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2020-11-16 10:58:41 -0500
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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 Paula, who volunteers as a staffer in AO3's Support Committee.

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

I’m Support Staff and a tag wrangler. As a Tag Wrangler, I wrangle tags. I make sure you can find your MPREG and Fluff. We’ve had plenty of awesome tag wranglers explain it better than I ever could so, I’ll skip to my other role. As Support staff, I help people who use the site to…well...use the site LOL. When you contact Support about not being able to get your account set up, that’s me. When your work doesn’t post with the correct date or is acting otherwise wonky? I’m your girl.

We also do quite a bit of bug hunting. When someone reports a weird site behavior we’re on the job. We help our Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee figure out if it’s a problem with the site, a browser issue, or just a one-time gremlin we can’t track down. We also look for trends in what’s being reported so that we can let the people who need to know that there’s a problem, know that, well, there’s a problem.

I’ve volunteered with the Support Committee for two years now. It’s fascinating to see the issues and feedback ebb and flow over time. What was once an immediate "in your face" issue two years ago isn’t anymore, and new issues pop up that we never could have dreamed of then. We also work with the Translation Committee to translate incoming tickets and translate our response. They’ve often been able to add a cultural context to a ticket that helps immensely in answering the question or figuring out what’s going on. (Love my translation peeps!)

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

The nice thing about Support is that while it is a decent chunk of work, it’s the kind of work you can do in between other things. I usually wake up in the morning and briefly browse the mobile app for the ticket tracking program we use. (Rather than, you know, rolling out of bed to get ready for work… this is more fun.) Sometimes I’ll claim tickets right there, especially if it’s something for which I can tell right away what the issue is.

When I have time at work or grad school, I’ll check again and see what’s coming in (or maybe tag wrangle a bit on my phone). The Support staff also works quite collaboratively on tickets. Sometimes I’ll assist another Support staffer to troubleshoot a quirky issue. I’ll also "beta" a few tickets during the day as well. (That’s exactly what it sounds like -- proofreading and double-checking the solutions on another staffer’s tickets).

Later in the evening, or even the next day, I’ll go through the tickets I’ve assigned myself and write responses. I’ll send tickets to the Translation Committee to check for meaning, or translate an answer into a user's language. I’ll talk to the appropriate committee to get the information I need to solve a problem. Sometimes I’ll edit our internal documentation to account for things like Gmail updating their interface or a new iOS upgrade. That way we can make sure we’re giving people the correct instructions to fix things like caching issues or email being sent to spam.

There are days when real life is just too busy, so at most I can help other Staffers with solutions or check in with another committee.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I see volunteering for the OTW as my contribution to fandom. I’ve never been much of a writer. I’m more a voracious fic reader and fandom nerd. I used to roleplay on Livejournal and Dreamwidth back in the day. I started as a Tag Wrangler. I don’t know why that role appealed to me but it just seemed like FUN.

Later, as I got to know the people involved and just what happens behind the scenes, I realized I’d really like Support. I’ve always been a tech nerd. I work at a computer lab for my day job. Even before I was Support, I found myself helping other volunteers with their tech issues. I liked the people involved and it seemed like a natural fit.

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

There are two things I really love about volunteering for the OTW. The first is the community. This is an amazing group of people. I’ve made real-life friends and had meetups with volunteers offline. I took an international study trip for grad school and there were OTW people half a world away to meet with! We joke that you can go anywhere in the world and find a person from the OTW that you’d be able to have coffee with (if not crash on their floor).

Because we’re so international I’ve learned so much about other cultures and countries just by hanging around and squeeing about Robert Downey Jr. or Assassins Creed or even sharing pictures of our cats because cats are liquid and adorable and bleps and mlems!!! The support the OTW volunteer community gives each other through thick and thin is nothing short of amazing...especially lately.

The other thing is the feeling you get from being a part of something bigger than yourself. I’m continually amazed that we do what we do. It’s incredible to see something you’ve worked so hard on flourish. To see that fix for a bug you discovered, and helped test, go live. To know that your work (even when it drives you absolutely insane) is helping fannish communities all over the world…it’s a bit of a rush.

What fannish things do you like to do?

This is where I confess I’m a huge Robert Downey Jr. fangirl. So, stare lovingly into his eyes? Read Endgame fix-it fics?

Ok, I’m mostly joking there. As I’m not much of a writer I read a ton of fic. I joined fandom way back in the day on Usenet! I’ll skim Tumblr or go to my favorite fic finder community and see if I like something. Why a fic finding community? My theory on that is, if it was good enough to stick in someone’s mind so that they want to read it again? Chances are it’s a good fic!

Lately, my fandom has mostly been existing with other fans! Doing meetups or talking meta...once conventions resume I’m looking forward to getting into that aspect of fandom!


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 although, if it's a question about AO3 you need help with, please use the Support form so that our volunteers can work together in addressing your problem. 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.