Spring 2014 Admin Meeting

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Agenda

Amyrlin

  • Discuss Integration process, where we are, what next steps will be.

Shatayan

  • Update on accounts and review of reporting
  • Update (and make plans for handling) of debt
  • Update on software search
  • Update on cash tracking form for events
  • Scaling back on financial services temporarily
  • Data driven budgeting
  • Timing of various budgeted expenses

Department of Administration

  • Membership Survey Results
  • 2013 Annual Report status

Department of Community Outreach

  • Updates and status reports of various projects
    • Beltine and OAT
    • Blood Drive
    • Servant of All
    • CCC Hiring
  • Real Life Outreach
  • Review of scholarship process
  • Discuss planning for 2014 Operational Fundraiser
  • Department standards and institutional memory

Department of Events & Conferences

  • Future bids of B&I and Euro events
  • Event Size
  • Items from Membership Survey

Department of Marketing

  • Update on logos
  • General departmental progress
  • Member copyright agreement
  • Shop advertising and changing venues

Department of Membership

  • Adding Citizens to the Who's Who
  • Creating Citizen Ambassador roles
  • Rewarding Citizens for their membership and contributions to the community
  • Ajah/Company newsletters
  • Discussing issues surrounding second demotions
  • Updates on the new raising tests

Department of Moderators

  • Update department name to reflect chat operators
  • Updating access of moderators and chat operators to both departmental forums to foster consistent communication and administration
  • Discuss possibility of giving Mafia games their own forum, including creation of related staff
  • Bring back the title "Senior Moderator"

Department of Technology

  • Project Updates

Notes

These notes were written by Vivianna L'antreau unless otherwise noted.

Introduction

This meeting was quite a doozy and clocked in at just under 8 hours. There are quite a few things that we talked about this time, and some of them have the potential to be quite contentious, so please be extra conscious of each other's love for the Community and that the fact that just because someone might disgree with you, it doesn't necessarily mean anything about you personally. I have my guidelines listed below, but please if at any point you'd like to comment further or aren't comfortable commenting in the forum itself, you're always welcome to send emails to the appropriate director or to myself or Lireina Sedai.

The people in attendance were:

Remember:

  1. We are a fluid and changing Community. We like to try new things, but know that we can always change things again if they don't work. So please don't panic if you see something you disagree with.
  2. All those who attended the admin meeting are people and volunteers who gave up part of their weekend to discuss where we are at as a Community and how we can be better. We love this Community and all of you, and only want to help - even if you disagree with a decision made, please keep in mind that we only want things to work and for all of our members to be happy. So erring on the side of kindness or questions rather than yelling right off the bat would be appreciated.
  3. We know that all of you feel very passionately about our Community, which can lead to disagreements not just with those of us who were at the meeting (in which case see #2) but also with each other. If/when this happens, once again err on the side of compassion and try to assume that someone isn't purposefully trying to bait you or insult you, but is also trying to get their point across. Also, if someone has said something you disagree with and 15 other people have already expressed exactly what they think was wrong with another opinion - try to not jump in as well to add to the pile. Trust me, the point has been made. Let's give everyone a chance to be heard. Even if you might think their opinion is ridiculous, everyone still deserves to think what they will and chances are that there are people who will still agree with them. Restraint is a wonderful thing.

We'll break things down into the different sections. Feel free to ask questions/make comments in the appropriate threads but you are also always welcome to email us if you have further suggestions, comments, etc. I'll tuck the appropriate email address at the top of each thread. This forum will be open for 2 weeks before then being locked and archived. Thanks everyone!

Amyrlin

amyrlin@tarvalon.net

Introduction

And now the moment you've all been waiting for. The only topic on my agenda this go around was integration. We first brought this up two years ago to see if this was a direction we could even possibly think of moving in. Last year we talked about it in much more depth with the intention of doing more research. We then accomplished the research via comments in that year's admin meeting forum and then much more extensively through the survey done by the Department of Administration.

For all who missed the announcement, you can find the results of the Integration Survey in our library here. It is a fascinating read no matter which opinion you hold of integration as a whole, and I encourage everyone to take a look if you haven't already. Thank you again to the team who put on the survey including Calypsa and Mirandha, and thank you to all who assisted in putting it together through participation in the Integration Survey Hive Mind.

Now then, much as I did last year, I encourage every single one of you to take a very deep breath. Following the discussion and then the survey, we are taking another step on this journey/process, but it is by no means finalized or happening tomorrow. I once again want to draw your attention to the guidelines I put in the Welcome post, and ask that everyone treat all other members who choose to participate in this thread with all due respect. I fully acknowledge that this is an extremely sensitive subject, which is why we're taking as long with it as we are and are being as deliberate with it as we are.

On this topic especially I ask that if you find yourself perhaps reading into someone else's comments, find yourself taking something personally that may not have been meant that way, or find yourself getting extremely angry from the initial post or any responses that you take a very deep breath before responding. If that means you need to walk away from the computer for a bit before posting yourself, then do what you need to do. Above all just remember that everyone has a vested interest in this topic and that we all are taking this very seriously. Be Excellent to Each Other. Emote-grouphug.gif

So on to the topic at hand:

Overview and Direction

Looking at the responses to the Integration Survey (to which nearly 200 people responded), 60.9% (117) of them said that "Yes" they would like to see integration happen here at TarValon.Net. Further down you'll see that in addition, when people were asked if they would continue to recommend TarValon.Net to others if integration happened that the numbers are higher, with 67% saying they would be "very likely" or "somewhat likely," and only 8% saying that they would be "somewhat unlikely" or "very unlikely" to recommend TarValon.Net.

What this says to me is that integration is something that a majority of the community would like to see happen, even if not everyone or even a majority of members would actually take advantage of it. When we add this evidence to the opinions and experience of the Officers and Executive team, we have decided that we will be moving forward with integration at TarValon.Net.

This does not in any way, shape, or form mean that this is going to happen tomorrow. We still have a million and one details and processes to talk about and work out before we are ready for this to happen. But just for your planning purposes we are looking at January 1, 2015 as the "go" date for full integration. To get to that point, though, we still have a lot of work to do. So here was step #2 we discussed at the meeting:

How we will move forward

When I brought this up last year, I spoke about 3 potential ways I saw this theoretically happening if we elected to move forward. Those present at the meeting spoke about each of those options, which were:

  1. Complete integration across all Ajahs/Companies
  2. Keeping our current organization and creating 1 all-male Ajah and 1 all-female Company
  3. Moving to complete integration but leaving 1 all-female Ajah and 1 all-male Company for those so inclined.

We talked about all of this at length with their respective pros and cons (and some of you wonder why these meetings take 8 hours twice a year Emote-silly.gif).

At this point in the meeting we conducted a roll-call voice vote of the Executives, the Officers, and the Board. Though they were not in attendance, we were able to contact Jaim and Dralyn to get their views and votes as well. The only board members and Directors not accounted for were Caerwyn (not in attendance), Eleyan Teyal Al'Landerin (not in attendance), Calypsa (unable to attend), and Sonea (had to leave earlier in the meeting). The vote was unanimous.

We decided that if we're going to do this at all, that we need to do it completely. Therefore, we will be pursuing a course of FULL integration, with men and women equally welcome in all Ajahs and Companies across the board.

Essentially, we had to go back to the fact that just by being male or female does not mean that we view the world in the same or even similar ways and that forcing people to pidgeonhole themselves on the basis of their gender doesn't seem to be the best way for us to handle the issue. The thought of making two such different women as Lireina and Serenla join the same group just because they happen to be female? Or Toral and Sean to be in the same group just because they happen to be male? It just doesn't add up with our definitions of what an Ajah and Company should be. It's not just a group of your buddies or people you like - it is a group of like-minded individuals who view the world and their place in it in similar ways. This definition is upheld by a system of integration that allows both male and female to join a group based on who they are.

Once we knew what form integration would take, we discussed what (if any) impact it would have on Bonding. We currently have a system where the bond is a tie across the two parts of the Tower, between an Aes Sedai and a Gaidin. With full integration, we decided that this definition will not change and it will still be that connection between both halves. The only thing that will change here is that we won't be concerned with what the gender the title holders are. It could be a male Aes Sedai and his female Gaidin, or a female Aes Sedai and her female Gaidin. It's the Aes Sedai/Gaidin connection that is important, not the male/female part.

The final bit we decided on as a group is that since we have set January 1 as our date, any current Senior Member who would like to take advantage of this new system in the first round will need to apply as part of the December 2014 demotions. Those who change paths will be considered demotions, however, they will *not* need to go through the Hall for advancement back to Senior Member. Rather, as with our normal raising process, the Head of Ajah/Company Commander, with input from their members, will determine when the demotee is ready to advance, at which time an announcement will be made congratulating them on their promotion and appropriate permissions will be restored.

The exception with the Hall will only apply to this very first group. If someone elects to demote and change paths during the subsequent June application period, all normal rules pertaining to demotions and the Hall will be in effect.

Figuring out the rest of it

From an officer/executive/board point of view we felt it very important to nail down these general but critical aspects - what integration and therefore bonding will look like once this process is finalized, and how will it work for the very first group of people. For everything else, we need help to hammer out the remaining details. Where (if at all) do we keep gender-specific areas? When do people decide which path they'd ultimately like to pursue? What will our exact timeline look like as we finish out the rest of 2014, looking forward to January 1, 2015 as the date of full integration? All of these things (and more) need to be worked on, and we need help to do it.

Luckily we already have an elected body in place who can assist on this issue, so the intention is to put this with the Hall from the current term. In addition, we'll be looking for representatives from the other membership groups as well: our Accepted, Citizens, Novices, Recruits and Soldiers, who will each have two people selected by their membership administrator to participate as well. We hope to have fully selected this group in April so that we can jump right into these very important conversations.

What is critical about this process is that if you have a certain way that you feel this should look or a point about which you feel very strongly then send it to your representative or to a member of the executive/officer team so that they/we can voice it to the group as a whole. We have wonderful feedback from the Integration Survey but can always use more, so please let your Sitter/Warder Councillor/group representative know what you think!

So I think that's it for now. It's a ton to take in, I know, and it's going to be a very long period of months as we finish sorting out all of the details. In the end though, I'll say again much as I did last year. The time is here where I feel the restrictions on only men becoming Warders and only women becoming Aes Sedai are not as important as allowing people to follow their hearts and be able to join a group of like-minded individuals of their choice. After all, once all channelers were titled Aes Sedai. I'm very interested to hear what you all have to say!

Shatayan

shatayan@tarvalon.net

Behind the scenes organization and tracking

Most of what we spoke about in this section will have a far bigger impact behind the scenes. We now have a cash tracking sheet that will be used consistently across all events with two copies being used. Each copy will go home with two separate people, each to scan them in individually after the event. This way we'll have a paper trail showing that the amount of cash taken in at the event matches exactly the amount deposited by the appropriate party (generally the Amyrlin or Shatayan).

We also have now changed our fiscal year from one that matches the calendar year (January 1-December 31) to one that will help us budget more accurately and give us a better picture of exactly where our finances stand each year. So to get us onto that new schedule, fiscal year 2014 will be a shortened one from January 1-August 31, 2014. Then, we will begin our 2015 fiscal year on September 1, 2014-August 31, 2015. Ubahsur has spoken to the IRS about how this would effect our taxes, etc and learned that all it does it change our filing date up from May to January with no additional penalties or fees. So we will file our 2014 taxes by January 15 of 2015. Budget wise, this also starts our fiscal year after our annual operational fundraiser which allows us to create our budget accurately and responsibly for the next year without the approximations we have to use currently.

The final bit of this section is that whenever possible, all purchases for events or anything should be made by the Shatayan or the Amyrlin. It's far more efficient to make the purchase using the Tower card directly from Tower accounts rather than having to chase down receipts and process reimbursements. More details will be given to committee members for events, but the idea is that well in advance of the event a link would be sent to our email to whatever product is needed, and either the Shatayan or Amyrlin will make the purchase and have it shipped to the appropriate individual.

Debt and responsibility moving forward

As we have previously let everyone know, we have repaid all outstanding debts from our financial crisis save one, which we are working on. Unfortunately, we don't feel we've made as much progress on this front as we would have liked and will be trying to cut our expenses and extra expenditures to every extent possible until it is fully paid back. This means that we will be going through our budget line by line and intend to eliminate all but the most basic of operating expenses and the scholarship. The officers will be doing this in preparation of the new fiscal year which will begin on September 1, 2014.

Consistency in event ticket pricing

Right now when we advertise a ticket price for an event we give you two different amounts. One is the amount if you pay via paypal, and one is smaller by $5 if you pay via personal check or money order mailed in to us. There has been some confusion because sometimes when people use paypal they elect to front the applicable fees themselves, and we feel it is also slightly unfair because the only people who have mailed in checks to us and really get the advantage of the two price system are americans. To that end going forward we will only be advertising one ticket price whether one pays by paypal or by check. This also has the added advantage of saving our illustrious Shatayan hours upon hours of her time due to having to keep track in multiple ways in multiple mediums exactly which amounts were allocated where as she painstakingly does. This will be reflected when we begin taking in money for Fall Ball 2014.

Archivist

archivist@tarvalon.net

Merit work is ongoing. The team looking at new merits and rewards are hard at work, and we have another team working on clearing our backlog of already earned merits by membership group. Look forward to further announcements of earned merits over the coming months!

Department of Administration

administration@tarvalon.net

Membership Survey

Since the integration survey was run late last year and we didn't want to overwhelm people with surveys and results, the Membership Survey was pushed back slightly this year. This survey is a critical piece of information that we use during the admin meeting so thank you to Mirandha who made sure that the results for each department were released to the exec team in advance. She and her team are working on completing a report to the membership as a whole and are expected to have it completed by the end of this month! Thank you to everyone who participated

Annual Report

It was mentioned in the membership survey that people would prefer if the Annual Report was completed and released earlier in the year to which we fully agree! There are so many pieces that go into this and our amazing Isarma along with Calypsa have the completely thankless of task of chasing each exec and officer as well as the board down to get each section in before they can begin the quite lengthy process of editing. Generally the deadline for submissions is in late winter, but last year in particular there were several of us who struggled to get our sections completed which is why it was released so late. Due to a myriad of factors I, in particular, was one of those who held up the process in 2013, for which I can't apologize enough to Isarma and to all of you. This year, however, we've all been hard at work on our sections and all contributions from exec as well as a statement from the board have been received! Editing has commenced, and we're anticipating a spring release of the Report for 2013 and intend to have this trend continue in years to come.

Department of Community Outreach

outreach@tarvalon.net

Servant of All program

We've wanted this to be a very involved program, and have had various people working on it over the years but the reality is that we just don't have a person right now who has the sheer time it would take to make this into something as large as our dreams might want. Instead we're going to scale it back to a program that encourages people to give back to their local communities with their time, goods and efforts. This is how the Servant of All program was originally conceived, and I think it will work well for us again. To that end, we're going to get the “Servant of All” forum open where people can interact with each other and share ideas and thoughts about how to contribute. With the success of the Blood Drive, we think that this is another way that people can share all of the ways that they too are servants of all at home. You can look for this forum to appear in April with forum moderators drawn from the current Outreach staff who were working on the SoA program.

Feast of Lights

Another comment we saw several times on the membership survey was that people tend to enjoy event outreach rather than running another money raising fundraiser during feast of lights. This year then, we're going to do something that we haven't done in many years and focus on tangible contributions to local charities and shelters. Look for more information about this later in the year!


Department of Events and Conferences

events@tarvalon.net

Britain & Ireland and Euro Events

There was quite a bit of discussion about where we're at with our events outside of North America. In recent years we haven't received as many bids as in the past, and attendance has been at the break even point at the last few events. Because of this, for 2015 we intend to try a slightly different system. First, rather than taking separate bids for B&I and for Euro, we will open a bid period for the year of 2015 for either side of the Channel and without the traditional time of year restrictions from years past. More details will come with the bid request itself, but essentially we're looking for a location, at a time of year that might suit the location, and a suggestion of appropriate accommodations. If that means that you might want to do a more “Fall Ball” type of event and focus on staying in a hotel and touring the local area, then submit your ideas! If you'd prefer to stick to the way Euro and B&I events have been done in the past and look for a place where we provide our own food and focus on a more faire type of atmosphere spending concentrated time with each other, then submit that. We may have one or two events next year, but ultimately we're looking for people who would like to make an investment of their time to help us search out amazing locations and ideas on what to do there. Now I know that we did start asking for B&I bids last month so if you submitted one then we have it on file and will keep it in the final discussions. Keep an eye out for more information as 2014 progresses.

Department of Marketing

marketing@tarvalon.net

Ajah and Company Logos

The Discussion forums with group representatives was very successful and great feedback/suggestions came out of it. The project is now back in Marketing for some more work, focusing on the current ideas and refining them rather than continuing to brainstorm. The goal is to get updated images back to group reps for review within 6 months.

New Shop for Event/TarValon.Net items and apparel

Based on the research that we've done, there's just not a lot of difference in most of the vendors that give us the same flexibility of cafepress. Amazon was also looked into, but it's not the same sort of setup since we don't have the means to have a supply on hand for people to order from. Right now it's looking like Zazzle.com might work for us, but we're going to hang on to our cafepress store as well in the meantime while we try it out. Event and Blood Drive logos are being added to the new shop and we'll let you know when it's completely up for business! The intent is to try out zazzle (anyone else having flashes of the Big Bang Theory and Sheldon's cats? ) for the next 6 months or so and then reevaluate, so once we have a link give them a try!

Department of Membership

membership@tarvalon.net

Citizens in the Who's Who

Originally, the rank of citizen was created on the one hand so that people could become members of TarValon.Net without the obligations of service and commitment to the community or the requirement that they the read the entire series and on the other hand to address the fact that there are people who create accounts, stay for a brief period of time, and ultimately move on. Later we found that we do have members who stick around but still don't want to join the Tower, and created the rank of Resident Citizen to make it clear that these are people who have been here for a long time and would be a great resource for newcomers. A suggestion was made that these individuals be added to the Who's Who to reflect any merits they have earned as well as showing other items on their profile such as events they have attended, tower relationships, etc. and we thought it was a great idea! Because there is still no obligation to the rank of Resident Citizen we won't create these profiles automatically, but if anyone who has been here for 6 months or more would like to have a page created for them in our library, simply notify the Mayor and she will ensure that it gets completed.

Second Demotions

This topic was one that we spoke about at some length. Demotions are something that are taken very seriously by everyone who requests them, and are something that people think long and hard about. Over the years there have been various changes made to this process such as, in 2008, adding that a demotion could only be requested by someone who had been a senior member for at least a year. Since our first applications were all from people who had joined prior to guesting being established, at another point we had to decide how people should proceed if they had been able to take advantage of the guesting process. This year we wanted to talk through all of the potential ramifications of allowing people to demote a second time while keeping in mind that we also want people to be happy both with the site as a whole as well as within their chosen group. To that end we have decided to allow second demotions, but they will be far more restrictive than a first demotion is.

First, before someone can request to demote a second time they will need to have been a senior member of their current group for a minimum of 3 years. In addition, before the request will be approved they will need to show that they are active members who are participating (so this wouldn't be approved for someone who had been on a long term LoA then came back with the demotion request being one of the first things they do). Now this participation doesn't have to be in their Community group, and they don't necessarily have to try and reintegrate with that group after being away. But since things can seem very different after an LoA, we want you to have time to get to know people and the Community as a whole again before making a huge change. If you still want to demote after showing that you've been here and active, (without which you most likely wouldn't be raised again in any case) then you are more than welcome to submit an application to the Amyrlin, Keeper and Director of Membership. The second part of the process which pertains to aspiration will also be on a longer time line. Currently, a first time Accepted or Soldier is able to aspire after 6 weeks, a demotee after 12. If this is your third time through the guesting process, then we want to make sure that you have plenty of time to ensure that you have found the right place for you and so you will be able to choose to aspire after 6 months and be eligible for raising after a year.

So yes, here is the process:

  1. Second demotions are allowed after 3 years SM with current group and evidence of activity and participation
  2. Second demotions are able to aspire after 6 month
  3. Second demotions are eligible for raising back to SM after 1 year

As with everything else, we'll try it and then review if and when we have anyone go through this new process.

Department of Moderators

moderators@tarvalon.net

Name Change to Department of Moderators and Operators

First and perhaps most importantly, a name change! This might be a simple and obvious change to those who already equate ops as members of the department, but we wanted to make it more clear to those who are new to us. In addition to this change and to facilitate departmental communication and consistency, mods and ops will all have access to both the mod and op squads.

New forum

Those of you who frequent the frivolous fun forum can see that Mafia is an ongoing and very busy part of that forum and can sometimes deprive other threads of attention. Because this has been a consistent source of activity for some years now with no end in sight, it has been requested and approved that these games will be moved into their own forum. New moderators for this forum will be appointed initially by the Director of Moderators to a one year term that includes both general moderation of the forum as well as organization of the games via stickies, etc that are currently found in the FF forum. In addition, much as with CE mods, these positions will be staggered so look for applications in September for the next addition to the team.

Resolution of issues

It was brought up on the membership survey, and we fully agree that we are not very good at letting people know if and when a concern or situation that they've brought up has been dealt with. So while we still won't be divulging the details of what was done, we will let you know if action was taken but be aware that it might just be those exact words “action was taken” or the “situation was resolved”. Keep in mind that we are big on not publicly calling people out and that the vast majority of our actions are private between the moderator and the person they are addressing which will not change. We will, however, try to be more communicative with the complainant that issues are being dealt with appropriately.

Department of Research and Records

library@tarvalon.net

Toral and all of his wonderful staff and contributors do an incredible job and are keeping us up to date. Thank you so much!

Department of Technology

technology@tarvalon.net

Tech consisted mostly of ongoing project updates, but the big news is that vBulletin has finally released the CMS for their 5.1 Connect package! Right now the plan is to upgrade to version 5.1 next year. To that end, we're not going to focus a ton on improving the look, etc of the current version that we're using but rather let them finish working the bugs out and move straight to 5.1. So you may see a few changes here and there, but the big site design work will focus on 5 and you guys from what I've heard about 5? It's going to be amazing!