member and only coding autocomplete replacement, tag sets, nominations, new skins system, and helping on an overhaul of the front end. *g*

What I’ve done in the past: building the builders specifically referred to training newbie coders within our organization. There was debate about this in the early days of the org; some Board members felt (reasonably) that it would be better for us to just recruit a team of senior coders and get the archive up quickly, because that’s the project people were urgently expecting. I was the one who argued for a model of actively trying to recruit newbies and train them up internally, even though that meant a longer initial ramp-up.

How to do that — you tell people they don’t need to know code, have good docs, try and make getting started easy, welcome and cheerlead and help. It follows pretty obviously once you decide that yes, you’re going to be a newbie-friendly, actively training team. (What’s depressing is how few open source projects in general do this.) The biggest thing is to have a culture of hanging out in the chatroom so there are people to be welcoming.

Oh, and I have just remembered I did do something towards this that I’m pretty psyched about this year! Unfortunately it is a little technical to explain: I came up with the idea of hooking up dropbox to our webdev environment to mirror code between the two, so we can edit code on our local machines and see the results running on our webdevs live without having to manually upload, and Sidra ♥ made it happen. The result is, people can now potentially do archive coding without even a webdev — all they need is dropbox and a text editor, and we can share them a folder that is on say a senior coder’s webdev, and they can do some archive coding right there. Lim and I have been working this way experimentally the last few months and it’s been going really well, and hopefully ADT can now generalize the process.

As I type, in fact, I’m envisioning we could use this to do something like a “make your archive!” day where we basically invite people to sign up for a bunch of slots throughout the day, have them install dropbox beforehand, and then walk them through doing an actual piece of code for the archive right then and there (something small obviously). Because how cool and addictive would that be, to actually get your hands right in there and then see the results even if you’ve never written a line of code before!

For growing Board members, it’s key to touch base every so often with other current Board members doing liaison work and try and identify people in committees who are doing great work, particularly as chairs. (One of the things I’m thinking a Board monthly report would help with is making the Board do this more regularly.) And then honestly the single most important thing to do to build candidates is to reach out and tell those people, hey, maybe think about Board. Because frankly a lot of people in our community undersell themselves and don’t think about it.

Nikisha Sanders
Response received 1 November 2011 4:38pm UTC. Added to document 1 November 2011 4:50pm UTC.

In the past year, my focus has been small-scale in promoting sustainability, contained within the Finance committee and gradually expanding to network with other staff and volunteers. With my fellow committee members, I’ve worked on instituting committee policy that has us delegating, or breaking down, tasks into small chunks and then working in tandem to complete them. As I’ve said elsewhere, we’ve tried to pair someone with experience with someone learning the new skill so there are always and will always be at least one person on the committee capable of carrying out a task and ready to pass on that knowledge to another. We were also able to identify early who would be taking on Sheila’s role as committee chair in the next term, initially planning to have a co-chair structure to keep the responsibilities of the position manageable and to allow for either chair to take breaks as needed. By knowing that Cat Meier, currently on hiatus, and I would be co-chairing, I have been able to ask for and receive more in-depth mentoring for the position from Sheila and foster discussions with the committee about what to expect in the next term as well as begin planning for new projects and continuity in our existing workload.

I’m realizing now that I’ve talked a lot about how much I adore and value my committee and how we, as a group, work. It’s hard, because we do have a good team dynamic, to separate my own work from the whole. I think this is actually one of the strengths I can bring to “building the builders” and building a sustainable organization, lacking an ego about the work I take on and having a strong preference for working collaboratively.

The process in which I am currently independently engaged may be a better example of how I have been able to and intend to support emerging leaders in the organization. Over the past month, I have reached out to and been contacted by a number of staff and volunteers from a variety of committees and project areas to discuss their experiences as part of OTW. A large part of each of these conversations has focused on anticipated, current, and desired projects. I have tried, when ideas have overlapped, to act as a conduit for those interested to identify and contact each other for further discussion and brainstorming.

When I have a bit of breathing space from the election process, I will be compiling online resources related to some of the new ideas I’ve heard and needs that have been expressed. I believe that sharing knowledge is an essential part of building sustainability in an organization and in empowering staff and volunteers to take on greater roles and responsibilities. One concrete example of how I will be moving forward is that questions have come to me as part of Fincom about standard practices for general non-profit financial management. I have a wealth of information in tangible paper form and will be working to scan and make available those resources, as well as providing links to online sources. I’ve also emailed a fair bit with Megan Westerby, the current DevMem chair, about future fundraising plans, and again have paper resources, training materials and online resources collected through my professional life that I will be sharing with her and the committee. Conversely, when I’ve encountered areas where I lack experience, I have asked for recommendations of background and reference materials, and will continue to do so.

As a member of the board, I would like to continue the process of one-on-one conversations by email, IM, and phone, and encourage my colleagues on the board to do the same, both for purposes of generally checking in with individual members and to ascertain if there might be support we can offer outside of the existing organizational resources. Basically I’ve started every encounter with four questions in mind: Who are you (meaning what experiences and skills do you have from across the life you’ve lived)? What are you interested in? What do you need to do it? How can I help? I think these are things we need to continually ask of ourselves, with the latter being a question of who else can provide assistance, and things we need to actively ask of our colleagues across OTW. More than that, we need to listen to the answers and let them inform how we work together.

Another thing I am committed to seeing happen are the all-chairs meetings. As I said in answering an earlier overflow question, I am still thinking over how to structure these meetings to keep them useful and do them in a way that doesn’t create additional stress for staff already feeling over-burdened. I do know that I would seek to use the meetings as a means of connecting committees and new chairs who may not be aware of overlap between projects, and to open communication between committees who may not have direct contact. I think the latter would help in building a feeling of greater cohesion within the organization, and that both actions will help in building stronger interpersonal relationships between staff and volunteers that can only benefit our work.

Overall, I want to help foster a philosophy and environment that allows us as volunteers and staff to feel we’re working in a space where leadership says, simply, “You can,” and that new ideas and energy are welcomed and encouraged. I want all of us to have people we can readily reach out to as mentors, and colleagues we can call on for support whether it be in relation to organizational work or more personal issues.

Julia Beck
Response received 1 November 2011 7:49pm UTC. Added to document 1 November 2011 9:03pm UTC.

I’m going to talk about this in terms of my actual work with OTW colleagues, because I’m translating your question as “how do we make people stay, and help them grow?” My role’s not technical, which is why I won’t address this part of your question except to say: my approach is to know my limitations, trust other people’s expertise and strengths and enable them to do their job well, not try and do their job for them.

I have a pretty organic understanding of “building the builders”, a sort of trickle-down effect from Board to to chairs to staffers to volunteers — I’m giving you a fair bit of tl;dr here, because regardless of which strategies Board may end up adopting or not, my core understanding of volunteer work won’t change.

My underlying belief is not to ask more of volunteers that they can or want to give, and to be grateful for anything they do give, no matter how small. That sounds like a platitude, but I think it’s easy to grow resentful when other people don’t do as much as you do, so it’s super important to not hold everyone to the same standard. (I learned that the hard way during my university radio time… plus, you need to take into account that other people on your team might grow resentful of those with seemingly “lesser” workloads, so you may need to defuse tensions.) Often, it’s the most dedicated people who carry increasing amounts of guilt over not doing enough, or for having to step down, and if they leave without that resolved, they forever associate volunteering with that awful, negative emotion (and never come back when they have time again, ack!). So it’s important to resolve that and let people leave graciously.

As chair, I care about volunteers feeling appreciated, no matter their contribution; and I’ll continue to do so as a Board member, especially by talking with chairs about a good balance between encouraging volunteers without accidentally guilt-tripping them. (I don’t want to pretend I’m flawless at that! I’m pretty good about talking one-on-one and mentoring and being gracious, but I need to do better with consistent encouragement and celebrating achievements — hat tip to Lucy Pearson for giving me some good ideas here.)

Inside my own committee(s), one thing we’ve tried to do with varying results is to offer different levels of engagement, that is, try and find individual modes to contribute for people who don’t fit into the committee-based staff system.

I’m also pretty keen on establishing liaison roles, that is, making sure I’m not the only point of contact to other committees, so other committee members can build relationships inside the organization. That works pretty well.

That said: while not everyone has the time, inclination, or energy to get involved on a committee level, it’s important to actively recruit promising people from the volunteer pool, not wait for them to make that move themselves. (Actually, actively recruit people regardless of whether they’re already volunteers or not! We need to work on that.) Approach someone directly to make them aware of open committee positions or other opportunities inside the org that they might be interested in; and, I feel this is really important: let them know why you think they’d be a good fit. My experience is that we have many amazing people with impostor syndrome, and clear feedback about strengths and weaknesses helps with confidence issues.

I suppose confidence in your strengths (and a healthy awareness of your weaknesses) is the most important aspect for a Board candidacy, so building confidence is crucial for building candidates. (I don’t believe that people become magically confident by taking on and mastering challenging work and after a while automatically consider running for Board; impostor syndrome may still apply.)

Speaking of challenging tasks: I don’t think every candidate needs to have chaired a committee, but I do believe that chairing is invaluable preparation. So in a sense, I’d like to encourage promising people to consider Board candidacy early on, so they have time to accumulate relevant experience like leading a committee or task group. Right now it’s very… I don’t know. As if people are either magically ready for Board or not. (I certainly wasn’t — it took a great deal of mentoring to get me there, so I want to pay this forward.)

I think we should make it more obvious what the expectations for Board members are: demystify the job, so to say, and train more people up for it.

Board Candidate Chat Two Follow-Up Questions: Third Set

We’re ready to share our third batch of questions from OTW members and responses from our candidates! You can read those questions and answers here, on the OTW Elections website. Answers are listed in the order they were received, and any responses that are received after the deadline will be added to that page as soon as possible, with any post-publication changes noted.

Again, the emphasis in these responses is on immediate answers rather than polished essays — just as in the chats.

With this post, we have hit the halfway mark. You really did have a lot of questions for them (which is awesome!), so we’ve concluded that our hard-working candidates deserve a breather! We’ll be taking a very brief break, and will announce here when the fourth batch of questions and answers are ready.

2011 Second Board Candidate Chat Follow-Up Three

The second 2011 Board candidate chat ended with questions pending — both those submitted live by chat attendees, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions were delivered in batches to the candidates following the close of the chat, and they were asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses could be publicly posted. Responses are posted in the order that they were received by the OTW Elections officer.

Third batch: Questions submitted to candidates at 01:15/1:15am UTC 29 October 2011; answers due before 01:15/1:15am UTC 30 October 2011.

One:

A current known challenge of the organization seems to be volunteer retention and burnout. For example, the majority of the Archive of Our Own’s coding is done by a small number of developers. For all candidates–what practices would you change in the committees you work with to bring in more volunteers and empower them to become long-term, regular contributors? How would you use a board position to do the same org-wide?

Jenny Scott-Thompson

First, I think it’s important to make the experience of getting involved as streamlined as possible for experienced coders. They can make a valuable contribution but right now they have too many hoops to jump through to make drive-by fixes. I would continue to work with the Volunteers & Recruiting committee and AD&T to do this – I’d like to point people with prior experience straight at our Github repository at an earlier stage. As part of the website redesign, I’d also like to automate more of the signup process for coders – keeping the human touch of being welcomed by a fellow volunteer, but making sure that you don’t have to wait for them to get access to certain tools. For new coders, I would work with next year’s training lead to ensure that the support I’ve set up continues, that they don’t get bewildered by the options for experienced coders, and increase the amount of mentoring and guidance that’s available. I would also continue to help AD&T with the more frequent deploys to Test, and streamlining that process – seeing your work put to use is a huge motivation, and seeing it sit for months waiting for something else is discouraging for volunteers. I’d also like to do more to build up the community of testers – this is something we’ve struggled with for a while, as testing can seem unrewarding sometimes, but I think more frequent, smaller changes will help.

Org-wide there is no “one size fits all” solution – each committee has different challenges, though some things are common in multiple committees. I’d like to encourage more committees to check in with their staff and volunteers one-on-one regularly, on a schedule that makes sense for their workload. It helps to have a place to vent, to ask silly questions and air ideas and frustrations, without having the intimidation-factor of raising things formally. I’d also consider whether Volunteers & Recruiting and/or the Board could do this with more staff, possibly as part of the yearly feedback survey, “Still Willing To Serve”. In terms of long-term contribution, the other thing that helps is when staff are able to learn new skills and feel that they are gaining something as part of their role, so I’d continue to work with the Development & Membership committee and with Volunteers & Recruiting to progress more training options. We’ve had several people get new day jobs on the strength of their OTW work, and I’d like to see that grow and continue.

Betsy Rosenblatt

I’m fortunate to be a member of the legal committee, which has a more manageable workload than others. The legal committee hasn’t had much difficulty handling its workload while I’ve been on it – there’s always someone to step in and help when someone else is busy. On an org-wide basis, I think that committee chairs should be able to expand the size of their committees to meet workload demands. As for retaining volunteers, I think that recognition goes a long way to keeping morale up, so I’d encourage the org to recognize individual staffers and volunteers when they contribute—via the newsletter, the blog, or some other mechanism designed to make sure the membership knows just how much our awesome people do and how well they do it!! I also think that in-person contact can help keep morale up, so I’d encourage meetups for staffers and volunteers who live near each other and want to get to know each other. Of course, one of the few downsides to being such a fantastically global organization is that we have staffers and volunteers all over the world, and often far away from each other! But regardless of where people live, community is important; when people feel invested in each other, they are more likely to stick around to contribute. For that reason, I would encourage each committee to get to know each other as more than just names on the screen.

Julia Beck

(I’m going it interpret “committees you work with” as the ones I serve in, because I wouldn’t tell another committee how to conduct their affairs.) For I&O: Number one would be re-focus on our core mission, and for more general projects like the community survey form cross-committee task groups. We also need to position ourselves better as the go-to people to approach with concerns about diversity, who will amplify and convert them into action internally; I’d like to think that successful recruitment and volunteer retention also hinges on our credibility in that regard.

For Translation: apart from trying to make the overall translation process smoother, we are committed to making translators feel part of the organization (if they want to!), because it’s way too easy to feel detached and out of the loop as a volunteer.

But to veer back to a more general perspective: My educated guess is that volunteers don’t differ all that much in what they want out of their OTW volunteering experience. They want their work to be acknowledged, they want it to be meaningful, and they want a degree of agency. So if we consistently fail to deliver on these fronts for some people, they leave (– or they don’t volunteer at all, if they suspect that the threshold to getting things done is too high). So: acknowledgement or praise, work that connects meaningfully to a larger whole, and agency. Board can make a difference in all these areas. Pragmatically, we’re also trying to learn more about volunteer motivation and the gap between expectations and reality in the internal survey. My hope is that it’ll help us get a better grasp on the issue in general.

Nikisha Sanders

Finance actually hasn’t had much of a problem with retention or burnout related to the committee’s work. We currently still have three of our five original staff (one having left for personal reasons, and another who left after suffering burnout from her time on the board combined with forming and chairing Fincom). Another of our members has been with us for two years, a fifth joined us at the start of the current term, and we have one new member who joined us over the summer, all of whom are committed to serving through at least the next year. We also have at least one possible new member for next term.

I think we’ve been able to manage our numbers in relation to our workload because of how we distribute the workload. Our current chair has been more than willing to delegate tasks, and as a committee we’ve made a point of breaking down any given project into manageable pieces. We’re also a very vocal group about when we have time conflicts, low energy, or just aren’t interested in something. Because Cat, Sheila and I have been around for a while, we have a solid idea of what an average term looks like and have been able to tell our new members what to expect. Also, because of our history in working together and who we are as people, we tend toward the sort of touchy-feely style of managing things, doing regular check-ins, starting meetings by asking about everyone’s week since our last meeting, and generally keeping the committee atmosphere casual. We want the work to be fun, not draining, and I think we’ve managed that over the years.

In addition to the social culture of Fincom, we’ve also instituted a policy of tackling projects, or segments of projects, in pairs. What that looks like has depended on the pairing, but for me, that’s meant doing the Delaware state filing with Sheila (who had previously done the filing with our prior chair, Susan) by splitting the preparation tasks and then meeting in our Campfire chat room while I filed in the document and Sheila answered any questions I ran into. More recently, when compiling a complete list of tasks Sheila’s been responsible for as Treasurer and committee chair in preparation for the end of term turnover, and during the process of Sheila moving houses, it meant getting on the phone with her while she commuted between work and home, and taking notes while she talked through the list. To bring it back to Fincom, I typed up the list, distributed it to the committee, and now we’re in the process again of dividing up the tasks to make sure someone with experience in the area is mentoring someone with less experience.

So, to sum up the wordy answer that’s wordy so far, delegation, mentoring, and social support have been key in keeping Fincom staff engaged, as well as being open to taking some creative approaches to the time crunch we can all experience. Those are all things I would bring with me to the board. I’ve already been engaged in a number of conversations to get a better idea of what to expect in terms of workload as a board member, and with other committee chairs and staff to get a clearer view of what some of the committees will have on their plates going into next term. Having those one-on-one conversations have been invaluable to me and it’s a practice I would encourage other board members and chairs undertake, because it’s given me a clearer understanding of where assistance from the board or from me as an incoming committee chair/Fincom member will be needed or could be offered.

I am aware that the way I approach my committee work isn’t a solution that will fit every committee. We all have different needs based on our areas of specialization and being short-staffed is a huge concern, particularly for our more technical committees. In these areas, I think being mindful of what can be realistically accomplished in a given timeframe is important, and giving each committee the means to, as Fincom does, identify and articulate their limits will be vital as we continue to grow.

None of us wants to let anyone down, and we want to do the very best work possible, and that means being able to take a step back when needed to take care of ourselves without fear of negative repercussions. Knowing when you’ve hit your limit of energy isn’t a weakness, as an individual or as a committee, but all too often, when the stakes seem high, it can be treated as one. Being honest about those moments, being able to say, “I am worn out. I need a break,” and taking responsibility for our own self-care is something I want to build into our organizational culture, and to do so without it turning into a situation of resenting or blaming our colleagues for our failure to identify our own limits.

To reach that point, however, we need to model it for our new(er) volunteers and staff, from the board level, from chairs, from senior staffers. We can best do that by delegating tasks when we can, planning early for projects, asking for help and training when we need it, and giving reasonable advance notice of times we know we will not be able to participate fully in the work. We also must be mindful of how much we are asking people to take on and whether they have the tools and knowledge they need to complete the work, as well as whether we ourselves have the ability to take the time to train those who need it and if we are willing to ask for the training we need to grow in our positions.

Naomi Novik
Response received 30 October 2011 02:16 UTC. Added to document 30 October 2011 02:31 UTC.

Actually, on the archive, 47 coders have committed code to the archive over the life of the project, 22 have committed in the last year, we have 15 committers with more than 100 commits and 3 with more than 1000 commits. Ohloh ranks the archive team in the top 10% of open source projects. We do have a limited amount of highly active senior coders, who are the ones best able to take on a major project that integrates with a lot of other things, but this too has been creeping up at last where now we have 3-5 active senior coders as compared to 1-3 at the beginning.

So honestly, I wouldn’t change a ton there; I think ADT is doing great at the slow-and-steady building of a resilient project team, for which btw I give enormous credit to Maia, Lucy P, and Elz and Amelia for creating the kind of atmosphere where people want to come and work.

That said, more broadly I feel that the way that the org retains volunteers long term is, you accept that people are going to come and go — you have generous policies to support it, and a culture of respect for people’s free time and wanting to do other things, so people feel like they are not chaining themselves to a wall if they do sign on.

You keep in mind when recruiting that this is effectively an unpaid second job. It’s easy to feel disheartened from a recruiting perspective when people show up, poke around a bit, and drift away — but we are in fact asking people to work for free! So it is not that surprising when someone who is all for the org and our projects and likes us and thinks they might want to do some work, turns out to not really be up for sinking in large amounts of their free time. You don’t take that drifting-away personally, and you don’t let it make you give up on recruiting and welcoming, and you welcome BACK with open arms and visibly so people know that any time they might come back, even if they’ve vanished previously, they’ll be welcome.

You make the work as much fun as possible, you keep procedures lightweight and unobtrusive, you eliminate as many sources of frustration as possible, and you try and create hospitable environments for people to come into.

And for a more detailed specific thing — the Coders chatroom is a great example, people are always hanging out there so it’s easy for people to drop in. Our off-topic Water Cooler chatroom hasn’t really worked the same way for our other staffers/volunteers, probably because it’s not actually geared for stuff to happen in — it occurs to me one thing we might do to enable a similar experience for people in other parts of the org would be to sort of cluster committees that have some related projects and work going on, and give them shared chatrooms for anyone from those cmtes to hang out in and get work done. It would also be a great way to let people mingle with other volunteers across committees and build more org-wide relationships.

I’ve also mentioned previously that I’d like to see us lower the gatekeeping in general to empower basically any volunteer who wants to get something done, and that I’d like us to expose our internal documentation so (among other good effects) prospective volunteers could see what they would be getting into even before they have shown up.

Lucy Pearson
Response received 30 October 2011 13:01 UTC. Added to document 30 October 2011 14:47 UTC.

(Just as a prefix here: I had some computer problems and am writing on one where I can’t really see most of the screen, so there will be some mistakes in this -I hope it doesn’t make it too hard for people to read.)I’d like to start by saying that while volunteer retention is a concern, it’s not the case that (at least in the committees I have worked closely with) we’re in a terrible position right now. I think the fact there are six people running for Board this year is a testament to the fact that the org as a whole is growing and developing. So, while there are some specific problems to address, and there’s an overall need for any volunteer organisation to keep thinking about volunteer retention and satisfaction, I think that we’re doing a lot of things well already and the real concern is continuing and improving.

To talk about coders specifically, since that was mentioned in the question & it’s a subject dear to my heart – about 47 people have contributed code to the project since we started allowing for the fact that some people contributed under more than one name) and our last code release had code from 14 different contributors. This is not a small number of developers – in fact, according to ohloh, which tracks open source projects, we count as a ‘large, active development team’. It is true that there are a few people who are responsible for big chunks of code – this is because when a big new feature is being developed, it needs someone who is experienced and able to do the high level work that requires. This does mean we sometimes say ‘we are still waiting for x feature because it needs y person to be free’, but on the whole this mostly just dictates what features come out when. All the people who have contributed a lot of code to the Archive have also had extended periods of time away from the project, and development has continued happily without them, which I think bodes well for sustainability. And even in that area we are gradually building a larger coohort of people who can take on bigger things; for example I’m totally thrilled we now have a wonderful coder rebecca working on translations (I could actually ramble a lot more about the way coders has developed, but i might save that for a journal post!). . In terms of improvements, I think that our recent move to using git to manage our code will enable us to reach out to some people who have been active in the Open Source community and who are comfortable wih a different way of working – for example, git allows people to sumbit code to the project without ever joining formally (and we can review it and decide if it works for us), which might suit some people and might give us some extra ad-hoc help.

I actually wrote on my journal about my experiences of wokring within AD&T and its subcommittees, where I analysed in detail why I hadn’t burnt out and what was working. If you’re interested in my thoughts on these issues, this sets out a lot of what I think. In brief, I would say that having a warm, friendly working environment in which achievements are valued is key: Naomi worked hard to creaate that ethos at the beginning, and subsequent AD&T chairs have done an enormous amount to maintain it (it was certainly something that was important to me as chair). I think burnout tends to happen most in roles where the goals are longer term or where the work is more likely to be overlooked, and where people have less control over their own workload: for example, we tend to lose a lot of testers (who do awesome, amazng work btw) because there work goes on in the background (although we try to push it to the forefront, e.g. by doing shout-outs in the AD&T reports I write) and because the fact that we build up a bunch of code and then it needs to be tested for it to be out in the world tends to make for erratic spurts of work at times not of their choosing. We’re working on addressing this – we recently introduced a new system where we put new code on our Test Archive every Friday, so there’s more chance testers can drop in and do a bit of work every week (this also makes them feel more part of the day-to-day life of the org).

Overall, to improve volunteer retention generally, I think that a warm & supportive environment is essential, and that the Board can have a lot to do with creating that because if the Board support chairs effectively and make sure they are happy and have what they needs, the chairs are better able to support their committee members, who are able to be more supportive of each other & of volunteers, and so on. And where there are some specific problems, the Board can help by working with committees to come up with solutions for those committees: every situation is different, and it should always be committee-led, but the Board can provide their experience and also have some distance from the situation which can be useful.

Two:

I’ve been hearing a lot of interesting ideas from the candidates, but at the same time, some of these ideas make me worry. For example, the suggestion to open up the wiki to the public: something like that is not at all simple and is absolutely extra work and a matter of extreme effort; it would require, as an absolutely key part of the whole proposal, volunteers across multiple committees to review the entire wiki. When I hear this and other suggestions tossed out right next to statements about volunteer sustainability and burnout, saying we don’t have enough people for various tasks, this is really troubling to me and I fear that a lot of these great ideas create more work that results in losing more people. As a candidate, how do you plan to balance these needs? I’m hearing a lot of ideas, but how do you plan to incorporate these into an approach that helps our sustainability?

Jenny Scott-Thompson

Before we go ahead with any of these ideas, they would need to be sent as proposals to the appropriate committee or to the Board. Each one would be considered with the pros and cons, including if it makes more work for people, before we decide to put it into action. I’ve been through that a few times, and some of the things I’ve mentioned are going through the process now. However, most of the reasons I’ve heard for burn-out are not due to sheer volume of work – more often, it’s due to feeling that the work they do is not valued or not effective. Improving support for volunteers makes more work, but also gives us more volunteers to do the work. We’d need to choose from these ideas carefully, to go ahead with the ones that improve things for people without adding too much of a burden, but that kind of evaluation is a normal part of the Board’s job. To give a tiny example of something we already do, saying thank you to people takes a small amount of effort on the part of senior staff, but makes a big difference to many volunteers – it helps to know that your work is appreciated, and most people respond by doing more.

Betsy Rosenblatt

Every new idea has to be considered with an eye to feasibility and benefit – whether it will create extra work, and if it will, whether the benefit justifies the extra work. If the benefit does justify the extra work, then we have to figure out how to get the work done without creating an undue burden on staffers and volunteers. This may involve bringing in more staffers and volunteers, or relinquishing other projects, or passing up/postponing ideas that we might otherwise like. Not every new idea may be possible or advisable—but we should keep having ideas! As for Naomi’s specific idea of opening up the wiki, I’m not sure whether it’s something I’d support. It might be—I can see the benefits of opening up at least part of the internal wiki—but I’d have to hear more about the logistics and workloads before I could make a decision.

Julia Beck

We can only balance this by talking *with* other committees and respecting their needs and limitations. I appreciated arrow’s question from the last batch, because we need to acknowledge the anxiety that this current flurry of new ideas causes — I intimately understand that volunteers are weary of additional work piling up, so we need to consider the cost-benefit balance for each individual committee.

Basically, if we want something from someone, our approach needs to be “what help can we give you?” instead of “hey, do this!”. So I always try to get a handle on the ramifications of a suggestion by checking back with the people involved before I initiate something; we need everyone’s cooperation, after all, and I’ve seen what havoc the best-intentioned ideas can wreak if they’re not integrated into existing discussion.

Nikisha Sanders

My quick and dirty answer is to compile all the ideas, evaluate them, and then prioritize implementation. My longer answer is that we need to look carefully at each proposed project and weigh them in terms of time commitment, staffing needs and availability, anticipated benefit, and how/if they advance our mission and/or our internal goals. As I said above, we have to be mindful of what we’re asking of our volunteers and staff, and of what we can realistically accomplish in a given timeframe.

There are some projects, such as taking the wiki public, that would require a tremendous amount of backend work, and the payoff value in the short term and compared to that work, may not be worth it. Other projects, like developing an emeritus board of former board members and committee chairs to serve as mentors to the acting board and chairs, would take less time overall, require fewer organizational resources, and provide more immediate benefits. As a board member, and as a regular staffer, I would want to see detailed proposals on both ideas, and any others, before we committed to act on of them.

The demand, real or perceived, for a project can often exceed our ability to take on that project, and we are in a position now that we must be more intentional in how we grow OTW as an organization and each of our individual projects. In addition to detailed proposals for all of the ideas brought forth during the election process, I would like to see a general survey of all of our committees to determine what the real needs are and where the strongest interests in new projects lie. It’s easy to make assumptions from the outside about what a committee or group needs based on what you can provide, such as Naomi’s idea of automation for Volcom systems or mine of all-chairs meetings, but it does no good to act on creating a solution the people involved may not actually desire or find useful.

Naomi Novik
Response received 30 October 2011 02:16 UTC. Added to document 30 October 2011 02:31 UTC.

I find it’s generally more problematic and stressful (and less stable) to add things that require sustained long-term effort, even if relatively small, than things that need an initial burst of work but then are over. So for instance, if we’re looking for a solution that increases transparency, I would lean towards spending the initial time and effort to open up the wiki as opposed to put an ongoing burden on committees to create an initially smaller but ongoing increase in their outward communication to achieve similar levels of transparency.

Of course, the answer for this or any such idea that when the Board sits down with it and looks in detail at what would be involved, you realize that it’s either just not feasible, or not enough payoff for the work involved. Then you consider how possibly the idea might be scaled back or trialled in a less painful way. For instance, the opening of the wiki could be trialled by say opening up just the ADT section of the wiki (nearly all technical stuff, basically nothing confidential or needing review) and seeing how much it’s used, what if any issues arise. If it really proves effective, then you could gradually move one after another committee in that direction.

(BTW, although I get you are using this just as an example, in this case, the internal wiki is already open to all our volunteers — that’s hundreds of people many of whom have just volunteered in passing. If there is anything in there that is actively confidential, it shouldn’t be there anyway, and we can still keep the wiki non-googleable for the very real distinction between “readable by someone who comes and dives in actively” and “findable for typing your name in google”.)

Addenda received 30 October 2011 03:31 UTC. Added to document 30 October 2011 14:47 UTC.

and copracat@DW has just told me that actually that’s not the case anymore, on volunteers able to see the whole wiki, and there are different access levels set up, which I had remembered being something we wanted but didn’t have. So I am all wrong on the absence of confidential information, but on the bright side it should be pretty easy to do the opening up by sections. 😀

Lucy Pearson
Response received 30 October 2011 13:01 UTC. Added to document 30 October 2011 14:47 UTC.

I think one of the valuable parts of the elections process is encouraging people (not just the candidates, but everyone interested) to be creative and explore ideas for change. Obviously, once the new Board meets, they will need to review those ideas andd talk with committees, thinking about what is sustainable, what is a great idea but not right for now, and what isn’t actually workable. As a Board member, what I’d be looking for is ideas which are either small and simple to implement (like a formal plan for one-on-one meetings with Board liaisons & committee chairs – having had a similar mentoring relationship with a new committee chair when I was chairing, I can say that this can actually be a lot of fun!), or things which involve short-term work now but will mean less work for everyone in the future. For example, the wonderful YShyn on Support has just put a vast amount of work into improving documentation & setting up a system for Support staffers to document their knowledge. This is something that never got done before because everyone was to busy – but it will actually make everyone’s work much easier and take the stress off in the long term. Board can actually be in a good position to identitfy that kind of work (whereas when you’re on the front line, it can be hard not to think ‘BEARS!’) and encourage committees to implement it, even if it actually requires a temporary slowing down of their day-to-day work.

Also, even though I think Board can be helpful in giving an outside perspective, I would emphasise that ultimately, sustainable solutions come from the people on thr the ground. I would like to maintain an ‘agile’ organisation that doesn’t have a ton of set-in-stone procedures, so that committees can keep coming up with creative ideas, change as their situations change, and feel confident saying ‘this won’t work for us’. So I would be looking to ask the committees how we can best help them, rather than having the process go the other way round.

Three:

There’s been some discussion since the first chat about the time commitment required for serving on the Board, and what that means for Board Members who also have other roles within the OTW. How will you balance your role as a Board Member and committee liaison with your other commitments within the organization?

Jenny Scott-Thompson

I will be handing over my role as AD&T training lead to a new person at the end of the year anyway, so that will free up a significant chunk of time. Committee chair positions are appointed by the Board in December, and staff roles are chosen by chairs in discussion with Board and the Volunteers & Recruiting committee in January, so I can’t yet say what committees I will be invited onto. I will definitely continue as a coder volunteer, but I will probably scale back the amount of time I spend testing, tag wrangling and running training sessions. I would hope to stay on AD&T as well as getting involved with whichever committees I liaise with, but not leading anything within AD&T. I am also committed to two internal workgroups (I can’t remember how much has been publicly announced about either of those yet, so I won’t go into detail), but neither of those take up much time.

I’m expecting to spend more time on OTW work next year than I have this year or last year, but I also know from experience that I don’t lack time to keep up with commitments so long as they’re fun rather than draining. I’m used to balancing a hectic schedule and prioritising to make sure that the important things still happen, and I enjoy working in the OTW.

Betsy Rosenblatt

Here, again, I’m fortunate to be on the legal committee, which has a more manageable workload than others. Although Board service does add a significant time commitment and may require me to adjust some of my other work, I’m fortunate that my life in academia allows me some flexibility about when I do my work. As a result, I don’t expect to have trouble managing my workload for both the Board and the legal committee.

Julia Beck

I’m relieved I found a likely successor for chairing Internationalization & Outreach, and I hope to take a step back in general, because regardless of whether I’m elected to Board of not, I believe in trusting the “next generation” with carrying on the mission. I hope we can do the same with Translation committee soon; I’d feel uneasy (okay, streched way too thin) occupying a central role in two committees *and* serving on Board. I’m not going to just stop serving on either committee, it would feel like callously abandoning my mates! But I would encourage any chair who wants to run for Board to hand over the baton, if they can (it’s often simply not possible, I know!).

Nikisha Sanders

I anticipate serving as a board member, liaison, Fincom chair, and the treasurer next year, particularly given I’m currently the only candidate (and would be the only board member) qualified for the last and am already committed to chairing Fincom. It’s a lot of work to take on, and I expect to be the liaison for Fincom and one other committee at minimum. To be honest, it’s already been a lot of work to go through the beginning of the election process on the heels of just tracking the membership drive while preparing for committee chair transition and trying to pack in as many one-on-ones with other staff as possible alongside keeping up with my regular life. Scheduling things in advance, as much as possible, has been highly important. Keeping fairly detailed notes about commitments, ideas, and conversations has been another major step. In the bulk of my work with Fincom, and with other staff over the past several weeks, I’ve made a point of being clear about when I will be able to respond to emails and phone calls (sometimes immediately, sometimes needing more time to consider a response), and I’ve been mindful about deadlines that impact other people and tried to meet them in advance when possible. I’ve also regularly made a point of setting aside a limited timeframe to handle OTW work that doesn’t require immediate action or response in each day; generally two to four hours, which I spend answering any lingering emails, reading documents, working on proposals, checking in with other staff, etc. All of these things are habits I’ll continue in my myriad roles next term.

I’ve talked openly in my Dreamwidth and Livejournal accounts (sanders and sandersyager, respectively) about my previous struggles with maintaining balance in my life, particularly when working with a non-profit agency. Having been through the crash and burn of taking on too much, too fast, and lacking support, it’s not an experience I have any interest in repeating or creating for anyone else. So far, I’ve been able to avoid doing so with OTW because I have found a strong support system in my fellow Fincom members, and I’ve intentionally been reaching out to current board members, other candidates, and other staff to lay the groundwork for the kinds of relationships that will allow us to lean on each other when its needed and to be open about our successes and frustrations as we move forward. I’m also starting from a place of being as genuine and honest about who I am—strengths, limitations, neuroses and all—and working to create spaces for my colleagues in OTW to do the same.

Naomi Novik
Response received 30 October 2011 02:16 UTC. Added to document 30 October 2011 02:31 UTC.

The way I have from the beginning. 🙂 I do have less free time than I did before baby, but I also wouldn’t be chairing again and the full scope of the challenges code will finally be in after this year, so I think it will be manageable. (The first year when I was chairing both Board and ADT and having something like 2-4 weekly meetings was tough, I will say!)

The thing is, you need productive people on Board. Productive people are usually already doing stuff in their RL, and already doing stuff for the org. And often the work they’re doing is work they enjoy. I love coding; if I wasn’t doing it for the archive, I’d be doing it on something else. So for myself, I will still be coding if I’m on Board, I’ll probably just focus more on smaller and more discrete chunks of code and more bugfixing instead of new features, which would also not be a bad thing for the project as a whole to have a senior coder on.

Lucy Pearson
Response received 30 October 2011 13:01 UTC. Added to document 30 October 2011 14:47 UTC.

One of the things I learnt the hard way as AD&T chair is that when you step up to a new role, you have to lt some others go. So, while I would want to retain a connection to the committees I have worked with, I would anticipate realy scaling down the amount of responsibility I had within those committees. I think in a lot of places this will be easy – for example, Support started the year as quite a small committee which was still developing its procedures, but it’s now really thriving and has a good community and it has acquired new people who have taken on some of the roles I used to fill. (Thanks in no small part to the quiet but extremely effective work of Matty the current chair.) So, the continuing growth of the org makes it easy for me to know that when I stop doing certain things, someone else will be there to pick them up. I anticipate the main thing I would keep up if I get onto Board would be some of my communications work, which I love, but I anticipate scaling that down too (I actually have two different plans for how to proceed with that depending on whether I get on Board or not). On the whole, though, I am someone who likes to be busy, and after juggling being AD&T chair with finishing a PhD and writing a book, at a time when AD&T and its sister committees were much less developeed, I feel confident I will be able to find ways to balance my Board committments with everything else.

Board Candidate Chat Two Follow-Up Questions: Second Set

We’ve passed our second 24 hour response period for our chat overflow questions, and have another batch of insightful questions and thoughtful answers from our candidates, posted now for your review. You can read those questions and answers here, on the OTW Elections website. Answers are listed in the order they were received, and any responses that are received after the deadline will be added to that page as soon as possible, with any post-publication changes noted.

To reiterate, these questions are being delivered in batches to the candidates, and they are being asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses can be publicly posted. The emphasis in these responses is on immediate answers rather than polished essays, and as previously, candidates were also asked to keep to the question topics.

The third batch of questions was sent to candidates at 01:15/1:15am UTC 29 October 2011; answers are due before 01:15/1:15am UTC 30 October 2011, and will be posted for public review in approximately 24 hours.