Chat Transcript – August 1, 2020

briar_pipe
Hi everyone, and welcome to our first candidate chat for 2020!

Today you’ll have the opportunity to observe 2 candidates: Nicole Abraham and Zoë Tucker.
My name is briar_pipe, and I’ll be hosting the candidate side today. On the audience/open_chat side, your host will be my fellow Elections Committee member disjointed.

DJ, can you wave so everyone can see you?

disjointed
Hi everyone! I’m dj, and I’ll be your open_chat moderator!

briar_pipe
Thanks, DJ! ❤️

A transcript of the candidate side of the chat will be posted publicly on our website. The open_chat transcript will not be posted there, but its transcripts will remain visible until after the election. During the chat, you may see candidates fix their typos; this is to make Elections Staff’s job easier later.

As the candidates discuss each question, audience members can notify disjointed that you have questions for the candidates – either follow-ups or new questions – by raising your hand like this:
o/ (for new questions), or
o// (for follow-ups to the current question)

disjointed will pass me the questions, and I will ask them during appropriate pauses in the conversation between the candidates.

disjointed and I welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:
– Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.
– Refer to everyone in the room by their username in this conversation. Don’t use other names you may know them by.
– Please keep questions reasonable and polite (these are our expectations: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/elections-process-behavior-expectations/).
– Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the platforms (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2020-en/2020-bios-and-platforms/) or the Q&A (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2020-en/2020-qa/). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.
(We know there was a lot of Q&A, so we’ll try to help point you to questions that were already asked and answered.)

Today we’ll be starting off with two questions that were submitted via Q&A but were specifically for only some of the candidates.

This question is for Nicole: If applicable, how do you feel your experience with the Policy & Abuse team will better equip you to act on and support the OTW’s recently announced efforts to work against racism in fandom and within the AO3 as an organisation?

This question is for Zoë: In your platform you said “I am wary of making wider goals for the OTW outside of my own experiences within it”. Could you expand on this a little bit more? Setting goals for the wider organisation is a key role of the board, and I am curious how you will prepare yourself for this role, if you do not currently feel prepared to do so.

Zoë Tucker
Hi! Thanks for your question!

I should have clarified that I meant within the context of the platform and Q&A’s. It is not the Board’s place to set goals for the wider organization without input from its volunteers and members, and the structure of the way candidates answers is such that that input is not going to happen, and I didn’t feel comfortable stating plans as if they had been reviewed by everyone my plans would affect

Nicole Abraham
Hi! Thanks for asking ❤️

My time with the Policy & Abuse Committee (PAC) has given me a more thorough understanding of how harassment occurs on AO3, as well as how we respond to and combat it. One of the goals mentioned in the Statement from the OTW Board of Directors, Chairs, & Leads (https://www.transformativeworks.org/statement-from-the-otw-board-of-directors-chairs-leads/) is reviewing AO3’s current Terms of Service (TOS) to address different types of harassment that are not covered by the current version. This may include expanding the limited protection offered when groups, including people of a specific race or ethnicity, are targeted in places such as the comments, tags, or author’s notes of a work. My knowledge of the TOS and experience implementing it would be incredibly helpful during these discussions and would assist in creating more robust harassment guidelines that can provide additional protection to AO3’s users, including users of color.

briar_pipe
Thank you both!

Our next question is for both of you:

AO3 is often conflated with the OTW as a whole. Can you tell us something you love about one or more of the non-AO3 projects?

Zoë Tucker
I love being able to look up things on Fanlore! There’s often very different meanings for concepts inside and outside of fandom, and Fanlore is good for giving me the fandom meanings xD

Nicole Abraham
There are so many things! I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed getting the chance to read so many of the fics that Open Doors has imported. I especially love that we can keep some of the fanworks around that may have otherwise been lost

Agreeing with Zoë as well though – it’s so interesting reading the fannish history fanlore has saved!

briar_pipe
It’s so hard to choose, isn’t it? 🙂

Nicole Abraham
It really is!

briar_pipe
The next question is also for both of you:

What do you see the OTW board’s role to be?

Zoë Tucker
I think the role of the Board is to be supportive of the goals various committees decide on together for the OTW as a whole, and have more of a multi-committee perspective on the long-term strategy of the OTW as a whole. Individual committees need to be focused on their internal goals, and the Board works on meshing everything together to work smoothly.

Nicole Abraham
I see the OTW Board of Director’s role as more a guiding force. Board is there to support all of our committees and their chairs as they do the work required in improving and maintaining all of our projects. Additionally, Board can help determine more of the big-picture goals of the OTW in collaboration with the Strategic Planning committee.

briar_pipe
And the traditional money tree question makes an appearance! Again, for both of you:

If you had a money tree that would let you fund any one thing regardless of cost, what would your first choice be?

Nicole Abraham
I believe that hiring employees to complete some of the recurring but time-consuming tasks would be an incredibly useful way to spend our money tree money! This would first require setting up a management structure and ensuring we are prepared to handle any payroll and tax considerations – which I talk about in more detail in a Q&A (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/nicole-abraham-2020-qa-otw-multiculturalism-and-growth/). Employees would not only be able to accomplish the tasks they were hired for, they would also free up volunteers to complete additional work that may currently be pushed aside due to personnel limitations.

Zoë Tucker
I want us to have a systems employee that would be paid for their time and stress in needing to be available at all hours to be called if the archive falls over in the middle of their night xD

briar_pipe
I’m sure our volunteer sysadmins would appreciate the sleep!

This question is a follow-up to your points about volunteer burnout in the Q&A: How can OTW help sustain & support volunteers whose first language isn’t English?

Zoë Tucker
Our shared working language is English to be sure, and that’s to make sure we can all talk to each other in our working spaces!! But we definitely have channels where people to each other in their native languages (or in a language they’re learning that is not English). We don’t have any way to make it so everyone can work in their native languages, but we can make the OTW chat platform a welcoming space for socializing in different languages, which should help with making sure people don’t get burned out from trying to communicate in English

Nicole Abraham
One thing that can support any volunteer, including volunteers who are not native English speakers, is to recruit additional volunteers, especially in key positions, so that our current volunteers are not overburdened with current obligations. Additionally, promoting anyone who needs it to take a hiatus can help volunteers take a break before they reach the point of burnout. Additionally, we have many volunteers who speak many languages other than English – even if English is the language used in committee work for most committees, people are always welcome to socialize in any language they wish! We even have specific social channels devoted to speaking in languages other than English 🙂

Zoë Tucker
I know that we have a very lively Chinese chat for instance xD

briar_pipe
Our Chinese volunteers are awesome!

Nicole Abraham
They really are!

briar_pipe
The next question is a follow-up for Q&A:

This is a follow-up to the “what do you want to see prioritized in the OTW strategic plan” question; I’m curious about why neither candidate sees making OTW spaces actively anti-racist (for instance, helping Open Doors reach out to archives maintained by fans of color in the past) as a key priority, especially given how this is a recurrent issue in fandom more generally

Nicole Abraham
I love the idea of supporting Open Doors in importing archives run by fans of color! Generally, we do not reach out to archives for import – however, it would be great to increase the visibility of the Open Doors project so that any fans of color who wish to import an archive to AO3 are aware that it is an option!

I do believe that it is important that we work to make fans of color welcome in OTW projects, and that creating features and policies to support this goal should be a priority. We are currently working on some aspects of this already! The statement from the current Board, which I linked above, has some great examples of things we are already discussing and working towards.

Zoë Tucker
I want to make a distinction within the phrase “OTW spaces”. I do think it’s a priority to make sure our internal work spaces are anti-racist, because I want to make all of our volunteers feel safe and supported, and that includes recognizing race as part of their identity and as something that can make them feel unsafe when it isn’t recognized.

I think looking for way to support POC outside of the org with our projects like Fanlore and Open Doors is an excellent idea and I support the use of our resources to do so!!

The tricky thing comes up when we consider the Archive. We will always be racist in our content, for starters. It contains works written by people in larger fandom, which is racist. And many things that are racist either in their content or in what they systematically don’t contain (i.e. the under-representation ships containing black characters) but don’t actively go after a specific person are within our mission and will be contained on the archive. So then what we can do that is anti-racist comes down to what we can do to protect users during their experience.

For that, I think it’s important to consider side effects of any actions we take, both in terms of things that could happen as a direct result of an action and the opportunity cost of what the OTW could be doing during that time. I don’t consider it an anti-racist action to start enforcing a racism warning if it means the PAC committee doesn’t have time to address individual forms of racist harassment. I don’t think it would be helpful to address anti-blackness by giving harassers another way to go after people by tagging their works as racist without review. My biggest thing that probably comes off as not viewing being anti-racist as a priority is that I think many of the things to do that would be anti-racist on the surface (within the limits of our mission statement) would not actually be an overall benefit to our fans of color, and then would not be an anti-racist action.

I gave up on finding all my typos xD

Nicole Abraham
Definitely seconding that providing more features that allow users to curate their own experiences so that they can more easily avoid content that is harmful to them is an incredibly important step!

Zoë Tucker
Visibility is such a hard and intangible thing, but it’s important to try and make sure that those who can benefit from our projects are aware of the resources available to them
I didn’t really understand bookmark collections until going through this elections process xD

Nicole Abraham
Agreed – I want to make sure that whatever we do, we do it in a way that is both feasible and can make a difference. We need to make sure that anything we implement does good and not accidental harm.

Bookmarks and bookmark collections are the best! Very excited for the upcoming updates.

Zoë Tucker
Implementing a feature that is then used to harass the people it was meant to protect is my nightmare scenario /o\

briar_pipe
Thank you both! I have a follow-up question for that topic:

As a follow-up to the Q&A about racism in the OTW and its projects: in these Q&As, as well as in the OTW statement, many potential changes were suggested. Given constraints on time and on people power, as a Board member, what specific, concrete actions or changes will be your top three priorities on this issue?

(This is similar to the Q&A question “Many fans of color have spoken out about racism and racist harassment in fandom. What specific steps do you propose that the OTW take to tackle racism on its platforms? (such as a diversity report of volunteers, an anti-harassment working group, etc) [merged question]” but asks about trade-offs)

Zoë Tucker
The first thing I want to do is work to make sure that our volunteers of color are more comfortable within our working spaces, since many problems, let alone solutions, will not be visible to those in majority communities within their countries.

I want to make sure we support our coders in implementing ways to make our bookmark collections a more visible and useful tool for our users, since it’s a tool we already have that can be updated with relative ease. It’s a way for people within a community to mark works for each other and create a safe space that cannot be easily invaded, since the moderation can be limited to specific users.

My most controversial thing I want to do is actually to potentially stop enforcing archive warnings xD From what I know, the vast majority of our reported archive warnings are actually not about a work violating the warning system but rather people “reporting” the fact that we have works that are aligned with that warning /o\ . So having warnings be enforced is not currently adding a lot of value to the experiences of our users. And then we could add warnings such as racism or homophobia and let the authors decide for themselves what that means (as is what happens for the vast majority of our works currently) and free up our PAC committee to move more quickly on other types of abuse. Work creators can then be more aware of racism their work might contain. Practically speaking, this would not involve any coding changes to the archive – it would just a backend policy change of no longer enforcing those warnings

Nicole Abraham
Right now, I want to make sure that we can focus on providing more immediate options that fans of color can use to avoid harmful content, such as additional comment moderation options and more bookmark filtering tools in collections. Many proposed changes will take more time and detailed discussion in order to implement, and I would rather quickly give users a more robust but imperfect set of tools than wait until we have discussed all of the potential implications of guidelines updates – because we do need to make sure that those discussions are given the time and thought that they deserve. In addition too implementing comment moderation and bookmark filtering tools, I believe that we should focus on discussing any possible updates to the AO3’s Terms of Service so that we can expand the protections offered against harassment to help provide a space where fans of color feel comfortable and supported.

briar_pipe
Thank y’all both!

This question is also for both of you:

Based on your current roles within the org, what do you believe is a current strength of the Board’s working relationship with individual committees and what do you believe is an area of opportunity?

Zoë Tucker
A current strength of our Board’s relationship with committees is that we’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years of building trust that the Board will not try and make things more difficult for the committees in their work. (Our new chat platform helps with that as well! Also that we have many Board members that are in other committees.) I think now that we have built up our trust in Board some, they may have an opportunity to be more proactive in suggestions since better connections means both that Board members are more likely to know what actions would be helpful and are more likely to have those suggestions received in a supportive sprit.

Nicole Abraham
One thing that I love about the OTW is that the Board often tends to be fairly active in social channels, which has helped volunteers build relationships with the current board of directors. This has transferred over to our working relationships as well, the Board is very approachable internally. One thing I do wish was more prevalent was the documentation kept by the Board of Directors – people are often confused what the role of the Board is, and I would love to make this clearer to both our volunteers and our userbase.

briar_pipe
Thank you!

Now to get more personal about your qualifications:

Name a skill or trait that you believe is important to have in the Board, but that is a personal weakness of yours. Which other candidate do you think would make up for this weakness with their strengths?

Zoë Tucker
As I mentioned in my last Q&A response, I think my biggest weakness is making sure that my projects are moving along and not languishing in “but what if I did this other thing also” or “it’s only been a day” (when it has not just been a day) doom spirals. I think any candidate could help me with that but that Alex in particular would keep me in line xD

briar_pipe
Alex would keep anyone in line >.>

Nicole Abraham
Something that I have struggled with before is getting overexcited and wanting to do additional things for a project, instead of working to make sure that we get something workable out before discussing or adding additional options. I’m agreeing with Zoë here – any candidate would be helpful here, but Alex is especially great when keeping on task.

briar_pipe
Understandable! Also for both of you:

What is your favourite thing about volunteering for the OTW? And what do you find most frustrating?

Zoë Tucker
My favorite thing is the people and the most frustrating thing is the people xD I have overlapping groups of people invested in my needlework projects, plants, and cats, and I love being a part of this community! But it can also be hard to get things done when we have to account for everyone’s schedule and preferences when planning to get things done. Time zones in particular are tricky – it would all be much easier if we were androids who didn’t need to sleep!

Nicole Abraham
Only one? There are so many! Definitely the community of friends that I’ve found, I met so many people I will value for the rest of my life through volunteering in the OTW. The most frustrating thing is occasionally how long some projects take to complete – However, much of this is due to the limited workforce we have. Reducing burnout and recruiting additional volunteers for key and overburdened positions would be incredibly helpful here, something I would prioritize as a member of the Board!

Zoë Tucker
(Nicole and I are penpals!!!! Would never have met her without the org xD)

Nicole Abraham
(I also wish I didn’t need sleep!)

briar_pipe
Aw!

So while we’re sharing, what is something you wish more people knew about the OTW?

Nicole Abraham
One thing I wish was that more people were aware of projects other than AO3. We do so many other wonderful things that are often ignored in favor of the Archive! I’d love the chance to increase their visibility.

Zoë Tucker
I wish more people knew that we were 900 people in a raincoat! I also want people to know that we have about 250 members in our translation committees that are from all around the world, not even counting those in our other committees! I want people to know that Tag Wrangling decisions (and also all the ones the OTW makes) are not made by soulless robots but by fannish peeps that happen to be in the OTW xD

Nicole Abraham
100%, the OTW has always been run by fans, for the fannish community, a value we were founded on and that I absolutely love.

Zoë Tucker
Nicole said it much better than me 😛
briar_pipe
I am definitely 1/900th of a person in a trenchcoat 🙂

Nicole Abraham
😘

Oh same – it’s a very nice trenchcoat too!

briar_pipe
It has pockets!

Next question: What do you think makes you unique as a candidate?

Nicole Abraham
One experience that I makes me unique is my experience as a member of the Development & Membership Committee. This has given me a lot of insight into some of the financial aspects of how the OTW is run, something that I think would be incredibly valuable for promoting long term stability and financial planning while on the Board of Directors.

Zoë Tucker
I really like getting to know lots of types of different people! Although I think that’s true of a lot of us, I work hard to try and make sure I’m approachable to someone who might not normally feel comfortable talking to OTW leadership

briar_pipe
Thank you!

Our last question of the day goes back to an earlier topic.

in dealing with racism on the archive, you’ve mentioned user/reader tools to curate their experience. Would you ever consider work rules, such as not allowing hate speech or other harmful content?

(This is similar but not identical to a Q&A question that talked about works based on particular media.)

Zoë Tucker
I would prefer not to go down that route in our approach to combat racism, because while of course there are edge cases that would be obviously hate speech, there’s a large gray area and I don’t want to subject our PAC committee to trying to work through more of those and defining what is or is not harassment towards a larger community/hate speech/racism in the liminal spaces of fannish works. Many things that people think of as harmful content to exist, like underage sex, real person fiction, or even slash depending on whom you ask, will continue to be hosted on our archive as part of our mission statement, and I think it is easier to maintain clarity on that stance as long as we work to only prevent posted works that could cause us legal issues as a non-profit.

Nicole Abraham
The OTW’s mission has always been for the protection of fanworks and fannish history. This sometimes includes archiving things that, as AO3’s Terms of Service states, are “offensive…awful, repugnant, or badly spelled.” Because of that, I do not believe that we should ban fanworks that contain potentially harmful content, as long as they abide by our TOS. That is why I think that curation tools are so incredibly important – they give fans who do not want to see such content the option to avoid it. This does not, however, mean that I believe that content that directly harasses users should be allowed. The Policy & Abuse Committee works hard to combat any reported harassment, and I fully support the creation and implementation of tools, such as additional comment moderation, that can help prevent any future harassment.

briar_pipe
That’s all the questions we have for today!

Thank you to our audience for being so supportive and for submitting questions! ❤️ Thank you also to our candidates for your flexibility in scheduling that allowed us to hold this chat.
Thanks to disjointed, for modding. 🙂

Nicole Abraham
Thanks to you as well for modding, briar_pipe!

briar_pipe
Aw, thank you!

We’ll have the transcript of this room up on the website within a few days, and there will be a second chat with 3 other candidates in about 34 hours.

Have a great day, everyone!

Zoë Tucker
Thank you briar, thank you disjointed!

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