jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
It's posted.

I have so many feelings, and not enough time or energy to post about any of them. But at least there are others who are going to pick up the baton. As Elections Officer, I sent out the call for candidates for this year's election today.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
I've been working mainly on elections stuff lately, but also a few other bits. Ira's posts have more details expanding on the minutes. I spend a fair amount of time with the strategic planning workgroup. I've also worked on some diagrams of organisational structure for the board, and we're now talking about writing up a proper job description before the election, setting out rough expected workload.

It's still exhausting, and my day job has also been busy, but there are some good signs of progress. At least we're having these conversations, and also planning to formalise the emerita board and set up an advisory board. Volcom are also making progress on their big projects for the code of conduct and related processes, which is exciting.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
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.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
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.

Read more... )

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.

Tired

Jul. 4th, 2012 07:33 am
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
[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?
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
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.

Update

Mar. 18th, 2012 10:08 pm
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
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.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
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.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
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.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
It's been well over a week since my last quick update, so here are some notes of what's been going on.

We had our first Board overlap meeting! I'm expecting a post to go up on the official blog soon explaining more about what overlap is, but the people who would have been chasing it up have had RL issues (moving house, health problems flaring), so it's taken a while. But it's basically the period while the new Board can shadow the old Board, getting access to some of the Board-locked areas of Campfire and later Basecamp, and sitting in on meetings, though we can't yet vote on decisions. The meeting lasted a whopping 3 hours, but I think we heard some useful updates and laid some good groundwork - we all discussed our hopes for the next few months, and a bit about the general theory of strategic planning.

We'll be talking more about strategic planning in the next org-wide meeting, so if you're awake at 5am UTC this Saturday and you volunteer for the OTW, come along! Or maybe read transcript afterwards :S At some point I'm also vaguely hoping to do a post on the official OTW blog talking more about the process and theory. In the meantime, a quick Google or Wikipedia of "Strategic planning" gives a pretty good overview for anyone who's curious.

AO3 deploy! We had a deploy two days ago, which included fixing some urgent bugs for due South Secret Santa and other challenges, fixing bugs for the tag wranglers and for a security loophole, among other fixes. We had a great relay team working across the Atlantic in different timezones, handing over the baton to continue working round the clock and get everything sorted as soon as possible. Now it's back to working on the new parser, the remaining skins bugs and missing features that were intended for Skins 2.0, as well as fixing the remaining automated tests that were broken by the tag sets changes.

And our donation page on the AO3 is now live, linking users to the main OTW site - the next version will include some more details and graphics, but it's a great start. That was coded by our intern, Firewolf - at the beginning of October, she'd never programmed before, and now she's fixing bugs and adding new features like this! \o/
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
I realised it's been over a week since the election results were posted (time has flown!) so wanted to give a quick update since it may have looked quiet.

Board-wise, we've been trying to organise our first handover meeting - with a lot of people in different timezones, all of whom need to be there, it's not easy. There's also a post in the works explaining how overlap and rollover works, so that should be posted soon. Rollover is 9th Dec, so we've got a couple of weeks once overlap starts, hopefully this week.

AO3-wise, we've been bug-fixing and recovering from a very busy weekend. Coders and testers have again been doing great work towards a bug-fix release. I've been mentoring our coding intern, Firewolf, who has done a first version of our "Donate" page on the AO3, which will link to the volunteering and donation sections of the main OTW site. Rebecca has also re-written our HTML parser, which is another big improvement. Hooray for Firewolf and Rebecca!

I have a post in the works about Incident Management principles and managing a live IT service, but it's still in draft form, as my day job has also been pretty busy these past couple of weeks, and I've been catching up on all the things since the election.

I also liked the translation spotlight that was posted this week, and want to signal boost the SOPA links roundup for fans in the USA.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
I feel like this week has been all fire-fighting, and I desperately want to take a step back and see where it fits into the bigger picture, but I haven't yet had time for that. So, in lieu of the proper post that has to wait until my day job work and the AO3 deploy have calmed down a bit, here are some quick notes. I'd be happy to expand on any of these in comments if people want to know more - each paragraph could easily have been a post in itself.

The AO3 deploy has been a rush and a big deal. Support have done an amazing job. There are things I strongly disagree with about how this deploy was handled, but I've said the key things internally and I don't think there's anything to be gained by going over it here. Suffice it to say that the people who made mistakes have also been doing sterling work helping to clean up the mess, and I want to give full credit for that. I know some of the changes and the way we dealt with them have annoyed and upset people, and I'm sorry for that. I'm also looking forward to all the underlying improvements, and enjoying the benefit of them once the dust has settled. I hope that some day we can regain the trust we've lost.

I am sad about Lucy's resignation. I was looking forward to working with her on the Board if either of us got elected. I understand the need for self-care, and I look forward to continuing to work with her in various areas of the org. I'm also looking forward to implementing some of her suggestions - the things we've all mentioned in the chats can be put forward as proposals, regardless of who gets elected.

I want to link to lim's post about her work. I have really appreciated working with lim over the past few years, and I am very upset that she is leaving. From my point of view as a member of AD&T, the bad aspects of this deploy have not all been her fault - there are several other stages where the backlash could have been prevented. I want to extend a huge thank you for all the work she's done on accessibility. I hope we can finish the code off in such a way that people can see the benefits of the work she's done.

Read more... )

And lastly - a giant thank you to everyone who's supported me in this election. I am reading, even when I don't have the energy to comment, and I appreciate hearing all your views. The encouragement, both for me and for my colleagues, is a big help when we're all doing our best for the OTW.

♥ fandom ♥
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
I started drafting a post about test-driven development, objectives and goals, but then day job stuff hit. So this post is a quick exercise in the transparency I've been talking about, on a personal level.

Because we need to show not just data, but also information - not just our rough notes, but explaining and highlighting the important bits. Like Dreamwidth has both Bugzilla and [site community profile] dw_news posts, we have both Google Code and AO3 news posts for the AO3, and we need to clarify what the equivalent is for other areas of the OTW. But that's a discussion for another day.

This election process has been exhausting. It's great to have all this discussion, but one of the things I'd like to think about for next year is ways of making it less wearing on the candidates and elections officer. It doesn't help that most of us have had other stuff to deal with at the same time - computer issues, house guests, illness in the family, moving house, insomnia, et cetera. Of course, in some ways we'll have similar situations throughout the year, whether we're on Board or other committees, so it's good practice, but it's still very hard.

And as I said in one of my answers, the most wearing part is not the work in and of itself, but the interpersonal tensions and feeling that your work isn't appreciated. So here are some thank-yous, for a start: To Ira, for co-ordinating everything. To Allison, for wrangling Drupal to post things on the site, and for doing the Paypal reconciliation to make sure our list of voters is correct. To the other candidates, for answering thoughtfully and participating in the process despite everything. To Via_Ostiense, Volcom chair, for handling all the mediation stuff we don't see. To all the other committees, for carrying on with the day-to-day work at the same time. Thank you all.

Now I'm off for a tough week at work on far too little sleep, in between trying to support a friend who's just moved country, hoping I'll be able to answer the next set of questions as well as writing that post at some point. Oh, and I'd like to help out on some coding for the next AO3 deploy, if I can find some energy. Welcome to a day in the life of me. I'm generally more optimistic when I've slept properly, I promise.

You can find more information about the OTW on the official OTW site. Election voting is November 16th-18th.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
The candidate statementsfor election to the OTW Board are now public. I highly recommend you read them.

You may also want to question us about our plans for the year - either live in the public chat sessions, or by submitting questions to the elections officer as described on the site, or you can ask me things here on my journal.

My main aim for the next year is sustainability - the org started as a small group of friends working together, and has gradually grown as more people have volunteered. We're now at the stage where we need to put in long-term structure, to support all our volunteers. That means making sure that policies and procedures are documented, not just implicit - so you can't fall foul of unwritten rules just because you don't know the people you were meant to talk to. I've seen this situation from both sides - in some cases being the person treading on people's toes because no-one had told me how it was meant to work, and in some cases knowing how and why the org works the way it does and seeing someone else step in and mess things up because no-one was training or mentoring them. So I'm in a rare position to be able to improve things - I'm not one of the original group, so I can see it from the outside, but I've been around long enough to be able to document and pass on the assumptions that were previously unwritten.

Some things that work great for an org of 10 people don't work so well for an org of 200 or more, and we're working on changing to match that, but more always needs doing. I want to set us up for the future, so that any volunteer can take a break if they need to without anything falling over behind them, and so that anyone can volunteer without any unnecessary barriers stopping them.

Answers to questions posed in the chats will also be posted on the official site.

You can find more information about the OTW on the official OTW site. Election voting is November 16th-18th.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
Tonight was the internal chat for people considering standing for Board to talk to current board members and hear what they're letting themselves in for. I am definitely intimidated. I mean, I knew most of it already, but it's scary hearing it stated all in one go how hard the job is.

*deep breath*

I can do this.
jennyst: OTW bat signal (OTW bat signal)
Last week I got the email about nominations, which is the first part of the election process for the OTW Board. Every staffer (volunteer on a committee) who is eligible to stand is invited to put their name forward. There's a bit more information about the process on the Elections site, particularly the FAQ, which will get publicised more nearer the time.

In particular, in order to vote, you need to be a member of the OTW (i.e. have donated at least $10 in the past year). So now is a great time to donate if you haven't for a while.

And now it's time for me to draft up a statement summarising my "philosophy, goals for the organization, and views on future directions for the organization". Cue much agonising as I try to put all of that into a few paragraphs.

Edit: Also, since I noticed it's been posted publicly now - the draft fanart policy is up for comment.

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