It's time once again for the OTW fundraising drive! I've committed my own money and time to the OTW because I believe in its mission and because I personally love the AO3 from the bottom of my heart, and the drive is a chance for everyone who loves the AO3 and/or the OTW and its projects to show their support for the same. In particular, you're investing in the future of the AO3, and your money will go to the support and preservation of fanworks in a very real way. <3
Visit the donation page! (And then once you've done so, please tell people about it!)
Fandom is love. It's also, in the form of the OTW, a tremendous amount of work, and a rather impressive set of costs associated with doing that work. The OTW is run by fans, for fans, and we need the support of our fellow fans to keep doing what we've done.
And we've done a lot: Transformative Works and Cultures, Fanlore, Open Doors, and of course the Archive of Our Own, to say nothing of the OTW's legal advocacy, which has secured fair use exemptions for vidding under the DMCA before the U.S. Copyright Office for two cycles running, are all supported exclusively by donations from our supporters. A donation of US$10 or more will allow you to become an OTW member for the next calendar year, giving you voting (and bragging) rights and giving us the financial support we need to keep doing what we've been doing, and to become better at it.
Over the past four years I've continually been impressed by the dedication and commitment of OTW staff and volunteers. But we wouldn't be anywhere without our supporters who donate, so thank you.
Natacha Guyot and the staff of OTW's Vidding and Internationalization & Outreach committees have put in a lot of work on this, and it really is an extraordinary demonstration of the breadth of fan video traditions, even if it is just a trailer for those traditions, as Natacha writes. I think they've done a wonderful job.
So, if you use the AO3 - if you edit Fanlore - if you've benefited from the DMCA exemption for DVD ripping that the OTW won in 2010 - if you support fandom having a voice to larger society that's for fans and by fans, please give what you can. Just $10 USD confers membership (and voting rights! Just think, you can vote and complain!).
I know there's been a lot of brouhaha around the OTW and the AO3 lately, during the last election in particular. As a staffer and a chair, I can honestly say that my overall impression is that change is happening, albeit slowly, and for the better. In the meantime, the servers won't pay for themselves. ♥
Read more about the 2012 exemption proceedings here.
The OTW and EFF need fans, vidders, remix artists, and others to show their support for maintaining and expanding DMCA exemptions for remix video. There are 3 ways to help:
- Sign the Rip.Mix.Make petition; and/or
- Submit comments as described in this post from EFF; and/or
- Help spread the word (you can cut and paste the banner code from this OTW post).
Comments are due by February 10 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time.
(c&p'd from juniperphoenix)
With twelve hours left to vote in the OTW Board election, there are still roughly 40% of eligible ballots outstanding. Follow the links in this OTW post to vote!
stewardess, The Why and the How of It: Issues Surrounding The OTW/AO3
were_duck, OTW Election
wintercreek, OTW: Pain, Compassion, and Growth
And on that note, welcome, new readers, and thank you for subscribing! There will be actual content to this journal at some point again soon, graduate school willing.
Voting for the Board election is open.
Final link: rydra_wong, Unnecessary reminder
Stop the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)
The contents industry has written an anti-piracy bill so broad as to potentially shut down most of the Internet as we know it today (including Dreamwidth, which is incorporated in the United States). EFFLive is live-tweeting the hearings on the bill in Congress today, which are stacked with supporters of the measure.
If you're eligible to vote in the United States, I urge you to write your representatives in opposition to the bill by following the link to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's form email.
ETA: Avaaz.org has a petition against the bill that people can sign globally. /eta
Frank Miller Is Not a Scholar
David Brin smacks it to Frank Miller's bigoted asshattery: I could quibble with a few details of the way Brin tells this story (Athens = "the West"? *cringe*), but overall he's spot-on.
On Penn State
Three good pieces from the New Yorker: Amy Davidson at Close Read with Four questions about the case and Joe Paterno's Tears, while The Sporting Scene wrote about last Saturday's game, the first since Paterno's ouster. ETA: Oh go on, have two more: Penn State and Pride and Joepa's Class Notes. /eta
From the New York Times, a longer article about the ongoing containment efforts at Fukushima Daiichi
and an article from reporters who were allowed inside.
Silvio Berlusconi is gone; Alex Ross links to an impromptu chorus & orchestra performance celebrating his departure in Rome, and I tracked down the video of Ricardo Muti protesting Berlusconi's cultural policy ("Italian culture will be beautiful, and destroyed") at a performance of Nabucco in Rome this spring.
ETA: Tech Unicorns
The Pinboard guy on how the social graph is neither.
The OTW has also posted a brief discussion of What the Bylaws Mean for the Coming Term. Takeaway: nothing is decided yet, but the fact that no seats will be naturally open for election next term does lend this election even more urgency.
Finally, three more meditative links that are as much personal reflections as they are considerations of the OTW and how it operates. I link to these posts in the certainty that anyone who follows my links will be respectful and reasonable in comments they may choose to leave. All three of these posts raise points that are well worth thinking about, and taking to heart.
epershand, This post is really only vaguely about the OTW
recessional, Right. So.
rodo, Me, Myself and the OTW
Now, I've not been an active member for all of those years, but thinking back on it, we had some major, major wank. My Council grew from encompassing one county in New Jersey to now representing 9+ counties of the state's 21 over the course of my 13 years as a Girl Scout. Every single one of those mergers, unions and enlargements was accompanied by major drama, wank, and tension at all levels (including, at one memorable meeting, the representatives of one county council backing out of their pre-agreed "yes" vote on unifying and walking out of the hotel directly. It took nearly a decade for the original unification plan to go through). Individual people from the Board down fought, left, were stressed out, felt unappreciated and disrespected--but in the end, my council pulled through, because we had a mission that we believed in and that inspired people, and in the end despite our individual difficulties, we were able to make it work for the sake of that mission and the people--mostly girls and women--we served, including ourselves.
I'm bringing this up not because I think it excuses the painful display that the OTW and the AO3 have put on over the past few weeks and especially this past weekend, but because I think in the end that none of this is by itself is Org-ending. I can't agree with Naomi Novik's statement that "the level of vitriol in this election has been really awful and destructive"; if anything, I think it's better that we air our differences now, and if we don't feel like we can do it internally, then externally is better than nothing--and I do think that OTW staffers and volunteers have a right to discuss Org policy on their journals, provided they don't indulge in ad hominem attacks or violate internal confidentiality.
I found cimorene's post Skip this babbling if you cringe at the mention of OTW a comforting dose of perspective on this point, in particular. Volunteer organizations by their nature are never going to be 100% functional, and this isn't the end of the OTW. We need to do a lot better, obviously, but I persist in believing that great improvement is well within our grasp, let alone our reach.
Granted, I speak from something of a privileged position in that very little of what people have written about over the past few weeks has been surprising to me, and I do think there are some people out there professing surprise who really should have known better. That question aside, and while the past weekend in particular has been anything but the OTW's finest hour, I have found the debacle of the latest AO3 code deploy to be painfully instructive.
It's important to remember, right off the bat, that today, 14 November 2011, marks the two-year anniversary of the AO3 entering open beta, and I really do think that the firestorm that exploded around the AO3's most recent code deploy shows just how deeply it's been taken to heart by a large, varied group of users. Let me be clear: Users have the right to be angry, and critical, about the shortcomings of the AO3's code deploy. Fandom as a whole felt similarly angered when Delicious' new owners did something very similar recently, albeit with even less warning, and these reactions are legitimate. People have the right to complain, either to Support or in their own journals/blogs/tumblrs/Twitters/whatever,
I have nothing to do with the AO3 beyond wrangling tags, and I don't know lim at all, whether within the OTW or outside it. What is completely unacceptable is personal criticism directed at her. The coding work, however, is not lim herself, and criticism of the code is completely valid. And as facetofcathy writes in I'm more interested in the math than the emotion today.,
The default skin as it is right now, fails the most basic test of universal design. The skin designed specifically for low vision users--which seems to only change font sizes, not make any changes to colours, still uses the original skin lavender and grey scheme. It also fails this most basic test in many areas.
This was not one person's responsibility to catch before deploy, and it's not one person's responsibility to fix now. I'm not concerned here with whether one person or many people involved care about accessibility. I am concerned with an organizational failure to ensure that the default view of the site is safe and comfortable to use for everyone, or if not, easily fixable by everyone. I am concerned about a lack of visible commitment to applying the principles of accessibility to the site from the beginning. I am particularly concerned that accessibility at the archive not be viewed through the lens of a separation into groups of identified disabled people (blind people using screenreaders, low vision users needing larger fonts) and a falsely normative everybody else.
I'm just going to quote ellen_fremedon, in her post Institutional problems. Institutional change., because I can't say it better:
I am heartbroken for lim, and I'm sorry she feels this is necessary. But I have read one too many comments*-- and really, one would be one too many-- tearing into the entitled fans who drove her to this point by daring to criticize her work.
And, seriously? One volunteer coder is allowed to take on sole responsibility for a massive, massive archive project and works 14-hour days to get it done with hardly any oversight or backup; in the immediate lead-up to both an organization election and a huge event for the archive, the project is rolled out hurriedly and with significant bugs (though far fewer than one would expect in the circumstances); users complain about the bugs; and the overworked and burned-out volunteer takes sole credit and resigns publicly without anyone in the organization's leadership stepping in and stopping her from falling on her sword--
--and somehow, this is the fault of the users who complained about the bugs?
The OTW didn't make the AO3 for people to tiptoe around in it as in a museum or a mausoleum. It exists for the users, and if it's not serving their needs as well as it ought (or even as well as it did before the latest deploy), people saying so is completely valid, and completely vital. The Board acknowledged as much when it posted yesterday November 2011 AO3 Deploy and Reactions: an Apology from the Board, issuing a public apology about the deploy and the reaction to it. In her follow-up post on a personal note, departing Board member Hele Braunstein, who initiated the apology, writes that "admitting my mistake and apologizing is not a hardship, and I think it is the right thing to do."
Of course, Braunstein was planning to depart well before this latest development; the same can't be said of lim, who now joins the ranks of OTW volunteers who have felt they had no choice but to leave. Her post is brief: apology and resignation.
I agree with those people who have found in lim's case in particular an emblem of the Org's current problems. Like facetofcathy writes in I'm really angry and sad and horrified and upset, lim should never have been made to feel that she was Atlas, holding up the world. As anatsuno put it in someone needs to pass me the really good drugs, "I believe lim shouldn't have been a position to code the new skins system and the new skins on her own. i appreciate all that she gave the Org by doing so, and I am absolutely sorry that she gets to feel like shit now - it sucks beyond the telling of it - but it is already a sign of dysfunction that she was in this position at all to begin with." No one coder should be putting in 14-hour days on anything, let alone on a volunteer project, and that lim apparently did so, alone, for months on end raises troubling questions.
As boundbooks writes in Main AO3 CSS Coder Resigns Over New Deploy,
Ultimately, the fault lies with the person who pushed to rush out this deploy before it had been robustly tested. The person who touts themselves as an architect of AO3, who presumably looked at the CSS and gave it the stamp of approval. Before the new skins and code had been given a public beta-testing, like Dreamwidth does all the time.
The fault lies with Naomi Novik, for rushing out an unready deploy, for not, apparently, believing in public beta testing, for ramming this out for Yuletide when it was so screamingly unready. There's stress-testing code for Yuletide. Then there's stress-testing the endurance and will of your volunteers, by launching something that's not ready that is also supposed to be a reflection of their hard-work.
skud, a professional software developer, has reviewed the AO3's code commit history in Github, transparency, and the OTW Archive project and makes what is an even more damning assessment in light of the expertise she brings to bear:
This does not seem, to me, to be a well managed project. This is a project where the project lead is acting as a gatekeeper, commiting huge swathes of code (sometimes on behalf of third parties) with inadequate documentation, and allowing extremely poor branch hygiene (skins project mixed up with other changes, for example) to infect the main branch, leading to a buggy release. This should not have happened, and, I suspect, would not have happened if the OTW’s technical leaders had had, or had sought the advice of people who had, experience with distributed open source software development projects and the tools they typically use.
(Worst of all, I think that this poor management is directly responsible for lim resigning. As a relatively inexperienced coder, she should have been shown how to use a branch for her work. If she wasn't able to for some reason, and needed the project lead to proxy her work, the project lead should have made a branch for it. Without this in place, her code was all mixed up with the stuff that had to be done for this Yuletide release, and so she was forced to rush and work 14 hour days to get it in. That sort of overwork just leads to more errors. None of this would have happened if the project lead had insisted on proper branching for each sub-project -- a simple process that any open source software team lead should do as a matter of course. And lim thinks it's her own fault, which is the worst thing of all.)
The November deploy has not changed my convictions that Novik's perspective on the Org is disturbing: this is the result of believing that there's no problem with volunteer retention and burnout. Furthermore, as skud continues,
Now I think it is fantastic that the AO3 welcomes and trains up new developers. Seriously, I think it is one of the best things about the project, and I would love it if the open source world at large (indeed, the whole tech community/industry) would do more of it. But it needs to be balanced by having people who know what they’re doing. It needs technical leads who have more experience with large-scale web app development than a single web app that was known not to scale. Most of all it needs project managers who know how to manage a project of this scale, following best practices and so forth.
Several people have begun making explicit comparisons between Dreamwidth and the AO3, with the AO3 coming up far short, and I also find these comparisons extremely salutary. As helens78 discusses in Morning update, AO3:
It's not every service that has such incredibly vivid, visible changes, where it's obvious that the coders' work is making a difference every single day. From what I've read, Dreamwidth is almost unique within the tech industry for having that kind of welcome for baby devs and feedback for coding work.
And goddamn, I want AO3 to work like that. I want an AO3 babydev community, I want people who are encouraged to write two-byte fixes, I want AO3hacks where you can work on a test environment without knowing how to be your own MySQL admin (or whatever database is behind the guts of AO3), I want an exposed API so I can create an Android client for AO3 instead of just having to bash my head against a mobile skin, I want to be able to work on AO3 without having three months of radio silence between the question "Do you want to help with a project?" and finally getting more information about what that project might be, I want to be able to work in an environment that doesn't run headlong into my anxiety disorders and cause me to recognize, with epic amounts of regret, that I simply cannot function in the environment in which I would be expected to work.
As Novik herself says in about the election, "at this point, I have to let my work speak for me, and I hope it does." As other people have noted, there is more than sufficient reason to question the management of the AO3 on a purely technical level under Novik's aegis, and that leaves me even more convinced that she should not win a seat on the Board at this time: the Board's role, after all, is to manage the OTW as a whole. Novik is a brilliant coder, without question, and indeed a visionary who has done brilliant, wonderful things for fandom. But that doesn't mean that she is therefore qualified to fill a seat on the OTW Board at this juncture, and the assumption that excellence in one area therefore leads to excellence in a very different area is highly problematic.
Let me link you to some excellent posts around these issues:
jennyst, Various notes
juniperphoenix, On sustainability in the OTW
julia_beck, responsibility and failure
epershand, Let's talk about AO3 skins
skud, AO3 coding for the non-OTW coder
akamine_chan, I am angry
lucyp, People are just people, like you
awils1, On working with AD&T @ the OTW, and Naomi in particular.
minim_calibre, [AO3] Practical suggestions. no finger pointing.
loligo, more growing pains at the OTW
unfunny_fandom, Professional fandom
And finally, I'd like to quote from oliviacirce's post on civic responsibility, because Olivia says just what I think:
I cannot overstate how much I respect and value Naomi Novik and her contributions to this community. I think it's easy, in a debate like this, to start pointing fingers and blaming individuals, and I don't want to do that (I don't think any of us want to do that, but it does happen). But this is exactly my point: the OTW is an organization that represents a community, and organizations are not actually about individuals. Naomi Novik is a visionary, and I think we owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for everything she has done and will continue to do for the OTW and the AO3 and the community at large. But the thing about organizations is that they grow and change. They grow up, and you have to let them, because that is the way things are supposed to go. I am not convinced that Naomi Novik is interested in seeing those changes through, and I am not convinced that she would be the right person to do so even if she were interested. Founders, rockstars, visionaries -- they are incredibly important, but sometimes they shouldn't be the people on the ground. Sometimes, you have to step back and let the thing you started become bigger and stranger, become something different than you imagined. Delegating isn't about stepping back in to take charge, and organizational leadership is not about control; it's about empowering people, and then it's about trusting them to do their jobs. That's how organizations -- good organizations -- work, and that's the only way they get better. Not to overstate the point, but ultimately? We change or we die.
The OTW does not have to represent All Of Fandom -- I don't think it could even if it wanted to, and there's a level on which any overarching organization goes entirely counter to the incredibly chaotic, democratic, ground-up way that fandom fundamentally works. But the OTW is a platform, regardless of whether or not Naomi Novik and Francesca Coppa wanted it to be a platform in the first place, and it's a platform for Fandom-with-a-capital-F. As a platform, it cannot be just about the Archive, or just about history and preservation (although those things matter very much). It also has to be about this moment, right now. It has to be about letting everyone in, because that is what fandom does, and it has to be about making those doors accessible to everyone who might want to come through them. It has to be about listening to the community at large, in all of its glorious, contradictory, impossible differences. And more than anything else, it has to be about acknowledging problems and working to make them better.
Because really, what is fandom if it isn't seeing the worst and the best in the things that we love, and transforming them into even better things?
Unlike Olivia, I can tell you who you think you should vote for, and I have, in entries such as OTW Election: It's five o'clock somewhere edition. But like Olivia, my most fundamental belief is that you should vote if you are eligible to do so. The OTW won't work without participation.
Again, thank you.
Several brave people have started to speak out about the internal realities of the OTW with considerably more candor than before, and more candor than I can reciprocate. I can, however, quote their words, and link you back to their posts.
The first post I want to quote is by Allison Morris, the outgoing President of the Board. The post is called look it's not a gchat transcript.
Francesca Coppa and Naomi Novik talk a bit against top-down culture, but then they turn around and defend it, pander to it, because they, they specifically, have spots to preserve. But I want all of us to have equal voice in legal fights, testimony, whatever. Sure, we need the big names to be there, but that isn't all of it. You need the little voices, too. We need to show that it isn't one woman or five friends, but thousands worldwide, maybe more, and we engage, we think, we create. That's the insides of our brains. That's what we do while working third shift or doing data entry or driving our commutes or talking with friends or reading a magazine. We are in conversation with the world.
Morris is leaving early as a direct result of conflicts within the Board.
With the massive caveat that I have been accused, although not in so many words, of being a raging pessimist on this issue, I also can't disagree with boundbooks' analysis in Urgh, OTW. Please don't self-destruct:
What with the new AO3 look, and it being absolutely broken on phones/mobile devices, and seeing Support pretty much crying on their journals, I slowly grow more convinced that with Naomi Novik on the board, the very well-intentioned founders will have a lovely Archive of Our Own in one year, and a destroyed OTW in two years.
renay has similar thoughts in oh OTW no:
I defended this organization before I was even a member or a volunteer, when others called it a vanity project, a BNF circle jerk with no future. I don't regret that decision and think that myself and others like me who have finally had enough and spoken up prove that it was starting to become something bigger, brighter, and more promising than even the founders could have imagined. But you can't build something up if you don't have the people to do it or the people that are doing it resent the hell out of you or you constantly undermine and roadblock their efforts to grow. It doesn't work. People will sit down and shut up plenty, but eventually they will hit the breaking point where they will not only stand up, but they'll launch out of their chair, heave it over their heads and chunk it through the window and they won't even think about apologizing for spraying you with the glass. I reached that point when I lost my mentor. I don't even know how to explain how angry I was, still am, will always be that this was allowed to happen. I have no words for the fury, the loss, the unimaginable waste of driving away such a valuable team member. It's pathetic that the organization has done this, has let this happen. It's shameful.
As multiple people have noted, it’s important to understand that if you don’t want to vote for Novik or for any Board candidate, preferential voting means that you actively have to vote against her, i.e. cast four votes for the other four candidates.
I've accumulated quite a collection of relevant links over the past few days. Here they are:
sanders, on strategic planning
anatsuno, OTW's mission(s) & Archive vocabulary problems
unjapanologist, Last-minute OTW elections thing
via_ostiense, Anger as a positive force
bookshop, the state of the OTW - 3 things
julia_beck, where do we go from here?
On the related subject of the latest AO3 code deploy
facetofcathy, more ways to skin the, er, archive
helens78, why the AO3 changes are frustrating me, Mobile browsing on AO3 and AO3 skins, continued
bluemeridian, AO3 New Site Design >:(
I've been mulling over the latest TWC Symposium post by Alex Jenkins, The Art of Fannish Conversation, and something she wrote in that post finally pinged for me:
After all, the core concerns of criticism and fandom, I think, unite in the n+1 editors’ suggestion that “In Gchat, as in life, we are happiest when paying attention—when we belong completely to a conversation that continues. Might this be a model of commitment: truly felt on both sides, mutually desired, without exclusivity?”
Like Morris says, the point of the OTW is not that it's dictation taken by staffers and volunteers from the Board. It is, or it should be, a symphony (sometimes, admittedly, a cacophony) of voices from across the fannish spectra, large and small, sharing a conversation. And yes, in that conversation there will inevitably be disagreements and misunderstandings; it's pretty much inevitable when one goes out into society that one is going to meet people whose views don't match one's own precisely. Like Jenkins says, the perfect conversation isn't actually had when we info-dump our opinions at one another, but when we have a true give-and-take with people whose passions we share and whose viewpoints we respect and want to hear, attentively. That's what the OTW should be. I believe, despite it all, that that's what it still can be.
Or, as lian put it several months ago in this undated scrap from a notebook:
"The OTW is not a complacent entity created to reproduce/mirror the mediafannish experience and perspective.
The OTW is a radical [panfandom] experiment that goes beyond the scope of existing projects (in) / for showing / finding out what true panfandonm looks like:
not afraid to be inclusive, because the more we ask the hard questions, the more we dare to be bold and cross entrenched [fannish] boundaries, the closer we get to the essence of true fannishness, and the promise of the cybersphere: the generous joy of sharing and creating with each other beyond […]"
As I wrote then, "This is what I signed up for, and what I will continue to work towards, full stop." Making these posts is part of that effort; thank you for reading. As I noted in my last post on the subject, OTW Elections: And then there were five edition, I have endorsed four people in the belief that they represent the best possible future for the OTW. They are:
- Julia Beck
- Betsy Rosenblatt
- Nikisha Sanders
- Jenny Scott-Thompson
Speaking personally, I'm incredibly disappointed that the OTW won't get the chance to, potentially, have Pearson on the Board; I continue to believe that she would have been a strong and effective Board member, and I can only wish her the best in personal life and career.
In light of Pearson's withdrawal, I am changing my election endorsements.They are:
- Julia Beck
- Betsy Rosenblatt
- Nikisha Sanders
- Jenny Scott-Thompson
I am, however, reasonably confident that Betsy Rosenblatt can be an effective Board member in concert with the other three candidates I have previously endorsed. As people have pointed out, she clearly studied up between the first and second candidate Q&A sections, and her answers in the second Q&A indicate that she is willing to put real thought into the OTW's issues and to consider suggestions, which are vital characteristics in the 2012 Board.
ira_gladkova has put together Candidate profiles aggregating what the Board candidates have said so far; I encourage you to check them out, and to read bookshop's post OTW Elections! Now with less confusion! if you haven't already.
If you read one post about the election, make it this one: bookshop, OTW Elections! Now with less confusion!
I think this post lays out the election subtext in the best fashion I've seen, with real clarity and bravery.
general_jinjur, hey here's something (longwinded) that might be useful
Informal post about OTW's voting system and how it works, with illustrations
sanders, Question from Anon
tanaqui, Another OTW election post: Do All The Things is not a strategy
copracat, Volunteer Work and Membership
I got prolix in the comments, and I'm happy to discuss my reaction to this proposal there or here. My perspective is very much colored by my experiences as a staffer.
As this OTW News post indicates, check your email! If you've received an email with your election account, you need to activate that link within 24 hours. (It is possible to get a new link, I'm told.)
anatsuno has written an unofficial post on how election accounts and the OTW's preferential voting system work. You should read it; I know I will be rereading it, so I can be sure that I'm voting for the right people in the right way.
ETA: There will apparently be an explanatory post forthcoming from the Org at some point before the election. Yay! /eta
fairestcat: On anger and change
gamera: OTW Candidates and Fannish Conclusion, Or: Why That Server Poll Was Not a Minor Issue
ira_gladkova: The value of constructive negativity
renay: OTW, or, I am exhausted
sara: in which i make a few observations about nonprofits
wistfuljane: This is not just about OTW
I don't think, nor do I wish to convey the impression that I do think, that the OTW can be magically transformed overnight. But I do believe that the OTW is still worth all of the effort and the pain and the joy, and I do think that this Board election can and will be transformative, one way or another.
ETA: Two more, well worth the time:
wintercreek: OTW Election 2011
julia_beck: six random meditations on anger (and gratitude)
ETA^2: Do read the f_fa thread.
autumnus: OTW elections - the ranty part since it is the theme of this week
lightgetsin: Getting all social science up in your elections
fail_fandomanon: OTW election thread
I want to take particular exception to a recent example of what I'm talking about, namely this post by shayheyred and this follow-up, in which shayheyred responded to my criticisms in this comment without ever naming me directly (and without actually editing or linking to the first post). I take shayheyred's demonstrated lackadaisical (if not downright patronizing) attitude towards discussion as indicative, and it's part of the reason that I'm posting this here rather than there, where I don't believe it will be productive.
First, I want to strongly caution people from assuming that just because someone is on the staff of the OTW that they therefore are in a position to speak, or even to speculate, authoritatively about the internal workings of the Board on an interpersonal level: they may or may not be in such a position, and speaking about the Board's internal operations publicly would violate organizational confidentiality. The idea that reading someone's candidate statements and election chats and Q&As can tell you how they will interact with other people in a position of authority is simply wrong. How many exclamation points someone uses in text or how "nice" they seem is fundamentally irrelevant to their behavior in meetings--particularly in an organization like the OTW, in which 99% of administrative interaction is carried out through some form of electronic communication. What candidates should and must be judged on is their statements and their answers to questions, not whether you think you would or wouldn't like them personally.
Second, I want to draw attention to shayheyred's implicit assumption that because Naomi Novik, in particular, is such a huge part of the AO3 project that she therefore can and should be on the Board of the OTW. There are two problems with this assumption: the first, on a specific level, is the idea that the AO3 is the raison d'etre of the OTW, and not the other way around (which concept Novik herself seems to endorse, from her statements). As with Betsy Rosenblatt wanting to be on the Board to make things easier for Legal, this idea is fundamentally bad for the OTW as an organization with actual policies, procedures, and structures. Secondly, while I can and do applaud Novik for the yeoman's work that she in particular has put in on the AO3 project, the OTW needs to move away from the model of individual "heroes" towards a model of "teamwork." Rather than there being only one Slayer, to borrow a fannish metaphor, on whom an entire project relies, the OTW needs teams of Slayers on its projects who are all equally capable of, and supported in, taking on the tasks of their committees.
Finally, the amorphous but incredibly harmful assumption that only people who exude sunshine and daisies, metaphorically speaking, can and should have a part in the OTW or on the Board is something that I particularly want to deny categorically. The tone argument in general is a poisonous tactic too frequently used to try to silence people and fans of color (such as sanders), and it's totally inappropriate for the OTW in particular. People have a right to be angry about the OTW. Quite frankly, I wish more people who haven't already left the OTW were angry. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: people have legitimate reasons to be angry, and just because other people may or may not know about them doesn't mean that that anger--and expression of it--is illegitimate. It's not.
Personally speaking, like anything to which I have committed a good deal of time, energy, and emotion, the OTW and fandom inspire in me a whole range of feelings, from delight and true joy to passionate, seething anger. (Guess which of these I'm feeling now.) All of those emotions are as valid responses to the OTW and fandom as are those who call themselves fans and those who are OTW members, staffers, volunteers and Board candidates.
anatsuno had similar objections:
I will not make my vote contingent on my perception of whether a candidate has an overall positive experience of fandom, because aside of the ethical discussion of dipping into someone’s personal journal to gain dubious wisdom about who they are as a fan, what the hell does that even mean? Some of the most amazing people I’ve met in fandom, people who make my fandom experience positive, are people who are suffering the effects of discrimination in fandom as in life; fans who are constantly confronted with offensive talk, offensive tropes, offensive idiocy - and who talk about it.
I don’t believe that their mentioning the problems they see makes them less worthy to collaborate with (!). While I have come around on the offering of unsolicited concrit for fan works (I don’t do it), I do not and have never believed that coming down against public criticism (of anything) is healthy for any social group. The ability to keep one’s own negative sentiments to the private sphere is nothing but that. It’s not proof of a better character, of a more efficient go-getting attitude, of a stronger moral fiber. Sometimes appearing positive and cheerful only/always means that problems have been deftly swept under the carpet, which I believe to be destructive, inefficient and unethical.
In short, the bullshit Nice Girls stuff is making me angry. Always has, and always will. We need a variety of strong voices and opinions on the Board to represent us better, and to ensure that the directions and decisions taken are truly of a deliberate, thought-out, collaborative nature.
fairestcat also has objections to the idea that anger is not a legitimate response to the state of the OTW, specifically centered around the issue of volunteer retention:
When I see Naomi Novik state: "I don't actually agree that we are suffering an unusual wave of burnout beyond the endemic", I want to cry from rage and pain. I find the suggestion that the level of burnout I've witnessed myself and that I've heard talked about in the lead up to this election is perfectly normal and to be expected frankly appalling. And a candidate who sees nothing wrong with the OTW's current level and style of volunteer retention and burnout, is not one I want anywhere near the leadership of the org at this time.
I couldn't agree more. Once again, the last thing the OTW needs is more people who are going to deny that problems exist and then stigmatize those people, within the organization and without, who are trying to bring attention to needed changes.
I am, happily and out of intermingled anger and desire for much-needed change, voting for Nikisha Sanders, Julia Beck, Lucy Pearson and Jenny Scott-Thompson in the OTW 2011 Board election, and I encourage you in the strongest possible terms to do the same.
Disclaimer: The following reflects my own personal opinion, not the official position of any committee of the Organization for Transformative Works.
I've been an OTW volunteer since January 2009; since January 2010, I've been a member of the International Outreach committee, which has just been renamed Internationalization & Outreach to better reflect its goals and purview, and I've been a tag wrangling volunteer since the Archive of Our Own went into open beta in November 2009.
I believe in and care deeply about the mission and potential of the Organization for Transformative Works as a radical panfandom experiment, as a venue in which all fans who choose can find a cross-fandom home with diverse resources for their needs. I'm exceedingly proud of what the OTW has accomplished so far, and of my own small part in it, and I am convinced that this Board election in particular finds the OTW at a crossroads. We as an organization need a Board that will be responsive, flexible, and supportive of us as volunteers and staffers and as fans with diverse, valid interests and desires for the OTW.
Without divulging any confidential matters, I don't think it'll be much of a surprise to people with an interest in the OTW when I say that volunteer burnout has been a huge issue for us over the past two terms or so, if not longer--I can only really speak for the length of time in which I’ve been involved with the organization. Just over the past term my home committee, I&O, has seen a lot of good people depart because they didn't feel like the committee’s efforts were being valued, or that they themselves were being supported in their work at the organizational level. (Julia Beck, the current chair of I&O, definitely has first-hand appreciation of the fact that the OTW desperately needs to serve its volunteers better.) Looking around, volunteer support and retention is one of my biggest priorities. If the OTW can't build itself a sustainable volunteer infrastructure now, it will eventually self-destruct. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I believe the future of the OTW and its projects is on the line in this Board election, and this issue is why.
Like a lot of people--at least, I can say for certain, like Julia Beck--I am deeply frustrated by the OTW's track record on representation. This is basically the issue that I&O was created to address, and it's deeply frustrating and mortifying to me that after nearly two years as a committee we're still having to fight for almost every step towards increased representation outside the mainstream of (Western) media fandoms. There are a lot of concrete examples I can't mention here, but I know that for me personally the issue is reaching the make-or-break point: if there isn't real movement on issues of representation in the next term, I don't know that I'll be able to continue to justify my involvement in the OTW to myself. Moreover, I believe that an OTW that isn't better representative of fandom globally would, on a fundamental level, be betraying its own vision of itself. This Board election is critical for the OTW in light of its ongoing problems with representation.
Transparency is a related concern for me as well. I can't put it better than via_ostiense, a staff member and the 2012 chair of the Volunteers & Recruiting Committee, put it in her post:
…considering that the OTW is raising money from fans under the banner of being an advocate for fandom, I think we had either damned well prioritize transparency and having permanent, active channels for discussion open or else return everyone's donations. Someone who's curious about the OTW's projects or has a concern about them should not have to join as a volunteer or staffer just to find out what's going on and to have their concerns taken seriously.
Board candidate and current I&O chair Julia Beck has more thoughts on (Why) Management Matters:
When I talk about the importance of processes and guidelines, I don't mean "let's pile on more tools/requirements/hoops to jump through, harr!"
What I mean is: let's whittle down those processes and choose our tools so that they're as intuitive and simple as possible. (This is hard. I'm so unhappy with the translation process atm, let me tell you. But we'll keep trying.)
What I mean, most of all, is: clear structures, consistent guidelines and transparent processes are crucial, because they help create an equal environment. They translate to lowered barriers for participation. They mean that you don't need to be personally influential, know the right people, or secret pathways in order to create a successful initiative. (As an example: if the structure is clear, purview becomes clearer, so you know who to turn to and ask for support or collaboration. It also fosters accountability.)
We can't wait for people to struggle their way to the top -- not least of all because it's a selection process that is detrimental to diversity. No, really. Think about it. It's not only about certain personality- and neurotypes prevailing -- it's also that advocating for non-mainstream perspectives always, always takes more energy. So simply saying that everyone is welcome without adapting internal structures to match? Doesn't cut it.
And despite everything I wrote above, the OTW has still, overall, been the happiest and most supportive working environment I've even been in. And -- yeah, here my starry-eyed idealism is showing, but -- if people are willing to put in the work, they deserve to have that opportunity, an even chance at making their experience inside OTW satisfying and meaningful.
If, at this point, you're still not sure about the basics of the OTW Board election and how it works, facetofcathy has an excellent post laying out the information: A look at the OTW Board of Directors elections and the candidates. facetofcathy's post is more or less unbiased.
The rest of this post isn't.
So let me say, before I go any further, that I fully intend to support and work with the Board to the best of my ability no matter who wins the open seats. That said, it's my passionate belief that no Board election, and especially not this one, should be a popularity contest. Some of the candidates have a lot more name recognition and visibility than others. Neither of these factors necessarily correlate with who among them will produce the best Board for the OTW.
Here are candidates' statements about why they're running for the Board and what they hope to accomplish.
Concise candidate chat transcript provides the edited version (just the Q&A) from the first candidate chat.
Here's the full transcript, with text and screenshots.
After the first candidate chat, the candidates were asked follow-up questions and had 24 hours to respond in writing. Here are their answers.
I believe in the OTW, plain and simple; that’s why I’ve stuck around this long, when I have at multiple points been so, so tempted to just quit and take my complaints to the critical masses outside--which, let me be clear, I believe the OTW needs to listen to and needs to learn from. I have a lot of friends out there on the critical horizon--many of whom, moreover, were once OTW volunteers themselves or who have tried their damnedest to meet the OTW or the AO3 halfway and been, frankly, almost totally stonewalled or stymied.
A lot of them don’t feel comfortable speaking out on this, for various entirely valid reasons; troisroyaumes, however, has posted about why she’s voting in the Board election, from a position of utter dissatisfaction:
What upsets me is the total dependence on one or two individuals in the first place! From what I've gathered, this problem is systemic to the organization and not just limited to AO3. Again, I know that there are some active efforts to work on this issue and why a lot of OTW staff have been talking about sustainability, but I'd like to know that the new Board will prioritize it (as well as the other two issues I name above) for the upcoming year. If there are not enough volunteers with the right skill set, then the organization should invest in training and actively recruiting volunteers who do have the right skills. (Seriously, sometimes an organization can't just wait for volunteers to walk in the door. E.g. if AO3 needs coders, maybe someone should try to directly contact fans who know Ruby and ask them to volunteer.)
I've been involved in volunteer organizations offline that had this same problem: it is extremely frustrating and often leads to implosion and leadership vacuum when the one key person burns out or gets sidelined by other commitments. There needs to be collaboration, delegation and procedures for transferral of leadership. To put it abstractly, a robust network needs to build in redundancy and crosstalk in order to tolerate perturbations. That's why biological systems have paralogs and epistasis, people!
To be frank, I haven’t had time to completely digest troisroyaumes’ post, but I strongly agree with Julia Beck’s post noting her criticisms:
I'd just like toss out there: you're a random fan who likes the idea of giving back to fandom a little through volunteering. You get involved in the OTW. You evolve to the level of staffer! (Score!)
But then you realize you have even less say than before because you've traded in the right to publicly criticize it openly for a chance to make things better. But the structure is not set up in a way that allows you to effect much change.
So. What do you do?
This is why critical outside voices (or bold internal ones like via's) like these are so vital at this point.
I'm not saying I have all the answers, or that I agree with everything they wrote. But I don't need to -- I just need a willingness to listen, to take this very, very seriously, and take a lot of notes.
I believe in the OTW, and I believe that the OTW can, should, must do much, much better. Furthermore, I believe firmly that some of the candidates, in their statements and answers to questions, have demonstrated a dangerous lack of understanding of the nature and scope of the serious problems facing the OTW today, and what the Board needs to do to address these problems in the immediate future.
( Institutional structures, and why I do not endorse Betsy Rosenblatt )
( Transparency, and why I do not endorse Naomi Novik )
For all of these reasons and more, I cannot in good conscience endorse either Novik or Rosenblatt’s candidacies for the Board, and I would ask that those who believe in making the OTW more sustainable as an institution and more responsive, representative, and transparent as an organization not endorse or vote for them either.
I can and do, however, endorse the remaining four candidates for the Board in the strongest possible terms:
Julia Beck (julia_beck)
Lucy Pearson (lucyp)
Nikisha Sanders (sanders)
Jenny Scott-Thompson (jennyst)
Other people have written posts going into greater detail about what makes these four candidates great choices for the Board; I’ve already made this post too long, so let me link to other people who have also endorsed some or all of them:
hl, 2011 Board member: OTW Election
renay, 2010 Tag Wrangling lead, 2011 Tag Wrangling Co-Chair: OTW 2011 Board Election
via_ostiense, 2012 Chair of Volunteers & Recruiting: OTW Election Stuff
stultiloquentia, OTW Elections
boundbooks, Snippets from the OTW Board Chat Transcript
Between the four of them, Sanders, Beck, Scott-Thompson and Pearson have the needed experience, perspective, ideas, and grasp of reality to potentially transform the Organization for Transformative Works in the best possible way. For that reason, I am voting for them in the 2011 Board election, and I urge you to do the same.
It's the 2011 OTW Membership Drive! if you care about the direction and sustainability of the OTW and its projects (such as the AO3, Fanlore, TWC, etc), join the Org now. $10 USD gets you full voting rights for a year. If you join by 17 October 2011, you'll be eligible to vote in this year's Board election. Voting in the Board election, particularly this one, makes a very real difference. With four open seats, the 2011 Board election is particularly important, and potentially transformative.
In addition to granting voting privileges in the Board election, pledges to the OTW also go to support the Org's projects, including its flagship, the Archive of Our Own. The AO3 is a pan-fandom archive that welcomes all users and is working on supporting all types of fanworks, but to keep the lights on and the servers running we need money, plain and simple, and money won't come without your support.
And you can also get cool swag. I have to say, my OTW mug is pretty darn awesome.
ETA: Board member Rabbi Rachel Barenblat has a post on donating to the OTW before Sukkot.
For those interested in the AO3, the Tag Wrangling Committee is having an open house on Saturday 15 October!