[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]
Can you share some ways that you’ve dealt with stressful communication situations (e.g., handling difficult emails, phone calls or meetings)?
The way I deal with stressful communication is very dependent on the context and content of the conversation. Explaining a difficult decision is entirely different from dealing with an upsetting comment. Considering most of the OTW’s tasks involve written communication, some of the usual tricks I’ve learned in my day-to-day work life -like keeping your voice low- don’t apply.
That being said, I do have some ground rules to deal with complicated interactions:
- Don’t avoid the situation. I have seen cases, both in the OTW and in my offline work, in which the people involved preferred to ignore a problem until it festered. This only causes more grief in the long run, whether the problem in question is a bill, or an interpersonal conflict. I would much rather spend some time dealing with a difficult situation as it arises than bury my head in the sand and hope for the best.
- Always stay calm and polite; escalation only leads to burnt bridges. Sometimes, this means taking some time for any immediate feelings to settle: I would rather (reasonably!) delay an answer to a difficult email, than answer it while upset. When I’m unsure about the tone or content of my answer, I also seek out feedback from other people, and rework it based on that.
- Accept that you will make mistakes, and own up to them. This applies to any work-related failures, but also to misunderstandings in conversation. In our text-based, multicultural environment, there are a lot of opportunities for us to offend or hurt each other, regardless of how careful we are with our words. In these situations, I find apologizing and trying to learn from the issue to be the best thing to do.
What is a skill that you consider relevant for a board member, but that you consider a personal weakness?
I often have trouble being patient. I like things to move forward quickly, and efficiently, which means that I can get frustrated when tasks take longer to be completed than I think they should. I’ve found that being empathetic helps move projects forward more than being single-mindedly focused on your goal. I am aware that I still have a lot of work to do on this particular issue, and I keep learning new ways to offer help and meaningful feedback in these situations. Luckily, Board work isn’t a solo job: it’s much easier to manage my expectations when I can put things in perspective with a team.
[Parts of the following question were lengthy statements, rather than questions, and were removed by the Elections Committee.]
How do we keep fandom non-profit, and also fair to other fans who want their work to be seen and shared on a level platform? Is it enough that fans are trying to circumvent AO3’s non-profit stance by linking to their twitter / tumblr but still advertising donations and patreon pages there? Do the candidates see this as a pertinent issue, and if so, what do they plan to do about it?
The OTW believes in making fanworks as accessible as possible. This is one of the many reasons why AO3 is and always will be free. It’s also why the site has a non-commercialization policy which prevents users from asking for financial contributions or promoting something they have for sale anywhere on it. The Archive will remain absolutely financially neutral: there isn’t and there will never be a way to pay for invitations, or for a special place in our listings, or for special features etc.
However, while we can and intend to keep AO3 non-commercial, we can’t presume to police how fandom operates on other platforms. It is my opinion that the OTW’s job in the community is to provide fandom with the tools and protected spaces it needs to grow and reflect on itself. I don’t think it has -nor should have- any right to police fannish evolutions outside of these spaces. As long as Legal okays it, I have no problem with our Terms of Service allowing creators to link to personal pages that potentially contain links to donation pages.
On a personal level, as a consumer and as a creator, I acknowledge that all fanworks require labor. Many of us live in precarious financial situations, especially since fandom is so intersectional: a lot of fans come from fragile, and/or marginalized communities. Knowing this, I am glad to see fans support the creators they like, be it by leaving feedback on their works or by offering a financial contribution. As long as these creators are aware that these contributions run into a legal grey area, and keep them out of the Archive, I am happy with this evolution.