Rebecca Sentance 2019 Q&A: Group 3

If you as a Board member could change one committee policy/procedure, what would it be?

I definitely don’t think that it’s within the purview of the OTW Board of Directors to make changes to individual committee policies or procedures, and neither should it be. Individual committee policies and procedures are the purview of that committee and that committee alone; if they impact on other committees, they might be devised in collaboration with the committee(s) in question, but this would still not make them the Board’s purview to change or determine. Committees and their chairs are the ones who know best what policies and procedures to enact, and how to go about doing so.

As with making changes to AO3’s Terms of Service, Board interference with committee-level procedures and policies would be a serious breach of trust – and moreover, would go against what the Board exists for, which is to oversee and ensure the smooth functioning of the OTW at a big-picture level, not to micro-manage committees.

At the very most, I imagine that while serving on the Board of Directors, I might be called upon to give advice or discuss issues with committee chairs that impact on procedures or policy, but even then, this would purely be a discussion aimed at helping the committee to find the best solution – not a change made by the Board.

Do you see it as critical to OTW as a non-profit to actively work towards racial and international diversity in its board, staff and volunteers? If so, what concrete steps will you lead the org in taking to achieve this?

As an OTW volunteer, I can attest that we are a very internationally diverse organisation. I know the popular perception of the OTW in some circles is that it’s primarily made up of white Americans, but the reality is very different: a case in point is the OTW website, which is available in 40 different languages besides English – translations that were carried out by OTW volunteers from all over the world. Six of the seven Directors on our current Board come from countries outside the United States, and four are non-native English speakers.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t improvements to be made to our international diversity. As has been mentioned previously, we’ve seen a recent influx of Chinese fans and fanworks to AO3 which has required learning about and accommodating a different set of fannish norms, and we’ve begun recruiting for new roles such as Chinese-speaking tag wranglers to help with this. If elected, I would be keen to support committees in creating and recruiting for roles like these where needed.

Racial diversity is a much more complex issue because the OTW intentionally does not collect data on its volunteers beyond a chosen name and email address. I am a firm supporter of this and don’t believe that OTW volunteers should be required to give any demographic or personal information in order to volunteer.

Additionally, definitions of race and race relations vary greatly from country to country, so taking a US-focused or western approach to race in the OTW would be counterproductive to embracing a diverse point of view. Instead, I think the best way to address this issue is to continue reaching out to internationally and culturally diverse corners of fandom, encouraging them to volunteer with the OTW, and accommodating their needs as much as possible.

Share the story of a negative experience you’ve had in the OTW as a volunteer and what you’ve learned from it.

I am happy to say that this was a difficult question for me to answer; although I’ve learned endless amounts from my experiences as an OTW volunteer, very few of those experiences have been overwhelmingly negative.

At most, I would say that there have been some stressful moments in my role as Fanlore co-chair where I’ve had to deal with problem editors who vandalise the wiki or violate its policies. I should add here that these occasions are extremely rare – the vast majority of Fanlore’s editors are helpful, constructive people who are a joy to get to know. Still, there will always be a few disruptive users on any website, and in those situations Fanlore chairs need to act quickly, working with our staff and gardeners, to decide on a course of action and carry it out.

Some of these incidents have helped us to improve our policies, like the user with multiple sock puppet accounts who decided that our warning templates would look better in jazzy, near-illegible colours, leading us to ensure we protected important templates from potentially disruptive edits. Another problem editor has visited us frequently to add long, unintelligible rants to various pages on the wiki, and when blocked or banned, they responded with aggressive messages on multiple channels. These experiences have taught me to stay calm under pressure, communicate with other editors and committee members to share information and ideas, and to always block users responsible for hostile edits before reverting their work – just in case they turn out to be online and start undoing your edits in real-time.

What do you appreciate or admire about your fellow candidates?

It might sound obvious to say that I admire both of my fellow candidates for running for the Board, but it’s true – I admire them both for being prepared to run, as it’s a big step and not an easy decision to make, and I appreciate having the chance to run with them. In particular, I admire Morgan’s willingness to run two years in a row, to help ensure that we have contested elections.

Having worked with Morgan on the AO3 Documentation committee, I also greatly appreciate their eye for detail and their enthusiasm for taking on additional projects that go beyond their regular responsibilities – and I admire their commitment to absorbing every bit of internal documentation that exists in the OTW. I would be very excited to work with them on the OTW Board of Directors if I have the opportunity.

Kirsten and I have also worked together previously while she was the Comms liaison to Fanlore, and I’ve always appreciated her friendly attitude. I particularly admire her work with the Communications committee in furthering the goal of OTW outreach and promoting the presence of the wider OTW within fandom. As the co-chair of a committee responsible for a non-AO3 project, I am also keen to help raise the profile of the OTW’s other projects wherever possible, and I appreciate that she wants to make this a priority of her time on the Board.