Chat Transcript – September 1, 2016

briar_pipe

Hi everyone, and welcome to our candidate chats! My name is briar_pipe, and I’ll be hosting the candidate side today. On the audience/open_chat side, your host will be Pat Z. Pat and I are both members of the Elections Committee.

Pat, can you wave so everyone can see you?

 

Patrycja Zarzecka

hi o/

 

briar_pipe
Thanks, Pat! <3

This is the first of two 90-minute chats with our Board candidates. The candidates present today are Priscilla Del Cima, Kristina Busse, and James Beal. The purpose of these chats is to see how candidates interact with each other, and to give Organization for Transformative Works [OTW or the Org] members a chance to see some of the questions that are currently being discussed within the OTW.

Transcripts of the candidate side of the chat will be posted publicly on our website. The open_chat transcript will not be posted there, but both its transcripts will remain visible until after the election. During the chat, you may see candidates fix their typos; this is to make Elections Staff’s job easier later.

We have some pre-prepared questions that were submitted by OTW volunteers from other committees. We’ll start with those. As the candidates discuss each question, audience members can notify Pat that you have questions for the candidates – either follow-ups or new questions – by raising your hand like this: o// (for follow-ups to the current question), o/ (for new questions)

Pat will pass me the questions, and I will ask them during appropriate pauses in the conversation between the candidates.

Pat and I welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

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

– Refer to everyone in the room by their username in this conversation. Don’t use other names you may know them by.

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

– Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the manifestos or the Q&A. If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.(edited)

Ok, that’s it for the intro! Let’s start with the first question submitted by OTW volunteers. This is for all three candidates to discuss:

(Follow-up to Question 6 in the Q&A): Most Archive of Our Own [AO3 or the Archive] users know nothing of the organization behind the projects, and our members receive very little information that is directly addressed to them, except for the Election and Drive e-mails. What do you think could be done to increase awareness in our user base and to increase membership engagement?

 

James

The first thing I would say is we don’t want to force information to people who don’t want it, we shouldn’t produce spam.

 

Kristina

I really would like to use the monthly newsletter as a way to increase shared information within and without the org. It should be a crucial requirement for every committee, and I think it’d help giving everyone a better sense about what the various committees are up to. I know there’s a lot of concerns about what gets posted where, but personally, I think the basic newsletter, the simple list of all the committees and their brief updates, should be shared with AO3 users as well. A monthly post should not be too much noise, and it’d help give AO3 users in particular a sense of OTW outside of fundraisers.

 

James

I do agree with putting useful information in the newsletter, some committees are small and therefore might not have anything they want to shout about every month and then it gets hard to tell people about the achievements there are. Systems for example does work which can be hard to explain to a non technical person which makes the task even harder.

 

Priscilla

The monthly newsletter does help, but I know a lot of people still aren’t aware of the OTW’s existence despite it. The Communications team [Comms] has been doing an interesting series of posts highlighting the work of specific volunteers throughout the organisation and their daily routines, which has been really interesting, and might help shed a light on teams that aren’t always very visible from the outside.

 

James

I know we want the users of our service to know about the organisation behind it but we do need to respect their preferences.

 

Priscilla

Development & Membership [DevMem] has discussed in the past perhaps emailing OTW members a quarterly newsletter with OTW news highlights, which I think would be really great. I’m not sure how it would work in practice, we’d need to figure that out, but it could be interesting and make us more visible for members specifically. (With an opt-out, of course.)

 

James

I would say that members of the org at least know it exists.

Members of the Archive may not, but emailing them all is significant effort.

 

Priscilla

Yeah, definitely, as we see every drive 😀 I’d be wary of being too spammy with AO3 users.

 

Kristina

I like that idea, we need to find a way to reach members and potential members who are not currently looking at OTW outlets

 

James

I am not sure we have come to a good answer apart from we like the newsletter and maybe a mail to select people every so often ?

 

Priscilla

We need to keep doing our best to accomplish more, continue publishing news often, strive to keep our governance structure as clear as it can be from the outside, and be as visible as we can in various social media outlets and our projects’ websites. No magic solution, but we should keep trying different things and see how it goes?

 

James

Yes.

I like see how it goes and adjust as needed.

(Agile communications)

 

briar_pipe

Apollonie asks, “So hm, I feel like the original question was two-part. AO3 users and OTW users as a whole tend to be conflated. To pick up on this ambiguity, do you think we should use AO3 as a window more?”

 

Kristina

Since I’m the one who brought up AO3, I’d say a very restrained yes.

 

James

As I said I don’t want to send people spam. I do think users of the Archive are interested in work the org does.

I think having news posts that show what we do is useful and to be continued.

 

Kristina

News on AO3 is a choice to read, and I think a monthly (or every three month if we’d go for the condensed version) is not too spammy!

 

James

I know how much work I have to do to send the drive emails….

 

Kristina

I don’t think emails would be appropriate. I want the info to be available, not pushed upon.

 

James

Sorry it wasn’t clear to me.

 

Priscilla

AO3 can be (and is) used as a window for OTW news occasionally, but we need to always seek to strike a balance and always consider what can be of interest to AO3 users, and not simply publish everything there; we already don’t, and I don’t think we should start. Same for emails, as they would reach hundreds of thousands of people and would probably decrease the appeal of the emails we do send.

 

James

*thumbs up*

( That’s fun for the transcript )

 

briar_pipe

(We have transcript magic, no worries! Campfire was worse.)

 

Kristina

Oh no. My suggestion for sharing the newsletter is exactly that. A once a month brief account that is in the news, not an email, alongside the AO3 updates, the election info, the drive posts. Nothing more. But I think once a month (or every three month) isn’t too much.

 

James

( I am trying to remember if the newsletter comes out as a news item on the Archive ), it does well July is there.

 

Priscilla

(yes, it does)

 

Kristina

it does? ok, then just ignore everything I said. Then I have no idea how to get people more involved, because at a certain point it’s a choose to know, and we need to respect people not being interested.

 

James

It’s been pointed out that the one posted externally is a edited abridged version of the internal one.

 

Kristina

Personally, I like the internal one, because it’s bullet point, every committee.

 

Priscilla

It contains a level of detail (and lack of context) that would likely be trickier for external people to parse, I think

 

Kristina

Rereading the question again, I’m wondering whether it was hinting at an email newsletter. If that were the case, I’d definitely go with the three month option. Because that seems to be at the border of spam and info.

 

Priscilla

I think shorter posts highlighting different areas of the OTW, as Comms has been doing, are interesting and easier to read, because the monthly newsletter is long; and a less frequent email would also be a different way to highlight major achievements. Possibly different types of posts on other social media?

Comms has been trying different types of thing to raise awareness for some time

Fingers crossed they’ll come across lots of methods that work!

 

briar_pipe

That’s a great lead-in to our next question, Priscilla.

Rebecca asks, “Do the candidates think that more outreach to journalists and media outlets would help to increase visibility for the Org and its activities?”

 

James

I have some very old world thoughts that come to mind, which fight against the new world order.

The first rule of fandom is that you don’t talk about fandom. 🙂

 

Kristina

I am very happy with OTW as an advocacy group, which does not mean we are THE representatives of all of fandom, but that we are one fannish representative. I’ve long been doing work within academia and spoken about OTW’s accomplishments and general mission. I think communications does a good job connecting media with fans, and I would like to see their role increased to involve more official events and representation. I am also looking forward to seeing DevMem work more on helping OTW members talk about the OTW at fan conventions. So yes, I think outreach is good, both for the org and its mission.

 

James

What are we trying to achieve ?, we want people to know we provide services and advocating fandom. We don’t want to take over the world.

( I do like Kristina’s answer here ).

There are commercial organisations which have platforms that fans use and we do in some way compete with them however we don’t want them to disappear and for all the works there to be lost.

 

Priscilla

I think more outreach is definitely good and healthy for the org—people are already talking about fandom and fan culture regardless in the media, sometimes in great and others in not so great ways, and adding our voice could help, though yes, agreed, ours isn’t and certainly shouldn’t be the only one. Kristina’s the expert here though!

 

Kristina

I think that in Journal we’ve had probably more outreach and public advocacy than many other groups initially (other than Legal, they’re exceptional on that front!)

And it tends to be really great, because you go from skepticism to curiosity to excitement. Though i’ve gotta admit re mainstream journalists that I’ve stopped giving interviews unless I like the venue and/or trust the interviewer. I’ve been misquoted and misrepresented a few too many times by folks who had their ideas already firm and didn’t listen to me.

 

briar_pipe

That’s a good point, Kristina.

A volunteer submitted this question last week, with a similar interest in our media situation: “How would you, as a board member, put focus on the OTW’s ongoing mission of public advocacy for transformative fandom? What do you think the OTW’s role should be within fandom? Within academia? Media?”

 

James

To some extent I would say that media is an area of expertise of communications committee and try and not do things that I don’t know how to do 🙂

 

Priscilla

I believe the OTW should be one of many groups participating in public conversations about fandom, what it means and what it can be. It can do this in any number of ways—through Legal’s Advocacy work, Transformative Works and Cultures [TWC], inviting guests to write posts or participate in chats, documenting history in Fanlore, reaching out to the media or being a contact point for the media when they have questions, and so on

 

James

( Specifically the question said “How would you, as a board member” ), but Priscilla’s answer is good as a general what should the org do.

 

Kristina

Nice answer, James! We should let the committees do what they know best. 🙂 At the same time, we talked in the official questions a bit about having a clearer focus and goal for the entire org and having all committees point in the same direction, and I think advocacy is a great example of that. I’d like Comms to be maybe even more outward facing, to have Volunteers and Recruiting [VolCom] continue their plans for con outreach, and to have Legal and Journal continue their advocacy work in their respective fields. (And even systems and Accessibility, Design & Technology [AD&T] folks can do show and tell in their fields at conferences 🙂

 

Priscilla

There are a lot of different venues we can and should pursue through our various projects and teams; I’m more of an operations person than an outreach person, so I’d probably be the one behind the scenes trying to do what I can to help them accomplish their goals, not doing much outreach personally. 😀

 

Kristina

Oh yes, Priscilla, Fanlore. I see so many people cite and reference the wiki already, and we should definitely make sure that continues and that it grows as a resource!

 

James

So an example of that was Enigel and Ariana’s talk at nine worlds which was lovely. I am tempted to do a talk explaining the software stack from a hardware and systems side for next year.

 

Kristina

And I’m happy to be at the front. In fact, one of the roles of the Board members (and emeriti Board members) can be as representatives in public. I know that when Rebecca Tushnet gets interviewed on NPR, she is introduced as Legal Scholar, copyright expert, Georgetown prof, Legal Committee OTW and former Board member. (And yes, I randomly caught her getting interviewed while driving, which was VERY cool 🙂

And yes, James, that’s what I mean! I think that’s a great way to introduce the two worlds to one another.

 

briar_pipe

Thanks, everyone!

For our next question, we’ll shift from an external focus to an internal one.

A volunteer asked, “What do you think staff and volunteers need from the Board that we aren’t getting now?”

 

James

As a member of AD&T and Systems when we ask for resources we generally get them I think. There is a fair amount of ensuring we are not wasting the orgs resources but that is needed.

 

Kristina

I think that actually differs depending on volunteer and staffer. Different people and different committees need different things. In journal, we have volunteers who are happy to get their work and then send it back a week later never talking to us beyond that. Others want to engage more. Same with committees. I think the most important thing for board is to listen and hear what people want and need!

 

Priscilla

I think things have been a lot better lately, but in general, more availability for discussing issues as they arise can’t hurt—say, you come across an issue or you have an idea, and it’s good to be able to be able to approach a Board member and bring it up, brainstorm solutions together, even. Sometimes an external perspective is really useful and the person has no one they can really talk to (for example, if it’s a personnel problem, you’re really stuck and don’t know what to do).

 

James

There has been unpleasantness in the past but I have not seen any of that with new board. Who are doing a good job of staying grounded and in touch with each of the committees.

 

Priscilla

Also accountability, touching base with committees about what their plans are and if they’re actively making progress (if not, why not), which helps keeping things moving forward for everyone, since no one else has a bird’s eye view of the OTW

 

James

The new chat system makes it much easier to contact people because people keep it running constantly so responses are quicker(edited)

 

Kristina

Can we also mention our new chat interface and how that has improved things enormously? Connection within committees, between committees, and between committees and board. (and if I have to type 3m’s, t’s, and e’s one more time I’ll go nuts 🙂

 

James

🙂

 

Priscilla

😀

I also think the Board doing more of its own job specifically, which it rarely has time for—setting goals for the entire org, making sure everyone’s working in similar directions—is something that would be great for us, but realistically, that would depend on the rest being in good enough shape that the Board can have time to work on this.

 

James

I am happy to +1 all of the above.

 

Kristina

me too. +1. P. is always great at the personnel stuff and ARTICULATING it 🙂

 

Priscilla

<3

 

briar_pipe

Thanks, y’all!

I don’t see any follow-ups to that, so I’ll move on to the next question.

This is also about internal volunteering issues. A volunteer asked, “Given that all coordination is purely virtual, how do you keep volunteers engaged in OTW work? How do we overcome the challenge of volunteers losing contact with OTW work (i.e., volunteers fading away from all OTW coordination)?”

 

Priscilla

This works differently for every team in the org, since team culture and requirements differ a lot for each position—a translator will have a different work routine and expectations from a tag wrangler, a tester from a lawyer and so on—and I really don’t think there’s anything remotely like a one-size-fits-all answer.

 

James

I think the most important thing is the community we all work in and the new chat system has helped us with this. It makes it easier for people to pop in and talk to people they wouldn’t normally talk to. For example some people feel that coders was a scary place to go to we have had more visitors to the same place in the new world ( although I still get the impression people are wary ).

If we enjoy the work we do and the people we do it with we will be happy and will not fade away.

 

Priscilla

Keeping in touch regularly is very important (so: organised records, keeping a regular contact schedule, making sure you keep track of all volunteers, contact new ones, in particular, as soon as they join, or you’ll likely lose them before they even start, train them in their tasks and clarify what they’re expected to do), trying to build a sense of teamwork and community so that they know to ask for help when they need it, making sure all volunteers have tasks available (assigned, if that works for your team, or tasks to be claimed and some kind of regular check that everyone has something to work on and is making progress), sharing updates on plans and decisions, having clear venues of feedback to see where the team can do better at multiple points, changing course as needed—the list goes on, and there’s a lot that can be tried, and it’s definitely easier said than done.(edited)

 

Kristina

What P. said, yes. Our copyeditors, for example, want to be left alone. Other volunteers love the interaction. And work can’t always be fun, but if you have an environment where you feel you’re valued and you get the interaction you want and need, I think James is right it’s easier to stay with it.

 

James

As Priscilla said each of the committees are different Systems and ADT are so small that some of that would definitely be overkill however as new people come in the whole training and having a record is needed.

 

Kristina

Also yes on P.’s easier said than done. There will be folks we’ll lose for any number of reasons, and I think one thing we might want to think about is how to make that separation process as easy and painless as possible. Lives change, interests change, healths and jobs change, and sometimes a staffer or volunteer just can’t continue, and that should be ok as well!

 

James

I agree sometimes there is more work than can be done or the fit is just not right.

 

Priscilla

Yeah, each team is definitely different—Translation has almost 200 people, if we didn’t have all that we would drown.

It’s definitely trial and error, figuring out what’s needed in each case.

 

Kristina

And we had 5 staff for the longest time. We managed to have a full TWC meet in person one time, bc half of us lived in the city and the others were there for a conference. I still have the pic somewhere 🙂

 

James

I have met a fair number of the ADT members but it is unusual.

 

Priscilla

Same! But er, I’m not in AD&T. 😀

 

James

How many of translation have you met Priscilla 🙂

 

Priscilla

Quite a few, but percentage-wise, definitely more of AD&T than Translation. :D(edited)

 

briar_pipe

So, to steer us back onto topic, Apollonie asks a follow-up question: “How would you go about figuring each committee’s specific needs?”

 

Kristina

Listening to them?

 

James

I would ask them.

 

briar_pipe

This is in regards to volunteer engagement.

 

Priscilla

Talking to them!

 

James

🙂

 

Kristina

high fives to P. and james

 

Priscilla

Heh.

 

James

( to some extent unless I knew it was an issue I would wait to be contacted and not micro manage )

 

Priscilla

I think talking to committees regularly regardless is a good idea

like, “hey, how’s it going, what are you working on, any issues” check-ins every once in a while.

 

James

Yes general discussions are good.

 

Kristina

though again with our new amazing chat platform that can be informal and just checking into the official channel

 

James

but not a set script to run though.

 

Kristina

i mean, we had liaisons that were basically a half yearly still doing OK check in. And then we moved to sending a monthly update to board that was our newsletter. But P.’s committee is the exact opposite. And other committees may need a tad more…prodding?

 

James

We are all individuals.

 

briar_pipe

Very true. We have a follow-up question from JanOda, “for Kristina specifically, how she would deal with the scale increase? Since she just said she had a really small team for a long time? What are her expectations / preparations on that front?”(edited)

 

Kristina

This isn’t a question that has come up (or will come up, I think). We doubled our section editors last year, and that’s been going well, because it’s mostly on the job training where the senior editor directly works with the new editor. We also added a lot of volunteers, and that’s been going well, because we started using chat during production, which allows everyone to share their misery and ask questions to the group or the production editor, whomever gets to the answer first. But again, our committee is very unusual, so I wouldn’t use that as an example of scaling (mostly our work load hasn’t changed from our first to this 22nd issue, so it’s not like pretty much every other committee :)(edited)

Does that answer the question?

 

briar_pipe

JanOda apologizes and clarifies, “I meant from leading a small team, to helping organise a huge organisation like the OTW.”(edited)

“That seems a big shift in working method to me?”

 

Kristina

Oh, sorry! Well, for me the point regardless of overall size is trusting those in charge, i.e., just like we had to trust the section editors to train, we have to trust the committees to do their jobs and do them well. I think the bigger issue will be to have to agree with more than one other person 🙂 But I don’t think that interacting with the committees or specific members will be al that different.

 

briar_pipe

Thanks, Kristina!

Our last follow-up for this question comes from Apollonie again: “MIA committees are the ones where volunteer engagement is usually critical and needs to be addressed by a third party like Board, even if Board isn’t contacted by chairs. How would you address that, since talking may not be as easy as it sounds?”

 

Priscilla

I think it should be more common for the Board to involve committee staff (and volunteers, as needed) in conversation, not just chairs. In this case in particular, it’s completely essential to bring them to the table and try to come up with solutions together—but even in less doomsday scenarios, sometimes it may help to have committee-wide meetings with Board, instead of restricting contact to chairs only. We’ve done this in some committees I’ve been a part of, and I don’t see much real reason in practice to restrict most contact between the committee and the Board to only chairs, unless it’s to discuss personnel reasons.

A few years ago, the Translation chair became inactive and the committee essentially went into hiatus for several months. I was a staffer then, and couldn’t do anything other than wait for a new chair to be named—I remember firsthand how frustrating it was to not be able to do anything in that situation, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone else in the org. We lost many translators and it was incredibly hard to reboot everything from scratch later that year.


James

If that happened today would you feel happy to approach the board about it Priscilla ?

( I mean imagine having today’s board then )(edited)

 

Priscilla

Definitely—I tried back then as well, only it didn’t yield results very quickly. Board member Alex recently did a good job as acting chair for Webs, and is training a co-chair for the committee—together they launched a new version of the website, are training new committee staff and everything.

I think it’s a good model for how Board can constructively help a committee that’s in serious difficulty.

(Sorry, can you tell I have a lot of feelings about this.)

 

James

What I am trying to say is that we need to trust the members of the committee and the board needs to be approachable and supportive.

 

Kristina

This is one of the biggest problems the OTW faces internally, I think. We don’t have a clear checks and balances or even purview for the relationship between Board and committees. That becomes most apparent in MIA committees but can also be a problem in mission shift, because committees effectively devise their own objectives (for better or worse, and I’ve been guilty of that myself). I think in the longer run, we may have to rethink that relationship of checks and balances. That doesn’t mean that I want to give Board more power. Far from it. But we may need a way to have some form of collective oversight, such as the all-chairs or something. And at some point, yes, I do think that Board/Chairs/someone needs to be able to step in and put a committee in receivership so to speak.

But that’s abstract. In practice, I think Alex’s example is great, and when there’s a clear need and demand and desire to get help we need to pull together as an org and have Board and/or experienced members from other committees help.

 

James

I am sure we will talk about this later however I do have strong feeling around this.

 

Priscilla

If we stop burning through emeritae chairs as much as we have in the past, we could in theory have some available to consult and even step in in cases like this—that’s not the case currently, though, I can think of maybe two in the org currently that would maybe, potentially be available, and even then I’m not sure they would be.

 

James

My understanding is that the board can remove a chair, however they can not remove someone from the committee.

 

Priscilla

It would be good in the future to have that kind of in-house knowledge.

They could but in practice that would probably cause some kind of mutiny. I’m not sure it’s ever been done—at least not recently.

So in practice chairs can sort of, in effect, do whatever we want? Which isn’t healthy for the org.

 

James

I disagree that chairs can do what they want. They need the support of their staff.

 

Priscilla

Yeah, but like, if Translation decided to rebel against the rest of the OTW (not that we would ever) and refuse to work with the rest of you and I supported that, that would still not be okay.

 

Kristina

On a slightly different note. One of the issues we have with resurrecting MIA committees is that they have no members to recruit or train, so it’s a catch-22. We all started in the beginning from scratch, and while I don’t think that’s a great model :), I do think that we need to think of triaging such committees and jumpstarting them with all the help we can give.

I’m with P. I think that committees can stop doing a thing and no one can make them do it, for example.

 

briar_pipe

Thank you for bringing us back to topic, Kristina. On that note, we’re 10 minutes over. I’m so happy everyone got fully engaged in discussion and excited!

 

Kristina

There has to be a shared vision and a clear goal that can be checked.

 

briar_pipe

We’ll be back with more discussion on September 10, at 7pm UTC (Pat, is that right?) Edit: No, it’s 10pm/2200(edited)

 

Kristina

Thanks for organizing this! <3

 

Patrycja Zarzecka

(I’m pretty sure?)

 

briar_pipe

All 3 candidates will be here and ready to take questions. So please join us then if you can make it!

 

Patrycja Zarzecka

(my calendar says 10pm utc)

 

briar_pipe

Ah, thanks Pat!

Just dropping a timezone converter: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20160910T22&p1=%253A&ah=1&am=30

 

James

Thank you.