Could You Win an OTW Trivia Contest?

  • Sep. 25th, 2017 at 11:43 AM

OTW 10th anniversary history

You just might, especially if you have good search-fu!

This is how it will work:

  1. Answer the five questions we have listed below. Only one entry per person
  2. Submit those answers to our Communications Committee. (Put "OTW Trivia" in the Subject line)
  3. Let us know what name or pseudonym you'd prefer we use when we announce the winners.
  4. We can't guarantee you'll receive a particular prize, but you can include your top 3 choices in order of preference.

Please do NOT post your answers in a comment.

In 72 hours we will be reviewing all the submissions and randomly selecting 10 winners from all the correct responses we receive. If we do not receive enough correct responses to qualify for the prizes we will include entries with 4 correct answers, or 3 correct answers, etc. until we have 21 winners.

Winners will be notified by email and have 72 hours to provide us with a mailing address for us to send their prize to. We will ship internationally, so everyone can participate. But if we do not hear back from you within that 3 day time frame we will be randomly choosing another winner in your place. (Please check your spam folders!)

What are the prizes?

For our 10th anniversary we will have 10 prizes. Four of these prizes were generously donated to us for this event by author Tamora Pierce! These are autographed hardback copies of her Song of the Lioness series. You will be able to choose from Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, or Lioness Rampant.

In addition we have:

  1. A Season 3 DVD set of Supernatural autographed by Ghostfacers, Travis Wester and A.J. Buckley (NTSC format)
  2. An OTW logo pen
  3. A copy of the book The First 28 Years of Monty Python
  4. A copy of the book Buffy the Vampire Slayer Watcher's Guide Volume 1
  5. 2 OTW stickers and a temporary tattoo for each of our projects
  6. A large totebag advertising the services of wizard detective, Harry Dresden (in black, 51 by 40 centimeters/20 inches by 16 inches)

But there's more! Since we made our anniversary announcement the folks at First Second Books got in touch with us and offered an additional 11 prizes. These are graphic novels and they will ship them directly to the winners. The titles are:

  1. Castle in the Stars, by Alex Alice
  2. Spill Zone, by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland
  3. Cast No Shadow, by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa
  4. Compass South, by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
  5. Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani
  6. Foiled, by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro
  7. Shattered Warrior, by Sharon Shinn and Molly Ostertag
  8. Tetris, by Box Brown
  9. Spinning, by Tillie Walden
  10. Exquisite Corpse, by Penelope Bagieu
  11. The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang

Ready to play? Here are your questions:

  1. In 2014 Naomi Novik testified for the OTW before who (specifically) about why fair use was important to fans?
  2. So far, among the archives Open Doors has imported into the AO3 have been two specifically for non-English fanworks. What are they called?
  3. What challenge did Fanlore issue to visitors and users in March 2011?
  4. On what day in 2009 was the first AO3 News post made that shared stats with graphs about the site's growth?
  5. In what issue of Transformative Works and Cultures did an article appear about the history of the anime music video in Western fandom, and who was the author?

This post will be updated when the contest is closed, and we'll announce the winners. Good luck!


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.

Could You Win an OTW Trivia Contest?

  • Sep. 25th, 2017 at 10:57 AM
OTW 10th anniversary history

Would you like to find some OTW trivia? If so, we've got prizes for you! How many questions can you answer? https://goo.gl/A8bPvD

August 2017 Newsletter, Volume 116

  • Sep. 9th, 2017 at 1:08 AM

Banner by caitie of a newspaper with the name and logos of the OTW and its projects on the pages

I. 2017 Election Success!

The 2017 Election went off without a hitch thanks to the Elections committee and their collaboration with the Communications, Development & Membership, Translation, Volunteers & Recruiting, and Webs committees! Elections would like to thank all of the members who sent in questions for the Q&A and everyone who voted in the election. They also thank all six phenomenal candidates, and send congratulations to Claire P. Baker, Danielle Strong, and Jessie Camboulives for becoming our newest Board members!

II. At the AO3

After the upgrade to Rails 4.2 in July, Accessibility, Design and Technology has begun testing upgrades to move AO3 to Rails 5.1 and Ruby 2.3. You can keep up with all the changes made to AO3 in our release notes.

Open Doors had a very productive August! They worked with Translation and Communications to announce the import of The Collators' Den and The Fandom Haven Story Archive to AO3. They completed three semi-automated imports: Daire's Fanfic Refuge, HL Raven's Nest, and StargateFan. They also finalized preparations and began manually importing works from the archives Hammer to Fall, Bang and Blame, and Least Expected.

In August, Abuse received over 600 tickets, and Support received over 1,300 tickets. As a reminder, all Abuse and Support reports must now include an e-mail address for the submitter.

III. Legal Advocacy and Fannish History

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was at the forefront of the Legal committee's August activities. They submitted a petition to the Copyright Office seeking to renew the vidders’ exemption to the DMCA, which allows people to rip DVDs, Blu-Rays, and digital files for the purpose of making make non-commercial fanvids.

Legal also submitted comments to the Canadian government suggesting what Canada’s copyright law priorities should be as it renegotiates the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trilateral NAFTA talks between the governments of U.S., Canada, and Mexico began in August, and will be resuming in September.

Lastly, the Fanlore homepage has a new section that features articles that require expansion. Go check it out and see what you can contribute!

IV. It's All About the Peeps

As of the 28th of August, the OTW has 680 volunteers. \o/ Recent personnel movements are listed below.

New Committee Staff: 1 AD&T, 1 Open Doors, 2 Communications
New Fanlore Gardener Volunteers: Syd and 2 other Fanlore Gardeners
New Tag Wrangler Volunteers: Chai, Canislupa, Andy D, Stephanie Godden, Windian, Relle, Miss_Chif, Annie Staats, leftmost, snowynight, kenzimone, Hannah Miro, Leo, Eliana, Evie D, Alex D., Dre, Lily_Haydee_Lohdisse, Reeby, Zed Jae, Nemesis, Koi W, Saoirse Adams-Kushin, englishsummerrain, RussianRadio, Amy Lynn, ElleM, and carboncopies.
New Translator Volunteers: 1

Departing Committee Staff: Asanté Simons (Volunteers & Recruiting), Amy Shimizu (Abuse), gracethebookworm (AO3 Documentation), 1 Abuse Staffer and 1 Communications Staffer
Departing Tag Wrangler Volunteers: 1 Tag Wrangling Volunteer
Departing Translation Volunteers: Maliceuse, Kyanite and 2 others

OTW Guest Post: Henry Jenkins

  • Sep. 22nd, 2017 at 12:55 AM

Banner by caitie of an OTW-themed guest access lanyard

From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

Henry Jenkins is one of the best known media scholars studying fandom. His 1992 book Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture has been read all over the world, and is seen as one of the foundational texts of the fan studies field. When we asked if he'd do this month's guest post for our 10th anniversary, he replied "It's an honor to be asked to perform this role." Henry talks with us about fans, students, and fandom.

Textual Poachers continues to be widely read by students and those curious about fans and fandom, but you’ve written a dozen books since and many more articles. What do you think has changed the most about fandom from your early days as both a researcher and as a participant?

In terms of fandom, the impact of digital media has been decisive: expanding the scope of fandom, including greater connections between fans around the world; accelerating the speed of fan response in terms of being able to react in real time to our favorite programs; creating a space where fan works are much more visible to the culture at large (for better and for worse); allowing people to find their way into fandom at a much younger age; and increasing the impact of fan activists in seeking to assert their voice in response to canceled programs. (One has to look no further than the dramatic reversal of fortune for Timeless this past spring).

In terms of the academic study of fandom, we've seen the emergence of an entire subfield of research, which has its own conference and professional organization, its own journals (including Transformative Works and Cultures), its own publishing lines, its own courses, etc. In the next year or so, there will be at least four major academic anthologies devoted to mapping the field of fandom studies, reflecting the emergence of a new generation of researchers and representing innovations on so many fronts, but especially in terms of fandom studies finally coming to grips with race issues.

You have been involved in many projects focusing on fans and their interactions with texts and the entertainment industries. What perspectives have you drawn from those experiences that you would most like to share with fans?

Today's media consumers have expectations of meaningful participation, and the media industries also recognize that they have to create space and place value on the audience's active participation in the media landscape. But there are widespread disagreements about what we might call the terms of our participation, and those disputes are going to be some of the key battles over the first few decades of the 21st century.

The OTW is on the front lines of those struggles, representing fans as they struggle against the intellectual property regimes of major studios or as they confront various commercial strategies of incorporation. We collectively need to keep asking ourselves "What do we want?" and use our collective power to stand firm against compromises that might do violence to our traditions and practices. Fandom is worth fighting for.

You have also been an educator for decades. What have you found most intriguing about working with students interested in fandom?

When I started teaching about fandom, few if any of my students knew anything about fan fiction or other fan practices. Today, pretty much every entering undergraduate knows something about fandom, many have read fan fiction, most know someone who has written it.

When I teach my graduate seminar specifically on fandom, all of the students are "aca-fans," finding ways to reconcile their fan identities with their PhD research interests. This last time, the vast majority of my students came from outside the United States, especially from Asia, but also Europe and Latin America, and I love hearing their experiences coming of age as a fan and getting their perspective on core debates within the field.

How did you first hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?

News of the OTW bubbled up from many directions at once, most likely through my associations with Escapade, but also through an academic colleague whose partner at the time was involved. I was so excited to hear about the emergence of this fan advocacy network which brought together fannish lawyers willing to help protect our fair use rights as fans; fan scholars publishing their work through a peer-reviewed journal; fan programmers using their skills in support of the community; and of course, an archive where fans controlled what happened to their own works without the interference of web 2.0 interests. Each of these things is important on its own terms, but taken together, this organization has been a transformative force, in all senses of the words, for fans and their rights to participate.

You are on the editorial board of Transformative Works and Cultures and, along with Sangita Shresthova, guest edited its 10th issue. What was the most rewarding part to you of having edited that issue?

Transformative Works and Cultures has one of the most robust and yet supportive peer-review systems I have ever encountered at an academic journal. I tell my students that it is a great place to get their first publications because they will get so much constructive feedback and will receive so much help in refining their essays for publication. And I love the fact that it is open source and freely accessible to non-academics via the web.

Our work on the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) and other forms of fan activism led us down a path towards investigating the political lives of American youth, which resulted in our most recent book, By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism. We write there about the HPA as a model of fan activism, but we also write about Invisible Children, Dreamers, and American Muslims, and found some similar themes across all of these groups. A key concept for us, "the civic imagination," was inspired early on by J.K. Rowling's phrase, "Imagine Better," which the HPA had picked up on and was using. My collaborators and I are now editing a casebook on popular culture and the civic imagination exploring how activist groups around the world are appropriating and remixing popular culture to help frame their messages. Some of these are fan groups, but many are not, yet I doubt I would have been as attentive of these developments if I was not following fandom as closely as I am.

What fandom things have inspired you the most, either currently or at different points in your life?

I never cease to be amazed by the way that fandom provides a learning space for so many people and in so many different ways. Early on, I had been interested in the ways fandom provided mentorship into writing, video editing, and other creative processes, with beta-reading and fan mentorship held up as a rich example of a peer-to-peer learning system.

Years ago, fandom played a key role in helping more women enter cyberspace, overcoming what policy makers were describing as a gendered digital divide. And fandom provided a safe space for people to work through shifts in gender and sexual politics across the 1980s and 1990s, helping women in particular to express their sexual fantasies and become open to alternatives otherwise closed to them. Fandom in this sense functions as something like a feminist consciousness raising group.

Fandom has also been a leadership academy, helping women to acquire entrepreneurial and activist skills which have expanded their voice and influence within the culture. And fandom is performing these functions at an earlier age as online fandom allows high school students to find their way into the larger community. Fandom doesn't fit everyone's needs, and these ideals are not always fully realized in practice, but through the years I've known so many people who have grown and learned through their fannish experiences. And for many of them, the OTW is giving them a chance to deploy these personal and professional skills to give something back to their community.


Catch up on earlier guest 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.

OTW Guest Post: Henry Jenkins

  • Sep. 21st, 2017 at 11:06 AM
Banner by caitie of an OTW-themed guest access lanyard



“News of the OTW bubbled up from many directions at once, most likely through my associations with Escapade, but also through an academic colleague whose partner at the time was involved. I was so excited to hear about the emergence of this fan advocacy network which brought together fannish lawyers willing to help protect our fair use rights as fans; fan scholars publishing their work through a peer-reviewed journal; fan programmers using their skills in support of the community; and of course, an archive where fans controlled what happened to their own works without the interference of web 2.0 interests.

Each of these things is important on its own terms, but taken together, this organization has been a transformative force, in all senses of the words, for fans and their rights to participate.”

For our anniversary Henry Jenkins talks fan studies, students, fandom changes over the years & why it's worth fighting for: http://goo.gl/fm19m5

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Having trouble staying logged in?

  • Sep. 18th, 2017 at 12:47 PM

Shortly after we upgraded the Archive to Rails 4.2, users began reporting they were being redirected to the login page when submitting forms (e.g. bookmarking a work, or posting a comment). Our coders were unable to find the cause of this problem and hoped it would resolve itself when we upgraded to Rails 5.1.

Unfortunately, the upgrade did not fix the issue, and further research has revealed this is a bug within Rails itself. The bug mainly -- but not only -- affects iPhone Safari users, and is most likely to happen when submitting a form after closing and re-opening your browser, or after leaving a page open for a number of days.

There's currently no official fix for this issue, but you may be able to work around it by using your browser's "Back" button and submitting the form again. We'll also be implementing a temporary workaround on our end by making session cookies last two weeks. This means it is very important to log out of your account if you are using a public computer. If you simply close the browser and leave, you will still be logged in and the next person to use the computer will be able to access your account.

Once an official fix becomes available, we will apply it as soon as possible. There's no word on when this will be, but in the meantime, we'll keep looking for workarounds.

Update, 23 September 2017: If you have JavaScript disabled in your browser and were getting Session Expired errors when trying to log in, the problem should now be fixed!

25 Things to Know About the OTW

  • Sep. 18th, 2017 at 10:06 AM
OTW 10th anniversary history


We've been around a while now, so as part of celebrating our 10th anniversary here are 25 things to know about the OTW! https://goo.gl/FuuMWS

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25 Things to Know About the OTW

  • Sep. 19th, 2017 at 12:43 AM

OTW 10th anniversary history

Many of you may be new to the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) while a few of you have been following our progress since we launched in 2007. Either way, we hope there are things you've been discovering about us this month. As our next big anniversary won't be for a while though, here are 25 things about our organization you can find out right now!

  1. Our Legal Advocacy team was the first OTW project to launch as they worked on incorporating us as a non-profit in 2007. The OTW's website went live and the first OTW newsletter was posted on December 11, 2007.
  2. One of the OTW's first donations came in August 2007 from Cory Doctorow, who wrote that December: "This is such a good idea. When Naomi [Novik, OTW co-founder] described it at the WorldCon at a panel that we were on together, I wrote her a check on the spot for $500 to fund the org. I hope she cashes it now that they've formally announced."
  3. Our volunteer records go back to 2007. We have 6 volunteers who have been working with the OTW since then.
  4. Our first membership drive was held from March 1-18, 2008. We raised $11,142 from 396 donations. The drive was announced with LOLcats.
  5. The first code for AO3 was completed on March 25, 2008.
  6. An early bit of press coverage for the OTW in August 2008 focused on the history of vidding.
  7. The Legal Advocacy team's longest running project has been a continual effort to maintain exemptions for fan video makers to break copy protection on visual content they use. They first submitted documents for this in December 2008, and have continued petitioning for these exemptions every three years, achieving decisions in our favor in 2009, 2012, and 2015. They are currently preparing for the next round in 2018. (Here's a way that you can tell the U.S. Congress to make these decisions permanent!)
  8. Most of the oldest pages on Fanlore are about individual fans. The oldest fandom page is Die Hard, which was created on August 4, 2008.
  9. OTW's projects launched within 9 months of one another: Transformative Works and Cultures on September 15, 2008, Fanlore on September 29, 2008, the Archive of Our Own (in limited beta) on October 3, 2008, and the Vidding History Project on February 16, 2009. Open Doors announced its Fan Culture Preservation Project on June 18, 2009 with a donated collection of over 3,000 fanzines.
  10. The OTW's first Board election was in October 2009.
  11. This was the first look at the AO3's servers a few months before the public beta in November 2009.
  12. Many of our volunteers have served in at least two different positions, either concurrently or in succession. Some volunteers really like variety! 8 of them have served in 5 committees or more since they began volunteering.
  13. The average donation the OTW received during our last membership drive was $25.90. The $25 average has remained consistent since our first drive.
  14. Archive of Our Own has had several front page redesigns. The first was on November 7, 2009. The last was on February 25, 2015 when the Favorite Tags feature was added.
  15. Open Doors got its website on May 16, 2011 and began archive imports to AO3 when its import tool was ready on February 26, 2012. The first archive they worked on is the Smallville Slash Archive.
  16. The average page on Fanlore has been edited 5.34 times. The most revised entry was the Proposed Zines link. Fourth on the list is the Blanket Permission to Podfic, which is also the longest page on Fanlore.
  17. Our Legal Committee offers advice for fans, usually one-on-one, but also publicly about broader concerns. Their earliest post of this kind concerned a contest being held at San Diego Comic Con and other fan events in July 2012.
  18. Some people know that the February 15th date for International Fanworks Day is tied to the date AO3 passed 1 million fanworks. What may not be known is that it was also the day that Fanlore passed 500,000 edits and the same month that the first OTW-supported book was published by the Transformative Works and Cultures editors, making February 2014 one of our most significant dates.
  19. Besides the many milestones for user accounts, fandoms, and fanworks, the AO3 marked another one in April 2015 when its servers moved into their own rack at the server facility.
  20. We get donations from over 70 countries during most membership drives. In April 2017, the top 10 countries that donors have come from were the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, and Finland.
  21. In the month of July 2017 we had over 11 million different IP addresses accessing the Archive, and we showed them around 17,000 pages a minute. But each day the AO3 sends over half a million emails, or nearly 16 million emails per month to its over 1 million registered users.
  22. The OTW's "About Fandom" Playlist includes interviews of and presentations made by OTW personnel. These make for handy explainers to friends and fellow fans!
  23. AO3 tag wranglers sometimes hold chat parties to entertain each other while they work. In July 2017, they wrangled around 610,000 tags in a single month.
  24. The OTW organizes its work through committees and these have changed many times over the years. Our Volunteers & Recruiting Committee reports that our largest committee is Tag Wrangling, with 304 people, and our smallest committee is Systems, with only 7 people. Overall we have over 600 volunteers in 22 timezones.
  25. Transformative Works and Cultures has had 10 general issues and 15 special topic issues, and their articles have been cited hundreds of times over the past decade. They just published their 25th issue this month.
OTW 10th Anniversary Chat


What were some of your early experiences like when your work gained its own fans?

*MarthaWells
I think my favorite experience is seeing the fan art, and seeing fanfic from my books show up in Yuletide. That’s hugely exciting to see fanfic and fan art of your work, especially to someone who was a fan from way back in the print zine era.

*SeananMcGuire
The first time something I’d created showed up as a fandom option for Yuletide, I literally cried. Happy tears! But it was like, HOLY WHAT NO HOW OMG VIXY LOOK AT THIS DO YOU SEE THIS. It’s amazing. It’s still amazing. I can’t read any of the fanfic of my own work, but knowing it exists makes me so happy.

Did you miss our chat with Seanan McGuire & Martha Wells? If so check out the transcript of their talk https://goo.gl/Q3Wu6P
OTW 10th Anniversary Chat


What things have you been excited to see in recent years, either regarding fandom or work in your genre(s)?

*Catherine R.
I really like fanfiction and its explosion on the internet. I think fanfic is a great way for people to learn the craft skills of writing. Many of my college students fall in love with writing that way: by reading fanfic and then starting to write it themselves. I always encourage them to go for it! I love the supportive structure it creates for imagination and fantasy to run wild. I think that realm is so important. Imagination lets us explore quandaries of desire and justice and truth and conflict: all the central problems of what it means to be human.

*Christina L.
It’s been incredibly exciting to see so many writers from our fandom specifically or fandom in general out there publishing books. Of course we all know the big ones—EL James, Cassie Clare—but there are others from the Twi world that had fantastic voices and ideas and who are now also bestsellers. Sally Thorne, Alice Clayton, Nina Bocci, Leisa Rayven, Mariana Zapata, Amanda Weaver—all of these women wrote fantastic fic.

Did you miss our chat with Christina Lauren & Catherine Roach? If so check out the transcript of their talk! https://goo.gl/8DR1PG
Banner by Alice of a book/eReader with an OTW bookmark and a USB plug going into the spine

TWC's issue 25 is out! Essay topics include book history, women's writing, Teen Wolf, World of Warcraft, Sherlock, cosplay, Lego, Harry Potter & more https://goo.gl/dN3m5a

Five Things Naomi Novik Said

  • Sep. 14th, 2017 at 12:52 AM

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.

As part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, we have a special retrospective Five Things this month. Today's post is with Naomi Novik, one of the founders of the OTW, a past board member, and a current staffer with the Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee. The following is an interview transcript which has been edited for length and clarity.

What was the first year of the OTW like? What do you remember most from it?

I don't remember the high points as well, I find that over time what I remember are the problems. In the beginning there was a lot of work we had to do to reassure people about what we were trying to do, such as that they weren't going to get into [legal] trouble, that there would be ways to give people control over their stories. The other piece that first year is that some people expected to see something 5 minutes after we formed! You know, where is the Archive? But it all takes time, there were a lot of growing pains you have when you're putting things together from scratch that the OTW has been left with. But my philosophy is to do the thing if you have the momentum, and it's better to have done something that was not perfect than to not have anything done at all.

There were certain ways in which a sustainable organization doesn't work on passion, at the same time that you want to be able to harness passion. I think we were struggling a bit with how to get an organization running but at the same time have it grow. A lot of the details are gone for me now -- I have a terrible memory for this sort of thing because once something is no longer my problem, I forget about it, it's just gone.

One example is figuring out Communications and what it was going to be like [for the OTW and as a committee]. [The early volunteers] were all on LiveJournal, and so regarding communications I thought that it would be just the newsletters we have, and then people from the organization posting on their journals and talking to other fans on an individual level. And it didn't work very well, and I wasn't involved myself, but I remember frustration that we weren't being very successful at doing what we wanted to do there.

I was more involved on the technical level, which we had plenty of disagreements about too. Because the question was do you design it first, to have everything the way you want it, and then you build it or do you just start building? And I feel very very strongly that we ended up doing it the right way. We really did just dive in and start building. Overall, I'm quite happy with the success of that strategy, and then later, we know it's imperfect and there's things it doesn't do, so that unfortunately you haven't served everyone as well as you could have. It's a trade-off to having an archive.

I do think, fundamentally, it was the right call, and we are not, by far, the first organization that had to make that call. There are many different ways to make that call and we could have done it in a better way. Now the cost of that strategy has to be paid over a long time. But what matters most to me is that we made something. And the work is being done to get it to a sustainable place. At the beginning there was a very propulsive sort of drive to establish something and to get it running.

What do you see as the major turning points of the OTW during its ten years?

We had a huge advantage at the beginning, which is that we started with a small group of people who mostly all knew one another. Me, [current OTW Legal staffer] Rebecca Tushnet and [current Transformative Works & Cultures staffer] Francesca Coppa knew each other, and the other first Board members were in relatively close geographical proximity to one another, so we could get together face to face and discuss things. That was a big help. But we also had enormous expertise in the early group -- legal, academic, pro writing, technical experts. The people on the first board were the lynch pins of their respective committees. So it was a small group that could work together closely and develop things quickly in their own areas.

For a while in the middle of the OTW's growth we fell away from that. Being on the Board is a tough job and it takes an enormous amount of time to do the work well. I have done it well and have also done it poorly. It's not entirely, but is largely, based on how much time you have to offer, as well as the people you work with, and whether you can communicate with them effectively and whether there's a level of personal trust among you.

I feel there was a terrible low point that we went through. There was a middle wave; there's been research done on this process among non-profits that shows that what the OTW went through is a common pattern. There is a visionary founder, or team of founders, who bite off much more than they can do. That approach leaves a lot of loose ends. The people who are then recruited and pulled in because of the vision that the founders established see the problems with what was done or with what is happening, but they feel frustrated because they may not have the access to the founders or to ways of solving the problem. So then things turn antagonistic on either a personal or organizational level. So the OTW then had lots of people running for the Board being against what was happening to the Board.

So while things aren't going well and the Board isn't doing everything great, at the same time the people on the Board know a lot about what's going on in the organization because there have already been discussions and arguments that led up to that point, they've been there, and know the reasons for why things are happening. But there's no trust anymore and the Board as a group has gotten dysfunctional. And we have had several dysfunctional Boards.

Then you have the third wave who are happy doing their thing within the OTW and don't necessarily want to be on the Board. But they've seen the problems, they've come up in the organization and have seen what is going on at the top. And even though they'd rather just be able to keep doing the work that they've been doing, they feel they have to step up and fix this situation we've found ourselves in. That's the kind of Board we have now, and that's a good place. The OTW got through those growing pains, which is important because there are a lot of organizations who don't make it through that period, through those transitions.

In the beginning the contrast was, we had lots of disagreements but it was a foundation when everyone knew each other and respected each other's skills and knew of one another before ending up on the Board. That can be good but it also creates insularity. Those first few years were about just vrooom -- anything you wanted to try, you just tried. There wasn't anything that stopped you. There was nothing there yet so you just created something.

So in the beginning you didn't have people already doing things a certain way that then would all have to be changed -- you can't do that to people and disrupt their work and processes in that way. Especially on the coding side, that's an enormously creative period in the beginning where you're just creating. And in general, many people like to build new things and do not like to maintain old things, technology-wise. So at the beginning it's much easier. We all got our hands dirty. None of us had ever worked on anything the scale of what the OTW is now and we were just figuring it all out. For some people it is stressful having to start something, but for others it also is to maintain and grow it.

During your time with the OTW, what have you personally achieved that you feel the most proud of?

The Archive of Our Own is there, just, it exists. On a meta level, when I first made the post about building an archive, I wasn't thinking of it as something I would do. I even said it was something we needed and if someone else would do it then I would help them. But then I saw that no one was volunteering, and I had a moment, I remember this moment, knowing that setting this project in motion would be an enormous time sink, and an emotional sink, and that it would have opportunity costs for the rest of my life. But I did it anyway.

That original discussion generated a certain momentum, and we needed to build on it right away. There's one moment when you can take an idea to the table, and if you miss it, it's going to collapse, it's not going to be a thing at all. At the time I made that post I did it because I was mad and I believed it, I believed we had to do something. It's that whole cliche 'You have to be the change you want to see in the world.' And so I went to Rebecca and Francesca and said 'we're going to do it, but I can't do this without you.' And they said 'alright, we're in.' We'd had conversations before about the problems we wanted the OTW to address and this was the time to do something.

What do you see as the role of the OTW now and do you think that's changed since it began? How might it change in the next 10 years?

The #1 thing that I feel like the OTW has now that it didn't at the very beginning was the role of maintaining things, such as keeping the AO3 up and functioning. And now the Archive, and Fanlore too, but Fanlore is much easier to keep up. It's not easier to grow it, but just to keep it from falling down it's easier. Even the AO3 is hard to grow over the next 10 years just because you need to bring it up to a modern technical level. There should be discussions going on, and I expect there are, about version 2.0 of the Archive. But the AO3 should not look the same 10 years from now, and we need to start thinking about that plan [of how to get there] now rather than later.

We took a responsibility on and I know that -- even during the darkest moments of the Board where I literally thought that the entire tech staff would quit and there would be no one to run AO3 -- that what kept people on [as volunteers] even though there wasn't any kind of good resolution to the problems, it was the inertia of not wanting to drop the ball. There can come a time where there can be too high a personal cost in continuing to work on our projects, but if it requires me [personally] to keep working on it then it's not going to survive anyway. I could not be the one responsible at that stage of my life to continue the maintenance and development of what we had started. I had a small child, my life was changing. And I actually had tried to have conversations with the Board, which was difficult, that if you don't trust the staff to know what to do and to have the room to make those things happen then the project isn't going to survive. There's just a few people keeping it up, and there still are only a few people doing that work, but now there are contractors involved to help move us forward and a process for making the Archive more maintainable.

We all need to gracefully agree and also gracefully fail. And there can be a day when the lights don't come on. There could be a day when we can't afford to keep it running but we keep the stories available for download and provide the data so that someone else can take it on. It's the same thing that Open Doors is trying to save us from, that there are sites that just shut their doors, bye, all your work's gone. [The website] iMeem did that to [fans who were] vidding. Just one day, oh we're not going to host vids anymore. I feel very strongly that we have an obligation not to do that, that's the mission, that the #1 thing the OTW has to do. And I feel that it's happening [that we're keeping things going and maintaing them] so I'm happy with that.

I also feel that legally we're in a better place than we were which is great, and I'm really proud of everything that the Legal Advocacy team has accomplished. It's been amazing to see their victories. I feel like the OTW has done a good job of preserving things too through Open Doors, that's something I'd like to see more focus on, preservation work. But the major thing to work on is also the next generation. Fandom is much larger now than it used to be so we don't need to get everybody, to have the OTW be something to every fan out there. But you do need to be in a place where the kids are at, there's not enough engagement with Wattpad for example. So I think we have people come to the Archive and want and expect things of it, and then go away without quite understanding what it's supposed to be.

One thing I don't want the OTW to do is to try and become hip and trendy and reinvent ourselves in order to try and do that. We want to be the library, the boring place but the one that everyone knows about, and it's there if you need it.

What has been the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Building the AO3. I love coding, I think it's enormously fun, just building and coding something. I love that, that's the best.


Now that one of our founders has said five things about what they've done, it’s your turn to add one more thing! How long have you known about the OTW? Do you use the different projects? How long have you been in fandom?

You can also check out earlier Five Things posts by some of our other volunteers.

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.

Five Things Naomi Novik Said

  • Sep. 13th, 2017 at 10:31 AM
Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

As part of our Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said series, we have a special anniversary edition with OTW co-founder Naomi Novik. She discusses its evolution during her 10 yrs volunteering for it: https://goo.gl/nJXJrY

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This Week in Fandom, Volume 62

  • Sep. 12th, 2017 at 12:45 PM
This Week in Fandom banner by Olivia Riley

This Week in Fandom: The author of My Immortal and her story, the Not Now I'm Reading podcast talks fanfic and AO3, and more: https://goo.gl/7YLw4h