2011 OTW Voters – check your email!

We’re a week away from the OTW’s 2011 election for seats on our Board of Directors, and all eligible voting members of the Organization for Transformative Works have now been sent voting account information.

If you made a qualifying donation and became a member between 1 October 2010 and 17 October 2011, then you should have an email which includes a unique randomly assigned username, password instructions, ballot instructions, and a link to the 2011 ballot on the OTW Election website (while you can see the page the ballot will be on and a little information there, the ballot itself will not be active or visible until elections open; to see a sample of an active ballot, visit the voting instructions page). If you have not received this email and believe you are a qualified voting member, please contact us! We will also be posting and sending a separate reminder email on the day of the election, prior to the opening of the polls.

At noon UTC on 16 November 2011 polls will open, and that ballot will become active. (What time is that here?) Voting will continue for 48 hours, and the polls will close at noon UTC on 18 November 2011. (What time is that here?)

You won’t be able to change your vote once you have cast your ballot, so we urge you to think about your choices. We have six eminently qualified candidates standing for four seats on the board. Our candidates are Julia Beck, Naomi Novik, Lucy Pearson, Betsy Rosenblatt, Nikisha Sanders, and Jenny Scott-Thompson, and you can read more about them and about the OTW’s voting process here, on our elections website.

Board Candidate Chat Two Follow-Up Questions: Final Set

It’s finally here — our last questions for OTW Board candidates and their answers! You can read those questions and answers here, on the OTW Elections website. Emphasis in these responses is on immediate answers rather than polished essays — just as in the chats.

Answers are listed in the order they were received, and any responses received after the deadline will be added to that page as soon as possible, with any post-publication changes noted. As this was the last batch, we’ve extended the period for timestamped edits to responses from 12 to 24 hours past the due date, which was before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 3 November 2011. All previous questions and answers, as well as the chat transcripts, can be found by starting here, on the OTW Elections site candidates page. The first chat and those overflow questions can be accessed directly here, and the second chat and those overflow questions can be accessed directly here.

2011 Second Board Candidate Chat Follow-Up Six

The second 2011 Board candidate chat ended with questions pending — both those submitted live by chat attendees, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions were delivered in batches to the candidates following the close of the chat, and they were asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses could be publicly posted. Responses are posted in the order that they were received by the OTW Elections officer.

Sixth batch: Questions submitted to candidates at 16:05/4:05pm UTC 2 November 2011; answers due before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 3 November 2011.

One:

I’ve been hearing a lot about volunteer retention and burnout, but I have a question about the flip side of the sustainability issue. It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges facing the OTW right now is lowering the barriers to casual participation, to the small, bite-sized things people can do to help sustain the org. Right now, submitting a bit of code or wrangling a tag requires a whole process for anyone who just wants to help a tiny bit, as they can (by contrast, contributing to Fanlore is significantly easier, and I know that committee has done a lot of work to lower barriers). Some OTW projects don’t seem like they would lend themselves as well to casual participation, but it seems like a lot of our work could benefit from this, and I feel like I’m not seeing enough focus on this from the org as a whole. I feel like we’d have less burnout if we had more people to spread the burden, in bits and pieces. What do you, as a Board candidate, think of barriers to participation in the org right now? Do you think they need to be lowered? If so, what concrete, specific plans do you plan to pursue to do this? How do you plan to acknowledge and reward casual participation without devaluing the work of the more “official” volunteers? How do you plan to balance the needs of casual contributors, volunteers, and staff?

Lucy Pearson

Making it easier to get involved is never a bad thing, and casual volunteering is a good way for people to dip in and out and a good gateway to a more sustained involvement. So, while I think we already have some good stuff in place, there is definitely value in working to remove barriers to participation.

I think this does vary hugely from project to project, and some areas lend themselves better to casual volunteering than others, so I am going to focus on the Archive project, which I know the most about. I think there are several areas in which we can make this more open to casual volunteers, and I’m happy to say that several of these are in progress in different ways. Testing is one area where we have faced challenges with volunteer retention (largely because of the nature of the work), but we have had a lot of success at drawing in ad hoc testers for particular features. This works well because we usually get people together in chat, everyone has a common goal and everyone who gets involved can feel accomplished when the code they test gets onto the real Archive. Often these events are a road in for people who decide they like it and join more formally, and since formal volunteers and staffers are also involved their contribution in training and helping the ad hoc people is also recognised and valued. I think we could do this more with testing, and we could probably use this model elsewhere in the org for short-term projects which need a big push of work at specific times.

In terms of coding, we’ve already switched from a code repository that requires people to be added as members to contribute code, to Github, which allows anyone to submit code which can then be reviewed and added into the main code branch or not, depending on whether it works for us. In theory, this should allow more ad hoc volunteering, at least for experienced coders who don’t need the other support we provide. In practice, that isn’t happening yet: I’d like to make a push to open up some of our coding docs or mirror them on Github, so that people can get the info they need to get the code up and running, and make it clearer that we welcome that kind of contribution. I know Naomi also has some cool tech ideas for how we can let more inexperienced people dip in and try the experience of coding on the Archive without having to wait to have a complete setup: I’m definitely in favour of this!

The other exciting thing that’s in progress for the AO3 is the public Support Board, which is something I’ve been helping work on on and off for a long time now. This will be publicly visible and anyone will be able to answer questions (for various technical reasons this wasn’t a model we were able to implement from the beginning). This will be great, because a lot of users can share specific knowledge – for example if they have run a challenge on the AO3 and know that feature well – but don’t necessarily want to do Support work day in, day out. The new system will let people just drop by and answer one question if they want to, and we hope it will also become a pathway to more formal volunteering, for those people who find they like the work and are getting more involved! We’re planning a badging system so people can get an immediate glow of recognition; I think that it’s already becoming clear that formal Support staffers will contribute in a more specialised way, so I hope they won’t feel devalued, and we’ll continue to recognise them in places like AO3 news posts. If it hasn’t already been completed by the new term, making sure AD&T have the support they need to get the coding and testing done will be a priority for me.

In a broader sense across the org, I think that the key is to think creatively and not to be too wedded to old systems. I know that when we switched to using Github, I found it challenging because it entailed learning a new system and a new set of commands, but it was worth it because it opens up a lot more flexibility in our working systems. So, as a Board member I’d like to encourage that flexibility, and keep the idea of more ad-hoc involvement at the forefront of my mind in conversations about supporting projects.

One last note: flexibility is also absolutely key for lowering the barriers to participation in an accessibility sense. Some people can’t use our regular tools, or can’t interact in the default ways that the org at large uses. I am absolutely committed to making sure that as an org, we work to ensure that we don’t simply turn those people away. Sometimes we can make small adjustments to our process to meet an individual’s needs, and we should always be ready to do that. Sometimes an individual needs a specific provision which doesn’t work or isn’t needed for everyone else, and if we can accommodate that we should. This is something I worked to do as AD&T chair and which I want to encourage across the org as a whole. Specifically, I am committed to listening to people in the org and out when they say ‘x doesn’t work for me’ and supporting them in making changes where possible. I don’t promise not to make mistakes – I have in the past and I will again – but I promise to listen and learn from them.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

I think some of the barriers to participation could be lowered, yes. It would need to be done carefully, to ensure we are still supporting our volunteers sufficiently – there are examples in Fanlore where people have contributed edits for years, but this has not been recognised outside of the Fanlore community, whereas similar levels of work from AO3 coders or tag wranglers get recognised by the whole OTW. I’d like to make it easier for volunteers to drift in and out without feeling guilty for being busy, and I’d like to make the difference between staff and volunteers clearer to everyone, and make sure both are valued for their different contributions.

As far as concrete steps, the AO3 already made a big step forward this year in moving to Github – this means that in theory casual coders can drift in and out, but we haven’t yet seen anyone do it. I’d like to take that another step forward by working with the Volunteers & Recruiting committee to see what steps of the coder intake process can be automated – e.g. letting people add themselves to the mailing list. I’d like to look at ways of providing developer environments to casual coders more easily – the webdevs are great, but are a fair amount of work for Systems, and other open source projects have had success with providing Virtual Machine images that coders can download and install themselves, so I’d like to explore that option.

For testers, again, I’d like people to be able to add themselves to the mailing list, and get added straight to Google Code at that point, but also revisit the discussion of letting people comment in Google Code and help out with testing without signing up.

Support’s barriers to participation will be drastically lowered when the new support board goes live, and I’m really looking forward to that – thanks to Sidra for all her hard work on it.

Most other committees either already accept casual participation – e.g. contributing an article to Symposium blog doesn’t require the full sign-up process – or have good reasons not to – such as Finance or Systems. But I would keep the option open, and discuss with those committees if people had ideas to improve things.

I’d like to explore other options to make the perceived barrier between volunteers and wider fandom lower, too, at the same time as building community – some of the discussions about transparency, such as the proposal for public forums, have touched on this. Moving the coder tutorials to a public wiki would be another step that could help.

On the other side of the equation, I’d like to help Fanlore promote frequent editors to become gardeners more often, and proactively invite people to join the committee – they’ve done this a couple of times recently, and I think it’s a great way to recruit staff, from people who are already involved.

Betsy Rosenblatt

I think the questioner is right that some projects are better suited to casual participation than others, and I love the idea of lowering the barriers to participation for tasks that might allow people to participate more casually. I don’t know, myself, which projects require a lot of dedicated time and which can be done modularly—the individual committee chairs undoubtedly have a lot more knowledge on that front—but I’d love for the organization as a whole to keep casual participation more in mind. I have one significant caveat, however: I’ve discussed before what I see as the benefits of community-building to sustainability, and I support making volunteering and committee work a community-creating, social experience whenever possible. The more we distribute tiny tasks to more people, the less sense of community and dedication to quality they may feel, and the more errors our more devoted staffers and volunteers may end up having to fix. So as a general principle, I like the idea, but before deciding on concrete plans I’d want to consult more with each committee to find out how often it’s feasible and how often it results in errors.

As for acknowledging and rewarding casual participation, I think attribution is very important. The more we can acknowledge our volunteers (casual or otherwise) the better; we can do this publicly on the blog, on the web pages for various projects, on twitter (etc.) and internally in places like the internal wiki and internal meetings (such as the all-org).

Naomi Novik

I mentioned in one of my previous answers how I recently came up with a way to let newbie coders work and get some code committed to the archive with virtually no setup at all, and an idea I’d love to see for a “Change Your Archive” day where people signed up for slots to make edits to the archive that would go live almost right away.

The Support Board I’ve mentioned a few times is also one of the really key things we need for letting people get in the front door of volunteering in an easy, no-signup-required way.

On recognition, we’ve talked from time to time in ADT about a “merit badge” system on the archive (ie little icons to show on profiles) to reward people who help out within the archive (eg wrangle tags, eventually answer support requests, do translations), which I have to say I love, and it occurs to me this could also be used for other committee members (who wanted obvs) within the archive. Aside from the happy glow of outward-facing recognition for your work, I think it would be just plain fun to “collect” badges, and also those badges would themselves serve as advertisements to the giant body of AO3 users of the fact that you CAN get involved (and each one could link to a ‘how-to-help-with-X’ page).

Nikisha Sanders

I believe that, yes, there are barriers to participation for voluntary staff (by which I mean anyone who chooses to get involved, not only those with Staff designation). The process of joining through Volcom is a necessary one, and not something I would characterize as a barrier. It’s a step we have to take as a formal organization for reasons of accountability. We need to know, and be able to report, our general staffing numbers. We also need to be able to identify who has been responsible for a given bit of work, both in the event a problem arises and to give praise for the successes.

What I do see as challenges to bringing in greater participation are things like not having a centralized public listing of volunteer openings on various projects; not having a clear list of goals and needs from every committee, or even a general work plan that’s widely available; and a lack of clear communication internally and externally with regard to what each committee does. I think we’re also stunted in our attempts to reach volunteers of any kind by not having a clear and consistent communications plan. All of these things make it harder to see where help is needed and how to give it. I absolutely think this is something we need to address.

At this moment, I only have a few concrete plans, and they are, admittedly, more wet concrete than anything. The first is to look at where I, personally, can promote OTW and opportunities for participation, and then do so. I think that’s a small bit of work we all can do, to build a general pool of voluntary staff. The second is to work with Volcom to get a better sense of what they need from the rest of us. I know that the Still Willing To Serve survey gives them information on who will be returning and who won’t, and this year the survey has been retooled to give better information on why someone might choose to stay or leave, and what projects they would like to pursue. Closely associated to SWTS is a request that goes to each committee chair about staffing & volunteer needs, asking chairs to give an idea of whether they need new people and how many. I would like to support Volcom in getting responses to both the survey and the committee chair requests. The third thing I see that I could do to help in lowering the barriers for participation would be to assist with an org-wide assessment of which projects are suited for casual contributors and support chairs and project leads in drafting calls for service for smaller projects.

I believe we need to work on better rewarding and acknowledging everyone who participates in OTW. Members get a note thanking them for joining, and Volcom thanks us for signing up and continuing to serve, but not a single time in my years with OTW have I seen the board pass on praise or gratitude or any kind of reward to my committee or any of us individually as a full body. I cannot say if this is true of every committee or not, only what I personally have seen. I’ve also seen projects that take a ton of underlying volunteer and staff work be accredited to single people. I’ve seen the whole organization dismissed that way, and it’s something I think we need to fix.

I would like to see more public acknowledgement of the people behind the work. I like the model Dreamwidth has set with their newsletters, naming the specific people involved in projects, from large to small. I think, once we get it together on the communications front, that’s something we could easily do, and should be doing in the newsletter we have now. Recognizing contributors in the org-wide meetings would be another important step. As for other incentives and forms of recognition, I’m not sure. I think it depends on what staff, volunteers, and casual contributors want, and I can only speak for myself, where a simple ‘Thanks for your work,’ would go a very long way.

Balancing the needs of three levels of staff, as well as non-contributing members, will be difficult. It is already difficult. From a board position, I think the largest piece of the work will be actively asking voluntary staff what they need and being responsive to it, whether they’re long term staff or someone coming into work for an hour. Gathering and listening to feedback, and addressing critical staffing issues as they’re brought to the board is a central responsibility of board members, and one OTW has struggled with since its founding. For myself, I want to continue working in a way that asks people what they want to do, what they need to do it, and how I can support them, and I would like to see other staff commit to doing the same, without privileging staff over volunteers over casual contributors.

Julia Beck
Response received 4 November 2011 08:41am UTC. Added to document 4 November 2011 1:03pm UTC.

Hah, oh yeah. This is a great question, because I (rather, we!) struggled a lot with finding answers for my own committees. First off, yes, I agree that generally speaking, the barriers are too high. But what makes this such a tricky issue is that it’s different for each committee. That’s why I can’t in good conscience give you any concrete measures apart from: the Board needs to initiate an evaluation process, ask each committee to poke its processes and give at least one suggestion each. (Seeing as it’s something that most committees already do, I don’t believe an initiative like that would be controversial.)

This doesn’t sound like much, I know, but I can’t stress enough how valuable it would be to have Board say “you are not only allowed, but encouraged to question this process. Yes, you, the volunteer who just got started. Yes, you, the long-term committee member who’s become used to things”. Because right now it’s more, “this is the process. Deal.”, and even if people have suggestions, they’re not sure if those are welcome, and they don’t want to be disruptive. So I see it as Board’s task to facilitate an open culture of feedback.

Okay, since you prompted me, trying my hand at a couple general, actual measures for this initiative after all: sorting the tasks in each committee according to commitment/expertise required; then set up a noticeboard with low-commitment jobs on the website where people with little time can nab something (honestly, I can come up with 4 jobs like that spontaneously for both I&O and Translation… Hmmm. Brb, writing a proposal to our Volunteers committee~)

I’m not actually all that worried about balancing the value of regular vs. one-time work. Maybe that’s naive, but there’s the fact that a committee is also a social group, and that community spirit is both a powerful motivator and a reward in itself. (Conversely, since you mentioned Fanlore, I see the lack of community-building as Fanlore’s Achilles heel at the moment.) Another reward (simultaneously, burden) exclusive to being staff is responsibility: you make/shape decisions (you deal with the fallout).

As to balancing temp volunteer/volunteer/staff needs, I’ll repeat what I said in the third set of answers: “My educated guess is that volunteers don’t differ all that much in what they want out of their OTW volunteering experience. They want their work to be acknowledged, they want it to be meaningful, and they want a degree of agency.” Agency becomes more important if you are staff, though.

With regards to acknowledgement, my quick & dirty suggestion would be to have a (opt-in!) “Thank you” section in the official newsletter (like the AO3 release notes already do), but more pragmatically, I’d ask both temp volunteers & volunteers themselves what they want (Newsletter acknowledgement? AO3 invite? handshake? Graphics? Nothing?). Actually, let me include that as a question in the internal OTW survey (see, I know why said it was a great question: very thought-provoking.)

Two:

I would like to ask both Betsy and Naomi why they seem to think their respective committees are so particularly special that they require representation on the Board – why shouldn’t that also be true just as much for, say, DevMem or Wiki or Support? Or rather, untrue for all: I assume that healthy board-chairs relationships would solve the issue of representation.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

I agree that healthy board-chair relationships solve most of the issue of representation. I’d also like to consider in the future if committees chaired by a Board member could have an alternative liaison as well, to provide a second point of contact and point of view. At the moment, we don’t have enough people to cover this, but if we have fewer committees chaired by Board members in the future, it might become possible.

I do think, however, that Board should have people with a range of skills, backgrounds and committee experience, in a broader sense. For example, I have technical experience, having worked as an AO3 coder for the past two years, and in my professional career; Lucy and Naomi both have broad familiarity with our technical needs and a great overview of coding from their respective histories as AD&T chair; Ira, who is remaining on the board, contributed design work for the AO3 and developed the Support board proposal during her time on AD&T, and is also a professional web developer in her day job; and Kristen, also staying on from the current board, has served on the OTW Webmasters team since 2008, which has kept her involved in the Drupal and CiviCRM open source communities, and well as working closely with our Systems team. Similarly, Julia, Lucy and Betsy all have different types of academic experience, and so does Francesca from the current board. Sanders has a ton of non-profit experience, which includes the kind of legal things any board needs to know, and she knows when to ask a lawyer for more information. Francesca also has an accomplished record of building alliances on legal issues with other organizations, such as the EFF. Happily, this means that whomever gets elected, we will have people on the board with overlapping experience and expertise, and we also bring a good mix of other skills. Edit 3 November 2011 03:22am UTC.

Betsy Rosenblatt

As a general matter, I believe that every nonprofit board should include at least one lawyer. Legal considerations (What rights does the org or the board have? What duties and responsibilities are borne by the board or the org as a whole? What rules govern a given situation? Are we doing something that could get us sued?) are a constant background presence—and sometimes a foreground presence—in board deliberations and decision-making. If there’s a lawyer in the room, so to speak, there’s someone looking out for these issues, who’s more likely to spot them when others might not, and who can address them in real time. Without question, the Board can (and sometimes does) ask the Legal Committee a particular question about a particular policy. But there are a thousand little moments when the Board wouldn’t even know to ask. For as long as I’ve been involved with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, it’s made a point of having an attorney serve on the Board, even though it has its own counsel that serves the purpose of our Legal Committee. The same is true for other nonprofits I’ve been involved with, such as Lambda Legal, which has many attorneys on its Board. To quote someone I respect a great deal: “a good lawyer helps her client do what it wants legally and ethically by being part of the client’s projects from the beginning,” and being on the Board would allow me not only to do that for the Board, but also for the various committees and projects; I can worry about the law stuff so they don’t have to.

So I think of the matter of having a “resident lawyer” on the Board as serving a different purpose from the Legal committee, although both are important. I do think that there’s an added benefit to having a member of the Legal committee on the Board, to serve as a bridge between the Board, which steers the organization’s legal advocacy mission as a whole, and the people who carry out that mission (the committee). It’s possible that the relationship between large-scale steering of that mission and the nitty gritty work may be closer for Legal than for other committees, since Legal splits its time between carrying out the advocacy mission as directed by the Board and carrying out the discrete project of responding to queries (much like the other committees carry out discrete projects such as operating a journal, wiki, archive, etc.). In the past, the Board has generally included a member of Legal (the chair, Rebecca Tushnet), but I wouldn’t say that makes Legal “special”; certainly, good Board/committee communication is crucial for the success of all committees, and for the success of the organization as a whole.

I want to emphasize that I support having Board members representing as many of the different committees as possible, so that we can learn from each others’ experiences. As it happens, I have more personal knowledge and experience with the org’s legal advocacy activities than with the activities of the other committees. I am really looking forward to getting more involved in the Journal, the Archive, Communications…all of the committee roles. I look forward to learning more about what a Tag Wrangler does, and how the Archive works inside. The more the Board is comprised of people who have personal experience in diverse roles, from my standpoint, the better. So while I believe that it’s beneficial to have a member of Legal on the Board of an organization that counts legal advocacy among its missions—and beneficial to have a lawyer on the Board of any nonprofit—I certainly wouldn’t want a Board of all lawyers or all legal committee members.

Naomi Novik

OK, so to start, in my experience representation on the board does make a difference for a committee that is having a tough time — to have a liaison who, even if not a past member, still actively goes to all their meetings and pitches in with the committee’s work, not in a way as to usurp the chair’s role but to be there as a conduit of the Board’s support. If all is going well, a solid chair-liaison relationship alone is fine; but if things are difficult then it really helps.

And I have to say I think most people would agree that the Archive is particularly special and important to this organization. It’s our flagship project, it’s what started the whole shebang. Major parts of this organization are only necessary because of the Archive, or depend in turn on the Archive. That is, we only really need a Development team because we need a steady cash flow to buy the expensive servers that the Archive runs on and to pay our $800/month colocation bills. We only need a Support team because there are tens of thousands of people actively using the Archive every day. Our Open Doors project can’t really get started systematically saving online archives until we get finished with the Archive’s importing features. And so on. Our other standalone projects independent of the Archive are incredibly valuable resources to fandom that I am wildly proud of, but you don’t need an organization on this scale to build or host them.

If nothing else, just imagine for a second the doomsday scenario where the Archive fails — it goes down fast or slow and takes all these hundreds of thousands of stories that people have trusted us with. Who would ever trust this organization with their work or their time or energy or money again? We could never accomplish anything else.

So I do think that it is in the best interests of not just the Archive and anyone who wants it to last, but also of the entire organization and membership, even those who don’t particularly care about the Archive itself, for the team that is building this crucial and wildly complicated project to have all the support and encouragement that the Board can give them.

Does that require representation on the Board? Not necessarily; what does matter a lot though is having someone with solid technical skills and familiar in particular with what we’re using in the archive. Otherwise, if you don’t yourself understand the technical issues facing the archive team, it’s hard to communicate them to the Board: someone on ADT has to explain them to you, your understanding is very likely going to be imperfect if it’s a complex issue, and then questions any other Board member has at that point have to do a round trip out to the committee and back. Then the Board as a whole gets even worse understanding of those technical issues since it’s a game of telephone, and the decisions it makes are likely to be imperfect.

(That isn’t just fear talking: in practice, this last year the committee did have a rough time communicating with the Board and as a result ran into a bunch of roadblocks that actively slowed us down, both in and of themselves, and in the work and stress involved in having to clear them.)

And I think having a technical voice on the Board is also important not just for ADT but for other committees — someone with tech experience can recognize problems throughout the org that have easy or good technical solutions, and make assessments on technologies and tools that we might want to use.

Related, not that Betsy can’t speak for herself, but entirely apart from liaising with Legal, it is similarly really valuable to the Board to have a lawyer in the house! If you don’t have a lawyer on the board, then the other members of the board have to be able to think about and recognize potential issues that you have to then run by Legal, and again, you’ve got a roundtrip going that delays things. If you have a lawyer on the Board who can just say RED ALERT or go ahead, it can both save a lot of time and potentially real risks for the board and the org.

(I do actually think it would be a good idea to set up a system on the Board where if there isn’t a lawyer as a Board member, one of the lawyers from the Legal team is given access to Board for this purpose under confidentiality, but we don’t have that right now; until last year Rebecca Tushnet was on the Board and kept us from blithely walking into quicksand.)

Nikisha Sanders

Even though I’m not required to answer this question, it’s one I’ve given a lot of thought to. To be perfectly honest, I was perturbed to have two candidates approaching the election with a sense of entitlement based solely on their committee membership when any one of the six of us could have legitimately made the same claim. Only two of us did, and I think that’s telling when it’s the core response when asked why they’re running for the board. The implied expectation of being held to lesser and different standards than other staff or committees seems to run counter to serving the best interests of all of us.

I don’t think, however, it’s untrue for every committee. Fincom and Devmem together would have a reasonable claim to a board spot because the role of Treasurer is tied to the board in our by-laws and, ideally, requires a financial management background. The thing is, neither committee has asserted that claim, in this or any of the prior elections. It’s something I’ve shied away from this time because I would rather be elected to the board based on voters feeling I could represent the best interests of the entire organization, not only one segment of it. I found the idea of campaigning largely on the fact that we won’t have a qualified, experienced Treasurer with a relationship to Fincom unless I’m elected distasteful and disingenuous –I’m cringing to even say it now– when there are far more qualities and experiences that a board member should have than a single, specialized area of interest.

In most cases, I do think that healthy board-chair relationships would solve the issue. In the instances where a committee feels their liaison is insufficient in representing their interests, perhaps lobbying to serve as an appointed, rather than elected, board member with limited involvement in decision making would be a better solution. There is also, I believe, the option to request a different board liaison should the relationship fail to meet the needs of the committee. Barring those options, direct communication from a committee to the whole of the board has always been available via email. In other words, there are many ways for a committee to have their interests represented other than by having a seat on the board.

Board Candidate Chat Two Follow-Up Questions: Fifth Set & Proxy Reminder

Our trek is nearly over! We now present the fifth and penultimate batch of questions and answers from our candidates. You can read those questions and answers here, on the OTW Elections website. Answers are listed in the order they were received, and any responses received after the deadline will be added to that page as soon as possible, with any post-publication changes noted. Emphasis in these responses is on immediate answers rather than polished essays — just as in the chats.

There are only two questions left! We’ll be sharing those around 24 hours from now — they were sent to candidates at 16:05/4:05pm UTC 2 November 2011, meaning they are due before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 3 November 2011; as this is the last batch, we’ve extended the period for timestamped edits to responses from 12 to 24 hours past the due date.

One final reminder! Today is the deadline to appoint a proxy for your vote.

2011 Second Board Candidate Chat Follow-Up Five

The second 2011 Board candidate chat ended with questions pending — both those submitted live by chat attendees, and a queue of emailed questions submitted by OTW members, volunteers, and staff that had grown throughout the live chat period. Those questions were delivered in batches to the candidates following the close of the chat, and they were asked to submit answers within twenty-four hours of each email so that those responses could be publicly posted. Responses are posted in the order that they were received by the OTW Elections officer.

Fifth batch: Questions submitted to candidates at 16:05/4:05pm UTC 1 November 2011; answers due before 16:05/4:05pm UTC 2 November 2011.

One:

What do you see as the role of the Board in soliciting user, member, staff and volunteer feedback? How will you prioritize this during your term as a Board Member?

Lucy Pearson

I feel that a lot of feedback should come to the Board via the committees, so it feeds up from the individual projects and their users to the Board. This is an effective means of helping give Board a focus and ensuring that committees can get stuff done on the ground – oftentimes feedback about a project can best be acted on by the volunteers and staffers who work on that specific project. However, I think it is also important to have a more direct way for the Board to get feedback about some issues, as I think the work of the Board can often feel rather remote, especially to volunteers and members who never work directly with Board members. So, I’d like to explore ways of opening up the channel between Board and all OTW stakeholders – I think that one good way of doing this would be the regular Board news posts which I would like to institute. I’ve found with the AD&T posts that they encourage people to ask questions and bring ideas: I think if Board talked more in public about what we were working on, people would be encouraged to give their thoughts and feedback.

I’d also like to explore ways of soliciting feedback for specific projects – often feedback is tricky because if you ask general questions (or a lot of questions) you get a whole lot of feedback which you don’t wind up acting on. So, I’m wary of broad-brush feedback/information gathering, but I think it can be very effective to say ‘here is the specific discussion we’re having and we have these possible courses of action’ and allow people to weigh in directly – that way you get feedback you can use and which people can see you have used.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

Some of this is already the job of other committees, and in those cases, the job of the board is to support them as needed and then keep out of the way, and also listen openly to what they find. For example, Volunteers & Recruiting committee now does a yearly survey of all staff and volunteers, including confidential feedback, Internationalization & Outreach committee is putting the finishing touches to a public survey, Fanlore and the AO3 regularly ask for user comments on their news posts, Journal have space for comments on their articles, Support and Abuse do a great job handling AO3 feedback, and Development & Membership and Webmasters and Communications get a ton of feedback via various channels. I think the Board’s role is looking at the bigger picture, taking input from all these sources and organising the strategic planning process. I’d prioritise it by making sure that the strategic planning gets all the Board support it needs, and incorporates all that feedback. I’d also consider how we can use all of this more efficiently, so that no feedback falls through a gap and gets ignored, so people can give feedback in a way that suits them, and so we don’t have too much extra work to collate feedback from more sources than necessary.

(I’ve mentioned strategic planning in other places – for those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s the term in non-profits for getting input from all stakeholders – the people mentioned in the question – on broad initiatives and goals, and then turning that with the help of the board into a plan for the next 3-5 years which can be agreed and posted publicly.)

Betsy Rosenblatt

I see soliciting feedback—either directly or indirectly, through committee-based surveys, site use analysis, or other tools—as an important responsibility of the Board, and I see that responsibility as having, in the most general sense, three aspects. The first is solicitation of internal feedback from volunteers and staffers, to maintain an open working relationship between the Board and the committees. The second is solicitation of feedback from users and members, to stay aware of the ways in which the organization as a whole is serving these constituencies and how it can improve. The third, which may seem elementary but is essential, is listening to the feedback and making decisions based on it.

Nikisha Sanders

This is a tricky question because I see it two ways. I think the board as a whole absolutely *must* seek input from users, members, staff, and volunteers in making decisions, and has a responsibility to ask for and respond to both positive and negative feedback given directly to the board. However, there are times when it isn’t appropriate for the board to have a hand in the process of gathering or responding to feedback because it’s better delegated to a given committee. The role of the board in this second instance is to back up the committee and allow the committee members or chair to take the lead.

As for how I will prioritize soliciting feedback, I think keeping lines of communication open between myself and the committee(s) to which I serve as liaison will be a hugely important factor. I intend to do that with a regularly scheduled check in over email, IM or phone as is preferred and possible, with the committee chair, and I also would like to be able to attend committee meetings as an observer if the committee is open to it so the committee chair isn’t my sole point of contact.

In reaching other parts of the org, I plan to make it clear from the beginning of my service as a board member that I, personally, welcome feedback and want to be in conversation with people about OTW. I’ve tried to do that throughout the election process so far, by the means mentioned above and by engaging in relevant comment threads, as well as by opening a post on my journals for people to ask questions and leave comments.

I think the board as a whole will have to take a proactive stance in making users, members, staff, and volunteers aware of what issues we’re handling and when. Publicly posting agendas before meetings and notes after the meetings, both with an appointed contact person for that meeting date, would be one step in doing so.

Julia Beck
Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011; added to post 4:22pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Simply put, two aspects: one is to open more avenues for conversation about the OTW, and make it easier to find them. There has already been excellent conversation about both; for example, there is a lot of conversation in private journals, but journals tend to be hard-to-find bubbles of friends (and for finding linkspams, you need to be *in* the journalsphere already). A relatively simple first step could be a opt-in directory of OTW staffers’ journals; and a bigger might be centralized external forums that provide a more level, less top-down discussion space. (To go all meta, let’s have feedback about that! What would make you more willing to talk to us?)

The second aspect is to change our communication style (both internal and external) to be more open and honest, while remaining respectful. We can implement all the avenues in the world for our members and users to talk to us; if you don’t feel you can be candid and that we will listen, you won’t use them. There is a perception that the only mode of communication we accept is squee, and while I understand and, to a degree, defend the up-beat tone of most OTW communication, it’s setting a tone barrier for feedback. Not productive.

(One thing I feel we’re already doing well is feedback rounds for in-progress projects. I loved the way the Fanlore committee solicited several rounds of heavy feedback instead of implementing their new category scheme straight away. Massive kudos to them — I know it was extremely exhausting for the committee, but worth it, and worth emulating.)

Internally, I helped advocate for internal forums and do hang out there when I can, and while I understand that not everyone can or wants to interact there (completely optional space!), I’ve been thrilled (and, admittedly, gratified) to see interesting and productive conversations between volunteers and staff that couldn’t have happened elswhere. I hope we’ll change the org-wide meeting to a more open, discussion-centered format soon.

How I’ll prioritize both aspects: by lobbying inside Board and among committees, recruiting communications-related personnel, putting in the work (draw up proposals, form work groups etc.) and by trying to lead by example. I’ve written a couple of “that thing you did was not okay, here’s why, can we talk?” emails internally, and while it was hugely, hugely stressful to do so, I really hope I can encourage people to talk to each other directly more, so that this sort of candid feedback becomes normalized (and you don’t need to be a 2+ years chair or Board
candidate to dare write them).

I understand feedback as growing out of conversation. I want us to have more, and more honest conversations both internally and externally, and I hope my ideas will help us have them.

Naomi Novik
Response received at 11:59pm UTC 3 November 2011; added to post 2:46am UTC 3 November 2011.

I’m increasingly trying to think of specific practical answers to these questions, so here is an idea: put together an OTW Board suggestion/feedback box and set aside ten minutes of every Board meeting right at the beginning to go through however many of the messages we can. For any message that invites action, decide quickly: no at least for now, need to consider more at length (add it to agenda for next Board meeting), or yes absolutely to be sent along to relevant committee.

If we respond to each such message and share this suggestion form on each blog post, I think it would really encourage a lot of creative feedback.

Two:

Julia and Jenny both mention sustainability as one of their priorities for the Board in their candidate statements, and I’ve seen the term also mentioned in other discussions of the election by both members and staff. My question for all the candidates is what do you see as the biggest challenge to sustainability within the OTW, and how will you work towards ensuring a sustainable future for the org during your time on the Board.

Lucy Pearson

One big challenge is that as a volunteer org, we can’t always easily recruit for specific skillsets. If someone suddenly leaves (which is quite likely if their day-to-day life suddenly alters in some way), you can’t guarantee that you will be able to replace them; more importantly, there’s no way of guaranteeing that someone who is awesome at the job they do will also be awesome at training someone else to do it. (This is all true for any org, of course, but extra true when people are volunteers and there’s no possibility of buying in expertise.) So, there’s the threat of someone leaving and their tasks being undone, or someone else taking on way too much to fill the gap.

I think the Board can help work for sustainability by working with committees to identify opportunities for training and mentoring. I’d like for as many people as possible to work on the basis that part of their job is training a potential successor (albeit we have to recognise there are some people for whom this model does not work). Maybe there is someone who’s not an expert at a task, but is good at teaching other people the basics and knows how to find good information. Sometimes committees just need a helping hand to see that there is a gap, perhaps because someone who was active is now less active, and once they’ve recognised that they can train and support someone to fill the gap.

The other thing Board can to is help to maintain flexibility. Sometimes a project has to be delayed or altered to fit our resources at the time – that’s not a fail, but a pragmatic decision. Sometimes a committee or an individual needs particular provisions to enable them to meet their goals, and Board can help support that flexible way of working. Reminding people that processes aren’t set in stone and that they can come up with new ideas really helps sustain the org and stops it collapsing in on itself with a mass of outdated procedures.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

Like many organisations, we have a lot of people who are very good at their jobs and don’t tend to delegate much. Of course, we also have people who are good at delegating. I think the biggest challenge is to have more of the OTW culture be about the job that needs to be done, not the person doing it, so that it can be passed on to someone else if the original person needs a break, and so that others can learn. Every person brings different things to a role, but it’s helpful to recognise when someone is doing two jobs at once, and actually that could be done by two different people in the future if we needed, or indeed when two different jobs would be more efficient if they were done by the same person. This will set us up much better for the long term.

I’ll work towards it both by demonstrating good practice in my own work, and in encouraging others to do the same. I’ll also support Volunteers & Recruiting committee in the training they run, and all the committees I liaise with in making sure that staff can move around roles if they want to.

Betsy Rosenblatt

The biggest challenge I see to sustainability within the OTW is that the OTW has a lot of moving parts, and each part requires a lot of work and attention to run smoothly. Making those parts run is a labor of love for many, but even a labor of love can start to feel like toil if it’s too demanding or under-recognized. I plan to work toward sustainability by promoting retention and programs that do not require constant attention to continue operating.

Re: Retention- Naturally, people will come and go from any organization, but I see one key to sustainability as maintaining a steady core of staffers and volunteers as much as possible. The more happy people stay with the organization, the more institutional memory it retains, and the more smoothly it runs. Each committee will know best how to manage its workload, but I see the role of the Board as setting priorities and facilitating that management in a way that doesn’t overburden workers or push them away. This requires vigilance in maintaining a manageable workload for staffers and volunteers (and proposing adjustments to staff size and project priority as necessary to maintain these things); and public recognition of the hard work and accomplishment of the scores of staffers and volunteers that make the organization function.

Re: program supervision- One key to sustainability of any organization is creating frameworks that allow projects to continue without constant attention. This doesn’t mean that any of the organization’s projects can or should be ignored—quite the opposite—but in the best world, we can focus our energy on improving our offerings, rather than maintaining them. I think some of our programs do that very well already, but I’d like to take a good look at how we can improve in making our programs “run themselves” so we can offer as much as possible without the need for an even larger battalion of volunteers.

Nikisha Sanders

The biggest challenge to sustainability I see is time. First, there’s relative time, meaning that we are a young organization in the grand scheme of advocacy organizations and fan-run projects. However, we function nearly entirely online, and internet time works differently than regular time. Everything is more immediate in a virtual environment, and situations can completely reverse course in the time it takes to grab a cup of coffee from the kitchen. I think we sometimes struggle to balance those two pieces; the speed at which we need to get things done to keep up with an online membership base and the speed at which we as an organization, with certain policies and regulations we must follow, can reasonably move.

Secondly, there’s personal time. No one in OTW gets paid for the work we’re doing, which means most of us have jobs or school to attend to. Some people have children and/or partners at home or other family obligations, others have illnesses that limit the organizational work they can do in a day, and we all have plain old bad days from time to time. All of those things impact our ability to work on OTW projects. They also cut down the time we have to mentor other people in the organization, and when combined with the relative internet time, it makes the work of keeping OTW going from day to day a pretty large task.

The single biggest thing I can think to do individually is to be realistic in what I set out to accomplish in comparison to the time I have, and to encourage and enable others to do the same. We also have to be willing and able to make time to take a good, hard look at where we are in our work for OTW and where we want to be in the future. As an organization, I think we have to do the same things on a bigger scale; recognize where we are, identify where we want to go, and be honest with ourselves about how long or short a time it may take to get there.

I’ve already been working toward those goals by having conversations with board, staff, volunteers and members about their current involvement and what they would like to see themselves and the organization doing in the next few years. I’ve indicated in other answers that I intend to continue those conversations and, hopefully, introduce a more formalized space for committee chairs to engage similar dialogue. It’s a priority for me to keep building connections on an individual basis and to be able to make introductions between people who have shared interests in areas of OTW work so no one has to take on a project in isolation and so no idea is discarded based solely on a fear of a lack of support.

I also understand that Internationalization & Outreach is working on a survey that will give us a better idea of what interests and ideas there are about the future of OTW, and I have already had several conversations with Julia about how those results can form the foundation for a strategic plan for the organization. The strategic plan itself would serve as a road map for the next several years, identifying organizational goals and objectives from every committee with input from current and past members, staff, volunteers, board members, and those actively engaging our projects like TWC and AO3. Having a clear and fully articulated idea of where we’re going will let us better set priorities and make use of the time and volunteers we have, and hopefully minimize the amount of burn out people experience. I am completely committed to seeing this happen during my time on the board, or to, at the very least, have the process well underway.

Julia Beck
Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011; added to post 4:22pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Hmmm, the single biggest challenge. It depends on the project, honestly, so I need to pick two interconnected challenges: the first is making our potential volunteer pool larger, that is, getting the word out about the OTW to communities who are skeptical about OTW, or don’t know us at all yet (i.e., communication & outreach). The second is making the OTW the sort of environment where people stay, not leave in frustration because they run into invisible barriers, or get tangled up in up in opaque structures. I talked about outreach in the first batch of questions (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/2011-second-board-candidate-chat-follow-one) and to my answer re. feedback above, because I honestly believe that communication is key here (both talking to the public, and for volunteers talking amongst themselves).

Naomi Novik
Response received at 11:59pm UTC 3 November 2011; added to post 2:46am UTC 3 November 2011.

I think the biggest challenge to our sustainability (though one I am confident we can meet) right now is that the archive is growing really fast. Our colocation bill is already $800 a month and our awesome new servers that we bought last year are already getting lonely and looking around for company, which is also going to drive up the monthly fee. Our coders, support, testers, and wranglers team is facing more and more demand. And the danger is, we outgrow our resources and we don’t raise enough money and recruit enough help to keep things running smoothly, and get into a crisis mode where we don’t have enough time or money or help to do the broader coding work that’s needed to address problems fundamentally, and instead are constantly playing catch-up and jumping from one disaster to the next.

What we really need to do is marshal the Archive user base. If you’re reading this, you know about the OTW and get that the OTW funds the Archive, and so if you care about the archive you care about the org. But most AO3 users don’t even know the name OTW for the most part. We’ve been more focused on making the archive awesome than tooting our own horn 🙂 and I think that’s been the right priority and what we needed to do for people to get — because a lot of people initially didn’t — that THIS is what we’re doing. We’re not trying to take over fandom, we’re building really awesome stuff! For you! and you! and you! And the success of the archive means we’ve done a good job.

But now we need to:

– get up clear and obvious fundraising and volunteering links and get the banner that is in the works up for our next fundraising drive;

– let people know from the moment they are invited that this is funded by fans like them and we really need support for the archive to continue to thrive;

– get the Support board up to distribute the work of our beleaguered support team, and to be a pipeline into support, wrangling, testing, and coding.

And from there we have to get creative. AO3-themed swag may be a good thing for us to get into as a complement to the OTW membership drive swag? But those are the really obvious and clear ones.

Three:

Many candidates are talking about transparency and the need for better communication. I am a casual user of the AO3 and have no idea what these buzzwords mean in a ‘real world’ context, why they’re important to someone like me, and what the candidates are actually planning to change.

Lucy Pearson

Essentially, I want people at all levels to have more idea about what the org is doing, and I want them to have the chance to comment on that. To take the AO3 as an example – I think it is very useful for people to know what we are working on, why some features are built and some fixes are made, but others aren’t, and how we make those decisions. If I were an AO3 user donating money to the OTW, it would be important to me to know that, for example, our recent bout of 502 errors was due to problems configuring the servers and the database and not, say, because a rogue committee member spent the money for new servers on currant buns! Likewise, if I were a tag wrangler it would be important to me to know that coders were working on a new tag feature, because it might have implications for what I was doing. I know that day-to-day, many people don’t want to read all the details of what the whole org does – they might have more interest in one specific project, but not be too fussed about the others. However, it’s important that if they do have questions, that information is there for them to find, or there is a clear way for them to ask the question.

My one big thing I want to do towards this is to do regular public posts about what the Board is up to, so that members can see what these people they voted for are actually doing, and to encourage and support committees to talk more in public about what they do. I think this is a pretty huge project, actually – I’ve put a lot of work into developing Archive communications and we still don’t cover everything I’d like – but I think it will be useful for everyone. And also, it’s fun! Transparency isn’t (or shouldn’t be) some onerous duty – a lot of the time it’s a sheer joy to be able to talk publicly about what awesome things are going on!

Jenny Scott-Thompson

It means you’ll hear about major new features earlier, so that you don’t get big changes sprung on you as a surprise. It means we get feedback while things are still in progress and we can more easily make changes, so that once changes are complete, they can be even better! It also means that there will be more volunteers working on the AO3 behind the scenes, so the site will be better and faster, with more of the features that users like you have suggested, tags getting wrangled more quickly, and so on.

Betsy Rosenblatt

Good question! It’s easy to get caught up in buzzwords without getting to what they mean. Here’s how I see transparency and communication working for a casual user of the AO3:

– For you to get all you want out of the archive, the organization needs to be able to know what aspects of the archive work really well for you, what aspects you think can/should be improved, what you use the archive for, and what you would like the archive to do that it doesn’t yet do. Getting that information from you, using it to improve your archive experience, and making sure you know everything the archive has to offer, is the essence of communication.

– Now let’s say there’s a decision made about the AO3 that you particularly like or dislike—rules about what it allows or doesn’t allow, for example—and you want to understand why the decision came out the way it did. Being able to know how the organization came to its decision, and the reasons for the decision (so you can celebrate it or argue for change, depending on your preference!) is the essence of transparency.

– What am I actually planning to change? I think we can do an even better job of getting feedback and applying it, getting information about the OTW and its offerings into the hands of users, and making interested members feel like they are included in the organization’s deliberative processes. I don’t think these things require huge changes, but rather refinements in process and attitude.

Nikisha Sanders

I really appreciate this question because I’ve been where you are, and I continue to be in a number of contexts. One of the struggles of both non-profit work and participating in fandom is that both seem to require a whole new set of language skills and shorthand, and once you’ve got it down, you don’t notice you’re using it all the time.

To me, transparency breaks down to operating openly and simply, and better communication means making information available to anyone who seeks it, insofar as is possible without compromising confidentiality. Transparency also means being able to explain and provide rationale for making a particular decision or the way a given issue has been handled. Having written policies and procedures that are widely known and shared will help with that, but we also have to have a means of questioning and/or commenting on those decisions. That’s where better communication comes in, by making it clear who to contact about a given issue to start, and making every effort to respond with as much information as is reasonable.

Basically, I want other people to be able to easily see and understand how we’re working as an organization and on our various projects, why we’re doing things a certain way, and who is involved. If they can’t, they should be able to easily ask those questions, know they will reach the right person/people to give an answer, and receive a prompt and clear response. I would like to make sure we are documenting everything we should be, making that documentation available in appropriate locations, weeding out materials that are no longer useful, and updating things as needed. I would also like to see us be direct and concise in how we talk about the organization and our projects, without getting bogged down in specialized language that can act more as a barrier to participation than an aid to it.

For you and other casual users of AO3, or any of our other projects, all of this means OTW having the internal structure it needs to keep those projects going, even if lead staff on a project leave, take vacations, or catch flu. It also means making it easier for volunteers to participate, donors to give, and feedback to reach the right eyes and ears, giving us the means to improve the projects you value.

Julia Beck
Response received 4:13pm UTC 2 November 2011; added to post 4:22pm UTC 2 November 2011.

Transparency means that you, as a casual user, can find out what’s actually going on inside OTW, if you want to, and that you know what we did with your feedback. As a fan-driven organization, we depend on our users’ trust and involvement (we can’t think of all the ways you might want to use the archive ourselves, for example). It means that you can easily find accessible and relevant information and ways to get involved. (The recent Open Houses are good examples for measures that help improve transparency.) Right now, only a couple of people on a committee level have the sort of broad overview to know why something is happening, or not happening, and when and what is in progress, or being planned; and volunteers are often just as confused and intimidated as casual users are. (You shouldn’t have to sign up as a volunteer to get access to that sort of information, anyway.)

It doesn’t have to be important to everyone, and the admin posts and spotlights on AO3 are doing a good job of keeping users up to date and informed. That’s not true across the organization as a whole yet, so we need to do a better job to get people involved and invested by reaching out, and by actively soliciting feedback.

Naomi Novik
Response received at 11:59pm UTC 3 November 2011; added to post 2:46am UTC 3 November 2011.

Yes, there’s been a lot of that, sorry: jargon is contagious, and when someone says it in the question I tend to repeat it in the answer, even though I recognize it’s problematic and can mean different things to different people.

Here’s what I mean:

Transparency: that we provide enough information about us publicly that someone who is interested (and a lot of people have a legit interest either because they use our services or might volunteer or give us money) and willing to do some poking about and reading can figure out roughly how the org works, what we’re working on, get a sense if things are moving ahead smoothly, and on a fairly up to date basis — say monthly.

Sustainability: that we’re doing well enough at raising money and at recruiting and keeping volunteers to keep chugging along.

And these things are important to you, archive user, because that tells you you don’t need to worry that the org is going to keel over and die taking the archive you like with it. 🙂

Board Candidate Chat Two Follow-Up Questions: Fourth Set

We’ve got our fourth batch of questions and answers from our candidates ready for your perusal! You can read those questions and answers here, on the OTW Elections website. Answers are listed in the order they were received, and any responses received after the deadline will be added to that page as soon as possible, with any post-publication changes noted. Emphasis in these responses is on immediate answers rather than polished essays — just as in the chats.

At this point, we have five questions left! Three of them are currently with the candidates, and you can expect them around 24 hours from now — they were sent to candidates at 16:00/4:00pm UTC 1 November 2011, meaning they are due before 16:00/4:00pm UTC 2 November 2011.

We’d also like to remind all of our voters that tomorrow, 2 November 2011, is the deadline to assign a voting proxy (see our Elections timeline here). We know that the extended, electronic ballots that we use should make proxy voting unnecessary in most cases, but a voter might decide they need a proxy if the 48-hour voting period falls during a time when they may not have internet access, or when they have other commitments.

To assign a proxy, send an email from the account you used when you last donated, addressed to both elections-chair@transformativeworks.org and your proxy. State in the email that you wish to assign your proxy to the recipient, and include your legal name. Your proxy must reply to you and to elections-chair@transformativeworks.org to accept the responsibility, and to give us their legal name. Proxies remain in place for six months and cannot be revoked, so they aren’t a back-up plan! Our elections website has a FAQ section on proxy voting with more details, if you think this may apply to you.