2011 Candidate Profile: Julia Beck

This page collects all of this candidate’s responses to questions asked as part of the 2011 Board Candidate chats. Questions not addressed during the chat session due to time constraints were sent to all candidates in batches for response within 24 hours of receipt; answers not received within that time were posted with timestamps. Addenda or edits were allowed within 12 hours of that deadline, and are marked inline with timestamps as well.

Read Julia Beck’s candidate statement here.

why do you want to be on the board?

This question was asked during the initial candidate chat.

Meddling, in a way 🙂 I want the mandate to go in and help, where I can, and make connections, because I have a pretty good understanding of what works between the committees, and what doesn’t, from “working my way up” as a total no-name fan and volunteer first (I understand feeling powerless, in a way? And I want to help change that.) So I’m very concerned with volunteer motivation, and making the volunteering experience better, because without volunteers, there’s no org.

But I also want to shape policies, and the direction of the org – I want us to be a radical truly panfandom experiment, which includes international fans, and that requires some transformation on our part, I think.
I also want the OTW to be a platform that helps fans realize their projects, but that’s a long-term goal tied to volunteer recruitment & retention, so we gotta fix that first.

(like the recent fan delicious idea? that sort of thing.)

what specific, concrete things does each candidate intend to work on while on the Board, and which of those will be their main focus?

This question was asked during the initial candidate chat.

Internally: pretty much what Lucy said: take better care of our people, and help them grow, which includes evaluating tools and processes and adapting them accordingly. This sound v. beareaucratic, but it’s really vital. We need to be healthy as an organization, and that includes giving our volunteers places to voice criticism. I want to help maintain an open, critical, but respectful atmosphere inside OTW. (I hold myself to that.) (Like the internal forums that I advocated for, but that’s just one step.)

Externally: working on outreach – that’s been a major criticism in the past, but it’s really tricky to get right. We absolutely won’t barge into a community and preach the OTW’s gospel, no way. My committee (Internationalization & Outreach) is laying the groundwork for more strategic outreach now with our community survey (coming to a weblink near you v. soon!), and I and I hope this will, well, fertilize the discourse on outreach internally and spill over into actual measures next term.

How do you see Fanlore growing, and what do you see as your role in furthering that growth both in terms of scope but also in terms of increased fannish participation?

This question was overflow from the initial candidate chat.
Candidates were asked to submit answers by 19 October 2011 01:00 UTC.

Fanlore! \o/ Ahem. I’d like to say that at most I can suggest things to wikimmettee and support them in what they plan to do. But it’s their purview, they’re the ones putting in the work, and I need to respect that.

That said, two sides to Fanlore growth: first, increase Fanlore participation in the communities we are already reaching. Second, introduce Fanlore to groups we’re not reaching yet (i.e. outreach.). I’ll focus on the first, b/c that’s where we can start off right away.

To the first, the existing editors are key. I would like to thank Doro from the wikimmettee for opening my eyes to that. We have amazingly invested people who have a very good understanding of and passion for Fanlore who don’t fit into OTW’s usual volunteer/staffer scheme. And we need to give them places to build a community, to draw others in and keep them there. It’s why I’m so adamant about forums. They’re not a cure-all, but editors need to be able to connect and plan in a stable, asynchronous place, and the Fanlore DW community is not that place. (If you want my tl;dr thoughts on that: http://fanlore.dreamwidth.org/42832.html?thread=410960#cmt410960 (I’m the one with the 12:30 timestamp.)

What also helps grow communities is giving them support, so more Fanlore Open houses (hosted chats) would be ace.

In terms of scope: I think we need to find a way to reconcile the encyclopaedic nature of Fanlore (with citations and all) and its oral history part. Both are equally important, but wikis are not a format conducive to recording oral history, so I’d like to help make that clearer.

What do you say when asked ‘What does the OTW do?’

This question was overflow from the initial candidate chat.
Candidates were asked to submit answers by 19 October 2011 01:00 UTC.

Heh, depends on who I talk to! To non-fans, I say that it’s an international, unique, female-dominated open source/open culture project-slash-lobbying group that’s both building tools and advocating for a specific subculture centered around storytelling. I also stress the emancipatory politics inherent in that. And that we’re unspeakably awesome, of course. To fans — well, usually it’s “the organization that builds the AO3/Fanlore”, but then I can go into more depth (excitingly panfandom, entirely fan-run, owning the servers! doin’ it for ourselves!).

What would you do to increase the OTW’s transparency to fandom at large, particularly people who aren’t currently staff? Concrete policies, please. What, if anything, have you done while serving as a staffer to promote transparency?

This question was overflow from the initial candidate chat.
Candidates were asked to submit answers by 19 October 2011 01:00 UTC.

What I did/am doing as a staffer for transparency, concrete steps:

To fandom at large: support the return of the Spotlight series and the Open Houses initiative (Helka, my former IO colleague, headed both), lobby for Fanlore forums, make sure to invite non-c2-oTW people as advisors wherever appropriate (make the decision process more permeable, in a way), comm-wise: advocate for criticism to be met respectfully, not shut down, & with my committee, review projects & blog posts to make sure they include an international perspective.

Internal & external to the OTW: initiated & headed the OTW community survey (coming soon!). This is something that’s meant both as a basis for outreach and as an evaluation. Results will be shared with fandom at large. (it’s going to be so interesting omg.)

Internal to the OTW: lobbied for internal forums, initiated Translators’ Newsletter within Translation cmt, and connect people across committees where I could (like a head’s up “look, xy is working on/interested in that too, you should team up.”). Trying to foster an open and respectful culture.

Part 1: Off the top of your head: How many staffers does the Org have? How many non-staff volunteers?

Part 2: Considering the many comments I’m reading about understaffing and volunteer burnout, how many additional staffing positions on existing committees would you anticipate adding in your term? Additionally, what concrete steps will you work to implement to prevent burnout, to increase staff/volunteer satisfaction, and to increase internal transparency?

This question was asked during the second candidate chat. Absent candidates were given 24 hours from the chat period to submit answers and all other candidates were given the same time to submit addenda to in-chat responses. Responses were due 27 October 2011 20:00 UTC.

staff: 60-something; volunteers: 200-something (this is actually hard to determine: active vs. non-active volunteers)

Number of committee members is up to chairs.

How I imagine it growing? depends on how many people we can recruit! definitely 10+ staff.

Concrete steps: support chairs in providing more feedback and training to them and trying to implement better accountability. Many chairs are inexperienced in leading people and have to learn to do so the hard way. (Hi! that was totally me! it kinda sucked!) This translates to mentoring, basically.

also, very important to me:

create an atmosphere of critical and honest, but respectful communication: many of the miscommunications and problems aronse b/c you don’t feel you can criticize someone internally: you can only voice dissatisfaciton in roundabout ways

we need to stop backchanneling so much. Externally: try and put a stop to our paranoia about fandom hating us if we are not anything but perfect. We’re not perfect — we shuold be more ready to admit that, and open up about it.

this is very glibly put — sorry. But we have a sort of siege mentality where we seem to live in fear of perpetual wank. It’s not helping.

/done

How do you see the OTW as being accountable to its assorted constituents–fandom at large; users of the OTW’s projects (AO3 and fanlore users; readers and writers of the journal; recipients of legal aid; volunteers; staff; etc.) What would you do on the board to make sure that all those groups have the information they need when they need it?

This question was asked during the second candidate chat. Absent candidates were given 24 hours from the chat period to submit answers and all other candidates were given the same time to submit addenda to in-chat responses. Responses were due 27 October 2011 20:00 UTC.

I’ll prepend that I think this question is too complex to answer statisfactorily on the fly. As to the “how”: First, identify our stakeholders and agree internally who we want to serve. Not sure we are doing that right now.

Then, what Jenny said: being more transparent (external communications!), AND giving more options for engagement. Sort of: the barriers to volunteering/discussing/criticism atm are too high. (Example: use other channels more familiar to consitutuents, like blogs/forums rather than the journal/website format.)

However, I absolutely can’t answer you with concrete steps, because we need to a) identify b) survey these groups and their needs first to get this right. It’s like assuming we’re reaching everyone with the journals: assumptions aren’t particularly helpful here.

(by “journals” I mean our concentration on the LJ-sphere.)

/done

I was happy to hear some of the candidates specifically mention outreach as one of their concerns in the chat transcript. However, I’d like to ask /all/ of the candidates if they could detail any ideas they have for specific plans of action that can be taken in the upcoming year to help the OTW reach out to fannish communities outside Western media journaling fandom.

This question was in the first batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 23:40/11:40pm UTC 26 October 2011; answers due before 23:40/11:40pm UTC 27 October 2011.

Narrowly put, here’s the exact action plan of my committee, Internationalization & Outreach, drawn up in 2010:

1. as a first step, we need to look at the org & its products and see where and how we can improve internally

2. that is, work with other committees to increase accessibility & appeal of OTW products to international fans (“international” here: shorthand for both ELF, crossover, and non-English-speaking fen)

3. only as a last step, devise & conduct targeted campaigns. Respect for and knowledge of our target groups is key here. We’re not keen to be seen as unwelcome ‘missionaries’.”

Why am I posting this? Because outreach is a long-term effort and the preparation of the previous years is key. We also just revised our scope slightly (hence the name change!) to more implicitly include fandom outreach, and we want to recruit accordingly for next term.

According to plan, we reviewed many OTW projects to make them more inclusive in the last two years (and will continue to do so), and the other committees have been amazing about taking up and implementing our suggestions (just two examples: language browsing at the AO3 with *lots* more language functionalities forthcoming, and the revision of the former Vidding
project pages to the vastly more inclusive Fan Video project resources). So that was step one: we feel more confident about promoting the OTW to other fandoms now because we have can show that we will change accordingly, where we can.

Preparation for step three, actual outreach campaigns, includes gathering data via surveys: currently, we’re planning one external community survey and one internal one. With the internal one we want to find those volunteers who are connected both to OTW and their fandoms, who can act as advisors to the question “what can we offer fandom xyz specifically?” and/or as agents to carry that message to their communities.

Put more broadly, however, the general aim is to make the OTW a go-to place for realizing big-scale projects, regardless of whether we already have something that appeals to you/your fandom.

That can only succeed if we make the overall OTW framework more open. I’m hopeful we will get
there (so many awesome discussions and initiatives arising from elections talk!), but I don’t think we’re quite prepared to fulfill that promise yet, which is why I am hesitant to go into other fandoms without other fans acting as ambassadors and invite them *right now*. First step is to open our communication channels (or implement new ones: see the forums idea!), so it’s no longer so relentlessly one-way, because it’s no use if we go talk to communities and they can’t talk back at us *as* a community. But I’m getting way to tl;dr (what can I say, I am passionate about this!), so I’ll close by saying that it’s all interconnected: it’s not just a matter of getting the message out, it’s also a matter of being prepared to productively deal with both criticism and feedback from outside, and of offering better opportunities for involvement.

The OTW still seems to have trouble connecting with large numbers of people outside of Western media fandoms, particularly anime/manga fandoms. Do you have any concrete ideas about how the OTW should improve outreach towards anime/manga fans?

This question was in the first batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 23:40/11:40pm UTC 26 October 2011; answers due before 23:40/11:40pm UTC 27 October 2011.

“But some of my best friends are anime/manga fans!!!” well, it’s true! 😉

There are TONS of anime/manga and gaming fans both inside OTW and at its periphery. (see Franzeska’s post at http://franzeska.dreamwidth.org/151707.html or the comments in my journal at http://julia-beck.dreamwidth.org/2584.html?nc=51#comments that deal explictly with the concerns of anime/manga fandom.)

They are already (or still, hah) talking to us, even though we lost a lot of goodwill, and have very productive suggestions that I’m extremely grateful for. One example that I believe we should very, very seriously consider is opening OTW community forums, because our current communications channels (journals; website) are a) not conducive to community building b) unfamiliar or uninviting to vast swaths of fandom. Another suggestion was to make our sites more visually appealing; both the AO3 people and the website committee are on that already and are listening attentively.

So, the fun thing is: I don’t even have to think up things myself, I just have to listen to what fans are *already* telling us — and make sure they are heard inside the org.

for all candidates: what are their concrete plans for outreach to underrepresented sections of fandom?

This question was in the first batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 23:40/11:40pm UTC 26 October 2011; answers due before 23:40/11:40pm UTC 27 October 2011.

See my answers above, but I’d like to take the opportunity to go off on a tangent: I don’t believe we have a moral duty to serve any and all fans in the abstract. It’s perfectly fine if a fandom doesn’t have need of the OTW or its projects, so there’s a difference between “collect ALL the fandoms under the OTW umbrella” vs. “be welcoming to all fans that WANT under the OTW umbrella.”

For anime/manga fandom the latter is absolutely true as witnessed by the fact that fans have repeatedly said that they *want* to use and like the OTW’s products, but they can’t fully do so at the moment. (The same is true for non-English language fans.) So, while I think we need to work on making fans from all corners more aware of the OTW and its opportunities, this doesn’t translate into trying to be representative of fandom. We’re not, we will never be, and that’s okay. It’s a tricky balance to get right, though, because it can translate into complacency and lack of outreach: we’re certainly not in danger of overextending ourselves right now, quite the contrary!

I don’t know how appropriate a question this is, but sanders was suggesting having monthly chair meetings and discussion posts manned by volunteers, and already in Systems we are finding it burdensome with our load to attend to some of the administrativa demanded of us, such as the two-hour org-wide. There were, at some point, chair meetings that were occurring that we found burdensome and, truthfully, irrelevant to us, and we were grateful when these dropped off. I don’t doubt the above would be helpful for transparency, but how would sanders propose to ameliorate the increased overhead to the various committees, some of which aren’t perhaps prepared for it?

This question was in the second batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 00:30/12:30am UTC 27 October 2011; answers due before 00:30/12:30am UTC 28 October 2011.

I’m jumping in on this because I had a similar conversation with someone expressing concerns about administrative bloat (“spending too much time talking that could be spent doing”). I do believe we should assess each committee to see where we can communicate better — but individually, not as a top-down directive. Chairs, of all people, have really…little…time for additional meetings (I used to be a big proponent of chairs meetings, but realized that the main purpose that they should have — support — is more effectively served by mentoring.)

Inter-committee, I found that having liaisons for the closest collaborators worked very well, but that’s still not something every committee needs.

Regarding external & internal communication, Communications committee had the idea of adjunct Comm staff liaising with a particularly committee and taking on the brunt of its comms work (credit goes to Lucy Pearson, who is on that committee). It didn’t work out back then — we need more people for that, for one — but I think it’s worth looking into and recruiting for. Again, not every committee needs that, but I’d be interested to hear what you think of this, if it’s not too much trouble (Brainstorming topic in the internal forums?).

Earlier this year the servers were named in a problem-filled poll, and the way it was handled and the outcome upset many people. This situation brings up questions about the OTW’s priorities, fandom diversity, and transparency. (Take a pause to appreciate my Oxford comma.) If you were involved in this discussion, what was your input and how did you encourage the board to vote? If you were not, what would have been your input and vote as a board member? What will you do to prevent something like this from happening again? (Please be specific in regards to fandom diversity and transparency.) Are you in favor of voting transparency, and therefore accountability, for the board?

This question was in the second batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 00:30/12:30am UTC 27 October 2011; answers due before 00:30/12:30am UTC 28 October 2011.

Oh, server names. (I’ll probably associate regret with that poll forever.) I was involved in the final name selection task group, but contributed relatively little to the document-in-progress because I felt we had a solidly diverse shortlist.

Where I personally failed was the final selection chat, when the options “Kirk” and “Spock” were put onto two different servers, (effectively sealing the Star Trek over-representation). I felt that couldn’t be right, but I was unsure and didn’t object. I should have, and I’m very sorry that I didn’t.

I also assumed that the end result would, like the shortlist, be altered according to a principle of diversity; others assumed that we would honour the final vote, because to do otherwise would be unethical.

My believe (that I asked Board member hele to represent in the final decision) is that we should have admitted that we messed up and scrapped the poll or adapted the results (there were some good suggestions of allocating servers according to media type). I very firmly believe it wouldn’t have lost us much goodwill in our core support group, but it very definitely did lose us people who already felt marginalized.

What we can do to prevent this from happening again: The problem wasn’t a lack of diversity — our shortlist was pretty awesome. It was in the final selection & results discussion that we — that I — failed.

So to prevent something similar from happening, we need to create an atmosphere where a) all relevant information is available to the people involved and b) everyone feels they can speak up without fearing that they’re ruining (internal) relations forever. At its core, it was a charged communicative situation that was hard on everyone involved and effectively barred us from reaching a better compromise. On the outside, and because of the final decision, it looked like we didn’t care enough. I regret this immensely.

Voting transparency: Tricky. My spontaneous reaction was: YES, let’s have it! but… no matter the individual vote, the Board has to present a cohesive whole, and even if they disagree, Board members have to uphold the collective decision. Personally, I’m prepared to justify both my individual vote and the end result; but I haven’t made up my mind if it would be beneficial to make this a binding requirement — I’d need to discuss this with fellow Board members (nevermind that the bylaws don’t state anything about recording voting behaviour, so Board would need to adopt it). Regardless, I’d prefer it if Board were more open about its decision process, where it can, and Board members more transparent about their individual positions. (I find it confusing, too, when the majority on the Board seems to be in favour of postion X, but the result is position Y. Why?)

The copyright (fair use) advocacy issues that the OTW works on and the TWC journal are two of the aspects of OTW’s mission that are near and dear to my heart and a significant part of the reason why I have volunteered for and donated to the OTW. How do you think the OTW board as a whole can continue to support and further encourage these and similar projects? What about these projects do you personally value and what relevant skills/interests/experiences will you bring to your term on the Board that can help in this area?

This question was in the second batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 00:30/12:30am UTC 27 October 2011; answers due before 00:30/12:30am UTC 28 October 2011.

How the Board can support both projects: by letting them set their own agenda, by facilitating collaboration (like the Fan Video & Legal cooperation for the upcoming DMCA exception case), and by helping recruit volunteers to keep them sustainable, where it can. Both projects need experts, are driven by lighthouse personalities and benefit most from personal recruitment, but even so, making the OTW more broadly visible will help both with recruitment (for example, to reach more non-US lawyers) and with positioning it as an attractive enviroment for facilitating high-profile projects.

What I personally value about both committees is that they help contextualize the high-context culture “fandom” to their respective areas. Yes, having advocates who speak “outsider” language can feel alienating to fans, and I understand that representation and legitimacy are thorny issues; but while fandoms as a community and transformative works as creative endeavours are legitimate in and of themselves, that doesn’t mean they are perceived as either legitimate or valuable by academia or in legal practice! I’m perpetually excited that we have the audacity, the expertise, and the language to advocate for fandom and fannish creativity ourselves.

As for my personal input, I have no experience whatsoever in legal matters, but I’m in media studies, and I weirdly enjoy arguing for transformative works (I co-wrote a Symposium article, Playing Sue, with Frauke Herrling), so I’d absolutely be open to attending relevant conferences and doing just that (with the caveat that I’m just a student and don’t have an ounce of the academic weight of the TWC editors et al.!)

A current known challenge of the organization seems to be volunteer retention and burnout. For example, the majority of the Archive of Our Own’s coding is done by a small number of developers. For all candidates–what practices would you change in the committees you work with to bring in more volunteers and empower them to become long-term, regular contributors? How would you use a board position to do the same org-wide?

This question was in the third batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 01:15/1:15am UTC 29 October 2011; answers due before 01:15/1:15am UTC 30 October 2011.

(I’m going it interpret “committees you work with” as the ones I serve in, because I wouldn’t tell another committee how to conduct their affairs.) For I&O: Number one would be re-focus on our core mission, and for more general projects like the community survey form cross-committee task groups. We also need to position ourselves better as the go-to people to approach with concerns about diversity, who will amplify and convert them into action internally; I’d like to think that successful recruitment and volunteer retention also hinges on our credibility in that regard.

For Translation: apart from trying to make the overall translation process smoother, we are committed to making translators feel part of the organization (if they want to!), because it’s way too easy to feel detached and out of the loop as a volunteer.

But to veer back to a more general perspective: My educated guess is that volunteers don’t differ all that much in what they want out of their OTW volunteering experience. They want their work to be acknowledged, they want it to be meaningful, and they want a degree of agency. So if we consistently fail to deliver on these fronts for some people, they leave (– or they don’t volunteer at all, if they suspect that the threshold to getting things done is too high). So: acknowledgement or praise, work that connects meaningfully to a larger whole, and agency. Board can make a difference in all these areas. Pragmatically, we’re also trying to learn more about volunteer motivation and the gap between expectations and reality in the internal survey. My hope is that it’ll help us get a better grasp on the issue in general.

I’ve been hearing a lot of interesting ideas from the candidates, but at the same time, some of these ideas make me worry. For example, the suggestion to open up the wiki to the public: something like that is not at all simple and is absolutely extra work and a matter of extreme effort; it would require, as an absolutely key part of the whole proposal, volunteers across multiple committees to review the entire wiki. When I hear this and other suggestions tossed out right next to statements about volunteer sustainability and burnout, saying we don’t have enough people for various tasks, this is really troubling to me and I fear that a lot of these great ideas create more work that results in losing more people. As a candidate, how do you plan to balance these needs? I’m hearing a lot of ideas, but how do you plan to incorporate these into an approach that helps our sustainability?

This question was in the third batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 01:15/1:15am UTC 29 October 2011; answers due before 01:15/1:15am UTC 30 October 2011.

We can only balance this by talking *with* other committees and respecting their needs and limitations. I appreciated arrow’s question from the last batch, because we need to acknowledge the anxiety that this current flurry of new ideas causes — I intimately understand that volunteers are weary of additional work piling up, so we need to consider the cost-benefit balance for each individual committee.

Basically, if we want something from someone, our approach needs to be “what help can we give you?” instead of “hey, do this!”. So I always try to get a handle on the ramifications of a suggestion by checking back with the people involved before I initiate something; we need everyone’s cooperation, after all, and I’ve seen what havoc the best-intentioned ideas can wreak if they’re not integrated into existing discussion.

There’s been some discussion since the first chat about the time commitment required for serving on the Board, and what that means for Board Members who also have other roles within the OTW. How will you balance your role as a Board Member and committee liaison with your other commitments within the organization?

This question was in the third batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 01:15/1:15am UTC 29 October 2011; answers due before 01:15/1:15am UTC 30 October 2011.

I’m relieved I found a likely successor for chairing Internationalization & Outreach, and I hope to take a step back in general, because regardless of whether I’m elected to Board of not, I believe in trusting the “next generation” with carrying on the mission. I hope we can do the same with Translation committee soon; I’d feel uneasy (okay, streched way too thin) occupying a central role in two committees *and* serving on Board. I’m not going to just stop serving on either committee, it would feel like callously abandoning my mates! But I would encourage any chair who wants to run for Board to hand over the baton, if they can (it’s often simply not possible, I know!).

Hi again, I wanted to pose a question that is similar to one that was asked previously: can the candidates talk about the specific things they have done while working in the OTW over the past year that have promoted organizational sustainability? I’m interested particularly in something I’ve seen in OTW materials before: “We’re building the builders.” How have the candidates carried that out recently as applied to volunteers and future leaders of the organization? I’d be especially interested if they could talk about both technical and non-technical roles, and about how they expect to “build” future board members once they join the board.

This question was in the fourth batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 16:30/4:30pm UTC 31 October 2011; answers due before 16:30/4:30pm UTC 1 November 2011.

No response by deadline. Response received 1 November 2011 7:49pm UTC.

I’m going to talk about this in terms of my actual work with OTW colleagues, because I’m translating your question as “how do we make people stay, and help them grow?” My role’s not technical, which is why I won’t address this part of your question except to say: my approach is to know my limitations, trust other people’s expertise and strengths and enable them to do their job well, not try and do their job for them.

I have a pretty organic understanding of “building the builders”, a sort of trickle-down effect from Board to to chairs to staffers to volunteers — I’m giving you a fair bit of tl;dr here, because regardless of which strategies Board may end up adopting or not, my core understanding of volunteer work won’t change.

My underlying belief is not to ask more of volunteers that they can or want to give, and to be grateful for anything they do give, no matter how small. That sounds like a platitude, but I think it’s easy to grow resentful when other people don’t do as much as you do, so it’s super important to not hold everyone to the same standard. (I learned that the hard way during my university radio time… plus, you need to take into account that other people on your team might grow resentful of those with seemingly “lesser” workloads, so you may need to defuse tensions.) Often, it’s the most dedicated people who carry increasing amounts of guilt over not doing enough, or for having to step down, and if they leave without that resolved, they forever associate volunteering with that awful, negative emotion (and never come back when they have time again, ack!). So it’s important to resolve that and let people leave graciously.

As chair, I care about volunteers feeling appreciated, no matter their contribution; and I’ll continue to do so as a Board member, especially by talking with chairs about a good balance between encouraging volunteers without accidentally guilt-tripping them. (I don’t want to pretend I’m flawless at that! I’m pretty good about talking one-c2-on-c2-one and mentoring and being gracious, but I need to do better with consistent encouragement and celebrating achievements — hat tip to Lucy Pearson for giving me some good ideas here.)

Inside my own committee(s), one thing we’ve tried to do with varying results is to offer different levels of engagement, that is, try and find individual modes to contribute for people who don’t fit into the committee-based staff system.

I’m also pretty keen on establishing liaison roles, that is, making sure I’m not the only point of contact to other committees, so other committee members can build relationships inside the organization. That works pretty well.

That said: while not everyone has the time, inclination, or energy to get involved on a committee level, it’s important to actively recruit promising people from the volunteer pool, not wait for them to make that move themselves. (Actually, actively recruit people regardless of whether they’re already volunteers or not! We need to work on that.) Approach someone directly to make them aware of open committee positions or other opportunities inside the org that they might be interested in; and, I feel this is really important: let them know why you think they’d be a good fit. My experience is that we have many amazing people with impostor syndrome, and clear feedback about strengths and weaknesses helps with confidence issues.

I suppose confidence in your strengths (and a healthy awareness of your weaknesses) is the most important aspect for a Board candidacy, so building confidence is crucial for building candidates. (I don’t believe that people become magically confident by taking on and mastering challenging work and after a while automatically consider running for Board; impostor syndrome may still apply.)

Speaking of challenging tasks: I don’t think every candidate needs to have chaired a committee, but I do believe that chairing is invaluable preparation. So in a sense, I’d like to encourage promising people to consider Board candidacy early on, so they have time to accumulate relevant experience like leading a committee or task group. Right now it’s very… I don’t know. As if people are either magically ready for Board or not. (I certainly wasn’t — it took a great deal of mentoring to get me there, so I want to pay this forward.)

I think we should make it more obvious what the expectations for Board members are: demystify the job, so to say, and train more people up for it.

What do you see as the role of the Board in soliciting user, member, staff and volunteer feedback? How will you prioritize this during your term as a Board Member?

This question was in the fifth batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 16:05/4:05pm UTC 1 November 2011; answers due before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 2 November 2011.

No response by deadline. Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Simply put, two aspects: one is to open more avenues for conversation about the OTW, and make it easier to find them. There has already been excellent conversation about both; for example, there is a lot of conversation in private journals, but journals tend to be hard-to-find bubbles of friends (and for finding linkspams, you need to be *in* the journalsphere already). A relatively simple first step could be a opt-in directory of OTW staffers’ journals; and a bigger might be centralized external forums that provide a more level, less top-down discussion space. (To go all meta, let’s have feedback about that! What would make you more willing to talk to us?)

The second aspect is to change our communication style (both internal and external) to be more open and honest, while remaining respectful. We can implement all the avenues in the world for our members and users to talk to us; if you don’t feel you can be candid and that we will listen, you won’t use them. There is a perception that the only mode of communication we accept is squee, and while I understand and, to a degree, defend the up-beat tone of most OTW communication, it’s setting a tone barrier for feedback. Not productive.

(One thing I feel we’re already doing well is feedback rounds for in-progress projects. I loved the way the Fanlore committee solicited several rounds of heavy feedback instead of implementing their new category scheme straight away. Massive kudos to them — I know it was extremely exhausting for the committee, but worth it, and worth emulating.)

Internally, I helped advocate for internal forums and do hang out there when I can, and while I understand that not everyone can or wants to interact there (completely optional space!), I’ve been thrilled (and, admittedly, gratified) to see interesting and productive conversations between volunteers and staff that couldn’t have happened elswhere. I hope we’ll change the org-wide meeting to a more open, discussion-centered format soon.

How I’ll prioritize both aspects: by lobbying inside Board and among committees, recruiting communications-related personnel, putting in the work (draw up proposals, form work groups etc.) and by trying to lead by example. I’ve written a couple of “that thing you did was not okay, here’s why, can we talk?” emails internally, and while it was hugely, hugely stressful to do so, I really hope I can encourage people to talk to each other directly more, so that this sort of candid feedback becomes normalized (and you don’t need to be a 2+ years chair or Board candidate to dare write them).

I understand feedback as growing out of conversation. I want us to have more, and more honest conversations both internally and externally, and I hope my ideas will help us have them.

Julia and Jenny both mention sustainability as one of their priorities for the Board in their candidate statements, and I’ve seen the term also mentioned in other discussions of the election by both members and staff. My question for all the candidates is what do you see as the biggest challenge to sustainability within the OTW, and how will you work towards ensuring a sustainable future for the org during your time on the Board.

This question was in the fifth batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 16:05/4:05pm UTC 1 November 2011; answers due before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 2 November 2011.

No response by deadline. Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Hmmm, the single biggest challenge. It depends on the project, honestly, so I need to pick two interconnected challenges: the first is making our potential volunteer pool larger, that is, getting the word out about the OTW to communities who are skeptical about OTW, or don’t know us at all yet (i.e., communication & outreach). The second is making the OTW the sort of environment where people stay, not leave in frustration because they run into invisible barriers, or get tangled up in up in opaque structures. I talked about outreach in the first batch of questions (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/2011-second-board-candidate-cha…) and to my answer re. feedback above, because I honestly believe that communication is key here (both talking to the public, and for volunteers talking amongst themselves).

Many candidates are talking about transparency and the need for better communication. I am a casual user of the AO3 and have no idea what these buzzwords mean in a ‘real world’ context, why they’re important to someone like me, and what the candidates are actually planning to change.

This question was in the fifth batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 16:05/4:05pm UTC 1 November 2011; answers due before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 2 November 2011.

No response by deadline. Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Transparency means that you, as a casual user, can find out what’s actually going on inside OTW, if you want to, and that you know what we did with your feedback. As a fan-driven organization, we depend on our users’ trust and involvement (we can’t think of all the ways you might want to use the archive ourselves, for example). It means that you can easily find accessible and relevant information and ways to get involved. (The recent Open Houses are good examples for measures that help improve transparency.) Right now, only a couple of people on a committee level have the sort of broad overview to know why something is happening, or not happening, and when and what is in progress, or being planned; and volunteers are often just as confused and intimidated as casual users are. (You shouldn’t have to sign up as a volunteer to get access to that sort of information, anyway.)

It doesn’t have to be important to everyone, and the admin posts and spotlights on AO3 are doing a good job of keeping users up to date and informed. That’s not true across the organization as a whole yet, so we need to do a better job to get people involved and invested by reaching out, and by actively soliciting feedback.

I’ve been hearing a lot about volunteer retention and burnout, but I have a question about the flip side of the sustainability issue. It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges facing the OTW right now is lowering the barriers to casual participation, to the small, bite-sized things people can do to help sustain the org. Right now, submitting a bit of code or wrangling a tag requires a whole process for anyone who just wants to help a tiny bit, as they can (by contrast, contributing to Fanlore is significantly easier, and I know that committee has done a lot of work to lower barriers). Some OTW projects don’t seem like they would lend themselves as well to casual participation, but it seems like a lot of our work could benefit from this, and I feel like I’m not seeing enough focus on this from the org as a whole. I feel like we’d have less burnout if we had more people to spread the burden, in bits and pieces. What do you, as a Board candidate, think of barriers to participation in the org right now? Do you think they need to be lowered? If so, what concrete, specific plans do you plan to pursue to do this? How do you plan to acknowledge and reward casual participation without devaluing the work of the more “official” volunteers? How do you plan to balance the needs of casual contributors, volunteers, and staff?

This question was in the sixth batch of overflow from the second candidate chat.
Questions submitted to candidates at 16:05/4:05pm UTC 2 November 2011; answers due before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 3 November 2011.

No response by deadline. Response received 4 November 2011 08:41am UTC.

Hah, oh yeah. This is a great question, because I (rather, we!) struggled a lot with finding answers for my own committees. First off, yes, I agree that generally speaking, the barriers are too high. But what makes this such a tricky issue is that it’s different for each committee. That’s why I can’t in good conscience give you any concrete measures apart from: the Board needs to initiate an evaluation process, ask each committee to poke its processes and give at least one suggestion each. (Seeing as it’s something that most committees already do, I don’t believe an initiative like that would be controversial.)

This doesn’t sound like much, I know, but I can’t stress enough how valuable it would be to have Board say “you are not only allowed, but encouraged to question this process. Yes, you, the volunteer who just got started. Yes, you, the long-term committee member who’s become used to things”. Because right now it’s more, “this is the process. Deal.”, and even if people have suggestions, they’re not sure if those are welcome, and they don’t want to be disruptive. So I see it as Board’s task to facilitate an open culture of feedback.

Okay, since you prompted me, trying my hand at a couple general, actual measures for this initiative after all: sorting the tasks in each committee according to commitment/expertise required; then set up a noticeboard with low-commitment jobs on the website where people with little time can nab something (honestly, I can come up with 4 jobs like that spontaneously for both I&O and Translation… Hmmm. Brb, writing a proposal to our Volunteers committee~)

I’m not actually all that worried about balancing the value of regular vs. one-time work. Maybe that’s naive, but there’s the fact that a committee is also a social group, and that community spirit is both a powerful motivator and a reward in itself. (Conversely, since you mentioned Fanlore, I see the lack of community-building as Fanlore’s Achilles heel at the moment.) Another reward (simultaneously, burden) exclusive to being staff is responsibility: you make/shape decisions (you deal with the fallout).

As to balancing temp volunteer/volunteer/staff needs, I’ll repeat what I said in the third set of answers: “My educated guess is that volunteers don’t differ all that much in what they want out of their OTW volunteering experience. They want their work to be acknowledged, they want it to be meaningful, and they want a degree of agency.” Agency becomes more important if you are staff, though.

With regards to acknowledgement, my quick & dirty suggestion would be to have a (opt-in!) “Thank you” section in the official newsletter (like the AO3 release notes already do), but more pragmatically, I’d ask both temp volunteers & volunteers themselves what they want (Newsletter acknowledgement? AO3 invite? handshake? Graphics? Nothing?). Actually, let me include that as a question in the internal OTW survey (see, I know why said it was a great question: very thought-provoking.)

Candidate Chat Follow-Up Questions and Chat Digest

As promised in yesterday’s Board candidate chat and here in our Elections news post, we are now sharing the responses to the remaining questions. These are follow-up and free-standing questions posed during the chat that candidates were unable to address due to time restrictions. The questions were pulled from the chat transcript and sent to the candidates as a group; candidates were asked to respond within 24 hours. The emphasis in these responses is on immediate answers rather than polished essays, and candidates were also asked to keep to the question topics. All of our candidates are welcome to expand upon their views in the next chat!

You can read those questions and answers here, on the OTW Elections website. Answers are listed in the order they were received, and any responses that are received after the deadline will be added to that page as soon as possible, with any post-publication changes noted.

We’re also happy to announce that thanks to the hard work of a volunteer, we have also added a digest version of the chat transcript to the Elections site. The text is heavily edited, with missing text expanded, and includes only the questions and answers. View the concise transcript here.

Please consider attending our second chat, or submit a question for the candidates! Questions can be submitted via our elections webform, and the chat will be held 26 October 2011 from 8pm to 9pm UTC (What time is that where I live?) in the OTW public chatroom, accessible at this link: https://fanarchive.campfirenow.com/e79cc.

Concise Transcript of Initial 2011 Candidate Chat

Edited and corrected version. This text is not identical to the screenshot of the chat; for identical text, please refer to the full transcript.

Elz

yeah, maybe short intros should go first

Betsy R.

Betsy Rosenblatt is a law professor at Whittier Law School. Her teaching and scholarship focus on intellectual property law, and she is the director of the school’s Center for Intellectual Property Law. Before joining academia, Betsy graduated from Harvard Law School and spent nearly a decade as an intellectual property and entertainment litigator.

Betsy was “born into” fandom, in a way, as both of her parents are dedicated Sherlockians—and, deep in her parents’ basement, there are photos of her as a baby in a deerstalker cap to prove it. More recently, she’s been involved not only in Sherlockiana, but also in a wide range of TV, film, and anime fandoms, as a creator, beta reader, and appreciator of fanworks.

Having served on the Legal Committee of the OTW since January 2010, Betsy has enjoyed responding to legal inquiries from fans and helping the OTW craft its policies. She looks forward to being the “resident lawyer” on the Board as well as being involved in all other aspects of the OTW. She is proud to be part of the OTW and is eager to advance the organization’s missions of providing an inclusive community for the diverse and interrelated worlds of fandom, a high-quality platform for archiving and sharing fanworks, a thoughtful scholarly journal, a wealth of information for fanwork creators, a thorough historical resource, and—perhaps closest to her heart—a strong voice of public advocacy for transformative works.

Jenny S-T

Jenny Scott-Thompson is a IT consultant, lifelong fan, and advocate for sustainability and diversity of the OTW. Jenny works for a major international firm and has several years of experience in systems implementation and technology projects. She lives in the UK and studied maths at the University of Cambridge. She volunteered for Dreamwidth before and during Open Beta, during which time she acquired first-hand awareness of diversity and accessibility issues. She’s been a fan ever since she learnt to read, with a range of book, TV, film, and RPF fandoms.

Jenny will use her time on the Board to advocate for the sustainability of the OTW, transparency, accessibility, and diversity of all types, but particularly international and fannish sub-culture diversity. For the past two years, Jenny has served the OTW in many capacities, first on the Volunteers & Recruiting committee (VolCom) and then on the Accessibility, Design & Technology committee (AD&T), and has performed a mix of coding, testing, support, tag wrangling, design and training tasks.

She values the OTW’s whole mission and range of projects, including legal advocacy, Transformative Works and Cultures, Vidding and Fanlore, but believes the Archive of Our Own (AO3) is key to our mission. It offers a protected server owned by fans and supports Open Doors, thus providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan cultures. She wants to see the OTW continue the great work it has been doing to become more international, more representative, and more accessible to a wide range of fans. She’d like to make it easier for people to volunteer, and to increase our support our existing volunteers, as this work will result in a more sustainable organisation (as well as making people happier!)

In the next year, she’d like to see the AO3 translated into multiple languages, fanart hosting, a public update on the Torrent of Our Own (TO3), and more improvements to searching and browsing for AO3 readers. She’d also like to see the Code of Conduct project for volunteers completed, and training and support for volunteers improved. For any questions and conversations you can find Jenny on Dreamwidth and on LiveJournal.

Naomi N.

Naomi Novik is the New York Times-bestselling author of the award-winning Temeraire historical fantasy series, and a founding member of the Organization for Transformative Works. She has been active in online fandom since 1994, publishing stories and vids in more than forty-nine fandoms and founding several fan-run institutions: a multiuser online role-playing game begun in 1995, a vidding convention begun in 2002, and an annual cross-fandom story exchange begun in 2003. She created the open-source Automated Archive software used by many fanfic archives and has been one of the senior architects of the Archive of Our Own since it began.

She is running for the Board after a year off to have a baby (Evidence! \o/) to finish seeing the Archive through to the shining grail of the 1.0 release, and to provide a technical voice on the Board across various other OTW projects. She has spent the past year in the organization coding madly on various major Archive tools including tag sets and nominations, to give challenge moderators more control over the tags used in their signups while reducing the burden of work on tag wranglers, and a revamp of the archive css and html and skins design intended to improve accessibility and make skinning the archive easier.

Lucy P.

Lucy Pearson has worked on the Archive of Our Own from the first code commits through to the present day. As 2010 chair of AD&T she saw the AO3 through its first full year of Open Beta, during which the number of users and fanworks on the site trebled! She helped establish the Support Committee, which she still serves on, and supported the Tag Wrangling Committee through its transition from subcommittee to full committee.

Lucy also does double duty on the Communications committee, keeping users informed about the Archive’s progress: you’ve probably seen her posts about AO3 progress and AD&T meetings on the OTW blog and communities, and her regular tweets on the @AO3org Twitter account she started. She loves giving fans an insight into what goes on behind the scenes and is excited about the idea of bringing those skills to the Board.

Lucy is Lecturer in Children’s Literature at Newcastle University, UK, so it’s appropriate that she stumbled into fandom via Harry Potter (and never looked back). She works closely with archives and special collections, and is passionate about preserving fanworks and ensuring they remain accessible for the future.

As a Board member, Lucy would bring the same judgement and organisational skills that served AD&T well through hectic growth, as well as an international perspective on the OTW’s activities. She believes in Sam/Dean fic, the wonders of the Oxford comma, and the awesome power of fandom!

sanders

In three decades, Sanders has been a zine maker, slam poet, Anthropology and Sociology student, author of a thesis on gender representation among queer women, activist for AIDS awareness and education and union rights, nonprofit fundraiser, avid Little League supporter, and fanfic writer. She’s lived in Louisville, London, Albuquerque, and Richmond (the one in Indiana, not Virginia). She’s traveled to Amsterdam and throughout Ireland, spent absurd amounts of time in Brooklyn, Seattle, DC, and in online chat rooms, and made a home in southern Indiana. She’s dabbled in procedural fandoms, become a committed Browncoat, stood in line for more midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show than she can count, and written over a million words of drawer fic with her Mac-obsessed iWife.

For the past three years, Sanders has been an active member of OTW’s Finance Committee, chiefly responsible for the shark-related puns in the committee newsletter. She has also helped produce the organization’s annual report, ensured compliance with state and federal filings, developed meeting agendas, and taken charge of drafting policies and procedures for organizational budgeting. Additionally, she has provided material for Fincom’s required close of meeting worship of Shemar Moore.

As a member of the Board, Sanders will continue her work with Fincom, shark jokes and all, as well as prioritize opportunities for cross-training and cooperative learning within and between committees. She has a strong personal interest in examining the demographics of the organization and working to ensure that OTW represents the interests of fans across lines of race, class, ability and access. Ideally, she will be able to combine those interests and priorities to maintain the financial stability of the organization and expand support for international fundraising and membership activities.

Julia B.

Julia Beck is a fan from Germany. She is studying for a degree in media and communication studies and works as a communications and quality supervisor in customer support. Although her fannish origins can be traced back to a childhood spent re-reading The Lord of the Rings, her initiation into organised fandom was sparked by Zetsuai: Bronze and German yaoi fandom, from which she moved into international media fandom. Most of all, she identifies as a hardcore RPG gamer: when she’s not lamenting the state of the “Tales of” series, she’s worshipping at the altar of Jennifer Hale.

She cut her volunteering teeth by co-founding her university radio programme, but was enticed away by the emergence of the OTW. She has served on the Translation committee since 2008 and founded International Outreach (IO) in 2010. Managing translation volunteers made her highly sensitive to issues of volunteer motivation and recruitment, and IO’s role as a cultural advisor to other committees helped her develop a more comprehensive perspective on the OTW.

Julia’s priority is to help increase the OTW’s diversity and accessibility to fandom, broadly conceived. She knows from her own experience how it feels to be “geoblocked,” and she wants the OTW to increasingly reflect the realities of fandom as an interconnected, international community. She wants to advance diversity efforts by strengthening collaboration across committees and boosting internal and external transparency.

She also plans to focus on keeping the OTW sustainable in the long term, not only by recruiting and training volunteers, but also by keeping them invested in the organization. She believes the OTW’s potential is constrained only by the limited time and energy of its volunteers and that sustainable staffing is closely tied to diversity. Just as increasing our human resources will help us carry out our diversity goals, increased diversity will result in improved volunteer recruitment and retention. She understands this as a joint effort and is looking forward to working on sustainability with fellow Board members.

Elz

a difficult one: why do you want to be on the board? 🙂

Betsy R.

I want to be on the board primarily because I believe every board should contain a lawyer – particularly when the organization includes in its mission legal advocacy. I am also looking forward to taking a greater role in all of the OTW’s projects, but since my professional specialty is law, I see that as the unique niche I bring to the board. More generally, I want to be a board member because I believe that transformative works make the world a better place!

Jenny S-T

I want to be on the Board to help the OTW in more ways than I can at the moment. The main things the board do are to get the bigger picture – taking a step back and thinking about a broader view than any one committee can. Part of my day job and my skills are around being able to see potential process improvements and get ideas for things we could do better. On the board, I can spot more of those and know which are worth pursuing and which would lose us more than we’d gain.

For me, the main thing I see at the moment is to work for sustainability, which is our biggest challenge as an organisation. After four years, we’ve got going, achieved some great things, and we now need to think about the long term – not just fire-fighting, but setting ourselves up well for the future. That means we need to facilitate better cross-committee communication, given how much the org has now grown, and we need better people management and care for our volunteers. A lot of people have been burned out by OTW work where they haven’t had proper support, and have had to leave the org as a result. That needs to stop, as much as possible.

And, of course, I want to support all the great work we’re already doing, and make sure that can continue.

sanders

my answer is short: I’m running for the board for several reasons; primarily to be in a better position to help ensure the financial viability of all of OTW’s projects and the organization as a whole in the long term; to help bring stronger nonprofit management skills to the upper levels of the organization; to provide perspective from a fan of color.

Naomi N.

So my main reason for running is, I started this whole crazy enterprise off with a call to build an archive of our own, and I feel a commitment to see that project through to a 1.0 release. And I think it’s really important for the archive project to have a senior technical voice on the Board.

I also agree that the org is moving into an important new phase where we’re past the first surge of excitement and growth, and now we need to keep people in the org having fun, and bringing new people in. Our forward-facing projects, particularly the archive, have gotten big enough that we want to start thinking about creating obvious pathways for people to come into the org through those projects, and how we can facilitate that — the upcoming Support Board is an example, but we want to creatively think about how to create openings from that and other routes that lead naturally into the org.

and (sorry I just realized I need to articulate this a tiny bit more so typing quickly)

I do think that internally we’ve over the last few years built up an org-wide toolbox that is at this point full of a lot of things — Basecamp, Campfire (the chat system we’re in right now), our secure vault, our own srevers, our internal wiki, our rented servers, etc you get the idea

and that like any toolbox over time the toolbox gets cluttered and then you’ve got the ten things at the bottom you never use mixed up with the one thing you forgot about that is actually really useful and so on

and so I think an upcoming challenge for the new Board will be to sort through our toolbox of not just software but procedures and try and identify where we could improve and done!

Julia B.

Meddling, in a way 🙂 I want the mandate to go in and help, where I can, and make connections, because I have a pretty good understanding of what works between the committees, and what doesn’t, from “working my way up” as a total no-name fan and volunteer first (I understand feeling powerless, in a way? And I want to help change that.) So I’m very concerned with volunteer motivation, and making the volunteering experience better, because without volunteers, there’s no org.

But I also want to shape policies, and the direction of the org – I want us to be a radical truly panfandom experiment, which includes international fans, and that requires some transformation on our part, I think.
I also want the OTW to be a platform that helps fans realize their projects, but that’s a long-term goal tied to volunteer recruitment & retention, so we gotta fix that first.

(like the recent fan delicious idea? that sort of thing.)

Lucy P.

I’m passionate about the OTW and the things it can achieve, so I feel a huge sense of excitement at the prospect of extending my involvement further. However, I did think long and hard about running for Board, because it is both a big commitment and a major responsibility. I had given a lot of thought this year to what I would like to see on the Board, and I felt that one of the things that was important was for it to include people who had a long-standing relationship with the org, had experience of being committee chair, and had a good existing knowledge of how the OTW works across different committees. And then I realised that, um, as someone who’s been kicking around for a long time now, I pretty much fulfilled those criteria. So, I felt that if that was what I was going to ask for in Board members, I should be prepared to walk the walk and put myself forward! I feel that I have really gained a lot from being involved in the org and being mentored by previous Board members, and I am committed to paying that forward and mentoring the next generation of OTW staffers.

allison m.

and now from earlier: what specific, concrete things does each candidate intend to work on while on the Board, and which of those will be their main focus?

Lucy P.

I have two main aims for my time on Board. My first commitment is to helping support and mentor staffers as the OTW grows and changes, helping people gather experience and skills in ways that benefit both the org as a whole and them personally. In the past we’ve suffered from people burning out, and I think that combating that is one of the major challenges for the Board going forward. One of the things which has helped me NOT burn out was having a dedicated and supportive Board liaison, and having supported several new chairs in the past I think I have some good skills in that area.

This feeds into my second aim, which is that I want to build on the great work we have already done establishing the OTW as a ‘tool’ for fandom – that is, that we are a great resource and a great example for fandom as a whole. I believe that we can’t do absolutely everything that could be done in fandom (even though I would love to!); in fact, it wouldn’t be good for fandom to have one monolith org doing everything. What we CAN do is enable fans to pursue the projects they want to pursue – a good example of that is the recent fannish bookmarking project, which our AD&T chairs advised on and which lots of OTW staffers are contributing to. I think that already, we are an example other fans look to and say ‘we could do something big, look how the OTW established their projects’. Looking forward, I’d like to build our profile even more, so that a fannish group in Iceland, say, might want to start their own zine preservation project, and we would be able to help advise and facilitate that. I think that looking to the future, positioning the OTW as a tool is really important, because there are many practical limits to how much we can do as an individual org, but there are NO limits to what fandom as a whole can do if they have the flagship example and the support. I feel that communications will be a key part of that strategy – getting the word out about who we are and what we can do – and after nearly three years of developing communications about the AO3, that is a skill that I know I can bring to the Board. 😀

If we as individuals try to do too much we’ll implode, and if we as an org try to do too much we’ll also implode, but we can create a community where all the small things add up to something amazing!

One of the things that is important to me in terms of the aims I stated is creating an agile org, where people have a lot of autonomy and freedom within committees and yet they feel supported and we have an overall strategy. I think one of the ways of achieving that is to set out some clear goals and modes of interaction at the start, but then to maintain a light hand as Board and allow the committees to do their awesome work. Which they do 🙂

sanders

Clarifying the budgeting process and means by which we provide financial reports to our membership, and putting into place a strategic plan for the next three years at minimum are two of my priorities. I have almost two decades worth of nonprofit experience to bring to bear on both of those, and my overall goal is to internally strengthen the organization and provide greater accountability both internally and externally.

I also want to put into a place a clear structure for mentoring and committee turnover, as well as the ways we make use of our communications tools. done.

Betsy R.

I plan to work on maintaining and growing the organization’s position as a public voice for transformative works. So much of what we have done has been internal to fandom: the OTW has done a great job of creating a comfortable space for creators of fanworks, and is improving on that all the time. I want to do everything I can to help with that. I share many of the candidates’ interests in keeping the organization sustainable, technically smooth, and inclusive, and I see myself as a “utility player” in that regard. But as a matter of central focus, I want the Board to have its eye on legal advocacy risks and opportunities, and I am particularly interested in bringing that to the table. I am also interested in growing the organization’s profile outside fandom, maintaining our alliances with other advocacy organizations, scholars, and the like, so that we are not lonely voices for our organizational agenda.

Jenny S-T

Specific, concrete things: I want to help Volunteers & Recruiting committee get the Code of Conduct finalised. I want to document the general role of a chair and role of a committee member – things like when you’re expected to communicate with your chair, board liaison, etc. and what comes under which committee’s area, so people are less likely to tread on each other’s toes by accident. I want to make sure we get more training, not just on doing your day-to-day job, but also on management skills, such as the personality types session that Kristen is doing next month.

I also have a ton of ideas related to fanart, vidding, and the AO3 that I’d like to do, as well as transparency, diversity and accessibility, but won’t bore you all with now – I’ll post a list on my journal later if you’re interested. My main focus would be sustainability of the organisation, by making sure we work efficiently and care for our people.

Naomi N.

going quick while baby lets me since I think it is open: From a pragmatic perspective, my number one aim is to have a productive and effective Board, where we facilitate the work of the org without getting in the way — there are a lot of different projects and priorities and for the health of the org we need Board to be a place where those priorities can get worked out in a collaborative way, where we can be a team that comes together and works through the conflicts created by the limits on our resources, both human and otherwise.

and personally I’m obvs deeply involved in the archive project but I figure you all know that 😀

Betsy R.

I agree with Naomi! (about the Board process, that is)

sanders

That’s a great answer, Jenny, with some very specific tasks that we can realistically accomplish.

Julia B.

Internally: pretty much what Lucy said: take better care of our people, and help them grow, which includes evaluating tools and processes and adapting them accordingly. This sound v. beareaucratic, but it’s really vital. We need to be healthy as an organization, and that includes giving our volunteers places to voice criticism. I want to help maintain an open, critical, but respectful atmosphere inside OTW. (I hold myself to that.) (Like the internal forums that I advocated for, but that’s just one step.)

Externally: working on outreach – that’s been a major criticism in the past, but it’s really tricky to get right. We absolutely won’t barge into a community and preach the OTW’s gospel, no way. My committee (Internationalization & Outreach) is laying the groundwork for more strategic outreach now with our community survey (coming to a weblink near you v. soon!), and I and I hope this will, well, fertilize the discourse on outreach internally and spill over into actual measures next term.

via_ostiense

question for betsy — since we have an independent legal committee that works on legal strategies and advocacy (e.g. the dmca exceptions), what unique advantage is there to having a lawyer on Board that Legal doesn’t already provide? also, Legal Chair has access to board discussions and can serve as advisor as necessary

Betsy R.

To answer via_ostiense’s question: The org needs both a legal committee and a board with its eye on legal issues – partly so that the org can move on a dime in instructing the legal committee. We have committees for everything the org does, but we still have a board for larger steering matters. I’m on the independent legal committee, and while we do very well dealing with individual inquiries, I think we can feel like we’re a bit isolated sometimes. In the past, the chair of the Legal Committee (Rebecca Tushnet) has been on the board, and I think that has brought a sense of continuity to the relationship between the board and the organization’s advocacy mission. Otherwise we’d be two different organizations – one for web content and another for advocacy. I want us to be one organization that does both, and although I know it’s a lot of commitment, I want to be the bridge between those things.

2011 Initial Board Candidate Chat Follow-Up

The 2011 Board candidate chat ended with questions pending — both a follow-up to earlier responses, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions were delivered to the candidates following the close of the chat, and they were asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours (before 01:00am UTC 19 October 2011) so that those responses could be publicly posted. Responses are posted in the order that they were received by the OTW Elections officer.

In a follow-up to the question What specific, concrete things does each candidate intend to work on while on the Board, and which of those will be their main focus?, Naomi and Betsy were asked, in relation to their answers, Any concrete steps within that, or how do you plan to achieve it? (This question was re-opened optionally to all candidates.)

Betsy Rosenblatt
Response received 19 October 2011 04:44 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 14:10 UTC.

I was asked to follow up on my response to the question about specific things I intended to work on while on the board. My initial answer (abridged) was that, in addition to being a “utility player” where needed, I intend to work on maintaining and growing the organization’s position as a public voice for transformative works, to keep the Board’s eye on legal advocacy risks and opportunities, and growing the organization’s profile outside fandom (such as maintaining our alliances with other advocacy organizations, scholars, and the like). To answer the follow-up question: I am active in intellectual property scholarship and academic circles, I keep aware of legal developments relevant to the organization’s mission, and I am active in the work for, or friendly with colleagues who are active in the work for, organizations with missions consistent with ours (such as the EFF and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund). As a Board member, I would bring that awareness and (dare I use the word) synergy to the group.

In addition to my initial answer, I also agreed with Naomi that (to paraphrase), among the specific things I wanted to work for on the board was making the board work smoothly and collaboratively to facilitate the work of the organization without getting in the way of the organization’s overall ability to be flexible and get things done. I suspect this was the real point to which the follow-up question was really directed. I have to break my answer down into two parts – first, about making the board work smoothly and collaboratively, and second about allowing the board to facilitate the work of the organization without getting in the way of the organization’s overall ability to be flexible and get things done.

As for the first, I have every reason to think that the board is a smooth and collaborative body already, and I want to slide right in to that spirit. I’ve been on a lot of boards and committees over the course of my career, including for nonprofits, for my former firm, and for my school. I feel comfortable with the flexibility and balance required to make a board run smoothly. That includes offering the benefit of my experience in my areas of expertise, offering creative suggestions in areas outside my expertise…and knowing when someone else knows more than me on a given topic!

As for the second, I think it’s mostly a matter of management philosophy: as the OTW grows, the board can’t be involved in every operational detail, but has to set larger-scale policies and be available to provide guidance at all times. That means listening to the membership, being in close contact with committees, coming up with initiatives, setting priorities, resolving larger-scale issues…and delegating a lot of material – especially implementation and operational decision-making—to the organization’s amazing committees.

Lucy Pearson
Response received 19 October 2011 14:07 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 14:18 UTC.

In terms of preventing burnout and mentoring staffers, I see my role as Board liaison as crucial. I am bringing a lot of experience of working within the org to the table, which will help me support committee chairs and other staffers. As someone who has received really brilliant mentoring from several Board members (Allison Morris, Naomi Novik, Francesca Coppa, Hele Braunstein…) I really passionately believe that a close and supportive relationship between Board members and chairs is one of the most important things for the health of the org. If a chair feels secure and supported, and they have someone to turn to for advice, they’re able to support their staffers in turn, so there’s an effective trickle-down. Good policies help a lot, but there’s no replacement for that personal element.

In terms of raising the profile of the org: communications! I will talk about this more in my answer about transparency, because I think that covers a lot of the important points for me.

Naomi Novik
Response received 19 October 2011 14:50 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 15:10 UTC.

In the chat I said:

From a pragmatic perspective, my number one aim is to have a productive and effective Board, where we facilitate the work of the org without getting in the way — there are a lot of different projects and priorities and for the health of the org we need Board to be a place where those priorities can get worked out in a collaborative way, where we can be a team that comes together and works through the conflicts created by the limits on our resources, both human and otherwise.

And a couple of the other candidates asked how we do that, specifically, so here’s my wildly long list of my bullet points for an effective virtual team. There are some basic practical ones and some that are more about ideal team composition:

Don’t argue in email. If an email exchange starts to turn into an argument, stop and take it to a live chat, or even skyping. Whenever a discussion begins to get tense, you want more immediacy, more back-and-forth, and more information in your communication medium.

Don’t leave a discussion angry. Even if the way you wrap up is to say, OK, it’s late, let’s put this aside to mull on until next meeting and let’s talk about something else or our latest fanfic/cats/babies for five minutes before we leave, try and don’t end on a sour note.

Having people who are good at recognizing when a discussion is getting tense, and stopping and stepping back from it in the heat of the moment, and getting the team as a whole to reconsider it in a bigger context. This may seem obvious, but anyone who has been in a heated discussion online can probably recognize that it is not as easy as it sounds. (Lucy P was great at doing this on ADT.)

Having people with varying points of passion, so that there are always a couple of people on any particular issue who don’t really care that much.

If there aren’t people who are naturally inclined to step back, then whoever chairs the discussion should explicitly take on the responsibility of forcing themselves to do the stepping back.

Having imaginative people. It is really rare in my experience for an argument to truly be a zero-sum situation. Almost always there is a different solution that will give people on both sides of the argument much of what they want. The hard part is imagining up that different solution. It does to some extent depend on knowing the options so experience/education (technical, legal, etc) is also helpful.

Don’t get bogged down in principle. The end goal is that some concrete thing is going to happen or not-happen — a tool gets built, a server gets bought, a fundraising drive runs, a post gets made. Principles guide those decisions, but when an argument starts to be *about* principles, stop and bring it back to the concrete.

Associated with that, recognize fundamental differences and don’t have the same fight over and over. Instead, try and have people with different principles work out their respective concrete goals or spheres of influence, what their priorities are, and do some horse trading.

Don’t let discussion go too long. If you get stuck in a hole, can’t come up with a better solution, can’t seem to step back, and everyone keeps getting angry, then just end the misery. Set an end point for the discussion, frame the core options, and just vote. Even if you don’t “win”, you all get out alive. (As a bonus, I have often found that venting the pressure by doing this often unlocks the creativity to suddenly come up with a new better solution.)

Remember things are rarely set in stone. If something really doesn’t work well and continues to make people unhappy, it can be changed. If people are really unhappy, pick two options, set a timeframe to try the first one and come back and review, at which point possibly switch to try the other.

How do you see Fanlore growing, and what do you see as your role in furthering that growth both in terms of scope but also in terms of increased fannish participation?

Jenny Scott-Thompson

I see it growing to be a main reference point for and about fandom. I’ve seen it being used by journalists and academics outside fandom as a reference, and by fans either as a reference or as a safe place to document our history. I see it growing to a wider audience, both within and outside fandom, and I see my role as advocating that by making sure it gets the profile and focus it needs, not getting swallowed up by larger or louder projects within the OTW.

Julia Beck

Fanlore! \o/ Ahem. I’d like to say that at most I can suggest things to wikimmettee and support them in what they plan to do. But it’s their purview, they’re the ones putting in the work, and I need to respect that.

That said, two sides to Fanlore growth: first, increase Fanlore participation in the communities we are already reaching. Second, introduce Fanlore to groups we’re not reaching yet (i.e. outreach.). I’ll focus on the first, b/c that’s where we can start off right away.

To the first, the existing editors are key. I would like to thank Doro from the wikimmettee for opening my eyes to that. We have amazingly invested people who have a very good understanding of and passion for Fanlore who don’t fit into OTW’s usual volunteer/staffer scheme. And we need to give them places to build a community, to draw others in and keep them there. It’s why I’m so adamant about forums. They’re not a cure-all, but editors need to be able to connect and plan in a stable, asynchronous place, and the Fanlore DW community is not that place. (If you want my tl;dr thoughts on that: http://fanlore.dreamwidth.org/42832.html?thread=410960#cmt410960 (I’m the one with the 12:30 timestamp.)

What also helps grow communities is giving them support, so more Fanlore Open houses (hosted chats) would be ace.

In terms of scope: I think we need to find a way to reconcile the encyclopaedic nature of Fanlore (with citations and all) and its oral history part. Both are equally important, but wikis are not a format conducive to recording oral history, so I’d like to help make that clearer.

Nikisha Sanders

I admit I’m still learning about the scope and possibilities of Fanlore. I’ve fallen into the trap of interacting primarily with AO3 and not as many of our other visible projects. That said, I see Fanlore as a project that needs serious boosting in terms of visibility. We need to remind our members and fandom at large that it’s there, first, and I think we can accomplish that by first making sure all of our board, staff and volunteers are encouraged to contribute. Whether it’s through editing an entry, adding a new bit of information, or posting to one’s blog or journal about Fanlore, we all should be doing something toward building the visibility of the project. A targeted month of promotion would be my second suggestion, possibly in conjunction with the next membership drive, where we invite people to donate to support Fanlore and to explore the pages already there as well as adding to them as a proactive act of membership.

Naomi Novik
Response received 19 October 2011 02:58 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 15:00 UTC.

My main contribution to Fanlore over the next few years would mostly be to serve as a resource on the practical technical front: when do we need more server power, how is MediaWiki serving the team and the users, what could we do to improve the user interface and automate routine tasks, etc.

Betsy Rosenblatt
Response received 19 October 2011 04:44 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 14:10 UTC.

Fanlore is a source of endless information and an educational resource for me! I can get lost in there. But I know my enthusiasm doesn’t exactly answer the question –nor does the fact that “add material to Fanlore” is currently on my to-do list. But the fact that it’s on my to-do list does say something about how I see Fanlore continuing to grow. Fanlore grows organically as people learn about it, use it, and are reminded of just how much is in there (and how much isn’t, yet!). I think the wiki committee has done an excellent job recently of reminding and encouraging fans to contribute on topics they might not even have known were included; I love the Wish List, as well. Of course, more is always possible. I’d like to see outreach to specific fandom communities, to the extent possible.

Lucy Pearson
Response received 19 October 2011 14:07 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 14:18 UTC.

I haven’t been closely involved with Fanlore, so I’d be very much governed by the needs and direction of the wiki committee. I think that one of the core aspects of being a Board member is being able to be responsive to specialists within the org and to let them take the lead, because they have a better sense of what will work for their particular project. (A good example of this is the establishment of the Fanlore Dreamwidth – usually we try to have communications originate from within org tools, but the Fanlore team made the call that they could better serve the needs of the wiki by making DW a primary focus for their community.)

Beyond that, I would like to see Fanlore continue to grow and to reflect more voices from across different areas of fandom. I definitely see this as a marathon, not a sprint, but I think the great work the wiki team have put into ensuring that a range of fannish topics are represented at least in a skeleton fashion is really important: if someone stumbles on the wiki, they’re less likely to find that their fandom is not mentioned at all and therefore to think that they’re not wanted. I think that now some of this groundwork has been laid, Fanlore is well-placed for some more promotion, so as a Board member I’d be looking to support more communication and signal-boosting about the project, both on the blog and in-person (for example, producing con materials to help people talk about Fanlore and get excited about it at cons). I’d also like to create connections within the org to see whether different committees can help one another: I’ve seen the Fanlore community come up with some neat technical innovation to make the experience of posting to the wiki easier, and I’d like to facilitate chats between Wiki and other technical committees such as AD&T to see how we can build on that work.

What do you say when asked ‘What does the OTW do?’

Jenny Scott-Thompson

A lot of things! It’s a legal advocacy organisation for transformative works by fans, with a mission to protect and preserve access to fanworks and our history, shown by our flagship open-source projects AO3 and Fanlore and the academic journal Transformative Works & Cultures.

Julia Beck

Heh, depends on who I talk to! To non-fans, I say that it’s an international, unique, female-dominated open source/open culture project-slash-lobbying group that’s both building tools and advocating for a specific subculture centered around storytelling. I also stress the emancipatory politics inherent in that. And that we’re unspeakably awesome, of course. To fans — well, usually it’s “the organization that builds the AO3/Fanlore”, but then I can go into more depth (excitingly panfandom, entirely fan-run, owning the servers! doin’ it for ourselves!).

Nikisha Sanders

I love this question because I just had to answer it for a dear friend. I told her that we, broadly, work with fans to protect the right to creating transformative works—fan fiction, videos, meta essays, anything exploring the movies, TV shows, books, anime, etc that we enjoy. We work on several fronts, from working on legal challenges (I usually give an example of YouTube yanking fanvids here, or Anne Rice prohibiting fanfic), to creating an archive run by fans for fans to collect fiction from a variety of places. The project I always make a point of discussing is the physical archive and working to collect tangible materials from fans, artifacts, really, because most of the people I tell about OTW are from anthropology backgrounds and archives to sift through excite them (and me). Usually, from there, I talk about our structure, that we have *no* paid staff, we’re all volunteers, and cover well over a dozen committee areas with staff from around the world, many of whom work to translate our sites into languages other than English. My answer from there depends on my audience; with Charlotte, the dear friend, we started getting into the specifics of how we function as a nonprofit and why it was important to incorporate that way and what it means to have literal fan buy-in. Other conversations have focused on the academic journal and the kinds of topics we get into when fans produce meta, and others have directly to explaining how someone can join as a member and/or volunteer.

Naomi Novik
Response received 19 October 2011 02:58 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 15:00 UTC.

I’m still keen on the mission statement: providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. I also like the description I’ve heard others say, that the OTW does this by putting together a big toolbox for fans to help them help themselves to do it in a variety of ways, as opposed to trying to force everyone to do it in one particular way.

Betsy Rosenblatt
Response received 19 October 2011 04:44 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 14:10 UTC.

Great question! The answer depends on who I’m talking to – for those who are looking for places to find great fanfic, I send them to the AO3; for those who are looking for fandom resources I send them to Fanlore; for those with a scholarly bent I send them to Transformative Works and Cultures…and so on…But here’s the “logline” that I tell most people: The Organization for Transformative works is an amazing community, archive, online resource, and legal advocacy organization for creators and appreciators of all kinds of fan-created works.

Lucy Pearson
Response received 19 October 2011 14:07 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 14:18 UTC.

Big question, and one that I have been answering a lot recently. In a fannish context, I tend to start by saying ‘We’re the people that built AO3 and Fanlore!’ and then broaden out to talk about the other projects and the way they all fit together, for example how Open Doors is a way of preserving earlier fannish culture and the Legal team pursues issues which affect fans and strengthens our ability to make the AO3 a safe place for fans, because it has legal backup.

I’m often answering it in a non-fannish context, in which cade I have to start with a brief primer of fannish history! In that context, I start by introducing it as a non-profit organisation dedicated to representing fans and protecting fannish creativity. I also tend to emphasise the connection between this mission and the way that historically, female creativity has often been overlooked or appropriated by men; for example, how the way the novel was shaped by a female discourse was until recently often ignored.

In both contexts, I also talk about the way that the OTW is an awesomely empowering forum for fannish skillsharing, and how that has enabled fans to achieve things they might not have been able to do alone. I highlight the fact that the AO3 is one of the largest female-majority open-source projects in existence, and the work of committees across the org as a way of giving people new skills and experiences. At this point I usually pause for breath and realise that people are backing away from the crazy gushing lady. 😉

What would you do to increase the OTW’s transparency to fandom at large, particularly people who aren’t currently staff? Concrete policies, please. What, if anything, have you done while serving as a staffer to promote transparency?

Jenny Scott-Thompson

I could talk for hours about transparency! It’s been a concern of mine since I first joined as a volunteer, and couldn’t see what was going on behind closed doors with the committees. I was the first candidate to start a legal-name journal for posting about my OTW work, and have previously posted about my work under my fannish name, both on my personal journal and on the official OTW blog. I’ve been doing the AD&T minutes (which are visible to all volunteers) for most of the year, enabling Lucy to post the Archive of Our Own meeting roundups publicly. I’ve also made several internal proposals about transparency, which I can’t really talk about until they’re agreed, ironically. I made the recent suggestion for staffers joining and leaving to be acknowledged in the monthly newsletter. I’d also like to make the OTW less “faceless” – let people see who is behind the anonymous committee names. Volunteers & Recruiting committee have some great plans for this currently being discussed, which I would support. I would also continue both posting to my journal, and working with Communications to get more public “Spotlight” posts and things like that. I’d facilitate the discussion currently ongoing around org-wide meetings and monthly newsletters, and how we can use those to improve communication, both top-down announcements and two-way feedback. One concrete step would be to make sure each committee does have something in the newsletter, even if it’s only “Still not sued!” The habit of having something there pays off as people writing it remember that actually there is more to talk about. I’ve also run public training sessions/open houses, and I’d like to continue and expand those – it’s a great way to let people see what goes on behind the scenes. There is a concern, of course, that communicating what you are doing takes time away from doing the work, but in most cases I think it more than pays off, partly because accountability makes for a healthier org, and partly for recruitment – people will only volunteer if they know what they’re getting into. I’m also looking forward to the website changes when we upgrade the software that transformativeworks.org runs on next year – that will be a good opportunity to make sure that all the currently public information is easily findable – there’s more there than most people realise.

Julia Beck

What I did/am doing as a staffer for transparency, concrete steps:

To fandom at large: support the return of the Spotlight series and the Open Houses initiative (Helka, my former IO colleague, headed both), lobby for Fanlore forums, make sure to invite non-OTW people as advisors wherever appropriate (make the decision process more permeable, in a way), comm-wise: advocate for criticism to be met respectfully, not shut down, & with my committee, review projects & blog posts to make sure they include an international perspective.

Internal & external to the OTW: initiated & headed the OTW community survey (coming soon!). This is something that’s meant both as a basis for outreach and as an evaluation. Results will be shared with fandom at large. (it’s going to be so interesting omg.)

Internal to the OTW: lobbied for internal forums, initiated Translators’ Newsletter within Translation cmt, and connect people across committees where I could (like a head’s up “look, xy is working on/interested in that too, you should team up.”). Trying to foster an open and respectful culture.

Nikisha Sanders

My first project as a prospective board member, and as the incoming Finance Committee chair is clarifying for our board how we can more effectively create budgets for our committees and projects. From there, I’ll be working with Fincom to provide monthly reports to the board with more explicitly detailed breakdowns of monthly expenses and income, and I intend to work with the board to ensure every board member has the basic accounting and financial management skills to step in to work closely with Fincom and/or fill the role of Treasurer for a short time in case of emergency. Along with the highly detailed monthly reports, I’ll be working to make sure a simplified version of those reports are available on our website for member review, and with the agreement of the board, provide the detailed statements by request. I would also create a detailed statement quarterly for the membership/general public.

Away from the finance issues that are near and dear to me, I would like to see committee meeting notes made available beyond staff and volunteer access. I understand that some issues need to be discussed internally and kept confidential, but I also think we could be doing a much, much better job communicating with our membership base. Keeping everyone informed not only of what committees have done (via the newsletter) but what is on the horizon is key to that, and in order to accomplish that, we need to strengthen our Communications Committee. We also need to make clearer the avenues for passing on information internally and externally, starting, perhaps, with a clean up of the contact information on the website, making sure all of the contacts are current and that staff are responsive in a timely manner.

Additionally, a work group is currently being formed to encourage Open Houses for each committee, an informal chat in the public room on basecamp where each committee would be available for questions. I think that is a huge step forward in getting information out, but we can go farther still as individuals. I would encourage staff to talk more openly about the work they’re doing in their own spaces, journals, blogs, etc, and invite discussion in those spaces.

As a staffer, I haven’t done a great job of promoting transparency. I admit it, and I believe part of it comes from the area of the organization in which I’ve worked. Fincom is more insulated than other committees from both public interaction and interaction with other committees. We aren’t interdependent in the way International Outreach, Translation and Communications are, for example, and while it doesn’t excuse my own lack of outreach, it is part of the foundation for it. I’m working to turn that around now with simple networking, having a lot of one-on-one conversations with other volunteers, staff, board members and committee chairs to get a fuller view of the state of the organization internally and externally, and I plan to continue doing so through next term and as a board member. I think the single biggest step towards transparency we can take is through building up trust between our leadership to create safe spaces to challenge each other over organizational issues and to be able to reveal those challenges to our membership in a way that doesn’t harm the organization.

Naomi Novik
Response received 19 October 2011 02:58 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 15:00 UTC.

I would really like to do a push to make a review and get our internal wiki publicly visible!

On the whole though, I think the org does a pretty good job putting out information about what we’re doing, and mostly the reality is people who aren’t volunteers are more interested in reading the latest fanfic and don’t really care until something happens that makes them sit up and go hey! And the really important thing is at that point to listen and respond productively.

Betsy Rosenblatt
Response received 19 October 2011 04:44 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 14:10 UTC.

First, I would encourage people to volunteer – but that doesn’t address the question, exactly. As a member of the Legal Committee, I’ve generally worked in favor of transparency by consulting on member inquiries about the organization’s policies and helping to resolve disputes when those policies haven’t been clear; but most of the transparency concerning the Legal Committee involves communicating with the membership (through the blog, newsletter, and such) about what we’re up to, so we can get member input. Overall, the Legal Committee’s interactions with the membership are largely inquiry-based, and it’s true that leads to a pretty low level of transparency. As for creating additional transparency, I think the key is providing windows into what the org is doing and opportunities for member dialog whenever possible – that can be achieved partly through the newsletter, blog, twitter, and the like. I am also a big fan of the Candidate chats and the committee open house chats that have been happening over the last few months, and would encourage regular open house chats featuring Board members as well.

Lucy Pearson
Response received 19 October 2011 14:07 UTC. Added to document 19 October 2011 14:18 UTC.

I have worked really hard at making the OTW more transparent via our Communications team, and I feel really proud of the degree to which I have been able to give insight into the work that has gone into the AO3 in particular (which is the main project I have worked on). I started posting about the Archive in the run-up to Open Beta, letting people know what we were doing and what they could expect from us. Since then, I’ve maintained a regular posting schedule on all aspects of the Archive, talking about the problems as well as the good stuff (for example, I recently did a post on the glut of 502 errors that was plaguing us). I’m especially proud of the work I did tweeting the progress of the new server installation, which let people outside the org get a sense of what was actually going on when the site had this long downtime. For the last two years, I’ve been writing the round-ups of AD&T meetings, building on the great work established by Maia, the AD&T chair before me – I think these are really important for giving a sense of what is going on behind the scenes. I’ve made a strong effort to include information about other teams involved on the Archive in those posts, both because I want the same transparency to apply to them, and because I think that some of the more ‘invisible’ teams, such as tag wranglers, deserve to be highlighted for the amazing efforts they put in. Including those ‘bitesized’ posts from committees who don’t necessarily have a lot of things they want to say is a really low-cost way of making sure their voices are still heard, so it’s something that I would like to explore across the org more generally.

I feel like I have also learnt a lot over the last two years about managing the time invested in communications, balancing the need to keep people informed with the need to keep some stuff private as we figure things out in house, and being responsive to questions and concerns coming from outside the org. I have found Twitter and support requests to the Archive invaluable for the last one; tellingly, support requests often stray beyond the specifics of the AO3, so I would like to establish a regular forum for inviting questions more generally. As a Board member, I would like to post regular updates about Board meetings in the same style as the AD&T updates; I feel that the experience I have gained doing that will be useful in figuring out how to convey the useful stuff while protecting the necessarily private aspects of Board.

Internally, I have also put a lot of work into talking with other committees, forming good relationships and keeping the channels of communication open; as chair I also emailed an internal summary of AD&T meetings to other committees who were affected. Good relationships are one of the key points for in-org transparency, and I think that I have established a good model for that.

I could go on and on about this, because letting people know about what is happening in the OTW is a real passion of mine. But I’ll stop here, and point you to the news posts on the Archive as a concrete example of what I have done so far and what I’d like to achieve for the org as a whole.

OTW 2011 Candidate Statements and Initial Candidate Chat Transcript

The first of our two OTW elections chats was held at 1900 UTC 17 October 2011. We’ve posted a transcript and screenshot for any OTW members or supporters who missed the event and would like to catch up. As we have six candidates for the four seats available in this election, an hour-long chat proved tight! We’ve asked the candidates to answer the questions that were introduced but that went unanswered, and we will post their responses within the next day.

We encourage you to submit questions via our elections webform for the second chat, which will be held 26 October 2011 from 8pm to 9pm UTC (What time is that where I live?) in the OTW public chatroom, accessible at this link: https://fanarchive.campfirenow.com/e79cc.

You can read the transcript or view the screenshot here, on the OTW Elections website.

Also now available are the candidates personal statements — you can read them on the OTW Elections website.