COMBUSTION CHAMBER MEETING
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2016
ATTENDEES: Button, Cooper, Kataluna, Pixie, Prost, Adam, Turtlebunny, Problem, Dahling, Kati, Izzi, Clover, Mommacat, Starckle, Clovis, Babbage, Sam, Bonobo
TOPICS: Flipside Volunteer System Requirements; Communicating Open Positions; Town Hall Walkthrough
RESOLUTIONS AND ACTION ITEMS
8:00 — Meeting starts
- Henry’s topic of volunteer recruitment and retention is being postponed. Not sure if he wants to own it or if someone else wants to.
- Dahling: if it could be stacked onto someone else volunteery, that’d be awesome if we could talk about it at the same time.
AAR LLC Update (Problem)
- Not much to talk about because of That Thing in the Desert, we paid rent on the WH so that’s settled.
- So wait, we pay rent for a whole year at one time?
- Triple net lease means the actual money you pay in rent is their profit. Taxes, utilities, rent, and maintenence, divided by square footage.
Area Facilitator Update (Dahling)
- Relatively quiet, gearing up and assessing for leads recruitment and ready to put out a blast, have our retreat this weekend, pretty much it.
- That land search poll that Sexton put out, has anything been done with that? Are we going to get to see the results, or was it just social media masturbation?
- Scott is the land search lead, just today I was doing number crunching on the raw results and there were 373 respondents, asked how many hours people were willing to drive, bias towards number of hours people were willing to drive–people were willing to drive more than three hours, 231 said they were from Austin, 38 from DFW, 13 from San Antonio, 7 from Corpus, 20 from elsewhere including Canada. Bias from respondents from Austin is disproportionate to the — ⅔ respondents from Austin, in reality about half of FS comes from Austin, based on mailing addresses. A little bit of a bias from people wanting to be closer to regions they were closer to, but not as much as you’d expect. For the purposes of the survey, we divided the state into five pie wedges. The SW was by far the most popular region. Bias towards that, but not as much as you’d expect. The SW region was overwhelmingly popular. Houston has their own regional, Unbroken Spring. DFW wanted it to be in their backyard. Asked about swimming and trees, had the scales reversed–general bias to swimming holes and trees as more important but wasn’t as clear cut, people wanted trees but swimming holes wasn’t as important. I have a lot of concerns that will make me think “we’re not going to have FS there, even if it checks everyone’s boxes, but I’m not going to say OK to a property that checks nobody’s boxes.”
- The info on how many people are coming from a theme camp (TC) and badlands, not necessary key for picking land, but it does help us re: portos, roads, etc. We’re thinking about population totals, rather than focusing on who’s where and how we’re picking land.
- One way the data would effect it is if you have a greater concentration of TCs then we don’t need as many trees because they have big structures. Our current land is better for TCs. Kind of odd–tree cover and SW TX is mutually exclusive (IE there’s not many trees in SW TX). Also the way that the survey was structured made you pick one region instead of being able to pick multiples.
- I remember thinking about this when I looked at it at the survey, but I’m willing to drive up to five hours, but that’ll have a big effect on how many Work Weekends (WWs) I can make it to, and don’t know if that was something that was considered when the survey was made.
- Google forms makes it easy to add a five point scale, so that’s how the survey was designed. 259 said they camped with TCs, 97 with a few friends, and 19 by themselves.
- In response to what Prost said, trees are actually still really important to theme camps. I haven’t set foot in our current “swimming hole” since 2011–back then it was to stagnant and sketchy, and recently it’s been like “don’t go near it, you might die”. So to me, swimming holes definitely aren’t as key as they were back at Flat Creek and there was no shade and we needed the swimming hole to stay cool during the day. But speaking from a TC lead’s perspective, yeah, we have big structures, but that shady space for tents is absolutely key to keep our campers happy.
- Trees are great but murder trees are not so great. 1-2 downed trees per event is kind of scary.
8:20 Regional Update (Clovis)
- I took it upon myself to go check out our other regional in Gerlach, pretty nice, fairly big. Big PnP (Plug and Play) camp got vandalized. I ran short of cables for the temple burn, inducted a young provocateur to come with me and grab some cable from that PnP camp, so it probably happened during temple burn (everyone who was there murmurs that they agree). Myschievia is coming up, Engulf (New Orleans) burn coming up.
8:27 Flipside Volunteer System Requirements (Dahling)
- Before I became the Volunteer Coordinator (VC), I had this master plan of re-coordinating the volunteer system. Right now it’s a combination of private excel spreadsheets, google docs, wikis, and I want it all unified into a system. The wikis have been a pain point for rando 1st time volunteers. They don’t know what to click on, maybe the lead entered it wrong, and uhhhhhhghghhh. I want a system that keeps volunteer shifts in a database, for example: the Sanctuary (sanc) page knows if you’ve been trained or not, makes the shifts available to you at the discretion of the lead, etc etc. I had a meeting before BM and hashed out a doc for requirements for this potential system. Big question for the CC that we couldn’t resolve w/o community input: we’re storing crap in a database, tying it to your BFS account, have ability to mark how many shifts you’ve done over your time in the community etc etc. It’s good for leads appreciation because we can track line volunteers who work like 40hrs per FS, because right now we don’t know how many or who those people are. It’d be nice to be able to track those volunteer hours. But there’s the privacy issue about the things people are doing at FS. We wanted to open this up before we did anything.
- We have buy in from many leads, not many keys–the topic is, do you guys think there’s a problem with tracking this data–what about performance data like “never shows up to shift” are there concerns with that stuff being documented and kept
- There’s already a privacy concern with wikis that are gathering emails and phone numbers. Would like to see system that removes those from public consumption.
- Point of inquiry: does that mean you’re happy with this even though it means we’re storing it privately and permanently?
- Like the idea of shared volunteer database. Having filled out the same form for the same department over multiple years, it’d be nice to have the ability to put all of it in every time and tell them my qualifications, that’d would be helpful for the user and the volunteer who wants to participate. As well as people who want to weed through the volunteers they have in their cache to get a good matchup of volunteers for a single shift. I did the sanc schedule this year, and figuring out how to reconcile sanc shifts with Ranger shifts was a pain in the ass. If we could work together that’d be fabulous. Regarding privacy issues: the institutional knowledge we have about people’s skills can be sensitive–not be the best info to pass around departmentally–but I like where this is going overall.
- Agree with Clover. I jumped in feet first at Burnt Soup, noticed where people were strong and where they were not. We had an issue at greeters because there was a miscommunication re: signup sheets and a lot of slots didn’t get filled, and the sheets weren’t available on site. Having those sheets available so leads could go in and grab those things seems like a great resource for a lead. Looking at it from a planning aspect, a database (DB) like this could make things flow easier.
- In favor of having this DB. But feel like it’s my job to catastrophize, so–If we do have this persistent data or how you performed, we know a lot of other burns give discounted or free tickets to volunteers based on previous years. If you’re tracking this info, why aren’t you using it? People will look for ways to use that info once they know that we can track it, and they might start to expect discounted tix or omission from a potential lottery, etc. We want to be able to say to people that their volunteering was a gift. If we don’t, it gets into weird minimum wage issues that we can’t possibly meet. There are probably moral hazards that I haven’t thought of yet that a system like this could lead to.
- In general this sounds like a great idea. Depending on who has access to this info–
- We’d have different access levels for the volunteer, the lead, AF, LLC.
- Given lead turnover, you can let go of this staying private info. 60-something leads with web access–it’ll be there and hackable with your real name and proof that you’ve been at this place, but it’s all there anyway already.
- Yes, if you hack the site you could get at everyone’s stuff
- There’s a fine line between “I can find it if I can search Google vs I can find it if I hack this website”. Some people like Prost never enter their real name into the website.
- Would you be adding any safety info in there, ICS training, first aid cards, any time sensitive documents?
- There could be an expiry date for things, as an option for leads
- Probability of hacking might be low vs the convenience of having that info at your fingertips
- Volunteering is a gift, they do make the event go but they’re not the only people who do it. There are lots of people who contribute in lots of ways–TCs contribute too.
- I like idea of consolidation, and a historical perspective. DBs are only as good as the data entered into them. Favoritism that might result from the data that gets entered, makes me nervous. How do you grade some of this stuff, maybe too subjective? That leads to liability issues.
- I’m not sure there’s much impact to the potential problem that Adam pointed out. If people start getting entitled and expecting special treatment or discounts for tickets, the only thing that’s going to lead to could be potentially a shitload of emails to Dahling asking for special treatment, which could be easily solved with an auto-response message.
- I like idea for a central repository for one year’s event–like having it be stored until after leads appreciation. Might be nice to make it easy to sign in, but I’m not comfortable with using it as a system of reporting on the volunteers and how they’re doing. One of the things we’re about is growth, and I don’t want the fact that someone did poorly last year to prevent them from trying to do it better this year. Leads are human, and they might read a report and nix someone from volunteering, and thus prevent them from ascending. Don’t like the idea of carrying it year to year, I like it as a tool to keep volunteer info in a central place, including shift info.
- The devil is in the details. There are lots of personal details I have to deal with when scheduling sanctuary. I’m a masochist and I love spreadsheets. Red yellow green. Wanted to balance experience and newness vs training. Relying on info that people had provided for maybe the sixth time while signing up was difficult. I like idea of institutional knowledge for the facts, but not necessarily the potential bias. I like the central space. I don’t assume anything I put online is private. I don’t like relying upon info that’s been shared in seven different places to gather data for planning. If it could all be gathered together in a single spot it would help.
- As it turns out, I’m a professional data scientist!
- I like this as a tool and would hate to see us get caught up on the details on opinions of a person’s performance. If I can see they’ve been to the last three Safetysides or regional events I’m going to put that person on that shift, as opposed to someone who’s brand new. People might want to branch out and try out a different department and if that doesn’t work out it, I don’t want this big scarlet letter on PERMANENT RECORD. I filled out census from BM and didn’t want to rate my transformational experience on a scale of 1 to 7. If I’m a lead I want someone who knows what’s going on and is prepared–and I want to know there’s a balance in our shifts. Rather than knowing someone who screwed up their last shift because they screwed up their last timeslot. Can we use this as a tool but not a weapon to build a community?
- Specificity is important. We shouldn’t create permanent records, that sounds insane. Centralizing info for who wants to do what is good, a place to say “person has done these things” is fine. Considering permanent report cards = taking power and experiential learning away from leads and potential new ones, getting away from the here and now. For example, I don’t want to be on fire team because I don’t want to get near a big fire. But I know I’m a good spotter, but not the guy who wants to rush in there. This creates too many opportunities to let someone’s volunteerism die. If we can centralize info for people who’d like to do a new thing, that’d be great. Permanent records doesn’t work so well, doesn’t tell you anything about where someone is right now, or what their actual capabilities are. If they got into a position with a lead who was like “they sucked at everything” that doesn’t help. If we can create username that signs government name and login fine, but not to track everything.
- Don’t mind people having their certs known. Re: volunteer evaluations: never gonna write one down, kiss my ass. If you want to know my opinion, you can ask. Several reasons. 1) too subjective 2) putting that info out is… 3) if I’ve got something shitty to say about someone I’m goddamn sure not putting it down to paper. But having people being able to track their participation would be wonderful.
- Depending on the DB, maybe no one but the VC could have access, or maybe leads could have it, set those controls so each lead only sees the people they need to see. Need to know basis. Only use playa names on schedules. Disclosure waiver info–thank you so much for gifting your time and abilities, we really appreciate your gift to this event–inform them you’re putting this in a DB so if someone’s paranoid they’ll tell you. Would give people peace of mind in terms of knowing where their info is going.
- When I bought my ticket and signed up (for Burnt Soup) it asked for my info anyways, and I don’t know where that’s going. Knowing where it’s going makes me feel comfortable. We don’t know where people are printing it out and leaving it on their kitchen table. If it’s in a DB then it’s in more secure anyways. If it’s on a wiki then people can google it and tamper with it. 90% of this info is on people’s computers and phones and on paper anyways. Anyone could walk by and see it. Certificate records–all they keep track of at work (in kitchen she works in) is “AB has their TABC effective, this date”, managers have it listed in case inspectors come in and want to see the actual certs.
- I see three tools here: 1) a volunteer scheduling tool in single place to facilitate and organize those activities; 2) a skills and experience DB; 3) an evaluation DB. From my experience, that’s a huge scope of work. I’ve very rarely seen the evaluation portion done well. Leads/volunteers/afterburns — that’s how that gets passed around. Certification pieces are black and white. I have first hand experience in this– and certification pieces can range from “god’s honest truth to complete fucking self promoter.” Trust the leads to figure that out and that’s the art of being a lead and scheduling shifts. Resource management– I’ve got so many horror stories about 1) signing up 2) stay signed up 3) know where they’re supposed to be at the event. In terms of the scope that’s being laid out here– we need to take baby steps. Bite off the scheduling piece first and get that nailed down before we start jumping into the other things.
- Clarification on re-certs
- So that part is in the bag. That’s all.
- 1) In the past there’s been Rangers engaging in inappropriate behavior on shift. There has to be a method of institutional knowledge of that person doing that. Beyond not showing up etc– like, “this person is a dangerous person to do this shift.” Needs to be communicated to other depts. Would there be more comfort with this notefield if it was only AF accessible–? 2) half of my motivation is the “volunteer roulette” process is horrible. It literally took me 100hrs to sort through all the data this past year, and all the individual emails. 3) security. I’m an info security pro. I know about a lot of these concerns already. Literally nothing’s perfect. We’re not being cavalier with your data.
- I don’t want us putting things in a DB about what people did. Nobody is perfect, and I’m not going to try new things if I know that’s happening. I like the idea that Starckles raised–I’m going to give BFS dot com my base info and trust they’re not going to fuck me over. I don’t have qualms about having the shifts I did listed in my profile–but without the comments. Just year by year, event by event. In a DB you add as many filters as you want, while figuring out levels of access. I’ve agreed to have my info on a DB by signing up and giving my name and phone number, that’s my permission. Our community is aware of the situations that happen, and would like to think that that info could be handled and is being handled and I trust the org to do so. But it’d be cool to have a way to know if someone went to Saftetyside, or how many times, etc etc.
- I’m still for keeping track of this stuff, but I don’t see it as burner report card–while you guys trust us and that’s great, people don’t talk smack in their afterburns or in general and so a lot of this stuff doesn’t get back to us. We do the same thing with lead feedback, CC feedback, etc–so to make it self service for the people coming in, filling this thing out, would stop double cross signups. You can’t be on call for two depts at once.
- Is this actually a problem that needs to be solved? not the scheduling but the side info–like someone shows up drunk for a shift?
- Sometimes it gets up the chain and sometimes it doesn’t. (Shares example about one time he was khaki, put an incident in the log, but doesn’t know if it filtered up or not.)
- Keeping track of situations/one timers: I can see wanting to have the info. The shift lead or lead can report it, and it should be rare occurrence. We’ve had situations that were reported, and we’ve have asked volunteers to not volunteer in departments. When you make AAR aware of it, we can take care it. I don’t want that electronically stored in a DB. When they’re reported, our policy is to resolve it with the people involved, but I don’t want to make that a policy. If we start tracking that info, we’re breaking our own policy. Don’t feel comfortable making that change without a deep discussion.
- There’s issues with legal issues, don’t want that to become subpoenas. Groups should be able to keep their info if they want it. Info that they’re volunteering to share. As soon as we get into evaluations, credit card numbers, DOBs–It’s out there and it’s a hazard to even retain it if it’s about personalities or evaluations.
- Garbage in, garbage out: how is the lead expected to fill out report cards re: all their volunteers? Why don’t we have a single wiki DB? Because it’s too hard. Either this new tool is going to be either super simple or people are going to go back to use excel. Or they’ll revert to their own systems and then go back to email to getting the changes they need made.
- I’m in the “teachable human” camp. You are a teachable human, and you are dynamic. There are some people I know that aren’t going to be able to do sanctuary again. That institutional knowledge is relevant, and word of mouth is important. If we can create something that’s as basic as we need for jobs, scheduling, attendance, great. It could be a marriage of oral history in the community with what has “actually happened”…we can’t come up with a panacea for volunteer input/output. We’re presented with a challenge that isn’t clear cut. I don’t want to create a monster. I don’t want something to replace the one on one experience. There should be info that should be kept off the record. I don’t want info turning into swiss cheese, where I feel less capable as a department. I want access to the tools that I need in the moment. I want to know that I can show up and not be turned away or taken advantage of in a position of vulnerability. I want to have access to info that volunteers don’t have to re enter every year into the same form.
- Alot of this discussion is rooted in scope creep, and the question of “whose job it is to know these things?”. Morning meetings (Safety meetings with AFs and LLC, each morning at FS): this may or may not be the time to let people know that this person should or shouldn’t be allowed to staff shifts etc. We create space where you don’t have to let someone know that “this or this did or didn’t go well”. Interpersonal communications is key, and if we’re failing at that, maybe we should be talking about how to get that info year to year, month to month, locking someone into past behavior isn’t the thing. Knowing where to put someone: that’s the job. The whole point is we’re all volunteers, figuring out how to cull people is moving in the wrong direction. Tools for departments seems like it makes sense. Figuring out who’s good for what spot–that’s the job.
- So, I’m hearing: scheduling great, credentials great, tracking great.
- Straw poll: 1) leads: don’t write it down at all, ever 2) google docs, SQ 3) central control
- 4th option: ways to keep info w/o…
- We already know within departments who’s unsuited for a shift
- So, where we ended up in this discussion is: the collection of info is great. My experience tells me that the problem with exception reporting is that it’s, you know, problematic. This is a good topic for the AF retreat. If there’s an incident, we need a process to collect that data, at the end of the day the AFs and the leads are accountable–and sounds like those incidents got handled. I don’t need to know about that if it got handled.
9:40 Communicating Open Positions (Cooper)
- I don’t know what the current process is for identifying open lead positions–we need to reach out. The babies are coming–there were seven infants at the last town hall, and they’re being had by key volunteers in our community. We need mentorship. We have to get more engagement–to keep the event at its current size, much less grow it. Not going to get the penalty free environment anywhere else.
- A lot of people who could be leads in ‘17 can be LLC somewhere now. We need to take that seriously. We need to be recruiting and appreciating volunteers, just because we don’t know them well enough. My experience as a lead: you should be terrified of it, you should do it, and you should be fine.
- Froggy has done an awesome job. And she’s young and she could be a bigger part of our community. I like the idea of recognizing folks and engaging with them and trying to get them more involved. Much twinkles to Cooper and it gels with my topic (scheduled for a November CC meeting).
- Informal volunteering/shadowing seems like a good model–popping into the shifts when you can. As volunteers and leads, we need to encourage people and rope them in. Encourage it throughout the event, not just at TH. They see the “do you want to volunteer” button when they buy their ticket–they click no because they don’t know what volunteering is, they don’t realize it’s just another, different kind of party. Need to do something to invite people within the event. Half the people I talked to at burnt soup didn’t know what volunteering was.
- I don’t think we’re in a race to chase volunteers from other events. Not in a race to make someone a lead for our event just because they’re an AF at another event. We can always learn from younger and older events. We should cross train organizations so we have a ready pool of volunteers for critical positions. There are ways we can get people into gateway positions and make them excited, and that’s good. Communication and enthusiasm is key. Make people aware that FS doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There’s no magic bullet, just takes more communication.
- I appreciate Starckle’s perspective, it definitely works for line volunteers. Leads and AFs need to be recruited in Dec/Jan or before. We don’t have criteria for recruiting leads and AFs except for a few departments–which we call liability leads–where they have to run it by the LLC. But what you do need to have, because we have one person departments where you don’t need to have experience in that department before you can become a lead in that department. Lots of examples of people who…(I missed something in here) you need to be more plugged in, to have someone nudging you.
- One issue with recruiting leads for FS: we have this reputation of having our shit together. We try to structure our lead roles so that people can fail, fall flat on their face and not break FS. People are intimidated by the organization and we need to do something about that.
- Volunteer recruitment is a hellacious job. You could do it year round and it wouldn’t work that well. In non profits, it’s a full time job, year round. Announcements and standing on a stage doesn’t work. Asking people “in person” is the only reliable way to get people into positions.
- Smaller events are looser, more free form, don’t appear to have their shit together as much, but that might be a perceptional barrier. We might be good enough with this that it might be an issue.
- (Shares story about Orfunner ‘08, getting held a radio and told he was khaki now.) There’s beauty in knowing you have coverage. Freedom in knowing a 300 person event is going to self manage in a way that a 3K person event isn’t. 800 people is the breakdown point. I hear this from more people than I want to: “hey my hundred best friends are throwing a party for 2900 people I hate”. Search your heart and soul for the new person, for the outsider, because this is pointless if we’re not welcoming the outsider.
- All it takes is a nudge. Volunteering with someone else, they’re doing amazing. Pulling people in on the fly. They all interacted with LLC on the fly. Encouraging people to grow as a community and other burns. People get stuck in the sanc and PETS rut and it’s good to let people know they’re not being pigeonholed.
- This community is great at empowering and enabling people. The only promotion I’ve ever gotten, I got in this community. Penalty free environment to learn new things and expand what you think you can do. Clovis is the best boss I’ve ever had–when I was Transpo lead he told me, “Honey, it’s okay to make mistakes. Just don’t make the same ones a few years in a row and yer fine.” How do we become more accessible? Less intimidating? Ava, Stephy, other huge networkers are good people to ping to try and find more new folks who would be good fits for various roles. Problem says people are intimidated by FS because we appear to have our shit together–I feel the same way about BM. I don’t know the first thing about how to volunteer for BM. There’s a potential problem with recruiting from the volunteer pools of other regionals, too–people need their “fuckoff burns” and we don’t want to be seen as “poaching” their volunteer pools.
- It’s not about poaching people, it’s making sure that people who are your friends don’t get burned out. If it weren’t for Clovis I wouldn’t have kept going. You should encourage people, ensuring that your family doesn’t harm itself.
Town Hall Rundown (Pixie)
- We know the things that need to be done, need to put them out there.
- Mer, Cooper and Pixie will produce
- MC: Dahling
- Sound: Problem and Babbage
- WH mgrs: make sure the WH is unlocked
- Organizing community members to present themes: Pixie
- Copy/repost the msg for people to come get stuff
- Kati will get in touch with Russ re sticket
- Izzi will organize portos
- Mer: TC list on FB
- Parking: need someone with a safety vest to tell people where to and not to park
- Retreat destination hasn’t been finalized. People who aren’t able to support themselves vsl people who can give a little more (Nov 11-13). Goal is to get a space to accommodate everyone who can get out there. Clover will resend the google doc. One individual is going to have to take it on financially.
NEXT MEETING: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016
TOPICS: Respect Discussion Recap; Town Hall Recap