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Published:
2020-03-27 12:56:46 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Sarken, who volunteers as co-chair of the Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I'm a co-chair of the committee responsible for the development and maintenance of the Archive of Our Own codebase. The Archive provides a home for over five million fanworks, which supports the OTW's goals of preserving and providing access to fanworks.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

AD&T operates in release cycles, which generally last more than a week, but it's not uncommon to start the week by finishing a release: ensuring all of the changes have been tested, polishing the release notes, and letting other committees know about any changes that might affect their work before the new code is deployed to the Archive.

Once that's done, we wait about a day before putting the next round of code changes onto our staging site, where volunteers from AD&T and other committees test the changes. I usually help coordinate that work in addition to doing some testing myself.

While that's going on, we're also looking ahead to future releases. That involves prioritizing issues and making sure someone is available to write or review the code.

There are a lot of other tasks that might come up during a given week, too, such as handling requests for database work, consulting with Support, making bug reports, or updating documentation. If we're having a widespread issue like slowness or downtime, we also have to communicate the problem to users, which sometimes involves quickly drafting a news post, but almost always involves tweeting. (If someone is tweeting from @AO3_Status, there's a good chance it's me or my co-chair mumble!)

Once those tasks are handled, then I get to write some code!

What made you decide to volunteer?

In 2011, Elz -- one of the AD&T co-chairs at the time -- saw some of the site skins I'd made and asked if I'd like to volunteer. I'd been a fan of the Archive ever since astolat made her "An Archive of One's Own" post in 2007, so it was an easy yes.

I'm also a tag wrangler, which is a role I volunteered for specifically to improve my understanding of how the wrangling features are used. That knowledge comes in handy when working on the wrangling code, plus it makes it easier to communicate with the Tag Wrangling committee about bugs and feature requests.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

The people! My team is terrific, and I really enjoy getting to talk to and work with people from other committees. There are people I talk to almost every day who I wouldn't have met without volunteering, and my life would be poorer for not knowing such kind, talented people.

Coding itself is a pretty close second, though. It's extremely satisfying to hunt down the cause of a bug, and nothing quite beats the "ah-ha!" moment when you finally solve it. Of course, that moment usually gets ruined pretty quickly by the realization you still need to write tests for your new code...

What fannish things do you like to do?

I've made a few vids and recorded some podfic, but my main fannish activity outside the OTW is writing fic. I mostly write het and femslash, or at least I try to write het and femslash -- about half of those attempts end up being gen.

And whenever I can, I love to leave long comments on fanworks I've enjoyed. You never know when you'll make someone's day, and sometimes you just might make a new friend.


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.