2012 Candidate Manifesto – Franzeska Dickson

Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?

We are at a delicate moment in OTW’s development. Much of the initial enthusiasm has flagged, but we’re not yet a mature organization. I am running for the Board because I have the stamina to help see us through what will likely be a difficult period. Truthfully, though, I view myself less as uniquely talented and more as uniquely situated: I have always used my real name in fandom, and I have the time and life situation needed to serve on the Board.



What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

I’ve been involved with OTW from the beginning and have experience in several parts of the organization. I’ve been in fandom for my entire adult life, through a lot of different online platforms, innumerable social changes, and many different types of communities. That kind of broad perspective is critical in Board decision-making to avoid unnecessarily narrowing the group of fans OTW is useful to.



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?

Delegate, delegate, delegate. The Board needs to both guide committees in good management practices and serve as an example itself. I see significant room for improvement in our liaising, mentoring, and training practices. Some of that will happen at the committee level, but the Board needs to do its part. I think the next year should be a time to focus on broad issues of usefulness and accessibility across diverse groups of fans. I would like the Board to particularly focus on supporting our staff and volunteers involved in translation and outreach.



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.

I edit Fanlore and have run a challenge on AO3 as well as using it for posting fic and vids; I am also working on an oral history project. My experience of other projects is mostly as an interested bystander. For the majority of our projects, I would like to see the Board take a hands-off approach, allocating resources as needed but leaving decision-making to committees and workgroups. Some of these projects, especially Fanlore, would benefit from outreach and greater name recognition among fans, but I see that more as a committee (or a multi-committee) project than as a job for the Board.

The Board’s top project-specific priority over the next year should be improving the committee and management structures surrounding AO3. It is our most popular project with the most complicated arrangement of OTW staff and volunteers, and it has suffered in the past from a severe confusion of duties, priorities, and authority. Like all software development projects, it needs good project management and greater attention to different types of users. The Board needs to explore the various proposals to have an AO3 committee, to split AD&T, and so on.



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?

Nonprofit transparency is about making the organization’s goals, values, and handling of money as clear as possible, even to a complete outsider. The type of transparency people usually talk about when criticizing OTW is slightly different: it’s more about not being able to find information and not feeling like people listen. It also clusters very heavily around certain issues: the media categories on AO3, tags, realistic projections for when items on the roadmap will be finished, etc. Improving how we manage AO3’s development will make such issues automatically clearer and will allow us to set more realistic goals and give more accurate date estimates.

The transformativeworks.org website should serve as a clearer introduction to OTW, and there are many areas where our FAQs could be improved. However, I feel that the Board should leave most of this to committees, especially in cases where the topic falls directly within the purview of one specific committee (e.g. tag wrangling).

I will make transparency part of my service by focusing on the root of the problem (bad management) rather than the symptoms (specific instances poor communication). I was initially dubious about the idea of an OTW forum but have come around to liking it.



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?

Experience has shown us that lack of diversity has serious consequences. My personal pet topic has been “original work” (that means things like original slash, not non-fannish writing), which we used to ban from AO3. This made AO3 an unacceptable hosting location for a number of fandom communities and made people feel unwelcome without providing AO3 and OTW any significant benefits in exchange. While we can’t be all things to all fans, we need to stay aware of this type of tradeoff and weigh it against our mission and values. I fought hard to make original fannish writing better understood among OTW staff. The experience showed me that both consensus and straight votes have significant drawbacks for OTW at present: they are desirable on some issues, but on others, the Board or specific committees need to take a firm stance that future openness to a broad range of fannish cultures is more important than catering to the needs of current AO3 users or OTW supporters in the short term. As a board member, I will continue to defend fans’ right to define “fanworks” how they wish, whether they are from a part of fandom well-represented within OTW or not.



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 requirements for a board are to be ethical and to be responsible. As applied to OTW, I see this as a need to be realistic about the time commitment involved in board work, doing work promptly and being available when needed, and working to further our goals of protecting and preserving fanworks and fannish diversity.



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?

I have already retired from Abuse, and I plan to leave the Tag Wrangling Committee at the end of the term. I am currently on the Category Change Workgroup as a representative from the Tag Wrangling Committee; we are still discussing whether I should be a part of the workgroup next year or not.