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Published:
2018-08-16 12:06:28 -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 Stephanie Godden, who volunteers as a staffer in our Open Doors Committee.

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

The mission of the Open Doors project is to collaborate with the moderators of offline and at-risk archives and help import their works to the AO3, in keeping with the OTW’s goal of preserving and providing access to fanworks. So my duties as an Open Doors staffer range from directly interacting with archivists, creators, and fans; to actively participating in imports; to making improvements to our procedures and documentation. One nice thing about being on Open Doors is that it’s a very small committee, so there’s a lot of opportunity for anyone interested to learn every piece of the import process and to take initiative with additional tasks internal to the committee.

Open Doors’ work fits into the OTW by requiring quite a lot of cross-committee collaboration. For instance, we work with Translation and Communications to publish import announcements in multiple languages and spread the word on social media. Systems helps us to transfer hosting and domains of imported archives to the OTW as well as to set up redirects from original URLs to their imported copies on AO3. AO3 Documentation writes the FAQs on our website, and these require Open Doors approval throughout the drafting process. We collaborate with Accessibility, Design, & Technology, who manage AO3, via our fabulous liaison who also serves as Open Doors’ technical staffer. We also work closely with Tag Wrangling, who “map” the tags used on original archives to their counterparts on AO3 and whose Special Project Volunteers assist with searching the AO3 for existing copies of works before we do imports, so that we don’t end up with duplicates.

I currently serve on four OTW committees, so I have my hands on a lot of different moving parts! My role as a Tag Wrangler allows me to build relationships between tags so that AO3 users receive more complete, accurate results when they filter works. As a Media Outreach staffer with the Communications Committee, I interact with the OTW community by providing fans with content about what’s happening within fandom and within the OTW, and I help increase the OTW’s visibility and strengthen its connections to the media. On the other hand, in my staff position on Volunteers & Recruiting, I get to strengthen the OTW’s infrastructure by keeping our personnel records up-to-date, coordinating recruitment drives, and participating in projects that enable our volunteers to do their work more easily.

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

Another nice thing about volunteering with Open Doors is that it’s very self-directed: you can take on as many or as few archives, tickets, and other tasks as you have time for. Depending on how far along the archives I’ve claimed are in the import process, during a typical week, I might be corresponding with archivists in order to draft import agreements, notifying other committees of upcoming imports and import announcements, or pushing buttons to import works en masse to the AO3, just to name a few possibilities.

Besides working with archivists, my volunteering also might include helping creators claim their works on their AO3 accounts or researching offline archives and reaching out to their moderators at the request of fans. Most of our work is centered on importing archives and helping creators access their imported works, but we also try to make time for keeping our internal documentation of our procedures up-to-date and for responding to other committees, like when AO3 Documentation wants us to look over FAQ drafts.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I started actively reading fanfiction on AO3 in early 2016, but I didn’t really know what the OTW was until I saw the Spotlight on Legal Advocacy post that was linked in a banner over the site during the October 2016 fundraising drive. Impressed, I spent an evening browsing the OTW's website and reading up on the OTW’s structure and goals. I’ve been moderating fan-run forums since the early 2000s, including a six-year stint acting in various mod roles on a fanfiction-based community until it closed down just a few months before that time, so when I learned that the OTW was a volunteer-run organization, I was immediately interested in joining it as a volunteer.

Three months later, the OTW announced that several committees, including Open Doors, were recruiting new volunteers. The Open Doors Committee’s work in particular resonated with me, as I had previously been a member of several archives that had closed down or were in danger of doing so (one of which, Unknowable Room, has since actually been imported to the AO3 through the Open Doors project!). I applied, and now four committees later, here we are!

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

The people I get to volunteer with! I’ve formed some great friendships with my fellow volunteers on Open Doors as well as elsewhere on other OTW committees. Moreover, even though I’ve been in the OTW for about a year and a half now, there’s always so much to learn and still so much that I don’t know about how all the different pieces of the organization fit together. I have great respect for the chairs of my committees and the experienced volunteers I’m privileged to work beside and learn from.

What fannish things do you like to do?

Besides modding and volunteering, fanfiction has always been the part of fandom that I’m most active with. I go in and out of binge-reading phases, and I’ve been on a slow-but-consistent writing kick ever since I joined the Supernatural fandom, although my one true fandom will always be Harry Potter.

I love getting my hands on every interesting piece of writing I can find about my chosen characters or ships, so that I can see the connections between which creators were influential over other creators and the ways that tropes and headcanons spread within a fandom over time. As a writer, I also love filling in the gaps before and between canonical events, finding canon-compliant ways to explain plot holes and canon inconsistencies, and exploring interesting alternatives that arise from canon divergence—all while adding as much character development and angst as possible.


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.