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2019-12-12 10:46:00 -0500

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 Anhaita, who volunteers with the Translation Committee.

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

As a volunteer, I'm part of the Translation Committee. Our main objective is making the site and its content available in different languages for easy accessibility and understanding to all those whose first language isn't English. We help in cross lingual communications with other Committees as well! (Support and Abuse, for example).

Translation is also subdivided into smaller language teams, so no matter what language you wish to communicate in, we most likely have someone to make sure the message gets interpreted correctly. As the OTW is geared towards fans from various communities and cultures, our goal is to make sure people can access our website in languages they feel comfortable with.

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

As I'm part of a very small team (literally, it's just two of us here), we mainly have a large number of documents to sort through and translate. So usually, I spend the week translating a document, perhaps a webpage for the OTW site, like the FAQs or a News post. At times, I may get contacted to help translate a text-image, or fic-tags in my language, for a different Committee -- we are kind of the go-between here!

Translating some words into my language, Marathi, can be pretty tough, and sometimes hilarious even. We have to figure out how sentence structures have to be changed to fit a text, or the closest possible translation is used. Fun fact: Fanvid is literally translated to mean "Western Picture Gallery" in Marathi (because that's a word English totally dreamt up one day and refused to inform the other languages).

On the whole, it's a pretty relaxing workload, and is easily managed side by side with university life (with some good time management skills; seriously, if it's one thing I've learnt as a volunteer, it's that!).

What made you decide to volunteer?

I've always wanted to, I think. On some level, I wanted to give back to the community that has been there for me in little ways, throughout my formative years, providing encouragement and companionship when I needed it. And volunteering for the OTW was a way to do that, to be a part of something that allows fans to have a wholesome and positive environment to exercise their creativity in! It also allowed me to actively support the site that I'd grown so fond of!

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

The sense of community! Seriously, imagine hundreds of people with like minded interests and passion for fannish activities -- it's a wonderful feeling. Another thing I've really enjoyed is taking part in the annual International Fanworks Day celebration -- hosting games and interacting with people who've come to enjoy this site so much. It's lovely to see how this site has brought fans together!

What fannish things do you like to do?

Oh, a myriad of things! I've read, written and even beta-read many fanfictions over the years. I've taken part in and helped organise a couple of fanwork challenges, and I love browsing through the truly wonderful fan art created by artists out there!

But mainly, reading (devouring) fanfiction has become a very integral part of my life. I've officially read more fanfiction than books by now!

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.


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2019-12-02 09:05:10 -0500

Spotlight on Open Doors banner

The OTW Open Doors Committee has sent the following letter to leadership at Verizon to request that they extend the deadline for deletion of existing archives of Yahoo Groups files and messages by at least six months. This request follows Yahoo's announcement that Yahoo Groups will be permanently closing, and deleting all previously posted material on December 14, 2019. The OTW previously reported on the Yahoo Groups closure in its posts Yahoo Groups Closure - What You Can Do and Yahoo Groups Closure - What You Can Do - Part 2.

Please respectfully contact Verizon's Executive Team via email or Twitter with a link to this post requesting an extension through May 14, 2020. If you are tweeting, be certain to include news groups that have covered the Yahoo shutdown, such as CNET (@CNET), TechRadar (@TechRadar), Boing Boing (@BoingBoing), or The Telegraph (@Telegraph).


Dear Verizon,

We are writing regarding the impending closure of Yahoo Groups on behalf of the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), a nonprofit organization run by and for fans to provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks and fan cultures.

Due to its unique status as a large nonprofit focused on fandom advocacy, the OTW has a major presence in fandom. The OTW is made up of over 800 volunteers from all over the world, and our best-known project, the Archive of Our Own (AO3), has over five million fanworks, two million registered users, and over 1.4 million unique visitors per month. This year, the AO3 won a Hugo Award for Best Related Work, and, along with Yahoo, was listed by Popular Mechanics as one of the 50 most important websites of all time ( Other OTW projects include Fanlore, the fandom history wiki, and Open Doors, which rescues fanworks archives that are at risk of disappearing from the Internet.

The OTW's main concern regarding the effective closure of Yahoo Groups is for its long-term impact on online fandom history and online history as a whole. Yahoo Groups was a fandom hub for more than two decades, and many of the fanworks saved there are not duplicated anywhere else, to say nothing of the conversations and other ephemera. While the OTW is primarily concerned with fandom, there are over 5 million Groups in total with countless messages and files, and hundreds of millions of people who will be affected by the loss of almost 20 years of data and history.

Open Doors and Fanlore, among other projects, are currently working hard to help preserve these works, messages, and other data, but saving everything before the time limit is simply impossible. Open Doors normally receives one or two requests each month from moderators seeking to transfer their archives to the AO3; since the announcement on October 16 that Yahoo Groups was closing, we have received over 40 requests from Yahoo Groups moderators alone.

We are using all of our official channels to inform people about the closure, as well as coordinating with other preservation projects such as YahooGeddon and the Archive Team. We are also fielding requests from members and moderators to help download and save files and messages from their Groups, and discussing the creation of a dark archive to store these downloads until more permanent methods of preservation can be found. Unfortunately, the Archive Team's automated download program has been blocked by the Yahoo Groups servers, so we are forced to do what we can by hand and are therefore extremely limited in what we can save.

Saving Yahoo Groups is going to require a great deal more time and support from Verizon. Although Verizon promised users they could download their Groups data via the Privacy Dashboard, many users are being told, "Your download request has been completed, but no data of this type is available in your account." The GetMyData sets are also incomplete, often missing files and photos. Instead, people are having to copy-paste, manually download, or utilize specialized software in order to save their Groups. To make matters worse, because Verizon has chosen to limit downloads to a few weeks, moderator and members, along with the Archive Team and Wayback Machine, are being locked out or blocked and prevented from accessing their data.

Furthermore, many Groups—especially in the EU, South America, and Asia—have not yet been informed of the Yahoo Groups closure. This is in part because Verizon has not made an official, widely posted announcement and in part because the Yahoo Groups mailing lists have been broken since 2013, with mail arriving days or weeks late, or not at all.

Therefore, Verizon needs to extend the deadline to allow time to get the word out to Yahoo Groups owners about the closure, time to fix its download request feature, and time for users to access their data. Based on the number of groups these teams' combined efforts are trying to save, the rate at which they are being saved, and the fact that many Yahoo Group moderators are still being informed of the closure, we are requesting that six months be added to Verizon's deadline, so that data from Yahoo Groups will not be deleted until May 14, 2020.

There is a long history of large websites losing information without a trace. One of Open Doors' first projects was a last-minute scramble to rescue GeoCities sites. MySpace deleting a decade of content is a recent example. This is not uncommon in new media that is not yet considered worthy of preservation, but with your assistance, Yahoo Groups can be saved from being the latest entry on a tragic list of websites that simply disappeared forever. Other tech companies have shown a callous disregard for the value of user's memories, experiences, and history, but by granting this extension, Verizon can demonstrate that it truly values its users and the important role that Yahoo Groups has played in their online lives.

The Organization for Transformative Works


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2019-11-25 09:11:58 -0500

Fanlore: 50,000 pages

Fanlore, the collaborative fandom wiki from the Organization for Transformative Works that anyone can edit, is celebrating a huge milestone: 50,000 pages! Would you like to come celebrate with us?

If you haven’t heard of Fanlore, it’s a multi-fandom, free and open wiki that was designed to be a living, evolving record of fandom’s past and present: created by fans, and maintained by fans. Like AO3, Fanlore was launched in 2008, and since then, fans have made more than 900,000 edits across more than 50,000 pages to record tropes, communities, meta, memes, fanworks, fannish perspectives and much more.

Fanlore is open for anyone to edit – all you need to do is create an account. Any edits, big or small, are welcome! You don’t need to be an expert, or have been in fandom for a long time, to contribute. The wiki wouldn’t have gotten to where it is without the dedication, perseverance and experiences of thousands of fans over the years who have added to and edited Fanlore.

Recently, Fanlore editors have been working to document hundreds of fannish Yahoo! Groups before they’re deleted in December, and last year fans took to Fanlore to document the history of fandom on Tumblr in the midst of the Tumblr NSFW Content Purge. But it isn’t just about big historical events or fandom migrations – every corner of fandom, from the Hanahaki Disease trope to A/B/O, massive fan archives to tiny niche ships, has a place on Fanlore. Try searching for your favorite character or ship! You could add something of your own to those pages.

If you’d like to edit Fanlore but aren’t sure where to start, our New Visitor Portal has a bunch of tips and links to get you started. We also have a how-to on editing pages, and a tutorial for creating new pages if you’d like to help us start down the road to 100,000 pages! Every single edit helps Fanlore preserve more of fandom’s history and experiences, and helps ensure that the amazing creativity and passion of fandoms old and new is recorded and remembered.

The Fanlore team have set our sights on one million edits next – we hope you’ll join us!

To learn more about what Fanlore’s volunteers do behind the scenes, check out our previous spotlight posts:


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Did you know you can post and browse works in over 70 languages on the Archive? In fact, AO3 is home to roughly 400,000 fanworks in languages other than English, with more posted every day! To help everyone find works in their preferred language, we've made some small changes to posting and searching.

Previously, the "Choose a language" field on the posting form was set to English by default, which made it easy to accidentally post a non-English work with the language set to English.

To fix this, we've updated the "Choose a language" field so English is no longer the default. Instead, everyone will need to select the correct language when posting a new work. If you forget, don't worry -- we've also added a friendly error message to remind you.

We've also made it a little easier to search or filter for works based on language! While we provide a "Language" field on our various search and filter forms, sometimes it's not enough -- for example, if you want works in either Spanish or Italian.

A search like that used to require knowing some numerical codes unique to the Archive. Now you can use these standard language codes with the search operators described in our cheatsheet. For example, to find works tagged with "Friendship" in either Italian or Spanish, you would enter language_id: es OR language_id: it in the "Search within results" field on the work listing for the "Friendship" tag. (The old numerical codes will continue to work, so there's no need to update bookmarks or links.)

We hope these changes will make the Archive a bit better for everyone, regardless of which languages you use for creating and consuming fanworks. And as always, if you notice a work with the wrong language, you can contact our Policy & Abuse team and they will help correct any mislabeled works.


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2019-11-15 18:54:27 -0500

Over the last few weeks, you may have noticed a few brief periods when the Archive has been slow to load (or refusing to load at all). This is because our Elasticsearch servers are under some strain. We've made some adjustments to our server setup, but because this is our busiest time of year, we expect the problems to continue until we're able to have new servers delivered and installed in a few months.

We've been planning this server purchase for a while now, but the machines we wanted -- AMD's Epyc Rome CPUs, which have an increased core count and are cheaper than the Intel equivalent -- didn't come on the market until August. Now that they've been released, we're working on finding the best price to help us make the most of your generous donations. We expect to order them very soon.

While we're waiting for our new servers, we plan to upgrade the Elasticsearch software to see if the newer version offers any performance improvements. We hope this upgrade and the changes to our server setup will keep things from getting much worse during our end-of-year traffic influx.

Thank you for your patience, and for all the donations that allow us to buy new hardware when these situations arise!

Update 27 November: The servers have been ordered, but it will still be a few months before they are delivered and installed.


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10 Years of AO3

Michele Tepper’s contribution is the final post in our series celebrating 10 years since the launch of the Archive of Our Own. Michele was a founding member of the OTW and helped create much of AO3’s “look” in her role as head of design in the early days. Her contribution provides a nice conclusion to the series, emphasizing the importance of working together in order to make such a big project a success.

I got involved with the OTW because I knew some of the other founders already. I had designed a discussion board for Buffy fans ( a few years earlier, and so I had an understanding of the challenges of working with a remote team of volunteers on a project for a fan community. Also, I was working for a digital product design studio, where I saw the wave of commercialization around "user-generated content", and I liked the idea of doing something that helped keep transformative works in the hands of the creators. So I told Naomi Novik I was interested in helping out, and that's how I ended up as a founding board member for the OTW!

What I remember most about the early days of the Archive was the collaboration. Naomi, cmshaw, and I spent long hours coming up with the core functions of the archive; technologists and user experience designer collaborating to find the best solution. We built out a roadmap that saw the Archive through its earliest years, as well as an experience that people point to as exceptional, and I'm proud of that.

My favorite thing about AO3 is the tagging and the tag wranglers. I have the tag page for "feels" as a bookmark on my phone, and when I need an emotional boost, I go and look at all the different ways people have tagged for feels, all listed out and merged by the wranglers. It makes me ridiculously happy every time.

I don't pretend to know what the OTW's future will be, because I couldn't have predicted its past! Fanworks are much more accepted in the mainstream than they were 10 years ago, and the OTW and the Archive are a big part of the reason why.

So that’s all for our series from behind the scenes at the AO3. We are so appreciative of all our contributors, as well as the other volunteers who have been working hard since the OTW was founded to make the Archive a haven for fanworks of all types. We agree with Michele that fanworks and fan culture are much more widely accepted than they were 10 years ago and we are proud to think that the OTW and the AO3 have contributed to that. Cheers to 10 years of AO3!


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10 Years of AO3

Today’s post in the Archive of Our Own’s 10th anniversary series is from Matty, who has been with the AO3 since it launched. You’ll read in her contribution about the many departments she has been part of since she began volunteering with us 10 years ago. There have been a lot of long work hours, particularly for the volunteers who were with the OTW in the early days, and we are so grateful for Matty and all of the others who contributed their time to help us make AO3 a reality.

I joined the Organization for Transformative Works as a tag wrangler back in 2009. I had been following the development of the OTW and the Archive since their inception and was thrilled to be able finally to help in a concrete way.

Tag wrangling in those days was both exciting and nerve wracking! One wrong push of the button could cause havoc. Early wranglers may remember the frantic searching when we repeatedly lost the Justin Timberlake tag, the terror of sharing a single spreadsheet that tracked all the fandoms on the Archive and the volunteers who wrangled them (and the screaming when someone sorted the sheet while others were trying to type), and the many, many, many long discussions that took place on our mailing lists while we tried to write our policies.

After Tag Wrangling I moved to Support, before sliding over to the Policy and Abuse committee (PAC). It is funny to compare how much things have changed between now and then. For the first few years PAC received less than 50 tickets a year. Now we sometimes receive 50 tickets in an hour, or more! The types of reports we receive have also changed. Initially, the vast majority of reports were about plagiarism. These days we see more reports about non-fanworks (such as RP ads, fic searches, etc). The size of the committee has also grown enormously; when I joined we had 3-4 active volunteers and now we have over 40! While the work can be overwhelming at times, it has also been incredibly rewarding.

I am so incredibly proud of the Organization and its volunteers for making our projects so successful. While there have been some growing pains over the years, we've built something amazing that we all should feel proud of!


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10 Years of AO3

When asked to write up a few words about his time with the OTW and AO3 in particular, james_ had so much to say that he had trouble sticking to the word count. (He’d like to thank Priscilla for helping him to edit!) Below you can read about some of the tougher times that james_ has seen during his time as a member of the Systems and Accessibility, Design and Technology committees. You can also hear about the rewards he’s gained from his hard work to keep our vision clear and our morale high. As you can see below, james_ was amongst the staffers who accepted the Hugo Award for Best Related Work on behalf of AO3.

Volunteering for the OTW in the early days was exciting, stressful, exhausting, and demoralising, but also worth it. At that time we were working with five servers and we were constantly adjusting the load between the few systems we had. We reached out to our friends at Dreamwidth (thanks, Mark) and they helped us. We were learning even as the tsunami of growing AO3 traffic beat down upon our shore.

While there are always people willing to try and pull you down, they are greatly outnumbered by those supporting us and buoying us up. I am grateful to each person who donates to the OTW. Your donations mean that we can afford the machines that keep the Archive running stably, and that nowadays I rarely get woken in the middle of the night due to unexpected downtime.

Something else that has had a significant impact in my volunteering life were the recurring conflicts both my committees had with previous iterations of the OTW Board of Directors. These were a source of great frustration and I even contacted the Legal committee to see how OTW members could call the board to account. After the resignation of the entire 2015 board, things have been much better. No organization is perfect, but I believe everyone in the OTW is very much happier today. I hope this will continue and believe the best way to do that is to ensure that every election is properly contested; I stood for election myself in 2016 and would do so again if necessary to make sure that there were enough candidates.

Our successes have been external as well as internal. This year, I had the pleasure of standing on the stage at Worldcon as AO3 won a Hugo Award and it was such a joy.

james_ holding the AO3’s Hugo award

As for the future, I believe that we will need to raise significantly more than we do today in order to hire paid employees. We cannot sustainably run forever on purely volunteer labor. We get roughly 5% of Wikipedia's pageviews and our budget is about one-third of one percent of theirs.


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