Daniel Lamson

Daniel Lamson was a candidate for the 2015 election. For more information, see Daniel Lamson’s Bio & Manifesto. On September 27, Daniel withdrew his candidacy. You can read more at the post Withdrawal of Candidate Dan Lamson.

Daniel answered the following Q&A questions before withdrawing:

Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Transparency

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

A number of candidates cited the issue of Board transparency in their manifestos. What does a transparent Board look like to you, and what specific steps would you take to ensure the Board you serve on is a transparent Board? / Many candidates talked about the need for transparency for the board to volunteers/members. What does your vision for transparency entail?

I think sometimes, board seems secretive. They do have issues of confidentiality sometimes which makes things difficult to talk about. One thing I would do would be sure that it was known that my inbox was always open, both my personal as well as my board account. I’d always be happy to chat with anyone too, and answer questions. I believe in clear lines of communication between board and everyone else. I won’t hide anything other than what is confidential for legal or policy reasons.

Due to legal reasons, internal transcripts of meetings are purged every year. However with a lack of consistent and comprehensive information posted to internal and external locations, details of Org interactions can be lost to the abyss. This leaves voters with a dearth of details when attempting to learn about the Org, and in this situation, candidates. What internal remedies would you suggest? And what would you suggest voters do in the mean time in lieu of relying on the rumor mill (FFA & emails) and digging through various social media sites?

Well, this year we’re in the good position of having our candidates answer sixty questions on many topics. That will help fill in the blanks on some of us, I hope. We will also be having some live chats with different candidates, which will allow us to speak to you one on one. For myself, if you have any questions you wish to ask privately, you are welcome to contact me and I would be more than happy to talk to you.

I do hope the chats show people more about the candidates and how they react in real situations, as opposed to answering these questions or manifestos in private and their own time.

The current Board has had frequent issues keeping an available agenda for their weekly meetings, which were often cancelled or cut short due to lack of quorum or matters to discuss. What do you think the purpose of open Board meetings is, and what would you change about the current setup?

I think open board is there so people have a chance to speak with the board in a public setting. Some of what board has to do can’t be done or discussed in a public setting, so they need to do it elsewhere. Further, one of the things I love about the OTW is how international we are. I believe our current board members live in 4 or 5 times zones, spread out over vast distances. It’s hard to schedule meetings with that setup, but there is always room for improvement.

I do like how board meeting times fluctuate a bit so people in various time zones can have access to it. Consistency is good but I would rather be accessible for others.

Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Committee Management

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

Many committees in the OTW, particularly those associated with the Archive, struggle with huge amounts of work combined with difficulties retaining active staff. What do you think is the Board’s role in remedying this problem?

That is a good question, and one that all committees face with the OTW’s high turnover rate. I think the best thing that the board can do is being opening and accepting of all staffers and do their utmost to make volunteers feel both welcome and at home in the org. Board shouldn’t be an active participant in committee recruitment or retention directly, that is something best left to the committees who know much better about the day-to-day operations under their purview. However, it is the duty of the board to make sure the organization is a comfortable space for all staffers, and to encourage their personal growth and daily endeavors.

If a committee needs help from board in this manner, then they could surely ask for it, and if it is possible then the board should step in to help. I am not sure how this could work in practice though, because generally the staffers who leave (in my experience) seem to just ignore emails and meetings for a few weeks, the chair pokes them and they say they are too busy to continue on as staff and resign. (Or they don’t respond at all.) I imagine a lot of this activity comes from the fact that actually being on staff is different from their expectations and they don’t like it. There’s not really a way to prevent that from a board perspective, but as a board member and committee chair, if someone found a way, I’d certainly help them implement it.

If an OTW committee fell apart and the chair, now alone, asked you for advice on how to rebuild it, what would you tell them?

This is a very open question and we have a 300 word limit. Committees, unfortunately, fall apart from time to time. There are various reasons for why and how it happens. As a board member, I would step up to help them in any way I could. There are certainly areas I have no experience in and may not be helpful in the essential running of certain committees. However, I would work with them as they rebuild the committee, helping them recruit from (at first) current staffers who may be interested and experienced, and then open recruiting. Recruitment at the org is a very large and time consuming experience, however it allows us to work with many amazing volunteers. I couldn’t imagine doing it alone, so I would make sure that the surviving chair has all the help they need. Basically, I’d be there to support the chair anyway I could. Since these situations are all different, it’s very hard to give specifics.

A number of you have expressed a desire to support the OTW’s committees and ensure they have the resources they need. However, the OTW is a volunteer-run and donation-funded organisation, and resources are finite. Please help me understand what factors you would take into account when prioritising the allocation of resources.

The OTW is very lucky to have amazing donors and supporters. When the org first started it was tiny, like make organizations. The resources there were truly stretched thin and everything was run on a shoestring budget. As we’ve grown, so have our resources. As an organization, we have more funds on hand these days and can deal with things with more liberal applications of cash.

That said, prioritization is always important. If there is an emergency and funding is needs or a project could be forced to shut down, that would be a high priority. If there was something time sensitive that if not addressed quickly would cause a major inconvenience that would also be near the top. If an expense would fix a major problem that the committee has, and would make their lives better or easier, that would be a priority.

Generally, I would like to increase the speed at which board responds to all issues, yea or nay. There’s not much worse than waiting for an answer from the board on an issue, it’s that uncertainty that always bugs me personally. I’d rather have a nope then a really long wait. Basically, if a committee said they needed something, and it seemed reasonable and not excessive, and we had the money (which we often do, these days) I don’t see a reason why I’d not support it. The Committees know what they need and I trust the other chairs’ judgment in these things.

Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Other Questions, Group 2

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

Can you say something positive about three of your fellow candidates?

Very easily.

Matty – is getting my first vote. She is an amazing worker and has done awe-inspiring work everywhere she’s gone in the org. She was the chair I served under when I was on the Abuse Committee and she was a joy to work for. If anyone deserves to be elected to board, it’s her.

Aline – I haven’t known her long, but she has served as the Translation/DevMem liaison. In the last few months she’s been coming to our meetings, offering ideas not just on translation stuff but also great stuff for the regular work of DevMem. She’s been an asset to have on the committee and I wish her all the best in this election.

sanders – I got to know sanders over a year ago when she was treasurer for the org. We both liked talking about numbers and started talking. She’s been a good friend and while we may not always agree on org stuff, I trust she has the org’s best interests in heart.

Also—I haven’t worked as closely with the others but they are all are great candidates! Several people have said to me that it will be difficult to figure out where to rank everyone. No matter who wins, I am sure they will be a great help to the org going forward, and I wish them all well.

A lot of the current problems seem to come back to a lack of scalability, especially with the massive growth of the Archive. A) What are your short-term plans to make this growth spurt work, B) What are your long term plans to avoid this problem in the future, when there’s another massive increase (of traffic, users, and/or fanworks etc.), a.k.a what structural changes would you strive for to make the OTW, and especially the Archive more sustainable.

Keep the archive, the archive. That’s my basic thought on the matter. The archive does what it does very, very well. Growth is good, and can be planned for and readied for. It’s a logical assumption that the OTW (and also AO3) will keep growing. It will be a challenge to figure out how we can keep the spirit of the organization while experience rapid growth.

Imagine it like a small town, all of a sudden, there’s a huge stream of growth and the town can either sprawl outwards and have its character forever changed or it can manage that growth.

I think we can keep the archive and the OTW’s atmosphere and appeal without sacrificing growth and change. It will take careful planning and working hard with relevant committees, but I believe we can do it.

Whenever internationalisation is brought up in relation to fandom, I often hear the argument that it’s not needed yet, since there isn’t an “insert country/language/non-English fandom” presence in the OTW/on the Archive. Personally I feel like this is a chicken/egg situation. Is the OTW/AO3 so American/English language focussed because there isn’t enough of a non-English fandom interest, or is there no interest because there’s not enough non-American/English accommodation?

A) Where do you fall on this? What should come first?

B) If the next growth spurt is of a non-English, different fandom culture nature, how will you accommodate that?

This is a very interesting question, and a valid one. I do not know much about the technical side of the Archive, but I do think that we are ready and able to welcome and accept non-English/American fandoms and fans en masse. I do not see it as a problem, or something to be concerned about. I think it would be amazing and lovely. I would want to encourage the growth of the fandom, making them as comfortable as our current fandoms are.

As to why (American English speaker, here) it is so English, I am not sure. I think there are sites for various non-English fandoms and fanworks out there. Perhaps they haven’t had the same tumultuous history that English fandom had with the purges of LJ and FFN, etc.

I am not sure what kind of alternate means of accommodation would be needed, but that is mostly my ignorance. There are things that could be great, different language landing page on AO3. That sort of thing, to make them feel more welcome. I’m sure there’s a ton of other stuff, and I’d love to talk about it more and learn more about this issue.

Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Conflict Resolution, Group 2

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

According to the 2014 Strategic Planning retreat summary, Board has difficulty “recognizing the positive aspects of people they have had complex relationships with”. Do you believe this is a current problem in the OTW? What do you think can be done to create a more professional environment?

First off, I don’t necessarily believe that you need to see the positive aspects of people to be a professional and work with them. In real life, I deal with all sorts of people I may not like, but can work with them fine. I tend to try to look for the best in people, but am not always successful, it can be hard.

I think the bigger issue here is making things personal. As I said in a previous answer, making things personal is a bad idea. We can agree to disagree, and do it disagreeably. I am not in any way the kind of person who would make someone do it my way or else. I want what is best for the org, if my vision does not mesh with yours, tell me why and there’s a real chance you could win me over. I think open discussion and the free flow of ideas can accomplish a lot in a professional environment.

So to sum it up, I think we can all be patient with each other, work together and be grownups and that will really help the org be professional. This goes both ways though, org staffers have treat others as they want to be treated. Without this thought in mind, some people can be pretty mean.

Several of the Board’s minutes for their closed sessions this year had items like this: “Discussion of how to proceed in a complaint against a staffer.” Under what circumstances do you think it appropriate for the Board to file complaints against individual staffers? Do you foresee any potential problems or conflicts of interest with regards to something like this?

Board members are elected to serve the organization here. Being elected doesn’t mean they have to take abuse from staffers or volunteers. If a staff member is behaving in a way unbecoming of them–being abusive or harassing a board member, the board member has just as much right as anyone else to do something about it, through channels. If the reasons were less than professional, then I would say they do not have a right to make or file a complaint, but if a staffer can file a just grievance for an offense against another staffer, then I think that board members should be able to do the same.

I do not foresee any situation where there will be a conflict of interest for me. I have never had any CCAP issues personally or nor to my knowledge have any members of my staff while I have been a chair or co-chair.

The Board has retained an outside lawyer on a pro bono basis to advise them on various issues, including the involuntary removal of volunteers from the Org. What impact do you think this decision has had on the Org’s culture? Do you believe this is a useful tool for conflict management? Under what circumstances do you think external legal counsel specifically retained by and for the Board alone, in opposition to other volunteers in the Org, might be an appropriate step to take?

I don’t see a problem with an outside lawyer. I am not sure it has had a noticeable impact on org culture. I have not seen or heard of one, at any rate. Non-profits and big companies alike do this kind of thing all the time. Outside counsel is brought in, generally at the request of the organization in questions legal team. Our Legal Committee asked for this to happen because no one on our legal team shared the outside counsel’s specific expertise with nonprofit law. Lawyers specialize in various fields and our lawyers are awesome at what they do but we don’t have one of every type. Further, bringing in outside counsel is a best practice. If you have any questions about this, I would refer you to the org’s legal team who could explain it in much better detail.

I think characterizing this use of outside counsel as being used by the board against staff is disingenuous. To my knowledge this attorney was brought in to deal with a complex tax issue that no one else in the org could answer. Also–the fact it was pro bono is really cool–it was probably going to be a big bill otherwise!

There have been repeated complaints about the behavior of Directors toward staff and volunteers who have expressed that they have no avenue for addressing this sort of behavior. While Directors may now remove each other, most of these reports indicate that the rest of the Board was either dismissive of the concerns or actually supported the abusive actions of their colleagues. What are your feelings about exploring and instituting a process by which a requisite number of chairs, staff, and/or volunteers can call for a vote of the membership to consider the removal of a Director who has engaged in unprofessional conduct, abusive behavior, or otherwise violated the organization’s Code of Conduct?

I support this proposition wholeheartedly. I am a fan of both accountability and also freedom of choice. Recall is a common form of action in many governments. It would be a complicated issue for us to tackle, but I feel it should not be limited to only chairs, staff and volunteers. I would like to see us able to give voice to the members on whole somehow, so if the members feel the organization is not treating them well or fairly, they can also take action. (Perhaps members could initiate a vote of chairs or some other mechanism to give them voice?) I foresee this as being a multi-stage discussion with a framework founded on a path for chairs, staff and volunteers first, but potentially growing if we can find a way.

I am not sure how the situation would work at all, but I think we could work something out as an organization that will give voice to those board works for. An aside: I would like to think that if there was a situation with board members(s) behaving in unprofessionalism, abusive behavior, code of conduct violating activities or some other egregious activity, that other board members would take action and remove them. The staff/member action would need to have a threshold to meet, to protect unpopular board members being removed because of personality issues.

Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Election Process

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

After a few years of uncontested elections (including one which garnered 0 candidates initially), there are now more candidates than ever before for the smallest number of seats ever up for election. To what do you attribute this sudden surge of candidates, and what would you do during your time on the Board to promote consistent contested elections for Board seats?

First off, I want to say that I love that the election is contested! I think it is a great testament to how the org has grown. I see it as a very good thing that more people are interested in the direction the organization is going.

I would love to see every election contested. I think it brings out good discussion and new or takes on things and new ideas to the forefront. This year, I think we have more candidates than ever because there is some distrust between staffers and board. I’m sorry that it is the case, and I am sure board is not as evil as is sometimes assumed. But people are upset this year. What do we want the OTW to be and how do we want it to work? There seems to be differing opinions here, and I think this is the crux of why there are so many more people running this year than normal.

While the current election process is more independent than it was in previous years, it is still subject to some decisions made by the Board, which can be passed at any time without input from volunteers. It’s possible for the Board to even change the rules while an election is in progress to exclude some candidates or voters or to punish volunteers for visibly participating in the process. If elected, how would you ensure that each future election is unaffected by interests within the sitting Board?

Is it possible? I am not sure. I imagine the next few weeks will determine several of these things. (I am writing this answer early on September 25.) I do not believe that board should influence the elections or the change the process mid-election. I believe all qualified candidates interested in running should be eligible, based on the eligibility requirements of the day they registered to run for board. I think there could, in future elections, be a mechanism to remove a disruptive/abusive candidate, but at this time, removing someone after they’ve registered and qualified is not something I would advocate were I on board.

I know everyone in the org doesn’t always get along. I hope this kind of excluding people for running for board, or attacking them does not become the norm. It is not something that should happen, and frankly makes the org look bad. I am not sure there is anything one board member could do to stop it, as you need a majority to get things done. But I can say right now, that I would not attempt to tamper with an ongoing election in this or any way if I am elected. When there is no election going on, that is the time to change the rules and perhaps clarify things to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. I would support such measures.

What do you think about the fact that two changes to the bylaws (reduction in size of board from seven to nine [sic], and the ability of two-thirds of the board to vote off another member with or without cause) means the board could dilute the election process? Effectively, the standing board could vote off any candidate who wins and with whom they disagree until they reach a candidate of whom they approve. Are you concerned about this?

I am not sure what to make of the none to seven change. Perhaps it was a logical thing to do, since there has never been so many people running for election as there are this year. I know some years it has been hard to find candidates to fill empty seats. I do not think there was anything illegal or underhanded about the change. The current board functions more as an executive committee than a traditional board, and the larger executive committees are, the harder it is for things to get done.

As to the board voting people off, I discussed in conflict resolution answers, I feel that there needs to be a way to get abusive or bad board members off the board. The way it stood prior to this change was they could serve the full term being as bad of a person as they wanted. Now, I do not think this is something that should be used lightly or often. It should be only for egregious violations of the code of conduct. This should not be a response to remove someone because they are not who board wanted elected. And I don’t think any board would do this. I kind of see this as impeachment like they have in the US. It’s been used a few times, sometimes justly and successfully, but often it just makes the users look bad, and accomplishes nothing. I would not use this power lightly, but if there was a board member who was acting in a way unbecoming of an OTW board member, and would not change or resign on their own, I would be happy to have it.