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Published:
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.

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Published:
2021-04-19 13:09:03 -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 Kate Sanders, who volunteers as a staffer for the Strategic Planning Committee.

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

I have volunteered for several years with the Strategic Planning Committee. Our work has been to synthesize the needs of the OTW as best possible into the first strategic plan to guide some internal improvements, then to help implement the goals from that plan by working with committees across the OTW, and now to draft a second strategic plan to continue setting goals for the OTW to aspire to and achieve collectively.

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

As a volunteer, I will have a to-do (or a few) assigned during the week to accomplish and our meeting each Saturday. These to-dos could be simple updates to wiki pages or drafting goals or somewhere in-between.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I have been an avid reader of fanfic since college, and several years back, I found myself between school and jobs, needing an outlet for my time and wanting to give back to the fanfic community I lurked in. I applied for the Strategic Planning Committee and found both people and a mission that I have enjoyed supporting since.

What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?

Perhaps a challenge for me has been remembering that everyone volunteers differently: people have different amounts of time to contribute, varied interests and commitments, different ways of participating especially in a chat-based medium, etc. It is wonderful that so much is accomplished with everyone contributing in different ways.

What fannish things do you like to do?

While I enjoy perusing Transformative Works and Cultures, my first and deepest love is burying my nose in a wide swath of fanfics on AO3. I read whatever appeals to me and the well never runs dry. I truly appreciate all the wonderful authors out there!


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:
2021-03-23 10:54:25 -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 Acts of Tekla, who volunteers with the Open Doors Committee.

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

I volunteer with the Open Doors Committee, which helps archive owners move the fanworks on their archives to the AO3 so that they stay online and accessible even if the original archive can no longer be kept up. We work with Translation and Communications, to create import announcements; Tag Wrangling, to make sure that the imported works are tagged appropriately; and Systems, to redirect old archive URLs to their new home on AO3.

We also sometimes work with Legal when there are questions about whether we can preserve something and still abide by our mandate to preserve privacy and creators’ control over their works. Sadly, the answer is sometimes that we can’t -- one reason that everyone should designate a Fandom Next of Kin!

The OTW’s position is that fanworks are inherently of value, and this means that they are also worthy of preservation. I know that a lot of people find their old works embarrassing (and there are several ways that they can opt out of imports or claim and delete or orphan works afterwards if they so choose) but I think it’s really important to save these older works. As a collection they’re an irreplaceable record of fandom history, but more importantly, they were all created from a place of love and creative passion, and it would be a real shame to just let that vanish without a fight.

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

I work on Open Doors stuff two evenings a week, two or three hours at a time. I also keep up with our internal chat channel. Most of the emails we get are from people with questions about upcoming imports or who need help claiming works from a completed import. We also commonly get inquiries from archivists interested in importing their archives, or alerts from concerned users about archives that are at risk. I probably spend about a quarter of my time on basic responses, and the rest on the more complicated work of moving archives through our import pipeline. We have good procedures, but every archive is different and so something new always comes up!

What made you decide to volunteer?

I applied to volunteer in 2014 because in the 15 years I’d been in fandom, there had been sweeping changes in the community and in technology, and I’d seen countless archives and individual works vanish without a trace. Every so often I’d think of a fic I’d loved and go to reread it, or follow an old rec list, and find that the work was gone. I wanted to help preserve works that someone worked hard on, and that other people loved.

I was brought on in anticipation of the Yuletide import. I’ve directly handled around a dozen archives since then!

Is there anything you've worked on that you found challenging or memorable?

In October 2019, Verizon announced that they were deleting all Yahoo Groups content on December 14 -– barely two months notice. Since Yahoo Groups had hosted a lot of fan content in the 2000s, people understandably panicked about the possibility of losing all of that fandom history, and Open Doors got a flood of requests from moderators who needed help preserving their content. Open Doors worked with other OTW committees,the Archive Team, and others to publicize the content purge, ask for volunteers to help access and download archive data, and lobby Verizon to hold off for just a bit longer.

We were somewhat successful –- the Archive Team was able to rescue data from thousands of groups, thanks to numerous volunteers, and Verizon did hold off for a couple of extra months –- but we know that we still lost a lot, and despite promising to keep the mailing list side of Yahoo Groups open, Verizon announced in October that it would be closing completely and for good on December 15, 2020. I’ve been through several fandom purges like this, and it always hurts.

However, Open Doors has been working with individual mods to import content from their old Yahoo Groups to the AO3, and we’re very excited to be making those works available once again!

What fannish things do you like to do?

I say that I write fic, but the reality is that I mostly think about fic that I want to write, sometimes manage to write it down, and occasionally get it finished enough to post. Mostly, I like squeeing over and analyzing whatever it is that I’m into at the moment with my OTW and offline friends. I describe myself as a serial fandom monogamist -- I’m only into one thing at a time, but that one thing changes every few weeks. There are some I regularly cycle back to, though -- for example, on the first day of autumn, I always watch Over the Garden Wall, and then I’m all about that for the next 3 weeks!


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:
2021-02-27 10:48:47 -0500
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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 Koteneko, who volunteers with the Translation Committee.

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

Being a translator for the Ukranian team, I make the OTW and all its projects easier to access for non-English speakers, so that everyone can know about transformative works, their legal status, etc. It encourages people to create fanworks by spreading knowledge about their legitimate nature.

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

What does the word "typical" even mean? XD My daily life makes it nearly impossible to create some stable schedule, but I try to use every bit of my free time efficiently. Sometimes (seldom, but still) I can do translation even on my way to the uni, for example. I'm trying not to miss any deadlines (although I don't always succeed), so mostly I work on tasks either on the same day I receive them or on Fridays and weekends.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I have been a huge fan of fanworks for almost five years now, and it all started from fanfiction. I was really into one particular fandom at that time. I would read tons of fics in it in my second native language, and one day it simply wasn't enough. I've loved English (and studied it as a foreign language) for 13 years, so I thought why not find something in English? That's how I discovered AO3. At first I was just a reader, then I found some works, which were too awesome just to keep for myself, so I decided to share them with someone else by translating them!

I had been involved in fantranslation for about two years, when I saw a post about recruiting volunteers. So I got curious and decided to help make the Archive of Our Own easier for non-English-speaking users (I didn't know much about all the other OTW projects back then). Fun fact: originally I wanted to become a translator for my second native language, but that team was full, so I thought why not try to create a team for my first native language! The more I contemplated this idea, the more I grew to like it, because even though fan culture is popular in my country, it's not very common in my native language. Hopefully, what we are doing in our team will change the situation at least slightly.

Is there anything you've worked on that you found challenging or memorable?

Some documents I've translated were quite challenging due to the complexity of language -- I'm not a big expert on financial terms, for instance. But if I were to talk about one particular example, that would be the translation-specific Cheatsheet. Each team has a list of the most common or important terms we come across, which have to have consistent translation (for example, one should translate "OTW" in the same way everywhere). Here I was, a newbie to the OTW AND some of its projects, and some terms from the cheatsheet were unfamiliar and so confusing for me! I was the first one on the team, which made it even more challenging.

Thankfully, I had some help from other teams' members, but I'll never forget that experience! (And it makes me even more grateful for my teammates and our two-beta system now ❤)

What fannish things do you like to do?

Oh, I love being involved with different fannish activities! I enjoy reading fanfics (and translating them; unfortunately, I haven't written anything in a while... ehh, I loved writing some time ago; I wish I could resurrect my inspiration somehow) and comics (I can only admire them, I'm terrible at drawing). I have also tried creating some fan merchandise (not for selling, just for myself)! And of course I'm always exploring new fandoms or re-exploring old ones (when I have free time, which is nearly a non-existent thing at this point, but still).


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:
2021-01-21 10:36:05 -0500
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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. As part of our celebration of Copyright Week, today's post is with Casey Fiesler, who volunteers in our Legal Committee.

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

I am part of the OTW Legal Committee. We provide guidance for other parts of the OTW when legal issues come up, provide information for fans when they have questions, and do advocacy work to give a policy voice for the interests of fan creators. This last part especially I think is critical to the mission of OTW, which has always been to serve the interests of fans, and copyright-related advocacy is a huge part of that.

As it says in our vision statement, "We envision a future in which all fannish works are recognized as legal and transformative and are accepted as a legitimate creative activity." I'd love to help us get there! For example, when I first joined the team in 2009 (!) as I was finishing up at law school, I helped with the very first DMCA exemption for noncommercial remix videos. We often partner with organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but I think it’s wonderful to be able to advocate for the specific interests of fan creators.

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

The work that I do with OTW is so highly variable! Some weeks it might be nothing outside of reading some emails, and others there might be a lot to do depending on what we're up to and what my particular role in it is. For example, I recently worked on a Terms of Service revision for AO3, which also included some lengthy conversations with volunteers across the OTW. There are also a lot of fun one-offs; recently I was on a panel about DMCA abuses with representatives from Public Knowledge and EFF, along with video essayist Lindsay Ellis.

What benefits can celebrating Copyright Week bring?

I think that it’s great for fans to both advocate for themselves when it comes to copyright policies that might be less than ideal and to celebrate the parts of copyright law that allow for transformative works! It’s easy to think of copyright as being a form of restricting creativity, but it should also encourage it. Drawing attention to the awesomeness that fair use cultivates (especially fanworks!) serves as a reminder for how important it is to have copyright policies that support remix. I also think that the more you understand about copyright law, and especially fair use, the more confident you can be about the legitimacy of your fanworks.

How does your day job relate to your work for the OTW?

The other academics on the Legal Committee are all law professors, but I'm actually faculty in an information science department. Not all of my research these days is about fandom, but some of my favorite work I've done was about the design of Archive of Our Own, and most recently, about platform migration in fandom. I also really love public scholarship--writing and talking about my research outside of academia! This is one reason I have a YouTube channel, and the most fun thing I've done so far was about fair use and the omegaverse lawsuit. Though this video had nothing to do with my role on OTW Legal, it sparked some great questions and conversations about fandom and fair use! I also taught an Online Fandom class for one semester, which was super fun.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I confess, I’m not as fannish as I used to be -- though I just checked my AO3 stats and I wrote 503,409 words of fanfiction between 2002 and 2012! So I am definitely a fanfiction writer at heart, even though I don’t write as much anymore. As much as I love AO3, I’m very nostalgic for the glory days of LiveJournal. But some of the fannish friends I made during that time are still some of my very best friends! Fandom has been such a positive and important part of my life for decades.


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:
2020-12-27 11:04:58 -0500
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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 Novic, who volunteers as a tag wrangler. This post was originally released in Chinese on the OTW's Weibo account and contained a little extra information. It is presented here in its original form as well as an English translation (thanks to our Weibo moderators!)

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
AO3每天会收到大量来自世界各地、各种语言的同人作品,涉及到各种可能的作品圈、配对、和角色。AO3就像一个藏书量每天都在增长的巨大图书馆,必定需要一套整理系统,而我们作为标签管理员就像是图书管理员,以标签(tag)为工具将作者们发布的同人作品进行分类、管理,目的是让网站更便于用户检索,让大家能轻松看到自己想看到的作品。作为一名中英志愿者,还需要把中文标签翻译成英文,方便其他不会中文的志愿者查看。

Everyday, large numbers of fanworks from every corner of the world, in different languages get uploaded to AO3 and they can be of any fandom, pairing and characters. AO3 is like a huge library that’s growing day by day and there must be a system to organize the works. We tag wranglers are just like librarians, using tags as the tools to categorize and manage the works published by the creators to make it easier for users to search and allow everyone to find the work they want to read easily. As a bilingual(English/Chinese) volunteer, I also translate Chinese tags into English to make it easier for other English volunteers to check.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
我管理着大大小小十几个作品圈,不过并没有固定的工作时间和时长,学校比较忙的时候就周末抽时间出来工作,碰到wrangling party还可以一边工作一边和其他志愿者讨论;如果不太忙,每天晚上都会看一看有没有新的tag需要处理。之前假期负责了一个比较活跃的中文圈子,刚接手的时候有上千个tag需要翻译和整理,那个时候几乎每天都会匀出一小时以上的时间来工作。不过总的来说标签管理员的工作还是很灵活的,而且可以自由调整工作量,不会有什么压力。

I assigned myself to a dozen fandoms of different sizes but there is no set work schedule. When I am busy with school, I will use my weekend time to do some wrangling work. When there is a wrangling party, I can also work while chatting with other volunteers. When it is not too busy, I will check in every evening to see if there are any new tags that need to be sorted. Last time I was off from school I was responsible for a hit Chinese fandom. In the beginning there were thousands of tags needing to be translated and wrangled. At that time I spent about an hour or more to work on that fandom. Overall, work as a tag wrangler is very flexible and I can adjust how much work I take on. There's not much pressure.

What made you decide to volunteer?
在成为志愿者之前也是一名AO3的读者和作者,一直觉得AO3的tag系统非常方便强大,但是当时没有想过背后的运作原理,也不知道有标签志愿者这个工作,后来OTW在微博开博之后才系统地了解到了tag的作用,一方面觉得很感谢和佩服志愿者们,另一方面作为一名同人爱好者觉得能为自己喜欢的事物工作也是一件很开心的是事情,所以之后看到招募信息就毫不犹豫地申请了。

Before I became a volunteer, I was a reader and writer on AO3. I've always known the tagging system is very convenient but I never thought about how it all worked and didn't know about the existence of the tag wranglers. I gradually learned more systematically about the tags after OTW had a Weibo presence. I was very grateful for and admired the volunteers. I also believe, as a fan, working on things I enjoy can be a joyous experience, so I applied immediately when I saw the recruitment post.

What do you feel is the most often misunderstood part about your role as tag wrangler or tags on AO3 in general?
你觉得大家对标签管理员或者AO3上标签最常见的误区是什么呢?
我认为可能一部分的用户误解了标签的作用,认为标签是网站的规定/规则,但事实上它是AO3为用户服务的一个途径,最终的目的是为了让大家更方便检索,在这一目的的作用下,会有一些标签的建议使用方法(比如OTWComms发布的教程),但他们都不是强制的,因为标签也是同人作品的一部分,是大家可以尽情发挥想象力和创造力的地方(尤其是附加标签),因此标签管理员是不会也不能对任何标签进行修改的。严格来说并没有“正确”或“错误”地使用标签的方法,但确实有“能与更多人分享你的作品”和“让同好更方便检索”的方法,希望所有人都能很开心地使用AO3和OTW的其他项目。

I think some users have some misconceptions of how tags work: they believe tags are rules and policies imposed by the site. In reality, tags are a tool for AO3 to be useful to the users, and the end goal is to make searching easier for us. With this goal in mind, there are suggestions on how to use the tags (like the tutorials posted by the Weibo mods for Chinese users). They are not compulsory, since tags are a part of the fanwork, technically there isn't the "right way" or the "wrong way" to tag, but there are ways to tag that "can better spread your work" and "make the searching experience better for fellow fans". I hope everyone can enjoy AO3 and other projects supported by OTW.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
有很多,最惊喜的是我发现OTW志愿者是一个很多样的庞大组织,在志愿者交流平台上能认识很多很有趣的其他志愿者,我们会建各种各样的频道来聊天,网球、手工、音乐剧、数学、会计……从正经到不正经,从小清新到重口味,什么都能聊。但同时大家又有着一个最大的共同点,这也正是所有志愿者相识的契机,那就是大家都分享着对同人的喜爱,我们会讨论各地的同人/饭圈新闻,会分享优秀的同人作品,会分享funny tags,甚至有的还会线下聚会等等。成为志愿者之后真的接触到了很多一样又不一样的可爱的人。

There are lots! The most wonderful surprise is that I learnt the OTW volunteer base is such a huge network and I met a lot of interesting volunteers through our communication platform. We have chatrooms for all sorts of topics, tennis, craft, musicals, mathematics, accounting... You name it. From professional topics to hobbies, from art and literature related topics to things not appropriate for a young audience, we chat about everything! We are connected by our love for fanworks and the community and it's how we met. We talk about fandom news from around the world, share fanworks we like, the funny tags we saw, and sometimes even meet up in real life. I got to know a lot of lovely people after becoming a volunteer.

What fannish things do you like to do?
应该是看同人文了吧哈哈哈,也因为做志愿者的关系看了更多的文章,有时候整理tag的时候看到有意思的tag就会点进去看完全文(经常看长篇看上头,然后忘了自己本来在工作XD)。然后自己偶尔也会产粮,也喜欢和朋友聊梗啊什么的。

That would be reading fanfics. I read more works because of my volunteer work now. When I see an interesting tag when wrangling, I would click in there and read the whole story. (I often can't stop myself from reading a long story and totally forget I'm supposed to be working. XD) I sometimes write fanfics as well and enjoy brainstorming plots with friends.


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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