C. Ryan Smith: Ryan’s earliest memories of being in fandom stem from watching Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! in the early morning hours before school with his dad. He can remember talking about the shows and games with other children in his class and feeling that familiar sense of camaraderie that we all feel today. If asked though, he would point out that his first true encounter with fandom at large wouldn’t occur until years later in 2008. It was at this point that he was able to access the internet without restrictions and began interacting with other fans on the likes of Bulbagarden and Fanfiction.net. Ryan first started volunteering for the OTW during his first year in university in 2013; due to personal circumstances, he left the OTW for a while before returning to service in 2015. He’s also attending university again, working towards a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.
1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
For me, fandom has been a place of acceptance and one of realization as well; it helped me come to terms with and accept the fact that I’m a gay man. I would like to give back in continued service to the community that has helped me to accept this huge part of myself. Going beyond that personal motivation though, I feel that I have skills, experience, and perspectives that could be useful to the Board of Directors and to the OTW as a whole. I’ve served in a multitude of different committees during my time with the OTW, in addition to having served in various positions within fannish spaces and in academic settings; within the OTW, I’ve volunteered with the Development & Membership Committee for just over three years, and in the past I’ve served as a tag wrangler, on the Communications Committee, and on the Volunteers & Recruiting Committee. Further, I feel that I’ve reached a place in my life where I’m confident in my ability to commit to and work within the bounds of the Board’s mission — in short, to guide the organization by supporting the different committees in their own work.
2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
Having served with the OTW for many years, I have a wide range of skills and experience that I’ve accrued during my time on different committees. I would be able to bring forward my knowledge and first-hand experience of our own in-house fundraising processes, human resources procedures, public relations strategies, and more. I feel that I would be able to give insight into the different parts of the OTW on which I have served and contribute by assisting with Board organization and documentation. Going further, in both my current and previous committees, we worked closely with confidential information, the handling of which can be an underrated, but vital, skill to have as a Board member. Additionally, working within the organization with our current set of internal tools, I have cultivated the ability to work with large groups of people and across committee lines.
In fannish spaces, I have helped moderate communities and create & run play-by-post roleplays which facilitated a background of working with others, creating detailed documentation, and giving direction to fellow players. During my first stint in university I served in the Student Government Association, working with other associates to make the school a better place by planning events and listening to & serving as a voice for freshmen students. In my offline work, I am the last checkpoint to ensure that there are no errors present in our data before processing it at the close of business which has helped to give me a keen eye for detail.
3. Choose one or two goals for the OTW that are important to you and that you would be interested in working on during your term. Why do you value these goals? How would you work with others to achieve them?
One goal that I would love to see us work on would be increasing outreach, communication, and interaction with both our membership and the public in general. One relatively simple way we could do this would be to offer a method to subscribe to news or announcements that directly pertain to the OTW (i.e. newsletters, messages from the Board, announcements about OTW projects, etc), separate from our current social media presence. Another simple way to increase our outreach to the public would be to start increasing our presence at conventions by tabling or participating in more panels (this is actually something that we’re working on already in the Development & Membership Committee).
A higher level way to tackle this issue would be for us to open up a better venue of public interaction for users. For instance, right now we already have a public discussion chatroom on our (very) old chat platform which mostly goes unused except for events like International Fanworks Day or the public Board meetings. I think it would be great to offer a space that users could interact with each other and with us in a more informal setting. This would be a complex undertaking though, as it would require research into what platform to use, how to moderate it, who would be responsible for it, and even more.
4. What is your experience with the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Try to include a range of projects, though feel free to emphasize particular ones you have experience with.
I am most familiar with the OTW’s projects from an administrative standpoint. The committees I have served on in the past have been about supporting the OTW as a whole in various ways, such as distributing news posts, assisting in recruitment, and raising funds so that we can continue our mission. In a way, this is both a blessing and a curse. This can be a good thing because it will allow me to see the organization on a macro level, rather than having my focus narrowed to one specific area. I have a very broad overview of the type of work that all our committees and projects do, but I don’t have a lot of first-hand experience with how our projects work on a day to day basis.
In order to effectively support the committees, I would need to learn about them more by taking the time to read their documentation on our internal wiki and tapping into the ongoing dialogue between them and our current Board. Beyond learning more about them and their day-to-day work, I feel that the best way to support the committees is to listen to what they tell us. Our committees are staffed entirely by experienced personnel or those who are being trained to the same level, all of whom know best how to do their own work. While the Board can assist in that by making suggestions or offering more direct support, it is ultimately up to the committees themselves to implement new ideas or changes.
5. How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?
I don’t have any plans on stepping back from my current role within the Development & Membership Committee for a couple of reasons. There are still so many things that I personally want to accomplish and several exciting new things that we’re working on as a committee. Secondarily, as a Board member, you must be an active member on an OTW committee for the duration of your term. In fact, as long as time and opportunity permits in conjunction with Board work, I would love to volunteer for another committee in order to broaden my perspectives within the organization and see things from new angles. However, my primary commitment would be to my current committee work and my work on the Board — I would rather devote myself 100% to these two things than to risk spreading myself too thin by taking on more than I am able.
As far as helping to balance the workload, I would extend my usage of Google Calendar to help keep track of deadlines, meetings, and other time-sensitive work (which I already do for my real life and academic work). Beyond that, I would use tools like Trello to help me keep track of individual tasks that I’m working on. My offline work also allows me a good amount of down time, in which I’m free to work on whatever I want; I could utilize this by bringing my laptop and working on OTW tasks during my free moments.