Transcript for Third 2012 Candidate Chat

The following is a transcript of the OTW Board candidates’ chat held at 1500 UTC 6 October 2012. Elections officer Jenny Scott-Thompson moderated the discussion; candidates Eylul Dogruel and Andrea Horbinski attended.

Eylul has entered the room

Jenny S-T has entered the room

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hele has entered the room

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Andrea H. has entered the room

hele

hihi

Andrea H.

hey

hele

like they say over here, I saw light and came in

Kristen M.

hi!

hele

but can’t find what it’s actually being held over here <_<

Jenny S-T

We’ll start officially in about 5 minutes

Jenny S-T changed the room’s topic to Election chat now! For Org-Wide meetings and more

hele

isn’t it too early for election chat? I’m probably reading BC all wrong

Andrea H.

the light was my cell phone getting me out of bed early

Nele N.

Hey all

hele

actually, nm, just located the little hour that is on my time as per BC calculus

Nele N.

It’s midnight here so I hope this will be very interesting

Eylul

*waves*

Ira G. has entered the room

hele

that sounds ominous, Nele

Eylul

*is totally trying to get some blog post answers in*

hele

it sounded like it had an ‘or else’ appended at the end πŸ˜›

Andrea H.

how’s the weather in Kyoto, Nele?

Nele N.

I have very little power to make any “or else” happen

for now >:)

Finally cooling off!

Congratulations on the A’s

Andrea H.

うらやましいだよ。戻りたいよね

it was pretty awesome! no one booed our side πŸ™‚

Nele N.

遊びに来て!3月末までいるよ

Andrea H.

分かっている

Nele N.

sounds like a roaring success

Jenny S-T

Let’s get started

Hello, and welcome to our third and final elections chat. I’m the OTW Elections Officer and board secretary.

We have a couple of questions left over from last time, and then we’ll open up to the floor. Raise a hand if you’ve got something to ask.

If we run out of time, you can ask more questions on the blog posts – there have already been questions answered there. And that’s true year-round – the board have a contact form on the OTW website, and Communications check for comments on all the blog posts and pass them on to the right team to answer.

Sam’s original question (last chat) was:

“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?”

His follow-up is:

“Regarding Basecamp: that solution would work well for committees composed entirely of staff, but what of Tags, Translations, Coders, or Testers, who are composed of volunteers, or Fanlore, composed of all-and-sundry? Would an actual, working forum with organized subsections (such as a phpBB or similar board system) be a solution?”

Andrea, Eylul, go for it whenever you’re ready

Eylul

okay long question with a lot of good points but I’ll take a shot at it πŸ™‚

I do agree with the all org comment a while back that forums would be a great replacement to mailing list. Easier to follow different threads, old records easy to see for newcoming members. Sections can be locked in to staffers, to volunteers or individual communities. The only thing I cannot solve in my brain is how you would do cross committee discussions that currently happens over multiple emails but I am sure there is a solution to that.

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Andrea H.

I think people who’ve proposed OTW Forums aren’t necessarily thinking of using it as yet another platform for internal volunteer communications – although I have seen people raise the notion of some kind of spot where organizational FAQ are listed with answers, which is a notion borrowed from support forums. But there’s no reason an OTW forum couldn’t be used in that way, certainly, if certain committees wanted to do so. The point about Basecamp from last time was, on a larger level, that knowing where to go can be half the battle. And on the point of Fanlore, it seems to make sense that Wiki does what it needs to do in light of its project purpose.

Eylul

phpBB as far as I know as a system is not very accessible (I think the main concern is that it uses tables, which is not very screenreader friendly). However I know we are testing other forum software, so I am sure there is a solution out there.

Andrea H.

if that makes sense? it’s 08:00 here

I don’t think that last sentence made sense. Let me try again: not every committee may have the same solution. /done

Eylul

About wiki/basecamp however, that one is trickier… I think that at some point one size doesn’t fit all, and the best solution is to have a centralized place to indicate which committee keeps which documents where, and to be organized.

/done

Jenny S-T

thank you, both

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Jenny S-T

the other question emailed in advance was from Ira – Ira, do you want to go ahead, or shall I paste from your email?

Ira G.

could you paste?

Jenny S-T

“What do you think are the org’s biggest issues in terms of distribution of resources? This can be about either the resources themselves (e.g. Project X needs more of Y) or about how resources are allocated/the process by which we determine where resources go and how to get them there. Are there specific resources — money, personnel, general attention — that you feel are particularly well or poorly distributed? What would you do to address this?”

While Andrea and Eylul are typing responses, for those who’ve just joined and can’t see scrollback, welcome. I’m the OTW Elections Officer and board secretary, and host for this chat. Raise a hand if you’ve got something to ask, and I’ll call on people in order. If we run out of time, you can ask more questions on the blog posts – there have already been questions answered there. And that’s true year-round – the board have a contact form on the OTW website, and Communications check for comments on all the blog posts and pass them on to the right team to answer.

Eylul

I think everyone knows in part what I think about this question (http://eylul.dreamwidth.org/353.html)

essentially I think one of our biggest inequalities is the amount of training and support (mentoring and physical) that is available for AO3 project vs other projects the organization has.

hele

(0/ for follow up question)

Eylul

Basically we have this issue right now that our technical volunteer management is fused with AO3 project management and that is causing a lot of inefficiencies of addressing of technical needs (in case of cases like Fanlore or Journal), or in prioritization of features even related to AO3 sometimes (translation, OD, tag wrangling etc). I think that is the biggest inequality issue we have.

pluck has entered the room

Eylul

Basically for that I propose splitting of project management from technical volunteer management. /done

Andrea H.

Let me start off by saying that I’ve been thinking more in terms of personnel and attention when I’ve said ‘resources’ in these chats. I do think that there are some committees and projects that seem to draw more of the OTW’s attention than others. I don’t necessarily think it’s a problem that we have one project that’s umpteen times more popular than the others (AO3), but I do think it’s a problem that that one project get the lion’s share of internal focus, too. We do a lot of awesome things! The question about personnel is trickier, because of course we’re not a company where we can just assign paid employees, but I do think making sure that every committee has effective leadership is part of this, and in making sure that volunteers and Chairs are effectively trained across the Org. Which Volcom has been working on, and which as a process needs to continue.

On that note, I’m very interested in Eylul’s proposals in that post, too, so that’s a specific thing.

As for process, I think this unequal distribution is in some ways a relic from the OTW’s early years, so I’m not sure there even has been a process that got us here per se.

/done

Jenny S-T

Ira, any follow-up, or does that mostly answer it?

Ira G.

thank you both

would it be okay if hele went while I think?

Eylul

(OD -> Open Doors btw)

Ira G.

since she raised hand for followup

hele

(if you’re asking me, I’ve no problem)

Jenny S-T

yep, go for it, Hele

hele

ok, Eylul, you said ‘inequalities is the amount of training and support (mentoring and physical) that is available for AO3 project vs other projects’

to what do you think that’s due?

i.e. is it down to actions from the board, specific process, only a structural thing, what the volunteers want to do…?

and, if it’s both the last things (which partly my experience, partly what I understood of your post — which may be misunderstanding, of course), how do you think we should allocate volunteer interest?

/done

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hele

(I can clarify if I expressed myself in a non understandable manner!)

Eylul

I think that it is a structural thing. AD&T from what I see was intended to become technical volunteer management committee, and has the structure and resources for that. Vs Fanlore and Journal or other committees are more structured on management of these projects in non technical aspects and they are clients of AD&T, so to speak. However as AO3 management fused with AD&T AO3 took priority which left other committees to either try to find a way to request help in a way that nobody has specified the how to of, or to hire technical staff themselves who often work alone or small teams. From what I know right now webs and systems are the ones

who do the helping, and especially in systems’ case it is already making a committee that already has a lot to do doing a job that is not their responsability (even through I do hear only good things about systems about this so awesome job there)

I think that it is less about allocating volunteer interest. We do get people interested in building the wiki the same way they want to build ao3, but they don’t get training, mentoring, webdevs, they often work in a vacuum. These things will affect people’s drop out rates and their willingness to come and work in a project. It is important to realize that there is a lot of OSS enthousiasts out there

who would want to work in OTW projects, any of them. We have a culture of building skill rather than expecting it, a safe environment (which is rare in tech circles)

hele

So we both have interested trainers and trainees but the resources like webdevs aren’t being allocated?

Eylul

visibility. All of these are important.

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hele

(I ask because that hasn’t been my experience in translation. Most or a lot of the translators really only _wanted_ to work on the Archive, back when I knew about it.)

Eylul

Hele I think that there is a lot of thought process going into what AO3 coders need, but designers and testers, as well as technical volunteers working on other projects don’t get same level of focus and energy on thought to make their lives and tasks easier.

Ah. I do think that preference is a symptom of the fact that we don’t put emphasis on those projects. I do think that those who wants to work on AO3 should still work on it, but that if the other projects gets the same attention, perks etc, there will be people interested in working in these projects.

hele

Idk, fanlore doesn’t have a good structure for pages in other languages, for example, nor would it be, in my opinion, good to, say, move all argentinian fanzines to a college in USA, if that were even possible

Andrea H.

To stick my oar in, the thought process about what coders need clearly doesn’t always consider what the rest of the OTW needs out of the Archive, either.

hele

so the other projects don’t cater to the international fans the same way

Eylul

I think there is also other solutions if the problem still persists like building a culture of community and taking projects (less wanted and more wanted) as a team to encourage people to work on it but… /done because I feel like I hogged the chat and want to let Andrea speak.

hele

thanks!

Andrea H.

I need more caffeine.

I’m not sure I have much to add on this subject right at the moment – see above re: caffeine – although I do want to note that I take your point about the international appeal of other projects, Hele, and it’s something to think about, for sure.

Eylul

*thinks on what hele says* (actually hele I would like to discuss with you more on translations and the issues you guys run into, when you or other staffers have time.)

hele

I’m not a translation staffer!

anymore, that is

I actually am only sure about our chair, and that’s Aga

the staffers have been fluctuating, so ask there

Eylul

ah my bad. *embarrassed* all the same, and I want to hear more about what you just said about the international appeal of the projects as well.

hele

sure! whenever you want

Jenny S-T

Ira, or anyone else with a question?

Andrea H.

A question about how to talk about certain aspects of Japanese fan cultures came up in reference to Fanlore earlier this year, for example, and the point about not sending Argentinean fanzines to Iowa is valid, too – although at the same time, it’s fairly normal for archives holding a lot of really diverse materials to be located in seemingly strange spots. (For instance, I need to put together funding to go read a bunch of Taisho/early Meiji manga that’s out in Ohio at some point this year.) So, just to say that the internationalization is something we need to keep thinking about, and working on, because I don’t think in principle that any project is less international than the others. I hope not, anyway! /done

Ira G.

I’m done — rather let other questions/topics in =)

Andrea H.

Wait!

hele

(it strikes me as a sort of cultural theft, though I guess them being preserved _somewhere_ is still good.)

Jenn Calaelen

\o

Andrea H.

I should follow that up by saying that I don’t have a secret agenda for the OTW to become the single monolithic organization for all of fandom everywhere. πŸ™‚

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hele

heeh, and I didn’t mean _from the OTW_ really

Andrea H.

(yeah, some people do say that, and it’s definitely a concern! with archives the choice is often between preservation and destruction, but that’s another chat.) /done

Jenny S-T

Go for it, Jenn

Jenn Calaelen

How much of a say in the directions of projects (etc) should users get?

(as in not volunteers, staffers, etc)

Andrea H.

can you be more specific?

Jenn Calaelen

archive features and the like?

Eylul

I think that they should be able to point out problems, or suggest features, and comment on how they use things. Occasionally it is alright to offer a solution but I think that it goes through the process of participation into development of the software project(design, coding and QA). I think right now our processes for participating into software development is a still bit too rigid to allow that so that is a drawback. (there is work on that done)

Jenn Calaelen

mostly around Yuletide areas I’ve been hearing a lot of why hasn’t x been fixed yet? why ins’t the Yuletide old archive import happening soon etc…

Andrea H.

Well, archive importing as a whole isn’t ready yet, so it’s not just Yuletide shuffling its heels, for sure!

Eylul

Now, what I think is not okay, is polling. I do think input allows inclusivity, but blindly just going after most popular issues and such sometimes means not catering to smaller communities that are in minority, or not active in feedback yet. So it is a balancing act.\

/done

addendum: I mean yes from a software design point of view yes we should prioritize largest user base but we are also a non-profit with principles, so we cannot just do that /really done

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Andrea H.

There is a mechanism currently by which users are able to suggest features – somewhat counterintuitively – putting in a Support ticket, and I know that the tickets are an important source of user feedback and suggestions. Obviously though those tend to be on the reactive rather than the proactive side, and probably aren’t as well-known as they could be.

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Andrea H.

I agree with Eylul that the AO3 can’t just follow the crowd – or the vision of single developers – because of the fact that we do have principles that we have to do our best to uphold, as an Org. But yes, users definitely should have a say, but it’s important to recognize that our users aren’t monolithic. /done

Jenny S-T

thank you, both

Does anyone else have any questions? We have about 15 minutes left

hele

(Andrea, don’t want to interrupt, but can I get you two seconds on crosscom or here, after this?)

Andrea H.

(sure!)

Jenny S-T

If not, I’ll pull one from the latest blog post, but do feel free to interrupt if you have anything

Eylul

*looks both at staffers AND guests*

Jenny S-T

Okay, a question from Que on the blog: “And lastly, one of the problems that seem to have been plaguing the OTW board is low attendance of board members. What are your thoughts on this situation, possible solutions or affects to the Org and the productivity of the board?”

Andrea H.

I was just about to post this as an answer to the blog

let me c&P

It’s definitely a problem when Board members have high rates of absence at Board meetings, particularly with a six-person Board – I’m hopeful that increasing the seats to nine will mean that more meetings have a quorum of attendees in 2013, and definitely the more meetings there are without a quorum, the less productive Board is. I said this in a blog post, but I don’t actually expect that every Board member will be able to show up to meetings 100% of the time – we have lives, other commitments, and since Board doesn’t get a salary, we have to do something to keep a roof over our head in our spare time, too. πŸ™‚ And, because Board does a lot of its communication over email and Basecamp, missing the occasional meeting doesn’t mean you’re automatically completely out of the loop. I also think it’s important for Board members to acknowledge when life is such that they won’t be able to fulfill their responsibilities, as Jenny S-T has done by deciding to resign at the end of this term πŸ™ (we’ll miss you, Jenny!) and Julia Beck has done by going on hiatus until 2013, and as Ira Gladkova did earlier this year for medical reasons. So, in the end, open communication is hugely important for Board too.

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Eylul

I know there was a solution in part to make the meetings rotate to accommodate more timezones. Beyond that however I think is defining an attendance rule that is reasonable and holding board members accountable for it. I think the big issue as Jenny mentioned in her second post on the topic was not that the board members was missing the meetings but that the asynchronous conversation over emails and tasks as being a liaison was also suffering. The solution I think, again, is to set up expectations, to make these expectations clear to incoming members, then hold board members accountable in it. I do also think that there is however things that can be done to gradually lower the time expectation from board members which is frankly huge.

Board has to do a lot of mentoring and decision making that again is appropriate for a newly founded small non-profit, and not appropriate for our current scale. The whole issue of building new structures that is suited to a larger and more mature org ties to this too. (I think the board has been discussing this and beginning to work on solutions over past year)

/done

Andrea H.

Agreed. /done

Eylul

*also agrees with andrea’s points*

Jenny S-T

thank you, both

Any other questions in our last couple of minutes?

pluck has left the room

hele

(since this is quiet, Andrea, I’m going to jump to crosscommin parallel and leave you my message there)

Jenny S-T

If not, thank you all for coming. We will be posting transcript shortly, and you are welcome to ask further questions there.

hele

the meme already has it

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hele

I’m only sad the real mrsscribe is not in the room

I was about to ask for an autograph

Ira G.

Thank you for hosting, Jenny, and thank you Andrea and Eylul!

Andrea H.

thanks everyone! have a good weekend. πŸ™‚ Ira, like half an hour from now?

Eylul

thank you everyone for coming and for thoughtful questions, and thank you Jenny for organizing this!

Nele N.

Thank you all

hele

yes, thanks candidates/future board for coming and answering!

Kristen M.

thanks, Andrea, Eylul, and Jenny!

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hele

and Jenny for organizing and doing being an excellent moderator