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Published:
2020-04-19 16:34:24 UTC
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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 Alex Xanthoudakis, who volunteers as a Fanhackers project staffer on the Communications Committee.

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

I’m a Fanhackers volunteer, so I help run all the Fanhackers accounts! Our mission is to help make fan studies scholarship more accessible to people, which feeds into the OTW’s larger mission of providing access to and preserving the history of fan culture in its myriad forms, and providing the broadest possible access to fannish activity for all fans. A lot of this stuff—-recorded histories, really cool analyses, various legitimizing works—-is found in books and articles that are very often behind a paywall or university firewall. My job as a Fanhackers volunteer requires me to read things, pull out what I think is important or interesting, and share the educational wealth, so to speak!

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

Reading, reading, reading! I read fan studies scholarship and then post about it, whether that be a quote, a quote and explanatory text, or just something I found interesting about an article. I work with two really amazing other volunteers; we’ve staggered our posting schedule throughout the week, so I’ll usually read over the weekend and draft my post in time to post for Monday afternoon/evening. Right now, I’m also in charge of monitoring the Fanhackers Tumblr, so any questions directed to that platform will probably be answered by me!

What made you decide to volunteer?

The OTW has been instrumental to my fan experience, primarily through AO3, but also through Fanhackers and a lot of the outreach they do. Because of this, I really wanted to help keep the Organization up and running in any small way I could.

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

Meeting new people! It’s been so fun to get to work with other like-minded fans—-and the fact I’m part of a group trying to make scholarship more accessible is also pretty rad!

What fannish things do you like to do?

I’m a huge fan of fic and am a fic writer; I started about 13 years ago and haven’t looked back since! I’ve also tried my hand at fanart (it was a disaster, but incredibly fun), and when the mood strikes, like making gifs. On the visual side of things, though, my favourite thing has to be organizing and designing zines. I’ve been lucky enough to work on two and seeing participants’ creativity, as well as being able to hold a physical copy of all that hard work, is extremely inspiring and satisfying!


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.

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Published:
2020-03-27 16:56:46 UTC
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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.

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Published:
2020-02-21 17:27:29 UTC
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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 Kristina, who volunteers as co-editor of the OTW's project Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC).

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

Karen Hellekson and I were tasked from the beginning with representing the academic arm of the OTW. We had been discussing the need for an academic fan studies journal around the same time as the first discussions for an archive began, and we started laying the foundations shortly after the OTW was founded. We found an open access platform, defined our policies, picked an editorial board, and put out the first call for papers. We published the first issue of Transformative Works and Cultures a little over a year after in September 2008.

In order to gain and retain our academic credentialing as a journal, we needed the editorial side to be clearly separate from the OTW organization side. Our connection to the OTW is crucial but also fairly specific: our staff are OTW volunteers and we report to the board, but all editorial decisions are made independently by double-blind peer reviewers who are experts in fan studies.

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

We publish one general issue and one or two special issues a year, and essay submissions come in year-round, with rushes of work around deadlines. I am responsible for screening all submissions to see if they adhere to our requirements, and I will reject submissions that do not fit journal guidelines (length, genre, topic). Every other essay gets sent to peer reviewers. I communicate with reviewers and authors until the essay is ready to be accepted and sent to production. So my typical week is writing a lot of emails and fairly regularly reading and reviewing essays. I used to solicit a lot in the early days, and I still joke that I beg, bully, barter, and bribe friends and acquaintances to submit material and/or peer review for TWC.

What were the early days of TWC like?

Exciting and crazy! We started everything from scratch, and it was great but also exhausting. We were learning procedures as we were creating them, and everything was mostly held together with spit and goodwill and a lot of effort, mostly on Karen’s and my part. Neither of us was affiliated with any university, the journal was online only, and we published fan studies research, so to ensure credibility it was really important to publish sound academic research that was professionally edited. In line with OTW’s basic philosophy, it was important that the journal be open access, so that all fans, regardless of affiliation or access, could read the research.

Karen and I were (and to a degree still are) the last line, and that meant that there were a lot of panicked phone calls and picking up slack, especially in the first few years. We have published every issue on time for the past 10 years and over 30 issues! That has meant, however, that Karen is copyediting and coding and proofreading essays the night before we go live, because a volunteer had not done her assignment; or it means I am interrupting my family holidays to email authors on my phone on crappy hotel Wi-Fi.

Today, the journal has a solid reputation and we get a good number of unsolicited submissions. Many of our procedures have been documented, and of course we follow standard academic journal workflow, but so much of what we've done, we’ve learned to do through trial and error. Karen and I are both looking forward to passing our editor batons to new scholars in the next few years.

What is your professional life like outside of your TWC work? Any projects you'd like to talk about?

I am an adjunct professor at my local university, and I’m pretty adamant to be identified as an independent researcher. Just like with OTW and TWC, I think it’s important for fans and fan studies scholars to come together. Karen and I were editors of the volume Fan Fiction and Fan Studies in the Age of the Internet (2006), which I’m proud to say helped create a whole new generation of fan studies scholars, and my own book, Framing Fan Fiction, came out last year.

I was also part of the group that created the first fan studies conference in the United States/North America, the Fan Studies Network: North America, which had its second annual conference at DePaul University in Chicago in October 2019. In what might have been the strangest work I’ve ever done, I became an expert witness in a plagiarism trial centering around Omegaverse tropes.

I try to go to one academic conference a year, mostly to see friends, meet new people in the field, and solicit for TWC, but I happily travel if invited (and supported). This spring I’ll be giving a talk on TWC and OTW with Karen Hellekson and Francesca Coppa at Berkeley, and I’m very excited! Finally, I am writing a new book on Fan Fantasies and the Politics of Desire with my friend (and early TWC volunteer) Alexis Lothian.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I started as a reader (and lurker) in the late 1990s, and fan fiction has remained the center of my fannish interest and my academic work. I used to say that talking about fandom is my fannish thing to do, back when I wrote a lot of meta and helped organize and run things. But after starting TWC (and especially the last three years when I was on the OTW board), that has mostly eaten up all my fannish energies. I still read fanfic and listen to podfic and talk to people one-on-one about stories, but changes in fannish interactions and changes in myself (maybe) have made me be much less public and much less vocal.

I also haven’t really felt like I’m actively part of a fandom since, probably, Stargate Atlantis or maybe Teen Wolf. I still read a lot of fic, but I’m also reading a lot of m/m and other romance. At the moment, I am about all things The Witcher (game, TV show, books, fanfic), but by the time this is published, I may have fallen for something else. Following the phrase of a dear (and now departed) old friend: I am a fannish butterfly!


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.

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Published:
2020-01-20 16:12:41 UTC
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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 Stacey Lantagne, who volunteers as member of OTW's Legal Advocacy project. It's posted today to highlight the celebration of Copyright Week

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

As a volunteer for the Legal Committee, I work on behalf of OTW's mission to protect and nurture fanworks as a legitimate creative activity. The Legal Committee monitors legislation in the United States as well as internationally, and provides comments on behalf of the interests of fan creators. For instance, recently the Legal Committee provided comments in response to New Zealand's request for input on its review of its Copyright Act (with help from New Zealand AO3 users!). We also join briefs in legal court cases that have fanwork implications, as well as review internal procedures and policies to ensure compliance.

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

It depends on what's going on! Sometimes I'm working on a specific project, like the New Zealand comments, or checking the nonprofit regulations of all fifty states as they apply to the OTW. Sometimes I'm getting ready to be a guest at a con or speak on a panel at a conference about fannish legal issues. Sometimes I'm assisting in efforts to communicate about major legal changes, like the EU's recent new regulations. Sometimes I'm just helping to respond to the many emails that come in weekly, whether asking questions about works on AO3 or asking questions about personal fan projects people are working on. The Legal Committee can't give legal advice, but we strive to provide relevant legal information.

What did AO3's Hugo win in 2019 mean for OTW's Legal Team?

For the Legal Team, as I think for everyone involved with the OTW, the Hugo win felt like a huge recognition of the validity and importance of fanworks in creativity. At the same time, we recognize that it's not the end of our work. But it was incredibly inspiring to watch all those people at the Hugos speak up for how much fanworks have played a part in their lives. We at the Legal Committee were waving along at home!

Why do you think Copyright Week is an important event?

Copyright isn't just a law for Disney; it's a law for all people who create, and that's most people! Copyright Week is important because it raises awareness of how much copyright is there for all of us. A lot of the narrative we hear about copyright is in terms of piracy and media conglomerates but copyright is out there protecting all of those stories you scribble or doodles you draw, just to make yourself happy! It also has protection built in to make sure the rest of us have some freedom to engage with the behemoth copyright properties, and Copyright Week reminds us of that.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I am a voracious consumer of all things fannish. I wish I could draw, because I'm in awe of fan artists, but I'm a writer myself. Catch me on a perfect weekend curling up with a 150K coffee shop AU.


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.

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Published:
2019-12-12 15:46:00 UTC
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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 Anhaita, who volunteers with the Translation Committee.

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

As a volunteer, I'm part of the Translation Committee. Our main objective is making the site and its content available in different languages for easy accessibility and understanding to all those whose first language isn't English. We help in cross lingual communications with other Committees as well! (Support and Abuse, for example).

Translation is also subdivided into smaller language teams, so no matter what language you wish to communicate in, we most likely have someone to make sure the message gets interpreted correctly. As the OTW is geared towards fans from various communities and cultures, our goal is to make sure people can access our website in languages they feel comfortable with.

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

As I'm part of a very small team (literally, it's just two of us here), we mainly have a large number of documents to sort through and translate. So usually, I spend the week translating a document, perhaps a webpage for the OTW site, like the FAQs or a News post. At times, I may get contacted to help translate a text-image, or fic-tags in my language, for a different Committee -- we are kind of the go-between here!

Translating some words into my language, Marathi, can be pretty tough, and sometimes hilarious even. We have to figure out how sentence structures have to be changed to fit a text, or the closest possible translation is used. Fun fact: Fanvid is literally translated to mean "Western Picture Gallery" in Marathi (because that's a word English totally dreamt up one day and refused to inform the other languages).

On the whole, it's a pretty relaxing workload, and is easily managed side by side with university life (with some good time management skills; seriously, if it's one thing I've learnt as a volunteer, it's that!).

What made you decide to volunteer?

I've always wanted to, I think. On some level, I wanted to give back to the community that has been there for me in little ways, throughout my formative years, providing encouragement and companionship when I needed it. And volunteering for the OTW was a way to do that, to be a part of something that allows fans to have a wholesome and positive environment to exercise their creativity in! It also allowed me to actively support the site that I'd grown so fond of!

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

The sense of community! Seriously, imagine hundreds of people with like minded interests and passion for fannish activities -- it's a wonderful feeling. Another thing I've really enjoyed is taking part in the annual International Fanworks Day celebration -- hosting games and interacting with people who've come to enjoy this site so much. It's lovely to see how this site has brought fans together!

What fannish things do you like to do?

Oh, a myriad of things! I've read, written and even beta-read many fanfictions over the years. I've taken part in and helped organise a couple of fanwork challenges, and I love browsing through the truly wonderful fan art created by artists out there!

But mainly, reading (devouring) fanfiction has become a very integral part of my life. I've officially read more fanfiction than books by now!


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.

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10 Years of AO3

Michele Tepper’s contribution is the final post in our series celebrating 10 years since the launch of the Archive of Our Own. Michele was a founding member of the OTW and helped create much of AO3’s “look” in her role as head of design in the early days. Her contribution provides a nice conclusion to the series, emphasizing the importance of working together in order to make such a big project a success.

I got involved with the OTW because I knew some of the other founders already. I had designed a discussion board for Buffy fans (buffistas.org) a few years earlier, and so I had an understanding of the challenges of working with a remote team of volunteers on a project for a fan community. Also, I was working for a digital product design studio, where I saw the wave of commercialization around "user-generated content", and I liked the idea of doing something that helped keep transformative works in the hands of the creators. So I told Naomi Novik I was interested in helping out, and that's how I ended up as a founding board member for the OTW!

What I remember most about the early days of the Archive was the collaboration. Naomi, cmshaw, and I spent long hours coming up with the core functions of the archive; technologists and user experience designer collaborating to find the best solution. We built out a roadmap that saw the Archive through its earliest years, as well as an experience that people point to as exceptional, and I'm proud of that.

My favorite thing about AO3 is the tagging and the tag wranglers. I have the tag page for "feels" as a bookmark on my phone, and when I need an emotional boost, I go and look at all the different ways people have tagged for feels, all listed out and merged by the wranglers. It makes me ridiculously happy every time.

I don't pretend to know what the OTW's future will be, because I couldn't have predicted its past! Fanworks are much more accepted in the mainstream than they were 10 years ago, and the OTW and the Archive are a big part of the reason why.

So that’s all for our series from behind the scenes at the AO3. We are so appreciative of all our contributors, as well as the other volunteers who have been working hard since the OTW was founded to make the Archive a haven for fanworks of all types. We agree with Michele that fanworks and fan culture are much more widely accepted than they were 10 years ago and we are proud to think that the OTW and the AO3 have contributed to that. Cheers to 10 years of AO3!

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10 Years of AO3

Today’s post in the Archive of Our Own’s 10th anniversary series is from Matty, who has been with the AO3 since it launched. You’ll read in her contribution about the many departments she has been part of since she began volunteering with us 10 years ago. There have been a lot of long work hours, particularly for the volunteers who were with the OTW in the early days, and we are so grateful for Matty and all of the others who contributed their time to help us make AO3 a reality.

I joined the Organization for Transformative Works as a tag wrangler back in 2009. I had been following the development of the OTW and the Archive since their inception and was thrilled to be able finally to help in a concrete way.

Tag wrangling in those days was both exciting and nerve wracking! One wrong push of the button could cause havoc. Early wranglers may remember the frantic searching when we repeatedly lost the Justin Timberlake tag, the terror of sharing a single spreadsheet that tracked all the fandoms on the Archive and the volunteers who wrangled them (and the screaming when someone sorted the sheet while others were trying to type), and the many, many, many long discussions that took place on our mailing lists while we tried to write our policies.

After Tag Wrangling I moved to Support, before sliding over to the Policy and Abuse committee (PAC). It is funny to compare how much things have changed between now and then. For the first few years PAC received less than 50 tickets a year. Now we sometimes receive 50 tickets in an hour, or more! The types of reports we receive have also changed. Initially, the vast majority of reports were about plagiarism. These days we see more reports about non-fanworks (such as RP ads, fic searches, etc). The size of the committee has also grown enormously; when I joined we had 3-4 active volunteers and now we have over 40! While the work can be overwhelming at times, it has also been incredibly rewarding.

I am so incredibly proud of the Organization and its volunteers for making our projects so successful. While there have been some growing pains over the years, we've built something amazing that we all should feel proud of!

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10 Years of AO3

When asked to write up a few words about his time with the OTW and AO3 in particular, james_ had so much to say that he had trouble sticking to the word count. (He’d like to thank Priscilla for helping him to edit!) Below you can read about some of the tougher times that james_ has seen during his time as a member of the Systems and Accessibility, Design and Technology committees. You can also hear about the rewards he’s gained from his hard work to keep our vision clear and our morale high. As you can see below, james_ was amongst the staffers who accepted the Hugo Award for Best Related Work on behalf of AO3.

Volunteering for the OTW in the early days was exciting, stressful, exhausting, and demoralising, but also worth it. At that time we were working with five servers and we were constantly adjusting the load between the few systems we had. We reached out to our friends at Dreamwidth (thanks, Mark) and they helped us. We were learning even as the tsunami of growing AO3 traffic beat down upon our shore.

While there are always people willing to try and pull you down, they are greatly outnumbered by those supporting us and buoying us up. I am grateful to each person who donates to the OTW. Your donations mean that we can afford the machines that keep the Archive running stably, and that nowadays I rarely get woken in the middle of the night due to unexpected downtime.

Something else that has had a significant impact in my volunteering life were the recurring conflicts both my committees had with previous iterations of the OTW Board of Directors. These were a source of great frustration and I even contacted the Legal committee to see how OTW members could call the board to account. After the resignation of the entire 2015 board, things have been much better. No organization is perfect, but I believe everyone in the OTW is very much happier today. I hope this will continue and believe the best way to do that is to ensure that every election is properly contested; I stood for election myself in 2016 and would do so again if necessary to make sure that there were enough candidates.

Our successes have been external as well as internal. This year, I had the pleasure of standing on the stage at Worldcon as AO3 won a Hugo Award and it was such a joy.

james_ holding the AO3’s Hugo award

As for the future, I believe that we will need to raise significantly more than we do today in order to hire paid employees. We cannot sustainably run forever on purely volunteer labor. We get roughly 5% of Wikipedia's pageviews and our budget is about one-third of one percent of theirs.

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