Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
1) I have a lot of ideas on what is going right and what is going wrong with OTW, and I do find myself often expressing these opinions to fellow staffers, volunteers and public. At some point, I realized that there is only so much you can do with backseat driving. Also, OTW being in the middle of a transition it is an important time to bring forward ideas and start dialogues.
2) There are board members and staffers that I work with that I respect, who are doing amazing work. I’d like to support them better, and help making the structure that supports them better.
These two are the main reasons why I put my candidacy for the board.
What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
I have a background that combines art, design and computer science. My technical knowledge includes web technologies, usability, aesthetics and customer support. In terms of managing experience, I have been part of online communities from an early age, occasionally taking managing roles. In the OTW I have been the AD&T, QA lead in 2010, and I just took over Survey co-chairing.
In addition to this, my switching between several fields as well as my experience living in different cultures gave me the ability to translate and synthesize. I don’t mean translating literally languages but cultures and mindsets. I can think like an artist, then switch gears and think like a computer scientist or an usability designer. I can put my middle eastern hat on, but also combine that with my experience of living 7 years in USA, and with an even longer experience of interacting with western fandoms online. This allows me to sometimes help reformulating ideas from one side to another as well as bridge ideas to find out of box solutions to problems.
What is your vision for the direction of the organization over the next year and how do you see working with your fellow board members to accomplish it?
I want to see an OTW that structurally transitions from the equivalent of a start-up as a non-profit to one that is a larger organization. I think that we outgrew our structure and that it is causing a lot of symptoms, everything from some of the transparency issues to volunteer burnout.
Recently, in a blog post, I suggested a reorganization of the AD&T committee. I suggested splitting project managements away from volunteer managements, and to divide the volunteer managements into role based groups to ensure all of our technical volunteers were supported. The idea here was to identify and propose a solution to a problem, and to start a discussion on any concerns and alternatives. I do plan to continue this work as a board member collaborating with the rest of the board and the affected committees.
Another initiative that I plan to support toward a better org structure is the Strategic Planning Committee, which is already doing a fantastic job, and to ensure their findings and results are applied.
In addition to tackling structural problems, I’d like to support and initiate solutions to our transparency and diversity problems. More on that on the related questions.
What is your experience of the org’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas of the org you’re interested in.
As a former staffer of AD&T, and currently as a member of the category change workgroup the primary project I have worked with as a volunteer is AO3. The rest of the projects I have interacted mainly as a user/reader, or followed their work through the news outlets.
I mentioned in the previous question some of my ideas on how to strengthen and support technical committees. I think it is crucial to better support technical volunteers that work for AO3, and also crucial to ensure Fanlore, TWC, Open Doors or any other projects that needs technical resources are equally supported. However, beyond that, this is a question I’d ask right back at the committees. My first action once I decided to run to the board was to begin talking to volunteers around the org, especially people working on projects and committees that I didn’t have a lot of interaction with. I chat with them informally about the work they do and asked what types of challenges they run into. I do plan to continue to do that through my role as a liaison and independently, so my IM and email is always open.
What does transparency mean to you personally, both inside the organization and between projects and between the organization and fandom? How do you value it and how would you make it a part of your service?
My approach to transparency is the same as my approach to design: iterative and user/audience centric.
It doesn’t matter if it is a feature, a layout, or an internal policy: ask early, ask often. Start and end with your audience whenever possible. This is why I’d like to see a better design process for OTW projects. This is why the open board sessions was a great idea. I’d like to see the organization that gets better at actively asking and seeking commentary, and at figuring out ways to accept internal and external criticism. We have already done some progress on these points, but we can get even better. This is partially an issue of organizational culture, but it is also an issue of inefficiencies that makes communication look like one extra hurdle in the middle of a sea of emergencies. This is why in part why reforming our structure and to make our work more efficient is important.
What does diversity mean to you personally, both inside the organization and between projects and between the organization and fandom? How do you value it and how would you make it a part of your service?
As a middle eastern fan I do notice first hand how US and Western centric OTW can be at times. It is why I decided to join I&O. It is not that OTW doesn’t want to be more diverse and that there isn’t any effort toward it. Quite the opposite. The problem, what it boils down to, is a mistake in approach. Diversity is not something one can add on top once the US-centric or western-media centric default is set in place or something the organization should only prioritize when noise becomes loud enough to become bad PR. Instead the focus to stay in equal distance to as many cultures and communities as possible has to be there from day one. It is tough but we need to start somewhere.
I do plan to continue to advocate for all forms of diversity in the organization whether it is regional, fannish or other in the organization as a board member and prioritize supporting any initiatives that comes from committees toward this goal.
What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?
The key responsibilities of the board is to set overall course and goals of the organization, keeping in consideration its role as a non-profit serving fans. Another key responsibility is to oversee and support the work committees do toward these goals. One place of improvement would be are the decisions of when to intervene with a committee, when not to, and to clarify goals, expectations and accountability so that it is more clear which case is which.
I am familiar with legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors.
How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the org, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?
Right now my current works include Survey workgroup co-chair, I&O staffer and Category Change workgroup staffer. Time requirements of my staffer roles are flexible enough to not cause conflict with board work. Thus, right now the main concern is my position as Survey co-chair. The situation is a bit tricky in that we only took over in August, and didn’t have a lot of opportunity to start mentoring anyone to replace us. I have been discussing the situation with my co-chair through and we are looking at our options. I do plan to gradually hand over my management role there, over the next few months if at all possible.