Introducing Maia Bobrowicz

Yesterday we began introducing our new board members who took office in late December. They have both created a manifesto, just as OTW Board candidates have done in the past, and will each have a post where they can answer questions by OTW members and users. Cat Meier’s post can be found here. Today, Maia Bobrowicz talks about plans for her time on the board, and her experience in the OTW.


I always thought when I wrote a manifesto it would be because I had finally taken over the world and was about to outlaw pushups and rockmelon.

About Me: I’m a business analyst and project manager with the software development branch of an international company. I have a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Metallurgy and Philosophy, a Bachelor of Journalism and I’m completing a MBA at night. I will quit getting educated eventually, I will.

I got involved in online fandom through friends back in 2001 and slid slowly from reading in Sentinel and Harry Potter to organising in Supernatural. This eventually led to volunteering to work on the Archive of Our Own (fandom, a gateway drug). I’ve chaired Accessibility, Design, & Technology (AD&T), helped launch the Archive into open beta, and I write picturesque reports on the history of the AO3’s development.

I’m a lifelong fan of speculative fiction. I’ve finally pared my bookshelves down to fit in the house but my ebook collection is raging out of control.

As part of a philosophy of giving back to the community, in 2009 I was the program coordinator for Swancon (an annual Western Australia science fiction convention). I championed a women and family friendly program and managed to get 49% female panelists and presenters. I co-run an annual discussion panel called Safe Spaces dedicated to exploring ways to make conventions enjoyable and safe(r) for all attendees.

I also recently built a stargate \o/

Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?

I’ve been thinking about running for the Board since 2009 but it’s never been a good time for me personally, and the issues that are dearest to me didn’t gain prominence until 2011. When this opportunity came up, I thought about whether I was in a position to give the time and energy I want to be able to give and the answer is yes! I want us to move to a more sustainable organization, I want to see less burnout, more people going on hiatus and coming back. I want to see higher levels of trust both within the OTW and without and I want to see our projects flourish.

What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

I’ve been involved with volunteer organisations all my life and I have experience in participating, running and managing them. I’ve served on specific projects, on-going committees, and annual events. I’ve managed teams with good feedback afterwards, and I’ve worked successfully with orgs for over 20 years… meaning I can maintain good working relationships over significant time periods — no seriously, it’s a very important skill.

What is your vision for the direction of the organization over the next year and how do you see working with your fellow board members to accomplish it?

My vision: Consolidation. I want us to build on what we have and establish strong, healthy practices that we can sustain into the future. I’d like to see the AO3 operating without constantly battling performance crises. I want Fanlore to build up a wider community of contributors. I want to be able to retain our Board members for the full terms and see our Committee Chairs stepping down and mentoring new Committee Chairs rather than leaving the OTW in order to recover.

How to: The Board can help build those strong, healthy practices by developing and modeling them, by mentoring chairs and demonstrating how those practices benefit us as an organisation. If you want a more detailed description, the Code of Conduct is a lovely, lovely document as are the Board Liaison Agreements. In my future I see a lot of one-on-one check-ins, a lot of discussing basic business practices to do with good communication, a lot of healthy debate, and much creating and maintaining of good relationships.

What is your experience of the org’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our legal advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas of the org you’re interested in.

My experience of org projects: I initially volunteered to work on the Archive of Our Own back in 2008 –- the first version of the roadmap went public and gave me trust that the project was organized enough to succeed. I chaired Accessibility, Design, & Technology in 2009, which was the year we bought our first servers, launched the AO3 into open Beta and ran Yuletide on the AO3 (barely!). I led QA (Testers) for a while, wrangled some of the first tags in the AO3 before we had a Tag Wranglers Committee (who then probably fixed all my mistakes – sorry!), and launched v0.1 of the Support team. I wrote the design for the Invitations feature and spent hours trying to predict how popular the AO3 would be on first launch — if you were ever wondering why the first few rounds of invites back in Nov 2009 came at such odd hours that’s because I was issuing them from Australia.

How would I collaborate: what I’ve done in the past is talk to people. I listen to them and ask them what their goals are. I discuss how they might achieve said goals, and how that relates to other goals other people might be keen on. It has to be said, I have goals too, but I’ve learned to accept that while I feel like I’m right all the time, this isn’t actually true. This seems to be working so I might keep doing it.

What does transparency mean to you personally, both inside the organization and between projects and between the organization and fandom? How do you value it and how would you make it a part of your service?

Transparency to me is a means of creating and maintaining trust. I maintain transparency in the form of ‘saving people, hunting things being there, doing stuff’ and constantly communicating so that people can choose whether they trust me based on their lived experience. I want people to be able to see what I have said and done. It means being open, honest and reliable in my communication. It also means holding other people accountable for doing the same.

What does diversity mean to you personally, both inside the organization and between projects and between the organization and fandom? How do you value it and how would you make it a part of your service?

Strength. I believe diversity of experience, culture, and opinion gives us the ability to make better decisions and be better members of our communities. It gives us a wider range of vision and opportunities to remember our view is not the only one. I try to show I value this by being ready to listen, and to explore things that are new to me. I try not to make assumptions and I try to seek a wide(r) range of input before making decisions. I don’t always succeed, and I acknowledge this and encourage people to call me on it when I fail.

What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?

Key responsibilities: defining the responsibilities, expectations, and policies of the OTW Board. Making decisions and working towards the overarching goals of the OTW. Communicating with… EVERYONE.

Legal requirements: becoming rapidly familiar with them.

How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the org, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?

I have been on hiatus for the past couple of years and am in the luxurious position of having nothing to hand over. *\o/* I expect to become more involved with AD&T as I am also a staffer, and to act as a regular point of contact for DevMem and the Wikimittee who I am also liaison for. I shall be keeping an eye on my time commitment as I’d like to come out of this term with my energy and sense of humour intact, and I feel I best contribute when I’m happy and energised.

This post has been amended to clarify Maia’s involvement in working with tagging on the AO3 as her work preceded the current Tag Wrangling Committee, which was formed in 2010 by a different team