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Different Tropes for Different Folks – OTW Membership Drive October 2015

The members of the AO3 development team — known as "Accessibility, Design & Technology" (AD&T) — don't just build the Archive software and make sure the Archive servers stay happy even under stress. We use the AO3, too: as authors, fanartists, readers, commenters, reccers, challenge mods, and more. We're thankful for your generous donations that pay for the servers we spend so much time working and playing on (although it's usually a little more work than play). On that note, here are some features we've rolled out that we're especially proud of or excited about.

1. Homepage

The homepage redesign was one of the most visible changes the Archive underwent this past year, and it was also one of the longest in the making. While it only took about eight months from writing the first line of code to deploying the finished product, the design plans date all the way back to October 2010 — that's longer than most of us have been on AD&T! The homepage was an enticing project to undertake not just because we were looking forward to the new functionality (Favorite Tags!), but because it allowed us to say thank you to the AD&T volunteers who came before us by making their ideas a reality.

2. Open Doors API

We all love the Open Doors project, which rescues fanworks from smaller archives that are scheduled to go offline or otherwise in danger of disappearing. Unfortunately, the Open Doors code was a little rusty — but then our Open Doors liaison Ariana rose to the challenge! About 20 years ago, in the early days of Internet fandoms, Ariana used to create and maintain fanfic archives for her fandoms, including Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Space: 1999. When she found AO3, she decided that having all her fandoms under one metaphorical roof was a better idea and joined AD&T to help out. Ariana put her fannish interests together with her professional knowledge of APIs and polished up Open Doors' importing code, and now we can all look forward to seeing even more at-risk archives preserved for future generations of fans.

3. Mobile filters

Computers are key for coding, but like a huge percentage of Archive visitors, the AD&T volunteers frequently access the site from their phones or tablets too. That means we were all on familiar terms with the frustration of scrolling to the bottom of the page to reach the filters on our phones. It was something we wanted to fix, and had indeed been working on, but other, more urgent problems kept cropping up and needing attention. But then AD&T co-chair Sarken found herself sick in bed and wanting fic of a certain rating featuring her new OTP. After a few days of scrolling to the bottom of the work listings, Sarken went back to her computer with a mission: finish the mobile filters. After that, it was just a few short weeks of discussion and testing before Release 0.9.57 put an end to the days of scrolling to reach the filters.

4. Work stats HTML changes

For some of us on AD&T, every hit on a work is a silent reassurance that someone is interested in what we've created — but for others, it's a glaring reminder of every kudos or comment we didn't receive. Because we had such different interpretations of the same statistic, we knew our users would, too, so we included a preference for controlling the display of hit counts on your own or all works. However, as we've adjusted our code to accommodate our growth and improve performance, caching bugs crept in and these preferences stopped working. We knew we needed a new approach to help with this old problem. We put our heads together and realized our skin system gave us a pretty good solution not just for this issue, but for hiding other statistics (e.g. kudos counts) as well. With a few small tweaks to our HTML in our July release, we made it easy for users to create a Site Skin that will hide any statistic they don't want to see.

5. Draft deletion date added to draft blurbs

As creators and consumers of fanworks ourselves, we were always heartbroken when Support shared reports of users who have lost their works due to the limited lifespan of drafts. Sadly, the big chunk of code that controls works, drafts, and tags is very old and intricate — it would need a lot of rewriting to keep drafts around forever without adding extra work for the tag wranglers. However, we've found that little changes can make a huge difference in this area. We're happy to say that we've received far fewer reports of accidentally lost drafts since Release 0.9.56, when AD&T and Systems volunteer james_ noticed we weren't displaying the deletion date on draft blurbs and added it. (We'd be remiss if we didn't take this opportunity to remind you to always keep a backup copy of your work elsewhere!)

And one thing we haven't done yet...

AD&T volunteers and liaisons speak a number of different languages, so we're excited every time we get a step closer to offering the whole Archive experience in languages other than English — and we're thrilled to say we've recently taken one of the biggest steps yet! Last year, Scott made the FAQ section translatable, and this year, james_ has begun working on doing the same for our emails. We're working closely with our amazing Translation committee to try out possible tools for their work and we can't wait to flip the switch that will let our users select a language on offer and receive notifications from us in that language. However, there's a lot left to do! We are only a small team and frequently find ourselves with a server emergency or broken code at hand that needs immediate attention, meaning other big projects get delayed. This doesn't mean we don't care — just like you, we want to see the Archive grow and prosper and be a welcoming space for everyone who wants to use it. (More fanworks for us, too!) Please help us ensure that the Archive servers stay around for a long time, and donate today!


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Different Tropes for Different Folks – OTW Membership Drive October 2015


The first Sherlock Holmes adventure is published, inspiring a devotion that surprised even the author. A devotion so strong that nearly 100 years later, a Baker Street Irregular and his wife, a member of an all-female Sherlockian group, take their 12-year-old daughter to the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes dinner. Here her love of Sherlock Holmes begins to flourish to the point that she is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars herself, almost a century after the last story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was published.


A mom who loves history is excited about a new children's show called Doctor Who, sits down with her kids to watch, and falls in love. Four generations later, the entire family, ages 87 to 4, gathers around their Doctor Who-themed Christmas tree and plans dinner around the Doctor Who Christmas special. The four-year-old proudly wears his fez throughout dinner.


A six-year-old falls in love with Star Wars. Today she proudly debates the merits of the theatrical releases vs the enhanced 90s versions with her own child while trying not to trip over lightsabers and Star Wars action figures. Both of them are anxiously awaiting the new film, which they will see together.


A dad decides to skip E.T. and take his daughter to see The Wrath of Khan. A decade later, the child finds a Star Trek convention, and a lifelong passion for this fictional universe is born. The dad still loves to tell the story of her discoveries at every family gathering.


The new Muppets movie is released. A twentysomething wonders who'd be better to see the movie with than her mom. After all, she was the one who first introduced her to the joy of the Muppets as a small child.

Present Day

Fandom is ageless. One of the most amazing things about fandom is the pure joy fans find in sharing their love of their fandom with others. Sometimes this takes the form of sharing the source material with their own kids. Other times, it takes the form of fanworks. In both cases, the sharing keeps the passion of the original fans alive while also sparking new love in the next generations.

Sharing fanworks and preserving fannish history for the future is a job larger than any one person or family, though. That's where the OTW's many projects come in, from Legal fighting for the DMCA exemption for fan video makers, to Open Doors preserving works that would otherwise disappear, to Fanlore allowing fans to read about and add to the record of the history of their fandom.

In order for the OTW's efforts to continue, we need your help. Your donations are what enable us to preserve and protect these works for the next generation. Please help share your love of fandom and donate to the OTW today!


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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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