Chat Transcript – September 10, 2016

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

briar_pipe, can you wave so everyone can see you?

briar_pipe
o/

Anna Temel

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 briar_pipe 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)

(I’m very sad I don’t get to “are you done : ))))” anyone this year 🙁 ) Briar_pipe will pass me the questions, and I will ask them during appropriate pauses in the conversation between the candidates.

Briar_pipe 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 (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2016/2016-bios-and-manifestos/) or the Q&A (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2016/2016-qa/). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.

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: What is your opinion on accountability and the current checks and balances for Board members, Chairs, and even Committees in their entirety?

James
I think each one of those needs to be answered individually.

Kristina
I am a firm believer of accountability, and I’ve actually propagated the unpopular idea that we might want to get back to a system (which I knew we did in journal in the beginning) of renewing staffers every year and doing so only if we were happy with their work. Said differently, I find the processes to dismiss absent or not-working volunteers and staffers incredibly laborious and I know that I’d personally just work around an absent staffer than start the proceedings VolCom devised. Then again, they may be useful for other committees, and I’d like to hear more from various chairs and staffers before even thinking about suggesting alternatives.

ok, took the last one first 🙂

Priscilla
I think our structure doesn’t have any substantial checks and balances on Board members, chairs or committees. I think that’s a huge problem for the OTW as a whole (in my opinion our biggest structural issue, since it includes so many others) and can lead to—and has led to—a lot of issues both internally and externally.

James
Starting at the bottom I don’t think I have worked in teams where any of the staff have been a problem but I am sure that this does occur.

Kristina
Right, Priscilla! I think we addressed some of the issues of the board nor being accountable in our written answers and about chairs not being accountable in the last chat. (Thus my focus on the last one)

James
About the Board, Do you two think my idea of having a system to allow the membership to have a vote of confidence is workable ?

Priscilla
Volunteers/staff can be a problem, and the tools chairs have to deal with this are very limited—we do have a procedure for handling, say, harassment, but that cannot really help a chair trying to figure out what to do regarding someone who is very unreliable or cannot do their work. For chairs, yeah, we touched upon this last time. And as for Board, that’s even trickier because just internal policy, even if we do change it, can’t really affect that, I think, since they’re elected by the membership.

I don’t think it’s doable in practice, James

James
My suggestion was a method for allowing the members to bring them to account

The chief medical officer on the Enterprise can remove the captain but they can not be a captain.

Kristina
Yes, I’m torn between, yeah democracy and thinking of the enormous effort it takes to even get members to vote. I’m not sure it could work in reality.

Priscilla
I don’t think the issues that OTW volunteers have had with Board members in the past are easily broadcast, and essentially only Board members (well, and during the elections, also candidates) have a wide-ranging platform to speak to OTW members.

James
I am thinking about what happened last year

Priscilla
So in practice odds are you would have hundreds or thousands of people voting on, presumably, an internal squabble they’ve heard rumours about, and Board members having an official platform to refute everything. It’s—tricky.

James
I think if something like that reoccurred then people would be willing to vote

Kristina
I personally like the idea of having a chairs committee in the future that may have more responsibilities but also power in re to the board, and one of those might be a veto and vote of confidence power.

But James, who calls it? And how?

Priscilla
Last year was a very very extreme example. I definitely hope we don’t reach that far again ever, because it’s damaging for the OTW to implode that much. (Not saying it wasn’t necessary, but it’s not workable for us as an org to do that repeatedly.) We need internal policies to deal with this sort of thing before it reaches that level.

James
I did put in a straw man suggestion in the written answers.
( And I do agree that we want things to be better, and they have been )

Priscilla
If we need to implode before the membership every time we have an internal issue, fans and members and donors will have increasingly little reason to trust us, which is a critical risk for the org’s survival.

James
However I feel that having a proper route to a vote would make a rogue board think twice before enacting something like that.

Priscilla
Maybe not the one final straw, but everything before that? I’m not sure it would be a deterrent. I really think we need to figure out policies to improve things before that level. Ideally, before would-be problems even reach the Board, for example.

Kristina
I fear that there’s as likely an abuse of such a vote of no confidence right as there is of the board overstepping. Again, I think the checks and balances should be from within the OTW. (I.e., if there’s a supermajority of chairs calling for new election, or sth like that)

James
My suggestion made it had to get a vote of confidence and even harder to fail one.

Kristina
But like Priscilla, I look towards its abuse in politics and the way it reflects on the stability of leadership and would like it as an extreme case only

James
If you need more people to request a vote of confidence than normally vote by a factor of two and a factor of 4 to fail one….

Priscilla
(I completely agree we need to find a way to make it possible for the membership to vote out Board members, for the record, I just don’t agree that that is a workable solution for any of our internal issues.)

James
I do hope we never need to use it, but I think we need a method.

Kristina
Again though the very act is a huge indication of instability and should not have to happen. P. talks about all the ways to not get there, and I’m talking about potential rare ways in how it could be possible but very unlikely

James
I asked before the last elections how I could do it and I was told it was practically impossible to call the membership for a ballet on such an issue.

However I felt that calling for a vote of confidence last year was needed.

Kristina
I think it’s something we should look at going forward, but we’d need some internal restructuring to even get a group that could trigger a vote of no confidence

James
Elections seems like a group we have already ?

Priscilla
I agree, it’s something we should look at going forward—I know there were both legal and practical restrictions last year, so it would be good to have actual procedures should anything like that ever happen again.

Kristina
Oh, but who gets to decide? That’s why I said, supermajority of chairs group might be something…or an equally representative group that’s limited.

James
But it needs to be written such that a Board who wants to get rid of the rules has to survive a vote.

I think the membership gets to decide, they voted for the Board they should be able to remove them in an emergency.

Kristina
Sure, but these are all specifics we can’t really hash out here (and we need all the input from legal and election to help draw up rules)

James
( If elections become evil then the board have to survive a vote and can remove the elections as a side effect )

Priscilla
Yep

Kristina
James, it can’t work like that. Or rather, there needs to be a group that can TRIGGER the process, and that can’t be a randomly unhappy member or even staffer

James
Do you agree that the membership should be able to remove either the whole board or a subset.

Priscilla
Yes

James
I said for example 10% of the electorate.

or 15 if you want

Kristina
I agree that there should be a way that a vote of no confidence can be cast

I don’t think that’s doable. First, who’s electorate. Second, how would they organize.

Priscilla
Ah, I thought you meant a subset of the board. 😀 I think in case this happens all members should be called to vote and a majority of those who vote should decide.

James
The electorate is the set of people who can vote.

Kristina
It doesn’t work like that in democracies either, does it?

James
I don’t need to worry how they organise themselves I hope that they don’t need to, and if they do social media will do it.

( I mean members of the org )

Kristina
So you need access to the membership rolls. Who’d have that? How would you get people organized? That’s why I was suggesting a way to trigger a vote from within the org

James
No you need to be able to spread a message that things need to change.

You convince the membership that you are right, the membership emails an address to ask for a vote of confidence.

If that email gets over a certain number of emails in 30 days check they are all members and then….

Kristina
I disagree. Members have a way to vote in their candidates and staffers have a say in the day in day out. I’d think it incredibly disruptive to allow a group of members to disrupt the regular board terms like that.

Priscilla
I really don’t think it’s practical to discuss the minutiae without knowing from Legal what we even can do. Be it 15% of members, volunteers, anything.

Kristina
Agreed, P.

James
I don’t believe it will come in to effect unless there is an emergency

Priscilla
There are legal limitations to consider, it can’t just be whatever procedure we think best

James
I understand that the board can not tie the future boards hands.

Anna Temel
We’ve got a follow up! Lady Oscar says, “How do you contact the membership?”

James
For what purpose ?

As someone who feels something is going wrong ?

Priscilla
That’s part of the issue. Even if you find a way to broadcast clearly that something is wrong, you need to reach a lot of people in non-overlapping circles to even reach anything close to a substantial percentage of the membership.

James
I don’t want to make it easy, I want to make it possible.

Priscilla
And it’s obviously impractical, on the other hand, to use official OTW platforms as venting spaces to gather support for that kind of thing, because where to draw the line?

James
I really don’t think this will be used, I want it to be possible.

Anna Temel
The author of the follow up question doesn’t want further answers, so I think it’s time to move on!

Kristina
I’m still not sure why the political analogy doesn’t work. A vote can only be called from within parliaments, right? And if it fails then it’s can lead to re-election. But the electorate can’t call for it. (Thus my thought of chairs supermajority or even if one wanted, staffer supermajority.) And then it’d fall to election to see if the electorate agrees. But I do not think it feasible or useful to let the membership try to organize and call for a vote. (And I have heard too many stories of groups taking over nonprofits that I’d be very careful to let minorities disrupt the system at will and make the org look bad even if they keep their majority easily)

Sorry. Had been typing 🙂

Anna Temel
Our second one for today is: The current format for Board meetings seems to need an overhaul, since its members are unable to meet regularly due to time zone conflicts. Do you have any ideas on how to reinvent these meetings or provide alternative ways for the Board to communicate its decisions with members and volunteers?

Priscilla
I don’t think the problem is just timezone conflicts—I think it’s at least in part kind of a natural issue deriving from spending a lot of time making decisions in an asynchronous/synchronous chat platform. You end up doing a lot of things on the fly and there’s very little to do in actual meetings. (We have this problem in Translation.)

Kristina
Did we not talk about that at length last week? We had this entire newsletter and how best to disseminate issue. As for the first, I think board is already moving to asynchronous communication, and the big thing now is how to share their decision with us, but I think that’s in the works and happening.

James
Having people in lots of non overlapping timezones will always make synchronous meetings hard. I get the impression that there are moves afoot to make more decisions asynchronously which does take longer.

Kristina
Personally, I would just like to see weekly or bimonthly notes, just like we used to publish the minutes. Heck, as a member, I think a monthly account might even be enough, and we could potentially merge it with the newsletter. It’s not that I need an up to the minute of what’s going on wit board, and I bet most members feel the same. I just want to know that things are happening and what’s going on.

James
The disadvantage of making decisions on the fly is that not everyone can be a part of it.

Priscilla
I’m not sure how best to broadcast Board decisions to members and volunteers—yeah, we talked about the first part last time, but the second is trickier. We have internal newsletter blurbs (which make their way outside), but that’s obviously short. Maybe a twitter account feeding into a channel or something like that, then people can raise questions there if they like?

Kristina
James, I’m not even sure it takes longer, because the issues get discussed when they come up. The only problem atm has been to share the updates with everyone, but I’m sure once the system settles, it’ll be easier. (Really, updates every couple of weeks on the decisions and discussions should be enough for members and doable, right?)

James
A decision agreed over 24 hours will take less time than one that has to wait a week for a meeting, but it means that board members are more “on call” all of the time.

( on the how to tell the membership, I would be happy with a report every so often say once a month ?)

Kristina
True, James, but I think it allows everyone to do organize their own workload. (I know academics who set a day aside for answering email and hold firm to not respond until that day. I’ve started doing that with nonemergency TWC work and try to keep to my one morning a week.)

The newsletter! It can be multipurposed for so many thing 🙂

James
But some board questions do have some urgency.

Kristina
(Can anyone tell, I am really really unhappy with how many committees don’t post anything most months, including there for too long a time the board?)

James
And if we can only get decisions once a week it is not that practical.

Priscilla
The newsletter does contain Board updates nowadays, it’s just not terribly interesting (sorry, Board :D)

Kristina
James, I’m not suggesting the board members go once a week. I was only illustrating that asynchronous conversation doesn’t mean being on 24/7.

Anna Temel
Okay! I think it’s time we move to the next question! How would you foster a working culture within individual committees? Also, how can we equip our Chairs with the skills to foster a working culture in their committees?

James
I think this is hard. Thinking about how this happens at work, managers go on courses to learn how to manage.

Priscilla
I think it depends a lot on the committee, but overall setting clear expectations from the moment people join is a start—have it stated clearly, here you’ll do x tasks a month, we expect you to participate in meetings and discussions, which happen every y, if you don’t respond to our emails in z weeks we will remove you—and from there, you have to feel your way around and see what works to motivate that specific group to do things. Is it setting a time to work together on separate tasks, is it setting goals for the team and lots of pompom-ing, is it having a strict schedule and feeling the pressure, etc.

James
Are our chairs willing to learn ?, how much time does it take? , are there free resources ?

Management is harder than it looks to do well.

Priscilla
And as for the second, training and exchanging tales of what has or hasn’t worked in our various teams. And before that, to some extent, actually finding chairs who do want to do that kind of people work and are available for it, which can sometimes not be the case for any number of reasons.

(We have a shortage of chairs in the OTW and not a whole lot of people who want to be trained for it. But that’s improving, thankfully!)

James
( I think finding people who are willing to chair has always been hard )

Kristina
Right, Priscilla. We are not a company and our staffers and volunteers aren’t paid. So I think we need to work with what we have and make what we have work, which means listening and adjusting to everyone’s needs and abilities while still making certain our tasks get fulfilled. And that’s the crux and conundrum, right? 🙂

James
Even though we are not paid we are bound to work professionally and that should include the chairs in their role as managers. And the org has a responsibility to provide tools and training to ensure that happens.

Priscilla
I think even acknowledging that chairs are managers is something that hasn’t been established culture in the OTW for very long, even if it mostly is now.

James
( I speak as one who has worked hard not to be a chair )

Priscilla
Acknowledging we do have that kind of responsibility is an ongoing first step. And yep, agreed 100%, James.

Kristina
And yet, I’m not sure all of the managerial training tools translate, because everyone is a volunteer. (Trust me, I’m the last person to think that we shouldn’t treat is as a job, but that’s why I’d like, for example, the ability to renew staffers/volunteers, instead of having to go through the CCAP to remove anyone.)

James
Do you know how hard it is to get rid of an employee in the uk?

Kristina
Probably as hard as in Germany 🙂 I must have lived in the US for too long 🙂 (I think only showing up once a month and then not doing the work might be sufficient, though, right?)

James
You might think so….

I think a compromise agreement might be found.

Kristina
I think so too 🙂

Anna Temel
Thanks for the answers to this one! Let’s move to the last question! What does ‘participatory governance’ mean to you and what is your opinion on its uses for the OTW? What roles do you believe different types of personnel (e.g. volunteers, staff, chairs) should have in strategic decision-making, and what is the best way to ensure access for those who should play a part in big decisions?

James
Strangely I am going to say that an electorate votes in a set of people to make the hard choices for them and we shouldn’t go running to them all the time when difficult decisions come up.

I think talking to personnel and ensuring that you make the right choices is sensible.

Priscilla
I don’t know to which extent volunteers on various levels of the OTW want to be involved in its governance or even in knowing much about how the sausage gets made; but I think it’s important to give them ways to do so (creating avenues for feedback, for example, even as you share the content of a decision that got made). Literal participation-wise, it’s tricky for all kinds of practical reasons to involve all 600 volunteers in a decision. However, I don’t think this necessarily means that Board should have all the power to make decisions on its own unchecked. For one, volunteers can have very different outlooks on what a given problem is and what solutions can be tried, and hey, it might just be the perfect solution. Opening an issue for discussion among relevant groups (say, getting staffers from two committees in a chatroom to discuss something instead of emailing a decision from on high) can be incredibly helpful and productive. For another, chairs tend to have a good view of their committees’ weaknesses, strengths and goals, but if they don’t talk to each other and with Board, they won’t necessarily work in harmony with anyone else. So Board being in communication about strategy and progress with chairs is pretty much essential for the org to go anywhere.

James
Communication is very rarely wasted.

Priscilla
But at the end of the day—with the current structure we have, the buck stops with the Board. They have to do what they can to make the best possible decisions, and that includes reaching out to everyone they can in various ways.

James
I do agree.

Kristina
I wonder if that term and question is actually appropriate and relevant for OTW. From the literature I’ve read, the term applies to political involvement of citizens, which would mean our members, but they have the option of becoming part of the actual projects by volunteering. As for volunteers and staffers being more involved in decision making–I think the above mentioned issue to get chairs and the repeated difficulty to find people to stand for the Board (excluding last year for obvious reasons), suggests that most people do not want to engage in that way. So. agreeing with P.

Anna Temel
Thank you! That was our last prepared question, but don’t worry! We have a new, special one! 😀 “If you had no restrictions, what is one dream project you would love to see the org undertake.”

Priscilla
AO3 internationalisation in all the languages. Including Latin. Latin very much non-optional. dreams a dream

James
If I had no restrictions I would employ people to help the volunteers we have.

I believe we will get internationalisation eventually but its going to be hard work.

If I have to choose an Archive thing and Priscilla has given us internationalisation I think I would then have to choose storing other media types on the Archive.

Kristina
Proper categorization for podfic, vids, fanart etc. (And the ability to host those, esp since the audiofic archive is still not back up and vids are moving from platform to platform)

Ha James, I had already been typing, but yes!

James
Sorry ( I have been learning about ceph at work and I suspect it will be useful in the future )

Kristina
As for non-archive projects: I’d like our outreach to be more properly formalized, because I think our public role could be much more important and more formalized (right now it’s often individuals who happen to connect with media).

James
If you are going to say outreach I would try and help legal 🙂

I have no idea how to make them more awesome than they already are …

Kristina
Yes, I was just doing research today for an essay and they are so awesome!!!

Priscilla
They really are <3

If we could have actual employees we could have full-time Systems people and James might even actually sleep, imagine that. *hugs James*
James
Sleep would be nice.

Kristina
I think maybe it’s more on the sharing their awesomeness side. Like how I had to track down that On the Media interview with Rebecca last week and there’s no place in the OTW that collects and shares them? If a legal expert speaks on NPR and no OTW member and AO3 user knows…. (I was trying to do a tree in the woods thing here 🙂

OMG yes. sleep for James. top 3 priorities!

James
We can hold small hand collected media if we have a recording

Anna Temel
Talking about sleep! I think we can say that we’re wrapped for tonight!

I’d like to thank our candidates for the answers and the discussion!

Priscilla
Thank you for hosting!

James
Indeed.

Kristina
thank you!!!

Anna Temel
And, obviously, thanks to everyone who submitted a question/attended the chats! This was our last one for this year!

James
\o/

Kristina
\o/ indeed!

Priscilla
\o/

Anna Temel
A reminder: OTW Election is held September 23 – September 26 from 12:01am UTC on Friday to 11:59pm UTC on Monday. Here are the voter instructions: http://elections.transformativeworks.org/voting-instructions/2016-voter-instructions/

I wish everyone a good day/evening and thanks again! 🙂

Members – Check Your Email for Voting Instructions

At this time, all eligible OTW members should have received an email linking to the voting instructions for 2016. The subject line was “Voting Instructions for Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) Board Election”. Please note that anyone who didn’t receive this email is not on the voter rolls this year and will not receive a ballot.

If you are a member and didn’t receive this email, please do the following:

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    • To vote in this election, your receipt must be dated between August 24, 2015, and August 23, 2016, inclusive of both dates.
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Most importantly, if the voting instructions email bounces, gets marked as spam, or you opt out, you will not receive a ballot for this year’s election, and you may not receive a ballot next year. Similarly, if any of those things happened to last year’s election emails, you will not receive a ballot this year. Therefore, if you previously opted out of OTW emails or marked them as spam and would like to vote, fill out the Elections Contact Form and select the topic “Is my membership current/Am I eligible to vote?”

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.

Candidate Chat How-To

This year, we’re switching chat platforms from Campfire to Discord.

There are several reasons for this change, including larger server capacity, ability for participants to see when others are typing and view the chat history from before they entered the room, a more user-friendly interface that includes direct messaging, and a more reliable mobile experience.

Chats will be held in the Elections Discord server from 13:00-14:30, Thursday, Sept. 1, and 22:00-23:30, Saturday, Sept. 10. To find out what times those will be in your location, click the dates to be taken to a time-zone converter. Please note that though the link to the chat server is already active, chatting capabilities will not be enabled until approximately one hour before the chats begin.

Topics for the first chat will be as follows; topics for the second chat have not yet been chosen.

  • expanding members’ awareness about and engagement in OTW
  • what staff/volunteers need from board
  • maintaining volunteer engagement
  • accountability and checks/balances
  • board meeting format/communication
  • role of OTW in fandom and outside world
  • fostering work culture in communities (if time allows)
  • role of volunteers in future decision-making of the org (if time allows)

Read on to learn more about using Discord.

(more…)

Priscilla Del Cima 2016 Q&A: Group 2

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

5. The org and its projects have been exponentially growing the last couple of years. So much so even, that it seems no longer feasible for it to run on 100% volunteer efforts. Do you agree with this? If yes, and there was room in the budget for a paid contractor for a year, where and in what capacity do you think someone would be most useful?

Yes, I do. This is certainly a structural change we’re going to have to devote more time and effort to in the next few months and years—it’s vital to the survival and improvement of the Archive and the OTW in the long run. A contractor would be most useful in one of these two (preferably both, if we had room in the budget for that) very overworked and understaffed teams: Accessibility, Design & Technology (the AO3 development team) and Systems (sysadmins for AO3, Fanlore and the OTW’s various internal tools). AD&T already has some experience with contractors, and I hope we see this increase significantly in the future so that it brings us major improvements for the projects and in our volunteers’ workload and atmosphere.

6. Do you plan to increase communication with the ordinary members who aren’t involved with the inner workings of the OTW?

It would be great to raise awareness of the OTW’s existence and accomplishments in general—not just among members (though certainly that as well), but also among the wider public. I’m not sure how many people are actually interested in the OTW’s inner workings and where the line is between sharing excessive minutiae and being overly opaque; I reckon finding out is a matter of trying different approaches and learning by trial and error. The OTW’s monthly newsletters, for example, don’t have a wide readership; should we try emails in addition to it? What content would people like to hear about and in what format? How often should we send them to avoid spamming people’s inboxes? I don’t have any clear answers to these questions, but I would be happy to discuss them with our Communications and Development & Membership teams.

7. One of the worst issues plaguing fandom right now it racism – many fans of color feel unsafe and unwelcome when faced with the constant degradation and exploitation of characters of color in fanworks, and the way the voices of fans of color are ignored when raised in critique, and downright harassment and racial violence from white fans. This isn’t specific to one fandom, it exists across ALL of them. When fans of color do critique authors in response to painful racism in their fics, one of the most common responses is a to essentially declare us bullies who are harassing authors in an attempt to censor them. In fact in some cases they even suggest if we don’t like fanfic that continues to alienate us from fan communities, that we should simply be the ones to go elsewhere, as if we aren’t regularly driven out of fandom spaces already.

That being established (unfortunately I’m not able to cite sources in this format, so hopefully my lived experience and that of my fellow fans of color will suffice), I’d like to know if the candidates are prepared to address the needs of fans of color who are tired of running across blatantly hateful and racist fics across an endless supply of fandoms, with no warning and no tags, as well as accusations of bullying when critique of such fics is offered? Where do you draw the line between free speech and hate speech? Would you consider attempting to ensure that more fans of color are specifically sought out to be part of various committees of AO3 in particular to help make it more welcoming to ALL fans? And lastly would you make such demographics available publicly for the sake of transparency?

There are certainly a lot of racist fics out there, as there are transphobic fics, misogynistic fics and fanworks that are extremely offensive for a myriad of reasons—works that I myself avoid and don’t approve of. I completely agree, discussing these issues is crucial in fandom, and while thankfully they have become more visible in the past few years, there’s still far too much room to improve.

That being said, one of the AO3 and the OTW’s foundational values is to protect even works we don’t approve of, even those with content we personally find repulsive or offensive, provided that they contain the applicable mandatory warnings and no illegal content. That is at the core of our Terms of Service. Censorship, however well-intentioned, is a slippery slope: how does one define exactly what is and isn’t okay? What happens when the lines shift over time? Who are we to say a work where someone may be working through their negative or traumatic experience isn’t legitimate? The AO3 was founded to avoid giving anyone the right to decide what content was or wasn’t appropriate here. That kind of power is dangerous to the free exchange of ideas in fandom: it’s much healthier for fandom to have discussions than to forbid content. Discussing problems is how more people become aware that there are problems.

We don’t collect demographic information about OTW volunteers. If we did, given how spread we are around the world, it’d be difficult to even define what the term fans of colour means in each of our cultural contexts. (I’m Brazilian and race discussions here, for one, are quite different from the traditional US discourse.) Regardless, I do believe we need to do better with regards to outreach. And more hands and voices in the OTW are always welcome!

8. You mentioned in your bio that the OTW needs to start changing its mentality of “this is volunteer work, so any kind of work is good work” in order to work more efficiently and effectively. What concrete actions would you take – or do you think the OTW should take – to achieve this?

Setting specific expectation thresholds for each team, depending on their team’s workload and reality. For example, if it isn’t acceptable for someone not to reply to emails (or complete tasks or attend meetings) for X weeks, or whatever thresholds are applicable for that team, we should make that clear from the start, and when contacting them about work progress. If someone is hostile or passive-aggressive and alienating others, or if the quality of someone’s work is poor and causing others to have to work double to make up for it, actually bring it up with them—don’t walk on eggshells and let it linger, creating a much worse atmosphere for everyone and driving away other collaborators.

These aren’t steps that the Board itself can take alone—it’s primarily up to committee chairs. And for chairs to be able to do that, we need to share knowledge of past difficult situations, how we approached them, and how we could avoid them happening again in the future. Chairs are often so bogged down by the tasks they have to do that they don’t stop to think about their staffers’ performance and interpersonal dynamics; that is definitely something I would try to help improve (and already do, if I can) by discussing some cases I’ve been through and listening to others’ to see if I could help in any way.