Transcript for Second 2012 Candidate Chat

The following is a transcript of the OTW Board candidates’ chat held at 0500 UTC 3 October 2012. Elections officer Jenny Scott-Thompson moderated the discussion; candidates Franzeska Dickson and Andrea Horbinski attended.

Jenny S-T has entered the room

Andrea H. has entered the room

Jenny S-T

Hi πŸ™‚

Andrea H.

hey!

Lady Oscar has entered the room

Jenny S-T

We’re a little short of people this morning πŸ™‚

Lady Oscar

Forgot it was 10!

Jenny S-T

Welcome to the 2nd election chat! I’m the OTW Elections Officer and Board Secretary, as you already know ;). Transcript of the previous chat is available at http://elections.transformativeworks.org/transcript-initial-2012-candidate-chat if you’re interested.

Franzi should be joining us any moment

Franzeska D. has entered the room

Jenny S-T

So, last time Franzi and Eylul introduced themselves. All the bios (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/otw-election-candidates-2012) are now live – Andrea, do you want to give any extra introduction?

Sam J. has entered the room

Andrea H.

um, I’m not sure – I can talk more about any part of the bio people have questions on, of course, but I think the main point is I’m an academic and a fan and I like anime πŸ™‚

Jenny S-T

Cool πŸ™‚

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Jenny S-T

Lady Oscar, Sam, do you have any questions you want to ask of the candidates? If not, I also have a couple from Sanders in email.

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Jenny S-T

A question from Sanders that we ran out of time for last time: What experience do you have with nonprofits other than OTW?

Franzeska D.

Zilch

Andrea H.

I’ve been a Girl Scout since the age of five – which, obviously, as a Daisy I didn’t get much organizational perspective πŸ™‚ 1/2

but, as a Girl Scout in high school, I did observe and participate in the Council decision-making process, and I also attended the national convention as an alternate delegate in 2002

I’m trying to think if there’s anything else…

Anna G.

I have a follow up question to this, if that’s okay?

Jenny S-T

ok, Anna. I’ve got one more from Sanders first, then I’ll call on you.

Anna G.

thanks πŸ™‚

Andrea H.

FWIW, I’m currently the chair of the History Graduate Association here at Berkeley, and I was one of its coordinators last year

I also, as might be expected, ran and participated in a number of student organizations in undergrad

I think that’s it

stretching the definition somewhat, admittedly

Jenny S-T

Feel free to drop extra stuff in later if you think of it

And another one from Sanders: What do you think is the most significant accomplishment of the current board and how do you intend to support or build on that?

Sam J.

(Jenny: o/ )

Andrea H.

I was really glad to see the strategic planning work group get off the ground

and that it’s been continuing its work. i was also pleased to see Grants get a bigger role again.

As for how to support or build on that…I think one of the most important things the 2013 Board will do is receive Strategic Planning’s reports and recommendations, and I think it’s vital that we hear what they tell us, take it to heart, and craft a realistic strategic plan based on that. So, that’s what I intend to do, for certaion.

Franzeska D.

Agreed. It seems like the board has started to take a much more serious look at long term planning. I’d like to continue to take a very user-oriented, evidence-based approach to decisions. In other words, things like surveys and observing current fan behavior on and off of AO3 are more useful than the board members’ prior opinions most of the time. Fandom is sufficiently diverse and user behavior on any site sufficiently surprising to site designers, that you really have to keep collecting data and observing.

Andrea H.

Agreed.

That was part of why I&O wanted to do the survey, definitely.

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Jenny S-T

Thanks, both

Okay, Anna, go ahead with your question

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Anna G.

I’m wondering if, since there’s no practical nonprofit experience, either of you plan to research/investigate nonprofits (both online and off) and bring any of that knowledge to how the OTW is run?

(sorry for the clumsy structure of that question.)

Franzeska D.

No, it’s a good question. I’ve been reading articles people have sent around. I haven’t done any in-depth research yet. It will depend on my job situation next year. (I’m applying to business school. If I get in, what I’m studying there will be relevant. If I don’t, I’ll do more reading on my own.)

Also, while nonprofits do have some distinct features, I feel like quite a lot of my current job is relevant. (It’s a small company going through growing pains.)

/done (unless anyone wants elaboration)

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Ira G. has entered the room

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Jenny S-T

Andrea? (Everyone else, if you want to ask a question, let me know and I’ll add you to the queue)

Andrea H.

I certainly think the OTW can benefit from the experience of other nonprofits with things like Founder’s Syndrome, etc, which are recognized developmental issues that most nonprofits have – and in a perfect world I’d love to dive into doing in-depth research on those questions. I’ve also been looking into resources that people like Jenny have recommended, but I also think that the current issues facing the OTW are pretty clear, and I don’t want to lose sight of them in a focus on “generic non-profits.”

Anna G.

(o/ x2)

Jenny S-T

Sam, you’re up next

Andrea H.

I’d also add that, like Franzi says, while non-profits do have some distinct features, I certainly don’t think that I’m totally without experience in the type of discussions that are the Board’s bread and butter. But yeah, I’d like to learn more if I can, certainly.

/done

Lady Oscar

o/

Jenny S-T

whoops, sorry, too early

go for it, Sam

Sam J.

One of the biggest impediments to the Org, from both an internal and an external perspective, is that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and neither are really aware of the existence of the left foot, let alone its actions. Having documentation scattered across the forums, wiki, dreamwidth (for one committee in particular), campfire, mailing lists, and basecamp makes it nigh impossible to find anything. What are your thoughts for opening and encouraging inter-committee communication to functional levels?

/done

Ira G.

(thank you, Sam!)

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Franzeska D.

Hmm… Well, the sort of committee-committee liaising some committees already do is helpful.

I would like to see more committees make heavier use of Basecamp because it’s easy for staff to browse all the different sections, but that’s complicated by the fact that non-staff volunteers don’t have access.

Andrea H.

*sigh* Yeah, that’s a big one. I think one of the things I’ve struggled with this year, for sure, is just making it policy to actually put policies, minutes, whatnot up on centrally accessible platforms like the wiki – I think, if we could get all committees to do that regularly (and admittedly, I can only speak for I&O on this being difficult), that would be a big step in the right direction. I also think that we collectively need to get into the habit of looking at the other platforms proactively, if necessary – and again, I will hold up myself as an example of this being a hard habit to get into. Maybe it’s time to look into creating some kind of standardized policies for which platform to use when and by whom? The other thing, of course, is that communication is a two-way street, and so committees have to be looking to each other for info on what they’re doing, not just doing their own thing. I do think the changed format of the all-org meetings, including the internal newsletter, helps with this, and has helped a lot so far.

Renay has entered the room

Andrea H.

Ditto on using Basecamp more heavily – I know a lot of people find it intimdating, as well, and I know it’s only this year that I”ve really felt comfortable with it. But it can be a pretty powerful tool.

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Sam J.

(follow-up?)

Franzeska D.

The primary issue I see is that some of our tools have a steep learning curve for some or all of our staff. The wiki isn’t going to be something people find easy to browse and to use unless they find wikis in general easy to use. Few people have experience with Basecamp prior to OTW. It would be helpful not to have to make everyone learn so many different skills at once.

/done

Andrea H.

/done

Jenny S-T

Anna, you’re next, then Sam’s follow-up, then LO, then Anna’s second question, and that will probably take us up to the end of time, but everyone else, email me questions and we can start with them next chat.

Anna G.

My question is a followup to my last question, & is for Andrea: you mention that you think the issues facing the OTW are pretty clear. Can you talk about what you think those issues are? (I ask this because it’s become apparent to me in the last several months that the issues people think of when they think of the OTW are actually wildly varied.)

(er, full disclosure: I’m the chair of the Strategic Planning committee, so I have an unfair advantage in knowing what some people are thinking re this.)

Andrea H.

Well, let me turn the question around on Franzi, too, and ask what she thinks the issues are πŸ™‚

Franzeska D.

ha ha

sanders

I’d like to hear both of your answers, actually, but Andrea, if you wouldn’t mind answering first since Anna addressed the question to you, that would be great.

Sam J.

(Jenny: bump my follow-up to email)

Ira G.

I have a question to put in line after this =)

Lady Oscar

(Anna asked what I was going to)

Andrea H.

I think the issues remain largely the same as they were last year, with the proviso that I also think that everything I’ve seen this term has left me with cautious optimism about the Org’s direction. In one sentence, I think making the OTW a long-term sustainable proposition is the single key issue, which is easy to say but hides the fact that it is basically an octopus in terms of concrete issues.

and yes, i have a follow-up, give me a second πŸ™‚ Franzi?

Franzeska D.

I think our biggest issue is confusion: people not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing or not knowing which committee is in charge of something they need to ask about. Estimated dates for things not being clear or not being accurate.

(From the user side, that would be the endless tumblr posts going “Is it the end of july yet? HUH? HUH?”)

Andrea H.

yeah, definitely

Franzeska D.

/done

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Andrea H.

I think the most concrete example of this is committees not being evenly resourced – not only in terms of staff, but in terms of management and paying attention to the rest of the Org’s wants and needs. I think the changes to the Board liaison system that were made this year have helped with that unevenness, but it definitely remains.

And I think, fwiw, that every question we’ve had so far has played into different aspects of that single overarching issue. So yeah, definitely, it’s not like I’m the only one who’s aware of the problems! /done

Jenny S-T

Okay, with Sam moving to email and LO already answered, it’s Anna’s second question, then Ira. Go ahead, Anna.

Andrea H.

Oh, wait!

What I forgot to say is that transparency plays a big part in this, which is basically the other side of Sam’s question. So, how to be both internally and externally transparent is definitely an ongoing issue. /done

Anna G.

This one is about management — you’ve both talked about it. Franzeska, in the last chat, you mentioned that you’re concerned about management within the OTW, that managers are not getting to manage, etc. What are [both of] your thoughts on how to change this? Do [either/both of] you have [people] management experience that you plan to draw from?

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Franzeska D.

Not a lot. More of my experience is from observing managers, both good and horrendous, at my job. The biggest obvious, easy(ish) to fix thing is to have board members avoid also being on committees. I realize this is not realistic for some people depending on their skill sets, but I am not a coder/lawyer/etc., so I will not be serving on a committee while on the board.

Andrea H.

Fwiw, the OTW is definitely an outlier among non-profits in that almost 100% of its business is conducted entirely online, which definitely makes managing people, i.e. volunteers, a lot more challenging than when it’s done face to face, in an office, for example. The OTW also has problems relative to other non-profits like soup kitchens or thrift stores, for example, in that we don’t really have “drop in” work that people can do very easily, with a very qualified exception of coding.

Franzeska D.

Doing things online, you really need to proactively check in with people a lot.

You can’t wander by and tell by facial expression and posture that something’s up and you need to pull the person aside and ask what’s wrong.

Andrea H.

So, there’s that kind of non-profit management, and there’s also the more specialized kind of project management, which, for example, is something that they actually offer Masters of Science in – my dad just earned his this spring, and I actually have been planning to sit down and read his PM books over the holidays when I’m back in Jersey. Getting people who can do project management for open source software projects is even more difficult than that sort of general non-profit management, and they’re not quite the same, either.

Franzeska D.

/done

Andrea H.

I’ve recently gotten involved with the Ada Initiative, and I do think that the OTW could definitely benefit from looking into other open source projects like Dreamwidth for comparative open source management strategies, practices, etc. So that’s something I’ve been keeping in the back of my mind as a potentiality – I wrote a couple of blog posts on that theme after I attended AdaCamp DC this summer.

I also agree with Franzi about not doubling up responsibilities, and I definitely plan to give up Chairing I&O πŸ™ as soon as possible, as much as I’ve enjoyed it.

In the long term, I agree about the ideal of Board members hesitating to serve on committees outright, but I’m not sure how feasible that is in the short to medium term. Um, I think I had a point there somewhere. I hope. /done

Jenny S-T

We’re just about out of time, so Ira’s question is moved to email/comments. Everyone, feel free to send me follow-up questions via email, and we’ll continue in the comments of the last transcript blog post as well as next chat.

Thank you all for coming

Anna G.

Thanks for the thoughtful answers!

Jenny S-T

http://transformativeworks.org/next-candidate-chat-and-transcript for comments, or http://otw-news.livejournal.com/219155.html or http://otw-news.dreamwidth.org/167797.html

Ira G.

Awesome! Thank you for hosting, for questions, for answers, and for coming!

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FishieMishie

thanks Jenny, and Franzi and Andrea!