2012 OTW Board Candidates

And now for (some of) the news you’ve all been waiting for: the details of the OTW’s 2012 Election Season.

We have great news for you: three fabulous people are joining the OTW Board! Because only three candidates came forward, we won’t be holding a contested election this year. However, they are all awesome and eminently qualified for Board service. Without further ado, let’s introduce them (in alphabetical order by given name).

* Andrea Horbinski
* Eylul Dogruel
* Franzeska Dickson

We would like for all of you to get to know them and to ask questions about the experiences and ambitions they bring to the table. To this end, we’ll be hosting a chat soon – we’ll announce the time later this week. Alas, the tea and coffee we can provide will only be virtual, but you are welcome to bring your own mug to the computer. We will also be posting their candidate biographies and manifestos soon.

Although we didn’t get to hold a competitive election this year, we are delighted to have attracted three such marvelous new Board members. Welcome, Andrea, Eylul and Franzi!

There will be another election next year, when three board members’ terms expire (Francesca, Kristen and Ira).

If there’s anything we didn’t cover here that you’re concerned about, or if you want any more information, please respond to this with any questions, comments, or objections you may have. You can reach the Elections Officer by using the Elections contact form; you can reach the whole Board by using the Board contact form.

Transcript for Third 2012 Candidate Chat

The following is a transcript of the OTW Board candidates’ chat held at 1500 UTC 6 October 2012. Elections officer Jenny Scott-Thompson moderated the discussion; candidates Eylul Dogruel and Andrea Horbinski attended.

Eylul has entered the room

Jenny S-T has entered the room

Kristen M. has entered the room

hele has entered the room

Nele N. has entered the room

Andrea H. has entered the room

hele

hihi

Andrea H.

hey

hele

like they say over here, I saw light and came in

Kristen M.

hi!

hele

but can’t find what it’s actually being held over here <_<

Jenny S-T

We’ll start officially in about 5 minutes

Jenny S-T changed the room’s topic to Election chat now! For Org-Wide meetings and more

hele

isn’t it too early for election chat? I’m probably reading BC all wrong

Andrea H.

the light was my cell phone getting me out of bed early

Nele N.

Hey all

hele

actually, nm, just located the little hour that is on my time as per BC calculus

Nele N.

It’s midnight here so I hope this will be very interesting

Eylul

*waves*

Ira G. has entered the room

hele

that sounds ominous, Nele

Eylul

*is totally trying to get some blog post answers in*

hele

it sounded like it had an ‘or else’ appended at the end πŸ˜›

Andrea H.

how’s the weather in Kyoto, Nele?

Nele N.

I have very little power to make any “or else” happen

for now >:)

Finally cooling off!

Congratulations on the A’s

Andrea H.

うらやましいだよ。戻りたいよね

it was pretty awesome! no one booed our side πŸ™‚

Nele N.

遊びに来て!3月末までいるよ

Andrea H.

分かっている

Nele N.

sounds like a roaring success

Jenny S-T

Let’s get started

Hello, and welcome to our third and final elections chat. I’m the OTW Elections Officer and board secretary.

We have a couple of questions left over from last time, and then we’ll open up to the floor. Raise a hand if you’ve got something to ask.

If we run out of time, you can ask more questions on the blog posts – there have already been questions answered there. And that’s true year-round – the board have a contact form on the OTW website, and Communications check for comments on all the blog posts and pass them on to the right team to answer.

Sam’s original question (last chat) was:

“One of the biggest impediments to the Org, from both an internal and an external perspective, is that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and neither are really aware of the existence of the left foot, let alone its actions. Having documentation scattered across the forums, wiki, dreamwidth (for one committee in particular), campfire, mailing lists, and basecamp makes it nigh impossible to find anything. What are your thoughts for opening and encouraging inter-committee communication to functional levels?”

His follow-up is:

“Regarding Basecamp: that solution would work well for committees composed entirely of staff, but what of Tags, Translations, Coders, or Testers, who are composed of volunteers, or Fanlore, composed of all-and-sundry? Would an actual, working forum with organized subsections (such as a phpBB or similar board system) be a solution?”

Andrea, Eylul, go for it whenever you’re ready

Eylul

okay long question with a lot of good points but I’ll take a shot at it πŸ™‚

I do agree with the all org comment a while back that forums would be a great replacement to mailing list. Easier to follow different threads, old records easy to see for newcoming members. Sections can be locked in to staffers, to volunteers or individual communities. The only thing I cannot solve in my brain is how you would do cross committee discussions that currently happens over multiple emails but I am sure there is a solution to that.

bleargh has entered the room

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Andrea H.

I think people who’ve proposed OTW Forums aren’t necessarily thinking of using it as yet another platform for internal volunteer communications – although I have seen people raise the notion of some kind of spot where organizational FAQ are listed with answers, which is a notion borrowed from support forums. But there’s no reason an OTW forum couldn’t be used in that way, certainly, if certain committees wanted to do so. The point about Basecamp from last time was, on a larger level, that knowing where to go can be half the battle. And on the point of Fanlore, it seems to make sense that Wiki does what it needs to do in light of its project purpose.

Eylul

phpBB as far as I know as a system is not very accessible (I think the main concern is that it uses tables, which is not very screenreader friendly). However I know we are testing other forum software, so I am sure there is a solution out there.

Andrea H.

if that makes sense? it’s 08:00 here

I don’t think that last sentence made sense. Let me try again: not every committee may have the same solution. /done

Eylul

About wiki/basecamp however, that one is trickier… I think that at some point one size doesn’t fit all, and the best solution is to have a centralized place to indicate which committee keeps which documents where, and to be organized.

/done

Jenny S-T

thank you, both

mrsscribe has entered the room

Jenny S-T

the other question emailed in advance was from Ira – Ira, do you want to go ahead, or shall I paste from your email?

Ira G.

could you paste?

Jenny S-T

“What do you think are the org’s biggest issues in terms of distribution of resources? This can be about either the resources themselves (e.g. Project X needs more of Y) or about how resources are allocated/the process by which we determine where resources go and how to get them there. Are there specific resources — money, personnel, general attention — that you feel are particularly well or poorly distributed? What would you do to address this?”

While Andrea and Eylul are typing responses, for those who’ve just joined and can’t see scrollback, welcome. I’m the OTW Elections Officer and board secretary, and host for this chat. Raise a hand if you’ve got something to ask, and I’ll call on people in order. If we run out of time, you can ask more questions on the blog posts – there have already been questions answered there. And that’s true year-round – the board have a contact form on the OTW website, and Communications check for comments on all the blog posts and pass them on to the right team to answer.

Eylul

I think everyone knows in part what I think about this question (http://eylul.dreamwidth.org/353.html)

essentially I think one of our biggest inequalities is the amount of training and support (mentoring and physical) that is available for AO3 project vs other projects the organization has.

hele

(0/ for follow up question)

Eylul

Basically we have this issue right now that our technical volunteer management is fused with AO3 project management and that is causing a lot of inefficiencies of addressing of technical needs (in case of cases like Fanlore or Journal), or in prioritization of features even related to AO3 sometimes (translation, OD, tag wrangling etc). I think that is the biggest inequality issue we have.

pluck has entered the room

Eylul

Basically for that I propose splitting of project management from technical volunteer management. /done

Andrea H.

Let me start off by saying that I’ve been thinking more in terms of personnel and attention when I’ve said ‘resources’ in these chats. I do think that there are some committees and projects that seem to draw more of the OTW’s attention than others. I don’t necessarily think it’s a problem that we have one project that’s umpteen times more popular than the others (AO3), but I do think it’s a problem that that one project get the lion’s share of internal focus, too. We do a lot of awesome things! The question about personnel is trickier, because of course we’re not a company where we can just assign paid employees, but I do think making sure that every committee has effective leadership is part of this, and in making sure that volunteers and Chairs are effectively trained across the Org. Which Volcom has been working on, and which as a process needs to continue.

On that note, I’m very interested in Eylul’s proposals in that post, too, so that’s a specific thing.

As for process, I think this unequal distribution is in some ways a relic from the OTW’s early years, so I’m not sure there even has been a process that got us here per se.

/done

Jenny S-T

Ira, any follow-up, or does that mostly answer it?

Ira G.

thank you both

would it be okay if hele went while I think?

Eylul

(OD -> Open Doors btw)

Ira G.

since she raised hand for followup

hele

(if you’re asking me, I’ve no problem)

Jenny S-T

yep, go for it, Hele

hele

ok, Eylul, you said ‘inequalities is the amount of training and support (mentoring and physical) that is available for AO3 project vs other projects’

to what do you think that’s due?

i.e. is it down to actions from the board, specific process, only a structural thing, what the volunteers want to do…?

and, if it’s both the last things (which partly my experience, partly what I understood of your post — which may be misunderstanding, of course), how do you think we should allocate volunteer interest?

/done

bleargh has left the room

hele

(I can clarify if I expressed myself in a non understandable manner!)

Eylul

I think that it is a structural thing. AD&T from what I see was intended to become technical volunteer management committee, and has the structure and resources for that. Vs Fanlore and Journal or other committees are more structured on management of these projects in non technical aspects and they are clients of AD&T, so to speak. However as AO3 management fused with AD&T AO3 took priority which left other committees to either try to find a way to request help in a way that nobody has specified the how to of, or to hire technical staff themselves who often work alone or small teams. From what I know right now webs and systems are the ones

who do the helping, and especially in systems’ case it is already making a committee that already has a lot to do doing a job that is not their responsability (even through I do hear only good things about systems about this so awesome job there)

I think that it is less about allocating volunteer interest. We do get people interested in building the wiki the same way they want to build ao3, but they don’t get training, mentoring, webdevs, they often work in a vacuum. These things will affect people’s drop out rates and their willingness to come and work in a project. It is important to realize that there is a lot of OSS enthousiasts out there

who would want to work in OTW projects, any of them. We have a culture of building skill rather than expecting it, a safe environment (which is rare in tech circles)

hele

So we both have interested trainers and trainees but the resources like webdevs aren’t being allocated?

Eylul

visibility. All of these are important.

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hele

(I ask because that hasn’t been my experience in translation. Most or a lot of the translators really only _wanted_ to work on the Archive, back when I knew about it.)

Eylul

Hele I think that there is a lot of thought process going into what AO3 coders need, but designers and testers, as well as technical volunteers working on other projects don’t get same level of focus and energy on thought to make their lives and tasks easier.

Ah. I do think that preference is a symptom of the fact that we don’t put emphasis on those projects. I do think that those who wants to work on AO3 should still work on it, but that if the other projects gets the same attention, perks etc, there will be people interested in working in these projects.

hele

Idk, fanlore doesn’t have a good structure for pages in other languages, for example, nor would it be, in my opinion, good to, say, move all argentinian fanzines to a college in USA, if that were even possible

Andrea H.

To stick my oar in, the thought process about what coders need clearly doesn’t always consider what the rest of the OTW needs out of the Archive, either.

hele

so the other projects don’t cater to the international fans the same way

Eylul

I think there is also other solutions if the problem still persists like building a culture of community and taking projects (less wanted and more wanted) as a team to encourage people to work on it but… /done because I feel like I hogged the chat and want to let Andrea speak.

hele

thanks!

Andrea H.

I need more caffeine.

I’m not sure I have much to add on this subject right at the moment – see above re: caffeine – although I do want to note that I take your point about the international appeal of other projects, Hele, and it’s something to think about, for sure.

Eylul

*thinks on what hele says* (actually hele I would like to discuss with you more on translations and the issues you guys run into, when you or other staffers have time.)

hele

I’m not a translation staffer!

anymore, that is

I actually am only sure about our chair, and that’s Aga

the staffers have been fluctuating, so ask there

Eylul

ah my bad. *embarrassed* all the same, and I want to hear more about what you just said about the international appeal of the projects as well.

hele

sure! whenever you want

Jenny S-T

Ira, or anyone else with a question?

Andrea H.

A question about how to talk about certain aspects of Japanese fan cultures came up in reference to Fanlore earlier this year, for example, and the point about not sending Argentinean fanzines to Iowa is valid, too – although at the same time, it’s fairly normal for archives holding a lot of really diverse materials to be located in seemingly strange spots. (For instance, I need to put together funding to go read a bunch of Taisho/early Meiji manga that’s out in Ohio at some point this year.) So, just to say that the internationalization is something we need to keep thinking about, and working on, because I don’t think in principle that any project is less international than the others. I hope not, anyway! /done

Ira G.

I’m done — rather let other questions/topics in =)

Andrea H.

Wait!

hele

(it strikes me as a sort of cultural theft, though I guess them being preserved _somewhere_ is still good.)

Jenn Calaelen

\o

Andrea H.

I should follow that up by saying that I don’t have a secret agenda for the OTW to become the single monolithic organization for all of fandom everywhere. πŸ™‚

Agnieszka S. has entered the room

hele

heeh, and I didn’t mean _from the OTW_ really

Andrea H.

(yeah, some people do say that, and it’s definitely a concern! with archives the choice is often between preservation and destruction, but that’s another chat.) /done

Jenny S-T

Go for it, Jenn

Jenn Calaelen

How much of a say in the directions of projects (etc) should users get?

(as in not volunteers, staffers, etc)

Andrea H.

can you be more specific?

Jenn Calaelen

archive features and the like?

Eylul

I think that they should be able to point out problems, or suggest features, and comment on how they use things. Occasionally it is alright to offer a solution but I think that it goes through the process of participation into development of the software project(design, coding and QA). I think right now our processes for participating into software development is a still bit too rigid to allow that so that is a drawback. (there is work on that done)

Jenn Calaelen

mostly around Yuletide areas I’ve been hearing a lot of why hasn’t x been fixed yet? why ins’t the Yuletide old archive import happening soon etc…

Andrea H.

Well, archive importing as a whole isn’t ready yet, so it’s not just Yuletide shuffling its heels, for sure!

Eylul

Now, what I think is not okay, is polling. I do think input allows inclusivity, but blindly just going after most popular issues and such sometimes means not catering to smaller communities that are in minority, or not active in feedback yet. So it is a balancing act.\

/done

addendum: I mean yes from a software design point of view yes we should prioritize largest user base but we are also a non-profit with principles, so we cannot just do that /really done

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Andrea H.

There is a mechanism currently by which users are able to suggest features – somewhat counterintuitively – putting in a Support ticket, and I know that the tickets are an important source of user feedback and suggestions. Obviously though those tend to be on the reactive rather than the proactive side, and probably aren’t as well-known as they could be.

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Andrea H.

I agree with Eylul that the AO3 can’t just follow the crowd – or the vision of single developers – because of the fact that we do have principles that we have to do our best to uphold, as an Org. But yes, users definitely should have a say, but it’s important to recognize that our users aren’t monolithic. /done

Jenny S-T

thank you, both

Does anyone else have any questions? We have about 15 minutes left

hele

(Andrea, don’t want to interrupt, but can I get you two seconds on crosscom or here, after this?)

Andrea H.

(sure!)

Jenny S-T

If not, I’ll pull one from the latest blog post, but do feel free to interrupt if you have anything

Eylul

*looks both at staffers AND guests*

Jenny S-T

Okay, a question from Que on the blog: “And lastly, one of the problems that seem to have been plaguing the OTW board is low attendance of board members. What are your thoughts on this situation, possible solutions or affects to the Org and the productivity of the board?”

Andrea H.

I was just about to post this as an answer to the blog

let me c&P

It’s definitely a problem when Board members have high rates of absence at Board meetings, particularly with a six-person Board – I’m hopeful that increasing the seats to nine will mean that more meetings have a quorum of attendees in 2013, and definitely the more meetings there are without a quorum, the less productive Board is. I said this in a blog post, but I don’t actually expect that every Board member will be able to show up to meetings 100% of the time – we have lives, other commitments, and since Board doesn’t get a salary, we have to do something to keep a roof over our head in our spare time, too. πŸ™‚ And, because Board does a lot of its communication over email and Basecamp, missing the occasional meeting doesn’t mean you’re automatically completely out of the loop. I also think it’s important for Board members to acknowledge when life is such that they won’t be able to fulfill their responsibilities, as Jenny S-T has done by deciding to resign at the end of this term πŸ™ (we’ll miss you, Jenny!) and Julia Beck has done by going on hiatus until 2013, and as Ira Gladkova did earlier this year for medical reasons. So, in the end, open communication is hugely important for Board too.

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Eylul

I know there was a solution in part to make the meetings rotate to accommodate more timezones. Beyond that however I think is defining an attendance rule that is reasonable and holding board members accountable for it. I think the big issue as Jenny mentioned in her second post on the topic was not that the board members was missing the meetings but that the asynchronous conversation over emails and tasks as being a liaison was also suffering. The solution I think, again, is to set up expectations, to make these expectations clear to incoming members, then hold board members accountable in it. I do also think that there is however things that can be done to gradually lower the time expectation from board members which is frankly huge.

Board has to do a lot of mentoring and decision making that again is appropriate for a newly founded small non-profit, and not appropriate for our current scale. The whole issue of building new structures that is suited to a larger and more mature org ties to this too. (I think the board has been discussing this and beginning to work on solutions over past year)

/done

Andrea H.

Agreed. /done

Eylul

*also agrees with andrea’s points*

Jenny S-T

thank you, both

Any other questions in our last couple of minutes?

pluck has left the room

hele

(since this is quiet, Andrea, I’m going to jump to crosscommin parallel and leave you my message there)

Jenny S-T

If not, thank you all for coming. We will be posting transcript shortly, and you are welcome to ask further questions there.

hele

the meme already has it

Agnieszka S. has left the room

hele

I’m only sad the real mrsscribe is not in the room

I was about to ask for an autograph

Ira G.

Thank you for hosting, Jenny, and thank you Andrea and Eylul!

Andrea H.

thanks everyone! have a good weekend. πŸ™‚ Ira, like half an hour from now?

Eylul

thank you everyone for coming and for thoughtful questions, and thank you Jenny for organizing this!

Nele N.

Thank you all

hele

yes, thanks candidates/future board for coming and answering!

Kristen M.

thanks, Andrea, Eylul, and Jenny!

Kristen M. has left the room

hele

and Jenny for organizing and doing being an excellent moderator

Candidate manifestos

Our remaining chat with our new Board members, Andrea Horbinski, Eylul Dogruel and Franzeska Dickson is coming up. The meetings are open to all of our members and to the public. It will be held in the OTW public chatroom.

Transcripts of the candidate chat will be made available on the elections website shortly following the event, and both members and candidates are encouraged to comment on them. Each chat will be with two of the new Board members, which is actually more realistic for board meetings anyway, now that we’re spread more equally around the world. The transcript of the second chat is now available.

The date and time of the chat is Sat 6th Oct 1500 UTC with Andrea & Eylul (What time is that where I live?)

The candidates’ personal bios and manifestos are now available on the OTW Elections website, and comments on this post are welcome, or you can send in questions via the Elections Officer.

Franzeska
Eylul
Andrea

2012 Candidate Manifesto – Andrea Horbinski

Why did you decide to run for election to the Board? What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

There is no way to talk about why I decided to run for the OTW Board without sounding like an egomaniac, so with that having been said, let me move on to the questions. I have been planning on running for the Board for a good year now, since just before the contested election of 2011 brought the OTW’s structural problems – familiar to me since my service on I&O began in 2010 – out into the open. I have long experience with majority-female volunteer organizations (I have been a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts USA since the age of five) and with the fractious politics of relatively tight-knit institutions (such as academic communities), and I felt that joining the Board was the best way both to give back to fandom as a whole and to put my skills and experience with running organizations and managing people to work for the OTW at the broadest possible level. Furthermore, as a longtime member and the current Chair of Internationalization & Outreach, I am always convinced that the OTW could do more to support and enact the committee’s goals across the org, and I hope to work to support their achievement as a Board member.

 

 

What is your vision for the direction of the organization over the next year and how do you see working with your fellow board members to accomplish it?

Having served as a committee chair in this 2012 term, the single most important element of my vision for the Org in 2013 is the need to support the work of the Strategic Planning committee and then, when their review is finished, to take their reports about the state of the Org to heart and to craft a long-term plan that acknowledges both our strengths and our deficits. Along those lines, I’ve also become increasingly concerned over this term with the need for all committees to be responsive to the needs of other committees and the rest of the org. I find the question of “how do I see myself working with my fellow board members to accomplish this?” somewhat odd, as anyone who’s worked in these arenas can tell you that politics, like sausage-making, is a process that no one really wants to see happening in detail. Everything is going to get accomplished by discussion, and by being able to convince others that what I or the people I’m representing want isn’t a threat, is doable, and is worth doing. There are a lot of emails in my future, obviously.

 

 

What is your experience of the org’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas of the org you’re interested in.

As an I&O member and then Chair, I’ve worked in passing with most if not all of the Org’s committees, and I personally have been associated with Translation, Journal, and tag wranglers as well as with I&O. I’m also lucky to count a large number of OTW staffers and volunteers among my personal friends and acquaintances, and over the course of this summer I’ve met, spoken with, and visited many of them as well as many people I hadn’t met before. I use and have contributed to Fanlore, have an AO3 account and was a tag wrangler, read and have contributed to Transformative Works & Cultures and write for the TWC blog, and have read some of the Open Doors materials that are available online and am part of a research project that is planning to donate an archive of fannish oral histories to the University of Iowa thanks to the OTW’s connection with that institution’s holdings, to say nothing of using the DMCA exemption that the OTW’s Legal advocacy obtained in many of the AMVs and vids that I make. As much as I love AO3, I think some of our other projects such as Fanlore and Open Doors are equally cool, and I’d love for them to become better known and more widely used. I know a lot of committees that don’t deal with the Archive can easily feel like they’re not feeling as much of the institutional love, so to speak, and I hope as a Board member to more equally redistribute it, and to equalize the usage of the OTW’s resources across projects.

 

 

What does transparency mean to you personally, both inside the organization and between projects and between the organization and fandom? How do you value it and how would you make it a part of your service?

I find the question of “what transparency means to me personally” to be (ironically) somewhat opaque, but that being said, I think transparency both inside and outside the Org is very important. I do make a point of talking, when inspired and as far as I can without violating confidentiality, about various OTW topics on my legal name journal, though in my experience, unfortunately, transparency can only do so much. Making information available is no guarantee that people will read it, whether inside or outside the Org, and I think it’s important to recognize that limitation. That said, I absolutely believe that the OTW should be as transparent as possible within the legal and operational limits of its status as a non-profit organization incorporated under U.S. law.

 

 

What does diversity mean to you personally, both inside the organization and between projects and between the organization and fandom? How do you value it and how would you make it a part of your service?

The work of I&O is to “work toward inclusivity, accessibility and visibility for the OTW and its projects, both from a fannish and an international standpoint.” As an I&O staffer and then Chair, I have constantly tried to solicit a diversity of opinion within the Org for our work and our goals (diversity of opinion yields a higher likelihood of reaching consensus), and I have also tried explicitly both to foster and to support diversity of members and of opinion across the Org and its projects. One of the reasons that the I&O committee decided to conduct the audience survey in 2011 – which became a committee earlier this year – was because we were convinced that the survey would make visible the fact that the Org’s audience and membership was already more diverse, on multiple axes, than popular images indicated – and I think that the survey results released so far have actually borne this out. I remain committed to fostering diversity within the Org and its projects and to recognizing it within our audience, because I agree with Ada Intiative co-founder Mary Gardiner, as the title of her keynote at Wikimania 2012 in Washington, D.C. earlier this year had it, “fostering diversity [is] not a boring chore, [but] a critical opportunity.”

 

 

What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?

I am familiar with the requirements and expectations of a non-profit board of directors under U.S. law, and I consider all of them to be essential both for fulfilling the OTW’s role as a non-profit to serve the public interest – which I believe passionately, in this role of burgeoning threats to a free and open internet from Big Media, that we do and are – and for strengthening the OTW’s institutional infrastructure. In particular, I think the Board’s advisory and supervisor responsibilities are key. Once we have a strategic vision, it is essential that we on the Board make sure that our strategic vision is implemented successfully. (In my opinion, a good part of the Board’s current work boils down to actually realizing already articulated visions, and strengthening the foundations of existing projects.)

 

 

How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the org, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?

Though I have been involved with a wide range of OTW projects, I am currently serving only on two committees, as a member of the Journal committee (through a courtesy appointment due to my status as one of the people writing for/running the TWC blog) and as Chair of I&O. I don’t anticipate, once the three of us on the TWC blog finish our project to redesign it, that continuing to write an average of one blog post a month will be too much of an additional strain on my time and resources. Although I’ve loved being Chair of I&O, I recognize that chairing a committee in addition to serving on Board is going to be too much, and I intend to co-Chair I&O for the 2013 term, with a firm commitment from me to phase out my Chairmanship by the end of next term (and probably by the beginning of the next election). Co-Chairing will allow the two of us to cover for each other while not leaving I&O bereft of stable leadership and not forcing me to default on my Board responsibilities, which can and should come before any individual committee.

Transcript for Second 2012 Candidate Chat

The following is a transcript of the OTW Board candidates’ chat held at 0500 UTC 3 October 2012. Elections officer Jenny Scott-Thompson moderated the discussion; candidates Franzeska Dickson and Andrea Horbinski attended.

Jenny S-T has entered the room

Andrea H. has entered the room

Jenny S-T

Hi πŸ™‚

Andrea H.

hey!

Lady Oscar has entered the room

Jenny S-T

We’re a little short of people this morning πŸ™‚

Lady Oscar

Forgot it was 10!

Jenny S-T

Welcome to the 2nd election chat! I’m the OTW Elections Officer and Board Secretary, as you already know ;). Transcript of the previous chat is available at http://elections.transformativeworks.org/transcript-initial-2012-candidate-chat if you’re interested.

Franzi should be joining us any moment

Franzeska D. has entered the room

Jenny S-T

So, last time Franzi and Eylul introduced themselves. All the bios (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/otw-election-candidates-2012) are now live – Andrea, do you want to give any extra introduction?

Sam J. has entered the room

Andrea H.

um, I’m not sure – I can talk more about any part of the bio people have questions on, of course, but I think the main point is I’m an academic and a fan and I like anime πŸ™‚

Jenny S-T

Cool πŸ™‚

Anna G. has entered the room

Jenny S-T

Lady Oscar, Sam, do you have any questions you want to ask of the candidates? If not, I also have a couple from Sanders in email.

Curtis J. has entered the room

Jenny S-T

A question from Sanders that we ran out of time for last time: What experience do you have with nonprofits other than OTW?

Franzeska D.

Zilch

Andrea H.

I’ve been a Girl Scout since the age of five – which, obviously, as a Daisy I didn’t get much organizational perspective πŸ™‚ 1/2

but, as a Girl Scout in high school, I did observe and participate in the Council decision-making process, and I also attended the national convention as an alternate delegate in 2002

I’m trying to think if there’s anything else…

Anna G.

I have a follow up question to this, if that’s okay?

Jenny S-T

ok, Anna. I’ve got one more from Sanders first, then I’ll call on you.

Anna G.

thanks πŸ™‚

Andrea H.

FWIW, I’m currently the chair of the History Graduate Association here at Berkeley, and I was one of its coordinators last year

I also, as might be expected, ran and participated in a number of student organizations in undergrad

I think that’s it

stretching the definition somewhat, admittedly

Jenny S-T

Feel free to drop extra stuff in later if you think of it

And another one from Sanders: What do you think is the most significant accomplishment of the current board and how do you intend to support or build on that?

Sam J.

(Jenny: o/ )

Andrea H.

I was really glad to see the strategic planning work group get off the ground

and that it’s been continuing its work. i was also pleased to see Grants get a bigger role again.

As for how to support or build on that…I think one of the most important things the 2013 Board will do is receive Strategic Planning’s reports and recommendations, and I think it’s vital that we hear what they tell us, take it to heart, and craft a realistic strategic plan based on that. So, that’s what I intend to do, for certaion.

Franzeska D.

Agreed. It seems like the board has started to take a much more serious look at long term planning. I’d like to continue to take a very user-oriented, evidence-based approach to decisions. In other words, things like surveys and observing current fan behavior on and off of AO3 are more useful than the board members’ prior opinions most of the time. Fandom is sufficiently diverse and user behavior on any site sufficiently surprising to site designers, that you really have to keep collecting data and observing.

Andrea H.

Agreed.

That was part of why I&O wanted to do the survey, definitely.

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Jenny S-T

Thanks, both

Okay, Anna, go ahead with your question

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Anna G.

I’m wondering if, since there’s no practical nonprofit experience, either of you plan to research/investigate nonprofits (both online and off) and bring any of that knowledge to how the OTW is run?

(sorry for the clumsy structure of that question.)

Franzeska D.

No, it’s a good question. I’ve been reading articles people have sent around. I haven’t done any in-depth research yet. It will depend on my job situation next year. (I’m applying to business school. If I get in, what I’m studying there will be relevant. If I don’t, I’ll do more reading on my own.)

Also, while nonprofits do have some distinct features, I feel like quite a lot of my current job is relevant. (It’s a small company going through growing pains.)

/done (unless anyone wants elaboration)

Paul has entered the room

Ira G. has entered the room

sanders has entered the room

Jenny S-T

Andrea? (Everyone else, if you want to ask a question, let me know and I’ll add you to the queue)

Andrea H.

I certainly think the OTW can benefit from the experience of other nonprofits with things like Founder’s Syndrome, etc, which are recognized developmental issues that most nonprofits have – and in a perfect world I’d love to dive into doing in-depth research on those questions. I’ve also been looking into resources that people like Jenny have recommended, but I also think that the current issues facing the OTW are pretty clear, and I don’t want to lose sight of them in a focus on “generic non-profits.”

Anna G.

(o/ x2)

Jenny S-T

Sam, you’re up next

Andrea H.

I’d also add that, like Franzi says, while non-profits do have some distinct features, I certainly don’t think that I’m totally without experience in the type of discussions that are the Board’s bread and butter. But yeah, I’d like to learn more if I can, certainly.

/done

Lady Oscar

o/

Jenny S-T

whoops, sorry, too early

go for it, Sam

Sam J.

One of the biggest impediments to the Org, from both an internal and an external perspective, is that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and neither are really aware of the existence of the left foot, let alone its actions. Having documentation scattered across the forums, wiki, dreamwidth (for one committee in particular), campfire, mailing lists, and basecamp makes it nigh impossible to find anything. What are your thoughts for opening and encouraging inter-committee communication to functional levels?

/done

Ira G.

(thank you, Sam!)

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Franzeska D.

Hmm… Well, the sort of committee-committee liaising some committees already do is helpful.

I would like to see more committees make heavier use of Basecamp because it’s easy for staff to browse all the different sections, but that’s complicated by the fact that non-staff volunteers don’t have access.

Andrea H.

*sigh* Yeah, that’s a big one. I think one of the things I’ve struggled with this year, for sure, is just making it policy to actually put policies, minutes, whatnot up on centrally accessible platforms like the wiki – I think, if we could get all committees to do that regularly (and admittedly, I can only speak for I&O on this being difficult), that would be a big step in the right direction. I also think that we collectively need to get into the habit of looking at the other platforms proactively, if necessary – and again, I will hold up myself as an example of this being a hard habit to get into. Maybe it’s time to look into creating some kind of standardized policies for which platform to use when and by whom? The other thing, of course, is that communication is a two-way street, and so committees have to be looking to each other for info on what they’re doing, not just doing their own thing. I do think the changed format of the all-org meetings, including the internal newsletter, helps with this, and has helped a lot so far.

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Andrea H.

Ditto on using Basecamp more heavily – I know a lot of people find it intimdating, as well, and I know it’s only this year that I”ve really felt comfortable with it. But it can be a pretty powerful tool.

Amy W. has entered the room

Sam J.

(follow-up?)

Franzeska D.

The primary issue I see is that some of our tools have a steep learning curve for some or all of our staff. The wiki isn’t going to be something people find easy to browse and to use unless they find wikis in general easy to use. Few people have experience with Basecamp prior to OTW. It would be helpful not to have to make everyone learn so many different skills at once.

/done

Andrea H.

/done

Jenny S-T

Anna, you’re next, then Sam’s follow-up, then LO, then Anna’s second question, and that will probably take us up to the end of time, but everyone else, email me questions and we can start with them next chat.

Anna G.

My question is a followup to my last question, & is for Andrea: you mention that you think the issues facing the OTW are pretty clear. Can you talk about what you think those issues are? (I ask this because it’s become apparent to me in the last several months that the issues people think of when they think of the OTW are actually wildly varied.)

(er, full disclosure: I’m the chair of the Strategic Planning committee, so I have an unfair advantage in knowing what some people are thinking re this.)

Andrea H.

Well, let me turn the question around on Franzi, too, and ask what she thinks the issues are πŸ™‚

Franzeska D.

ha ha

sanders

I’d like to hear both of your answers, actually, but Andrea, if you wouldn’t mind answering first since Anna addressed the question to you, that would be great.

Sam J.

(Jenny: bump my follow-up to email)

Ira G.

I have a question to put in line after this =)

Lady Oscar

(Anna asked what I was going to)

Andrea H.

I think the issues remain largely the same as they were last year, with the proviso that I also think that everything I’ve seen this term has left me with cautious optimism about the Org’s direction. In one sentence, I think making the OTW a long-term sustainable proposition is the single key issue, which is easy to say but hides the fact that it is basically an octopus in terms of concrete issues.

and yes, i have a follow-up, give me a second πŸ™‚ Franzi?

Franzeska D.

I think our biggest issue is confusion: people not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing or not knowing which committee is in charge of something they need to ask about. Estimated dates for things not being clear or not being accurate.

(From the user side, that would be the endless tumblr posts going “Is it the end of july yet? HUH? HUH?”)

Andrea H.

yeah, definitely

Franzeska D.

/done

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Andrea H.

I think the most concrete example of this is committees not being evenly resourced – not only in terms of staff, but in terms of management and paying attention to the rest of the Org’s wants and needs. I think the changes to the Board liaison system that were made this year have helped with that unevenness, but it definitely remains.

And I think, fwiw, that every question we’ve had so far has played into different aspects of that single overarching issue. So yeah, definitely, it’s not like I’m the only one who’s aware of the problems! /done

Jenny S-T

Okay, with Sam moving to email and LO already answered, it’s Anna’s second question, then Ira. Go ahead, Anna.

Andrea H.

Oh, wait!

What I forgot to say is that transparency plays a big part in this, which is basically the other side of Sam’s question. So, how to be both internally and externally transparent is definitely an ongoing issue. /done

Anna G.

This one is about management — you’ve both talked about it. Franzeska, in the last chat, you mentioned that you’re concerned about management within the OTW, that managers are not getting to manage, etc. What are [both of] your thoughts on how to change this? Do [either/both of] you have [people] management experience that you plan to draw from?

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Franzeska D.

Not a lot. More of my experience is from observing managers, both good and horrendous, at my job. The biggest obvious, easy(ish) to fix thing is to have board members avoid also being on committees. I realize this is not realistic for some people depending on their skill sets, but I am not a coder/lawyer/etc., so I will not be serving on a committee while on the board.

Andrea H.

Fwiw, the OTW is definitely an outlier among non-profits in that almost 100% of its business is conducted entirely online, which definitely makes managing people, i.e. volunteers, a lot more challenging than when it’s done face to face, in an office, for example. The OTW also has problems relative to other non-profits like soup kitchens or thrift stores, for example, in that we don’t really have “drop in” work that people can do very easily, with a very qualified exception of coding.

Franzeska D.

Doing things online, you really need to proactively check in with people a lot.

You can’t wander by and tell by facial expression and posture that something’s up and you need to pull the person aside and ask what’s wrong.

Andrea H.

So, there’s that kind of non-profit management, and there’s also the more specialized kind of project management, which, for example, is something that they actually offer Masters of Science in – my dad just earned his this spring, and I actually have been planning to sit down and read his PM books over the holidays when I’m back in Jersey. Getting people who can do project management for open source software projects is even more difficult than that sort of general non-profit management, and they’re not quite the same, either.

Franzeska D.

/done

Andrea H.

I’ve recently gotten involved with the Ada Initiative, and I do think that the OTW could definitely benefit from looking into other open source projects like Dreamwidth for comparative open source management strategies, practices, etc. So that’s something I’ve been keeping in the back of my mind as a potentiality – I wrote a couple of blog posts on that theme after I attended AdaCamp DC this summer.

I also agree with Franzi about not doubling up responsibilities, and I definitely plan to give up Chairing I&O πŸ™ as soon as possible, as much as I’ve enjoyed it.

In the long term, I agree about the ideal of Board members hesitating to serve on committees outright, but I’m not sure how feasible that is in the short to medium term. Um, I think I had a point there somewhere. I hope. /done

Jenny S-T

We’re just about out of time, so Ira’s question is moved to email/comments. Everyone, feel free to send me follow-up questions via email, and we’ll continue in the comments of the last transcript blog post as well as next chat.

Thank you all for coming

Anna G.

Thanks for the thoughtful answers!

Jenny S-T

http://transformativeworks.org/next-candidate-chat-and-transcript for comments, or http://otw-news.livejournal.com/219155.html or http://otw-news.dreamwidth.org/167797.html

Ira G.

Awesome! Thank you for hosting, for questions, for answers, and for coming!

Curtis J. has left the room

FishieMishie

thanks Jenny, and Franzi and Andrea!