IAWTV Town Hall Meeting – A Summary and Thoughts

The impetus for this blog entry was the fact that several IAWTV members had expressed disappointment at not being able to attend Wednesday night’s LA IAWTV Town Hall meeting. I quipped to Mercury Men and Captain Blasto creator Chris Preska that I would be his secretary and take notes for him (did you get your bagel yet, Chris?). During the actual meeting, I would periodically check my Twitter feed, just to see if there were any thoughts being posted about the meeting…and overwhelmingly, I saw members of the web entertainment community with a desire for information about what was being discussed. Some responded with comedy (yes, Milowent, it indeed WAS announced that you will be the next host of the Streamy Awards), some came with honest and important questions that they hoped someone in the room would read and get addressed by the Board.

This proved to me that there is a great need for the discussions and issues brought up in these meetings to make their way out into the internet community at large. It is not enough that we call for transparency within the IAWTV itself, but it needs to flow outward and beyond us. Michael Wayne, current Chairman of the IAWTV, was very clear in saying that the Board of Directors of the IAWTV is only there to serve the IAWTV as a whole. I think it is equally important to distinguish that the IAWTV in turn serves the entire internet community as a whole and we have a responsibility to them, just as the Board of Directors does to the IAWTV.

But I can’t take credit for this being my idea alone. I think one of the happy ironies that has come out of this meeting is the fact that the one creator currently on the Board of Directors was not able to attend it because she was, well, creating web content. Because of this, she was able to instead share her thoughts in a more public manner. There is also a fantastic episode of New Mediacracy, which gathered some of the most vocal and passionate members of the organization and got their thoughts down in a podcast recorded directly after the meeting. And there is the always astute observations of the lovely Liz Miller at NewTeeVee, which, honestly, are much more succinct then I am about to be, so those who want a much shorter summary should just pop over there.

With that said, here are is my summary and thoughts of the night. Any opinions expressed are mine alone as a member of the IAWTV. I apologize in advance for the length.

The night began with IAWTV Chairman Michael Wayne pointing out the awkwardness of the setup of the room. He and the other board members as well as the about-to-be-announced Executive Director Elisabeth Flack, sat behind microphones and a long table, facing the rest of the room. And while it was instantly acknowledged that it just didn’t feel right, it highlighted the core theme of the evening: things HAVE to change.

And while, frustratingly, there was no official set agenda for the meeting, Michael did open the meeting with 3 goals in mind:

1) Getting everyone on the same page on how exactly the IAWTV and its relationship to the Streamy Awards was created.

2) Making it clear that this is only the beginning of the dialogue and a forum now exists for continuing discussion beyond the current meeting.

3) Begin explaining possible initiatives and outlining ways members can get involved.

We sort of got to all this in the three hour meeting that followed.

Objective 1 got off to a good start with the explanation that the Tubefilter team (long before I began writing for them) selected the original IAWTV in an informal fashion. After the 1st Streamy Awards, that initial group of IAWTV members felt that forming a non-profit corporation would best serve the organization. That is still the plan, though the paperwork has not yet been filed (Liz Miller later updated her article to include a quote from Brady Brim-Deforest on this issue: “The IAWTV is a Nonprofit corporation registered with the State of California. While we have not yet filed our application for federal tax-exempt status (the IRS gives non-profit organizations up to 24 months to file) the application is currently in progress.”)

It was off of this wave of euphoria and excitement over future prospects that the IAWTV probably hit its first major hiccup. As Michael put it: “We hoped for the best but never planned for the worst”. The board went into the second Streamy Awards assuming they would not only be as successful as the first…but more successful. Worrying about the content of the show did not occur to them. Historically, they formed the opposite way than is traditional: they formed an organization AROUND an award show as opposed to developing an awards show out of an organization.

So the glaring flaw was out on the table: the Board of Directors is not a functioning board at the moment. They have had only had 2 official board meetings, one to pick the Visionary Award winner for the 2nd Annual Streamys and the 2nd was supposed to consist of Elisabeth presenting a possible roadmap of the organization going forward. But that became derailed by dealing with the aftermath of the 2nd Streamy Awards. (It is important to note that though of course, talk of the ceremony was peppered throughout the conversation, on the whole, no one tried to rehash the nitty gritty of the ceremony itself)

This is basically the point at which people started to throw their thoughts into the conversation. People wanted to understand how it is possible for a for-profit awards show and a non-profit organization to work together, especially when there are quite a few conflict of interest situations going on. This conversation then went on to point out another area in which the organization needs to improve: in its infrastructure.

It was revealed that the current Board of Directors is slated to stay in their positions until December 3rd, 2010. This was met with mixed reactions. There were definitely indications that that may be too long for many who feel that the current configuration of the board does not accurately represent the community (something which has come up again and again). It was vocalized at one point that no one has quit since the Streamy Awards and that there is feelings that there were no consequences following. It was reiterated several times that even Tubefilter is aware that there should not be 5 members of Tubefilter on the Board. But Michael was very clear to clarify that the original reaction of feeling as if there was going to be a “hostile takeover” have passed and the Board and Tubefilter want nothing more than to work together to come up with a solution. The infamous “Rebuild the Trust” site has now been taken down. “We are all content creators…we all love drama,” Michael quipped. But now it’s time to move on and correct the situation.

This moved into discussion of some of the changes that the Board plans to implement. A member forum is now live (though there was lively discussion, especially across Twitter, of whether or not it should be open to the wider community, or at least have a section there is open). There will be monthly e-mail newsletters as well as weekly conference calls. There is still plans to create 22 Peer Groups but at the present moment, there still aren’t enough people in each of the groups to fill them. An org chart was called for, which is now available, though the list of by-laws, which was also requested, is not yet available. Update: the by-laws are also now available.

The conversation then turned to HOW these changes were going to be implemented and how soon. Another major theme of the night was the desire and need to act NOW. Many members in the room expressed frustration at not being able to make changes at a faster rate when most of us are used to working in the fast-paced world of New Media and that we specifically work in this field because of the freedom of doing it our own way and that the IAWTV needs to adapt to that. There was a call for more leadership and a Board that is more proactive. There were calls for a visionary meeting, where the exact mission of the IAWTV can be broadened upon. The current mission statement, which basically says the IAWTV is nothing more than a group of web professionals devoted to voting on and awarding the Streamy Awards, is far too limiting and not what anyone wants the organization to be (though it was humorously pointed out that at least we can take comfort in the fact that the IAWTV DID do what it was originally set up to do…it gave out awards).

The meeting wound down with an announcement of when the next meeting will be held (in a month) and the reiteration that the Board will come to that meeting with a set agenda, the most important components of which will include a roadmap for the vision of the organization (which the membership will have complete control over discussing and changing) and a proposed decision on what the relationship between the Streamy Awards and the IAWTV will be (if any).

This summary is my no means completely exhaustive. I was taking notes by hand and choose not to direct quote any members for privacy reasons (another point brought up several times at the meeting, mostly in the context of a complete IAWTV member list still not being available), besides Michael Wayne, the IAWTV Chairman. If you do have any direct questions or want clarifications of specific topics, you can post them in the comments section and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.

If you’ve made it this far, I humbly thank you. :)

98 Comments

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