Chat Transcript with Soledad Griffin and Jessica Steiner – Oct 29, 2014

Trey C

Hi everyone, and welcome to our candidate chats! This is the first of a series of three, 90-minute-long chats with two of our Board candidates – the candidates present today are Soledad Griffin and Jessica Steiner. The purpose of these 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. Please note that the transcripts of these will be posted publicly.

We welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

– Please keep them reasonable and polite (I may declare a question out of bounds if necessary, in order to spend our limited time on questions the candidates can reasonably answer).

– Please make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the manifestos (http://transformativeworks.org/news-topic-tags/otw-sections/elections or the Q&A (http://transformativeworks.org/news/board-candidate-manifestos-qa-and-chats). If it’s a follow-up to any of those, please say so.

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

– 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.

I’m going to start us off before opening the floor, with a question that came up a couple of times during the Q&A but was aimed specifically at Sole, and so was not included.

Afterwards, anyone can feel free to go ahead.

Your manifesto states that you are also currently chair of Internalization and Outreach. Being a chair is a job which can be just as challenging and time-consuming as being a Board member, even more so for this specific committee, which is in “a very long and occasionally confusing process of re-organization and re-defining its goals and work methods”. How do you realistically plan to fulfill both jobs so that neither of them gets neglected?

Soledad G.

I don’t.

I’ve already started my chair sucession plans.

So the job, currently, is more about training my sucessor and set realistic goals for I&O than about the day-to-day chairing of I&O.

*setting

I plan to stay as a staffer for a while longer, to support my sucessor and the committee.

But in terms of chairing, I don’t plan to fulfill both jobs.

/done

Trey C

Okay, thanks, Sole. Does anyone have a follow-up to that, or would anyone like to ask about something else?

hele

o/

Trey C

hele! Go ahead.

hele

ok! For Jess
you mention in the AO3 question — let me check the number

8) AO3’s continued survival currently depends on a small handful of volunteers…

that one

that you feel that fandom will supply if we lose one of more of our lynchpins there — AD&T has actually recruited relatively recently (unlike, say, the situation with accountants that was discused in one of the SP chats)

why do you think we have been unable to get duplication on those posts anyway?

/done

Trey C

(You can go ahead and answer without the whole o/ thing, Jess)

hele

(one *or* more — sorry for typos)

Jessica S.

I…honestly don’t know. I’m not in a position to know exactly what AD&T has done in terms of recruitment, or where they advertised, or how difficult such positions might be to find

So I’m not really sure how I can answer this question in any intelligent way.

/done

hele

I think it was regular advertisement like other positions in the org

so: the org’s news outlets

thanks, anyway!

Jessica S.

Okay well, I’m sure mumble could probably tell you better than I can

Lady Oscar

o/

matty

o/

hele

(I think mumble sustains that experienced ruby coders are just hard to get ;))

Jessica S.

(I’d buy that)

Trey C

Alright, I think we’ll move on.

LO?

Lady Oscar

I’m not mumble, but am a member of AD&T. I wanted to clarify that yes, we did advertise for experienced Ruby coders and did not get results.

/done

Curtis J.

o/

Trey C

matty?

matty

My question is for both candidates:

There were a few statements posted earlier in the Q&A that showed a lack of understanding in how certain committees work and the problems they face. (this is also something we’ve seen with current board members) This combined with phasing out the liaison roles worries me. Asides from requiring committees submit reports, which frankly never seem to be acknowledged, what measures do you think can Board can take to combat this?

(some examples – board not knowing the differences between support/abuse, or telling people with fanlore issues to contact support via ao3, or not understanding how our servers work and why we need to buy them at certain times, etc) /done

Jessica S.

o/ I can go first if you want?

Trey C

Sure, Jess, go ahead.

Jessica S.

ok, so the issue of not being plugged in with committees as well as we’d like was a long-discussed topic at the retreat that doesn’t have a clear solution as of yet

One of the things that SP found quite clearly in our data gathering was that the liaison system wasn’t working well in most cases and I think that’s generally acknowledged

Part of the hopes of the feedback round is that we’ll be able to generate ideas about good ways of keeping things plugged in – not to phase out liaisoning without a replacement

I agree that the report idea didn’t seem to be working

An idea that was kicked around was some kind of rotating system where the Board members come and visit with all the committees from time to time rather than a single liaison + committee structure

So tl;dr ideas would be great coming from all quarters at this point, and I hope that a great solution will be found soon and included in the strategic plan

/done

Soledad G.

I’ll go now then ๐Ÿ™‚

First, I’d like to know if/which mistakes I made in my Q&A if that was at all possible.

Second, I don’t think the liaisoning system was working. If the lack of understanding was happening even now, then it’s not the answer.

I admit that I don’t have an idea because the obvious one (reports), as you mentioned, isn’t working either.

TBH, from my personal stand-point, there is little Board can do but to ask honest questions about what committees need and how they work. There are entire areas of the org I know very little about.

/done

Jessica S.

(Also yes, please tell me if I messed something up, too!)

Lady Oscar

o/

Trey C

Alright. I think we can just treat matty’s point as a general observation and move on from this one? Curtis, you can go ahead.

Lady Oscar

nm

Trey C

(Curtis, can you confirm if you’re still typing?)

Lady Oscar

I’ll re-raise o/

Curtis J.

One issue that has been cited over the past couple of years in public spaces regarding the org is volunteer burnout and retention. Do you see this as an issue from within the org, and, if so, what steps do you think should be taken to address it? (Sorry side issue came up.)

Trey C

No worries! /done?

Curtis J.

/done

Soledad G.

I can go first this round ๐Ÿ™‚

Jessica S.

By all means XD

Soledad G.

I’m currently chairing a two people committee

(Well, me, a staffer and a Boar dmember.)

So it is an issue for me.

Leaving aside I&O’s… particular situation, it’s a problem across the org. For example, see the problems LO mentioned about recruiting coders with Ruby on Rails experience.

There are several factors that I think impact in the situation. One is the stressful idea that nobody else can do the work we do. That kind of pressure worsens over time and people leave because they must and not because they. want.

Volunteers will retire over time – that is a reality. The problem is that the org runs through people at a fast rate.

There’s also the problem of the org atmosphere. It can harsh and unforgiving, people’s work may not be respected.

So, as Board, I think one of the steps we can take is to focus on duplicating and documenting roles.

The problem with the org atmosphere is more vague, but I think it’s important to listen to staffers and volunteers to identify specific problems. And it’s important for us to ask questions, even questions that seem obvious. /done

Jessica S.

Man, Sole totally said everything that I was going to say

I know I talked a lot about self-care in my Q&A answers but I think it’s really important that we all be in a position to feel like we can take time off if we need to. Otherwise, like Sole said, you’ll wind up flaming out by necessity and then there’s a hole left

I think succession planning is really key, and that includes key positions other than chairs. Having someone as a backup so you can take time off is so important

And I’m probably going to gush about SP a lot tonight, but oh well.

But one of the things that I think has made us successful is that we all back each other up and even though two of us decided to jump ship to the board it won’t cause a ripple

hele

(o/ follow up to this)

Jessica S.

And I’m rambling repeating what Sole said, so /done

briar_pipe

o/

Jessica S.

Oh sorry, can I add to my answer?

I just remembered something else I was going to say

Trey C

Sure!

Jessica S.

I think we also need to recognize that volunteers are not always going to stick around in as many numbers as we’d like. People will fall away because there’s nothing really keeping them here but their passion and desire to be here

So just because people leave doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong

But if we forget this, then we’ll drive people away by mistreating them

/really done

Trey C

Alright, we’ll go to hele’s follow-up first so we can wrap this up, and then get back to LO. hele?

hele

yes! OK, actually, related to Jessica’s last point!

do you think getting duplication will be harder for some posts than for others? Because, while I feel I can totally document my posts in the org so that someone with reasonable will and desire to do so can do my work, james documenting his wouldn’t really mean anyone can go in adn sysadmin, in my view. /done

Jessica S.

Oh, for sure. Yeah, naturally it’ll be harder.

Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be persistent in trying, though, and have that as a goal until it’s achieved.

/done

Soledad G.

I agree, hele.

hele

makes sense, Jess!

Soledad G.
And also – evey sysadmin post has its quirks. If somebody else was going to work with/instead of james, they’d need that info /done

hele

(of course!)

Trey C

Okay! Moving on then, LO?

Lady Oscar

Sorry, my question is also partially a followup.

Trey C

That’s okay xD.

Lady Oscar

First, yes, I totally agree that we will always have attrition and need to recruit to make up for that. And I think hele’s point that having extra people-power isn’t a solution for some posts.

One thing that has bothered me with Board over the time I’ve been here is that there haven’t been a lot of AO3-committee people on it. Given the failure of the liaisoning system, I feel that’s a strong concern.

And that has led, I feel to the fact that the concern that volunteers leave because their work is not respected to mainly come down to volunteers not having their work respected _by our Board_.

At least in my experience, our fellow committees may have communications issues (which I feel are definitely improving!) but the main friction is the concern that Board don’t understand the concerns, goals, and skills of the AO3 committees.

I’d like to hear thoughts from the candidates on those subjects.

/done, and sorry for being wordy ^^;

Soledad G.

I can go first.

Jessica S.

Go for it :3

Soledad G.

First, I *am* a AO3-committee person. Yes, I’ve spent the last year mostly in I&O, but most of my OTW work has been AO3-related.

I respect the work you do and understand the basics. Except for coding, which is really not my expertise at all.

Second, and more importantly, I do not claim to know *everything* about the work you do. I said it already, but I’m going to ask questions. It’s impossible to expect that the Board will know everything about everything when they start out.

But it’s also important to say that, currently, there are no Fanlore people either.

That does not mean we cannot grasp what Fanlore needs or wants. I can always ask.

Lady Oscar

follwup o/

Soledad G.

/done

Lady Oscar
er +o

Jessica S.

Should I do my answer first or LO’s follow up?

Lady Oscar

go ahead

Trey C

You go ahead, Jessica.

Jessica S.

OK

So I guess my first thought when you were asking your question is that if there aren’t enough AO3 people on the Board it’s because none have stepped up to do it, which is sort of obvious and not very helpful I know :/

I can certainly say for myself that I came to the org exclusively through AO3. I literally did not know about any of the other org projects until I joined SP

I have a lot of respect for what each and every person does, and feel that every one of our committees are doing something very important

But talk is cheap and I can say that. I can only say that I intend that my behaviour over the next few years will bear that out and I hope that if I ever seem to act with disrespect towards the work that someone is doing that someone will let me know so I can correct it.

And I feel that every other Board member should feel the same way. And indeed, every other person in the org.

/done

hele

o/ (non follow up, so I believe after Mei sometime!)

briar_pipe

o/ (mine was actually a follow-up to Curtis)

Michelle D.

o/

Curtis J.

o/

Alison Watson

o/ (not follow up)

Trey C

LO, you can go ahead but I’m going to interrupt here with a tiny request to re-focus questions so they are actual questions, because your original one was very open-ended, and the point of these chats is to try to get to know candidates.

And then we’ll move to briar_pipe.

Lady Oscar

Er…I’m not sure what to do with that?

I kind of thought something open-ended that let people talk would let us get to know people?

If you don’t want me to address the issue of attrition and why there aren’t more AO3 people volunteering to join Board, we can move on.

Trey C

That was a ‘go ahead with your follow-up’, with a general point to everyone here.

Lady Oscar

No, go ahead, I’m not sure I understand the distinction.

Trey C

LO? I can move on if you’d like.

Alright, I’ll sit down with you later. briar_pipe?

briar_pipe

Thanks!

To build on Curtis’s question about turnover: I’d like to ask about staff training, as separate from documentation (skills, not knowledge base).

Do you have any ideas for developing our training systems as an org to improve staff retention and quality of work, and more specifically for the Board itself? And as a follow-up, how do you plan to approach your own training, after you join the Board? /done

Jessica S.

My turn to go first I think

Firstly, ideas about developing our training systems as an org

I am a huge supporter of mentorship and cross-training.

I know that training can sometimes seem like the last priority when there are fires everywhere, but I do feel that we need to be greater emphasis on training from the very moment a new person is inducted

I know that Volcom is working on some awesome stuff that I’m so excited to see be developed.

I’m also super excited about ideas being tossed around about a Board track, where people who would potentially be interested in someday joining the Board could take part in directed skill development and learn about the org as well, so that when and if they choose to take that leap

They actually would already have the skills and knowledge needed.

These are things that I hope to be directly involved in developing as time goes on

Secondly, about my own training, I’m thankful that I have a decent knowledge base about the org generally because of SP

My plan over the next 3 months and beyond is to lean hugely on the existing board members for mentorship and guidance, as well as make specific effort to familiarize myself even more with the org by attending more chats, trawlign the wiki more and just basically paying a lot of attention

I’m sure that once I actually begin Board work, the learning curve will be steep, and I’m prepared for that /done

Soledad G.

Well, we keep agreeing, Jess. Regarding my own training, I do plan to read all the documentation, read all the chat transcripts and just listen in general at first.

I am lucky that my RL background has trained me in some skills I believe are mega important for a Board member (ie., how to listen, how to build consensus, how to manage my stress.)

In terms of general training, it’s one of the areas where I will rely on the experts here and listen to VolComm. (I actually manage and help train volunteers in RL, but it’s a totally different context.) But mentoring is central! /done

Trey C

Alright. I think hele was next? We only have about 7 minutes left, so hele will probably be last. ๐Ÿ™

hele

I’ll try to be quick!

a question just for Jess

you said:

Some of the reasons for that lack of trust are historical, and some of it is due to the reality that there really is nothing about the process of selecting Board members that ensures that theyโ€™re any more qualified to make such decisions than anyone else in the org.

do you think that all actions that led to that lack of trust are historical?

/done

(by historical I mean ‘done by board members that are no longer on the Board)

Jessica S.

(h/o I’m just quickly refreshing myself on the context. What was the number of that question, hele?)

hele

let me find it one sec

Jessica S.

nm I found it

hele

12ยช
ahh, too late, the story of my life ๐Ÿ˜›

Jessica S.

Haha, no worries

No, I don’t think all actions that have shaken trust in the Board have been taken by Board members who are no longer on the Board.

/done

Trey C

Okay, I think we’ll wrap up now so we don’t finish late. Sorry, Michelle, Curtis and Alison! We’ll be accepting follow-up questions based on anything in this chat for the next hour, via our public form: http://transformativeworks.org/contact/elections

Feel free to send them in, or attend one of the next two at these times: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20141031T0001 and http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20141101T1500

Thanks for turning up, everyone! ๐Ÿ˜€ We hope to see you again next time.