Qiao C’s 2023 Q&A:Recent Discussions

[Note: There will be 4 Q&A posts total, covering all the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. Candidates were limited to 300 words per answer.]

What’s the biggest problem currently facing the OTW? What is the priority for the Archive to do in general, and how would you see this happening?

1) Low trust among committees, including the Board. I believe that the Board’s policies should have priority over committee chairs because the Board is elected to reflect our members’ expectations. However, there should be an established system to hold disagreements or protests. As the system is now lacking, this leads to conflict that reduces trust and lowers the efficiency for necessary changes.
I would like to see a future Board of directors formed by seven (or more) volunteers from at least seven different committees; in that way one of them could always serve as a liaison with a certain committee’s work flow and help the Board negotiate with the committee chair. Rebuilding internal communication is the foundation of facilitating external transparency and earning trust back from our user base.
2) Unlike some of our other projects (Open Doors, Fanlore and TWC), the Archive itself is supported by multiple committees, hence the policies for this specific project can be directly decided by the Board.
In my opinion, the priority at the moment should be updating our Terms of Service as well as providing support to all committees to address the low trust issues. Every recent controversy regarding the OTW indicates some necessary modification to the ToS.
I would support our PAC committee in recruitment and task assignment, as well as seeking out tools that can better help their work. I will also discuss with fellow Board members, chairs of related committees and experts, in order to revise our ToS as soon as possible.

Would you be in favor of creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee? Why or why not?

To my knowledge, there was a similar attempt. The Internationalization & Outreach committee was established in 2010 and disbanded in around 2016, following the reform of the Board during the 2015 election. I am, in fact, not in favor of the creation of a DEI committee. This would not work unless the majority of this committee consists of international or minority volunteers. On the other hand, compared to a new committee that does not have more power than the Board does, I am more convinced by a Board with minority members occupying the majority. I believe this is only the first step we should take on the organization level to address diversity issues.

The cost of becoming a member/voting in elections is prohibitive for many users, particularly disabled, international and POC ones. Do you have any ideas about how this could be improved to make the otw more inclusive and less privileged?

Answering from a Mainland Chinese user’ POV: for most of us, it is the limited choices of payment methods that makes it particularly challenging for us to donate and become a member. Credit cards and debit cards issued by Chinese banks are not allowed to top-up Paypal in dollars, as a result of China’s foreign currency exchange control. Also, very few of our users from mainland China own a Mastercard or VISA card as banks have strict conditions upon issuing international credit cards. I have limited experience in finance, so I would like to talk with relevant committees to explore the possibility of adding different payment methods, such as UnionPay or Alipay, for donation purposes.
Our projects should be made more accessible to more users, which should take the donation and voting process into consideration (e.g., CAPTCHA audio). In the future, we may also talk about lowering the requirement of a 10 dollar donation.
Upon receiving donations of disabled, international and minority members, I hope the organization could actually put the money towards resolving problems for them, e.g., establish a more accessible interface. I am also looking forward to seeing future candidates who come up with related concerns be more likely to be elected, and push the Board to improve the environment within the organization.

What challenges do you see presented to the OTW by its growing international userbase and volunteer pool, and how do you plan to address them? English dominance within OTW has been a longstanding topic of discussion. What actions have you taken, or do you plan to take in the future, to make OTW a more welcoming and accessible space for volunteers and users who do not speak English as their primary language?

1) Regional accessibility has become an unignorable issue in recent years. Users from the two countries who banned the Archive have together contributed 7.7% of total works we host. Although the organization cannot recover the accessibility, I do think we can at least make the Archive more welcoming to international users, by facilitating the multilingual interface. We should also keep recruiting international volunteers to ensure every user’s requests are handled properly. When recruiting, we should pay particular attention to confirm that volunteers wouldn’t have safety concerns when accessing our projects.
2-a) I have talked about it in my platform and last Q&A set before, and will keep talking about it as long as I volunteer here until it eventually comes true – that the multilingual interface is necessary for our projects. Knowing that it might take a great amount of time and resources with collaboration between committees to achieve this goal, I would provide what I can do to support them, pushing for changes and continuing to offer help to all our users until the goal comes true.
2-b) In the Tag Wrangling committee, when recruiting for speakers for a specific language, we always have mentors who speak that language so they can help the new wranglers to get familiar with their training quickly. I think this mentor system will be also helpful for most of the other committees in welcoming EFL volunteers.

Recently, we’ve seen disagreements about how the Legal team handled various problems. How will you clarify to everyone what Legal’s role is, and make sure their actions are within that scope and are documented so their decisions can be reviewed?

Our Legal team has always been very important for the entire OTW. As the very first committee established within OTW, they have provided indispensable support to the organization as well as to fandoms, especially in intellectual property right protection and non-profit organization running. However, I do think our Legal team should have a periodic internal assessment to consider recruiting more members. New members with expertise in various areas would bring in more comprehensive views in aspects with the rapid growth, like user base, cyber attack and technology innovation. As much as I believe that Legal’s decisions are well documented internally, I also want to request more communication from them with our users, through chats, open Q & A sessions or other approaches.

Do you believe there should be any restrictions on people with a history of harassment running for Board? Do you believe there should be any restrictions on people with a history of harassment becoming committee chairs?

I don’t have a strong opinion on such restrictions, considering the difficulty of tracing one’s previous behavior in fandom. I think compared to a Board candidate’s history of harassment, it is the misconduct that happened during one’s term as Board member or committee chair that should be paid particular attention to. If we decide to apply such restrictions in the future, I think it would be more about prevention of misconduct.
1) Changes in candidate eligibility requirements are decided by Legal, Election and a couple of other committee chairs; it also needs a vote from the Board to take effect. However, once elected, a Board member cannot be impeached through violating Code of Conduct. If a certain Board member misbehaves, there is nothing others can do but wait for that Board member’s term to end. I would like to discuss with our Legal and related committees about the possibility of establishing an impeachment mechanism that could be launched by our voting members.
2) The committee chairs are appointed within their committee; the qualifications for a chair are also committee-dependent. Per current policies, if a chair violates Code of Conduct, (e.g., violence, harassment and discrimination), volunteers may complain. Processing would be applied regarding how a chair misbehaved.

A long-standing issue in the OTW is that chairs often prefer to avoid conflict and never discipline their volunteers. Do you have any ideas for how to solve this issue?

The biggest issue I see on some of our chairs is excusing themselves from responsibility. Some chairs act so because they are genuinely clueless about their position; some others are very aware that they are overstepping to another committee, but still take the liberty and disappear from workspace when being called out to take responsibility.
New chairs are appointed by current chairs of the committee – I think this appointment process should remain as it is. In addition, we also started to actively recruit chair track volunteers who are willing to take the responsibility in the future as the chair of a committee. However, there should be mechanisms that could help correct their behavior when they make mistakes outside or inside their committee. If we have the Board consist of volunteers from as many committees as possible, then we could always have a Board member as liaison to a certain committee, and discuss how to repair the damage caused by chairs.

What specific actions would you have the Board take to 1) fulfill its commitments made in 2020 to reduce racism on AO3 and across the OTW and 2) continue to expand anti-racist efforts in the OTW? How will you support Black fans, Indigenous fans, and fans of color in feeling welcome on the Archive of Our Own and in avoiding harassment? How do you feel about #EndRacismInTheOTW?

4) I really appreciate the protest methods chosen by this movement: those showed a clear attitude towards OTW decision makers while not burdening common volunteers. For example, they chose to add the slogan into work titles and summaries instead of tags, which both makes it searchable by using the slogan and also does not increase work amount for tag wranglers. In the future, if the treatment towards us volunteers and users with different cultural backgrounds has not improved, these approaches would be very useful precedents.
2 & 3) Due to the nature of AO3 as a fiction platform, the racial harassment towards other users is not only based on races but also based on languages. I am going to request a more flexible definition of harassment in our Term of Service, depending on racial terms not only in American English but also in other commonly and uncommonly used languages. I will also ensure the diversity and volunteers volume in our PAC committee to have each report resolved properly and in time. In addition, I want to publicize the comment moderation functions we currently have.
1) The Board mainly promised three things in 2020: one of them, to give users more control over their own works’ comment section and block/mute to other users, has come true but surely could be optimized in the future. The other two goals, reviewing warnings and ToS, and supporting our PAC committee, are either paused or failed hard. First of all, we need someone who works for or is very familiar with PAC to be on the Board, to help the PAC out of their current vicious circle between too many tasks and too few volunteers. With our PAC running efficiently, we will continue to review our Term of Service and then execute our up-to-date ToS to reduce racial harassment.

In my experience, problems in institutions can often be traced back to pockets of stagnation, where people who are uninterested in general change have become calcified in a given organization. How would you approach trying to address that kind of organizational stagnation?

Inertia and stagnation have always been a problem for the organization. I believe a structural change is necessary to combat such stagnation in the long-term. I propose setting up more specific roles within the organization: not only do we need chairs and chair track volunteers, but we should also set up roles on the more administrative side to make sure interested individuals who have the time and energy can tackle tasks that are necessary but exhausting.