Chat Transcript – July 20, 2021

[​​Note: All questions from members and candidate responses appear in the form they were submitted and represent only the views of the individual who wrote them. Questions and responses are not endorsed by the Organization for Transformative Works.]

Marion McGowan
Hi everyone, and welcome to our first candidate chat for 2021!

Today you’ll have the opportunity to observe 2 candidates: Antonius and Laure.

My name is Marion, and I’ll be hosting the candidate’s side today. On the audience/open_chat side, your host will be my fellow Elections Committee member briar_pipe. briar_pipe, can you wave so everyone can see you?

briar_pipe
o/

Marion McGowan
Thanks, briar_pipe! 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 Volunteers’ job easier later.

As the candidates discuss each question, audience members can notify briar_pipe 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) briar_pipe will pass me the questions, and I will ask them during appropriate pauses in the conversation between the candidates. briar_pipe 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, as well as under 50 words (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/2021-en/2021-bios-and-platforms/) or the Q&A (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2021-en/2021-qa/). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.

We have our first question for both candidates: If elected, what element of Board work (or generally being on Board) are you most looking forward to, and what do you think will be most difficult?

Laure
Hello! 😀

What I’m most looking for is to learn more about the other committees work, and to get to know better the chairs I haven’t met much yet!

Antonius Melisse
I am greatly looking forward to helping consider solutions to some of the issues our Organization has to deal with and researching and discussing these with other Board members to keep things sustainable and where possible, improved.

What I think will be most difficult… hrm. I’m inherently a very direct person, and as a Board member, I’ll need to be diplomatic, so that’s something I might need to pay attention to. 😀

Laure
For the difficult side, I know I can have trouble with long term projects. But that’s mostly when I’m on my own, when working in a team and having others to discuss progress, I’m doing much better. And I know I would be well supported by other board members and otw colleagues.

I would help you with the diplomacy, and you’d help me with the directness. XD

Marion McGowan
Thanks so much for your answers!

Our next question is: Can you tell us something that you’ve learned in your OTW experience so far that you think will be particularly helpful when working as a board member?

Laure
Well, volunteering as a volunteer manager for the Translation committee has allowed me to cooperate with several other committees, and also with colleagues who’ve been in the otw much longer than I’ve been.

So I’d say I’ve learned that each committee has its own way to function, and so that needs to be taken into account when working with them!

Antonius Melisse
I have been a volunteer for quite a few years at this point, so I’ve learned a lot. Some of the things I think may be particularly helpful as a Board member are, in no particular order: Running or coordinating big projects inside a language team or committee; cooperating with other committees; like I said in response to one of the Q&A questions, planning things over multiple time zones :. Most important thing towards the future in my eyes is cooperation between the committees to keep our projects moving forward, so already having a headstart on these things feels like a good thing to me.

Laure
The multiple time zone management is so handy to master yes!

Marion McGowan
Thank you both! We have a follow up question related to your answers: You both talked about coordination across multiple committees and time zones. What are some other unique challenges and strengths you’ve noticed about the OTW in the course of your volunteer work?

Laure
A strength I’ve discussed with several people outside the OTW is the fact that we’re mostly all very used to working remotely, almost entirely by written chat, with people from a lot of different places and backgrounds 😀

I’ve had incredulous reactions that were funny, like… but how do you get to know people of your team? And in my head I go “we’re geeks, Carole”.

Antonius Melisse
A big strength is that the fact that our volunteers come from all over the world brings a lot of cultural diversity, which helps have multiple viewpoints on issues, and we can have an open discussion about many of these. A challenge, mostly when it comes to the committees is that sometimes, one committee will not know much about how another committee does things, just that they do it, and this can lead to unrealistic expectations when it comes to timeframes and the like, so this is something I have mentioned before I’d like to focus on improving.

Laure
All the viewpoints!

And totally agreed on the challenge of cross-committees work, there’s place for improvement. And the distance can be an obstacle on this. Another thing that I try to stay aware of, and that can be challenging, is the fact that we can be a bit in an OTW bubble. So I’d also like to work on that, to stay open to external feedback and to action it when possible.

Marion McGowan
Our next question is: The OTW has had problems before with Board members becoming somewhat isolated from other volunteers and making decisions that were perceived by some as being out of touch. How do you plan on keeping in touch with your fellow volunteers throughout your Board term, if you’re elected?

Antonius Melisse
Like I stated in my platform, I fully intend to remain a volunteer manager for Translation, which should help somewhat to prevent me from becoming isolated. Other than that, I currently share social spaces with at least several other volunteers, and fully intend to keep doing so (Including some fellow nerds I play D&D with, and some other lovely volunteers who are close friends of mine that I plan on meeting again once Covid rules permit).

Laure
When I first joined the otw as a translator, I was shyyyy and so I didn’t really dare interact by chat much. Then I joined the managing team, got pushed (gently) into a cat pictures chat, and started to interact with other volunteers more and more.

I’m also of course staying in the Translation committee as a manager (and therefore have more than 200 volunteers I send at least emails to regularly XD), and I don’t plan on stopping sending cat pics and chatting about video games, and getting storytimes with senior volunteers of the very old times of 10 years ago in the otw 😀

Marion McGowan
Thanks! Your answers actually lead us nicely to our next question: Due to the nature of OTW workspace being a very social place, you have likely interacted with other candidates or Board members in a purely social context and interesting fandom/non-fandom discussions. Do you see this as an advantage or disadvantage to your future working together in a more professional capacity?

Laure
Interesting question, that is relevant in any work space! I’ve often been warned about keeping things extra professional with colleagues at work. And honestly, it’s sometimes a good idea, and I’ve mostly done that. But I’ve also worked in very casual and geek spaces before, were I made great friends of my colleagues by discussing the wildest things XD

Antonius Melisse
I think this is advantage, honestly. Given that we’ve interacted in a social fashion before, it’s much easier to cooperate on solving issues, rather than getting muddied down in a discussion. In the particular case of Laure and me, we already have social interactions AND work together on a professional footing as well, and we work well together, I feel 😀

Laure
So I’m applying this in the otw too. Staying professional and working well together isn’t a problem at all for me with people I also have personal interactions with 😀 I also think it’s even better for me, as I feel like we’re a stronger team for being connected, even if it’s not a requirement either ^^
Yees, we’ve been working together for 2 years now!!

It’s been going great, and I think we’ve learned from each other (and not only about music groups and dnd XD)

Antonius Melisse
Yep, we’re very different personalities, and that helps us step up to fill the gaps when we work together, as it were.

Laure
Yep, with me adding “!!” and you removing the extra ones (as too many exclamation points are the sign of madness, as Terry Pratchett said )

Marion McGowan
Thanks so much for your answers! Our next question is the money tree question (with a twist): If you had access to a tree that gives you infinite money, what three things in order would you spend it on (of any magnitude) and why would you choose those things in that order?

Laure
Infinite

The first thing would be worldwide universal basic income (it works because OTW volunteers are included, right?)

Second thing, not sure how well money can buy it, but an organisation wide audit of how we handle… everything? And then actionable advice.

The last thing would have been like…. A super computer for all the volunteers, but they can buy it with their great income I just asked the magic tree. So let’s buy lots of new servers!

Antonius Melisse
Hm. Well, instead of our current servers, we could have an OTW server park, so hosting more forms of content ourselves would definitely be possible. We could probably strengthen our Legal committee by just hiring lawyers as we could use them, for all the countries we have users. And lastly, we can probably give out free cookies to all our users and volunteers.

Laure
Can we each have a money tree, I like that too XD

Antonius Melisse
I mean, the tree has infinite money already, two times infinite is still infinite, so would it make a difference?

Marion McGowan
Thank you both! We have a follow-up question, and a different twist on the money tree question: If, instead of infinite money, you were given infinite volunteers and told that you could allocate them across the OTW and be assured that whichever committee/position you placed them in they’d have the time, skills, etc to do their jobs successfully, where would you put them/how would you distribute them? (doesn’t have to be all the same committee, doesn’t have to be an existing position either)

Laure
Infinite is too much. XD But alright, with the right skills and time, creating several audit teams to review different fields of expertise. More volunteers in every committee to help train the infinite volunteers. And then, volunteer programmers to develop more AO3 features. And server maintenance volunteers, to help with the infinite servers we bought.

Antonius Melisse
Hm, I think this is a tough question. Currently, it’s up to the committees when they recruit, and how many and which people they recruit. So I’d probably just let the infinite potential volunteers go through the normal recruitment processes for these committees and see where they end up. It’s easy to say to just put them in the places with the highest workload, but I don’t think infinite human resources is always the best solution to that workload either. I’d love to see a language team for every language in the world in Translation, plenty of people in PAC and Support to stay on top of their tickets, enough people in AD&T, Systems and Webs to take care of the technical sides of our projects, and as I mentioned in the Q&A, I think a new committee might be good to deal with internal volunteer complaints. But all our committees are important atm, so it’s not easy to say one should get more people than another.

Laure
But yes agreed that more volunteers and/or more money is often not the whole solution :s

Marion McGowan
Thank you! Our next question is for both candidates: In Antonius’ answers, he wrote: “I learned that there are very few horrible things that a small minority of trolls won’t figure out how to weaponize against others, particularly fans of color.” In light of this, what specific steps can the Board take to be proactive, instead of merely responsive to feedback, in combating racism in OTW spaces?

Laure
For me the first step towards combating racism as a board member, and within the constraints of OTW/AO3, is to stay informed and aware of how it’s happening and evolving.

Other steps are to strive towards more/better features on AO3 to help users access what they want, and avoid what they don’t want.

I’d be also very keen on learning more about how our Policy and Abuse committee works, and supporting them however possible to tackle those difficult topics.

I’ve also been thinking about the idea of bringing an external consultant to help us with that, but I honestly don’t know how feasible this would be and if it would yield results. That would need a lot of discussing.

Antonius Melisse
Current Board has already stepped up in this regard — they’re working on updating the Terms of Service in cooperation with Legal and Policy & Abuse, so the latter has better guidelines to deal with racism when it crops up. However, since Policy & Abuse only has a mandate to look into things when they get a report in a ticket (and we don’t plan to change that, since we don’t moderate our content), it’s hard to use them to be proactive against this sort of behaviour in profiles, comments or works. Like I mentioned before, I think it’s important we create a new committee to deal with internal volunteer complaints, including racism, so we improve things there as well. Other than that, I feel we need to look into getting external advise on how we can continue to work on improving matters for users and volunteers of colour towards the future.

Marion McGowan
Our next question is for Laure, and is a follow up to her money tree answer: Why are you keen to employ auditing across the OTW? Antonius, you can answer as well if you have thoughts or want to discuss anything related to this.

Laure
I think it could be interesting to have an outside eye have a look at how we’re organised, and potentially have improvements that we wouldn’t have thought about pointed out to us.

But on the scale the money tree would allow is outside of reality of course, and we already have internally people who are very good at improving processes and creating new ones!

Antonius Melisse
From my personal experience, an audit can lead to a clear outside view on what is going well and what is going less well in a typical organization or work environment, so I concur with Laure that there might be merits to one.

Laure
I’m forever impressed with the processes and documentation we have in the Translation committee, starting to work as a volunteer manager was the smoothest work onboarding I ever got XDD

Marion McGowan
Thank you for clarifying Laure, and thanks for answering Antonius. We have another follow-up for Laure: What kinds of features do you envision when you talk about features that might help users avoid unwanted content on the AO3 and other problems? Again, all candidates are welcome to answer this question if you have an opinion on features which may help Ao3 users curate their content.

Antonius Melisse
Better searching and filtering options are currently already being worked on to make this sort of thing easier for users.

Laure
I’m mostly thinking about the recent updates we got on blocking and muting features actually! (info here: https://archiveofourown.org/admin_posts/18864)
An update on blocking and muting features | …
An Archive of Our Own, a project of the
Organization for Transformative Works

And yes as Antonius says, our teams are always working on improving the filtering (which I love to pieces already, filter everything XD).

Marion McGowan
Thank you both for highlighting those upcoming features! Here’s our next question: Although this would probably be a very long-term goal, if the OTW were to create one additional new project, what would you like to see and why?

Laure
(Do we still have the money tree for this? :p)

Long term, I’d love to see our image hosting capacities improved! Not sure it could be a full independent project, but that’s what comes to my mind. Twitter is where I follow most of the artists I like, and I often see them discussing how it’s not an ideal platform at all >< So it would be great to provide that! (And let's not talk about tumblr XD) Antonius Melisse
Another very good question. I think our current projects cover much of the ground that we want to have. I agree with Laure that we want to be able to offer content in forms of other media than just text (I’d personally be a big proponent of the ability to host podfic directly on the Archive, for example). Other than that, I think it might be nice to focus on getting some of our already existing projects more in the limelight, other than the obvious big one that is the Archive. 😀

Marion McGowan
Thanks so much for your answers! That was not an easy question.

Our next question is about communication: If you’re elected to the Board, how do you intend to ensure that all volunteers are informed appropriately about what the Board is doing, how to contact it, and how to provide feedback? How will you disseminate your responses to that feedback?

Laure
Yes sorry for the answer time XD

Marion McGowan
Not at all. It’s tough when you’re put on the spot to choose just one new project as a long term goal.

Laure
Communication is both important and tricky, so it would be an interesting focus to have. I would try to find a balance between having enough good communication channels to reach people, but also not overwhelming people with too many messages.

A concrete example: In a previous job I worked on sending informative newsletters to partners, and I found that working on the presentation to make it very readable, and leaving recipients the possibility to unsubscribe were keys.

So I’d see if it’s possible to stir communications in this direction.

As for the feedback, it’s a matter of finding the good tools to receive feedbacks, taking the time to think on it and action it, and keeping people informed of the process. Board members are already doing all this of course, but it would be interesting to see how it can be improved.

Antonius Melisse
This is a very important question. Finding information on what the Board is working on should never be something only volunteers can do in my eyes; all our users and members should also have access to this information, so this should always be visible on our public sites and social media presence. Anyone can contact the Board via email and can attend the public Board meetings for feedback and questions. Our volunteers also have access to Board via our work tools. They should never be afraid to contact a Board member. Responses might not be instant, and in the more complicated cases, may require discussion between the entire Board before being disseminated. This again, should happen as publicly as possible, so we keep things transparent.

Marion McGowan
Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers. And we’ve made it to our last question: In light of many many recent events, do you have any ideas or suggestions to implement re: improving cultural sensitivity across the organisation when responding to cultural/locale specific crisis (that affect/are relevant to OTW and fandom, of course).

Laure
That’s also an important matter, as we are all volunteers from very different cultural backgrounds, and also as you say the events have been many indeed.

Antonius Melisse
The most important thing to do with regards to cultural sensitivity, I feel, is to make sure we get as many different opinions and voices from the affected communities to talk to us about how it impacts them, so we can form our responses based on as complete an understanding of matters as possible, rather than trying to act too fast.

Laure
What I always think about first on cultural sensitivity, is that when a crisis happens, we need to listen to the people who are concerned by this and belong to the relevant culture. And at the same time, we need to be careful not to put all the weight of it on those same people, who would already have a lot to deal with.

So it’s also a balancing act between being open to listen and supportive, and then finding the right way to react in an appropriate manner.

Antonius Melisse
We also should not try to answer a crisis with a standard platitude; every one of these events is different and affects people differently, so we should continue to treat the ones involved with respect and as individuals.

Laure
Yes agreed with that too.

Marion McGowan
Thanks, everyone!

That’s all the questions we have for today!

Laure
Thanks a lot for all the questions!! And thanks for leading Marion 😀

Marion McGowan
Thank you to our audience for being so supportive and for submitting questions! Thank you also to our lovely candidates. Thanks to briar_pipe, for modding.

We’ll have the transcript of this room up on the website within a few days, and there are three more candidate chats still to come! You can find the details of those events here: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/2021-candidate-chats-and-qa-roundup/.

Antonius Melisse
Thanks for leading Marion! Good luck to Laure (and Anna and Kari) with the other chats! 😀

Marion McGowan
You’re very welcome! Have a great day, everyone!

Laure
Have a great time of the day!

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