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 telescopicpoems, who volunteers as a staffer on the AO3 Documentation Committee.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
I’ve been part of the AO3 Documentation Committee ("Docs" for friends and family) since late 2016. Docs is mainly responsible for writing, revising, and updating the FAQs and Tutorials found on AO3 (for the most part, it’s whatever can be found in the Archive FAQ). We’ve also been working with Open Doors on updating their user-facing documentation. Our goal is to help the people who use the Archive understand how everything works and use it to its full potential!
Other than that, I’m also an Open Doors staffer, still on my training wheels, learning to help keep both fanworks and fandom history alive.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
Open Doors work is more sporadic and it involves a lot of replying to emails, which I usually can do on (IRL) "work days". Every now and again I’ll have to do something that’s more labor intensive which I leave for the weekends (more often than not it has to do with new archives that we are looking to import).
My Docs work is done almost exclusively on weekends, as I need a lot of time to think things through. I usually have an ongoing task to work on, but if I’m waiting on a response from a beta or an author, I’ll pick up a new task: that can be drafting a document (which might mean either writing it from scratch or updating it) or doing beta. Other than the Alpha review round, which is done by one of our chairs, we have three rounds of beta checks, with each round consisting of two different types of beta that happen simultaneously.
On the first round we make sure everything is working as it's described and that a document is as accessible as we can possibly make it. That might mean using "fanworks" instead of "fanfics"; not assuming gender; or assuming that the user is based in the US, so using examples from, say, the Sailor Moon fandom instead of the Harry Potter fandom and so on.
Since that first round might end up with a document being significantly altered, it's only on the second round we start looking at it from a "format" point of view: we'll go over grammar and what's its reading level; if all the other documents that are linked in it are working fine; and if everything that you could possibly need referring to is being referred to.
Finally, there's the Free for All and External rounds. Free for All is the last chance for all Docs staffers to go over a document. External gives other committees a chance to read it so we can make sure that everything on there is nice and accurate.
Ideally, every Docs staffer should have gone through the documents at least once over the course of these three rounds. So it ends up being a lot of collaborative work, a lot of checking and double checking and discussing all sort of things, from testing issues to what should be capitalized and when.
What made you decide to volunteer?
I was actually away from fandom for quite a while before I decided to volunteer, even if I kind of kept tabs on it. On a random day, I spotted a post on Tumblr about volunteers being needed for some committees, Docs included, which made me think this could be a really awesome learning experience, as it has been! That and, to be honest, I also happened to be looking for a new job at the time and thought it would look good on my resumé.
What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
As cliché as it is, and, well, that doesn't exactly count as fun, but I love what the OTW stands for, that it’s made by and for fans, and that it’s a non-profit. (Weird as it sounds, it's important for me to know that no one's getting rich(er) at the expense of my work -- or that of any volunteer).
Not only that but since the busyness of life is what made me step away from fandom stuff in the first place, I also really like that volunteering for the OTW keeps me in touch with it, so it’s always part of my life one way or another, no matter how lazy and/or busy I’ve been to actually participate in it. Plus it really helps that there are also some really cool people in here!
What fannish things do you like to do?
I had a very intense fandom phase maybe ten years ago, but have been in an on and off relationship with it ever since, so I usually chase after whatever I’m fancying at the time, which varies a lot. I also have a special liking for those fandoms with six people and a shoelace, so there’s that. Generally speaking, I'm quite the lurker and for the most part I read fanfic, will maaaybe write something, and look at awesome fanart I could never make myself.
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.