ira_gladkova ([personal profile] ira_gladkova) wrote2011-04-28 02:33 pm

The OTW Server Poll and Fannish Diversity

I haven't been talking about my OTW work much — and I feel like I should. It would increase transparency, particularly of the OTW Board, which I know can seem really opaque. There are two reasons I don't talk about my OTW work: one is that I don't want OTW concerns to permeate my entire fannish life; that's why I created a separate real-name journal, to keep the two separate. But I still haven't used it, because of the second readon: I am just plain damn tired. Besides depression and life in general, I'm also just too exhausted from doing org work to talk about my org work.

I'm still too tired, really, so I apologize if the following reflects that — but I felt this issue to be too important for me to not talk about it, however tired I may be.


Fannish Diversity and the OTW

When I ran for Board, I ran on a platform of diversity — diversity in the kinds of media the OTW (and particularly the AO3) support, like fanart; diversity in terms of geographic, cultural, and media origin in the fans and fandoms the OTW is aware of and serves. So on those grounds, I feel I have to explain myself, explain what part I played in the outcome — explain how I lived up to, or failed to live up to, the ideas I ran for election on.

I know fannish diversity and the OTW is a huge issue, a problematic issue. I can't help but be aware of the issue, as I'm part of several of the groups that have not been so much a focus of the OTW — I'm a gamer, an anime and manga fan, an artist, a multimedia producer and consumer. Of course I'm aware — the OTW has hurt me so many times in this regard. It's a big part of the reason why I ran for Board: I wanted change and I wanted to be part of that change, part of helping it come faster, better. I ran because I believed the OTW could get there, could be the org I wanted it to be.

I've heard a sentiment floating around along the lines of, "the OTW should just own up and admit they have a bias and live with it and stop their collective hand-wringing over the issue" or "if the OTW would just stop saying 'fans' or 'fandom' in its docs and meta and just stick to 'certain fans' and 'certain fandoms', then everything would be peachy and we could all just move on". I know there are a lot of obstacles — and also just plain realities that are neither bad nor good, they just are. Fandom in all its forms is simply too huge, too diverse, too wide-ranging, too multifarious, for one organization to really cover all the angles, serve all the needs. But I do think this organization could do a damn sight better; I think that a lot of the obstacles currently in our path are neither inherent nor necessary; that the number of obstacles are finite and their height not insurmountable. I think the OTW can and should do better.

The issue is big — so big that I will focus on only one aspect for now, one reflection: the server names poll.

The winners were announced in a post that also addresses the diversity issue:
DB: Ada Lovelace
Rails: Sherlock Holmes & John Watson
Storage: TARDIS
O1: Spock
O2: James T. Kirk
Switch: Nyota Uhura
To be clear from the start: I am disappointed. I find these results to be actively hurtful to the very types of fans that the OTW has been neglecting. Fans like me.

But also to be clear, I am not disappointed in the fans who made this vote, made this choice. I am not disappointed in our current userbase. The people who voted for these names voted with their hearts, with their fannish souls, and I have nothing but respect for that. There is nothing wrong with these results as fannish choices.

No. I'm disappointed in the OTW for the way this poll was set up, how these results were obtained, and disappointed in myself as part of that.

Disclaimers: Transparency, Who I Am and Who I Speak For

Right up front: this is not an official OTW communication, and I am speaking only for myself. This is explicitly unofficial; everything in this journal is and will be. This has not been vetted by the Board or by the Communications committee, though I did give Board notice that I would be posting this. I understand why the official post on this subject was so limited, but I also feel that more would have been better: more transparency, more discussion. I have made my opinions known inside the OTW and am doing my best to work through all the proper internal channels — but I am a fan, a staffer, a volunteer, a member, a user, and I want to speak about my experiences here.

I'm also a Board member, and I want to explain to those who voted for me what I, as a Board member, did. I do not speak for the Board. I also hold a few other positions that are relevant to the below proceedings, but neither do I speak for any of the involved committees. I speak only for myself.

As such, this account will not be complete. Some of the background here involves org-internal organizational/structural issues, communications between staffers and committees, and other such things that I am not comfortable disclosing until the Board has a wider conversation about transparency, so I am omitting things of that nature from this account and focusing on the outward-facing results and my own actions.

I struggled a lot with the transparency angle of this. I want more transparency; so do many people in the org; so do many fans outside the org. But in the end it's not my call to make alone. Yet there was a lot involved in the server poll issue, and I feel like all the views voiced, whether I agreed with them or not, should be represented, not only to the credit of those who actually voiced those views, but also because I feel everyone, inside the org and out, deserves to know what arguments are being made for or against their views. I want to explain my arguments, without erasing those of others. But I also do not want to put anyone else involved on the spot; I do not want anyone to feel undefended in their views. I do not want to put anyone in the difficult position of feeling like they should come here to explain and defend their positions, but not being able to do so (because they don't have the energy, because it would involve bringing in too much inside-org politics, for whatever reason). I do not want anyone in the org to feel that their every move is scrutinized, that they work under glass — that is not a comfortable or productive environment in which to work. I do want to know what people think, and I want to give people enough information for a productive discussion.

I did my best within those bounds and aims to present my actions and the ideas considered during this process. If nothing else, I want to make clear that just as the diversity issue is complicated, so is transparency. I think the OTW could and should be doing better on both, and I want to be part of that improvement — but as part of a team.

I must also make clear that the OTW — its policies, discussions, decisions, the org as a whole -- is a work in progress. A lot of the issues discussed below are not settled or final; much is still ongoing. But I firmly believe that transparency means being open during as well as after. I feel like a lot of OTW communication comes after the fact, and while I’m glad we do communicate, I think we also need more contact with our audience as we talk, decide, build — and trust our audience to understand that nothing there is final. I’ve made a point of pursuing this policy inside the org. And while this post is explicitly unofficial, I offer it in the same spirit — please remember that these books are not closed, these stories unfinished.

As I don't speak for anyone else in the OTW, I also do not speak for anime and manga fans, for gamers, for any number of such categories. I am just me. I would not be surprised if many fans with similar backgrounds share my feelings, but I don't speak for them. I speak as a member of some of these groups, but that's all.

Finally, I feel sometimes like I shouldn't be making a big deal out of this: they're just some server names. It's a small thing. If I let it go, it can disappear, we can move on, we can do better next time. But no. I think that, in the end, that's wrong. Silence is not a diverse policy. And if it's a small thing, it's one in a string of such things, large and small; part of a pattern. Diversity is hard; diversity means acknowledging where you went wrong and celebrating where you went right; diversity means talking. Diversity means listening. And— I don't want to erase the fans and winners that we do have. So I'm going to talk about this.

Timeline and Issues Considered

At the very beginning of the 2011 term, the OTW purchased five machines for the AO3 project, bringing the AO3 total of machines up to seven; all seven were featured in a post ( OTW | AO3 ). One committee proposed a server naming festival as a fun distraction during the archive downtimes necessary to install the servers. Later in the month, the org took delivery of the machines and included the server naming festival idea in the announcement post ( OTW | AO3 ). In early February, there was another post opening the festival and explaining how it would work ( OTW | AO3 ): a nominations stage, followed by shortlisting, and then voting.

The language of that post was clearly encouraging towards diverse representation:
We want names which suit the machines and which reflect the fannish community they belong to: powerful, international, and brilliant! We'd like it if their names reflected the percentage of awesome women in fandom (although we think they have a whole variety of gender identities, just like fans).

I participated in the nominations stage by submitting a large list of names primarily from anime/manga and gaming fandoms, and primarily women. Everyone's nominations were collated and distributed to several committees who did a first round of shortlisting (a voluntary activity; not all staff on those committees participated). My contribution at this stage slanted heavily towards the same areas as my nominations: anime/manga and gaming origins wherever I could; heavy focus on women; and minority representation in gender, sexuality, and disability wherever I knew it to exist (1).

These lists were again collated and given to the shortlisting panel; I was on that shortlisting panel. The intensive process of final shortlisting explicitly focused on diversity, and I think overall everyone involved in the shortlisting process did a good job in terms of putting together a diverse list of names.

The preliminary shortlists were again collated and given to a shortlisting panel to refine into the final shortlist; I was on that shortlisting panel. This was an intensive process, taking into account not only popularity (how many noms or top choices a name had) but also explicitly focused on diversity. And I think, overall, everyone involved in the shortlisting process did a great job in terms of putting together a diverse list of names (2).
Ada Lovelace [Real People]
Alanna of Trebond [Tortall - Tamora Pierce]
Hermione Granger [Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling]
Izumi Curtis [Fullmetal Alchemist]
Moya [Farscape]
Pippi Långstrump | Pippi Longstocking [Pippi Långstrump | Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren]
Kara Thrace (Starbuck) [Battlestar Galactica]
Tsunade [Naruto]
Agrias Oaks [Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions]
Leeloo [The Fifth Element]

Rails 1 & 2:
Aerith Gainsborough & Tifa Lockhart [Final Fantasy VII]
Luise & Lotte [Das doppelte Lottchen | The Double Lottie - Erich Kästner]
Ico & Yorda [ICO]
Éowyn & Éomer [Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien]
Luke Skywalker & Leia Organa [Star Wars]
Tenou Haruka | Amara Tenou (Sailor Uranus) & Kaiou Michiru | Michelle Kaiou (Sailor Neptune) [Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon | Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon]
Hoban Washburne & Zoë Alleyne Washburne [Firefly]
Jean-Paul Beaubier (Northstar) & Jeanne-Marie Beaubier (Aurora) [X-Men]
Riza Hawkeye & Olivier Armstrong [Fullmetal Alchemist]
Sherlock Holmes & John Watson [Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle]

Original 1:
Samus Aran [Metroid]
Tenar [Earthsea - Ursula K. LeGuin]
Terra Branford [Final Fantasy VI]
Teyla Emmagan [Stargate Atlantis]
Tenjou Utena [Shoujo Kakumei Utena | Revolutionary Girl Utena]
Valentina Tereshkova [Real People]
Alexia Tarabotti [Parasol Protectorate - Gail Carriger]
Zelda [The Legend of Zelda]
Jade Curtiss [Tales of the Abyss]
James T. Kirk [Star Trek]

Original 2:
Chun-Li [Street Fighter]
Aeryn Sun [Farscape]
Bonham [Eroica Yori Ai o Komete | From Eroica with Love]
Dick Grayson (Robin) [DCU]
EVA-01 [Neon Genesis Evangelion]
Katsushiro Okamoto [Sumarai 7]
Nathan Jackson [Magnificent Seven]
Irene Adler [Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle]
Buffy Summers [Buffy the Vampire Slayer]
Spock [Star Trek]

Dana Scully [X-Files]
Edward Elric [Fullmetal Alchemist]
GLadOS [Portal]
Serenity [Firefly]
Hypatia [Real People]
Ianto Jones [Torchwood]
Lirael [Old Kingdom - Garth Nix]
Nico Robin [One Piece]
TARDIS [Doctor Who]
Trinity [The Matrix]

Cordelia Naismith [Vorkosigan Saga - Lois McMaster Bujold]
Jack Harkness [Torchwood]
Hedwig [Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling]
Inara Serra [Firefly]
Lilla My | Little My [Mumintroll | Moomins Series - Tove Jansson]
Lucca Ashtear [Chrono Trigger]
Nyota Uhura [Star Trek]
Barbara Gordon (Oracle) [DCU]
Relena Peacecraft [Gundam Wing]
Mine Fujiko [Lupin III]

During the voting period, I campaigned hard, focusing any names that would stamp the final list of winners with some hint of the fans and fannish origins that had been least visible in the org. I made banners, posted in communities, exhorted friends, did everything I could think of. To be honest, I didn't care which specific names won, as long as there was a little diversity. It was an intensely discouraging week. The names that did indeed end up winning got ahead early and stayed there. I was pretty distressed by this, because I felt that that list, if it ended up winning, would be discouraging to, well. To a number of people like me. To the sorts of fans whose interests I was trying to represent in the OTW.

A fan ([personal profile] owlmoose, identified with permission) asked me if we had considered a one-winner-per-fandom restriction. I felt this suggestion might bring at least a little diversity to the end results — not much, but better than none. Due to a number of factors — the seriousness of diversity as an issue, the org-wide nature of the project, but also a number of org-internal misunderstandings and miscommunications I won't go into — I felt this idea and issue should be heard in Board.

It took three meetings overall to settle the issue. I was not the one who actually raised the issue in Board the first time; that was another Board member with similar concerns. Overall, Board initially favoured the one-fandom approach and had decided to go with it, but upon hearing more information and opinions on the matter from inside the org, decided to reconsider the issue.

During that time of reconsideration, I wrote a very long email to my fellow Board members which, among other, org-internal matters, discussed the question of diversity and the actual server names. (How long? About 6,500 words long, which I hope says something about the complexity of the issues involved.) I want to show some of the things I wrote in the diversity section; it continues to express my feelings, I want to show exactly what I did and said.
[Omitted section: my campaigning efforts; my thoughts on the relatively poor showing of anime/manga and gaming fandoms even in the top three or four places in each race, let alone the actual winners; my feeling that the list as is would come off as insulting to fans from underrepresented backgrounds.]

Overall, I think the fact that there was such a complete western media sweep despite such effort to make it otherwise is evidence of a continuing problem of representation in the org. If we had anything approaching even representation, then a concerted effort should have gotten at least one name in. Even more telling are the runners-up lists, if the top 3-4 are taken into account in each category. Not even that is diverse in terms of proportions. This points to a *huge issue* that we need to keep at the forefront of our thinking. A lot of anime/manga and gaming fans *do not trust the org*. What can we do to increase that trust? What can we do to not harm it further?

[The following section included some quotes I had collected from fellow anime/manga and/or gaming fans who were worried about the server poll results. I don't feel comfortable including that section with all its context and attributions here, but I feel the words still need to be heard, so I include quotes from two of the fans below. All ellipses in this section are original to my email.]
Fan A:
it does represent their userbase! because they ostracize fringe fandoms [...] they don't really want to be accommodating.

Fan A:
i guess, i'm just frustrated, you know? because no matter what they say about it, i DON'T feel like there are any steps being made towards inclusiveness to smaller fandoms... not that those steps don't exist but that there is no transparency towards the user end where we can see it

Fan B:
For an Org who continues to claim they want to bring in all fandoms, and represent all fandoms, I would definitely be a little taken aback to see not a single name I recognize and relate to represented in the server names. As somebody in the bitty fandoms they "swear" they "want", it would be a pretty nice gesture -- and its omission would hurt.

[Omitted section: the fan who made the one-fandom suggestion]

So that's where I was coming from on the question of making the winners list a little more diverse.

On the other hand is the fact that we did not present this as anything but a straight democratic vote, and all the people who expect a straight democratic result. [Board member name redacted] also had a good point in saying that word getting out (as it would) about us rigging the results would not be good PR either. First is the breaking of trust. Second, though, it's not good PR that we would *have* to mess with the results to get a diverse list.

I know there will be other machines to name in the future, other events that give us a chance to celebrate fannish diversity. But the people we lose NOW, over THIS, will never get a chance to see those. People who've never heard of us before may discover us in the interim, see these results, see they are not represented, and decide the org is not for them. People who are already involved in the org might not give us another chance. There will be other chances, but that doesn't erase the risks and possible losses of this one.

Overall, I feel we have put ourselves in an impossible position with this.

Either we're diverse or we're not. Either we look like we ignored fans or we rigged the poll. Either we address this institutionally, or continue to be perceived to do nothing.

What I wish HAD happened was if someone -- if I had -- considered the possibility of this vote outcome from the start and brought it up then, so that we could have been up front from the start and organized the shortlist and the voting info around one winner per fandom. I guess I was too hopeful and optimistic back then -- I was hoping so hard that our membership would have grown and diversified to the point where it wouldn't matter. I *knew* how alienating this past Yuletide was. I *knew* about the historical, continuing problem. I knew all this, and I am sick and kicking myself that I dared to hope things had gotten better, that I didn't think of this from the start.

Because let me be perfectly clear: one of the things we will be accused of here, one of the things we did wrong, was a lack of awareness. Had we really been aware of the extent of the problem, had we really been keeping it in the forefront of our thinking, we would not have ended up here. We would have planned ahead. One of the *perfectly legitimate* criticisms that this poll will raise, one way or another, is that we don't even know our own membership, the org is so out of touch with non-western, non-media based fandoms that we couldn't see this coming.

Given the results that we did obtain, I want to voice again, very strongly, that I would be absolutely uncomfortable presenting the list of names as-is in an org-wide space. I would be uncomfortable presenting it in *any* space connected to the org, because it would serve to reinforce the wide perception that the org is for and about western media fans.

I'm not sure what the best solution would be. For now, I wanted to outline what, in my opinion, went wrong here, both in terms of inside-org communication and in terms of diversity management. The first step is to understand the problem, and as I noted in my paragraph on lack of awareness, we manifestly have not.

In the end, my last thought in looking for a direction towards a solution is... those volunteers and staffers and people from fandoms who get plenty of rep in the org -- we have a chance at explaining to them our reasoning, what happened. Those people who give up on us because of persistent lack of representation for them?

We won't even get the chance to try.

One huge point of objection to the one-fandom limitation was the need to respect and honour the votes that were cast. We did not want the voters to feel that they had not been heard, or that their votes were somehow wrong — that there was something wrong with our current userbase.

We also did not want to change the rules after the fact. We were shown the place where the rules were specifically stated ( OTW | AO3 ):
Voting stage: 12 February from 9.00 UTC

During our second period of downtime, we'll post the list of shortlisted names on the OTW blog at and ask people to vote for their favourites. The seven names with the most votes will be our winners!

Because of that — or even if we had thought to frame the rules differently from the outset — we could be accused, legitimately, of rigging the vote. And like I said, neither is it good that we would have to do so to obtain a diverse result.

Whatever the end results, we discussed several ways of framing or presenting them. Someone else brought up collecting and posting a list of runners-up alongside the results, and using those as a pool of names for future machines (big enough batches of machines to warrant a poll are rare). These names could also help add diversity to the list and serve as a promise for a more diverse future. Everyone was unanimously in support of this idea when it was proposed.

Another idea raised was to frame the results as a vote for history. While to many fans the results do have a pleasantly classic, nostalgic feel to them, I objected to this: whose history? The history that is there is legitimate and valuable, but it's not complete.

We put together options for how to handle the server names themselves, presentation, and org-internal impact. I feel comfortable sharing a little about three of the options discussed (3):
Results As-Is
Ada Lovelace
Sherlock Holmes & John Watson
James T. Kirk
Nyota Uhura

One Winner Per Fandom*
Limit winners to one per fandom. Highest vote across all categories per fandom wins. Where a same-fandom name is discarded, 2nd place runner-up wins. Post list with discussion.

[*This would not affect Rails winners, which came in same-fandom pairs by design.]

One Winner Per Medium**
Limit winners to one per medium. Highest-voted winner per medium per machine wins. Once a name wins in one medium/machine, all other names in that medium across all machines are discarded. Go down the list until all machines/media are filled. Post results with discussion.

[**This option was rather complicated and merits further explanation(4).]

I also added a floating proposition, attachable to any of the choices, that we include the aforementioned runners-up idea (which, again, was not my own) here as well.

Each proposed idea included the resultant list of names with a raw number of votes next to each name to help us decide. I don't feel comfortable sharing any of the unpublished lists or raw numbers.

However, I feel I can at least say this: none of the winning names got an actual overall/absolute majority; all were pluralities, none reaching a third of the overall vote. The runners-up named in the news post included Dick Grayson, Zelda, Sailors Uranus and Neptune, and Izumi Curtis. If we look at votes across all machines (or percentage-vote-per-machine, but again ranked across all machines), some runners-up ranked above or only very slightly below some of the winners — just not within their particular machines. So in all, the vote was, in some cases, close, either within a machine or across all machines.

One Winner Per Fandom was not my idea, though it was definitely a course I wanted taken seriously. One Winner Per Medium was my idea. I'm still ambivalent about that; I definitely wanted it on the table for consideration and comparison, but it's complicated and murky. Still, I wanted it present as an option.

After all that, we voted on the list of options, and the majority favoured the results as-is, with some runners-up displayed. Overall, in addition to org-internal reasons having to do with structure and purview more than anything else, the Board felt that we should respect the votes and choices of those who participated in the poll — and as I tried to make clear at the beginning of this post, I definitely respect that. But for all the reasons I have already stated, it was not a decision I could really agree with, in the end: like I said, I believed that we could still talk to, still win back, those fans of favoured fandoms who would be (rightly) put off by any messing with the votes — but those neglected fans and fandoms, those already doubtful and alienated— I didn't want to lose any more, give any more reason to doubt and dislike.

I voiced an objection, and asked that it be officially noted as such. I said that I disagreed, but as I knew the majority decision, I would do my best to make that option the best it could be, and since then I had offered my thoughts, edits, and contributions as I could — though personal issues kept me from participating as much as I would have liked.

As one such contribution, I proposed that the news post publicizing the results also include a well-developed list of runners-up, determined/put together by the same panel that did the shortlist and displayed prominently in bulleted format just like the winners, to make sure the runners up (which would be a more diverse list) would be prominent and would have a kind of "weight" to them. We would need to be clear that this was just a pool of names for future machines, which no guarantees about which names would be chosen or when — but it would be something, at least. I knew that this would cost us another couple days, but I thought the added benefit would be worth it. However, several Board members voiced/agreed with a concern that such a list could limit us in the future as the org grew and changed. I recognize and agree with this concern, but I also felt, and expressed, that there must be a way to frame such a list that puts it forward as a genuine effort at diversity to counterbalance the non-diverse current server names, but still make clear that we would be willing, and want to, respond to changes in the org's userbase. By the time I could return to OTW activities, the Board was very anxious to post the results, so this option was not used.

Analysis; Diversity Revisited

I want to state up front that I believe I did not handle the internal political part of this well, and this is something I am still working to address. I won't go into the details here, and the focus is on the diversity-related process and output anyway, but I do think my less-than-stellar handling must have contributed to how the public outcome turned out.

That said, I remain ambivalent about the rest of my performance and the overall outcome. I'm glad that so many people are enjoying the results. I'm sad for any fans who feel unrepresented, erased. I hurt, myself, because I myself feel unwelcome as a fan: there are so many little ways the OTW has shown me that we as an org collectively care less about fans like me. But at the same time I know that people inside the org do think diversity is important and that these slights are unintentional, and I know that they, that we, that I, have the potential to change that.

So at the same time, I have some optimism. I remind everyone, including myself, that this is not the final word on the overall issue of diversity, that all of this is a work in progress. I'm looking forward to a wider discussion of diversity within the OTW. I understand that part of the problem is that while everyone can agree in theory that diversity is important, we have few concrete ideas for how to fix it, and when concrete ideas do come up — like the server names — we find reasons not to go through with them. There must be ways to address that. We do already have efforts that are mindfully evenhanded, like April Showers, which is scrupulously even in the distribution of fandoms. There must be more we can do, more we would and will do.

So what happened here?

It's true that these results were, really, pretty predictable. And it's also true that the OTW's current userbase is not representative of fandom as a whole. But this is not indicative of a problem with our userbase, with the people who voted. Rather, it shows that the OTW — which includes me — was not mindful enough, not active enough.

The thing I kick myself the most for is not realizing early enough. In my email quoted above, I talked about this: how one of the direst criticisms that could be levelled here, a very legitimate criticism, is that we did not know our own base and audience well enough. And that's true. By the time the votes started coming in, we were already too late, we had already put ourselves in an impossible place, where we either change the rules and go against voter choice or we continue a toxic trend of paying less heed to diversity and alienating the fandoms we can least afford to lose. What we should have done from the beginning was lay out guidelines that would help insure a diverse outcome while respecting the vote — for example, saying up front that only one winner per fandom would be accepted, or one winner per medium. Both of those ideas, that came into the game too late, could have been reasonable precautions at the outset, and would have affected voting behaviour as voters would have considered who, from a fandom or medium, they would want most to win.

Or, if we had only realized this after the post with the above-quoted rules was made but before the shortlist/poll was published, we could have made the shortlist less suspect to this very outcome. Putting those three huge Star Trek names in separate categories where they wouldn't have to compete with each other — that all but guaranteed the present outcome. And perhaps having all the Rails pairs come from the same fandom was a mistake — that killed one opportunity for diversity right there. We could have constructed the list more carefully, more strategically.

During voting, after voting, we could have worked on the results, which is what took so long and where all the debate ended up being centered. There were opportunities at every point for change, for action. I was too optimistic to take advantage of them then. I should have — so what if I had come off as overcautious or pessimistic? We could have at least avoided this.

After the fact, I see that at least some fans would not have minded some post-facto meddling: this thread at the LJ mirror of the names announcement post indicates that this person, at least, assumed we would affect the outcome. [personal profile] owlmoose, the originator of the one-fandom idea, told me that she had also assumed something of that nature would already be in effect behind the scenes.

In the end, I think we should have done better with this poll. Maybe it's a small thing, but small things still count. I want us to be the change we want to see. So we say here, at the OTW, that diversity is important to us? Then we need to embody that desire. If our current userbase is not representative, why is that an obstacle to guiding our public materials towards being more representative? Do we think so little of our current userbase that we believe they will resent representative diversity when we explain what happened, why we did what we did? Why continue to acclimate people outside the org to a limited subset of fandoms?

For that matter, why acclimatize anyone, inside or outside the org, to a limited subset? Even if these results are never posted about in public again, some small set of people inside the org would still use them. Why get people inside the OTW used to seeing such a limited set of names?

I want to emphasize that I am not alone, that fans like me are not alone, in the org or in Board, and I invite those people to come and talk about their experiences too, both inside the org and publicly.

I also know that transparency is a big issue, and could have illuminated our thinking during this process if we had let fans talk to us about what they think we should do in such a situation. Transparency has been on my personal docket ever since my term began: I knew Board had to be more transparent in particular, and the org in general. But I kept putting it off in favour of things that were more on fire, more urgent, demanding a deadline. Well. April is almost over. It's not the beginning of term anymore. And as the thread I linked to above demonstrates, it seems, and I agree, that transparency is on fire now. And I will be doing my best to push it up the agenda and keep it in the forefront of our thinking.

I don't know. I am definitely grateful for all the work everyone has done on this, for putting this together and putting it up; to Board for taking the time to listen and deliberate. I'm grateful to everyone who voted, to everyone who left their mark, to everyone who celebrates the results we published. It's your history, your present, your fandoms; it's important.

But to everyone who is unhappy with these results because they see nothing of themselves there, I want to say: I'm unhappy too. I'm sorry I did not do a better job. I want to hear what I can do better — please, please tell me. I want to tell you that I'm not the only one listening — of course I'm not. I want to apologize for being so tired that I never said anything before. And if you're frustrated with the OTW, if you want to believe it can be better but are not sure it can happen, if you're ambivalent over your welcome here, I want to tell you that you're not alone — but I also know that I'm not alone in hoping that it can be better, too.

These are my actions as well as I could explain them. I welcome commentary and discussion here, but I do ask that you please keep OTW-related stuff in this journal and not my fannish one. I also want to warn everyone that I continue to be exhausted and may not respond quickly, but I will do my best to respond to everyone. Thank you for listening.


[ETA 2011-04-30] I'd like to address a trend I've seen in several comments below that I find really troubling: I am far from the only person inside the org or even inside Board who is interested in and actively working on the issues above. I tried to make this clear in my post, but it seems I did not emphasize it enough — I'm sorry. I value working with my numerous colleagues, some of whom share my views, and some don't — and it's the variety of voices that makes us strong. While I definitely acknowledge that the OTW's visible output has largely focused on one set of voices, I do want to emphasize that I'm not alone. Our work is exhausting, and posts may be rare, but we are far from alone, and within the org, we are far from silent.

(1) I can share my lists if anyone's curious; I still have my spreadsheets. (hop back up)

(2) The shortlist was publicly viewable as the body of the poll, now closed. (hop back up)

(3) Results As-Is did win and is now public. I have the originator's permission to share the One Winner Per Fandom idea. One Winner Per Medium is my own idea, so I feel okay sharing it. (hop back up)

(4) The media categories are pretty rough and are based loosely on the April Showers ones. There’s room for debate here — Star Trek has books and movies as well as a TV show, Sherlock has a bunch of stuff, Zelda has manga as well as games, etc etc. For the most part though I tried to go with the medium they’re primarily associated with, which thankfully in most of these cases is mostly clear. he second obstacle comes in two tight races and the corresponding last two media categories to be set, the specifics of which I'm not comfortable discussing here.

The elimination is pretty straightforward at first: Uhura eliminates all other TV characters (Spock, Kirk, TARDIS) and sets Switch. Ada is next and so go all the other Real People (no others came very close to winning), and DB is set. And so on down into murkier depths. (hop back up)

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