Chat Transcript with Alex Tischer, Aline Carrรฃo, Andrea Horbinski, Atiya Hakeem, Katarina Harju, and Matty Bowers – October 30, 2015

Anna Temel
Let’s get this started! ๐Ÿ˜€

Hi everyone, and welcome to our candidate chats! My name is Anna and I’m a member of the Elections Committee. I’ll be hosting today.

This is the last in a series of five 90-minute-long chats with our Board candidates – the candidates present today are Alex Tischer, Aline Carrรฃo, Andrea Horbinski, Atiya Hakeem, Katarina Harju, and Matty Bowers. The purpose of these chats is to see how candidates interact, both with each other and the public, and to give OTW volunteers and members a chance to ask questions not already covered in their manifestos, bios, and Q&A, as well as to ask individual questions of specific candidates. Transcripts of this chat will be posted publicly on our website.

We welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

– Raise your hand to speak, like this: o/. You will be called on when it is your turn to speak. Use /done when you’re finished asking your question.

– Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.

– Refer to everyone in the room by the name given in the sidebar for them. Don’t use other names you may know them by.

– Please keep questions reasonable and polite (these are our expectations: http://elections.transformativeworks.org/node/534).

– Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the manifestos (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/candidatebios/2015) or the Q&A (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/node/512). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.

ok, that’s it for the intro! do we have any questions? ๐Ÿ™‚

Priscilla D.
o/

Anna Temel
Please go ahead, Priscilla! ๐Ÿ™‚

Priscilla D.
What do you think are the biggest challenges the org has in the road ahead with regards to changing its internal tools? I realise a review of our tools is a future goal in the SPโ€”I would like to hear each candidate’s point of view regarding which internal tools they think are most important to reassess, and why this is essential for the org. /done

Anna Temel
thank you for your question! Please give our candidates a moment to type

Alex T.
I think we really have to consider moving away from basecamp. They’ve stopped work on Campfire completely and Basecamp itself isn’t that great a tool in itself.

We’ve been trialing a different chat system for Translation and it is amazing what a difference a functional mobile client makes for collaborativ work /done

Atiya
I think our chat/meeting tool is the most important, both because Campfire isn’t currently being supported by 37 Signals, and because it has some intrinsic limitations that make inter-committee communication harder (definite defined rooms, for example). I think improving our chat tool will really pay off in terms of creating a better atmosphere with more interaction, within and between committees – that would help with volunteer retention, breaking down silos, etc. Our experiments with a new tool recently have been very promising. /done

Katarina H.
I think finding a new chat tool would be important, since that’s an important communication tool for the whole organization. Chat is one of the primary ways a lot of committees communicate and it should be something that’s easy to use and works well. We all know that Campfire is far from ideal, and there’s no support offered for it anymore, so sooner or later we’ll have to move. /done

Aline C.
I would love to see something new to substitute Basecamp and campfire, both of those are considerable outdated and lack functionalities like being usable on mobile and tablets. Basecamp having the additional downside of not being accessible to volunteers that are cot staff. /done

Andrea H.
Thanks for the question. Aside from the results of a general security review, which I suspect will yield a lot of recommendations for specific changes we can make to improve our general practices, I think the most important tool(s) we need to reassess is actually Basecamp and Campfire. They’ve served us well for many years and when the OTW started they were basically the only game in town, but at this point a lot of people actually have trouble making them work on modern devices, neither of them are being actively developed (we’re on Basecamp Classic), and we need to be looking into moving on to something that better fits our needs, including a mobile client that works across platforms. I would expect that we’ll wind up on a combination of different tools that can integrate with each other, since that’s another thing that’s come a long way since the org began. /done

Matty Bowers
Two of our major tools are no longer being supported – Basecamp and Campfire. This means we won’t see any new features or updates to functionality. I’d love to find replacements for both, especially for our chat tool. We do have committees trialing one new tool in particular, and it’s already been hugely beneficial for all those involved. /done

Anna Temel
Thanks! Priscilla, do you have any follow-ups?

Priscilla D.
I do, a quick one, optional, just for whichever candidates happen to want to answer

Anna Temel
sure! please go ahead

Priscilla D.
Many of you mentioned chat tools, which I definitely agree with 100%, but in addition to that, have any of you used audio/video conferencing for OTW work? Do you think the org should use that kind of resource more?

/done

Er, *all ๐Ÿ˜€

Alex T.
Oh, we’ve done a lot of brainstorming for our long reports in Translation via Skype. It works amazingly well to just bounce ideas of each other /done

Atiya
I’ve used video conferencing for work-work (and for fandom writing discussion), but not actually in the Org. I do think it would be an excellent thing to experiment with. /done

Matty Bowers
I haven’t yet, but I’d love to try it out in the future. I know it’s worked quite well for those committees who have used it. /done

Aline C.
We have used Skype for brainstorming and non-official meetings in Translation, and I really like the results. We managed to get a lot done in considerable less time while talking to each other via audio. I do think we should this used more by the org. We are a all-online non-profit composed of mostly tech savvy people, there is no reason we shouldn’t explore it. /done

Andrea H.
The Board has used Skype for some of its work. I’ve actually advocated that we explore getting a conference call service for the org–I’ve previously used Turbobridge and found it to be pretty great, but there are a lot of options. Voice communications can definitely be a lot more efficient in certain contexts and can help to get to know people better, which is always nice in an all-digital organization like the OTW. So yes, it’s definitely something that I think is worth exploring using more, at least for certain projects or committees. /done

Katarina H.
Like Alex said, there’s been quite a bit of that for Translation work, and I think it can be an effective tool for certain kinds of work. /done

Alex T.
Actually, let me add to that, I think it should be used a lot more, certainly /done for real

Anna Temel
(are you 100% sure Alex? :D)

ok, thanks, anything else, Priscilla? ๐Ÿ™‚

Alex T.
(I’ll let you know if I change my mind, ok?)

Anna Temel
(sure! :D)

Priscilla D.
Yep ๐Ÿ˜€ Thank you all! No, no follow-ups.

syllic
o/

Anna Temel
Yes, syllic?

syllic
Thanks Anna. Hey guys, this is for everyone. I apologise because it kind of sounds like something you ask at a bad office retreat, but I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase it!

What one weakness do you see in current Board operations that is a good match for one of your strengths, and what is an area/skillset that you are weak on that you see as being essential to Board operations? How do you plan to strengthen that area/skillset? (Andrea, I realise that your answer may be about things you are already doing/currently perceive)

/done

Anna Temel
good question! thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

Alex T.
I am very good at time management, triage and working to deadlines under pressure – it kind of comes with my job, emergency work is nothing but – and I think that is something current Board operations seem to need.

For weaknessess, I have a tendency to micromanage if I don’t check it (it is something that I have to watch in my RL job every day). I think taking a steop back and looking at the big picture while trusting in others to do the fiddly work is a very important thing for Board to be able to do. /done

Matty Bowers
One area I think Board needs to work on more is updating/creating documentation; this is something I’ve done quite a bit of in Support and Abuse. Both committees started out with very little, and most of what was there was completely outdated. It was a huge chore getting our documentation up to where it needed to be, but we did it! I’m hoping this is an area I can assist in as Board.

One potential weak area for me is my lack of connections outside the OTW. I do think Board members should be actively involved in outreach; this is something I’ll need to really work on if I’m elected. /done

Aline C.
One of my strengths that would help a weakness I see in Board is the communication with staff and volunteersโ€”I already work in close contact with people in several committees and really enjoy chatting with people and getting to know them. A weakness I have is not working on things too far in advance: I need a deadline and a schedule, and to know that other people depend on me. That’s why working in a team helps put me to work, and I think Board would be a good fit for that, just like committee work has been. /done

Atiya
I think communication has been a big problem, between Board and the staff, volunteers, and members, and also (my perception) between Board members. As my fellow Org volunteers know, I have a tendency to communicate…a lot. My reaction to any disagreement is to immediately talk about it, and my experience in Support has helped me at being able to do so productively. I would say that something I need to improve on is the ability to delegate. Working with great teams of people in the Org has helped me be able to let go a bit and trust others to get things done properly. /done

Katarina H.
I think one of my strengths would be the fact that I’ve worked as a bookkeeper/accountant (sorry, we only have one word for both in my languages) for several years, so I’m comfortable with talking about and working with finance issues. My weakness sort of relates to that; the OTW is based in the US and I’m not that knowledgable about US-specific nonprofit laws and accounting, but I’ve been reading up on a lot of it already and I will continue to do so (the basic principles and best practices tend to be pretty similar to what I’m already familiar with). /done

Atiya
(and thanks for a good question!)

Andrea H.
Thanks, that’s a great question. As a director and the Secretary I think the biggest overall weakness in the Board’s general operations is that our mandate is just too big for any group of volunteers: to review, we’re currently acting as both a managing board (also called an executive board) and a governing board, and the workload is just too much. We each are putting in at least ten hours a week and sometimes as many as forty, and we meet for two hours just about every week–all of that is an unheard of commitment even for a managing board, and it means that we’re constantly running to do the bare minimum of what we have to do to keep the Org running and to make sure that we’re fulfilling our legal responsibilities. We wind up relying on chairs and committees to work independent of all but the most basic oversight, which gives people the chance to rise to the occasion but also the chance to flame out spectacularly, as has happened with at least one committee chair this year. And since we act collectively, adding more directors would just exacerbate the inefficiency problem since that would mean having to work with more people’s schedules (which is doubly difficult since we’re from all over the world, rather than just a few timezones). My background and skills/experience is actually decently suited to staying on top of the kind of procedural workload we have to deal with, and it’s one reason that I retained the Secretary job in 2015. Another thing I have that the Board needs is a lot of personal connections and experience in the wider spheres in which the OTW operates such as copyright and open culture advocacy, and we can always use more directors who have that kind of resume. But the thing that we fall down on as a whole is being able to offer the kind of personal management and one-on-one mentorship that some committees need and that is also something that I’m not personally the best at. I tend to be much better at vision and at infrastructural trouble-shooting. /done

Anna Temel
thanks for the answers! do you have any follow-ups, syllic?

puckling
o/

syllic
Sorry Anna just reading Andrea’s answer, one sec.

C. Ryan Smith
o/ (not a follow up)

Anna Temel
ok, no problem! ๐Ÿ™‚

syllic
No follow-ups. Thanks so much to all.

Anna Temel
oki! we’re moving to you puckling, then C. Ryan Smith ๐Ÿ™‚

puckling
As you are probably aware, there was a recent incident in these elections chats involving a current board member. My understanding is that an internal apology was issued to some, but not all, OTW staff. No comment was made publicly by the organization. In your view, what is the ideal handling of an issue like this? /done

Anna Temel
thanks!

Before the candidates answer, I know MJ has something to say – please go ahead.

M. J. MacRae
Thanks for the question puckling. Let me answer it since its directed at my actions. If the candidates would like to add to this afterwards please go ahead. First, I am sorry my apology did not go out to all org volunteers that was a miscommunication.

here is my apology in full:

As some of you may know, I recently participated in two of the election chats using a pseudonym, sbarmarj, that I have used for many years as my fannish identity. I owe an apology to the organization, to the Elections Committee, all the candidates, and to my fellow board members for this decision. My intention was never to mislead the organization or disrespect the election process. My decision was based on the desire to participate in the election process as a voting member of the Organization for Transformative Works when I felt that I could not do so because of my position as a Director. However, I realize that my actions were misguided and wrong. I regret my decision to use my pseudonym, and I apologize for my actions.

While the OTW welcomes pseudonymous participation, that does not mean that it was appropriate for me, as a Board member, to use mine in the chat. It was inconsistent with principles of openness and transparency, and with a culture of trust that I hope to promote. I regret that my actions detrimentally conflicted with these important goals, and I promise in the future to conduct myself in a fashion that better promotes openness, transparency, and trust.

In short, I participated in the chat solely in my personal capacity, and not in my capacity as a Director or on behalf of the Board of Directors. The other directors did not have any knowledge of my actions and do not condone what I did.

I hope you will accept my apology and understand that I never intended to mislead anyone, to disrespect the organization, or to influence the election in any way. I look forward to working with whomever the membership elects.

Respectfully,

MJ MacRae (sbarmarj)

I am happy to discuss this in great detail one on one, but I don’t want to take time from the candidates.

puckling
Thank you very much for your apology MJ /done

M. J. MacRae
you can email me at the http://transformativeworks.org/contact/otw%20board

/done

Anna Temel
Thanks!

We’ll move on now!

C. Ryan Smith, please go ahead!

C. Ryan Smith
Many of you have been openly critical of the current Board of Directors in the past. While I think everyone (including those on the Board itself) can agree that there have been things that they have done wrong, there are also things that they have done right! Could you please name one thing that you think the current OTW Board has done “right” (I was going to ask about something the Board could improve upon, but I feel syllic’s question covered that greatly)? These things could range from actions, stances on a subject, major Org-related decisions, etc). /done

Anna Temel
thanks for great question!

puckling
o/

Aline C.
I’m really excited about the approval of a contractor to work in the Archive full time. /done

Matty Bowers
Many volunteers have been asking for a budget for years. We’re thrilled to finally see one being worked on for the coming year. /done

Atiya
I think that having a budget for 2016 is definitely a step in the right direction. /done

Alex T.
The one thing I can think of is that they managed to come up with a statement during the last membership drive that answered a couple of the questions that people were asking /done

Katarina H.
I really liked the office-hours that some Board members were doing to communicate with fellow volunteers. Basically it just involved a Board member hanging around in chat and anyone was welcome to come and talk with them. I’m sad that those haven’t been happening anymore. /done

Andrea H.
Thanks for the question. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve said elsewhere that it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with this year’s Board, and aside from the specific things we’ve done this year like authorizing a coding contractor for AD&T, putting together the 2016 budget, and supervising an all-time high in fundraising–thanks to the hard work of DevMem, Translation, and many other committees–I think the Board over the arc of my current term deserves a lot of credit for acknowledging that the OTW had and has significant structural problems that needed to be fixed, and supporting the Strategic Planning committee and process in particular but also committees like Volunteers & Recruiting revamping their processes and imposing much more stringent procedural requirements on the rest of the organization for recruiting and other things. There’s a lot to be done on the documentation end–so many of the goals in the Strategic Plan relate to documentation–but I can’t overemphasize enough how good and even remarkable it is that the OTW as a whole and the Board in particular acknowledged that there were problems and also had the willingness to fix them. I speak from personal experience when I say that that’s not something that every organization has by any means, and I’m really convinced that it augurs very well for the OTW’s long-term sustainability, provided that future Boards can sustain that momentum and adhere to the strategic plan and that process. /done

Anna Temel
thanks! any follow-ups?

C. Ryan Smith
No follow ups from me, Anna, thanks.

Anna Temel
thank you! Puckling? ๐Ÿ™‚

puckling
This is a follow up to my earlier question: I really do appreciate MJ’s apology. It’s good to see more transparency from the board and to have that addressed publicly; but will any of the candidate be answering my question about how they would handle a similar situation? I’m trying to get an understanding of how candidates would handle a difficult situation involving the board, rather than about this situation in particular. MJ’s apology is sufficient for the latter and like I said I appreciate it. /done

Anna Temel
We need to discuss this one, please give us few secs

Qem
o/ after

Anna Temel
*elevator music* ๐Ÿ˜€

briar_pipe
Hi puckling, sorry for the wait. We have 56 Q&A responses to review, but we knew this topic had already been covered. Please check out the candidates’ answers to the last question in this set for a good sense of how they would respond to a situation like this: http://elections.transformativeworks.org/taxonomy/term/58

puckling
okay, thank you

/done

briar_pipe
/done, sorry Anna…

Anna Temel
(i was about to “Is that all? :))))” you ๐Ÿ™ )

ok! moving on!

Qem, please go ahead!

Qem
As an online organisation we communicate with each other, and other committees primarily over email and chat. We all know that itโ€™s common for misunderstandings to occur with the broad backgrounds the people weโ€™re speaking to may come from (with different connotations of particular words etc) and lack of body language/tone to help modulate. Are there any techniques you find effective for getting your meaning across in an understandable way and reducing potential future misunderstandings?

Anna Temel
Is that all? ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜€

Qem
Yup!

Anna Temel
oki! thank you!

Qem
(sorry forgot the /done /o\)

Anna Temel
(no worries, i take huge pleasure in asking people if that’s all ๐Ÿ˜€ )

(no sarcasm there! :D)

Carli A.
o/

Alex T.
I overuse emoji to a disgusting degree, but they are a very effective help at getting meaning across. I also have a generally very straightforward way of communicating in the first place, that tends to help, especially when speaking to other non-native speakers. /done

Atiya
My usual technique is just to keep talking until we seem to be on the same page. Brevity may be the soul of wit (as the Archive posting form tells us) but terseness can be the enemy of clarity. I think it’s also important to use a more polite tone online, until one knows someone well. Of course, one can also employ :fish: various :whale: emoji :cat: . :hamster: (i. e. /done)

(sorry for transcript!)

Anna Temel
(Krystal will have to worry about this *evil smile*)

Aline C.
Personally I find it very helpful to be more explicit and direct in my messages. Don’t assume something is a given, explain yourselves and make sure the other person is in the same page. I also try to make sure to explain inside jokes and shorthands to newcomers, since those can sound hostile for someone without context. /done

Katarina H.
Try to be as clear as possible, remember that humour doesn’t always come across very well, or any other tone either. I’m naturally and culturally rather brief and straightforward in my communication, which helps in with being understandable. IF misunderstandings happen, or if you think it might happen, don’t be afraid of explaining yourself. /done

Matty Bowers
I think it’s important to assume good faith when communicating; often misunderstandings happen because people read more into a statement than was intended. Also, if I’m worried I’m misunderstanding what someone is saying, I’ll try to restate it to ensure we are on the same page. /done

Katarina H.
(sorry for random capitals, my fingers are getting stiff and refusing to hit the right keys again /o\)

Andrea H.
Thanks for the question. I was chair and co-chair of I&O for two years, and this was a topic that we talked about constantly, from multiple angles. I’m really looking forward to I&O developing training for the organization as a whole related to these issues of inclusion and cross-cultural interaction, and hopefully they’ll include general guidelines and reminders for all of us about these sorts of issues. One thing I’ve wound up doing is to try not to assume that the other person is coming from the same background/knowledge/experience/whatever, which usually means that I wind up being a bit more verbose than I might in a more homogeneous setting. Another thing I try to do is constantly ask explicitly whether I need to clarify or restate anything that I’ve said, and also to explicitly clarify about my own thoughts/feelings/background assumptions so that the other person knows where I’m coming from–some of that is the kind of thing that is often conveyed non-verbally face-to-face, so I try to make up for it by using even more words. I also try to be very explicit and specific in order to reduce potential future misunderstandings. Also, either not using in-jokes or explaining all cultural references definitely helps to include as many people as possible. /done

Anna Temel
Thank you guys! Qem, do you have follow-ups?

Qem
no follow ups at the moment!

Anna Temel
ok! thank you very much then! <3

We’ll move to Carli now! ๐Ÿ™‚

Carli A.
Currently there are discussions within/outside the Org regarding over-extension of finances and personnel. Let’s ignore those! In an ideal world, what fandom-related project would you love to see the Org undertake? (E.g., Open Doors, TWC, Fanlore.) — My apologies to those candidates who already answered this at the last Chat!

Anna Temel
(ekhm, Carli, i really don’t want to ask… :D)

Alex T.
(Can I just c&p my last answer here again?)

Carli A.
(sure!)

/done

(for Anna)

Anna Temel
:3

thank you

Alex T.
(Now I wish I had a last answer. I think I don’t xD )

Matty Bowers
(c/p from last chat) A few years ago people were drafting plans for a vid related project, unfortunately the people behind it had to step away. I’d love to have the resources to get that project moving forward again! /done

Andrea H.
pasting my answer from the previous chat:
Thanks for the question! I’m a vidder, and I’d love for us to have the monetary, legal, and server resources to host vids on the Archive. Hopefully we’ll get there some day–and in the meantime, hopefully we can get fan art on the archive in the much nearer future. /done

Aline C.
From last chat: Itโ€™s hard to consider entirely new projects with so much already in our plate, and I would certainly prioritize improving our current projects over new ones, but in a ideal world it might be nice to see the org supporting a more social platform for fannish engagement and exchanges like LJ, DW, forums etc. /done

Atiya
At the moment I really think it’s most important for us to focus on the non-ideal world we’re in and get our house in order. If I could dream, though, I’d like to have more con outreach and OTW organizing of RL-space activities for Org people to interact with each other and fandom. (I’d also love direct hosting of vids, audio, and fanart, but that’s more an improvement to our existing project of the Archive, to me, than a new thing.) /done

Alex T.
Man, these questions all blend together in my head by now, I was so _sure_ I had answered that xD

Coming up with a completely new project is a bit much, I think I would rather see the Archive expanded and strengthened too. Hosting more work types like vids or podfic, improving OD import powers, that kind of thing /done

Katarina H.
I’m not entirely sure about what kind of project I’d want to do, but in an ideal world I’d definitely love to do something to help podfic and podficcers. I’d mention hosting podfic (and other types of media) on AO3, but you asked about new projects, so I won’t say that. ๐Ÿ˜€ /done

Carli A.
Thank you all!

Anna Temel
Thanks!

That was our last question… this year? :O

Huge thanks to everyone present!

Chat Transcript with Alex Tischer, Atiya Hakeem, and Katarina Harju – October 24, 2015

Krystal V.
There’s a small crowd tonight, hopefully anyone else who wants to join later will. We’ll get the ball rolling now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hi everyone, and welcome to our candidate chats! My name is Krystal and I’m a member of the Elections Committee. I’ll be hosting today.

This is the fourth in a series of five 90-minute-long chats with our Board candidates – the candidates present today are Alex Tischer, Atiya Hakeem, and Katarina Harju. The purpose of these chats is to see how candidates interact, both with each other and the public, and to give OTW volunteers and members a chance to ask questions not already covered in their manifestos, bios, and Q&A, as well as to ask individual questions of specific candidates. Transcripts of this chat will be posted publicly on our website.

We welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

  • Raise your hand to speak, like this: o/. You will be called on when it is your turn to speak. Use /done when you’re finished asking your question.
  • Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.
  • Refer to everyone in the room by the name given in the sidebar for them. Don’t use other names you may know them by.
  • Please keep questions reasonable and polite (these are our expectations:
    http://elections.transformativeworks.org/node/534 ).
  • Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the manifestos ( http://transformativeworks.org/news/board-candidate-manifestos-qa-and-chats ) or the Q&A ( http://transformativeworks.org/news/elections-2014-qa-and-chats ). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.

Let’s get started. Please raise your hand if you have a question.

DeepFic
o/

Krystal V.
Yes, DeepFic?

DeepFic
Hi! In the recent Drive, it seemed like your fundraisers got some flak from users for various budgetary issues and other stuff. Do you agree with the criticism of the committee and if so, what would you have done as a board member before, during and/or after the drive to prevent or mitigate it, and if you do not agree with the criticism what would you have done differently from the way the current board did. /done

Krystal V.
DeepFic, who is this question directed towards?

DeepFic
Oh, sorry! Everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

Krystal V.
Our candidates are typing now ๐Ÿ™‚

Katarina H.
I strongly agree with some of the criticism yes. There definitely should have been a budget, which is the Board’s job in the first place and not Development and Membership’s. Since we knew there wasn’t a budget, we should at least have had some answers prepared for when question’s about the money inevitably were asked. /done

Alex T.
This seems to be a couple of questions in one, really. I had concerns about budgetary issues and other things myself. Not all of those were in any way related to DevMem (the committee that runs the drive). I think the way Board reacted to the criticism that was for Board in particular was not the best way to react to that criticism. I would have tried to have a short note “We’ve seen your criticism and are working on an answer” up much sooner. I would have also wished for a better answer to the budget issues in particular not the handwavey, wishy-washy statement we got. Other concerns about the drive like the theme, the arbitrary amount and so on I would hope to see addressed with DevMem before the next Drive planning starts, really. /done

Atiya
I think the most important (although not the only) issue was the lack of a budget. That’s a pretty fundamental and obvious thing that our donors would want to see, and that’s something that Board/the Treasurer needs to take care of _before_ a fundraising drive. As a long-time Support staffer, I also think that the way in which user concerns are addressed is very important, particularly when people are angry. As a director, I would use that experience to make sure Board responses were prompt and useful. /done

Krystal V.
Thanks, everyone! DeepFic, did you have any follow-ups?

DeepFic
Just a little one.

Krystal V.
Go ahead. ๐Ÿ™‚

sbarmarj
o/ I have one too

Krystal V.
sbarmarj, why don’t you post yours too, so our candidates can answer them both at once.

sbarmarj
Do any of you have experience developing a budget for a nonprofit management organization? Training in accounting, bookkeeping, or US tax preparation specifically reading 990s as well as the specific reporting requirements for various states as the OTW raises more in those states? i.e. what practical experience do you have to deal with the lack of a budget? And were you concerned about this prior to your candidacy?

DeepFic
About the budget, I agree it’s really important. But didn’t they just change treasurers right before the drive? I am not sure how everything went down, but it seemed like there wasn’t much time between the drive and the treasurer change. And sometimes life doesnโ€™t just give you enough time to do everything that needs to be done, so like what if it happened again right before a drive, how would you do it differently to make sure there was a budget. I mean anyone can say they’d have a budget, but what would _you_ do to make sure that the OTW did in case of emergency or whatever.

Krystal V.
Candidates are typing! They’ll say who their answer is directed towards when they’re ready.

Atiya
For sbarmarj: As a scientist in academia, I have worked on budgets for a number of major grant applications (and funded grants), and I do my own taxes (which are necessarily different from, but in some ways more complicated than the OTW’s). I don’t have any formal training, but I have found that there are _a lot_ of resources online, so while this is something I expect to take work, it’s not something I am concerned about. /done

Alex T.
Ok, first, sbarmarj, I, personally, have no practical experience developing a budget for a US nonprofit. I have worked the budget for my student union in Germany and been involved in the budgeting process of a couple of my professional orgs (which are registered in the UK and … I think Denmark, actually). So, I have a general knowledge on how to draft and handle a budget and that involves a good knowledge of when I would be in over my head and better ask for professional help. And yes, I was concerned about this prior to my candidacy and thought about it in detail. /done

Katarina H.
in answer to sbarmarj: I don’t have experience in US accounting or specifically for nonprofits (not a US citizen). I have worked as an accountant for several years, before taking up my current studies in IT, which involved doing the books and taxes for a lot of small businesses, including one small nonprofit. Obviously there are differences to US law and US accounting, but the basic principles are much the same, and I think I have pretty good place to start from. /done

Krystal V.
Thanks, guys! They’re composing replies to you now, DeepFic.

Atiya
For DeepFic: The lack of a budget isn’t something that should have come as a surprise to anyone; a budget should have been done for the year _long_ before October. I believe that restoring a functional Finance committee is something vital that needs to be done as soon as possible. Having more one or two people in charge of our finances will help provide the resources to do the work as needed, and will mean that if a single person fails to do something, we’re not left hung out to dry. /done

Alex T.
For DeepFic, yes, of course the change of treasurers right before the drive was less than ideal. But the Drive planning starts a couple of months before the posting, so the lack of a budget should have been brought up much sooner – when it became apparent during those first planning stages. And yes, life doesn’t give you enough time to react to things occasionally, but what you do in those situations is triage, assess and react as quickly as possible (sorry, I work in an emergency clinic, can’t help it) If having a concrete budget was not possible for the drive, *saying* that we don’t have a concrete budget for this, this and that reason and are doing this and that about this is the minimum you can do in my opinion. /done

Katarina H.
for DeepFic: It’s true the Treasurer change happened pretty suddenly and I am not saying that the new Treasurer should have produced a budget out of the blue. The budget should have been done by the end of 2014 or at the beginning of 2015 at the latest, long before any Treasurer change, and it might be primarily the Treasurer’s job, but it is still a responsibility that falls on the Board as a whole. The budget shouldn’t be a thing put together in an emergency, and I can’t really see a good reason why it would be. /done

Krystal V.
There we go! Do those replies answer your questions?

DeepFic
Yup! Thanks, I may have more later if it is quiet though. I appreciate the answers! ๐Ÿ™‚ /done

sbarmarj
yes thanks.

I have a question on a different topic

Krystal V.
Go ahead, sbarmarj.

sbarmarj
Many of you have been in the org for quite a while and have developed friendships, are you ready to put your duty to the org as a board member above your personal relationships including firing a friend because it is necessary to safeguard the org?

Krystal V.
Good question! Candidates are typing ๐Ÿ™‚

Alex T.
To begin with, we are all volunteers in the org, ‘firing’ isn’t really something you do with volunteers? And obviously, I am able and willing to go up against a friend when the situation requires it. Would I vote for having a friend removed from a committee if they are obiously working against the orgs best interest? Of course. ‘Safeguarding’ is such a vague term though, I would expect my justification for voting on such a matters to be on more solid grounds. /done

Katarina H.
The OTW has a very clear process of how to to remove people, and no one is removed without a good reason and without following procedure (and they shouldn’t be). Personally I don’t see how this question even needs to be asked, of course I would stand up against anyone, whether I was friendly with them or not, if the situation called for it. /done

Atiya
I think that volunteers should only be removed from their positions for serious violations and via strict due process (which I think currently needs improvement). If I encountered an Org volunteer (friend or not) failing in their work in some way, I would talk to them and work with them – in my experience, people here are generally very open to criticism and suggestions for improvement. (As my friends here know, I will always speak up to them if I think it’s needed!) Of course, if a friend actually committed some act so heinous that the Org needed “safeguarding” from them, they’d hear about it from me, and I would have no problem participating in their removal. /done

Krystal V.
Thanks, guys! Is that all, sbarmarj?

sbarmarj
let me clarify

Krystal V.
Yes?

sbarmarj
I am sorry. I may not have been clear. As for the org’s internal HR polices and procedures I am not familiar with them as a member though my background professional in management (still typing

However I was specifically referring to some action that is illegal or open the org to legal liability and as such may require immediate action. Do you have experience identifying actions that qualify as such i.e. endangering the org legally, which your duty of care requires you to then take action. I am not curious about HR policies but rather your understanding and willingness to act to protect the org

which, you may have answered but I do worry that your decision to follow procedures would increase liability.

/done

briar_pipe
Hi sbarmarj! I’m briar_pipe, Chair of the Elections Committee.

After some quick discussion, it looks like your question is not really a question but is a statement.

As such, I’m glad you got to give your opinion, but there’s nothing for candidates to answer. We’ll be moving on from here to other topics.

sbarmarj
I am sorry the middle sentence should have ended with a question mark.

briar_pipe
Thanks for bringing your question!

sbarmarj
the one that begins “do you have…”

I can put it more succinctly, “would you fire someone immediately if your lawyers told you to?”

hele
o/

sarken
o/

Krystal V.
hele, sarken, we’ll get around to you two soon ๐Ÿ™‚

hele
(thank you! And no problem.)

briar_pipe
sbarmarj, the candidates have agreed to answer your question, but we’ll end this line of questioning after this. It’s fairly clear to all of us what’s happening at this moment, and I don’t want to spend the entire chat digging into and trying to justify recent events, rather than talking about the candidates and their goals.

Alex T.
I don’t know how to answer this any different than I already have. If I am friendly with someone, I don’t lose my ability to think critically. I am still able to look at what they do and assess it critically. Following correct procedures to remove people is the appropriate way to deal with those situations, and if our lawyers told me to, I would still follow correct procedures to have people removed. /done

Atiya
As I said in my earlier answer, if someone did something so heinous that the Org had to be “safeguarded” from them, then I would certainly participate in their removal. HR policies are designed to reduce liability, not increase it. /done

sbarmarj
I am sorry for taking up so much time, but it is my understanding that the Board of Director’s must safeguard the org. As a donor its extremely concerning to me that so much confidential information is available. Thank you for answering my questions.

Katarina H.
Now the fact is that a lawyer isn’t going to appear out of the blue to tell me I need to do something, usually if I get an opinion from a lawyer it is because I’ve asked for that opinion. An opinion from a lawyer doesn’t meant that proper procedure doesn’t need to be followed. In the end I can’t give you any other answer than I already have if the situation necessitated the removal of someone I was friendly with, then I would vote for that removal, my personal relationship have no affect on that. /done

Krystal V.
Thanks, guys! Thanks, sbarmarj. We’re leaving this line of topic.

hele, your question?

Alex T.
/As a donor myself, it is extremely concerning to me that there is not enough information available, sbarmarj.)

Different tropes and all that I guess ๐Ÿ™

hele
(Same, Alex!) For all candidates, how do you think the Board should proceed in the event that the chair of a committee disappeared?

Alex T.
If the chair of a committee disappeared, I think Board should reach out to the remaining staff and/or volunteers of that committee ask them about their impression of the situation and then try to find a new chair among them. If that wasn’t effective I would try to find people willing to help out in other committees and hope to give them as much help as required to get the committee back on their feet. If there was no staff and no volunteers left in that committee I would try to get an overall impression among the other committees if the committee in question actually needed to be revived or if their tasks had been shifted to other committees already. /done

(committee has stopped looking like a word now, thank you)

Atiya
In the case that the committee still exists, but the chair has gone awol, I think the Board should work with the remaining members to select new chair(s) from among them. If the committee is gone, or no one remaining is willing to become chair, and the committee is in fact performing a useful or necessary function, one (or ideally two) candidates should be found within the Org to re-constitute it, and given as much support as possible. /done

(except that I agree with Alex…definitely not looking like a word)

Katarina H.
The most important thing I think is to notice it as soon as possible. Practically speaking, currently the staffers in the committee are much more likely to notice the absence of a chair than the Board is, but when the staffers contact Board about it they shouldn’t hesitate to take action. Currently a lot of the committees have co-chair’s or chair’s in training, or other staffers who could probably fill the position at least temporarily, and I think Board should reach out to the committee to hopefully find a new chair among them. If the committee is gone entirely then if necessary new chairs should be found from within the organization (unless the better choice is to not revive the committee at that point) /done

Krystal V.
Thanks, guys! Any follow ups, hele?

hele
nope! Thank you all for your answers!

Krystal V.
Thanks, hele!

sarken, you’re up! What was your question?

sarken
Great! First, I just want to say thanks to Elections for running this chat, and to all the candidates who are participating! Coming back to finances for a minute, I have a question for everyone. Our new treasurer recently asked chairs to produce budget proposals for their committees on short notice (about eight days). Because the org hasn’t had a budget in the past, many of our committee chairs have no experience preparing a budget, nor do we have any training resources available. What kind of support do you think Board should provide chairs in the future to make them better equipped to handle this task?

Krystal V.
Thank you, sarken! Candidates are typing ๐Ÿ™‚

Atiya
Obviously, for a start, more time to work with! It would also be useful to have more information on the process by which the final budget will be put together (for example, will there be back and forth with the committee on which items are priorities/affordable, or does all information need to be spelled out in the document submitted). I think that having a rough idea of how much money the committee has to work with would also be very helpful. In terms of training, there’s good information out there that could be collected and linked on the wiki for use by chairs, and could be supplemented by info learned after going through the process. /done

Krystal V.
It seems we’re going to be going a few minutes over. Please bear with us for this last question ๐Ÿ™‚

Katarina H.
At the very least there should be some documentation available for everyone, so everyone could read up on the basics and what they need to do. And of course, the process of making the budget should be started well in advance, so there’s enough time for enough back and forth between all the parties involved. Eight days really isn’t a lot of time, I hope you at least got some feedback on your proposals! /done

Alex T.
Demystifying the budgeting process would be my first step. Creating a budget in a black box is not going to work out smoothly if at all. I think one of the first things Board needs to do to provide training resources for the chairs. It would probably not a bad idea for the Board to make use of those resources themselves, even if it was just for a refresher, and meeting up with interested chairs to talk and work through things in detail would be very useful too (though obviously time consuming and not mandatory for that reason alone). /done

Krystal V.
Thanks for that, guys! That wraps up this Q&A, thanks for coming!

Chat Transcript with Atiya Hakeem, Katarina Harju, and Matty Bowers – October 18, 2015

briar_pipe
Ok, looks like we’ve got a good group. I’ll get us started.

Hi everyone, and welcome to our candidate chats! My name is briar_pipe and I’m a member of the Elections Committee. I’ll be hosting today.

This is the first in a series of five 90-minute-long chats with our Board candidates – the candidates present today are Atiya Hakeem, Katarina Harju, and Matty Bowers. The purpose of these chats is to see how candidates interact, both with each other and the public, and to give OTW volunteers and members a chance to ask questions not already covered in their manifestos, bios, and Q&A, as well as to ask individual questions of specific candidates. Transcripts of this chat will be posted publicly on our website.

We welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

  • Raise your hand to speak, like this: o/. You will be called on when it is your turn to speak. Use /done when you’re finished asking your question.
  • Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.
  • Refer to everyone in the room by the name given in the sidebar for them. Don’t use other names you may know them by.
  • Please keep questions reasonable and polite (these are our expectations:
    http://elections.transformativeworks.org/node/534 ).
  • Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the manifestos ( http://transformativeworks.org/news/board-candidate-manifestos-qa-and-chats ) or the Q&A ( http://transformativeworks.org/news/elections-2014-qa-and-chats ). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.

Any questions about the format before we start?

It sounds like no one has questions about the format, so let’s move on to questions for the candidates. Please raise your hand if you have one!

puckling
o/

Trey C
o/

briar_pipe
puckling, go ahead!

puckling
Atiya Hakeem, you mentioned in you Q&A “Third, I think it would be easy to find a company that was not in fact competent at the task, and given previous examples of Board choices of external people to pay, Iโ€™m not confident weโ€™d be spending our money wisely.” – could you speak to how you would like to see external contractors vetted? /done

briar_pipe
Thanks for your question, puckling! We’ll give her some time to compose a response.

Atiya
Hi! First, an aside…it’s not necessarily obvious if you’re on mobile, but I got dispensation to have “Lady Oscar” in my sidebar name, so people can call me that, or “LO” to save typing.

I think it’s important that any external contractors be examined in the same way one would when hiring for any company…look at their past work, reviews of their service, references from others who have hired them.

/done

briar_pipe
Thanks, LO! puckling, do you have a follow-up, or is that enough?

puckling
Could I also ask this question of the other candidates in this chat?

briar_pipe
Sure, we can expand that. (Sorry for the wait, Trey!)

Trey C
(np!)

briar_pipe
Matty and Katarina are working on their answers.

Matty Bowers
I agree with LO. In the past when committees have had to search for external tools, we’ve researched them independently, checked with outside people who’ve used them, asked other chairs/staffes who have used them if they liked them, etc.

Matty Bowers
It’s even very important to get things right. We don’t want to waste money donated by users on tools/contractors that don’t work out. I’d rather take some time researching and get things right the first time. /done

Atiya
(agreed!)

Matty Bowers
(sorry for the typo, dog is trying to sit on my lap)

Atiya
(aww)

Katarina H.
I agree with what both LO and Matty, said, Also, I think it would be a good idea to talk about it in open board, so that people can offer suggestions. And of course talk with people in the committees that have the relevant knowledge and know what kind of skills are needed. /done

briar_pipe
Thanks, everyone!

briar_pipe
puckling, anything else before we move on to Trey?

puckling
No, I’m good, thank you all.

briar_pipe
Thanks!

Trey, what was your question?

Trey C
For all three candidates: last year, the OTW paid for a non-violent communication training course, and 16 of our volunteers took part in it. If you were aware of this, do you think this was a useful experiment for the OTW? Should we look into either non-violent communication or other communication training again?

/done

elmyra
o/

briar_pipe
Thanks, Trey! Our candidates are working on their answers.

elmyra, you’ll be next.

elmyra
thx

Atiya
I was one of the staffers who took part in the NVC training. It is an example of why I think external services should be vetted. The emphasis of the course was not compatible with our online mode of communication, I found the course instructors to be unprofessional, and the entire process was a waste of my time and the OTW’s money.

I did some further reading about NVC during the (painful) process of taking the course and discussed it with other staffers, and I don’t feel NVC would be useful to us at all, as it does not focus on actually communicating to solve problems.

I was happy to take part in an experiment, but I think any future experiments should be researched a bit first.

It’s possible that some sort of other communication training could be beneficial, but on the whole I can think of many other things that would have a more guaranteed return for our money.

/done

Matty Bowers
I wasn’t able to take part in the actual training, though from what I’ve heard it was problematic in several areas. I also wasn’t impressed with the way it was handled; I know several people finished the course, but there was no followup by Board as had been planned. The whole thing just fizzled out. All in all, it seemed to have been a complete waste of money (several thousands dollars I believe). I would be leery about trying something similar until I’d done a lot more research. /done

Katarina H.
I was aware of it at the time it was happening, but didn’t take part of it. I think it was one of those decisions that would have benefited from more discussion before a decisions was reached, and other options should have been researched. I am personally acquainted with people who do NVC training and talking about it with them, they were very surprised about trying to apply it to online communication. I’m not opposed to some kind of communication training, but we definitely need to do our research before paying anyone for it. /done

briar_pipe
Trey, do you have any follow up questions?

Trey C
nope, thanks for your answers!

and the Q&A answers ๐Ÿ˜€

/done

briar_pipe
Thanks, Trey!

elmyra, what was your question?

elmyra
Question for all. The OTW has had some bad press recently, in relation to the membership drive (both its messaging and its scheduling in relation to the election), the withdrawal of Nikisha Sanders from the election, as well as our lack of budget and financial oversight. Most candidates have spoken in various places about fixing some of the underlying issues, but could you tell us a bit about what else you think needs to be done to address the image/credibility questions that are being raised and how you would go about it? /done

briar_pipe
Thanks, elmyra! The candidates are typing their answers.

Atiya
I think that there’s no quick fix to undo that sort of damage. I hope that the fact that many of the current candidates make it clear that we are aware of the problem will help. However, we mainly need to simply go forward from here with transparency and ethical behavior and sound fiscal management and work to put systems in place to keep things that way.

I think that among those systems need to be changes to the bylaws to put in checks and balances on the ability of Board to unilaterally take unfortunate actions.

/done

Nerine Luna C.
o/

briar_pipe
Nerine, you’ll be next once elmyra’s question is finished.

james_
o/

Katarina H.
I think it’s important to make the board’s work more open, to tell people about what the board is doing and why they’re doing it. We should try to have more open board sessions, we should have more updates in the newsletter and so on. There really isn’t an easy solution, but doing things right (whether it be finances or anything else) and being open about what we’re doing should go some ways into fixing our image./done

Matty Bowers
I agree with LO and Katarina. I do think many of the problems could have been avoided if certain issues/situations had been dealt with promptly. For instance, it was obvious for quite awhile that we needed to handle our finances better, but nothing was done about it. Requests for budgets were ignored, a bill not being paid was overlooked, etc. In the future think we need to be more proactive about situations and deal with them promptly, not ignore them and hope they don’t get any worse. /done

briar_pipe
elmyra, do you have any follow-ups?

elmyra
i don’t. thanks to the candidates for their answers (and for standing in the first place!)

/done

briar_pipe
Thanks, elmyra!

Nerine, you’re next, then james.

Nerine Luna C.
This one’s for everyone: During this last drive, we saw people getting upset about our (perceived) lack of diversity, mainly surrounding the Fandom is Ageless post, which showed Western-centric and Movie/TV-Show-centric stories. I’m assuming all of us here are hoping to make the Org more diverse, and to show a more diverse picture to our members (and non-members). Who do you believe should be responsible for trying to make sure a situation like this does not happen again, and do you have any ideas on how to do this?

briar_pipe
Thanks, Nerine! The candidates are typing.

Atiya
I think that the OTW is in fact already extremely diverse! One thing that would help with the problem would be to take advantage of the resource of our diverse staff and volunteer pool by sharing ideas and getting feedback before things go public.

Nerine Luna C.
(Just a clarification. I don’t think we’re not diverse at the moment! My questions is mainly about how such a (perceived? possible?) slip-up like that Western-centric post will not happen again.)

briar_pipe
Thanks for clarifying, Nerine!

Atiya
oop, /done

Matty Bowers
I know most committees strive to avoid just this happening, any such issues are addressed while being betad and comments from other committees are encouraged. In this particular case, I believe the stories were based on comments sent in by staffers (the only ones that had access to that post); I think they used all the ones that were sent in. In the future, for this type of post I would suggest committees contact a wider range of participants, for instance, we have several hundred volunteers who may have happily sent in a more diverse set of stories. /done

Katarina H.
I know the Fandom is Ageless post was personal stories that were submitted to Development and Membership, and that there wasn’t a lot of stories submitted and therefore not much to choose from. I think it would have helped to make that clear in the post. I don’t think any of our volunteer pools (like Translation or Tag Wrangling) were contacted about submitting stories, that could have netted more stories in different fandoms. But in general I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure that we are as diverse as we can be, and if anyone sees an issue with a post like this they should be encouraged to comment on it as early as possible. /done

moth
o/

briar_pipe
Nerine, do you have any follow-ups for anyone?

Nerine Luna C.
No, that’s answer enough, thank you.

briar_pipe
Thanks!

james, you’re next, then it will be Moth’s turn.

james_
This election will be contested which is unusual, what can be done to make that more common in the future. ( As an aside we have some excellent candidates this year, can I please ask the candidates that don’t get one of the two seats that they stand for the next election ).

Nerine Luna C.
(+1 for that last part)

briar_pipe
james, this question is very similar to one that was asked in the Q&A, so the candidates may choose to link to their answers or paste them in, rather than creating new answers.

To save time.

james_
ok

( I have read all the answers that and I am impressed that almost all the candidates mananged to answer them all )

briar_pipe
(It was very impressive!)

Matty Bowers
In the past, committees could not afford to lose staff to Board. Now, many of the OTW committees are thriving and losing, or sharing, key personnel will not negatively impact the committees. This means itโ€™s time to turn our attention to Board. As both volunteers and members are aware, the OTW is facing numerous issues which should have been dealt with long ago. Itโ€™s past time for these concerns to be addressed so can we get the organization back on track. /done

Katarina H.
I believe we are all aware that it will not always be easy to change things, but if we can successfully implement clear policies for the Board, achieve more transparency, and in general change the Boardโ€™s culture for the better, then I think there would be more people willing to step up as candidates in the following elections as well./done

Atiya
(Summarizing from my Q&A answer.) I think we can get more candidates if we have: 1) A Board that works transparently and has a well defined job description, so candidates know what they’re getting into. 2) A Board that has been in the trenches doing committee work, so new people may have worked with them and can relate to them, and 3) A Board who are approachable, so candidates will have gotten to know them. /done

james_
Thank oyu

briar_pipe
Thanks, james! Any follow-ups?

james_
No thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

But thanks for standing

briar_pipe
Alrighty, I think Moth was next?

moth
The org by its very nature has staff, volunteers and users scattered across different time zones, languages and cultures and we have just agreed it is already a diverse entity. What problems do you think this diversity can cause (especially but not solely for Board) and how would you address these to ensure smooth running both of the org’s day to day life and the achievement of its overall aims? I would welcome specific examples of problems and solutions from your experiences in the committees you belong and have belonged to. (We have alredy mentioned the Fandom is Ageless post.)/done

Atiya
I think that a lot can be done by listening. Hear where everyone is coming from and be _aware_ that this type of issue can exist and watchful for when one may be overriding others’ needs or stepping on toes. Maintaining professional communication habits (be polite, don’t assume what people meant, etc.) can also help stay focused on the work to be done rather than potential personal conflict.

Logistical issues such as time zones are another thing that need to be taken into consideration. Ideally, meeting times will be compromises that are never consistently bad for one particular set of people. If this isn’t possible for a particular committee, offline meetings (such as Support’s Basecamp meetings) are one solution, as is focusing discussions on mailing lists.

Awareness of language difference issues and how they may affect the ability of all committee members to interact is another important thing./done

Katarina H.
Well in Translation we do have people from a lot of different places. I’m not sure I can think of specific examples right now, but we’ve definitely found out that people can see the same issue from totally different points of view, which can be because of culture differences or personality differences. It’s important to remember that such differences exist, to listen to people when they bring up issues and never assume that you know why someone feels or thinks like they do. Try to be polite and professional and listen to people, basically. /done

Matty Bowers
On a practical level, the only real drawback I’ve run into is trying to plan chat meetings. Timezones are evil! I’ve solved that by trying out alternatives such as email “meetings” and having weekend chat parties. This way no one is left out or inconvenienced.

In other situations, too often in the past org staffers/volunteers have been asked for their opinions then had to watch them be completely ignored or dismissed. I’ve always found that effective communicating means both speaking AND listening. I value input from all our staffers and volunteers and hope they know I’m always going to be listening to them. /done

moth
Thank you. No follow-up questions but I would also like to thank all the candidates for standing for election.

briar_pipe
Thanks, guys! Moth, do you have any follow-ups?

Thanks, Moth!

moth
Thanks, no – /done

briar_pipe
Since we have no more questions, I plan to turn this chat over to the candidates to talk about topics of their choosing.

C. Ryan Smith
o/

briar_pipe
Hopefully they can be more casual in this context.

C. Ryan Smith
(Is it too late to ask a quick question? /o\)

briar_pipe
Ah, sorry Ryan, sure!

C. Ryan Smith
(Sorry, I thought there would be a last call for questions or something. ^^; Anyway…)

In the past, I’ve heard of other volunteers/staff/committees expressing dissatisfaction with our current fundraising model (not as related to budget woes or “pulling a target figure out of thin air”). The lead-up to fund drives currently is a huge effort that often times spans committees and into Board. What would you like to see from future fund raising efforts (including but not limited to, fund drives)? /done

briar_pipe
(I should have done!)

Priscilla D.
o/

Atiya
I’d like to see fund drives become simpler…_give people the budget numbers_, thus having a good target figure and letting them know what we need money for, then ask for the money. And, of course, be prepared to listen to feedback people may have on the numbers. /done

Katarina H.
I know how much work gets put into drive planning from Translation’s side, I can only guess at the time DevMem puts into it. Personally I would like the fund drive to focus more on talking about what we’re actually going to do with the money and why we need it, with concrete numbers. /done

Nerine Luna C.
(o/ quick follow up for LO – scratch that, probably all three)

Atiya
Oh, that’s kind of disturbing ^^;

Nerine Luna C.
xD

briar_pipe
Nerine, go ahead and post your follow-up while Matty is working, if you can?

Then we’ll go to Priscilla after this.

Matty Bowers
My main concerns do concern the budget, or lack of one. As someone who has had tools shut off due to non-payment (several times), I am very concerned about how our money has been handled in the past, and I do worry about what could happen if future drives are unsuccessful. I’m very excited about some of the things I’m hearing being planned (not sure if they are public yet) and hope that as an organization we can make drives be as successful as possible. I don’t have any other concrete suggestions at the moment, but hope that by discussing and listening to feedback we can ensure we keep doing well. /done

Nerine Luna C.
Okay. I was wondering, do you mean you would be interested in doing away with the current ‘theme’ of choosing a theme for the drive and posting something related to that theme every day?

(So, for LO and Katarina, it seems)

briar_pipe
Ryan, do you have any follow-ups yourself?

Atiya
It seems like a great deal of effort for DevMem, Translation, and other committees who participate in writing posts. I think from the feedback I’ve been seeing, donors would be happier with that effort being channeled into making budgets and plans available.

C. Ryan Smith
Not really, I should have been more specific as to the intent of my question. I won’t hog the question time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Atiya
The more creative approaches could be used at other times, for non-fundraising purposes. /done

briar_pipe
Ryan, it’s fine! If you want to clarify, feel free.

Matty Bowers
I think that’s really up to Devmem; it’s not really a Board decision. I would encourage staffers/volunteers to contact Devmem if they have issues about something like that. On a personal level, I have no problem with a well-executed theme. /done

Atiya
(yes, definitely up to DevMem)

Katarina H.
Yes, I find that trying to fit everything into a theme can end up with problems like the Fandom is Ageless post. On a personal note, this style of fundraising is very strange to me, I’m not used to seeing fundraising like this where I come from, and my answers on the topic are coloured by that. /done

briar_pipe
Thanks, guys!

C. Ryan Smith
Okay, clarification: I was talking more specifically about fund raising strategy in that, we change the scheme drastically (eg: doing a model similar to Wikipedia, doing away with fund drives unless in times of need, etc). Would you see anything else done in that aspect? /done

briar_pipe
Thank, Ryan! The candidates are typing!

Folks, we’re going to go over by a couple of minutes. My apologies.

We’ll make sure they get asked in a future chat, at the beginning.

If you’re unable to attend that chat, the answers will appear in a transcript of the chat on the site.

Matty Bowers
I would want Devmem’s input on any major decisions like that – they’d be the ones responsible for carrying out such a plan. As long as they and any other involved committees (Translations/Comms/etc) think it’s doable and would work better, I’m all for exploring those other options. /done

Atiya
I think it’s something that should be considered only after gathering feedback widely, from our donors as well as from within the Org. /done

Katarina H.
I think it’s a good idea to consider alternatives, but yes, it is a big decision and I wouldn’t want to make any concrete decisions before having input from everyone involved and having a clear budget to base our fundraising goals on. /done

briar_pipe
Thanks, Ryan and Nerine! Last question goes to Priscilla.

Priscilla D.
No questionsโ€”I just wanted to give a huge thank-you and major kudos to Elections for doing a brilliant job putting all this together and coordinating the Q&As and the candidate chats. Thank you all for your hard work

Carli A.
<3

briar_pipe
Thanks, Priscilla! <3

mumble
seconded very much! /done

Matty Bowers
Yes, Elections has been amazing. Thank you all for your hard work!

Trey C
seconding Priscilla

briar_pipe
^_____^

Aline C.
seconded!

hele
thirding or fourthing!

Ridicully
You really have been!

Thirded or fithed or whatever xD

Katarina H.
Echoing everyone here ๐Ÿ˜€

Atiya
As a candidate, I really appreciate all Elections has done! ๐Ÿ˜€

Qem
Fifthing!

moth
Me too.

ubicaritas
To you all…well done!

Nerine Luna C.
A big thank you to all of you, especially since I don’t think any of you could have predicted the number of people who went up for election, and the amount of extra work that probably brought ^.^

briar_pipe
Aw, thanks guys.

We’re very happy about the numbers, though.

Ok, the candidates have said they’re able to hang around and chat casually with y’all for a little bit, if anyone’s interested.

I’m going to call the chat officially done.

Katarina Harju 2015 Q&A: Transparency

A number of candidates cited the issue of Board transparency in their manifestos. What does a transparent Board look like to you, and what specific steps would you take to ensure the Board you serve on is a transparent Board? / Many candidates talked about the need for transparency for the board to volunteers/members. What does your vision for transparency entail?

To me this means that all Board meetings should be held openly, except in those cases where a closed session is required because of confidentiality issues. When issues are discussed or decided upon using tools that are not accessible to everyone in the organization, like for example mailing lists, all relevant information needs to be transferred to someplace where it can be viewed by everyone volunteering in the organization, and the information needs to be made available in a timely manner. Having people be able to see the steps leading up to a decision should help everyone understand why a decision is made. Furthermore, I feel that inviting more opinions during discussions can only help improve the end results, bearing in mind of course that there are situations where some people will end up displeased with a decision and that the Board cannot let itself be caught up with trying to please everyone in every situation and therefore forget to make timely decisions.

Due to legal reasons, internal transcripts of meetings are purged every year. However with a lack of consistent and comprehensive information posted to internal and external locations, details of Org interactions can be lost to the abyss. This leaves voters with a dearth of details when attempting to learn about the Org, and in this situation, candidates. What internal remedies would you suggest? And what would you suggest voters do in the mean time in lieu of relying on the rumor mill (FFA & emails) and digging through various social media sites?

It is true that there is minimal documentation available about anything regarding the Board and that the Board meeting minutes, even when posted in time, are not very informative on their own. I believe that important information does need to be transferred somewhere more permanent, because later on it might for example be important to know why a certain decision was made, not just what was decided. I also think that the meeting minutes should be made more extensive and include at least the main points of discussions.

This of course does nothing to help find reliable information right now, and I’m not sure there is a good answer currently. Even directly asking people in the organization might be difficult, since I know some people right now are wary of saying too much and having that taken as a reason to be removed from the organization. Still, I can’t think of any better advice to offer than asking the people who are involved.

The current Board has had frequent issues keeping an available agenda for their weekly meetings, which were often cancelled or cut short due to lack of quorum or matters to discuss. What do you think the purpose of open Board meetings is, and what would you change about the current setup?

The way open Board meetings happen at the moment is very close to useless, since usually nothing is discussed in them and they are often cancelled altogether. I believe that open Board meetings should be a way for anyone interested to keep up on what is currently going on and to see how the Board operates. For this to actually be possible issues should never be handled in closed Board meetings, unless they involve confidential matters.

I have seen it argued that the reason why certain topics have been discussed in closed sessions as opposed to open ones is simply because that is where a Director happened to mention the topic. This only proves that there is not sufficient preparation for the meetings, because an agenda should be available before the meeting and it should include the topics up for discussion, which does not mean that matters outside an agenda should not come up, but certainly such topics would be in the minority. Furthermore, having an agenda available beforehand would make it easier for people outside Board to decide if they wanted to attend a meeting, or if they had any relevant information that could be shared on a topic, which then, if needed, could even be shared with the Board before a meeting.

Because of the cancellation of several meetings, both beforehand and because of a lack of quorum, I think it’s time to reevaluate the necessity of weekly Board meetings. I find it much more sensible to schedule regular Board meetings with longer intervals between them than having to cancel them so often because enough Directors did not show up. Hopefully reducing the number of meetings would increase the overall attendance in them. I believe it is something worth considering, because open Board meetings are important and it should be important that they are regularly attended by the Directors.