Atiya Hakeem 2015 Q&A: OTW Culture and Communication, Group 1

How do you plan to engage staff and volunteers in dialogue regarding Board decisions and the direction of the organization? How about the membership?

I believe that the number of candidates running in this election is a good indicator of the current engagement level of staff and volunteers. To further encourage that engagement we should once again make spaces for interaction such as Open Board and Office Hours. I feel that it will, however, be necessary to build up trust that speaking up in such settings will not lead to punitive action.

It is more difficult to engage the membership, many of whom may not in fact be concerned with internal OTW issues. I think that posting Board meeting minutes publicly and ensuring that Board work is included in the Newsletter would be a good idea; additionally, Board updates could be posted in news spaces of the different projects so that members who originally were interested only in that project can keep up with broader OTW issues if they so desire.

Talk about one thing a committee you served with did really well and how this taught you something valuable about collaboration in the OTW.

The deploy of the improved AO3 headers (with dropdown menus instead of a wall of buttons) was a major design change, yet it was met with almost universal user approval. This was due partly to the fact that it was a definite improvement, but I think it also owes a great deal to the way the AO3 committees worked together to introduce users to the change.

The headers were first mentioned in the Newsletter, then as soon as there was a functioning prototype, a preview post with screenshots was drafted so that Communications could give users a heads-up about what was coming. Then the code was carefully tested, not just by Testers, but by members of all the AO3 committees, to ensure that everything would work correctly out of the box. As part of this, we realized that many users would need to clear their browser cache and/or force a page reload to prevent the header from coming up in a mangled state. When the headers went live, release notes were posted to let the users know, and Support was waiting to help anyone still having problems.

The smoothness of this whole process convinced me that keeping people in the loop with good communication and including them in the process goes a long way towards ensuring harmonious interactions.

What are three things you think Board can learn from committees?

  1. Meeting management – having an agenda in advance, keeping the meeting on track, and following up with good minutes posted soon after the meeting are all things that many OTW committees do well.
  2. Documentation – having an internal wiki section with detailed, useful information about directors, Board policies and procedures, current discussions and past decisions. (Translation is a great example of a committee with a truly amazing internal wiki.) Regular reports are also important, and are something most of the OTW committees produce for the Newsletter and/or Board, and some also make for internal historical use.
  3. Communication – Healthy communication is vital, between committee members, between committees, and between leadership and members. Many OTW committees provide good examples of all of these. The AO3 committees frequently collaborate (for an example, see my answer to the question above), Translation has an extremely organized system for making sure emails are attended to promptly, and all the committees I have experience with communicate productively and professionally within the committee.

What are your thoughts on a more public ‘in person’ presence being established by the Org? How might you see this balanced with the desire and in some cases need for privacy?

I’d love to see the OTW have more of a public presence, particularly in terms of con outreach and volunteer/fan meet-ups. I’d also like to see us work more on collaboration with other organizations whose goals are compatible with ours.

In terms of privacy, I think it’s important for our directors to be willing and able to be the public face of the OTW. This was something I considered carefully before running – because I have a distinctive RL name and my fandom presence includes writing adult fic, I have been quite careful in the past to keep my identities separate. I decided that it would be unfair to the Org to run if I were not comfortable publicly owning my fannish self and my OTW affiliation.

I feel strongly, however, that any public participation by our staffers and volunteers should be entirely at their own discretion.