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 SoyAlex, who volunteers as a staffer at Fanlore.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
Part of OTW’s mission is to “preserve the history of fanworks and fan cultures”, which is exactly what Fanlore tries to do. Documenting what fan history I know, and helping other fans do the same, is something that really appeals to me, which is why I ended up volunteering.
Fandom is huge and multilayered, complex and incredibly rich. It’s also forever changing and unfortunately fleeting. One of the saddest things for me, when it comes to contemporary fandom, is that it shines bright, burns hot, and quickly forgets. Those fans who remember don’t always want to share their experiences, because they either don’t consider themselves “experts”, or they don’t think their personal experiences aren’t representative of the rest of their fandom.
I suspect they simply don’t realize that no side of fandom is too small to put on Fanlore, no personal experience too minor to document. You could say that my personal mission, to go along with the OTW’s and Fanlore’s, is to try and convince every fan I come across that they have something to contribute to Fanlore. I’m happy to report no restraining orders have been filed against me. Yet.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
This is a difficult question to answer, because no two weeks are alike when you volunteer at Fanlore. One thing every week has in common is the weekly Fanlore meeting on Sunday. Other than that, things are always changing. Every week, we deal with different email inquiries that come in, and edit Fanlore. One week, I might be dealing with an Identity Protection case. Some other time, I might be adding news items to the main page.
We are always trying to improve the Fanlore experience for casual and regular editors. We might do this by redesigning the most frequently used pages, reviewing and editing the policy pages, or answering questions in the Talk pages.
There are weeks where I write up entire pages on fandoms I’m familiar with, or craft and rewrite policy pages to make them more clear, or create new templates to make other editors’ lives easier as they edit Fanlore themselves. And there are weeks were I edit a typo on an obscure page and show up at the weekly meeting and that’s the limit of my contribution. It’s what I appreciate a lot about volunteering at Fanlore, it’s incredibly flexible, but no matter what amount of time I am able to put in, it’s always incredibly rewarding.
What has your volunteering path been like in the OTW?
For a very long time, I was vaguely aware of the OTW. Like many people who use AO3 on a daily basis. I knew OTW had projects beyond the Archive, but I’ve never actually went out to find them. I stumbled upon Fanlore with no prior knowlegde of it and quickly fell in love. It did help that Fanlore had little to no information about the fandom I was super passionate about at the time. I became an “editor”, which is basically anyone who creates an account on Fanlore (it’s super easy!) and starts editing the pages and contributing to Fanlore. Fanlore is like the AO3 in that way: every bit of information, anecdote, link, or comma is there because someone took the time to add it. It’s not something the OTW creates, it’s something we host.
Anyway, it was the end of the year and I had a lot of time on my hands, so in a very short period of time I had added a lot of information (like, A LOT) and my Fanlore activity caught the attention of a Fanlore gardener. One thing lead to another and I found myself a newly named gardener. I wasn’t really sure what I was signing up for, but it turned out gardeners are simply editors who decide to become official volunteers, willing to spend a little more time on Fanlore, to keep it from getting too messy. Like Tag Wranglers on AO3, gardeners have extra permissions allowing them to do more magical things. I did have to get the glitter on my own though…
A couple of months later I saw a post saying that the Fanlore Committee was looking for staffers and I decided to apply. I mean, I already had the glitter, and taking a little more administrative position appealed to me. It came with even more shiny Fanlore permissions and the ability to influence Fanlore policies (one more step towards world domination, who could say no to that?).
I sometimes joke that me being a Fanlore staffer was fate, because of all the weird timing. Soon after I became more committed to Fanlore with my new shiny gardener permissions, the Fanlore Committee opened recruitment. And when I had to take a couple of months off due to real life and work, the moment I started considering coming back, I got an email from the Committee chair asking if I wanted to come back. Timing is everything, they say. And in my case, the universe clearly wants me to volunteer at Fanlore.
Do you have a favorite page or topic at Fanlore?
There are Fanlore editors who dedicate themselves to documenting the past. And while I sometimes do that as well, editing older fandoms or adding old favorite fanworks, what I love the most is contributing to pages of my fandoms du jour. I started my Fanlore adventure editing the heck out of the Vampire Diaries and The Originals categories, because that’s what I was passionate about when I joined. Now, I try to add as much as I can to the Critical Role fandom pages, because that multiplatform insanity needs to have its history preserved.
I love the Trope pages, mostly because it’s incredibly interesting to see what different fandoms come up with, and looking at all the fics with all kinds of tropes. Let’s just say I will never hurt for fics. There’s always something interesting to find on Fanlore. I love losing myself in the long detailed pages, and I want to hug every tiny stub that needs all the love. Every single page is shiny for me. Don’t ask me to choose a favorite…
What fannish things do you like to do?
I’m a lurker at heart. I love reading fanfics and long complex meta. Oh man, there’s nothing that compares to my love for fandom meta. I could read it all day every day.
I had a phase of watching fanvids, but nowadays I’m back to reading. And on days when I spend way too much time adding content to Fanlore, I think of myself as the fandom research librarian. My Fanlore bookmark folder is endless, full of things I want to add to the wiki. I don’t think it will ever be empty, there are so many cool things fandom makes and does… And I get to witness it all!
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.