Quick update
Jenny
jennys_t
Most of the recent news is on the OTW blog - check it out! It includes more information about performance of the AO3, invitations on the AO3, the latest survey data, and it will shortly have a post about elections that has been consuming a lot of my energy for the past few weeks. The board minutes for the last few meetings are now also online.

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Clarifications and news
Jenny
jennys_t
Since my last post seems to have sparked off a lot of discussion, there are a couple of things I'd like to clarify. Firstly, attendance is not the whole story, particularly for board meetings.

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In happier news, thank you to everyone who gave me hugs on my last post - it's given me an injection of energy, and we've managed to redistribute a couple of tasks so that several of us are making more progress again. New board minutes are now posted, Sidra's thank-you is posted, and so is strat plan's latest update. And although the annual report is several months late, it's getting very close to being ready. So there is some improvement in various areas, even if it's not as much as we might have hoped six months ago.

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Tired
Jenny
jennys_t
[personal profile] awatson wrote a great post on burnout recently. I've mostly been suffering from those symptoms too much to write in here, despite my early dreams. If you want more OTW news, [personal profile] renay and [personal profile] hl are also writing a bit from different perspectives.

Board is difficult. We have three people who can hardly ever make a meeting at the moment. I would say you can see from our minutes, but I'm having trouble getting a quorum to approve the minutes so I can post them. And it's getting to be holiday season, so it's only going to get harder. We can't really have the discussions of big issues that we need if only half the board are there. So we tick along on the admin side, and work on making specific committees more sustainable.

That's an uphill battle, too. We have had an unlucky year, with six chairs having to step down in the first six months of the year - that's significantly higher than normal. We've also had a lot of experienced staffers finally hit the point of "too much". So for those who are left, training newbies is balanced with keeping things running, and trying to fit in some long-term strategic thinking in the gaps. It's easy to think that all we need to do is train and mentor more people for future leadership, but mentoring is hard work, even if it's rewarding. There are people who say they have tons of professional experience, but then don't seem to apply any of the expected skills to their org work. Which applies to me some days, too - I forget that the day-job skills for dealing with difficult clients could be applied to fannish friends in the org.

The AO3 performance problems have slipped off the headlines, but behind the scenes everyone knows it's only a temporary reprieve - we need to fix the actual problems so they don't recur. And because of the stress that's causing, still no-one wants to talk about any of the issues that were raised publicly during the last election.

I wanted to end this on a hopeful note, but I can't think of one right now. I guess that's another of the symptoms of burnout. Anyone want to volunteer for Board next year?

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Signal-boost: Sexism at conventions, focus on anime
Jenny
jennys_t
We've heard about a couple of surveys for an Otakon panel, which I'd like to signal-boost. These don't meet the official guidelines to be publicised on the OTW website, but given the content, I imagine many OTW members will be interested. The panel is on sexism in anime and anime fandom, and the hosts have put together two surveys to help prepare for the panel. Here they are with blurbs:

Research Survey For Otakon Sexism Panel 2012 – This one is for any of you who’ve attended a convention. We’re trying to get a sense of how people feel at events and how they connect to the community.

Sexism in Cosplay Survey for Otakon 2012 – This one is for you cosplayers out there. If you’ve cosplayed or do so regularly, we’d love for you to take the time to fill it out.

There's some information and links to the surveys on the Altair and Vega blog, and they plan to keep the surveys going until July 20th.

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This and that - day in the life of a board member, and elections
Jenny
jennys_t
I think it's time for a little more chat about the work I'm doing for the OTW at the moment.

I started this year with several overlapping roles:
- Board member
- Board secretary
- AD&T staff member
- AD&T training lead
- Open Doors board liaison
- Support board liaison
- Finance board liaison

I've now stepped down from AD&T (last week), but am still doing the rest and have joined Finance staff as well. Each of the other board members has something similar - a combination of chair position(s), staff position(s) and liaising, and we each have about 6 different hats to wear.

In a normal week, this means I would have the following regular tasks:
- Attend board meeting (2 hours)
- Write up board meeting minutes, get them approved by the rest of the board and send them to Webmasters for posting
- Attend AD&T meeting (1.5 hours)
- Attend Finance meeting (1 hour)

I'd also attend Support and Open Doors meetings (neither of them meet every week), make notes towards the monthly board newsletter update, follow up via email on any discussions or other projects, and spend some time coding. I'd aim to have a 1:1 catch-up via email or Gtalk with each of the three chairs I liaised for at least once a month, and ideally more like once a week when things are moving fast.

Support started the year on a good footing, having carried on working during the break. Matty has set up the new AO3 documentation workgroup to revamp the FAQs with AD&T's help. They've added a new staff member and have been handling tickets as usual.

Open Doors were very quiet in previous years. This year they started off with the SSA import, which required a ton of help from Support, Comms and AD&T. Their chair, Heather, had to step down fairly shortly after that, as her day job is busy and she didn't have the time for the increased workload. Mishie stepped up as the new chair, and has done an excellent job. Most of the committee are new, and the experienced people have fairly limited time. They're writing a lot of processes from scratch, preparing for importing more archives to the AO3 - we have a queue of archives which have asked for help.

Finance are having a big focus on documentation this year - they've previously had several expert committee members who had all the information in their heads, but would now like to have things clearly documented as well, to make training new people easier. They're also aiming to formalise the budget process and publish detailed accounts more often - there's a fair amount of information in the annual report, but that's only once a year.

The other new role I've added to my workload is Elections Officer. The latest Board minutes talk a bit more about the exact scope of this role - one of the issues Ira struggled with last year is that the role is not very well defined. She produced a great report on the difficulties faced last year and how we can improve the elections process. For example, a lot of voters were confused by how to vote and the difference between being an AO3 member and an OTW member, so we're updating the FAQs and making them easier to navigate. Also, the candidates really struggled with the overflow questions after the chat, so we'll be considering other ways to let voters understand the candidates' views and get to know them without putting too much burden on the candidates.

There are several things that worked well when the org was small, with uncontested elections and few candidates, that don't scale with our larger numbers of members and more frequently contested elections. Given the success of our recent donation drive, we'll probably have double the number of voters next year that we had last year, so this will be even more important, to let all voters feel that they have a voice and a chance to question the candidates.

The other issue we're looking at is term lengths - due to several board members stepping down early, and a lack of clarity in the byelaws, we have some decisions to make. The previous board explained that in a post at the end of their term, and we'll be talking more about that over the next few months.

The other implication of this is that I won't be endorsing any specific candidates next year - as Elections Officer, I have to remain neutral. While we haven't yet started the process and I have no idea who potential candidates will be, I can make a couple of general comments, though. You already know most of my views from last year, and I don't think the OTW's priorities have changed. We still need board members to focus on sustainability, transparency, diversity (i.e. non-English-speaking and non-Western-media-centric fandom communities) and volunteer retention. We'll need people who will continue the work we're doing on the strategic plan, the code of conduct and various documentation and communication projects. We'll need people who understand the difference between doing the work of a committee, managing a project to achieve something, and managing people to train them and prevent them burning out, and people who have experience doing those, so can support chairs and staff, but who can also do the work of the board in focusing on the big picture and long-term strategy. Regardless of who steps down, we will already have board members with knowledge and experience of all the OTW committees and projects - we're deliberately rotating liaising this year to achieve that.

Oh, and just in case I didn't have enough work, I'm still in the workgroup for the systems training project, I've joined the survey results analysis workgroup, and I'm liaising for the strategic planning workgroup. And a full time day job.

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Tiredness
Jenny
jennys_t
Renay posts about Volcom work

Sanders posts about Board work

I guess I've had some of the same problems as Sanders and Renay here, in terms of talking about my work in the OTW, except one step worse because I haven't even been keeping up with Dreamwidth.

Talking about work and my mental state is difficult. I've kind of got out of the habit. As I mentioned on my personal journal a few months back, that's partly because it's not actually that bad. I look back to my previous project at work, and yes, the end of that was very tough. At the beginning of my new project, I was exhuasted and facing the standard challenges of settling in to a new area of work. I had a week's holiday in October and it was nowhere near enough, particularly with the OTW election on top of everything else. By mid-December I was seeing my GP about depression - it was the middle of winter, my SAD was hitting me worse than it had in years, I was overloaded with work and struggling to cope. And yet the hardest thing, in a way, was that it wasn't as bad as, say, 4 years ago. I have all my coping mechanisms for when things are really bad, but it wasn't like that. I had no coping mechanisms for mild depression, for balancing the days when things were okay with the days when things weren't.

Thing have improved since then. I got a good break over Christmas, and things have been looking up in terms of work. I'm still tired, but not nearly as badly. Spring helps.

But then I look at OTW stuff. We've made huge progress. I'm so pleased about the drive going well, and emailing the AO3 users. Our strategic planning workgroup have made brilliant progress, and I'm so excited that their post is up so you can all read about it. I am ridiculously excited about the Code of Conduct, because we need it so desperately. I have dreams for my role as Elections Officer next year. Open Doors has really got going and has big plans - Mishie is doing a great job as a new chair, after Heather had to step down for personal reasons. Support goes from strength to strength, and the AO3 Docs workgroup are getting going to improve the FAQs and other documentation. Finance has new people and is looking at improving their documentation, too.

But...there's always a but. I have reached a new level of burnout. I haven't coded anything in over two months. I spent two years reading every word of every transcript in the OTW Coders room on Campfire, and I've probably spent less than an hour in there in the past month. There are some areas where I can't bring myself to care anymore, because it hurts too much. I've said before that the thing that causes burnout isn't too much work, but too little support, and I'm finding the truth of that yet again. I'm seeing more different ways that well-intentioned people can hurt each other.

I still have hope. We're still making progress, and we can make things better. But it's hard work, and we lose good people along the way, and we can't solve it all at once. Please keep wishing us well, and please keep asking questions, holding us accountable, letting us know where we need to be more transparent, and above all, whatever your level of involvement, please remember there is a human being at the other end of the computer screen.

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It's drive time!
Jenny
jennys_t
The OTW's twice-yearly donation drive has just started. We need your support, in both time and money. Please signal-boost, comment, and talk about the posts, and let us know which areas of the OTW you'd like to know more about. And please donate - all of our projects are entirely funded by fans. We're applying for arts grants for the history and journal and tech grants for supporting coders, but we'll still need the majority of our funding from our users, just like Dreamwidth.

Our annual report will be coming out soon, with all the details of last year's finances. We still have a good cushion of cash to cover operating costs, but donations last year didn't increase as much as our userbase did. So we're in great shape for now, but our main aim is not just to get more money from people who've donated before, but to encourage new people to donate who haven't donated before but who enjoy using our projects (AO3, Fanlore, etc.) so that it's sustainable in the long term. If we keep growing at our current rate, several costs are going to increase - not just more new servers to run on, but more bandwidth, more space for backups, etc.

So please spread the word to friends who may use the AO3 but who may not have heard of the OTW - we need ongoing, regular funding for the servers. You can even set it up as a monthly or quarterly donation, which helps us plan ahead.

OTW: By Fans, For Fans. Organization for Transformative Works Membership Drive, April 18-25, 2012. transformativeworks.org


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Update
Jenny
jennys_t
I know I haven't posted here much lately - that's mostly been because all the key stuff has been in the board meeting minutes, which are now being posted publicly on the OTW website. You can look there to see the latest notes on setting up our strategic planning process workgroup, getting the term going, and some wider discussions.

Essentially, all the stuff we discussed during the election is gradually progressing, but it's hard work, and it's slow, particularly as we have to keep up the day-to-day work of the board at the same time. In some ways, we've gone from crisis to crisis, and doing big-picture stuff at the same time is both essential and exhausting.

I think what I'm essentially saying is that although I know it looks from some angles like we haven't achieved much progress since the election, that's not true - we've just had to get stuff sorted out internally before the effects will show externally. And I'm also saying that it's been a tough few months, and a particularly tough week, so I in particular and probably most of the rest of the board would love some encouragement. But as usual, if you have particular questions, please ask me - I would far rather be able to clear up misunderstandings here than have them persist.

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AO3 performance
Jenny
jennys_t
Our wonderful sysadmin [personal profile] sidra added more unicorns and now the AO3 servers are running faster. If anyone wants to send her fic in gratitude, I see she has some AO3 bookmarks which illustrate her taste. We've still got a ton more work to do on performance, but with that, the extra indexes she added, and the fixes for a few slow queries in the next deploy, we've at least bought ourselves a few more weeks or maybe months. Go Sidra! \o/

And then [personal profile] astolat imported her back catalogue - there were over 60,000 emails in the queue at one point yesterday, mostly for all her subscribers. [personal profile] sidra is hurrying those through, and then a coder needs to work on the planned split of different types of emails so we can prioritise better. We already split out some different types of emails, but not enough yet, and when we have that many, it slows down the whole mail server. Systems are also looking at other options for handling the volume of email.

Time for me to get back to work now, but there will be more Board minutes out soon, and then term starts. I'm on holiday next week, so the next couple of sets of minutes will be done by [personal profile] julia_beck as vice-secretary. Feel free to ask questions if there's anything you're curious about in the OTW.

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Meeting minutes
Jenny
jennys_t
The most recent Board meeting minutes can be found at the OTW website. We also posted a bit on the official blog there about what's been going on the past couple of months. After our Board term started on 9th December, we had several weeks where we struggled to meet, due to timezones and the holiday season. But we've now had four regular meetings, and things are starting to pick up. We're also starting to discuss some of the issues raised during the election, which is hard work, but I'm hopeful that things will improve.

We're a bit late starting the term for the rest of our committees, but once that all kicks off, there should be more news to talk about. AD&T have had more of a break than the past few years, but are still working hard on the next deploy and performance improvements, with the help of Systems.

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