ira_gladkova ([personal profile] ira_gladkova) wrote2011-12-12 11:35 am
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2012 OTW Goals

Hello! I'm Ira, and I'm currently a member of the Board of the Organization for Transformative Works. This sticky post will be used as a list of the goals I intend to pursue for the 2012 term in that role; you are welcome and invited to ask questions about those and hold me accountable!

I anticipate adding to this post as the term goes on, with both updates on existing items and new items entirely. Some new additions will happen because they just didn't occur to me earlier. Other times, I'll have ideas, but they need a little work before I can talk about them here — for example, I may need to talk to certain chairs or other board members, so as to not put public pressure on anyone without warning. I'll be as honest, open, and timely as I can be without putting undue pressure or scrutiny on anyone else. I also want to be clear that lots of people are behind every goal, including, in most cases, other Board members. Where an idea has been explicitly proposed or adopted by another Board member but is also something I'm very interested in, I try to note who those people are.

While I do serve on the Board, this doesn't mean I have a magic wand or anything — the OTW's very strength is that it's the work of many people with many different skills, backgrounds, and opinions, so no one should have a magic wand and that's good — so please keep in mind that this is just me and my voice.

In relation to that, I want to be clear that this is only a statement of interest and intent — and, as time goes on, hopefully also a progress report. These are things I hope to support and talk with people about; my role in most things is largely to enable rather than execute. Some of these things are already underway, some need more resources devoted to them, a few are new; some are big, some are small. All share this in common: effort and input from many people with individual goals, concerns, and purview.


These are the basic ideas around which I try to orient my actions.

Variety is what gives us strength; to be sustainable, and to be true to our mission, we must be diverse. Inclusive language and policies, and an awareness of the areas in which we are under- or un-representative, are essential. My particular bugbears are international diversity, diversity in types of creative fannish expression we cater to (e.g. art, vids, etc.), and making a welcoming and inclusive home for all fandoms who want under the umbrella. In the latter area, my biggest strength is gaming fandom, followed by anime and manga; I'm notably deficient in non-Japanese and non-USA sources of comics and in non-USA/European TV shows, but am aware of some people in the org who have experience here, and would love to learn and listen — or recruit you if you're strong in these areas!

Asking what this buzzword meant was actually a question in the last election (good!). To me, transparency means: our organizational structure must be visible and easy to comprehend from both inside and out; our major policies, and the reasoning behind them, must be public and easy to understand; our work should be comprehensible and have avenues for input from stakeholders where possible and appropriate; our history should be recorded and accessible. Channels for communication should be obvious and effective, both for those working within the org and for everyone else. Overall, transparency means that, within limits of confidentiality, anyone with a question about how the org works or what happened and why should know or be able to quickly and easily find either the information itself or how to ask for it.

This means a lot more than raising money and recruiting people — though those are both hugely important goals that take a lot of work from some very dedicated people — it also means taking good care of the people we recruit and structuring our org and our work in a way that reduces burnout and makes the best use of our resources. This means listening to the little voices as well as the large. This means being transparent and striving for diversity. This means not relying on heroes or heroics, and building our structure and communication based on roles, not the particular individuals who fill them. Those individuals all bring unique strengths and we should definitely take advantage of those, but we also need to take care of those amazing people and encourage everyone to communicate about workloads and needs.

These are all interdependent: transparency and diversity are part of sustainability; diversity depends on transparency, etc. If you think I am not acting in accordance with these principles, or want to know how some specific goals/actions relate to these, please let me know!

General Goals

These are some of the overall things I want to work towards. Some have already been mentioned in official statements such as our post, Brainstorming for a more inclusive OTW (also on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal); some were mentioned during the recent election by candidates (you can still read candidate statements, chats, and responses on the Elections site); some have been discussed in recent Board meetings (I'll link to the relevant minutes once they're available). In general, I want to emphasize that each goal has support or interest from several people, including other Board members, but would also necessitate input, participation, and work from many individuals and committees. I can't, and don't want to, simply make anything happen — but I can, and intend to, advocate, support, and enable.

Adopt more best practices as: a nonprofit, an OSS project, a legal advocacy project, etc.

The OTW is a complicated organization: in general, we are a nonprofit, but we also are, or host, an Open Source Software (OSS) project, a legal advocacy project, a wiki project, an archival project, an academic journal... Each of those types of projects has rich histories and have developed repositories of best practices. This year, I hope we can not only adopt minimum nonprofit best practices in general, but also focus on more specific identities and the resources those histories can bring us. My biggest interests here are the OSS (where Board member Jenny Scott-Thompson has many great ideas) and legal project parts, and Board member Nikisha Sanders is a driving force behind adopting general nonprofit best practices.

Spread our resources more equitably among our projects

The OTW runs a number of really awesome projects, and they all deserve a lot of love and attention. The Archive of Our Own was a major driving factor behind the inception and early growth of the org, and definitely continues to need and deserve a lot of staff and volunteer time and dedication. However, while continuing to channel necessary resources towards the AO3, I want to also highlight and spread resources to our other projects, such as our academic journal (Transformative Works and Cultures), our wiki (Fanlore), and our legal work (e.g. our partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the DMCA Exception for vidders). I'm particularly interested in bringing more attention to our legal work.

Make the connections between the OTW and its projects clearer

This is perhaps best explained by counterexample: many people seem confused by the difference between being an AO3 user and being a member of the OTW. This sort of confusion demonstrates a lack of clarity regarding the relationship between the OTW and its projects. I want to work to make these connections and relationships clearer, including not only marking each of our projects with an explanation its relationship to the OTW, but also elucidating the lines of communication, authority, and responsibility (e.g. what is the relationship of the OTW Board with the Board of Transformative Works and Cultures? Who leads the Fanlore project and what does that entail?). Finally, I want to make particularly clear what being a member of the OTW means and how it differs from being a user of or contributor to our projects.

Address volunteer and staffer recruitment, retention, nurturing, and burnout

Some degree of volunteer burnout is inherent in nonprofit work (and, likely, in fannish projects as well). However, I'm concerned by not only the amount of burnout, but also the reasons for why people leave and how the people leaving feel about their work and the org. Our Volunteers & Recruiting committee has worked hard to improve our intake process, which is awesome. But we have problems beyond that, ranging from projects that need more particular avenues for participation (e.g. the AO3, Fanlore, and the Symposium blog), to many people feeling they aren't being listened to or can't voice complaints, to unclear processes for how to leave a volunteer position. One of the things we try to do as an org is "build the builders" — that is, empower people with skills and resources that they can then deploy in helping the org grow or in starting or growing other fannish or fan-related projects. I want to work with our Volunteers & Recruiting committee to help further this goal, and support their work in addressing the other personnel management issues we have in the org.

Develop and follow a communications strategy

Board member Nikisha Sanders explicitly suggested this as a goal to move on early this term, and I agree that it's definitely something we need to pursue. We should have a clear plan for when, how, where, and what to communicate, including incorporating the Translation committee into that workflow. We should have a process in place for emergency or urgent communication, avenues for input, and a strategy for how to take in and respond to feedback. The Communications committee has already done significant work in this area, and this term, I want to support them in finishing and finalizing a strategy and following through on it.

Work towards helping Fanlore be a resource for anime, manga, and gaming fandoms

Many anime, manga, and gaming fandoms have strong wiki cultures, and I and other believe that this could help Fanlore be a real gateway for those fans. I think channeling more resources towards Fanlore, and helping Fanlore develop policies for participation and outreach that are friendly towards these fandoms, could help these fandoms gain more of a foothold in the org. I do want to note that this is also dependent on drawing stronger connections between the OTW's projects, so that it's easy for such a foothold to spread.

Outreach to underrepresented fandoms

In general, I want to continue to search for ways to make our tools welcoming to a wide range of fandoms and fannish cultures — we should endeavour to make anyone who wants to use our tools feel welcome and accommodated. Board member Julia Beck is a great source of ideas and strategies in this area, and I look forward to working with her and supporting her, as well as working on further ideas of my own.

Concrete Goals and Action Items

I want to emphasize again that I'm just one person with one voice, and that others may have reasons to vote against a specific action, or have other or better ideas. Most actions also involve consultation with and effort from several committees. I'll try to keep this list updated, including with any actions that have been stricken and why. And, as always, these are not all the things I feel need to be done in general, but the things that are most important to me or that I feel I am most equipped to pursue.

For now, I'm just mentioning these in brief summary; I hope to post in more detail on each as I work on these goals to further elucidate what committees are involved, how much work everything takes, the details that go into each, etc. I'll link any such posts here under the relevant item.

  • [General]
    Revisiting election procedures, including how candidate chats/questions are handled and reorganizing the Elections website — part of the overall website redesign; see below under [Webmasters]

  • [General]
    Name both basecamp and campfire (two key org tools) accounts to "transformativeworks" (the campfire account is currently "fanarchive")

  • [Board]
    Put together the next iteration of our strategic plan

  • [Board]
    Take up Denise from Dreamwidth on her offer for feedback and advice (Jenny Scott-Thompson has already started work in this area), and tap any other such contacts (e.g. at the EFF?)

  • [Board]
    Move open session meetings to room with greater viewership

    Board meetings have an open session and a closed session (for legal, confidential, or personnel-related items). Open sessions are currently held in a chatroom that only committee chairs and Board members can access.

  • [Board]
    Explicitly define the role of Board liaison, and the role of Board member in general

    While we have some broad or inherited understandings of both roles, I believe both need to be defined more explicitly and tie in to the Volunteers & Recruiting committee's work on defining other key roles in the org.

  • [Accessibility, Design, & Technology + Internationalization and Outreach + Tag Wrangling]
    Overhaul of media categories

  • [Accessibility, Design, & Technology]
    Fanart hosting and posting

  • [Accessibility, Design, & Technology + Translation]
    Translation interface

  • [Accessibility, Design, & Technology + Support]
    Support board — where support tickets can be posted and answered by both staff and other users

  • [Development & Membership + Finance + Legal]
    Revisiting the question of membership — sweat equity, donation size

    This is a particularly complex question that involves legal issues; it might be that in the end we won't be able to change anything, and I want to note that this issue was considered by the Elections Committee at the founding of the org. However, I feel it's time to revisit the question, and do so publicly and openly.

  • [Finance]
    Develop budgeting process for both money and staff/volunteer time — proposed by Nikisha Sanders

  • [Legal]
    Consult with Legal committee about sources for legal expertise in other countries/regions, particularly Japan (idea from Board candidate Betsy Rosenblatt), and work with them and Volunteers & Recruiting to find ways to incorporate diverse international staff

  • [Open Doors]
    Consult with Open Doors about talking to known endangered anime/manga archives (e.g. Sailor Moon Romance)

  • [Volunteers & Recruiting]
    Support their work on the development and enforcement of a Volunteer Code of Conduct — supported by Jenny Scott-Thompson

  • [Volunteers & Recruiting]
    Support the committee's work in putting together a chart of the org structure (committees, chairs, #staff/volunteers, subcommittees, etc.) and posting it publicly

  • [Volunteers & Recruiting]
    Support the committee's work in explicitly defining key roles such as "chair", "staff", and "volunteer"

  • [Webmasters]
    Redesign and restructure the OTW website — sponsored by Kristen Murphy

I'll make a comment with a special subject line ("REVISION" followed by a summary of changes) whenever I make a major update to this post, so I hope that'll make tracking things easier for anyone who subscribes to this post.

Please feel free to leave questions and any other feedback here; I'll do my best to answer quickly. Thanks for reading!

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