ira_gladkova ([personal profile] ira_gladkova) wrote2012-07-23 04:12 pm

Minutes Mondays! 07 July 2012 & 14 July 2012

This is a feature I hope to be able to keep up as much as possible, wherein I use Mondays to give some public notes, thoughts, or details on recently posted Board meeting minutes. If you have questions about anything in the minutes that I didn't cover, feel free to ask! I'll do my best =)

(I have several longer posts waiting on specific topics, and I also owe some people replies. I'm working on it!)

Important disclaimers and general information: Board minutes cover items from email (Board-only), open session (open to all staff), and closed session (Board-only). Please keep in mind that the information I can disclose varies depending on the arena, and I will use my judgment to balance confidentiality and transparency.

As always, I am only one Board member out of several, and one OTW volunteer out of many. These opinions and interpretations are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any other Board members or of the Board as a whole. It is my policy to not discuss other directors' individual opinions unless those directors have already done so publicly themselves.


Today we have a double-header, why not! Let's go!

07 July 2012 - Attended

  • Email #6
    We invited Mark from Dreamwidth to talk to our senior tech people about performance and scalability.
    Mark has been extremely generous in his time and feedback, and I know of at least one change already implemented as a result (a tweak to caching). Tapping people from projects that share similar goals or values with the OTW is something I've really wanted to focus on more this term, so I'm thrilled with this development and am basically just sitting here quietly cheering the hell out of this thread. GO TEAM GO, YOU ARE AWESOME

  • Open #5
    The shiny new technical recruiting form is up! I'm gonna take this opportunity to plug [personal profile] renay again; she talks extensively about her work as VolCom chair. (You are reading her already, right?)

  • Closed #2
    We noted that it's important to keep perspective about the difference between people who leave because of the OTW work itself and people who leave because of life circumstances. One is something we can work to try to prevent; the other is something we can't prevent, although we can work to be better prepared for it via succession planning. In a way, it's a sign that we've grown and our people have, too - responsibilities that are large and need to be taken seriously, and people who acknowledge that.
    I want to highlight this. We've definitely had a lot of turnover this year, and it's on all our minds. I don't want to minimize or erase the people who leave the org because of the org — from tripping over unclear purview, from getting tired of waiting and waiting and waiting, from poor personnel management structures — but I think it's important to also remember the people who leave for other reasons — work, health, or other life situation changes, or, ye gods, simply because they feel their job is done. I want to give recognition to everyone who has made the difficult decision to step down and let go. We're a project built around the idea of doing what you love. It's not always easy to recognize when you have too much on your plate, and it's difficult to then have to pick what stays in your life and what doesn't. And it can be just as difficult to recognize when you've done what you came to do, and should trust in your successors. It is honestly a good thing that we've had more people recognizing overcommitment or circumstances leading to inability to follow through. It means that people are taking the work, and our org, seriously. Thank you.

  • Closed #3
    In relation to adding two more board seats:
    This increases the importance of succession planning and staff development throughout the org, since it will be pulling more people up to the board and therefore reducing the pool of potential chairs (or causing board members to be double-booked with chairing, which we should try to avoid whenever possible). So, just something to keep in mind -- we will stress succession planning with the committees we liaise.
    There's been a fair amount of reaction to the expansion announcement, engendering conversations about Board work and role overlap, among other things. We are, collectively, very much aware of the need to reduce tangles in the chain of command, and it's something we're actively working on (and here it is noted officially in our minutes!). I think [personal profile] julia_beck does a great job discussing the current liaising structure and the issues with it in her spotlight post on liaising (also third link above):
    It's important to note that I understand the current liaising practice I've just described as a sort of stop-gap. Board members act as mentors, facilitators, and support to committees, but those are all tasks that could be externalized and delegated to a large degree in order to free up Board for more strategic and high-level work. In other words, we're aware that our current practice is pretty micromanage-y. But the simple fact is that we largely don't have these supportive systems and structures in place yet, and my position is that we can't abandon chairs and staff to fend for themselves in that environment.

    Relatedly, that's why I'm so invested in Volcom's work: they're absolutely central to this reform effort, and Board needs to have their back while they do vital work like revising the intake process (how we sign up and assign volunteers) and drafting a Code of Conduct.

    But even though I do believe that liaison work is necessary, it's also true that six roles at once (temporary or not) is way too many. First, there's the fact that the chain of command is muddled by my being my own superior, in a way. Then, some roles will inevitably conflict, and I have to prioritize a lot, making me feel guilty for not being as available as I should for "my" committees, nevermind that I always fall short of some essential bit of work. (And I don't actually like feeling stressed and guilty. I'm not hero material.)


    Maybe that makes it clearer why I voted for expanding the Board by two seats. Liaising, unsustainable as it is in its current form, is still work that needs doing at the moment, and we need to be able to untangle roles. Spreading them out on more people is only one response, and neither the only nor the best one; mostly, Board members also need to stop chairing committees, but that's a complicated topic that deserves a post of its own.
    I really like this: I think it makes clear what the current situation is and why we're kind of stuck here for a bit. So, again, I'm aware that expanding the Board is not an ideal solution — it's a workable one, and that's about the best we can do right now.

  • Closed #4
    We discussed sponsorship of OSS conferences. In principle we like the idea, but would need to plan carefully which to sponsor and what guidelines we want to use, in order to be fair. We will revisit the issue when we are able to create a budget line item for conferences.
    I'm pulling this out of an example of the low-level but increasing trend we have going: there's less "yes, let's do all the shiny things!" and more slowing down, taking stock, and looking at what sort of structures/work we need in place before we can pursue a given project or objective. I'm pretty invested in cutting back on new stuff so we can properly take care of current investments.

  • Closed #6
    We discussed our workload as board members, with a view to continuing management and sharing out of duties.
    This is an ongoing conversation. How it's actually happening is that we have an email thread going where we're sharing all our roles/commitments, asking for help where we need it, and discussing possible trades or other changes. We're looking not only at our own health/workload, but also at the webs of chains of command and conflicts of interest. The conversation is happening a bit slowly (see Closed #3 from the next meeting), but I think it's a really healthy one for us to have.

14 July 2012 - Attended [Meta Edition!]

  • Email #1
    We've already agreed some guidelines for the elections officer, around not endorsing candidates, appearing neutral and ensuring that personal views don't affect their behaviour or treatment of candidates. The rest of the workgroup will not be privy to any extra information or influence, apart from the two Webmasters who will assist in the election. The same rules about not endorsing candidates either in public or private, and not commenting publicly on the direction of the OTW or hot topics, will apply to the two Webmasters staff involved in counting votes. These staff members will also not be named outside of Webmasters committee, the Elections workgroup and the standing Board, so that they cannot be put under external pressure to falsify results.
    Hey can I just say again that [personal profile] jennyst is a kickass Elections Officer? Before anyone panics: it's not that the norms were much different in previous elections. The problem is that that's all they were: norms. Very little of this sort of thing was actually laid out and documented anywhere. Documenting all the things and actually codifying and laying out things like job descriptions, expectations, and policies is another goal I've been riding into the ground this term, and I am loving the work our EO and Elections Workgroup are doing here.

  • Email #2
    We discussed proposals for the Emerita Board and Advisory Board.
    So, this is pretty neat. I can't go into too much detail yet, but I wanted to at least explain what these were and our interest in them.

    Emerita Board: We're looking for ways to keep our former Board members involved, if they're interested. The first steps towards this would be having a way to connect them all; we approved (Email #2) setting up a mailing list for this purpose in April. This is all voluntary — we do understand if some people are just done, and we have a mix of emerita who stayed in the org in some capacity and those who left pretty completely. The purpose of this list is not set in stone yet (and would probably be at least partially self-defined), but some broad strokes we're looking at include giving anyone interested a way to continue Boardy PR/networking, having a resource to tap for consultation and institutional memory, and creating a sense of community.

    Advisory Board: It's not uncommon for nonprofits to have an Advisory Board in addition to a Board of Directors, and there are a number of people who are interested and invested in our work that we'd love to tap in this capacity. This one's a bit more complicated — we'd need to carefully draw lines around what Directors do/are for and what Advisors do/are for, and go into conflicts of interest policies and all sorts of document-y, lay-things-out-explicitly goodness that gets me so worked up — but there are plenty of models around. You can check out the Advisory Boards for The Ada Initiative (note our own Francesca Coppa here!) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who we've partnered with before for legal advocacy work.

    This idea first came up early in the 2011 term; my "can't shut up about it" concern both then and now is diversity on the Advisory Board, including international representation and snagging people significant to our underrepresented communities (gaming, non-Western-source fandoms, the usual). That said, I'm pretty excited about this!

  • Open #3
    We discussed the topic of meta on the AO3, which is currently in a grey area of the Terms of Service
    This deserves its own post. No way around it! It's coming, I swear. I just. All the things! All the tl;dr to write! In the meantime, please do check out the details of this item in the minutes — this summarizes the issues discussed by the myriad staff/representatives who attended this open session. (By the way, you're seeing a themed open session in action here =D )

  • Closed #3
    We raised the issue of board members' workloads, particularly from liaising, but postponed discussion due to short time from open session
    Just noting that we're keeping this on the agenda. Slowly but surely.

Wasn't that exciting! fffffff
princessofgeeks: (Default)

[personal profile] princessofgeeks 2012-07-23 10:15 pm (UTC)(link)
thank you for the post!
ainsley: (Default)

[personal profile] ainsley 2012-07-24 04:42 am (UTC)(link)
I really, really appreciate not only the openness of the posted minutes, but getting this extra information. I feel better about the organization when board members display commitment to recognizing and resolving the problems identified last year.

[personal profile] renay is made of vodka and win, and it's a privilege to get to work with her on VolCom.
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-07-24 08:03 pm (UTC)(link)
re: Advisory Board.

Before Board forms this group, it needs a definition for that group's responsibilities to the organization, as well as what their purview is. What is their job? How much time will they be expected to give? What is the term of their service? Will they have a job description? Will they be held liable for not completing the job as defined by that description? What input, if any, does the membership get to have in the people who are appointed?

Additionally, anyone on the advisory board should resign from their positions in the organization and, while serving on the advisory board, be ineligible for the Board of Directors. They may not be able to properly advise if an issue is one their committee or workgroup is focused on and invested in.

The advisory board also shouldn't have the same access as the Board of Directors — Board members are elected which means that members agree they see confidential material. People who are appointed should not get the same access (thinking specifically of Campfire/Basecamp areas for the Board of Directors).
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-07-25 03:43 am (UTC)(link)
If I'm remembering correctly, I believe we discussed this early in 2011, and this was one of my major concerns, especially for members who already feel their interests are not adequately represented. This will definitely be part of the discussion.

I'm not advocating a vote, but some communication about how and why the choices get made would be good. Term limits for advisory board members would also allow you to take feedback about the make-up for the board, and address concerns raised by the membership about a particular choice. Maybe you've already thought about it, though. :)
anatsuno: (bandaid for your mood?)

[personal profile] anatsuno 2012-07-25 12:14 am (UTC)(link)
I would be very cross if the Advisors were Chairs or Board members; these are NOT positions that should be filled buy the same people concurrently. I would think *outsiders* to the Org are vastly preferable, even, by which I mean I wouldn't find it outrageous if all manners of Volunteers already in the Org were ineligible!
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-07-25 03:06 am (UTC)(link)
Yes, this is what I want, too. I'd be glad for former volunteers of all levels to be advisers, but other than that, no. I'd also support people on the advisory board never being Board-eligible (or if they had been Board members in the past, never being eligible again), but that's likely a controversial, dreamland position to take that will be taken out back and never heard from again once proposed, given how much we seem to like crossing the streams.
anatsuno: a women reads, skeptically (drawing by Kate Beaton) (Default)

[personal profile] anatsuno 2012-07-25 12:11 am (UTC)(link)
This was really interesting, thank you! :)