2011 Second Board Candidate Chat Follow-Up Two

The second 2011 Board candidate chat ended with questions pending — both those submitted live by chat attendees, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions were delivered in batches to the candidates following the close of the chat, and they were asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses could be publicly posted. Responses are posted in the order that they were received by the OTW Elections officer.

Second batch: Questions submitted to candidates at 00:30/12:30am UTC 27 October 2011; answers due before 00:30/12:30am UTC 28 October 2011.

One:

I don’t know how appropriate a question this is, but sanders was suggesting having monthly chair meetings and discussion posts manned by volunteers, and already in Systems we are finding it burdensome with our load to attend to some of the administrativa demanded of us, such as the two-hour org-wide. There were, at some point, chair meetings that were occurring that we found burdensome and, truthfully, irrelevant to us, and we were grateful when these dropped off. I don’t doubt the above would be helpful for transparency, but how would sanders propose to ameliorate the increased overhead to the various committees, some of which aren’t perhaps prepared for it?

Lucy Pearson

This question is for sanders specifically, but as I’m also in favour of facilitating more contact and discussion across the org, I thought I’d weigh in. I do think it’s very important to make sure that attempts to improve one area (in this case transparency & communication) don’t wind up causing another problem elsewhere. For this reason, I think it’s important to be flexible and responsive: it’s good to have some documented policies and procedures, but they have to be broad enough to allow for changes on the ground, as it were. So, I’d want to start by talking with each committee about what would work for them, and how they would need to be supported, then go from there. For example, it might be that Systems would benefit from having a liaison (maybe their Board liaison, maybe someone from Communications, maybe something else) who would support some of this type of activity and so prevent it taking time away from the (essential!) sysadmin work. Or maybe monthly chair meetings aren’t the right approach – or aren’t right for all committees – but we can come up with another solution to the same problem. So, flexibility and creative thinking is key here, I think.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

Each of the proposals we’ve talked about in these elections would need to be discussed carefully, to consider how it affects each committee. There’s no point adding extra bureaucracy for the sake of it, for example, if a committee is already doing something else that accomplishes the same purpose. And some of the things mentioned are only relevant to certain committees, like the Open House sessions. We’d do this on a case-by-case basis, as the Board already does.

I’d also like to remind people that part of the job of a committee chair is to communicate with the rest of the OTW and manage the committee – if a chair is doing a significant amount of the day-to-day work of the committee, they won’t have time for that. So in those cases where a committee is overworked, I’d help them work with the Volunteers & Recruiting committee to find more staff. I know this is particularly difficult in the case of Systems, though, because of the specialised skills required, and we’d take that into account.

Julia Beck

I’m jumping in on this because I had a similar conversation with someone expressing concerns about administrative bloat (“spending too much time talking that could be spent doing”). I do believe we should assess each committee to see where we can communicate better — but individually, not as a top-down directive. Chairs, of all people, have really…little…time for additional meetings (I used to be a big proponent of chairs meetings, but realized that the main purpose that they should have — support — is more effectively served by mentoring.)

Inter-committee, I found that having liaisons for the closest collaborators worked very well, but that’s still not something every committee needs.

Regarding external & internal communication, Communications committee had the idea of adjunct Comm staff liaising with a particularly committee and taking on the brunt of its comms work (credit goes to Lucy Pearson, who is on that committee). It didn’t work out back then — we need more people for that, for one — but I think it’s worth looking into and recruiting for. Again, not every committee needs that, but I’d be interested to hear what you think of this, if it’s not too much trouble (Brainstorming topic in the internal forums?).

Betsy Rosenblatt

As a general matter, I think regular meetings are good things. They increase communication, keep interest and enthusiasm high, facilitate easy information flow. I’ve been on a lot of boards and committees, and run large litigation teams, and most of the time when those have had regular meetings they’ve not only worked better, but also had better morale, because everyone has felt like they had a voice. So I do agree with sanders that coordination among committees and frequent, easy communication both to and from the membership are important, and meetings and manned discussions are ways to achieve that. But it is incumbent upon those holding regular meetings and discussions to make sure they’re not burdensome. Make them efficient, share responsibility, hold them no more often than necessary, and such. If regular meetings are an undue burden on Systems, then something should be done to address that—for example, spread out the responsibilities among committee members, make them optional depending on what’s on the agenda, provide opportunities that don’t require presence at a particular time…—the exact right approach depends on the situation. Everyone working for this org is a volunteer and the work shouldn’t start to feel like an obligation.

Nikisha Sanders

With regard to the monthly all-chairs meeting, I would strongly advocate for the meetings to be firmly capped at one hour, with a clear agenda provided ahead of time. My thought in suggesting the meetings was to provide a regular space for committee chairs to give a heads up to each other about any upcoming projects where other committees may need to become involved, to give quick personal check-ins as needed (i.e. if a chair were going to be taking time off and someone else would be serving as their committee point person for a time, or if someone had a big life event coming up), and also space to acknowledge if their committee is becoming overloaded or is free to take on more projects. I think, in the latter case, it’s perfectly appropriate for a chair to say to our peers that our committee needs a little breathing room or a little help, and it goes to my interest in all of us being able to name our limits and have them honored by others in the organization. While many of these things can be communicated from chairs to their board liaisons and then from liaison to liaison, direct chair to chair communication in a forum with a provided transcript would potentially help cut down on miscommunication.

To be perfectly honest, and perhaps even a bit impolitic, I find the org-wide meetings burdensome as well, and believe they would benefit from streamlining. Steps are already being taken in that direction, as well as to cut down the time required for them. I would like to see any all-chairs meetings kept as focused and quick-moving as possible, so as to be kept relevant and as painless as possible.

As for the discussion posts, I would like to see space for people who are interested and have the time and energy to host these posts. I know that it isn’t everyone’s preferred activity or where their passions lie. On the other hand, there are people who would love the opportunity to engage in this way, and I believe we can find solutions to offering that ability without overly burdening Systems, or any other committee. The most immediate concern I could see for Systems, and I could be mistaken on this, so please do feel free to let me know, would be where the discussion posts would take place. Internally, we do have the forums in place and encouraging their use would be one possibility. Externally-facing, we could use a journaling platform to begin, with something like an otw_discussion account cross-posted between LJ and DW. This would, of course, take a dedicated workgroup to monitor discussions, moderate, and post topics, and I believe we already have volunteers who would willingly and happily take on those roles. This also would buy us time to consider, carefully and intentionally, how to further integrate these kinds of discussion forums into the websites we directly design and host.

Finally, in the interest of complete disclosure, I am now—thanks to this question—mulling over how we might retool the org-wide meetings to combine them with the idea for the all-chairs meeting while still keeping them short and relevant. I haven’t a concrete plan on how that might happen, but it’s something I’d like to open discussion about and will be continuing to think over.

Naomi Novik
Response received 29 October 2011 06:53 UTC. Added to document 29 October 2011 14:04 UTC.

Actually, I think I talked about this a bit in the previous round of questions, but to add, I think we need to be open and flexible to the needs and working styles of different committees just generally, and in particular committees that are either perennially or temporarily time-strapped.

Two:

Earlier this year the servers were named in a problem-filled poll, and the way it was handled and the outcome upset many people. This situation brings up questions about the OTW’s priorities, fandom diversity, and transparency. (Take a pause to appreciate my Oxford comma.) If you were involved in this discussion, what was your input and how did you encourage the board to vote? If you were not, what would have been your input and vote as a board member? What will you do to prevent something like this from happening again? (Please be specific in regards to fandom diversity and transparency.) Are you in favor of voting transparency, and therefore accountability, for the board?

Lucy Pearson

I was involved in the discussion, since the poll originated with AD&T and I took the lead on setting it up. It was originally intended as just a fun diversion during AO3 downtime, but it did become the focus for some broader issues and discussions, so it’s those issues that I’d more like to address.

So, first my input into the discussion. When we initially set up the poll, AD&T consulted with various people about how to make it work. People on DevMem with experience of running competitions advised us to post clear rules for the competition and to make it explicit that at the shortlist stage, we would have an internal panel who would choose the final shortlist. We posted about this and noted that we would be giving consideration to fannish diversity in the shortlisting process (which we did, and a huge amount of work went into making a balanced shortlist). In the same set of rules, we also stated we would post our shortlist as a poll and the seven names with the most votes would be the winners (you can see the full set of rules at http://transformativeworks.org/archive-our-own-server-naming-festival). So, when the results came in and they didn’t reflect fannish diversity quite as much as we’d hoped, I was disappointed, but I felt strongly that for the sake of transparency we had to stick to the rules we had publicly set out at the beginning of the competition. It didn’t seem fair or respectful to the people who had voted to change the rules after the fact, and I felt that not sticking to our published process in this instance might undermine confidence in our processes more generally (for example, in Board elections).

I wouldn’t change my take on the basic situation; however, I think the way the whole thing played out wound up being not too much fun and not very good for the OTW as a whole, so there are a lot of things I would change to ensure similar things work better (especially in the case of issues with a more long-lasting impact).

* Faster decision making on practicalities. Because this issue turned into a focus for some different ideas about org needs and priorities, it wound up taking loads of everyone’s time and dragging on for months. This seems crazy when the immediate issue was actually about server names! When an issue brings up unexpected dimensions, I think it’s valuable to sometimes make a quick decision about the immediate issue (providing it’s not something that’s going to bind you to a certain outcome down the road) and agree to take the real, important issues forward.

* Better internal communication & consultation. I think it is very important that communication within the org is always maintained, and that if a decision is taken to a different group of people (for example, in this case the decision about the servers was taken from the shortlisting committee up to Board), then that needs to be clearly communicated to the original group of people and they should have the opportunity to give their input. In this case, there was bad communication about what was going to Board and why, which meant that the Board didn’t have a chance to get input from committee members, and people were left feeling hurt and excluded. Sometimes it is appropriate to take an issue up the line for discussion, but clear communication about that is really important.

* Live discussion about controversial issues. This is something that Naomi has brought up: when feelings are high, email discussion is a terrible way to deal with something. I know that everyone who was involved in this discussion was well motivated and sincerely concerned with fairness, they just had different ideas about how to achieve those aims. Discussing in chat (or maybe even Skype) would have helped everyone remember that this was true and prevented tensions escalating.

* Better external communication. Because passions ran high about this issue, it took a long time to resolve and everyone involved felt sensitive about talking about it in the meantime. With the benefit of hindsight, I realise this was a mistake. Once it became apparent that we weren’t going to get a quick decision, it would have been better to do a public post talking honestly about why this had become tricky and giving the different perspectives. Maybe we would have found that people had different solutions, or saw things differently; in any case, we wouldn’t have been left talking about hypothetical possible responses to whatever decision we made. I think it is hard to do this kind of external communication, because if something is controversial you really don’t want to open the can of worms even wider! But I think it would be worth it, because leaving everyone with no news and wondering what was going on meant that a. we lost the fun and excitement from the competition and b. we looked very nontransparent. It also meant that by and large, people outside the immediate discussion only knew about it from posts by individuals, which by their very nature were, well, individual perspectives. I like to think if we had been able to all work together on a public post we could have presented all the different perspectives honestly and neutrally. This would have been facilitated by asking someone not involved in the immediate discussion to put together that post, so that’s a procedure I would like to put in place for any future posts which deal with issues that there isn’t a consensus on within the org.

* More forward planning. With hindsight, we probably could have anticipated this decision. I (naively) assumed that if there was a reasonably diverse shortlist, the final results would reflect that. Even though staff from AD&T, IO, Communications & DevMem were all invited to contribute to the initial planning of the poll – this included input from several people passionately committed to fannish diversity – none of us forsaw that we might end up with the outcome we did. In fact, we could have set up the whole competition with inbuilt diversity – for example by saying in advance that each server name would be assigned to a different fannish category. That would have been fair to everyone and would also have made the competition much easier to administer! So, that’s a lesson I’d want to learn for next time – think more about what we’re trying to achieve and try to build that in.

I think there are lots of ways we could have handled this specific issue better, but I also think it’s important not to get too bogged down in specific failures. We’re all volunteers, we all have varying levels of experience, and to a large extent we’re figuring things out as we go. No single issue should be a deal breaker. So, my philosophy is ‘try again – fail better!’ We can look to this to make better processes and better interaction in the future.

Regarding the final part of the question: voting transparency for the Board. I have to say that in general, I’m not sure exactly how Board discussions work in general, so I don’t know how applicable that would be. I would agree with Naomi (in her recent post) that in general, actual voting should be a last resort, and that discussion and creativity are often more effective ways to respond to a situation. What I can say is that I am definitely in favour of more public information about what the Board is talking about and what decisions they are making. This would also enable individual Board members to talk more honestly and openly about their specific input and views on any given issue. I do think, however, that Board does need a certain amount of space to talk about things privately, so while I’m cautiously in favour of the idea of giving some specifics of Board voting, I wouldn’t want to come down and say ‘we should definitely do that’ before I have been able to talk to Board members past and present about how appropriate that would be.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

I wasn’t involved in the discussion, and I think it’s dangerously easy to criticise others after the fact. Several of the people involved are well aware that they made mistakes and would do things differently with hindsight. There are a couple of general principles I’ve mentioned elsewhere that would apply in any similar future situation, though. Firstly, involving the committee(s) who are expert in an area. For example, involving Internationalization & Outreach from a diversity perspective at an early stage, and listening to their recommendations. Secondly, transparency – I would give more detail about the process and why we reached a decision in the official OTW post, invite feedback there, and demonstrate that we are listening to that feedback. I would love to post about a discussion before we reach a final decision, too, though in this case I know the timescales were pretty short, which compounded the problems. But that’s all easy to say now. I’m pretty sure we won’t make the same mistake again, but we will make new mistakes, and will need to keep those principles in mind.

On the topic of voting transparency, I’m not convinced it would help anything to post who voted which way every time the Board takes a vote on anything. It would invite personal attacks on Board members, and inhibit discussion. I would much rather post more things like general Board minutes and blog posts about particular issues, showing which topics were discussed and what options were considered and rejected and why. That would allow people to see what’s going on, and hold us accountable for the decisions we make jointly. But I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise if there are pros and cons I’ve missed.

Julia Beck

Oh, server names. (I’ll probably associate regret with that poll forever.) I was involved in the final name selection task group, but contributed relatively little to the document-in-progress because I felt we had a solidly diverse shortlist.

Where I personally failed was the final selection chat, when
the options “Kirk” and “Spock” were put onto two different servers, (effectively sealing the Star Trek over-representation). I felt that couldn’t be right, but I was unsure and didn’t object. I should have, and I’m very sorry that I didn’t.

I also assumed that the end result would, like the shortlist, be altered according to a principle of diversity; others assumed that we would honour the final vote, because to do otherwise would be unethical.

My believe (that I asked Board member hele to represent in the final decision) is that we should have admitted that we messed up and scrapped the poll or adapted the results (there were some good suggestions of allocating servers according to media type). I very firmly believe it wouldn’t have lost us much goodwill in our core support group, but it very definitely did lose us people who already felt marginalized.

What we can do to prevent this from happening again: The problem wasn’t a lack of diversity — our shortlist was pretty awesome. It was in the final selection & results discussion that we — that I — failed.

So to prevent something similar from happening, we need to create an atmosphere where a) all relevant information is available to the people involved and b) everyone feels they can speak up without fearing that they’re ruining (internal) relations forever. At its core, it was a charged communicative situation that was hard on everyone involved and effectively barred us from reaching a better compromise. On the outside, and because of the final decision, it looked like we didn’t care enough. I regret this immensely.

Voting transparency: Tricky. My spontaneous reaction was: YES, let’s have it! but… no matter the individual vote, the Board has to present a cohesive whole, and even if they disagree, Board members have to uphold the collective decision. Personally, I’m prepared to justify both my individual vote and the end result; but I haven’t made up my mind if it would be beneficial to make this a binding requirement — I’d need to discuss this with fellow Board members (nevermind that the bylaws don’t state anything about recording voting behaviour, so Board would need to adopt it). Regardless, I’d prefer it if Board were more open about its decision process, where it can, and Board members more transparent about their individual positions. (I find it confusing, too, when the majority on the Board seems to be in favour of postion X, but the result is position Y. Why?)

Betsy Rosenblatt

I am not familiar with this particular situation or its history, so I don’t feel qualified to address its specifics. I will say that from my experience on various boards, committees, and teams, this sort of thing is usually the result of lapses in communication—the Board not providing information to stakeholders, and not providing avenues for stakeholders to weigh in. This is particularly true when stakeholders are working hard, with their boots on the ground, and may have information that the Board doesn’t have. Outcomes are not always ideal—in some situations it is not possible to please everyone. But if communication is good, even if someone doesn’t like a particular outcome, they can understand why it came out that way. When communication is bad, the person who doesn’t like the outcome just walks away upset. Naturally, I prefer the former to the latter! Since I don’t know the story, I don’t know what specific steps I’d take to prevent it from happening again. But I do think that disrespect leaves a mark, whether it’s intended or not. In this organization, as in any community (and even more with this one, because it is a labor of love for so many) it is crucial to treat everyone with respect, to communicate, and to recognize that everyone is doing their utmost to make the organization succeed.

As for voting transparency, I do not yet know this Board’s internal procedures (such as what matters are voted on and what matters are determined through a process of consensus), but as a general matter I am in favor of voting transparency.

Nikisha Sanders

\o/ Oxford comma.

I was not involved in the discussion at any level. If memory serves, I did vote in the public naming vote, but I won’t swear to it. The subsequent discussion and debate around the naming process passed me by, largely because, as part of Fincom, I was just relieved we’d finally made the purchase and I pretty quickly got involved in the process of making payments to ensure the servers were set up and exchanging emails with the physical center where the servers live.

As such, I can only assess the situation in hindsight and, without access to the full discussion, I can only make suppositions about where I would have liked to have stood. This is a position that makes me intensely uncomfortable.

My retrospective take on the vote leads me to think that I would have encouraged the board, as some members of the board and of the organization did, to take into account the need for diversity in the names in terms of gender, race, ability, sex, and source fandom. I would like to think that from the outset, I would have suggested that we break down the possible names differently, using given categories for each machine to guarantee one machine would be named from an anime/manga fandom, one from a Western fandom, one from a list of female characters, etc. As we acquire more servers in the future, that’s a method I would like to see instituted and will push for. I also would have liked to have seen a limit to one representative name from any given source fandom; I believe it is highly problematic to have three from a single fandom as we stand now, although I do understand that Spock and Kirk were presented as a pairing to cover two machines. In the future, I think we have to prioritize balancing the representation of Western fandoms with non-Western ones, and possibly, for a time, bar consideration of Western fandom names for any subsequent servers.

I do not think there is a way to absolutely guarantee a similar situation won’t arise, not to a one hundred percent certainty. I think I can only work to try to avert such a situation, and then to minimize the damage should it happen. From the outset of any project in which I engage, in OTW and my life away from the organization and fandom, I question what kind of representation we need; who is already present? What voices are missing and how do we bring them in? What will this project ultimately look like as it’s currently laid out and how can we improve it in the planning and implementation stages to better represent all of us? Posing those questions means also working to find answers to them, both individually and as part of a team. In order to do that, first, the entire planning team, whoever they may be, has to be aware of the potential problems. That means me speaking up about them as I see them, and identifying others who are also seeing the same problems and are willing to work with me on them, as well as being open to hearing others’ concerns. In some instances, moving forward will mean settling things internally, within a committee. In others, that will mean going to a wider forum to solicit input from the whole organization, and likely using a variety of means to do that, from emails to our Basecamp system to public posts with commenting enabled.

I am of the opinion that any decision that affects the entirety of the organization should be able to be questioned. Further, decisions that affect only small segments should also be open for explanation. If we can’t provide a valid and reasoned argument for proceeding in a certain way, and are unwilling to defend or discuss that decision, then we have a problem and likely should revisit the issue at hand. As an organization funded by donations, we should be able to provide clear documentation about any decision making process to our members and be willing to engage in dialogue about how we reached various outcomes.

I also believe that an accounting of any vote taken by the board should be available, including, but not limited to, a breakdown of who voted in favor of a given issue and who voted against. The blunt reality is that no matter what decision is made, there will be disagreement. Someone’s needs will not be met, and we will not get everything we desire in the way we desire it, but we should be able to know who has stood with us or in opposition on a given issue, and have the option of engaging in additional dialogue.

If I’m elected to the board, I fully expect to be held accountable for my actions by the other members of OTW and by potential members. I try to operate with that view in my personal life, that I should not act without consideration and certainty, and that any action I take which impacts another should be one I am willing to have open to scrutiny.

Naomi Novik
Response received 29 October 2011 06:53 UTC. Added to document 29 October 2011 14:04 UTC.

I only heard about it pretty much after the fact because I was busy with new baby, so I start with the caveat that any situation is much easier to kibitz from the sidelines when you’re not involved in the decision and also don’t have all the pieces, so you have to take my after-the-fact thoughts with that very large helping of salt, and I offer them with apologies to the folks I know who struggled through it at the time.

My ideal public solution would have been to have the Board swiftly post an apology to let people know hey, we didn’t think this all the way through, it’s not worth anyone being sad or feeling unwelcome, so we’re calling the whole thing off (in some way, whether by changing the names or just canceling the whole thing). I would have wanted this post to explicitly center the blame for both the original mistake and for the subsequent disruption on the Board rather than the organizers, and also to try and shift focus to the much happier aspect of the situation: awesome new servers for everyone to benefit from no matter whether their fandom was gigantic or tiny.

Internally, I would have had the Board apologize hugely to the organizers, ask them to understand that the Board has to make the final call and sometimes override, and if there were lingering bad feelings would have done a change of liaison to give the committee a fresh start to their relationship with the Board.

I know that some of those involved were concerned about overruling the results being unfair to the participants, who had known the rules in advance, and that it would also cross a line in terms of violating our own procedures and creating a sense of uncertainty among users about whether we would stick to our own announced rules in future. And I get that, absolutely, and find it a compelling argument.

But the thing is, in this case the actual server names themselves were not user-facing and would never be seen outside of a sysadmin browsing our files if then. The poll was intended only to pass the time while the machines were installed — to produce good feelings. If it wasn’t producing good feelings, the whole thing was a bust anyway. So given that, my overall feeling is as long as we were fully open and honest about cancelling and why, it would be okay.

That said, I also feel strongly that the server names were too minor an object to allow the debate to drag on. Any decision is better than no decision when either way the end has no significant consequences and the arguing is both eating time and burning bridges throughout the org. So fundamentally in this case I would have been working for a quick resolution, and prepared to “lose” on my ideal solution.

Which leads into the second part of the question for me, where if by voting transparency you mean tallies of Board votes, my answer is no. At least in my experience there weren’t a ton of votes — we mostly did a round of “ayes” when we had to officially approve a new slate of chairs or a financial expenditure or something else that for legal reasons we needed to approve formally. I believe a lot in working by consensus and resorting to votes only when an intractable situation is developing. And so that is exactly the case where I wouldn’t want the process to be exposed, because that’s when it’s really hard and you need people to be able to communicate honestly within the team, and when you need people to be more and not less willing to lose.

And I also feel pretty strongly that this idea sets up the wrong model for the Board. For the health of the org, the Board needs to be a team and not a legislature, and IMO decisions should come out as united Board decisions. Of course it’s good for Board members to disagree and debate, to have different priorities and different groups that they intuitively think of more than others or want to make sure are getting served, because that keeps the org balanced and avoids our overlooking things and increases our font of creativity, but that’s not the same thing as coming onto the Board with an adversarial mindset towards other Board members, which can only take a giant axe to any kind of productivity.

Three:

The copyright (fair use) advocacy issues that the OTW works on and the TWC journal are two of the aspects of OTW’s mission that are near and dear to my heart and a significant part of the reason why I have volunteered for and donated to the OTW. How do you think the OTW board as a whole can continue to support and further encourage these and similar projects? What about these projects do you personally value and what relevant skills/interests/experiences will you bring to your term on the Board that can help in this area?

Lucy Pearson

Oh my gosh, me too! I don’t often talk about these projects because I haven’t worked on them directly, but actually the journal in particular important to me because as an academic, I really value knowing there is a reliable academic source where I can find good material on fanworks which won’t take the ‘poke this weird fandom thing with a stick’ approach. And, both my academic and my fannish selves are deeply invested in supporting work to ensure that copyright laws don’t prevent creativity and knowledge sharing. Since I haven’t worked directly with these projects, I don’t have an intimate sense of exactly where they could be best supported (it’s something I’d love to talk about with the relevant committees, though). On the whole, though, I feel they’ve been doing the kind of good work that builds more good work: following the awesome contribution our team made to the last DMCA exemption, the OTW has been asked to work alongside the EFF (rather than just submitting comments) for the next one. This means we’re more high-profile, and I would like to use that profile to help us recruit more people to the Legal team. Longer term, I’d love to see us extending our international reach on copyright either by recruiting enough staffers from different countries, or (more feasible) extending a hand to groups on other countries already working on these issues outside the USA. Similarly, I feel like Journal have done such a great job establishing TWC as a reputable academic source that we’re now in a position to recruit more people: it’s important that we work with Journal to ensure that as some staffers move on, others can be brought on to maintain the standards of excellence they have maintained so far. Mentoring and communications seems like one area we could really support this – I’ve always been vaguely interested in having more to do with Journal, but not too clear about whether I can contribute anything useful to the team as someone who is quite early in their academic career, so it would be nice to make that information more prominent to ensure we keep bringing in new people.

I’m particularly interested in working more with Journal as a Board member precisely because their work does overlap with my own professional life, and so I would be bringing my experiences of being in the British academic community and my own academic expertise to that conversation. One of the things which is really important for TWC going forward is for it to be recognised as the kind of accredited journal which can be used for promotion, tenure, and professional evaluation: in the UK all this is centred around a somewhat opaque and problematic process called the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and I would really like to work with Journal to explore how we can ensure that TWC is something which is considered suitable for submitting in the REF and/or fits into that process as it evolves (there’s some uncertainty as to whether the REF will remain in the same format, as British higher edication is undergoing a massive shift). My own main field of research (children’s literature) is one which has historically had a mixed reception in academia, in a similar way to fan studies, so I know first-hand how important it is to produce excellent, reputable work which can be a benchmark for your discipline. I feel that TWC is an example of some really fresh, important approaches to academic work and I am really passionate about ensuring that this kind of new scholarship is able to broaden the horizons of the academy rather than being excluded by it.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

This advocacy is a really important part of the OTW’s mission as far as I’m concerned. I’d really like to give it more time in the spotlight. This could include talking more about the work that Legal does, expanding the FAQs and giving generalised case studies when fans are willing. However, I know Legal will be very busy next year with the DMCA exemption, so that might have to wait a while. I’d also like to show more non-academic fans that even if TWC isn’t their thing, the Symposium Blog has really interesting meta, which will increase the profile of it and encourage submissions to both that and the journal itself. I’ve read some great articles there. For the Board as a whole, we’d have to ask those committees and listen to their replies about how we can best help. I’d love to help TWC get more of the recognition it deserves in academic circles. I’ve also really enjoyed the recent detailed link posts by Communications, and I’d keep that up, with links to the EFF and similar organisations included. In short, I’m not a lawyer or an academic, but I’m enthusiastic about these projects and will make sure they get support from the rest of the OTW.

Julia Beck

How the Board can support both projects: by letting them set their own agenda, by facilitating collaboration (like the Fan Video & Legal cooperation for the upcoming DMCA exception case), and by helping recruit volunteers to keep them sustainable, where it can. Both projects need experts, are driven by lighthouse personalities and benefit most from personal recruitment, but even so, making the OTW more broadly visible will help both with recruitment (for example, to reach more non-US lawyers) and with positioning it as an attractive enviroment for facilitating high-profile projects.

What I personally value about both committees is that they help contextualize the high-context culture “fandom” to their respective areas. Yes, having advocates who speak “outsider” language can feel alienating to fans, and I understand that representation and legitimacy are thorny issues; but while fandoms as a community and transformative works as creative endeavours are legitimate in and of themselves, that doesn’t mean they are perceived as either legitimate or valuable by academia or in legal practice! I’m perpetually excited that we have the audacity, the expertise, and the language to advocate for fandom and fannish creativity ourselves.

As for my personal input, I have no experience whatsoever in legal matters, but I’m in media studies, and I weirdly enjoy arguing for transformative works (I co-wrote a Symposium article, Playing Sue, with Frauke Herrling), so I’d absolutely be open to attending relevant conferences and doing just that (with the caveat that I’m just a student and don’t have an ounce of the academic weight of the TWC editors et al.!)

Betsy Rosenblatt

Get ready for a tl;dr. Sorry in advance, but this is my stuff. As a legal scholar, the legal advocacy issues and TWC journal are near and dear to my heart, as well. They are what drew me to the OTW initially – they and the archive, which I use as both a creator and consumer – and I am passionate about them. What do I personally value about them? The journal opens up the worlds of transformative culture to an audience that may not already be familiar with them, and does so in a thoughtful manner. I have long thought that one of the greatest challenges fandom faces is its “in the closet” nature, which means that people who participate in fandom are often not its spokespeople. TWC provides a crucial legitimizing window into fandom. As for legal advocacy, not to go too far into a flight of fancy, but the relationship of creativity to the law is a particular interest of mine. The law can help foster creativity, or stifle it, and too often it does the latter while purporting to do the former. We live in a world where people are often afraid to express themselves for all too many reasons: social, cultural, personal…legal reasons shouldn’t be among them. (None of them should! But legal problems are solveable; the others are harder.) As creative people it is our responsibility to make sure that the law reflects, permits, and even encourages the wide and free expression that brings us, and so many others, joy.

It sounds flippant to say that I think the board can support them by…supporting them, but I mean it. Here’s what I mean: Because the legal mission and the journal are both, mostly, self-sustaining without input from large populations of volunteers, they can easily get brushed aside as things not to worry about. I know that our committee’s regular update of “still not sued!” helps perpetuate the notion that all we do is sit around and wait for a lawsuit, and that’s not true at all. We field inquiries from fen, we work with the board and other committees on developing org policies, we write materials for public and political consumption…right now members of the legal committee are working on the org’s official support for a continued DMCA exemption for transformative works. This work is crucial to the org’s mission, but it’s mostly in the background. The same is true for the journal: from the point of view of many of us, it just magically appears, with its amazing content, and although I am sure a huge amount of work went into it, it was all in the background.

So, what can the Board do to support them? The Board can view the various components of the work—each inquiry, each draft, each article—as an accomplishment in itself and not just a background item. With legal, it may be tough to promote all of that work because of confidentiality concerns, but when there aren’t confidentiality concerns, one key type of support is cheerleading: “look what this amazing group of people just did!” The other kind of support is the support that brings in some of my personal skills/interests/experience, which is building connections outside of fandom, with other academics, scholars, lawyers, public interest groups, and the like. I am active in these communities—I work with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is a First Amendment advocacy group; I go to conferences of scholars on intellectual property law; I am a member of the Los Angeles Copyright Society (a group consisting largely of entertainment studio lawyers!); I have a relationship with other advocacy organizations, like the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I can work to develop relationships between the OTW and these (and other) groups with common interests, to build the respect, legitimacy, and legal understanding that these segments of the organization work toward.

Nikisha Sanders

I’m going to start with the question of experience, because it frames my thoughts on our advocacy issues and TWC. I come from an academic background that includes an undergrad degree in Sociology and Anthropology, where I extensively examined issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and the intersections of those identities. Alongside being a So/An major, I also spent most of high school, college, and the first several years post-college working for agencies that advocated for civil rights and workers’ rights on local, national and international levels. My experience of fandom came as a sort of simultaneous awareness of fanfic and meta, sharing both with my partner at the time, and engaging in some pretty spirited and academic debates about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the racial and gender implications of the show. I also became aware pretty quickly of the issues surrounding copyright and the ability of a network to shut down websites with cease and desist orders when some of my favorite BTVS fansites vanished overnight. All of these things set me on my path to joining online fandom and to eventually joining OTW.

From an academic standpoint, I absolutely love that we have TWC and the symposium because they provide a formal space for framing critical questions about fandom from the source materials to who, collectively, we are as fans. My inner sociologist finds it absolutely fascinating and, frankly, reassuring that there are other people watching and reading canon with a gaze similar to mine. Finding company in fandom is a huge part of the fun to me, and finding others who are ready to take apart a show, book, or piece of music that we collectively love to see how it works and how it can be read in terms of broader society is an opportunity TWC provides and that I feel is invaluable.

With regards to our advocacy work, I value our place in providing a voice for fans in the process. Honestly, we’re easy to dismiss, to lump together as a single monolithic group, and place under a given stereotype of weirdos who just don’t matter in broader society. OTW gets to say that, in fact, we do matter and we are not who you think we are. We are a group of diverse individuals who will fight for our right to creating transformative works, to engage and challenge canon materials, and to fully participate in any discussion about those rights. I value any organizational work that empowers under- and/or mis-represented people to define themselves and their interests, and our Legal committee in particular has provided a means for many fans to do that.

I think the board can best and most simply support these two areas by enabling the stellar people we already have working on them to continue leading that work. Our role as a board, as I see it, is to get our committees the resources they need, whether it’s materials, people, or funding. We also have a responsibility to make sure these two key projects are represented equally with our others in any official materials, and that the interests of those involved are given fair consideration in decisions by the board. Additionally, we have a responsibility to give serious consideration to and provide pathways for submission of any proposals of expanding our existing advocacy work and the journal, and to proposals of new projects in those areas. Beyond these things, I think we also have to be proactive in asking our staff and volunteers engaged in advocacy work and work on TWC (and all of our other projects) what they need, rather than possibly waiting for them to make needs known or simply not asking.

Naomi Novik
Response received 29 October 2011 06:53 UTC. Added to document 29 October 2011 14:04 UTC.

I love these projects but I haven’t personally had a lot to do with them other than feeling that they were clearly part of our initial core mission and then standing on the sidelines cheering madly and holding out cups of Gatorade to the other Board members (Rebecca Tushnet and Francesca Coppa) who respectively took point on these and liaised for those teams.

I do think one important thing about the Board is to have at least some people who are natural liaisons for core projects, who have at least some experience participating in that general area and are also deeply interested in that particular area, because it just saves so much time and pain communicating with teams doing specialized work. I think it would serve the legal advocacy projects well to have Betsy on the Board, for instance, and I hope that when Francesca finishes her term one of our awesome TWC staffers will be up for running for the Board to keep providing the academic perspective.

Chat Responses and Addenda, Second Board Candidate Chat 2011

As Naomi Novik did not attend the second Board candidate chat, held at 2000 UTC 26 October 2011, she was asked to respond to the questions that the other candidates answered within 24 hours of the chat period (deadline: 2000 UTC 27 October 2011); in order to maintain equity with the attending candidates, they were allowed the same period to refine or expand on the answers they had already given. Those responses and addenda are collected here.

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?

Naomi Novik
No response as of deadline. Response received 29 October 2011 03:44 UTC. Added to document 29 October 2011 04:08 UTC.

Unless I’m misremembering from last year’s annual report, I’m pretty sure we had about 100 staffers and a few hundred volunteers at the time, and I expect things haven’t radically changed.

I don’t actually agree that we are suffering an unusual wave of burnout beyond the endemic, and we really have a pretty big staff and volunteer base.

That said, some committees really do need more help: my impression from the sidelines this year is that volcom is still in a bind, and I know AO3 support and the systems committee have been hurting at times this year for lack of help. But adding people is a lot harder than it sounds if you have a committee like this that requires a lot of technical knowledge or absorbing a lot of procedures. First of all it’s harder to find a volunteer who is interested, and then when you bring a new volunteer aboard you have to invest significantly more time to train them (which is then time that can’t be spent on a different volunteer), which means the cost in the not unusual case when the volunteer then drifts away is a lot higher for those committees.

For Support, the upcoming Support Board which will open up archive support will I hope solve their staffing issues and also make the job more fun and engaging. This is a project that is underway and I hope we’ll see it come to fruition in the next year.

For Volcom, honestly, what I think has been really needed from the beginning is a giant heaping dose of automation for the rote work of getting volunteers set up, so the staff can plug in a name and email and push a button and the person gets set up automatically. Unfortunately, building this automation is a tough problem because it basically requires code that can talk to all of our other tools, several of which don’t have good APIs, and if you think it’s hard to get coders for a shiny public-facing archive they themselves often use, imagine how much harder to get coders for an in-house automation tool involving a lot of grinding trudging through incomplete third-party documentation for a dozen tools. 😛 But as ADT grows bigger and we have fewer things on fire in terms of the archive software , I would really love to see the team try and take this on for Volcom: if a few coders can be spared to work on it together, that could make up for some of the toughness of the problem.

I do think that in a smaller and more immediate step, we could make Volcom’s lives easier by doing a broad org-wide assessment of all our tools and pruning the ones we don’t really need or consolidating ones that could be done that way.

Systems is tough. Experienced sysadmins willing and able to give us significant amounts of time are hard to recruit, no two ways about it, and we are really lucky to have the few awesome sysadmins we do have. We’ve tried to train people in-house, but in Systems (unlike in Ruby on Rails coding for the archive) it’s just too big a jump between being a newbie to where you can actually do productive work for the team, and as a result the time cost to the current sysadmins of training a sysadmin from scratch becomes too high to be practical. Sadly I don’t see an easy solution beyond keep on banging the steady recruiting drumbeat, although we could make a push to bang it louder and more prominently, and also to just keep in mind in-house that the Systems team are under a tough load that can’t easily be relieved, and bend over backwards to accommodate their needs.

Anyway, those are three specific examples, but I hope that gives some insight into how I generally approach staffing problems.

As for improvements in satisfaction and internal transparency, I had some comments beforehand that I think are actually relevant to this question which didn’t make it into the chat and are now posted on my journal: my current best ideas include adding 1:1 meetings where possible, a monthly report down from the board emailed to all members including liberal giving of kudos, and reducing gatekeeping within the organization to decrease frustration and empower individual volunteers.

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 Scott-Thompson
Addenda to in-chat response.

As I see it, the Board are responsible to the members who elected them, the staffers and volunteers who work with them, and the wider fandom community who fund the OTW. (We also have specific legal responsibilities as a non-profit registered in the USA.) I would expect any or all of these groups to call us out when we make mistakes.

Staffers and volunteers report to their committee chairs, and committee chairs are accountable to the Board. In contrast to some non-profits, people can and have been removed from staff positions for certain repeated issues. Chairs tell the Board what is going on in their committees, and get the bigger picture and approval for resource-spending (in both money and time) from their board liaison.

I think members have an important role to play in making as informed a choice as they reasonably can when voting, and to let us know their views throughout the year, in much the same way as I see a citizen of a democratic country getting involved in politics – using their right to vote, possibly getting into local politics or joining a party or standing for election depending on time and inclination.

As for what I would do about it on the Board, the first big step is the survey I mentioned, which is related to a wider discussion about goals and planning, and understanding our “stakeholders” as an organisation. There will be more details about that emerging over the next six months – at the moment it’s still in the internal stages. That will allow us to get a better view of what people think, particularly when considered alongside all the other channels of feedback, from AO3 support requests to blog comments, tweets and emails.

The next big step, which can done at the same time, is to improve communications – to give people the information they need and want. This means having the important stuff being obvious and first to view for those who don’t have much time, and having the details also being available for those who are curious. It also means showing not just the end decisions, but the process or reasoning that got us there.

I mentioned Dreamwidth being a model for me in this – I worked for them as a volunteer during closed and open beta, and was very impressed by the difference between their style and LiveJournal’s. I like the way things get discussed in dw_suggestions, I like the way the support board works, I like the tone of the news posts and the way we get advance warning of new features. I like the promptness of dw_maintenance and the twitter status, and the honesty and openness in all of those and in dw_biz. The OTW already has equivalents of many of those things, and some of them need to be different for the OTW, but I’d like to consider what else we can learn from Dreamwidth.

So the things I would do on the board, to get back to the question, would be to push forward with the strategic planning process and survey, work with Communications and with other committees to improve transparency, and ensure that we are listening to the feedback we already get.

Naomi Novik
No response as of deadline. Response received 29 October 2011 03:44 UTC. Added to document 29 October 2011 04:08 UTC.

It’s a tough balancing act among all those interested parties, for sure. I think in a practical aspect on the new project level where the Board often operates with the biggest impact (whether that new project is something being done internally or something being added to our slate of projects intended for the public), we need to make sure it fits into our overall mission in a coherent way, we have to decide how it weighs against other projects we could also do, we have to articulate the goals clearly and in the right forums to enable the affected people to read and make informed opinions about it, we have to listen with an open mind to critical response without letting ourselves be wrongly daunted, and we have to make sure the work involved won’t exceed what our people are up for and what our other resources can bear.

2011 Second Board Candidate Chat Transcript and First Follow-Up Questions

As stated in yesterday’s second and final Board candidate chat, we are now sharing the responses to the first batch of overflow questions. The chat ended with questions pending — both those submitted live by chat attendees, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions are being delivered in batches to the candidates, and they are being asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses can be publicly posted. The emphasis in these responses is on immediate answers rather than polished essays, and as previously, candidates were also asked to keep to the question topics.

You can read those questions and answers here, on the OTW Elections website. Answers are listed in the order they were received, and any responses that are received after the deadline will be added to that page as soon as possible, with any post-publication changes noted.

We have also posted the transcript to the chat, both as a screenshot and as text, available here on the Elections website. We’re also happy to announce again that thanks to the hard work of a volunteer, we have a digest version of the chat transcript available as well. The text is heavily edited, and includes only the questions and answers.

The second batch of questions has now been sent to candidates; answers will be posted for public review in approximately 24 hours. (Edited to add specifics: Questions submitted to candidates at 00:30/12:30am UTC 28 October 2011; answers due before 00:30/12:30am UTC 29 October 2011.)

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

2011 Second Board Candidate Chat Follow-Up One

The second 2011 Board candidate chat ended with questions pending — both those submitted live by chat attendees, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions were delivered in batches to the candidates following the close of the chat, and they were asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses could be publicly posted. Responses are posted in the order that they were received by the OTW Elections officer.

First batch: Questions submitted to candidates at 23:40/11:40pm UTC 26 October 2011; answers due before 23:40/11:40pm UTC 27 October 2011.

One:

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.

Two:

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?

Three:

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

Betsy Rosenblatt
One:

I agree with the questioner that outreach is an important goal. We need to make sure that we do not stretch beyond our capacity to serve, but at the same time, we also need to be inclusive and inviting. If we do not strive to reach beyond Western media journaling fandoms, then we will never fully satisfy our mission as an organization. I have a few concrete ideas, which I’m sure will grow into many as I think more about outreach.

Job one, from my perspective, is finding out where the gaps are – what areas of fandom are we missing? I think this is one of those questions that may managed through crowdsourcing—ask the membership and the volunteers what fannish communities they think we should be reaching out to and how we can find them. Some are barely even online. The Board needs to do its own research, as well, but we should trust that the knowledge of the population is great!

Then we can reach out to underrepresented communities to see what they need and how we can help them. As I see it, outreach isn’t just about growing our roster and archive – it’s about providing fandoms with helpful resources and advocacy. I may not know what a given fannish community might need…but I bet they do! Find the moderators of online communities, leaders of clubs, con organizers, etc. and ask them what they need. Invite them personally to take part in the Archive, to describe their fandom in fanlore, to preserve their group’s works using Open Doors, and invite their friends.

This is small, but I think significant: we can reach out to academics who study other fannish communities by publishing articles about them communities in TWC. This can only help bring members of those communities to the OTW door. There will be a whole upcoming TWC issue on Boys’ Love; this is a good start and one that may be repeatable for other fandoms outside the Western media journaling sphere.

Finally, and this is a more general desire but I think it fits here: I’m very enamored with the idea of a monthly e-mail newsletter that goes from the Board to all OTW members, discussing what the organization is up to and identifying items likely to be of particular interest to the membership. This is a transparency measure, but I think also a great outreach tool, as the newsletter can be forwarded to those outside the current OTW roster to create interest in the org.

Two:

To some extent, my answer to this question is the same as the previous one regarding communities outside Western media journaling fandom more generally. In addition to those strategies—here, too, I think that communicating directly with leaders in anime and manga communities is central to building momentum—I have a few additional ideas specific to anime and manga:

Link and/or create resources for fansubbing and scanlation (as we have for viding)

Seek out anime and manga fandoms for Open Doors treatment

Add information as appropriate about the OTW to relevant Wikipedia pages that address anime- and manga- fandom related topics

Include an expert on Japanese law on the legal committee

Three:

My answer to this is similar, in a general sense, to my answer about outreach to communities outside Western media journaling fandom: job one is figuring out what sections of fandom are underrepresented. Find out from the membership: who feels like they’re lonely in the OTW? How do we make them not-lonely? From there, I think it’s a matter of concerted communication and finding out what those sections of fandom want and making sure that (a) we provide it and (b) they know we provide it. Create task forces or new tools if we don’t have them; invite members of those underrepresented sections to participate directly in the process of making the org better for them.

I listed some concrete outreach ideas in my earlier answer regarding fannish communities outside Western media journaling fandom, but those dealt principally with figuring out how to import fannish communities into the OTW. Knowing how to develop representation from underrepresented communities is even harder, because we may not yet know why those communities are underrepresented. I want to make clear that I’m not dodging the question of concrete steps—It’s just that, beyond identifying underrepresented groups and inviting direct participation, I don’t feel like I can predict the next concrete next steps until we really know what these underrepresented sections need and want.

Lucy Pearson
Combined:

I’m going to answer all these questions in one answer, as they all touch on related things and I think I might end up repeating myself a bit!

First of all, I’d like to say that a big portion of my work on outreach would be founded on listening and consulting other people within the org. My own personal fannish life has largely been conducted on journalling services, and I haven’t got much personal contact with (for example) the anime & manga communities; I think I can best support outreach into communities I’m not familiar with by listening to those who are. So, I’d say I’m quite flexible about my ideas about outreach at the moment, and they will change and grow as I hear from different perspectives.

That said, I do have some concrete ideas about how we can do more effective outreach, which can be boiled down to: listen, build great tools, communicate, and be consciously inclusive! I’ll give the tl;dr explanation of these below.

I do strongly feel that building tools that people actually want to use is a really important part of outreach. I know a lot of people were uncertain about the idea of the OTW and the Archive of Our Own when the project first started, but now, two years after the Open Beta launch of the AO3, we have 24060 registered users and a lot more visiting the site. A lot of those users did the outreach for us, because they came and saw things they liked and told their friends! However, I don’t think that it’s as simple as saying ‘build it and they will come’; you have to put some work into building tools which are actually welcoming. Part of this is about being responsive to what people ask for and building in tools which suit different fannish models. For example, the new feature coming to the Archive soon, tag sets, will (among other things) allow people to run challenges where they can actually match requests which ask for x/y pairing as opposed to y/x. This sounds really small, but it makes the challenges feature a lot more useful to fannish cultures where pairing order is important (I know this is an important thing for a lot of anime & manga fans). That tool came about as a response to some user requests, and I think it is really important for the org as a whole to keep channels open for requests and to be prepared to be creative and flexible in finding solutions. And pragmatically, we have tools which have always been part of the plan which will facilitate outreach when they come to fruition – we can keep telling fanartists we love them (and we do!) but until we’re able to complete all the work on tools which support them, we can’t effectively reach out to communities and fans who are focused around fanart, because they are rightly going to feel that fine words butter no parsnips! So, a number one priority for the Board has to be making sure the tool building is progressing. From a technical POV, one thing I would really love to help foster is making a public API for the AO3, so people can more easily build stuff that suits their individual needs and it can be interoperable with other services. (There are some big challenges to this, though!)

Obviously, communications are a huge part of outreach, and I would like to facilitate more conversation within the org (and then later beyond it) about how we can communicate better. This is something that I’ve been working on this year – after conversations in the first part of the year that made it clear some fans were feeling unwelcome, AD&T ran our ‘April Showers’ Twitter promotion where we highlighted fandoms which had a big fannish presence off the AO3, but not much on it, and explicitly encouraged people to add work from those fandoms to the Archive. We’re cooking up another similar promotion with IO right now. I can say that it is a heck of a lot of work to do this sort of thing, especially at the beginning where you don’t have as many people to draw on who are familiar with the communities you’re trying to reach out to (since that’s why you’re trying to do outreach!), but I think it is worth it. I think it is also really important for us to communicate more about the work we’re doing on long term projects – this is an area we could definitely improve on, because it’s not necessarily clear to people outside the relevant committee whether something is being actively worked on or whether it’s been forgotten!

The other thing that I think is hugely important in making outreach a success is creating an environment where people feel welcomed rather than excluded, which means making all your communications more consciously inclusive, not just the ones which are explicitly geared to outreach. I believe there are lots of small things that we can do to make that a reality: for example, I know that the folks who work on Fanlore have put a lot of work into creating stubs on pages for fannish areas that are underrepresented at the moment, so that if someone stumbles upon the wiki they’re more likely to find that it is there waiting for their knowledge, rather than feeling like it’s not interested in them and going away again. Similarly, on the AO3 we have made a conscious effort to show fannish diversity in our documentation, so if we write a tutorial on how tags work, for example, we try to use examples from a range of fandoms, even if they are not drawn from personal experience of whoever is writing the tutorial. Again, that just makes it more likely someone coming to the Archive for the first time will see it as a place which welcomes them. I would like to make this a more consistent policy across the org, extending into things like our promotional material – so, for example, if we make promo flyers for distribution at cons, we use a range of fannish styles and symbols so they implicitly include all kinds of fans.

Finally, I think we have to strike a balance between great outreach and seeming like we’re trying to be the imperial power of fandom. I want all kinds of fans to feel welcome in the OTW, but I don’t think that we can or should be all things to all fans. Some areas of fandom may never use our tools or become members, because they are happy with their existing tools and networks, or are working on something different. This is not only fine, it’s actually good! Protecting fannish diversity means valuing those completely different traditions and existing alongside them. It might also in the future mean being supportive to other projects who want to do things we can’t – for example, using our tools might turn out to mean giving advice to some community of fans in Russia who want to set up their own zine Archive, or translating coding documentation so that a bunch of Japanese fans can take the Archive code and change it to suit the specific needs of their particular fannish community. Or it might be that we get to use something awesome that another group of fans has created – the problem with outreach is that if it’s done in the wrong way it can seem a bit one way, when in fact we want to be knitting ourselves into the awesome patchwork quilt of fannish endeavour and sharing things. So, I don’t think we should (for example) look at the Archive and say ‘x fandom only has two works, and I know there are 20,000 on y archive, so we’re failing at outreach’ – as an OTW staffer I’m thrilled about the existence of thriving fannish homes and communities completely unrelated to the OTW (even if as an individual it would be convenient for me if it was ALL on the AO3)!

Jenny Scott-Thompson
Combined:

A small but concrete thing: it was mentioned back in the server names discussion that some anime, manga and/or gaming fans are used to a lot more graphic design in their fannish sites. In response to that, I made some improvements to the skins wizard, but it got put on the back burner for a while. I’d like to bring that back up, and use the recent improvements to skins to make the AO3 more attractive visually to a wider range of fans by allowing people to customise it more to what they want.

Alongside that, the Webmasters committee has a project to revamp the transformativeworks.org website – I’d ensure we get feedback from visually-focused areas of fandom on that as well as all the other feedback we’re planning.

I would take the advice of the Internationalisation & Outreach committee very seriously for all outreach – they’re the best experts we have. I would also make sure we have a mix of making improvements we’ve already been asked for, building things to make our sites more welcoming to a more diverse range of fans, and also doing some proactive outreach where appropriate.

In some places, and for Fanlore in particular, I would work with Communications to post in some communities to tell them that the OTW exists and invite their feedback. This would, of course, need to be done sensitively, ideally by an OTW member who is also already a member of the community in question.

Our internal forum is a good step forward for areas of the community who are used to forums, which includes some underrepresented sections of fandom. I’d like to see that succeed, and ideally be expanded with a version for the general public to discuss OTW and build community in a way that suits different cultures.

There was some discussion a while back about changing the fandom category names on the AO3 to make them more inclusive – I’d bring that back up, and work with the committees involved to try and find an innovative solution that works for everyone, get public feedback, and get it implemented.

As I’ve already mentioned, I would help to get the AO3 interface translated, as well as continuing with our existing projects to translate the FAQs, news posts, and OTW blog posts. I would also discuss with the Wiki committee the recent suggestions to translate Fanlore policies.

But translation isn’t a catch-all answer to international outreach, though it does help. Even more important is just keeping in mind the assumptions we make without thinking. That means being willing to challenge each other when we say things that imply everyone is from our own cultural background, and accepting those challenges calmly and sensibly. My area of fandom has a great history of learning about and challenging various types of oppression and elements of the kyriarchy, and I’d like to see the OTW continuing that, without distracting from our core mission.

But at the end of the day, my concrete plans for outreach to underrepresented areas boil down to this: I have noticed that volunteers from those areas burn out and leave the OTW disproportionately often. I would listen to the reasons why, and I would do my best to improve things related to that. And I would continue to remind US-based fans of how things are different in the UK and Europe, from my own experience.

Julia Beck
One:

Narrowly put, here’s the exact action plan of my committee, Internationalization & Outreach, drawn up in 2010:

1. as a first step, we need to look at the org & its products and see where and how we can improve internally

2. that is, work with other committees to increase accessibility & appeal of OTW products to international fans (“international” here: shorthand for both ELF, crossover, and non-English-speaking fen)

3. only as a last step, devise & conduct targeted campaigns. Respect for and knowledge of our target groups is key here. We’re not keen to be seen as unwelcome ‘missionaries’.”

Why am I posting this? Because outreach is a long-term effort and the preparation of the previous years is key. We also just revised our scope slightly (hence the name change!) to more implicitly include fandom outreach, and we want to recruit accordingly for next term.

According to plan, we reviewed many OTW projects to make them more inclusive in the last two years (and will continue to do so), and the other committees have been amazing about taking up and implementing our suggestions (just two examples: language browsing at the AO3 with *lots* more language functionalities forthcoming, and the revision of the former Vidding
project pages to the vastly more inclusive Fan Video project resources). So that was step one: we feel more confident about promoting the OTW to other fandoms now because we have can show that we will change accordingly, where we can.

Preparation for step three, actual outreach campaigns, includes gathering data via surveys: currently, we’re planning one external community survey and one internal one. With the internal one we want to find those volunteers who are connected both to OTW and their fandoms, who can act as advisors to the question “what can we offer fandom xyz specifically?” and/or as agents to carry that message to their communities.

Put more broadly, however, the general aim is to make the OTW a go-to place for realizing big-scale projects, regardless of whether we already have something that appeals to you/your fandom.

That can only succeed if we make the overall OTW framework more open. I’m hopeful we will get
there (so many awesome discussions and initiatives arising from elections talk!), but I don’t think we’re quite prepared to fulfill that promise yet, which is why I am hesitant to go into other fandoms without other fans acting as ambassadors and invite them *right now*. First step is to open our communication channels (or implement new ones: see the forums idea!), so it’s no longer so relentlessly one-way, because it’s no use if we go talk to communities and they can’t talk back at us *as* a community. But I’m getting way to tl;dr (what can I say, I am passionate about this!), so I’ll close by saying that it’s all interconnected: it’s not just a matter of getting the message out, it’s also a matter of being prepared to productively deal with both criticism and feedback from outside, and of offering better opportunities for involvement.

Two:

“But some of my best friends are anime/manga fans!!!” well, it’s true! 😉

There are TONS of anime/manga and gaming fans both inside OTW and at its periphery. (see Franzeska’s post at http://franzeska.dreamwidth.org/151707.html or the comments in my journal at http://julia-beck.dreamwidth.org/2584.html?nc=51#comments that deal explictly with the concerns of anime/manga fandom.)

They are already (or still, hah) talking to us, even though we lost a lot of goodwill, and have very productive suggestions that I’m extremely grateful for. One example that I believe we should very, very seriously consider is opening OTW community forums, because our current communications channels (journals; website) are a) not conducive to community building b) unfamiliar or uninviting to vast swaths of fandom. Another suggestion was to make our sites more visually appealing; both the AO3 people and the website committee are on that already and are listening attentively.

So, the fun thing is: I don’t even have to think up things myself, I just have to listen to what fans are *already* telling us — and make sure they are heard inside the org.

Three:

See my answers above, but I’d like to take the opportunity to go off on a tangent: I don’t believe we have a moral duty to serve any and all fans in the abstract. It’s perfectly fine if a fandom doesn’t have need of the OTW or its projects, so there’s a difference between “collect ALL the fandoms under the OTW umbrella” vs. “be welcoming to all fans that WANT under the OTW umbrella.”

For anime/manga fandom the latter is absolutely true as witnessed by the fact that fans have repeatedly said that they *want* to use and like the OTW’s products, but they can’t fully do so at the moment. (The same is true for non-English language fans.) So, while I think we need to work on making fans from all corners more aware of the OTW and its opportunities, this doesn’t translate into trying to be representative of fandom. We’re not, we will never be, and that’s okay. It’s a tricky balance to get right, though, because it can translate into complacency and lack of outreach: we’re certainly not in danger of overextending ourselves right now, quite the contrary!

Nikisha Sanders
Combined:

I am choosing to tackle all three questions in a single answer because of the overlap between them.

I think that with regard to reaching fandoms outside of Western media fandoms and anime/manga fandoms my role as a board member would be to leave the outreach to the committees that best know how to do it—International Outreach in conjunction with Volcom, Devmem, Translations, and AD&T, at minimum.

I’m aware that it may sound like I’m passing the buck on the questions, but my basic idea is rooted in believing the role of the board is to set the broadest of organizational goals, communicate those to our staff and volunteers, and then leave space to those who best know how to reach those goals—our specialized committees—to do so while the board ensures they have the tools and resources they need to carry out that work.

I think a plan of action would possibly look like this: the board would agree that outreach to fan communities outside Western media journal-based fandom is a priority. They/we would also agree that outreach to anime/manga fandoms, wherever fans are participating, is also a priority. This information would be communicated to all of our chairs, staff, and volunteers. In both categories, I see IO and Volunteer & Recruitment working together to spearhead a detailed plan of action from the two committees, along with limited guidance from their board liaisons. Ideally, this plan would include the following: identifying volunteers and staff already active in anime/manga fandoms and non-Western fandoms and soliciting their advice and assistance; identifying target fandoms for relationship building and the best people to contact with information about OTW and to learn more about the structures of those fandoms in order to discern what kind of relationships are currently possible and which could be mutually beneficial in the future; contact and collaboration with Devmem, Translation, and Communications to hone messages promoting our current projects, the benefits of individual memberships and opportunities for volunteering to those active in the target fandoms; collaboration with AD&T, Translation and Tag Wranglers to assess how to make our current projects as fully accessible and useful to members of non-Western and anime/manga fandoms as possible, and including members of those fandoms in the discussions; working with the Journal, Fanlore, and Vidding to encourage greater participation in those projects as well as assessing how relevant and accessible the existing structures are to the targeted groups of fans. As existing relationships are strengthened and new ones are formed, I also see working with Legal to examine the issues facing fans in other countries and, from a board level, encouraging Legal to engage and strategize with lawyers in other countries, as well as work with Communications to report out to the whole of OTW what issues non-Western and anime/manga fans are facing.

To address the third question, I think that first we have to clarify what’s meant by underrepresented sections of fandom. The two previous questions ask specifically about communities outside of Western media fandom and particularly those in anime/manga fandom, but I do not believe they are the only sections of fandom that we have failed to significantly reach.

My personal concern is, and has been, with looking at the demographics of the fans we represent in the US, particularly in getting a read on how we’re doing in terms of reaching fans of color. To be perfectly honest, I spent a year in fandom before interacting with another fan who identified themselves as African American. I was seriously starting to wonder if I was the only one and feeling incredibly isolated in the fandom where I was active at the time. So the issue of under-representation is one that hits home for me, and one I very much want to look at in both broad and very specifics terms, and that I tend to frame for myself as a question of how do I facilitate OTW representing the interests of fans of color involved in Western and journal-based fandoms.

My plan for outreach would still resemble the ideal situation outlined in my answer to the first two questions; identifying the priority and delegating to the committees best suited to reach the fans with which we wish to form relationships, and providing support from the board level to facilitate conversations between committees and ensure that the committees have the tools needed to implement their plans. Each area of under-representation would require tweaks to that plan and greater or lesser involvement from a variety of committees but would still, to me, be an area where the entirety of OTW’s committees could and should weigh in and incorporate targeted outreach into their plans.

In all three cases, there is also an individual responsibility I feel to educate myself about the fandoms involved in the first two questions and to foster dialogue where I can (within OTW via the forums and with my current committee, as well as through my journals on DW and Livejournal and the communities of which I am a member, to start) with people who feel OTW does not adequately represent their interests as fans. In turn, it’s important that I relay what information I already have and gather in the future back to the leadership of OTW.

Naomi Novik
Response received 28 October 2011 05:53 UTC. Added to document 28 October 2011 12:17 UTC.

I think the idea I mentioned recently on my journal of a “distributed” OTW Con (a bunch of smaller cons at disparate locations networked together) would be a great outreach opportunity. I’ve only just started thinking about this, but here are some ideas: take as the theme the diversity of fandom, have showpiece opportunities for different fannish communities and have each con actively invite presenters from different communities/traditions; spotlight each geographically separated con in turn.

I also think the archive is going to be our best gateway drug for the org for people who might not have been sold up to now, and a great way to recruit is with the gentle touch of identifying killer archive features for different communities and providing those killer features.

As an example, one of the big things that I’ve seen repeatedly in comments from anime & manga fans in particular is that the look of the archive turns them off. So as lim and I have been reworking the archive front end (which had to be done for accessibility and maintainability reasons also), we have also worked to radically improve skinning flexibility and long-term support, as well as making skins available for not-logged-in users, and this is rolling out any minute now. (In fact I’ll have a sample manga skin screenshot up on my journal shortly. :D)

Another concept I’ve drafted for ADT (still early) is for a private-messaging system in the archive that could also be used by the roleplaying community, where chats could easily be polished-up and edited into actual works. (Would also hopefully be useful for beta-while-you-write, round robins, similar things.)

(Also although I stress this isn’t my own work, I want to mention for those who have been waiting for this one, that coder rebecca2525 is FINALLY making our translation feature happen. For those who don’t know, we have tried I think — four? times now to build translation systems. They have all collapsed in smouldering ruins for tldr technical reasons, but we finally hope to see this one early in the new year. Once we have that, that creates a lot of new opportunities for International & Outreach and for opening the archive to broader participation.)

Transcript for Second 2011 Candidate Chat

The following is a transcript of the OTW Board candidates’ chat held at 2000 UTC 26 October 2011. Current Board Elections Officer Ira Gladkova moderated the discussion; candidates Julia Beck, Lucy Pearson, Betsy Rosenblatt, Nikisha Sanders, and Jenny Scott-Thompson attended.

To view a screenshot of the chat itself, follow this link.

A highly edited version of the chat, including only questions and answers, can be viewed at this page.

Questions that were submitted to be asked but left unanswered during the chat due to time restrictions were delivered to the candidates via email in batches, with a request that they respond within 24 hours, so the answers could be made public. Answers submitted after the deadline will be added as they are received. The first batch of responses can be viewed at this page; the second batch of responses at this page; the third batch of responses at this page; the fourth batch of responses at this page; the fifth batch of responses at this page; the sixth batch of responses at this page.

As Naomi Novik did not attend the chat, she was asked to respond to the questions that the other candidates answered within 24 hours of the chat period; in order to maintain equity with the attending candidates, they were allowed the same period to refine or expand on the answers they had already given. Those responses and addenda can be viewed at this page.

ainsley

I suppose (based on a question I asked before you arrived) that the people with questions are the birds and the candidates are the worms.

(The question was: If the early bird gets the worm, and the early worm gets eaten, since we are here 20+ minutes early, are we the birds or the worms?)

Kylara

That sounds about right

ainsley

allison, have fun with the transcript!

hele

that’s… to few worms for too many birds!

*too

ainsley

I know. It’s a problematic equation.

hele

I suppose I better add some cookies to that tea, or I’ll go hungry (specially since I haven’t had any lunch)

ainsley

Maybe we can make all the birds eat at another buffet before entering this room?

Lucy P.

Hi people!

ainsley

Hi, Lucy!

ainsley

Ira! I have a question.

Kylara

I think that won’t work, Ainsley. We’re hungry for candidate!worms.

Ira G.

Hello!

Question for me, or question for candidates?

ainsley

Or do I have to wait another 10 minutes to say that?

For candidates.

based on your lovely suggestion of alternating between live and e-mailed questions.

Lucy P.

*nervous of all these birds*

Please don’t peck me!

Kylara

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

Ira G.

you’ll be fine Lucy <3

ainsley

I figured if I pounced early, my chances may be better.

Ira G.

I’ll protect you =d

ainsley–

Julia B.

(glad you made it in time, Lucy!)

Lucy P.

😀

ainsley

Lucy, no worries on this front. I already ate.

Ira G.

Ah, yes, we’re actually going to try and go with that, but I’d like to ask you to hold your question until I call on you

ainsley

Okay.

Lucy P.

(Yes, this has turned into the week of busyness!)

Ira G.

but rest assured, you have successfully nabbed the first spot in line with your early-ness =D

Ira G.

We’ve laid out how we hope this will go here: http://transformativeworks.org/node/1385

ainsley

\o/

Ira G.

So, thank you for asking, ainsley, I really appreciate it

ainsley

enthusiasm is my skill-set.

Ira G.

you are making my job easy =D

ainsley

making your job easy is my goal.

Ira G.

<3 <3 <3

Betsy R.

Hi all —

Lucy P.

Hiya!

ainsley

Hi!

Eylul

(is back, sits quietly on her corner to listen)

Eylul

and hi

Jenny S-T

Hi all

hele

(yes, hi everyone!)

Lucy P.

(Eylul! I’m so happy to see you! I was listening to the news this morning and hoping all was well with you)

sanders

hi, y’all.

Ira G.

We’re coming close to time, but I’m going to give it another couple minutes for folks to trickle in

Eylul

(Lucy, thanks *hugs* I am alright, other side of Turkey but have few classmates who’s families have lost their homes :(( kind of a mess out there))

Ira G.

We have some housekeeping to do before we start, and I don’t want that to take up too much time, so I’ll try to be relatively prompt

Ira G.

(Eylul, I’m glad you’re okay, and so sorry for your friends! Maybe after the chat, you could mention any relief funds that you know of?)

Lucy P.

(<3 Eylul I'm glad to know you're ok)

Betsy R.

(Great idea about relief funds.)

Ira G.

All right, I would like to start with my quick bit of housekeeping, so I don’t cut into chat time too much

So!

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

Eylul

(sure, and I will be quiet about it until time is over)

Ira G.

This time I am actually officially here =D

(thank you Eylul!)

(sorry to run on ahead!)

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: http://www.javascriptkit.com/script/script2/charcount.shtml

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.

Lucy P.

Naomi sent me some cmments, since she couldn’t be here!

So I can shoot those in so people can here from her!

Ira G.

(oh, thank you Lucy! I’ll come back to you in a moment, okay?)

Lucy P.

*hear

Cool : )

Ira G.

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.

sanders

i have a question.

Ira G.

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.

(one minute sanders; I’m *almost* done! apologies for this barrage!)

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.

(sanders: super timely! <3)

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)

Betsy R.

I guess I’m the first, alphabetically 🙂

Jenny S-T

I’ll go first

Betsy R.

Happy to yield to Jenny, though

Ira G.

Haha, I was going to go by last name; I’m sorry for the lack of clarity

Jenny S-T

I don’t mind

Julia B.

(hey, I’m alphabeticaly first 😛 but I’m a slow typer)

Ira G.

we’ll go with Jenny, and by surname =)

Julia B.

I can do it, if you don’t mind my embarrassing typoes :>

Jenny S-T

I’m a fairly fast typist, provided you don’t mind unpolished answers

Ira G.

we are all about off-the-cuff here =)

so:

Jenny Scott-Thompson

Julia Beck

Lucy Pearson

Betsy Rosenblatt

Nikisha Sanders

Phew! That was a lot of housekeeping! We have that all collected in a post, so feel free to review here: http://transformativeworks.org/node/1385

(I’ll also paste that link periodically for newcomers)

Lucy P.

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.

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.

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

Ira G.

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?

no problem; we will do our best to accommodate!

sanders

it’s a question to the kickass moderator.

via_ostiense

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.

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

via_ostiense

ah ok

sanders

ira, may i ask now?

Ira G.

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

via_ostiense

(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.

(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.

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

Ira G.

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

Ira G.

sanders, everything okay over there?

sanders

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.

(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

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

Lucy P.

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

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.

Also, regarding the 24 hours limit

hele

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

sanders

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

Lucy P.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

I’m amenable to whatever you choose.

Jenn Calaelen

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.

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.

(I’d be fine with that.)

Ira G.

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

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

Ira G.

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

mine?

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.)

Ira G.

thank you ainsley!

Jenny S-T

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

Jenny S-T

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

Ira G.

thank you, Jenny!

Julia, are you ready to go?

Julia B.

kinda 🙂

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.

Me next?

Ira G.

thank you for your answer, Julia!

Yes, if you’re ready!

Lucy P.

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?’

/dome

Ira G.

Excellent, thank you!

Betsy, are you ready to go?

Betsy R.

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!

/done

Ira G.

Awesome =D

sanders, you all set?

Jenny S-T

she’s offline on AIM, so she may be having connection issues

Ira G.

yes, that’s what I just heard

We will have to come back to her — when she gets online I’ll give her a moment

and/or if she’s not back by end of chat, I’ll be clear on the post-chat answer policy and communicate that around

for now, thank you all for your answers and ainsley for your question!

I’d like to turn to an email question

sanders

I’m sorry, I think I’m back. I apologize if I drop off again.

Ira G.

oh, excellent!

is your answer ready, or do you need a minute?

sanders

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.

Ira G.

sanders, are you still with us, typing?

sanders

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.

(great, sorry — just checking in case of connection issues!)

is that it for your answer?

sanders

For now, I think so.

Ira G.

excellent. thank you, and apologies for all the jumping around!

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

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

/done

Ira G.

Excellent! Thank you, Jenny

Julia, are you ready?

Julia B.

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

Ira G.

Thank you, Julia!

Julia B.

(err, focus. instead of concentration.)

Ira G.

Lucy, are you ready to go?

Lucy P.

ish

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’

Julia B.

*nods nods*

Lucy P.

And – i could probably say more, but that’s enough for chat, so done!

Ira G.

Awesome, thanks Lucy!

Betsy R.

my turn?

Ira G.

Yes please!

Betsy R.

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.

I could go on and on! but to be reasonable, /done

Ira G.

Great, thank you Betsy!

sanders, are you set?

sanders

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.

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.

That sounds great! 😀

Ira G.

awesome =)

and finally, I did receive Naomi’s comments; mea culpa on that! however

Lucy P.

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

Ira G.

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!

Lucy P.

That sounds good to me too

ainsley

Thank you again for your thoughtful and thought-provoking answers to my (rather large) question.

Lucy P.

Thank you, Ira, for chairing!

Ira G.

Thank you all for attending, and for your awesome participation!

Betsy R.

Yes, thanks, Ira!

ainsley

Yes, thank you, Ira!

Ira G.

Do we have any questions pending? please raise your hand if you’re working on something

Lucy P.

And thanks to everyone for such grest questions! I’ve found it really useful to hear them and think about them 😀

sanders

Thank you for the question, Ainsley, and thank you, Ira and Allison, wherever you are, for prepping and running this.

Jenny S-T

Thank you, Ira – great work chairing

Ira G.

(sanders — allison has been working on the transcript live as the chat progressed; she was out of the room to make space for guests =) )

Jenn Calaelen

Thank you for answering the questions, and thank you Ira for the chairing

Arrow

I have a question, kinda. Don’t know how appropriate it is.

Betsy R.

And I echo Lucy, too — thanks for the questions!

via_ostiense

thank you to the candidates and ira!

Ira G.

arrow, I’ll take it! if you’re not sure, we can take it to email =)

Arrow

that would be cool.

Kristen M.

Thanks to Ira and to our candidates! And thank you, voters – it is great to see so many people showing an interest in the election.

Jenny S-T

Yes – I’ve been delighted by how many people are thinking and discussing all these issues

Julia B.

(I hope we can find a way to keep this sort of open conversations flowing. So many amazing suggestions.)

Ira G.

Totally

all right, last call for questions! bring ’em while they’re hot!

Julia B.

(also os many opportunities to clarify misunderstandings ;D)

Enigel

I’d have one

but as I came in so late I don’t know if it hasn’t already been asked

Ira G.

Hit me with it; I will sort it out

Enigel

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

Ira G.

Oh ho!

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

sanders

I love that question!

Ira G.

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

works for me!

Julia B.

sure!

Betsy R.

okie doke

Kylara

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.

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

Excellent 😀

Ira G.

Thanks for asking! =D

Kylara

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.

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

Kylara

Oh good, I thought it might be longer. I’m looking forward to them all.

Ira G.

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

Arrow

Ira, I emailed my Q. thanks for chairing.

Ira G.

Thanks Arrow! I’ve got a response for you =)

all right! is there anything else I can help with?

anatsuno

Thank you 🙂

par_avion

I have a question for candidates, and some comments, but I will email them to you. Thanks for chairing the discussion.

Kylara

Thanks, Ira 😀

Ira G.

Thank you, par_avion! I look forward to receiving them!

Thank you, Kylara =)

Julia B.

hope you have cookies around, Ira. You deserve them 🙂

Ira G.

haha, I will be coming home to some chocolate, I hope! =)

(and also more work! /o\)

Nele

Thank you, Ira 🙂 And candidates

Eylul

thanks for coordinating this chat Ira and candidates to take time to answer

Enigel

what Eylul said 🙂

(and hi, Eylul! *hugs*)

Eylul

(hi enigel *hugs back*)

Ira G.

do we have a moment for any relief mentions?

Julia B.

(okay, off to bed so I can answer everyones’ questions v. soon tomorrow)

oh! right!

Eylul

whoops completely forgot won’t make this wrong.

ainsley

Definitely.

Ira G.

I unfortunately do have to head home, but I wanted to be sure to bring that back up before leaving, as I was the one to cut it off when we had to get the chat going

Eylul

Last sunday Oct, 23. Eastern side of Turkey was hit by a major eartquake. death toll is about 300 and going up with 1000+ at least wounded. Rescue efforts are going on but there is especially need for stuff like shelters, food and blankets so here is a link with international donation information

https://yalnizdegilsinvan.wordpress.com/international/

and done/

Ira G.

Thank you!

Eylul

no worries Ira, election chat obviously takes priority 😛

Betsy R.

Thanks much, Eylul. Our hearts go out to those affected.

Ira G.

Thank you for the information, Eylul =)

Eylul

*hugs all*

Julia B.

*hugs back* 🙂

Ira G.

I second Betsy. I hope needed aid comes swiftly.

all right everyone– thank you so much for coming and being good sports with me. I have to run home!

Julia B.

(Looking forward to read your impressions of chat/answers, all!)

Ira G.

goodbye!

Eylul

thanks all of you, weather there is really not helping matter.

Elz

🙁

Eylul

(and 😀 to Julia)

Julia B.

(ainsley has a roundup of up-to-now posts: http://ainsley.dreamwidth.org/293439.html)