AO3 News

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2015-10-11 20:04:17 -0400

Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Board'

In recent days, there have been several comments on various posts and social media outlets about the OTW’s financial practices. We appreciate the questions our supporters have and want to be as open as possible.

As the OTW and AO3 have grown, the organization has adapted to new administrative and budgetary needs. Over the last year, we have worked hard to develop and implement best practices for nonprofits of our size, including the need for a more detailed and formal budget than we have had in the past.

In the past, the organization’s budgetary process has been informal and its fundraising drive goals have been based on past expenditures and projected needs. Along those lines, the current fundraising drive goal was set by the Board of Directors and the Development & Membership committee based on results of past drives and our anticipated needs for the remainder of this year and beyond. To determine our anticipated needs, we took into consideration our expenses in the past year together with the rapid growth of the Archive and our other projects, and produced an informal draft budget with input of estimations of expenses from our committees, which--even without a formal finalized budget--gave us a good idea of our costs for next year.

Over the last year, however, we have been increasingly aware of a need for a more formal budget. In July, we decided to develop such a budget and put the matter on the agenda for our annual in-person meeting. Over the past month, led by our newly elected Treasurer M.J. MacRae, we have been actively working on creating a more detailed budget for 2016 based on information gathered from every corner of the organization. Although that document is still in process, based on our current information, we expect the OTW’s operating expenses for next year to be approximately US$300,000, based on committees’ estimated expenses. The final version of the 2016 budget will be released to the public when it is approved by the Board. We expect this to be by mid-November.

One of the elements of that budget will be a proposal to engage a consultant CPA to organize the OTW’s bookkeeping practices going forward, including independent reviews of the OTW’s finances. We recognize that engaging consultants costs money, but we believe that doing so will improve the organization’s operations by involving people with proven expertise, which will enable the Board and Treasurer to better support the OTW personnel working in service to our mission on a volunteer basis. We have plans to have our books reviewed by independent auditors, as well. The engagement of independent auditors has been in the organization’s Strategic Plan since its earliest drafts. The Strategic Plan was approved at the 2015 in-person meeting and is being polished into its final form, which will be published publicly within the next few months.

The organization is committed to developing and protecting a financial reserve so that all of the organization’s projects, including the AO3, can continue to function even if unexpected costs arise. This commitment to a reserve fund is also reflected in the Strategic Plan. Relatedly, some recent commenters have suggested that the org consider investing in instruments that would improve the organization’s rate of return on its savings. In fact, the question of investments was a topic of discussion at the recent in-person meeting. We will continue to investigate the possibility of investing in higher-rate instruments as we move forward and will take the time needed to find the solution that best fits the OTW’s current and future needs. We anticipate that this will involve consulting with financial professionals who can help the OTW structure its overall finances and investments so that we are able to responsibly grow our assets while keeping everyone’s donations safe, preserving adequate liquid funds to carry out our operations in service of our mission, and maintaining the financial reserves mandated by the current strategic plan.

The current Board is emphatically aware that the current situation is less than ideal, and we are actively working to implement more formal financial practices in order to be the best organization we can be and to best do our work in support of our mission to support fans, fanworks, and fandom. It’s an ongoing process, but with your support it will be possible.

We truly appreciate the care and concern that have been shown for the OTW in your comments over the last few days. We want you to keep telling us what you think. Please understand that there are things that we legally are not permitted to discuss to the extent that, perhaps, you would like. However, that doesn’t change that you and your opinions matter to us and we truly appreciate your support.


The OTW Board of Directors

Eylul Dogruel, President
Andrea Horbinski, Secretary
M.J. MacRae, Treasurer
Soledad Griffin
Cat Meier
Jessica Steiner


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Different Tropes for Different Folks – OTW Membership Drive October 2015

Check out the long list of languages this post is available in! Here's the story of how they got there:

One month ago…

Membership drive content begins reaching the OTW Translation committee. This is only the beginning; it won't stop coming until the drive starts. Getting everything finished on time in all languages is a challenge that will require extensive coordination, a huge commitment from all 170+ volunteers, and a lot of fireworks when everything's over.

As soon as a post is written, Translation staff coordinators create a document for each language and assign it to a translator with a short deadline. Once translators finish their tasks, it will be time for betas to review each document. Everyone is exchanging countless messages discussing their translations and polling their respective language teams for opinions.

Three weeks ago…

Translators and betas are being assigned to the text that will appear on the drive graphics. Staff and volunteers will work together to make translated versions of the images in every language, adapting the graphics as needed. Language teams will double-check and approve each image at the end.

Ten days ago…

Everyone is in a madcap rush to complete all the posts and graphics in all languages. (There are lots and lots of checklists.) A few change requests from other committees have come in, meaning staff needs to note the changes on the document for each language, contact the relevant translators and betas, and track which ones have been updated. It's a bit of a scramble, especially those few last-minute edits!

Five days ago...

It's a wrap! The committee celebrated each team individually as they finished all the drive content, and today they're throwing a party on chat with tons of gifs and virtual confetti. Their work isn't quite done, though.

Earlier today...

Several Translation members are gathering to upload the translations of this post to AO3 News and the OTW website. Each will check the post in their own language one last time for mistakes, of course. (Just in case!)


We hope you enjoyed these flashbacks to how this post and its translations came together! Your support makes the OTW's mission and projects possible. To continue empowering the work of these translators as well as hundreds of other OTW volunteers, please make a donation.


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Different Tropes for Different Folks – OTW Membership Drive October 2015

Do you remember your first fandom? The first time you discovered a new fanwork that was just perfect for you? The first time you found a fan community? The first time you ever watched fan video or listened to a podfic? The first time you made friends with another fan online? The first time you shipped something?

Whatever the experience, a first time is unique.

What was your first time with us like? Did a friend rec you a fanwork on AO3? Did you find TWC while you were researching for a school project? Did you find Fanlore when you were looking up a bit of fannish history online? Did you find out about our legal advocacy because you had questions about your rights as a fan? Did an older fic you loved come to the AO3 through Open Doors? Were you looking for meta when you found Fanhackers?

Tell us in the comments below how you found us. Whether you remember the OTW before we owned a single server or just found us today, we are so excited to have you with us!

Please, help us to continue to go forward together by donating today, and tell us about your first time with the OTW. We'd love to hear your story.


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Different Tropes for Different Folks – OTW Membership Drive October 2015

In a world…

In a world without the members and donors whose support makes its work possible, the OTW could not exist. And if the OTW could not exist, the projects it's been carrying out for the past eight years would not be supporting fans, fanworks, and fandom right now and into the future.

Support the OTW now!

Without the OTW, first and foremost, there would be no Archive of Our Own. The AO3 is one of the two largest fanwork archives on the web, and it's the only one whose only constraint on fanworks is that they not violate U.S. law. The AO3 is the only fanwork archive with a dedicated legal team backing it up to protect its fanworks against takedown requests, because the OTW has made it clear that it believes fanworks are transformative works, and transformative works are entirely legal.

Without the OTW, that legal team that responds to takedown requests on the Archive would never have been assembled, and all the other legal advocacy work it's done would never have happened. The OTW's Legal team has applied for DMCA exemptions for vidding practices from the U.S. Copyright Office. They've spearheaded working with organizations whose interests overlap with OTW's to defend user rights and advocate for copyright reform around the world. They've helped people testify about fandom and fanworks to the U.S. Congress--and that was all just this year!

Without the OTW, dozens of at-risk fandom archives would have faded into the oblivion of link rot, accessible only to people who know about the Wayback Machine, if those sites were ever included in it. Thanks to the OTW's Open Doors committee, at-risk fan archives from the earliest days of the internet and forward have been able to move to the AO3, where the works they hosted will be preserved for future fans. Open Doors has also assisted many fans with donating decades of print archives to the University of Iowa's special collections.

Without the OTW, the leading journal of fan studies would not be an editorially independent, peer-reviewed, online open access journal. Transformative Works and Cultures is an innovative space in which peer-reviewed academic articles stand alongside essays by fans, and in which fandom, fans, and fanworks are treated as worthy of discussion. Equally importantly, TWC has provided a place where fan scholars have been able to tell the stories of transformative works fandoms, pushing back against their erasure from mainstream narratives about "remix culture."

Without the OTW, in short, fandom and fans would have no dedicated platform in online, legal, academic, and offline spaces. The OTW was founded in the belief that fandom and fanworks are legitimate, and that the best way to ensure they would be protected and supported was to do that work ourselves. Eight years later, that's truer than ever.

What keeps our current universe from turning into this darkest timeline in which the OTW doesn't exist? The support of our donors and members. Support the OTW's work, and donate today!

Support the OTW's work and donate today!

– Andrea Horbinski, OTW Board of Directors


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Different Tropes for Different Folks – OTW Membership Drive October 2015

Author's note: You may have heard that the OTW is doing a "drive" this week. We wanted to make sure everyone knew what this thing was all about, so if you're curious, you've come to the right place. Whatever your drive-related questions, we're here to answer them. Happy reading!

What a drive (a.k.a. a donation/membership campaign) IS:

  • a semiannual, week-long fundraising event to raise money for the OTW
  • a way to encourage people to become OTW members
  • the time when the OTW generates about 85% of its income. (The other 15% comes from donations given during the rest of the year.)

The OTW generates about 85% of its income during the drive. (The other 15% comes from donations given during the rest of the year.)

  • the reason why the OTW is able to keep working on projects like AO3, Fanlore, Open Doors, and Legal Advocacy
  • the reason those projects can continue helping fans all over the world

What a drive is NOT:

  • an evil plot to take over the world, one donation at a time
  • a way to raise money for individual people. In fact, the OTW is a nonprofit, and every cent you donate goes directly to operations. The OTW doesn't pay any of its volunteers, staff, or Board members.

The elements that come together to create a drive:

  • the OTW's Development and Membership, Translation, and Communications committees (the people writing, translating, and publishing these posts and answering your emails about donations and premiums)
  • spreading the word (the posts and graphics you see, the emails you get, and the stuff we share on social media)
  • premiums (the thank-you gifts you can get for donating)
  • a theme. (This drive's theme is "Different Tropes for Different Folks".)
  • you!

None of this would be possible without your support. Please help us meet our goal of US$175,000 by donating today!


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Different Tropes for Different Folks – OTW Membership Drive October 2015

We all have different reasons for getting into fandom, like an internet search that led us to an unexpected piece of art, a friend who showed us a favorite vid, or a parent who shared a treasured zine. Similarly, we all have different reasons for donating to the Organization for Transformative Works.

Some of us donate because we love AO3. Some of us donate because we're passionate about legal advocacy for fans. Some of us want to put our support behind preserving fan sites and fan histories through Open Doors and Fanlore. And, just as some of us are multishippers, some of us can't pick a favorite because we love all of the OTW's projects.

The good news is we don't have to pick just one project to support! The money raised during this drive will go toward continuing all of the OTW's work by funding our operating costs for the next six months, setting a strong foundation for our future in 2016.

You can help us meet our goal of US$175,000 with a one-time donation in any amount, or with a monthly recurring donation. Donations over US$50 will qualify you for a thank-you gift.

Whether you found fandom via a Google search for your favorite character, an article about remix culture on your favorite news site, or novelizations of your favorite films; whether you found the OTW through LiveJournal, Tumblr, a friend, or a family member, please join us over the next week as we celebrate the OTW and its projects with our favorite tropes.

Please join us, too, in providing the financial support needed to preserve and defend access to those fan efforts by donating to the OTW today!


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2015-10-06 12:18:11 -0400

Banner by caitie of a newspaper with the name and logos of the OTW and its projects on the pages.

I. 8 and 20

Communications assisted Journal in celebrating the release of their 20th issue soon after the OTW as a whole turned 8 years old. Journal's editors extended kudos to production editor Rrain Prior for her stellar work handling all the production details and to Communications volunteer caitie~ for the fabulous artwork for Issue No. 20. Systems also updated the software TWC uses, OJS, to its latest version and Journal has been able to bring some new recruits on board for production work.


Accessibility, Design & Technology produced 5 code releases, which included resolution of a few issues created (and addressed!) in hopes of making the lives of their fellow volunteers in Systems and Abuse a little bit easier. They also created a budget proposal for 2016, and worked closely with Development & Membership to create an Accessibility, Design & Technology-focused post and finalize an email about the upcoming membership drive. They've also been working up a few news posts about some upcoming changes we're really excited about. Stay tuned!

Abuse received over 300 tickets in September. They sadly lost a few staffers recently, but are in the process of recruiting. The committee has been working on documentation and is trialing a chair training track with two lucky volunteers. They will be evaluating the training as they go along, and one volunteer may get to join as co-chair next year.

AO3 Documentation are working well towards their goal of having new versions of all AO3 FAQs up by the end of the year. In September they uploaded the new version of the About FAQ, and have completed new help text for the 'Tips & Tricks' that all AO3 users see after creating their account.

Support had another 700-ticket strong month; as such, they are a touch behind on tickets, but are trying to catch up. They will also be transitioning between ticket tracking software over the next month or so to a system that will better handle the capacity we're receiving. User alert: there will be bumps!

Open Doors has just about finished helping the Table for Three mod import that archive, and will be helping the Seamus/Dean Forever mod soon.

Tag Wrangling welcomed 3 new staff members and said goodbye to 2 staff members who we will be missed very much. For projects, they began a new system called AO3_Wrangling_Project, which should make it easier to regularly wrangle unassigned fandoms in need. They've also have 12 new guideline discussions; they'll begin exploring those topics as a team shortly. Tag Wrangling has also responded to several requests from the Support team, from wranglers, and from users on Twitter, and have hosted several tag wrangling parties.


Legal celebrated a victory! In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling in the case of Lenz v. Universal, agreeing with the OTW and its allies that "[f]air use is not just excused by the law, it is wholly authorized by the law." This is what we argued in our amicus brief in the case, which was submitted to the court all the way back in December 2013. Justice sometimes takes a long time! As Legal said in the OTW News post about the case, the Lenz ruling is good for fans and transformative creators, but our work is far from done—we will continue to fight for fair use in the U.S. and around the world.

For example, in September, Legal submitted a comment to the South African government in response to the government’s call for comments regarding possible copyright law reforms. Our comment urged South Africa to adopt a fair use standard to replace its narrow and outdated copyright exceptions.

Translation received 90 applications total in the August-September recruitment round. They accepted 40 new recruits, most of whom have already finished training and are hard at work, including two new language teams: Greek and Norwegian! This month, Translation is working closely with Development and Membership, translating the upcoming October drive posts, and with Elections, preparing content for the upcoming OTW elections and a few static pages on their website.

Wiki has been at work coordinating Stub September at Fanlore. Engagement has been good on Dreamwidth and Twitter, and significant additions have been made to many stubs!


Strategic Planning now has the 3rd and semi-final version of the OTW strategic plan under internal review. They will be presenting the strategic plan at the OTW Annual Meeting with the hopes of having it and the implementation support plan approved by Board. They will also be asking the Board for their strategic guidance on the focus, scope and reach of the next round of strategic planning.

Elections announced 8 candidates this year, and worked with them to provide individual Bios & Manifestos for OTW members to read. Voters will be able to choose who joins the Board during our election spanning November 6th to 9th. Eligible to vote are any members who joined between October 6th, 2014 and October 6th, 2015 (including both days!) For more information, please see the Eligibility and Voting Instructions posts. Other questions can be directed to the Elections Contact Form

Currently candidates are composing responses to the over 50 questions submitted. Thank you for the enthusiastic response! Candidates' answers will be posted in batches once they are completed by all candidates. On September 27th, it was announced that the Board had directed the Elections Committee to remove former Treasurer Nikisha Sanders from the ballot. Dan Lamson also withdrew his candidacy for the Board on September 27th.

Development & Membership continues to prepare for the October Drive and are looking at adding a second payment processor to the donation page called iATS, which specializes in nonprofits. They hope to have it up and running for the drive so that anyone not wanting to use Paypal will have another option. Development & Membership also sent some documents to Legal for review regarding the possible use of Cafe Press as an OTW Merchandise Store platform, and they hope to have a store up and running by the end of 2015.

Internationalization & Outreach worked on training new staff and updated their training and recruitment materials with the hope of recruiting again soon. Staff have been at work revising the committee's plan to make the OTW more inclusive, in response to internal feedback received.


Volunteers & Recruiting did a lot of recruiting in September, seeking staff for Abuse, Communications, Systems, and Volunteers & Recruiting and continued inductions from August. Thank you to everyone for volunteering, and those departing staff and volunteers for their work.

New Committee Staff: Kathryn Soderholm (Internationalization & Outreach), Phoenixacid (Tag Wrangling), Sass (Tag Wrangling), and 1 other Tag Wrangling
New Journal Volunteers: Sarah New, Latina Vidolova, Rebecca Sentence, Gabriel Simm and 2 others
New Translator Volunteers: wordsoftreason, halfslytherin, Ana Beatriz, theimprobable1, gallica, marrjoram, Hatoko, Ipek and 18 others

Departing Committee Staff: Matty Lynne (Support), Llwyden ferch Gyfrinach (Tag Wrangling), 2 Abuse, 1 AO3 Documentation, and 1 Communications
Departing Tag Wrangler Volunteers: 1
Departing Translator Volunteers: Nari, Chloe, Mary Tagus, and 1 other

For more information about the purview of our committees, please see the committee listing on our website.


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Here at AO3, we've been looking into getting some paid coding help for a few years, to work on projects that are larger or more time-consuming than our volunteers are able to tackle in their spare time, and also just to help with the backlog of work and offer some extra assistance. We had a contractor take on a few small projects last year, but to outsource work on major projects, you need to be able to form longer relationships.

Today we're excited to announce that thanks to user donations, we've been able to contract an experienced programmer for several months' worth of work! \o/ And she isn't just an experienced Ruby developer — she's a Ruby developer who has been working on the Archive since 2008! Since she's familiar with all the nooks and crannies of our infrastructure, it will be easy for her to jump right in on major projects, like the much-needed update to our searching and filtering code. After that, it's onwards to back-end improvements, code cleanup, and other long-awaited projects like site internationalization.

Our new contractor is starting work next week, and we'll have a preview of her work on the searching and filtering code soon! Thanks to all of you for the donations that have been keeping the site running and are now enabling us to make it even better.


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