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2021-05-07 11:10:19 -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 Zixin, who volunteers as a staffer in the Communications Committee.

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

I first joined the OTW as a Tag Wrangler. Our duty is to categorize user-created tags on the AO3, making it more convenient for readers to search for tags and fics. When the first Chinese wrangling recruits finished their training, I also helped other wranglers translate Chinese tags into English, participated in the Chinese fandom tag project, and discussed proper tag translation with other Chinese volunteers.

Later on, I joined the Policy and Abuse Committee, whose main duty is to deal with user complaints according to AO3’s Terms of Service and its FAQ. We also assist users with their Fannish Next of Kin requests. Of course, as one of the few Chinese staff in the committee, my work also includes helping with tickets about Chinese works. I also translate English emails into Chinese so Chinese users could better understand them.

Last year, I joined the Communications Committee and became one of the Weibo moderators for our OTW account. As a Weibo mod, I interact with users and answer their inquiries via Direct Messages and other channels; I post OTW-related news; and I follow updates about Chinese fandom.

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

Mostly, I do volunteer work during the small gaps in my day: translating Chinese tags while queuing, answering Weibo messages before sleep, or checking the complaint updates while in the company of Josie (my beloved kitty). I also often use large blocks of time during weekends and holidays for some "serious business" like cleaning up unwrangled tags, which may require more research and discussion.

Of course, not every week is a typical week! When Chinese fannish platforms tighten up their censorship, we always receive more Chinese tags than usual, and when disputes emerge over certain work(s) in a fandom, Policy & Abuse tends to get more tickets. Last spring, AO3’s connectivity issue in China brought an unimaginable workload for Weibo mods. But in general, I do enjoy the sense of satisfaction and realization of personal value my work brings me.

What made you decide to volunteer?

Though I had been an AO3 user for years, I didn’t know about the existence of OTW from the very beginning. But then I accidentally clicked the “About Us” menu link on AO3 and learned so much about the OTW and its projects, its founding history and development. It amazed me that there can be such an open and friendly place for all fan communities, all run by volunteers who devote their time and effort because of their love for fandoms and fan communities.

When I learned about the volunteering opportunity for the OTW Weibo account, I applied without a second thought. After joining the OTW as a Chinese volunteer, I realized that AO3 and other OTW projects mean so much more than what I thought to the Chinese fandom. I hope that I can widen the bridge between the OTW and Chinese fandom with my own effort. That’s the reason why I joined Policy & Abuse and the Weibo Team.

What's are the biggest challenges you face?

The biggest one is definitely the series of incidents caused by the cutoff of AO3’s connection to Mainland China, which happened in late February last year. During the first few days, I devoted all my time (except eating, attending lectures and a bare minimum amount of sleep) to my OTW work. I checked and replied to tens of thousands of Weibo Direct Messages; assisted our AD&T Committee by checking website connectivity; introduced the Government Firewall to non-Chinese volunteers; discussed work arrangements for Mainland Chinese volunteers with committee chairs; learned suicide intervention techniques; and located professional resources for suicidal users contacting us. I would like to thank my chairs, my fellow Chinese coworkers, and every volunteer and user who went through the hardship with us. Without your encouragement and support, I don’t think I could have overcome such mental pressures.

While the crisis has mostly died down now, the mission to widen the bridge between OTW and Chinese fandom is ongoing. Offering service to fans all over the world has been OTW’s mission, and to realize it non-English speaking fans are always needed.

What fannish things do you like to do?

Reading fics, reading fics, and reading fics! I would be an entirely different person had I not read the piles of fanfiction I devoured over the years. Besides, I occasionally translate my favorite fics from English to Chinese or write some short fics and drabbles that I’ll probably just keep to myself. Recently I’ve been diving into the good ol’ DMBJ (The Grave Robbers' Chronicles) fandom and crying about Pingxie (my OTP).


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.