Milena Popova 2017 Q&A: Personal Interview

[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)?

One of my favourite things to ask (both myself and others) is, “hang on, what is it that we’re actually trying to achieve here?” The answer to that tells you a lot about the nature of the conflict you may be facing. If everyone around the table is trying to achieve the same goal and the disagreement is over how to do that that’s a different situation to one where people have completely different agendas (and sometimes, frankly, you get a bit of both). So in situations where we’re arguing over the how, I tend to try to refocus people’s minds (including my own) on the end goal and on the values we share, and then break the problem down while keeping that end goal in mind and making sure everyone’s input is heard. In situations where different people genuinely want different outcomes I do try to see the issue from their perspective and seek common ground. Like everyone, I’m of course not always the best version of myself, but I’m also not above apologising when I’ve been an ass.

What is a skill that you consider relevant for a board member, but that you consider a personal weakness?

The running joke on other boards I’ve been on is that if I start asking difficult questions about money we’re probably in trouble. Finance and accounting isn’t the strongest aspect of my skillset or something I enjoy. Having said that, I have acquired a fair amount of those skills by osmosis from the brilliant people I’ve worked with on other boards, and I have a strong knowledge of financial controls from a previous job. That has in turn enabled me to ask some of those difficult questions and spot potential problems, so I guess you can see me as a canary in the coalmine on that front. (Luckily, we now have a great Finance committee too, so hopefully no one needs to rely on me to ask difficult money questions.)

[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?

One of the OTW’s values is that we want to encourage cross-pollination between fannish communities without that leading to a homogenisation of fandom. Different fannish communities have for a long time had different cultures and norms with regards to commercial exploitation, and of course with new tools such as Patreon those cultures are evolving. The OTW as an organisation has a strong non-profit culture, the works we host and the way we host them are non-profit, and we explicitly value fannish gift economies and non-profit creativity in our strategic choices. For instance, Legal has in the past helped fans whose work was being exploited commercially without their permission but is less likely to help those wishing to exploit their own work commercially, simply because that’s not where our priorities lie or where we can uniquely add value to the fandom community. But we are not the only fannish culture (if we can even be thought of as a single culture!) – there’s a vast array of different fannish communities out there that add to fandom in different ways. Where we can and do add value is in protecting fans who wish to share their work non-commercially and in continuing to make the strong legal case for the transformative status of fan works.