OTW 2011 Board Election

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Event: 2011 OTW Board Election
Participants: Organization for Transformative Works (OTW)
Date(s): September-December 2011, voting from noon UTC 16-18 November
Type: Election
Fandom: panfandom
URL: OTW Elections site, FAQ, Main OTW site
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The 2011 Organization for Transformative Works Board election was a contentious one, with six candidates - later five - standing for four positions. Many people who are passionate about the OTW and its projects have strong feelings about the direction the OTW should take, and who should be in leadership positions.

The candidates standing were Julia Beck, Naomi Novik, Lucy Pearson, [1] Betsy Rosenblatt, Nikisha Sanders, and Jenny Scott-Thompson.[2] All current paid OTW members were eligible to vote by electronic ballot.[3]

general_jinjur posted An explanation of the modified version of instant runoff voting that would be used to select board members based on ranked ballots.

Between November 16 and 18, 2011, 555 out of 845 -- 66% -- of eligible voters actually voted.[4] Julia Beck, Naomi Novik, Nikisha Sanders, and Jenny Scott-Thompson were elected to the board.[5]

More links can also be found at Fanlore's List of OTW 2011 Board Election links.

Sustainability & Volunteer Burnout

http://renay.dreamwidth.org/236955.html http://renay.dreamwidth.org/237101.html http://awils1.dreamwidth.org/62132.html http://general-jinjur.dreamwidth.org/672594.html http://lim.dreamwidth.org/121395.html http://julia-beck.dreamwidth.org/2973.html http://starlady.dreamwidth.org/460926.html


http://starlady.dreamwidth.org/460926.html http://via-ostiense.dreamwidth.org/146464.html http://jenn-calaelen.dreamwidth.org/14746.html http://scribblesinink.dreamwidth.org/269379.html

International & Fandom Outreach

In her essay OTW election 2011, wintercreek wrote:

I think very many of us love, or want to love, the OTW and its mission. We want to see that mission realized to the fullest. We want to see a thriving, panfandom community which holds open its doors to as many people as possible...
We want to see that inclusiveness transcend geographic boundaries and timezones and cultures. We want to see that inclusiveness transcend pre-acquired skill sets, to embrace everyone from those with decades of experience to those who are new to the job and willing to learn. We want, I hope, to be in community with as many other fans as possible, letting our different experiences and worldviews jostle gently against each other and aggregate into something bigger than any of ourselves, and we want to learn and grow.
There are institutional problems with volunteer burn-out, with internationalization, with communication both within and outside the organization. I think the many posts written for this election make that clear. I don't have the answers, or a guaranteed slate of candidates who will be able to address everything. I'm uncomfortable telling you who to vote for.
What I want to ask of you, readers, is that you think carefully about the kinds of change you believe the OTW needs and to vote for the candidates who seem most likely to bring about those changes. Read their statements, read other posts, think critically and engage with the candidates and with other OTW members in comments and emails.[6]

also parts from this post: http://fanlore.org/wiki/OTW_Server_Naming_Contest#OTW_2011_Board_Election http://facetofcathy.dreamwidth.org/230196.html

Other issues

Discourse around this election has been passionate and intense. In one instance, fan shayheyred wrote a post called OTW Elections - making sense of the candidates in which she wrote

[H]ow do you assess who to vote for? How do you separate those who have substantial thoughts from those who are merely talking a good game?
Well, for me it’s a combination of judicious reading and some anal-retentive research, and even asking people I trust for their opinions. I’ve gone to the candidates’ DW or LJ blogs where possible and tried to separate those who routinely are on a sane wavelength from those who wallow in drama, because the last thing we need for this wonderful resource are people who encourage dissention and unhappiness.[7]

This post was both widely-circulated, and widely-critiqued. Its critics slammed the post and its author for the post's use of the term "sane wavelength." In a second post, Shay revised:

Someone in a comment called me on the use of "sane" in describing my ideal candidates, suggesting that that implies "crazy" as a description of those I do not support, and that that is using ableist language. You know, I casually toss around words like that without a thought, and never assume there's a hurtful meaning hidden in them. That's pretty lousy, since I've called my nephew on the use of "gay" and "ghetto" as pejorative in the past. So let me start here to change my own behavior.
I will reject the word "sane" in my description....Let me reword that to: I've gone to the candidates' DW or LJ blogs where possible and tried to separate those who come across as positive from those who appear to be divisive and antagonistic, because the last thing we need from this wonderful resource are people who encourage dissention and unhappiness.[8]

To some, Shay's post signified that anger with the current situation and/or with the OTW's current flaws was being framed as something which would make one a bad potential board member. Others argued that it's not a matter of anger making one a poor board member, but rather a question of whether or not the anger is productive / constructive. In turn, still others argued that that is a case of the "tone argument" (http://sanders.dreamwidth.org/111836.html) and that it is therefore problematic in itself.

Some fans perceived, in candidate statements and/or in general election discourse, a sense that the AO3 is more important than other OTW projects. (Other fans countered that the AO3 is the project around which the org was initially built, and that if the AO3 were to fail, no one would trust the OTW to do anything ever again.)

AO3 Deploy

On November 11, 2011 (5 days before the start of voting) there was a major code push to change the site skins and add a challenge tags feature at the Archive of Our Own. The majority of the front-end coding was done by lim and the back-end coding by Naomi Novik. Although the skins were presented as an accessibility improvement, many users disliked the new skins and found them harder to read, inaccessible, and in some cases painful to look at. Other problems with the code push included a bug that initially made the mobile skin unusable. Also, all public work skins were gone, which created a problem for Homestuck fans [9] [10], who relied on a public work skin designed to correctly format their pesterlogs. The Homestuck AO3 skin was gone until at least November 19, 2011 [11], and re-appeared sometime between November 19, 2011 and November 22, 2011[12].

That the code was pushed with so many problems indicated to some that it was rushed in order to allow Yuletide nominations to go forward on the AO3. This led to discussion of whether Yuletide, a challenge run by one of the founders, should have priority over other official OTW projects.

Need quotes/citations, different perspectives, connection to skud's post on development -> lim's apology and resignation, posts about mixing AO3 with OTW, legitimacy of complaints, questions about too much work being done by too few volunteers, problems with management, testing

...Other fans were impressed with the quick development of the AO3 features and the responsiveness of the support and coding teams in dealing with user issues. They urged calm those who were upset about the changes to be more forgiving of an archive built by volunteers and still in beta.

Naomi Novik

As one of the founders of the OTW, and a BNF under her fannish pseud, Naomi Novik is considered by many the candidate to beat. Novik's supporters note her vital role in the founding of the org, her skill with coding for the AO3, and her overall contributions to fandom.

One of Novik's supporters said:

I see a lot of wank going on about the AO3, all over the place. But the AO3 exists to be wanked about because Naomi and her coding team have poured blood, sweat and tears into it for longer than some of the people complaining about it have been in fandom. The AO3 did not spring into fandom fully formed; it was built from the ground up with hard work and sacrifice and determination, for no pay and not a great deal of thanks, by the very people being torn down about it in various corners of fandom today. It isn't complete, it doesn't serve everyone yet, and it isn't perfect. But it is trying very damn hard to get there, and one of the people digging deepest to get it there is Naomi. [13]

mollyamory wrote:

If you care about getting things done, you want Naomi Novik on the Board.
I can't tell you how many times I've been in rooms - hotel rooms, chat rooms, living rooms - with a bunch of fans talking about how there should be a thing that lets us -- or wouldn't it be nice if fandom had a-- or why doesn't anybody --. I've been in fandom for about fifteen years now, and there is a lot of wishing for things in it. There are a lot of people who would like things to be better or different, and a very limited number of people with the energy, drive and know-how to actually make things better or different.
Because Naomi Novik was there in those rooms, we have three of the best-known and best-loved fannish institutions active today: VividCon, Yuletide, and the AO3 archive and OTW. She poured her time and her heart and her talent into coding and building these things for fandom, for years. She brought together teams of volunteers to help create and maintain them, and she did it because the answer to wouldn't it be a good idea if--? was yes and she knew how to make it happen. If any other person has a proven track record of getting shit done that can stand up to hers, by all means vote for them. But if they don't, Naomi Novik is the person you want on the OTW board.[14]

Fail. Fandom. Anon. thread:

Here is what I wish more people would talk about.
Naomi took this past year off from the Board. Now that she's running again, everyone is blaming her for their burnout and all the problems of the organization.
Is the idea that somehow her influence prevented the current Board from doing anything at all to deal with the issues even though she was no longer on the Board? Because if in a year of "freedom" from her as a Board member, the current Board hasn't done anything to fix or even address the many, many problems people are bringing up, I think it's clear that the problem goes way beyond Naomi - no matter how much people would love to brand her as the only bad guy in the mix.
And if her influence just as a coder is so great that the Board was paralyzed by fear of her and couldn't do anything to counter her presence, then I would say that:
a) the current Board kind of sucks; they're obviously not up to the job of running an organization if they can't override one single volunteer who's not even on the board, even if that person is Naomi Novik, and
b) Naomi shouldn't even be allowed to volunteer if her evil is so far-reaching that after a year off the Board, people are too afraid of her to make changes. [15]

As the election progressed, many OTW volunteers began to speak of their time with the org. People began to criticize the OTW's management, and spoke of a toxic environment where people feared to speak their minds. While not directly attributed to Novik, many people noted that the OTW's culture had been established under Novik and co-founder Coppa's leadership.

As Aja put it:

To put it bluntly I am not sure the OTW that I love and have been faithfully contributing my meager $10 a month to for the last 3 years will survive another year if the members vote to put Naomi and Francesca back on the board together at the same time.
If you want to kill the OTW, vote for Naomi Novik. [16]

oliviacirce continues in the same theme:

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. [17]

[Posts about Yuletide & A03. Reaction to Novik prioritizing AO3 over all other OTW projects. Novik not taking the election seriously enough ("flippant"); being late to answer questions, etc. http://starlady.dreamwidth.org/460926.html?style=mine, http://boundbooks.dreamwidth.org/104422.html...] (Something about how it basically turned into a "Naomi Novik or not"-election. Anyone have screenshots from Aja's comment and the anons attacking her at NN's latest post?)

On the day before the election, Novik posted her response to the concerns with her running for re-election:

I'm running again now because I have real concerns about the current climate on the Board, and as a result whether (the archive coming out of beta) is still on track to happen. I do very much hope that I am wrong to be concerned.
The level of vitriol in this election has been really awful and destructive, and for my own part, I can't engage in that. I don't believe that the people campaigning against me are bad or want to tear the org down. Many of them have done a lot of solid work for the org and care about it deeply.
I do think that those of them who've been on the Board have not been able to get whatever it is they wanted done and have created more problems than they've solved not just for the coding team, but for themselves and the people they are trying to help. And I don't believe that's because I've been around in the background as an AD&T staffer or because Francesca's still on the Board.
For my part, I am not trying to get back on the Board in order just to help the coding team; I do want to do that, but I don't believe I *can* help the coding team unless we also address the issues that are upsetting people in other roles.
There's a lot of misinformation and actively hostile interpretations of my actions and words and mistakes being posted around. It upsets me, but I can't spend my time and energy chasing it down and having unproductive arguments in journal comments. If that means that you take some of that misinformation as true, that's the price we both pay, and I'm sorry.
But at this point, I have to let my work speak for me, and I hope it does. [18]

Outside Voices

All the attention for the election also made several people explain why they don't get involved with AO3 or what they think is wrong from a technical/management perspective - should we have that here?

Damaging or necessary?

While many fans felt that the heated conversations unfolding around the election were productive and likely to lead to positive change within the org, others worried that the conversations were damaging to the org and to fandom at large.

Election conversations became sufficiently argumentative that some fans chose to gafiate. After returning from a temporary fannish hiatus, Kass wrote:

I perceive that what's best for the OTW is a slate of board members who, even when they disagree (as they inevitably will), can seek consensus and can treat each other with respect, kindness, and good will.
I perceive that what's best for the OTW is a slate of board members who are willing to figure out what they can learn to like about one another; who can work well together to get things done (like, e.g., getting the AO3 out of beta); who care deeply about fandom even though they come from different places / cultures / backgrounds both fannishly and geographically. I want board members who can represent the org, both inside and outside of fandom, with generosity of spirit.[19]

Temporary link dump: http://starlady.dreamwidth.org/462322.html, http://troisroyaumes.dreamwidth.org/59344.html, http://troisroyaumes.dreamwidth.org/59821.html, http://ainsley.dreamwidth.org/293439.html, http://gamera.dreamwidth.org/67479.html?style=mine, https://pinboard.in/u:blueMeridian/t:class:FandomRef/, http://sara.dreamwidth.org/394449.html, http://inkstone.dreamwidth.org/200435.html, http://fail-fandomanon.livejournal.com/21777.html?thread=97322769#t97322769, http://fail-fandomanon.livejournal.com/21777.html?thread=97555473#t97555473


  1. ^ Lucy Pearson would later withdraw her candidacy: http://otw-news.livejournal.com/152649.html.
  2. ^ OTW Election Candidates on the Elections site
  3. ^ FAQ:The Election Process
  4. ^ 2011 Board Election ballot now closed, post by Ira Gladkova, accessed November 18, 2011
  5. ^ OTW Board Elections - Results, post by Ira Gladkova on November 19, 2011.
  6. ^ OTW election 2011, accessed November 11, 2011
  7. ^ [OTW Elections - making sense of the candidates, accessed November 11, 2011
  8. ^ More OTW - clarification, accessed November 11, 2011
  9. ^ AO3 took off the homestuck skin for their fanfictions???, accessed November 22, 2011.
  10. ^ untitled, accessed November 22, 2011.
  11. ^ A thought:, accessed November 22, 2011.
  12. ^ Homestuck Skin skin by X15lm204, accessed on November 22, 2011.
  13. ^ OTW elections (Accessed Nov. 14, 2011)
  14. ^ OTW Elections, accessed November 14, 2011
  15. ^ Taking Back Our Fiction From The Woman! (AO3/OTW) (Accessed Nov. 15, 2011)
  16. ^ the state of the OTW - 2 things (Accessed Nov. 14, 2011)
  17. ^ [on civic responsibility] (Accessed Nov. 14, 2011)
  18. ^ about the election (Accessed Nov. 14, 2011)
  19. ^ On self-care, the OTW board elections, and my hopes, accessed November 11, 2011
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