Edited and corrected version. This text is not identical to the screenshot of the chat; for identical text, please refer to the full transcript.
yeah, maybe short intros should go first
Betsy Rosenblatt is a law professor at Whittier Law School. Her teaching and scholarship focus on intellectual property law, and she is the director of the school’s Center for Intellectual Property Law. Before joining academia, Betsy graduated from Harvard Law School and spent nearly a decade as an intellectual property and entertainment litigator.
Betsy was “born into” fandom, in a way, as both of her parents are dedicated Sherlockians—and, deep in her parents’ basement, there are photos of her as a baby in a deerstalker cap to prove it. More recently, she’s been involved not only in Sherlockiana, but also in a wide range of TV, film, and anime fandoms, as a creator, beta reader, and appreciator of fanworks.
Having served on the Legal Committee of the OTW since January 2010, Betsy has enjoyed responding to legal inquiries from fans and helping the OTW craft its policies. She looks forward to being the “resident lawyer” on the Board as well as being involved in all other aspects of the OTW. She is proud to be part of the OTW and is eager to advance the organization’s missions of providing an inclusive community for the diverse and interrelated worlds of fandom, a high-quality platform for archiving and sharing fanworks, a thoughtful scholarly journal, a wealth of information for fanwork creators, a thorough historical resource, and—perhaps closest to her heart—a strong voice of public advocacy for transformative works.
Jenny Scott-Thompson is a IT consultant, lifelong fan, and advocate for sustainability and diversity of the OTW. Jenny works for a major international firm and has several years of experience in systems implementation and technology projects. She lives in the UK and studied maths at the University of Cambridge. She volunteered for Dreamwidth before and during Open Beta, during which time she acquired first-hand awareness of diversity and accessibility issues. She’s been a fan ever since she learnt to read, with a range of book, TV, film, and RPF fandoms.
Jenny will use her time on the Board to advocate for the sustainability of the OTW, transparency, accessibility, and diversity of all types, but particularly international and fannish sub-culture diversity. For the past two years, Jenny has served the OTW in many capacities, first on the Volunteers & Recruiting committee (VolCom) and then on the Accessibility, Design & Technology committee (AD&T), and has performed a mix of coding, testing, support, tag wrangling, design and training tasks.
She values the OTW’s whole mission and range of projects, including legal advocacy, Transformative Works and Cultures, Vidding and Fanlore, but believes the Archive of Our Own (AO3) is key to our mission. It offers a protected server owned by fans and supports Open Doors, thus providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan cultures. She wants to see the OTW continue the great work it has been doing to become more international, more representative, and more accessible to a wide range of fans. She’d like to make it easier for people to volunteer, and to increase our support our existing volunteers, as this work will result in a more sustainable organisation (as well as making people happier!)
In the next year, she’d like to see the AO3 translated into multiple languages, fanart hosting, a public update on the Torrent of Our Own (TO3), and more improvements to searching and browsing for AO3 readers. She’d also like to see the Code of Conduct project for volunteers completed, and training and support for volunteers improved. For any questions and conversations you can find Jenny on Dreamwidth and on LiveJournal.
Naomi Novik is the New York Times-bestselling author of the award-winning Temeraire historical fantasy series, and a founding member of the Organization for Transformative Works. She has been active in online fandom since 1994, publishing stories and vids in more than forty-nine fandoms and founding several fan-run institutions: a multiuser online role-playing game begun in 1995, a vidding convention begun in 2002, and an annual cross-fandom story exchange begun in 2003. She created the open-source Automated Archive software used by many fanfic archives and has been one of the senior architects of the Archive of Our Own since it began.
She is running for the Board after a year off to have a baby (Evidence! \o/) to finish seeing the Archive through to the shining grail of the 1.0 release, and to provide a technical voice on the Board across various other OTW projects. She has spent the past year in the organization coding madly on various major Archive tools including tag sets and nominations, to give challenge moderators more control over the tags used in their signups while reducing the burden of work on tag wranglers, and a revamp of the archive css and html and skins design intended to improve accessibility and make skinning the archive easier.
Lucy Pearson has worked on the Archive of Our Own from the first code commits through to the present day. As 2010 chair of AD&T she saw the AO3 through its first full year of Open Beta, during which the number of users and fanworks on the site trebled! She helped establish the Support Committee, which she still serves on, and supported the Tag Wrangling Committee through its transition from subcommittee to full committee.
Lucy also does double duty on the Communications committee, keeping users informed about the Archive’s progress: you’ve probably seen her posts about AO3 progress and AD&T meetings on the OTW blog and communities, and her regular tweets on the @AO3org Twitter account she started. She loves giving fans an insight into what goes on behind the scenes and is excited about the idea of bringing those skills to the Board.
Lucy is Lecturer in Children’s Literature at Newcastle University, UK, so it’s appropriate that she stumbled into fandom via Harry Potter (and never looked back). She works closely with archives and special collections, and is passionate about preserving fanworks and ensuring they remain accessible for the future.
As a Board member, Lucy would bring the same judgement and organisational skills that served AD&T well through hectic growth, as well as an international perspective on the OTW’s activities. She believes in Sam/Dean fic, the wonders of the Oxford comma, and the awesome power of fandom!
In three decades, Sanders has been a zine maker, slam poet, Anthropology and Sociology student, author of a thesis on gender representation among queer women, activist for AIDS awareness and education and union rights, nonprofit fundraiser, avid Little League supporter, and fanfic writer. She’s lived in Louisville, London, Albuquerque, and Richmond (the one in Indiana, not Virginia). She’s traveled to Amsterdam and throughout Ireland, spent absurd amounts of time in Brooklyn, Seattle, DC, and in online chat rooms, and made a home in southern Indiana. She’s dabbled in procedural fandoms, become a committed Browncoat, stood in line for more midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show than she can count, and written over a million words of drawer fic with her Mac-obsessed iWife.
For the past three years, Sanders has been an active member of OTW’s Finance Committee, chiefly responsible for the shark-related puns in the committee newsletter. She has also helped produce the organization’s annual report, ensured compliance with state and federal filings, developed meeting agendas, and taken charge of drafting policies and procedures for organizational budgeting. Additionally, she has provided material for Fincom’s required close of meeting worship of Shemar Moore.
As a member of the Board, Sanders will continue her work with Fincom, shark jokes and all, as well as prioritize opportunities for cross-training and cooperative learning within and between committees. She has a strong personal interest in examining the demographics of the organization and working to ensure that OTW represents the interests of fans across lines of race, class, ability and access. Ideally, she will be able to combine those interests and priorities to maintain the financial stability of the organization and expand support for international fundraising and membership activities.
Julia Beck is a fan from Germany. She is studying for a degree in media and communication studies and works as a communications and quality supervisor in customer support. Although her fannish origins can be traced back to a childhood spent re-reading The Lord of the Rings, her initiation into organised fandom was sparked by Zetsuai: Bronze and German yaoi fandom, from which she moved into international media fandom. Most of all, she identifies as a hardcore RPG gamer: when she’s not lamenting the state of the “Tales of” series, she’s worshipping at the altar of Jennifer Hale.
She cut her volunteering teeth by co-founding her university radio programme, but was enticed away by the emergence of the OTW. She has served on the Translation committee since 2008 and founded International Outreach (IO) in 2010. Managing translation volunteers made her highly sensitive to issues of volunteer motivation and recruitment, and IO’s role as a cultural advisor to other committees helped her develop a more comprehensive perspective on the OTW.
Julia’s priority is to help increase the OTW’s diversity and accessibility to fandom, broadly conceived. She knows from her own experience how it feels to be “geoblocked,” and she wants the OTW to increasingly reflect the realities of fandom as an interconnected, international community. She wants to advance diversity efforts by strengthening collaboration across committees and boosting internal and external transparency.
She also plans to focus on keeping the OTW sustainable in the long term, not only by recruiting and training volunteers, but also by keeping them invested in the organization. She believes the OTW’s potential is constrained only by the limited time and energy of its volunteers and that sustainable staffing is closely tied to diversity. Just as increasing our human resources will help us carry out our diversity goals, increased diversity will result in improved volunteer recruitment and retention. She understands this as a joint effort and is looking forward to working on sustainability with fellow Board members.
a difficult one: why do you want to be on the board? 🙂
I want to be on the board primarily because I believe every board should contain a lawyer – particularly when the organization includes in its mission legal advocacy. I am also looking forward to taking a greater role in all of the OTW’s projects, but since my professional specialty is law, I see that as the unique niche I bring to the board. More generally, I want to be a board member because I believe that transformative works make the world a better place!
I want to be on the Board to help the OTW in more ways than I can at the moment. The main things the board do are to get the bigger picture – taking a step back and thinking about a broader view than any one committee can. Part of my day job and my skills are around being able to see potential process improvements and get ideas for things we could do better. On the board, I can spot more of those and know which are worth pursuing and which would lose us more than we’d gain.
For me, the main thing I see at the moment is to work for sustainability, which is our biggest challenge as an organisation. After four years, we’ve got going, achieved some great things, and we now need to think about the long term – not just fire-fighting, but setting ourselves up well for the future. That means we need to facilitate better cross-committee communication, given how much the org has now grown, and we need better people management and care for our volunteers. A lot of people have been burned out by OTW work where they haven’t had proper support, and have had to leave the org as a result. That needs to stop, as much as possible.
And, of course, I want to support all the great work we’re already doing, and make sure that can continue.
my answer is short: I’m running for the board for several reasons; primarily to be in a better position to help ensure the financial viability of all of OTW’s projects and the organization as a whole in the long term; to help bring stronger nonprofit management skills to the upper levels of the organization; to provide perspective from a fan of color.
So my main reason for running is, I started this whole crazy enterprise off with a call to build an archive of our own, and I feel a commitment to see that project through to a 1.0 release. And I think it’s really important for the archive project to have a senior technical voice on the Board.
I also agree that the org is moving into an important new phase where we’re past the first surge of excitement and growth, and now we need to keep people in the org having fun, and bringing new people in. Our forward-facing projects, particularly the archive, have gotten big enough that we want to start thinking about creating obvious pathways for people to come into the org through those projects, and how we can facilitate that — the upcoming Support Board is an example, but we want to creatively think about how to create openings from that and other routes that lead naturally into the org.
and (sorry I just realized I need to articulate this a tiny bit more so typing quickly)
I do think that internally we’ve over the last few years built up an org-wide toolbox that is at this point full of a lot of things — Basecamp, Campfire (the chat system we’re in right now), our secure vault, our own srevers, our internal wiki, our rented servers, etc you get the idea
and that like any toolbox over time the toolbox gets cluttered and then you’ve got the ten things at the bottom you never use mixed up with the one thing you forgot about that is actually really useful and so on
and so I think an upcoming challenge for the new Board will be to sort through our toolbox of not just software but procedures and try and identify where we could improve and done!
Meddling, in a way 🙂 I want the mandate to go in and help, where I can, and make connections, because I have a pretty good understanding of what works between the committees, and what doesn’t, from “working my way up” as a total no-name fan and volunteer first (I understand feeling powerless, in a way? And I want to help change that.) So I’m very concerned with volunteer motivation, and making the volunteering experience better, because without volunteers, there’s no org.
But I also want to shape policies, and the direction of the org – I want us to be a radical truly panfandom experiment, which includes international fans, and that requires some transformation on our part, I think.
I also want the OTW to be a platform that helps fans realize their projects, but that’s a long-term goal tied to volunteer recruitment & retention, so we gotta fix that first.
(like the recent fan delicious idea? that sort of thing.)
I’m passionate about the OTW and the things it can achieve, so I feel a huge sense of excitement at the prospect of extending my involvement further. However, I did think long and hard about running for Board, because it is both a big commitment and a major responsibility. I had given a lot of thought this year to what I would like to see on the Board, and I felt that one of the things that was important was for it to include people who had a long-standing relationship with the org, had experience of being committee chair, and had a good existing knowledge of how the OTW works across different committees. And then I realised that, um, as someone who’s been kicking around for a long time now, I pretty much fulfilled those criteria. So, I felt that if that was what I was going to ask for in Board members, I should be prepared to walk the walk and put myself forward! I feel that I have really gained a lot from being involved in the org and being mentored by previous Board members, and I am committed to paying that forward and mentoring the next generation of OTW staffers.
and now from earlier: what specific, concrete things does each candidate intend to work on while on the Board, and which of those will be their main focus?
I have two main aims for my time on Board. My first commitment is to helping support and mentor staffers as the OTW grows and changes, helping people gather experience and skills in ways that benefit both the org as a whole and them personally. In the past we’ve suffered from people burning out, and I think that combating that is one of the major challenges for the Board going forward. One of the things which has helped me NOT burn out was having a dedicated and supportive Board liaison, and having supported several new chairs in the past I think I have some good skills in that area.
This feeds into my second aim, which is that I want to build on the great work we have already done establishing the OTW as a ‘tool’ for fandom – that is, that we are a great resource and a great example for fandom as a whole. I believe that we can’t do absolutely everything that could be done in fandom (even though I would love to!); in fact, it wouldn’t be good for fandom to have one monolith org doing everything. What we CAN do is enable fans to pursue the projects they want to pursue – a good example of that is the recent fannish bookmarking project, which our AD&T chairs advised on and which lots of OTW staffers are contributing to. I think that already, we are an example other fans look to and say ‘we could do something big, look how the OTW established their projects’. Looking forward, I’d like to build our profile even more, so that a fannish group in Iceland, say, might want to start their own zine preservation project, and we would be able to help advise and facilitate that. I think that looking to the future, positioning the OTW as a tool is really important, because there are many practical limits to how much we can do as an individual org, but there are NO limits to what fandom as a whole can do if they have the flagship example and the support. I feel that communications will be a key part of that strategy – getting the word out about who we are and what we can do – and after nearly three years of developing communications about the AO3, that is a skill that I know I can bring to the Board. 😀
If we as individuals try to do too much we’ll implode, and if we as an org try to do too much we’ll also implode, but we can create a community where all the small things add up to something amazing!
One of the things that is important to me in terms of the aims I stated is creating an agile org, where people have a lot of autonomy and freedom within committees and yet they feel supported and we have an overall strategy. I think one of the ways of achieving that is to set out some clear goals and modes of interaction at the start, but then to maintain a light hand as Board and allow the committees to do their awesome work. Which they do 🙂
Clarifying the budgeting process and means by which we provide financial reports to our membership, and putting into place a strategic plan for the next three years at minimum are two of my priorities. I have almost two decades worth of nonprofit experience to bring to bear on both of those, and my overall goal is to internally strengthen the organization and provide greater accountability both internally and externally.
I also want to put into a place a clear structure for mentoring and committee turnover, as well as the ways we make use of our communications tools. done.
I plan to work on maintaining and growing the organization’s position as a public voice for transformative works. So much of what we have done has been internal to fandom: the OTW has done a great job of creating a comfortable space for creators of fanworks, and is improving on that all the time. I want to do everything I can to help with that. I share many of the candidates’ interests in keeping the organization sustainable, technically smooth, and inclusive, and I see myself as a “utility player” in that regard. But as a matter of central focus, I want the Board to have its eye on legal advocacy risks and opportunities, and I am particularly interested in bringing that to the table. I am also interested in growing the organization’s profile outside fandom, maintaining our alliances with other advocacy organizations, scholars, and the like, so that we are not lonely voices for our organizational agenda.
Specific, concrete things: I want to help Volunteers & Recruiting committee get the Code of Conduct finalised. I want to document the general role of a chair and role of a committee member – things like when you’re expected to communicate with your chair, board liaison, etc. and what comes under which committee’s area, so people are less likely to tread on each other’s toes by accident. I want to make sure we get more training, not just on doing your day-to-day job, but also on management skills, such as the personality types session that Kristen is doing next month.
I also have a ton of ideas related to fanart, vidding, and the AO3 that I’d like to do, as well as transparency, diversity and accessibility, but won’t bore you all with now – I’ll post a list on my journal later if you’re interested. My main focus would be sustainability of the organisation, by making sure we work efficiently and care for our people.
going quick while baby lets me since I think it is open: From a pragmatic perspective, my number one aim is to have a productive and effective Board, where we facilitate the work of the org without getting in the way — there are a lot of different projects and priorities and for the health of the org we need Board to be a place where those priorities can get worked out in a collaborative way, where we can be a team that comes together and works through the conflicts created by the limits on our resources, both human and otherwise.
and personally I’m obvs deeply involved in the archive project but I figure you all know that 😀
I agree with Naomi! (about the Board process, that is)
That’s a great answer, Jenny, with some very specific tasks that we can realistically accomplish.
Internally: pretty much what Lucy said: take better care of our people, and help them grow, which includes evaluating tools and processes and adapting them accordingly. This sound v. beareaucratic, but it’s really vital. We need to be healthy as an organization, and that includes giving our volunteers places to voice criticism. I want to help maintain an open, critical, but respectful atmosphere inside OTW. (I hold myself to that.) (Like the internal forums that I advocated for, but that’s just one step.)
Externally: working on outreach – that’s been a major criticism in the past, but it’s really tricky to get right. We absolutely won’t barge into a community and preach the OTW’s gospel, no way. My committee (Internationalization & Outreach) is laying the groundwork for more strategic outreach now with our community survey (coming to a weblink near you v. soon!), and I and I hope this will, well, fertilize the discourse on outreach internally and spill over into actual measures next term.
question for betsy — since we have an independent legal committee that works on legal strategies and advocacy (e.g. the dmca exceptions), what unique advantage is there to having a lawyer on Board that Legal doesn’t already provide? also, Legal Chair has access to board discussions and can serve as advisor as necessary
To answer via_ostiense’s question: The org needs both a legal committee and a board with its eye on legal issues – partly so that the org can move on a dime in instructing the legal committee. We have committees for everything the org does, but we still have a board for larger steering matters. I’m on the independent legal committee, and while we do very well dealing with individual inquiries, I think we can feel like we’re a bit isolated sometimes. In the past, the chair of the Legal Committee (Rebecca Tushnet) has been on the board, and I think that has brought a sense of continuity to the relationship between the board and the organization’s advocacy mission. Otherwise we’d be two different organizations – one for web content and another for advocacy. I want us to be one organization that does both, and although I know it’s a lot of commitment, I want to be the bridge between those things.