Concise Transcript for Second 2011 Candidate Chat

Kylara (attendee)

I have a question for Ira. How will you choose which submitted questions to ask in chat?

Ira G. (moderator)

We’ve laid out how we hope this will go here: [election chat procedures]

Ira G. (moderator)

Hello everyone! Thank you all so much for coming to this candidate chat!

First up, I wanted to convey apologies from Naomi, who was planning to attend but could not make it today 🙁 I will forward to her all the questions we cover in chat today.

Before we get started though, as we have so many awesome candidates and so many excellent questions, it’s going to be a challenge keeping this chat organized, so I’d like to lay out how this will work. (strap yourselves in!) As always, if you are typing up something long, toss out a quick word so I know to wait for you, and after giving an answer, please note that you are done, so we can move on to the next person or question. Speaking of long questions/responses: last time we had some trouble with long pastes getting cut off, which makes it harder to put together transcripts and introduces accessibility issues into the transcript screenshot. So! Please try to make sure each of your pastes fits without getting cut off.

To make sure everything fits, try to paste a single paragraph at a time. The paste cutoff is 1,200 characters. If you are pasting a particularly long paragraph, run it real quick through this [character counter]

Now, how the actual asking and answering will work! We already have a queue of a over dozen emailed questions (really over a full dozen; you folks are AMAZING and it is so awesome to have this much participation!), and we also need to have time for live questions. I know there is no way we will be able to get through all the questions in this chat.

So what we will do is alternate between live and email questions for as long as we can, then at the end I will collect all the remaining live questions.

These will be bundled together with emailed questions in groups of about 4 (again alternating, roughly, depending on how many we end up with), and I will send out one group of questions to the candidates every 24 hours after the chat until we’ve run through them all. As before, the answers will be collected and posted along with the transcript. I’ll preview the first batch of questions at the end of the chat so the candidates will all see them at the same time.

Now, for everyone here who has a question to ask: this time, I would like you to basically “raise your hand” rather than enter in your questions, so we don’t have colliding questions. Just say (I have a question!); I’ll keep a list and will call on you, so we get the questions one at a time.

Again, any questions we don’t get to during the chat should be submitted at the end of the chat (we encourage you emailing them to elections-chair@transformativeworks.org, but if pasting it in at the end is better for you, that’s great too! The cutoff time for submitting questions is the end of the chat. I will announce when we are wrapping up, and remind people to submit).

And finally, for the candidates: we will streamline the answering of questions a little bit in terms of what order we go in — with six (or even five!) people we’ve seen that it can get confusing.
So I’d like to try for alphabetical order, answering in the same order each time. Could I please have a volunteer to be that first person? Once I have that, I will paste in the alphabetical list starting from that person.
(this is the last bit of housekeeping)

Phew! That was a lot of housekeeping! We have that all collected in a post, so feel free to review here: [Second OTW Board candidate chat announcement] (I’ll also paste that link periodically for newcomers)

Lucy P. (candidate)

Naomi sent me some cmments, since she couldn’t be here! So I can shoot those in so people can here from her!

*hear

Lucy P. (candidate)

Can we not go in the same order every time?

I think it depends on the question how much time you need to think!

Ira G. (moderator)

if someone really needs an extra minute, I can ask for that question if someone is willing to cede, but I’d like to have a clear order to start from every time. just let me know if you need a moment!

Lucy P. (candidate)

OK. My wrists are a bit sad today, so advance warning I might be slow

Ira G. (moderator)

no problem; we will do our best to accommodate!

sanders (candidate)

i have a question.

Ira G. (moderator)

Now, let’s get started! We already have a live question and a question from sanders — sanders, could I heard if that’s a question to the moderator or to the candidates first, please?

sanders (candidate)

it’s a question to the kickass moderator.

via_ostiense (attendee)

wait–just to be clear–lucy is submitting comments for both herself and naomi? this seems a bit of an unfair burden for her…

Lucy P. (candidate)

No – I just have some general comments from Naomi, I’m not doing her answers each time

sanders (candidate)

ira, may i ask now?

Ira G. (moderator)

sanders, go for it! Lucy, I’ll cover you next

via_ostiense (attendee)

(would it be possible for ira to post the comments instead, as sie is moderator? sorry to be nitpicky, but it seems like there would be potential for confusion in the transcripts /done)

Ira G. (moderator)

(Lucy, if you don’t object (possibly as Naomi’s proxy in this?) to forwarding the comments to me, I would be happy to post them on Naomi’s behalf)

Lucy P. (candidate)

Yep, makes sense! Maybe stick them at the end?

Ira G. (moderator)

sure; I’ll make sure to leave a bit of time at the end for her comments =)

sanders (candidate)

A couple of things. It would have been more appropriate, I believe, for Naomi to send her comments to Ira as our Elections officer and moderator. Ira, will you address this with her? Secondly, would it be possible to hold Naomi’s comments via Lucy until the end of the chat? Further, as one candidate, by virtue of not attending, will have extended time to answer the questions posted in the chat, would it be possible for the other five of us who could make it to have the option of later revising our answers for posting in the overflow? With regard to the overflow, would it be possible to secure agreement from all candidates that we will hold to the 24 time limit unlike the first set where half of the answers came in well past the deadline?
sorry, i had a lot to say.

Ira G. (moderator)

(ah, my mistake; I did receive Naomi’s comments, but gmail unhelpfully collapsed them under quoted text. my mistake; all is well; I will make time for them at the end)

it’s all me there; nothing on Naomi; gmail just unhelpfully collapsed them =\

I discovered that right as sanders was typing

sanders (candidate)

Then I withdraw the question as to that part, but the rest stands.

Lucy P. (candidate)

Naomi was having to send via her phone, so she sent to me in case of glitchiness – since Ira didn’t mention I assumed glitchiness had occurred 🙂

Jenny S-T (candidate)

I’d rather not have extra time to revise answers, generally – I prefer the chat style, without the pressure to produce perfectly written essays

Lucy P. (candidate)

Also, regarding the 24 hours limit

hele (attendee)

the problem with that — and believe me, I understand about the unfairness — is that voters need to have the answers, unfairness or not

sanders (candidate)

Excuse me, but for a point of order, I addressed my questions to Ira.

Lucy P. (candidate)

Can I actually ask that we make it 48 hours? As I didn’t know in advance the last time I was going to have to answer questions within 24 hours, and the 24 hours after the chat for me happened to be extremely busy

sander, I’m sorry; I just wanted to be helpful with the extra information

Ira G. (moderator)

Unfortunately, we do need to get things up as quickly as possible — the sets of questions are designed to be about the size as a batch in a chat context, and so, we’re hoping shouldn’t take more than an hour to answer (same length as a chat)

sanders (candidate)

And in turn, Lucy, I would like to point out that half of us, including Jenny, who was on family holiday, were able to meet the deadline. Were the questions posted in chat, you would have had under than hour to answer them all.

Ira G. (moderator)

we do try to accommodate changes in schedule and allowed timestamped edits to the post last time

Ira G. (moderator)

if what you can do in the given time is a short answer, that is okay; we can also make smaller sets that should be easier to fit into everyone’s schedules

Betsy R. (candidate)

I’m amenable to whatever you choose.

Jenn Calaelen (attendee)

Might it be possible for this procedural stuff to be discussed later so that there is time for some questions in this live chat?

Ira G. (moderator)

so what I will do is try to adjust the batches to be smaller, and that should be less of a burden; but I’d like to stick to the 24 hour limit

Julia B. (candidate)

(I’d be fine with that.)

Ira G. (moderator)

And I agree with Jenn. we’ve cut into question time significantly. sanders, I’ll cover the last bit of your question at the end

sanders (candidate)

Thanks, Ira. I apologize for the time taken up here. There were just some unexpected issues.

Ira G. (moderator)

it’s okay; I understand. we’re all busy and want to know what to expect
all right, then I think we can proceed with our first question, which has already been nabbed

ainsley, would you like to go ahead?

ainsley (attendee)

Part 1: Off the top of your head: How many staffers does the Org have? How many non-staff volunteers?

Part 2: Considering the many comments I’m reading about understaffing and volunteer burnout, how many additional staffing positions on existing committees would you anticipate adding in your term? Additionally, what concrete steps will you work to implement to prevent burnout, to increase staff/volunteer satisfaction, and to increase internal transparency?
(end of question, and I thank you for your time and candidacy.)

Jenny S-T (candidate)

I think about 40 staff and about 300 volunteers, though I’d have to look it up to check
we don’t have any fixed limit on number of staffers – it’s mostly up to committee chairs, with final approval from board

I would anticipate the number of staffers increasing by a few, maybe an extra 5 or 10, partly as the org grows naturally

concrete steps to prevent burnout: clarifying roles of liaisons, chairs and staff, so people know who to ask for support, and making sure people can get a mentor to vent to if they want
to increase satisfaction – keeping an eye out for projects that languish – a major demoralising thing is when you put a ton of work into a project and then it never goes anywhere and you’re not even told why, which is a very different thing from a project being stopped for a sensible reason

to increase internal transparency – I’ve already talked about some stuff, but using the monthly newsletter more, and finding more effective ways for people to get to know each other socially within the org
/done

Julia B. (candidate)

staff: 60-something; volunteers: 200-something (this is actually hard to determine: active vs. non-active volunteers)

Number of committee members is up to chairs.

How I imagine it growing? depends on how many people we can recruit! definitely 10+ staff.

Concrete steps: support chairs in providing more feedback and training to them and trying to implement better accountability. Many chairs are inexperienced in leading people and have to learn to do so the hard way. (Hi! that was totally me! it kinda sucked!) This translates to mentoring, basically.

also, very important to me:
create an atmosphere of critical and honest, but respectful communication: many of the miscommunications and problems aronse b/c you don’t feel you can criticize someone internally: you can only voice dissatisfaciton in roundabout ways

we need to stop backchanneling so much. Externally: try and put a stop to our paranoia about fandom hating us if we are not anything but perfect. We’re not perfect — we shuold be more ready to admit that, and open up about it.
this is very glibly put — sorry. But we have a sort of siege mentality where we seem to live in fear of perpetual wank. It’s not helping. /done

Lucy P. (candidate)

I’m still typing, but I’ll paste in two quick an then one slower

Part one of the question has already been answered, really – I think we have about 80 staffers on the books, but not necessarily all active at once, and about 350 volunteers, but again, not necessarily active. I would add that I think it’s quite important to leave committee sizes to the chairs, because one of the things that makes for effective committees is being able to respond flexibly to the needs of the committee at any given time.

Sustainability: I definitely agree with Jenny & Julia that mentoring is key. More specifically, I think one of the things that Board liaisons could do is sit down with chairs every 3-4 months and review who’s doing what on the committee and whether there needs to be extra support. It can be hard when you’re in the thick of it to consciously identify where you need to be actively working to give extra support to a project.

Satisfaction: I think actually identifying a series of small aims rather than one big one is helpful, so you can feel more accomplished. And after the fact, sitting down to ask ‘what went well’ and ‘what could have been done better’, which focuses on positives, whereas as Julias says we often tend to focus on ‘how did we fail?’

Betsy R. (candidate) yep – thanks –

I’ll be honest: I don’t know exactly the number of staff and volunteers the org has – off the cuff I suspect it’s upward of 60 staffers and hundreds of volunteers — but although I know there’s a distinction between staffers and volunteers, I think of everyone as a “volunteer,” just with different types and amounts of work.
I agree that regarding additional staffing positions on existing committees, we should leave that up to the committee chairs, who know more about the needs of each committee, but if we’re getting complaints about workload we should feel free to suggest to the chair that a particular committee grow.

Concrete steps to prevent burnout, increase satisfaction, and increase transparency – I would want to ensure that the committee chairs know they have the discretion to increase the size of their committee as called for, and provide opportunities for them to consult with other committee chairs about management strategies. I would also like to make management materials available to committee chairs. This may mean mentoring or it may mean soliciting suggestions about what the best materials are out there, and making them available.

Also, very important is something that’s already happening now, and can grow more– make sure that staffers and volunteers have people other than their committee chairs that they can address complaints to, so they don’t feel trapped or uncomfortable if they have conflicts with their chairs, workload, or the like. Every chair should be fostering open communication, but sometimes that doesn’t happen, and we want to provide ways that chairs can learn what they’re doing that they may not know is making people unhappy or overburdened.

Those are the things that come to mind off the top of my head, although I’m sure there’s more if I think about it!

sanders (candidate)

My very quick answer is that I believe we’re a staff of around 80 and about 300 volunteers, active to varying degrees. The numbers are a little hard to pin down because of the turnover/burnout rate.

I see adding two to three people to most committees over the next year, and possibly more or less depending on need. Strong conversations with committee chairs and Volcom would be needed before naming an exact number.

Concrete steps: Implementing stronger internal communication; clarifying the paths for passing along information as well as resolving grievances (passing the Code of Conduct would help greatly in this); providing more staff and volunteer training and mentoring, starting from the top down, in that Board Liaison roles and the roles of Chairs need to be clarified; instituting a monthly all chairs meeting; creating a resource library covering more issues related to working with nonprofits; and finally, working with chairs on how to delegate and evaluate staff and volunteers.
sorry for the mild tl;dr.

Ira G. (moderator)

all right, as we’re running closer to time, I will pull a shorter email question
here we go!
How do you see the OTW as being accountable to its assorted constituents–fandom at large; users of the OTW’s projects (AO3 and fanlore users; readers and writers of the journal; recipients of legal aid; volunteers; staff; etc.) What would you do on the board to make sure that all those groups have the information they need when they need it?

Jenny S-T (candidate)

tricky question
I see us as accountable to all of those on some level, and by “us” I mean several groups
i.e. board, staff, members and volunteers all have a role to play, board, staff, volunteers, members, wider fandom and general public all hold us accountable

a bit step to improve it will be the surveys that IO are working on
*big
though that’s not a catch-all solution
and improving communication generally is very important and not easy to solve, though there are some quick steps we can take that I’ve mentioned before
I think the biggest thing I’d like to do is be more honest about what we can and can’t do, and admit when we haven’t achieved stuff
Dreamwidth is a great role-model for me in that
it’s okay to say “I don’t know, I’ll look it up and get back to you” or “We made a mistake, and we’ll take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen the same way again”
which doesn’t answer your question very well, sorry – most of my thoughts are tied to stuff about the surveys which isn’t public yet

so feel free to prod me about it publicly in a couple of months’ time, or if you’re a volunteer or staffer, on the internal forums now

Julia B. (candidate)

almost. ok here goes.
I’ll prepend that I think this question is too complex to answer statisfactorily on the fly. As to the “how”: First, identify our stakeholders and agree internally who we want to serve. Not sure we are doing that right now.
Then, what Jenny said: being more transparent (external communications!), AND giving more options for engagement. Sort of: the barriers to volunteering/discussing/criticism atm are too high. (Example: use other channels more familiar to consitutuents, like blogs/forums rather than the journal/website format.)
However, I absolutely can’t answer you with concrete steps, because we need to a) identify b) survey these groups and their needs first to get this right. It’s like assuming we’re reaching everyone with the journals: assumptions aren’t particularly helpful here.
(by “journals” I mean our concentration on the LJ-sphere.)
/done

Lucy P. (candidate)

I think that a big part of accountability is being responsive to the various people who use and comment on our various different projects. I’ve worked most closely with the Archive project, and I think one of the things we have consistently improved on over the lifetime of the project is making it clearer to people what we’re doing & why things are the way they are, and responding to things they tell us they want. The Support committee is really invaluable in this regard because they are working daily to answer user questions as they come up and to pass user requests on to other committees so that they can actually effect change. Obviously, the AO3 lends itself to that kind of model, but I would like to extend it out to other committees a bit so we would encourage people to submit their questions and comments and then answer them publicly. That’s been a really useful part of this elections process, seeing those questions coming up!

In general, I think we have to be honest about our limitations: we can’t be all things to all people, so being accountable and respinsive doesn’t mean that we will always do the things people want us to do – we can, though, be honest and open about why we are doing some things and not others (I’ve just started exploring with AD&T and Support an idea for how we can do that more with the Archive)
SO I agree with Julia, external communcations is key – and specifically two-wat communications, so we’re not just issuing ‘press releases’

Betsy R. (candidate)

I do see the OTW as accountable to all of those constituencies, although we should remember that they’re not monolithic. Although the OTW might like to be all things to all people, we probably can’t be, and there will be groups within each constituency that disagree with other groups within the same constituency. Since the OTW is an umbrella organization for them all, the only way we can really be accountable is to know what those groups want and need, and provide as much of it as we can. When the interests conflict – as I hope they seldom do! – we will have to apply our own judgment about which route to take and which priorities to devote our energies to. Ditto for when our resources are just too small to do everything we may want to do. So for me, accountability means listening.
How do we listen? That’s tougher. Surveys, feedback forms, paying attention to how people use the org’s resources, outreach to groups we want to include who may not yet feel included… I’m open to more suggestions, as well, as part of my own accountability! I am the first to admit that I don’t know what the priorities of all of the OTW’s varying constituencies are, and I want to learn.

How do we make sure that everyone gets the information they need, when they need it? The newsletter and the OTW blog are good starts (and we can make them even more informative, especially the newsletter), but I feel like one of the challenges with any organization like this is that people don’t always know that they need information – they might be able to find it if they looked, but they don’t know that it’s out there. I think the more we have our voices in the places our members inhabit, the better. From there, we can get a better sense of what our various constituencies want and how – and whether – we will be able to provide it.
Betsy R. I could go on and on! but to be reasonable, /done

sanders (candidate)

Accountability is hugely important to me, and it means, bluntly, being open to being called on our BS as well as much as being open to accepting praise. I feel like we’ve maybe erred a bit too much on the latter side of that, and responded in ways that ignore or dismiss the criticisms of the organization internally and externally. I would like to see us able to engage, productively, both sides of the feedback to strengthen our work. In order for that to happen, I believe we need to create more pathways for dialogue. The answer isn’t necessarily to deluge people with more information but to make sure the information we put out is accessible (by language, ability, and location) to all of our stakeholders in logical and clear ways without obfuscation. To that end, I would love to see more org-wide emails; a mailing list for our base; open discussion posts for members to engage our staff via DW, LJ, forums, etc, with board supporting each other; our Communications committee with a clear communications plan being implemented. I also, more directly, intend to work with Fincom to provide more and clearer financial reports. I’ve talked elsewhere about providing quarterly reports to our membership and more regular and in-depth reports to the board. To me, financial accountability—showing our base exactly what we are doing with the donations that come in and where we stand—is a cornerstone to being a responsible and lasting organization.
/fin

Ira G. (moderator)

Awesome, thank you!
Everyone, I do apologize for running a bit over time — I will cover three procedural items from earlier in the chat real quick, and then open up the call for any more questions. Candidates, the preview of the first batch of questions will come as soon after that as I can manage.

First, concerning sanders’s question about being able to amend in-chat answers, since Naomi will be answering hers later:
While we will post your in-chat answers without editing, we will allow timestamped addenda for 24 hours afterwards, which is the same timeframe Naomi will have to answer the questions you just covered

Second, concerning the post-chat batches of questions: I will reduce each batch to 3 questions each. The deadline for the post going up will still be 24 hours but, as with last time, we will allow timestamped additions from those who couldn’t answer earlier for 12 hours after that

please remember, the target time to answer a batch of question is on the order of 20 minutes, as we do want to keep them on-the-spot and relatively brief (about the time each candidate devotes to answering in-chat questions)

Lucy P. (candidate)

And may I apologise for getting us into fiddly procedural conversation in the chat, sorry people!

Ira G. (moderator)

finally, I did receive Naomi’s comments; mea culpa on that! however they are quite long, and given that we are beyond out of time here, I don’t feel comfortable taking up any more chat time, esp. with question submissions still pending, so, here is what I hope is an equitable solution:

Naomi’s comments will be posted on a page (linked from this transcript or some other appropriate post), as they were meant to be seen today

all other candidates will have 1 week (the same time as between the chat Naomi attended and today) to write comments of similar length if they so wish, and those will be posted on the same page as Naomi’s

I hope this is as fair as I can make it to candidates and voters alike!

That’s all for procedural issues

Anyone with questions for the candidates, please submit! Do we have any questions pending? please raise your hand if you’re working on something

Enigel (attendee)

for all candidates: what are their concrete plans for outreach to underrepresented sections of fandom?

Ira G. (moderator)

Oh ho!
actually, that is fortutious. Enigel, let me paste something in here

For now, since the candidates have given so generously of their time; I will hurry on to the preview of the first batch of post-chat questions, which are actually related to Enigel’s

Now, as I subbed in a shorter email question earlier (I am not exaggerating, that really was one of the shorter ones), the first email question we actually got had a closely related question come in later (which is great; it’s awesome to see what issues and what facets of a given issue interest people a lot, so don’t be afraid to ask related or facet-y questions!), so I’d like to ask these two together.

Here they are:

(1) I was happy to hear some of the candidates specifically mention outreach as one of their concerns in the chat transcript. However, I’d like to ask /all/ of the candidates if they could detail any ideas they have for specific plans of action that can be taken in the upcoming year to help the OTW reach out to fannish communities outside Western media journaling fandom.

(2) The OTW still seems to have trouble connecting with large numbers of people outside of Western media fandoms, particularly anime/manga fandoms. Do you have any concrete ideas about how the OTW should improve outreach towards anime/manga fans?

(From ira: Please note that these are not exactly the same thing — anime/manga fandom isn’t mutually exclusive with Western journaling fandom or fans, and there are also non-Western journaling fandoms that aren’t anime/manga. Keeping these nuances/differences in mind is welcome and encouraged; please do try to cover material from both questions!)
Enigel, candidates, how about for this first batch, I bundle all three of your questions together and have that as the first batch?
Is that all right?

Enigel (attendee)

works for me!

Julia B. (candidate)

sure!

Betsy R. (candidate)

okie doke

Kylara (attendee)

Ira, how are you deciding which order to ask the bundled question? Is it the order they were submitted, first asked first given, or more selective?

Ira G. (moderator)

To the best of my ability, I’m trying to go down the queue. However, if two closely related questions aren’t together on the queue
I put them together so that candidates do not feel they’re answering the same question over and over. I try to point out differences and will do my best to make sure all questions in a set are actually covered

Kylara (attendee)

With the number of questions you have, with three questions a day, do you know about how many days until they’re all asked?

Ira G. (moderator)

it should be 3-4 batches of questions, unless we get any more from this last call
so call it four days
just to be safe

I will be trying to usher everyone through this speedily! In a way that respects candidates’ varying schedules/timezones and respects voters’ need to have the information =D