Priscilla Del Cima 2016 Q&A: Group 1

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

1. What goal or mission from the other candidates do you most agree with and would you also like to see implemented?

I talk about internationalisation in #4 below, so I’ll focus on the addressing sustainability concerns with paid work goal that James mentioned instead: I strongly believe we need to establish a good structure for handling contractors (and someday paid work for the essential areas that keep the lights on). We’re only just starting out when it comes to this, and it’s a complicated transition for an all-volunteer organisation—but some of our crucial areas, especially Systems and AO3 development, could definitely use dedicated paid help, and that need will only increase as time goes on. It means learning how to deal with a lot of different aspects of contracting in a reliable, organised and stable fashion—from detailing project scopes to tracking each contractor’s progress, from contract drafting to tax filing requirements. The change, though not easy or immediate, will be very healthy for us.

2. The OTW Board has a long history of well-meaning people becoming disconnected from the Org and its committees, and getting caught up in dramatics, which reflects badly on the Org as a whole and is counterproductive. While the Board has had the chance to start with a clean slate this year, these problems are quite typical for non-profit organisations. What is your strategy to avoid ending up with a situation like late 2015 again?

One of my favourite parts of working in the OTW now that we have an all-org open communication platform is keeping in touch with people from various committees to chat informally about what they’re up to and discuss issues and new ideas. I imagine this will be even more relevant if I do join Board, and it would be a good way to keep that disconnect from taking place. It seems to me that one of the major factors that led to what happened last year is losing track of the day to day committee work that can be affected by any politicking or posturing—even simple things, like not taking into consideration that any change on an AO3 static page requires a code deploy, tests and multiple volunteers to make it happen, or that an OTW website page edit means dozens of translations will have to get altered as well, or that AO3 Support will have to reply to endless emails if a news post is not carefully worded.

It’s always a challenge to avoid interpersonal issues getting in the way of accomplishing work together, and some of the OTW’s internal cultural issues can make it more difficult. But we’re certainly getting better, especially as new people join. (I’m really looking forward to having them on the Board in the future!) It’s already much easier to approach people from different areas and to communicate openly. I don’t think there’s any magic bullet to avoid passive-aggressive and hostile behaviour except actively making an effort to avoid this in day to day work by being cordial, listening and taking a step back when disagreements arise. So here’s to hoping we all keep trying; I’ll definitely continue to do my best.

3. Both James and Kristina mention that there are several committees struggling to move forward with their goals, because they’re too busy staying afloat. What would be your strategy to identify these committees, identify their largest problem areas and get them moving forward again?

The first step is to build a constructive relationship between the Board and each committee, with frequent communication. Talking to all teams regularly to learn about their current situation, encouraging them to set realistic and helpful goals beyond just doing enough day-to-day work to tread water, and following up to see how progress on these goals is going. This can give committees an encouragement to actually take the time to stop and plan ahead, the lack of which planning is one of our weaknesses as an organisation.

It’s important to try to get everyone working in this direction: taking the time to implement structural improvements can mean that a team will struggle more for a short while and then be in a better situation later—if you never stop to consider how to get better, you’re always caught in the cycle of struggling to get work done. Also, this could give everyone an opportunity to make connections with others in the organisation who may have the skills or experience that team could use: a committee may not even realise there’s someone else in the OTW with knowledge that could solve a problem that seems impossibly complex to them.

4. James was the only candidate who mentioned Internationalisation of the Archive. Why isn’t this a priority for the other candidates? While this is obviously a long term project consisting of many variables and steps, that shouldn’t mean no progress should be made. What small step forward in this process do you think achievable during your term on Board?

AO3 internationalisation is definitely a crucial priority for the OTW. I’ve been chairing Translation for the past few years, and there’s literally nothing we as a committee look forward to more—we know all the reasons why it’s tricky and why past attempts to create this haven’t succeeded, but we eagerly anticipate the day that we’ll have the ability to translate the AO3 interface. (And we’re also a bit scared of how we’ll come up with a good translation for the “Brevity is the soul of wit, but we need your comment to have text in it” warning.) So far, we’ve started working on the small steps we do have available—translating AO3 news posts, FAQs, Support and Abuse tickets—and I’m sure more steps will follow, like translatable AO3 notification emails.

The role that Board has in this goal is to work with the Accessibility, Design & Technology team to check in on their current priorities and projects and discuss their progress and how the Board and other parts of the organisation can help. I would be thrilled if this project could be advanced or even completed during my term on Board, but I don’t know what is realistically achievable and what the team’s workload is at any given time. If, for example, AD&T decides to hire a contractor to develop or review interface localisation code, I have no doubt the Board would be happy to approve it.