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Published:
2017-06-11 13:08:08 -0400
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5 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 Ely, who volunteers as a translator.

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

The mission of the OTW is to “provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks and fan cultures”; I reckon that, as a volunteer translator, my role fits primarily with the part where we “provide access”.

Even though, in the 21st Century, more and more people use English online, there are still many users who don’t feel confident enough in a language that is not their own. What we do in Translation is try to reach as broad a public as possible by translating content that otherwise would be inaccessible to many.

Knowing that, thanks to our work, people get to feel part of the wonderful community that is the OTW makes it one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever volunteered to do.

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

I am part of the Italian Team, which is one of the teams with the highest number of volunteers, and we don’t get new tasks daily since we have completed all the main ones already. Therefore, I don’t think we have a “typical” week, every day varies greatly according to the tasks we’re given. But that doesn’t mean that our week is anything but exciting!

When I am given a new document to translate, I draft a rough rendition of the translation as quickly as possible. Then, I put it away for a day or so before I get back to what I’ve written with a fresh mind and work properly on it. It usually takes me four to five days before I feel confident enough to send it back.

We have a two-beta system and I very much enjoy being the first beta. Being the first beta means that I can point out what I would change but I get to hear what other people think of my changes before anything is set in stone. I love to discuss grammar and stylistic choices with my fellow teammates –- yes, I am that nerdy. The second beta wraps up any comment and marks the doc as “Ready”.

Sometimes, the teams are given new terms whose translations they need to discuss before adding them to each team’s cheat sheet. Everybody writes what they believe would be the most accurate translation and we discuss and vote the terms that are the toughest to find a solution to. Don’t be fooled! This is a hard task that can take days if not weeks.

We also take surveys about our work as volunteers; once a year, we chat privately with our Chairs; we have regular Translation meetings on Slack (that I regularly miss due to personal schedule conflicts!); and when there is a Drive or other time sensitive posts to translate… well! That’s when things get hectic!

What sorts of OTW content have you worked on?

I have worked on all sorts of OTW content: AO3 and OTW FAQs, News posts, Election posts, Abuse and Support messages, Open Doors tutorials, Drives, Video Subtitles, Annual Reports, and the recruitment samples.

My favourite tasks to work on are the Abuse and Support emails, though, because the role of the translator is essential –- not that it usually isn’t -– and, without our mediation, the Abuse and Support volunteers wouldn’t be able to communicate with non-English-speaking users seeking practical help.

Alas! My least favourite tasks are legal documents; I am pants at translating all that technical vocabulary and, when I get one of those, it’s usually accompanied by an apology from our Translation Chairs –- who totally understand and share my grief.

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

Being a language graduate from the University of Venice, and having worked as a freelance translator and interpreter for years, one of the most fun things for me is working on the translations themselves. Some of them are a field day, some others are much more byzantine, but it is always rewarding when the document is finally ready and you know you gave all you have to do a good job. Plus, you get to know about what’s going to happen on the Archive before everyone else (when you have News posts to translate)!

Another fun aspect of my work as a volunteer is to meet other nerdy people that share my passion about fandom, and to chat with them about their fanworks and their own involvement with AO3. I am always interested to see the similarities and differences between other users’ experiences and my own, and I am often surprised to see how much I share even with people that have very different interests from my own.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I like to do all sorts of fannish things! (Who doesn’t?)

Primarily, when I have time, I love to write. I am an author (and have been one for 14 years, now) for the Harry Potter fandom (my one and only fandom), and I love to pen long, plot-driven, multi-chaptered stories about my OTP (Lily Luna Potter/Hugo Weasley). When I feel particularly inspired by a prompt, I participate in the occasional fest on LiveJournal (which usually cross-posts on AO3, nowadays).

I love to read, and I absolutely adore to leave long and detailed feedback that makes other writers and artists squeal in delight. I am also a mod for Crack Broom, a reccing community on LiveJournal, and I love to rec those stories that leave me a gooey mess.

I am artistically impaired, but I am a junkie for fanart, and I always marvel at how good other people are. I commission the occasional drawing, too, just for the pleasure of my eyes and to support those wonderful artists out there.

I take part in-fandom discussions on LiveJournal, read meta-essays, enjoy fandom stats, beta-read Italian fan-fictions, cheerlead my fellow writers when they need help, and study articles on Transformative Works and Cultures. In fact, I used one of the articles from TWC as a source to write my plagiarism essay for my university induction last year.

Fandom is such a big part of my life; the one place where I always come back. It is the beautiful fantasy world that we build all together and where I love to get lost.


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.