Chat Transcript – August 2, 2020

Marion (Elections)
Hi everyone, and welcome to our second and last candidate chat for 2020!

Today you’ll have the opportunity to observe 3 candidates: Alex Tischer, Jess White, and Kati Eggert.

My name is Marion, and I’ll be hosting the candidate side today. On the audience/open_chat side, your host will be my fellow Elections Committee member erhlloyd.

@erhlloyd, can you wave so everyone can see you?

erhlloyd
Hi all! 👋 I’m Emma, and I’ll be your open_chat moderator today.

Marion (Elections)
Thanks Emma! ❤️

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 Emma 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)

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

Ok, that’s it for the intro! We now welcome your questions for the candidates.

Today we’ll be starting off with a question that was submitted via Q&A but was specifically for only some of the candidates.

This question is for Kati and Jess: 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?

KatiEggert
As volunteers for the Policy & Abuse Committee we have direct contact with Archive users who may be experiencing issues such as racist harassment. We therefore have first-hand knowledge of which parts of the Terms of Service work as intended and how other parts might need to be adjusted. While most of our users follow the Terms of Service or are happy to make corrections when we contact them, a small minority is very creative and effective in getting around the rules in order to do harm. Policy & Abuse Committee volunteers, therefore, have a better understanding of how new features might end up creating new harassment instead of stopping it. This knowledge will be helpful when discussing and implementing further steps to address racism in the OTW’s projects.

Jess White
Hello! I will be able to support the recently announced efforts by continuing to directly work with harassment cases, and provide feedback on how the harassment policy could potentially be changed. I’ve read hundreds of cases on what does and does not meet the definition of harassment, and I feel like my experience with understanding the Terms of Service is pretty well-rounded. After the new features roll out, I imagine there will be a lot more we as an org can do to support users who are still being harassed. If elected, I imagine I’ll jump into the conversations already happening to put into effect some of the feedback the Board got from volunteers on how better to work against racism, or if our volunteers aren’t feeling supported.

Marion (Elections)
And we also have one question specifically for Alex:

What made you decide to run for Board for the second time? Which projects or changes were you not able to put into practice during your first term and what will you do differently during a possible second term?

Alex Tischer
It wasn’t so much specific projects, more that I felt I hadn’t helped iron out all of the kinks I wanted to address yet. We made large improvements in 2016 but I just felt there was more that could be done. I’m not planning to do anything majorly differently, I want to continue and build on my previous work and not change course where it isn’t necessary.

Marion (Elections)
Moving onto our second question, for all candidates: Please share the most positive and negative experience you have had during this election campaign

Alex Tischer
I appear to be cursed to only run in years when there’s a ton of Q&A questions. I would have to say answering what felt like three billions questions, once again, counts as the most negative experience hands down. The questions weren’t bad just So. Many.
The most positive experience is the bonding we did over the billions of questions 😂

Jess White
The most positive experience sounds super cheesy, but it’s been being able to chat with the other candidates as well as see firsthand how the elections process works. After we posted questions there was a general “Whew! One step closer!” commiseration that was nice not to be alone for. The most negative experience is the stress! I’ve learned not to read Twitter. 🙂

Alex Tischer
(This discord is lacking all the important emoji, I have to say)

KatiEggert
The most positive experience would be the support I got from each and everyone in the Organisation, whether volunteers, fellow candidates, Chairs or Board, who patiently answered questions or gave feedback. Even people I rarely or never interacted with went out of their way to help and give support. It is far more difficult to name a negative experience, but it was frustrating to see that some people misunderstood my intentions when writing certain things on my platform or the Q&As. But of course that’s an inevitable part of communication, I know that happens sometimes, I just need to try to be as clear as I can and follow up whenever possible

Marion (Elections)
So glad to see you’ve had such positive experiences with the process. Okay next question, is again for all three candidates: A few candidates in this round have mentioned broadly improving documentation/transparency. Can you give a couple concrete examples of information about the OTW that you’d like to make publicly available if you could (be it on the OTW website, on AO3, etc.)

Alex Tischer
As I said in one Q&A answer https://elections.transformativeworks.org/alex-tischer-2020-qa-otw-communication-and-future/#more-8620, I would love to help Comms make our monthly newsletter more useful and less dry.
But I also have been pushing the option of having a sub-committee page on the OTW website – to provide more in depth information about the committee’s work, their recruitment process and other helpful things – on various committees for a while now and I think a few are starting to give in. (Translation and Finance already have pages up and are my favourites for that reason >.> )
Spoiler: once this chat is over, I will make the first new page 🙂 (for the Support committee).

Jess White
I am not sure what else could be done to improve transparency. We have the FAQs for the TOS, and on News posts questions get directly answered with a very short turnaround, so if someone just has a question in the wild it’s answered for them. I’ve already mentioned that the Translation teams work to then translate everything, so that it reaches as wide an audience as possible. Everything to ‘here’s how to use features’ to ‘ here our our upcoming goals’ is available for anyone who wants to look! I suppose updates on on what committees are doing could be more updated, but that’s one tiny thing. Some things can’t be available- for example, in PAC and other committees there is a very strict confidentiality policy, so it would depend on what information people want available, but I’m very open to hearing other’s input!

KatiEggert
First of all I would like to make more information, regularly updated, about our different committees available on the transformativeworks.org website, including the status of their current projects and why certain features are not feasible or why implementing them can take longer than one might expect. I would also like to implement an opt-in newsletter for our members since a lot of information we provide in news posts gets buried really fast and is not easily searchable. We should also try to incorporate at least some of that information into our websites so it is more accessible long term. Especially for AO3 we could highlight the procedures of our Support and Policy & Abuse Committees and more extensively explain certain parts of the Terms of Service and the FAQs, for example our policy of not allowing commercial activity.

Marion (Elections)
Thanks! Our next question: What do you believe you will enjoy most and what do you think will be the most difficult if/when you get elected?

Alex Tischer
I’m weird, I’m fully aware of that, but I think what I’ll enjoy the most is that I get to fiddle with the details about email filters and workflows that make the work go easily again.
Most difficult will be whatever 2020 decides to throw at us next, I am sure. The next big task is usually the most difficult and only in hindsight do things look easy again.

Jess White
I think I will enjoy working with so many different committees. I tend to hide in my own spaces so it will be a good thing to reach out more. The most difficult will be trying to balance everything with time zones, etc

KatiEggert
The answer for both of that would be “learning about the Organisation”! I am excited to learn more about the projects I have so far not been involved with and get a more bird-eyed view of the Organisation. While I have read my way through the documentation in our internal wiki and have talked to numerous volunteers, Chairs and Board members to prepare for this election, there is still more to learn about the day-to-day work and challenges of each of our committees and how they all interact. That will probably involve a very steep learning curve for new Board members at the beginning of their term.

Marion (Elections)
Thank you all!

Our next question is a tough dilemma. Suppose you could choose which two candidates will join you on the Board of Directors. Which two would you pick and why?

Alex Tischer
First of all, rude. Having to declare a favourite amongst my fellow sufferers.
Second, I would choose Kati and Jess (and not just because they are here and Zoë and Nicole aren’t, I swear >.>)
Kati because we are a very good team to headbutt constantly while still working toward the same goal and Jess because I feel that her long work with PAC (and Kati) will provide invaluable help with the Board’s work.

Jess White
Eeek. Well I think all of them are awesome so this is really difficult!! I would pick Alex because of their experience with the Board, and Nicole who has this awesome and enviable power of getting stuff done. 😅

KatiEggert
I would be happy to work with either Alex, Nicole, Jess or Zoë and think all four of them will bring a unique skill set and would make great additions to the Board!
But if I had to just choose two people I would choose my fellow chat members Jess and Alex!
I have worked closely with Jess during the last 5+ years and not only are our working styles are very complementary but we also have a similar work ethic. I work best when I have people to brainstorm with and Jess has been a great sounding board to bounce ideas around with – even if we not always agree on the best way to solve an issue.
Alex did a great job in rebuilding the Organization in the wake of the disastrous 2015 elections and the years leading up to that and has therefore a wealth of knowledge we other candidates still have to learn! I also very much appreciate Alex’ direct way of communicating -I never have to guess where I stand with them!

Marion (Elections)
I knew you’d all struggle to choose. We have such a talented group of candidates this year.
So next question, what distinguishes you from the other candidates?

Alex Tischer
My hair, obviously.

Ok, fine. I also think I am the most terse of everyone currently running.

Marion (Elections)
Your hair does make you easy to spot in the crowd 🙂

KatiEggert
Alex’s hair is great for making up meeting points at conventions!

I believe it’s my extensive experience in my paid job in project management, especially with cross-functional teams which require a lot of cross-departmental cooperation.

Jess White
My witty repartee? I suppose with teaching I’m good at managing responses that can be a little off-putting

Marion (Elections)
Brilliant. I think your answers lead in nicely to our next question:

Can you give an example of a time when you took initiative to do something that others were reluctant to do (or that no-one else had volunteered for, for whatever reason)?

Alex Tischer
looks at Webs chair hat

Ummmm.

(I took on Webs chairing shortly after being elected on the new Board in late 2015. Nobody else wanted the job and the last chair had disappeared.)

Jess White
Volunteering in PAC. 🙂 We get yelled at a lot by irate users. Within the committee, there are even some tickets that take a very long time to do so people have a crazy backlog already and they sometimes get lost in the shuffle. I try to pick up what I can and just hope people understand that we’re trying !!

KatiEggert
One of my last projects in my paid job did lose a few of our project members shortly before the end (which is not that unusual at the end of projects) but it left us with quite a bit of documentation and other boring clean up tasks which I volunteered to finish.

Marion (Elections)
Well done.

Now a question related to candidate’s Bios&Platforms:

Which goal that your fellow candidates have mentioned in their bio or platform would you also support and want to see realized?

Alex Tischer
I’m with Kati in that I want to work even more on internationalisation than we already do.

Jess White
I would like to work on Volunteer burnout. I think it’s pretty rampant because of all the issues Nicole said. I also agree with (I can’t remember everyone’s specifics, sorry) further supporting underrepresented areas- such as the specific recruitment of Chinese-speaking volunteers- so that we can reach a wider audience.

KatiEggert
Nicole mentioned on her platform that she would like to work on reducing volunteer burnout, which is a goal I also wholeheartedly support. Volunteer retention and burnout is an issue most volunteer organisations struggle with and I agree that there is no simple solution we can implement, but we should try to work out what measures are doable and could help us improve in this regard.

Marion (Elections)
Thanks!

Our next question asks, what OTW project are you least familiar with, and what steps will you take to ensure you give it equal visibility as the one you are most familiar with?

Alex Tischer
I would say that I am fairly familiar with all of them by now. The one I personally use least is TWC and I’m already working with them to provide them more visiblitly in my role as Webs chair.

KatiEggert
Legal Advocacy is the project I am least familiar with. While Legal detail their work extensively on https://www.transformativeworks.org/legal/ it could feature more prominently in dedicated newsposts, in our newsletters or a “Spotlight on Legal Advocacy” post to give an insight into the projects Legal is currently working on.

Jess White
I am, unfortunately the most unfamiliar with Open Doors. I recently started asking one of the volunteers a lot about it because while I know what they do on a general front, I know there has to be a lot going behind the scenes and I’m super curious since they have a direct hand in ensuring that fic on now-defunct fandom-specific archives don’t get lost.

Marion (Elections)
Some great projects/teams mentioned there. Thanks for highlighting them
Our next question 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?

Alex Tischer
I have answered this in the Q&A as well but Board does not do the specific concrete work to make any of those changes. So my priorities are secondary at best.
What I prioritise most is helping AD&T to get their work done because I believe that of all the things we mentioned in the statement from the Board and Chairs https://www.transformativeworks.org/statement-from-the-otw-board-of-directors-chairs-leads/, AD&T’s goals are the most concrete and specific ones.

KatiEggert
As harassment is mostly occurring on the Archive, where we have the most user interactions, my top priorities would all focus on features that will help our users to better curate their experience. This includes a “turn off comments” function as well as a block function. Additionally, I believe a review of our harassment policies should also be a priority.

Jess White
support the current committees involved in examining the TOS with regards to the harassment policy. Try not to dance a jig when the new features roll out, so continue to support AD&T with those efforts!

Marion (Elections)
This is a follow-up question for Kati. It relates to your answer about your work on the Policy & Abuse Committee, but it also might tie into a review of harassment policies. You mention that this experience gives volunteers an idea of what parts of the Terms of Service are not working as intended. Are you willing to elaborate with more specificity on what adjustments you feel would be beneficial to the ToS?

KatiEggert
No, since this would include describing current loopholes. 🙂

Marion (Elections)
oh dear, I think that’s a very good reason not to answer that question in a public forum. Thank you for your discretion on this topic.

Out next question for all candidates, what brought you into fandom, and how has that experience changed you since volunteering?

Alex Tischer
Ok, this is a mean question because I now have to answer with my legal name attached that what brought me into fandom all those years back was porn 😂
What I found along the way was an amazing community of people who are very passionate about their interests and put an amazing amount of unpaid work into making their space a better place.
I don’t know if that changed me but it was definitely an experience.

Jess White
Snooping in my aunt’s room brought me into fandom- I found some zines I probably shouldn’t have been reading when I was twelve or so. There was art too. So when I suddenly had a huge interest in Star Trek, I sincerely doubt she ever knew exactly why I was so interested. 🙂 I still ship it in all its incarnations so I’m not sure it’s changed me. I think figuring out that there are other people who also read and write this (!!) was a big deal.

KatiEggert
I stumbled into organized fandom in the time before the internet when I found an ad for a Star Trek fan club. Over the years, and with the help of the internet, my list of fandom and friends I made at convention grew considerably. I finally joined the OTW as my way to “give back” to fandom. This has given me the chance to acquire even more fandoms and forge even more friendships, a lot of which have even continued offline. Volunteering has shown me what a bunch of people from all around the world can achieve together even with minimal resources – who would have thought that AO3 would ever reach this degree of popularity? However my experiences, especially at the Policy & Abuse Committee, have also made me aware of a lot of drama, wank and harassment that is going on in all corners of the fandom.

Marion (Elections)
Star Trek really is the ultimate gateway fandom!

Jess White
(no Spock hand emoji? oh yep there it is. )

Alex Tischer
(How dare)

KatiEggert
🖖

Jess White
(okay so I don’t use discord very often lol)

Marion (Elections)
oh lovely, I was about to say sorry for not having that emoji. Definitely needed in all fandom spaces!

Our next question, what is something that you wish more people knew about the OTW?

Alex Tischer
I wish more people realised how many volunteers we have and that pretty much all of them were fans first and volunteers second. We’re not a faceless cooperation that doesn’t understand fandom and makes declarations from above, we are part of it and follow the conversations same as everyone else.

Jess White
I wish more people knew that we have SO many people working behind the scenes so that they can do what they want to do!

KatiEggert
Most people I have talked about with at conventions know the AO3 but are not aware that we are actually “6 organisations in a trenchcoat” that are entirely (with the exception of a few contractors) run and staffed by hundreds of volunteers.

Marion (Elections)
“6 organisations in a trenchcoat” — I like that

Next up, 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?

Alex Tischer
I am not good at writing long and involved texts, as you might notice, and so I absolutely need someone on the Board to write these long statements and emails that I can then attempt to trim down to a nice middle ground. I think all of the others would be good at that but I have a feeling Zoë might be best suited for it.

KatiEggert
I’m a very “hands on” person that likes to help concretely solve problems I can see. However as a member of the Board I would need to take a step back and take a role more focused on coordination and communication.

Jess White
I think a personal weakness of mine is saying things in a way that doesn’t immediately misconstrue what I actually mean? So being on board there is a group of people who are involved in making sure no one does so. All of the candidates can do this much better than I going by their responses to all of the Q and A!

Marion (Elections)
Thanks folks

Now an oldie but a goodie. The money tree question! If you had the ability to magically fund any one new thing or initiative, what would it be?

Alex Tischer
I would use the money to set up a working structure so we can have employees and then pay said employees salary with it (and probably the salary for the employees needed to make up that working structure. It’s complicated, ok?)

Jess White
I have been promised a pony for years and I’m still waiting. I agree with Alex, that money would be best used for that and it is tremendously complicated- which I found out after I posted it as part of my platform… but paying certain key people after we put all the financial structures in place would be the best use of that money (unless I get a pony then all bets are off. 🙂 )

KatiEggert
How big is that money tree?

As I have already described in the Q&As (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/kati-eggert-2020-qa-otw-multiculturalism-and-growth/) I would like to look into transitioning into an organisation that includes both paid and volunteer personnel. I personally would prioritise a paid sysadmin in case we are just talking about a medium-sized money tree.

Alex Tischer
( < > instead of brackets, Kati, that stops the preview)

KatiEggert
(I’m not very used to Discord)

Marion (Elections)
That’s okay. Thanks for your responses. Oh if we had a money tree…

This next question is a follow-up to the Q&A about the OTW’s future and is for all candidates. Could the candidates talk about why they do not feel making OTW spaces anti-racist should be a priority in the next iteration of the OTW strategic plan?

Alex Tischer
Because the strategic plan only covers the next three years and being anti-racist should not be a time limited commitment but part of the foundations of an organisation.

Jess White
Exactly what Alex said. Anti-racism is something that can’t be fixed quickly. The time constraints are there not because it’s not a priority but because it takes longer than the SP lays out to address.

KatiEggert
The next iteration of the Strategic Plan is still being worked on at the moment and I expect that to still be the case when the elections are over and the new members join the Board of Directors. I am not up to date on the status of each topic comprised within the current draft of the Strategic Plan, as I am not a member of the committee, but I personally would like to see first steps to solve the issue included and prioritized in the plan.

Marion (Elections)
Thanks all!

Our next question is our last question of the chat. It’s specifically for Kati but also gives Jess and Alex a chance to address any aspects of your Q&As or platform that you want to clear up for voters.

This is a follow-up to the earlier question about positive/negative experiences running, but Kati mentioned folk misunderstanding her platform or Q&A. Are there any particular confusions she’d like to clear up? (rest of candidates feel free to do so also if it applies!)

Edited to add: Apologies to candidates and attendeees this is actually our second to last question. That’s my mistake, I missed one question and huge thanks to everyone who pointed that out.

KatiEggert
No specific ones at this point. I hope further Q&As I’ve answered, as well as this Chat, helped clarify my positions.

Jess White
(I don’t have anything else to add/clarify!)

Alex Tischer
Neither do I

Marion (Elections)
Thanks! I’ve edited my previous post, because I’ve been informed that I missed one question. So sorry about that.

So now to our final FINAL question of the chat. The statement released by the current Board in response to recent discussions about racism mentioned that the OTW is against all discrimination. What does that mean to you?

Alex Tischer
It means that we are against all discrimination, no matter what kind. Not just discrimination on the base of race but also age, caste, gender identitiy, class or anything else. I’ll repeat part of my Q&A answer https://elections.transformativeworks.org/alex-tischer-2020-qa-racism-in-the-otw-and-its-projects/#more-8979 here but current thought is that a good way to combat implicit bias in that regard is discretion elimination which we’re using during our recruitment process and which forms a very important part of being against all discrimination for me.

Jess White
It means that we are against all discrimination, no matter what kind, internally, we need to use the feedback provided to the Board to make sure we’re addressing specific needs and issues and outwardly on projects since it’s almost impossible to agree on one definition of what all people would define as discriminatory, we need to continue to have features in place so that users can block, hide, etc content that they do not want to see.

KatiEggert
On a personal level, it means taking a good hard look at myself and my work and social interactions in the OTW and thinking: am I furthering discrimination in what I’m doing? If the person with whom I’m having this discussion is black, is from a minority in their country, is trans, is neurodivergent, is disabled (the list is not exclusive obviously) — am I doing my part in going out of my way to understand their point of view and including them in the discussion?

The OTW is an extremely plural environment and since many of us use pseudonyms and are only ever visible as usernames with an attached avatar, many differences are largely invisible, which makes discrimination harder to make out. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, and it doesn’t mean that we need to put thought into how discussions should do better.

To give a very small example: this elections chat is held live and requires us to respond quickly and cohesively in English, at length. Some of us aren’t native English speakers, and we still only have a few minutes — and we’ll be judged on our answers. The same is true of many discussions in the OTW, where non-native speakers may barely have time to compose their thoughts adequately while others write long paragraphs. We need to include everyone.

Marion (Elections)
Thanks for your well thought out answers.

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.

And thanks to Emma for modding our open chat today

We’ll have the transcript of this room up on the website within a few days, and the Election will take place on August 14 – 17.

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