Recruiting for Fanlore, Abuse, and Translation

Banner by Erin of a close-up of Rosie the Riveter's arm with an OTW logo on it and the words 'OTW Recruitment'

Today, we’re excited to announce the opening of applications for:

  • Abuse Committee Staff
  • Wiki Committee Staff
  • Wiki Committee Design Specialist
  • Translation volunteers

We have included more information on each role below. Open roles and applications will always be available at the volunteering page. If you don’t see a role that fits with your skills and interests now, keep an eye on the listings. We plan to put up new applications every few weeks, and we will also publicize new roles as they become available.

All applications generate a confirmation page and an auto-reply to your e-mail address. We encourage you to read the confirmation page and to whitelist volunteers -(at)- transformativeworks -(dot)- org in your e-mail client. If you do not receive the auto-reply within 24 hours, please check your spam filters and then contact us.

If you have questions regarding volunteering for the OTW, check out our Volunteering FAQ.

Abuse Committee Staff
The Abuse Committee is dedicated to helping users deal with the various situations that may arise. We also handle any complaints that come in about content uploaded to the Archive of Our Own. The team determines if complaints are about legitimate violations of the Terms of Service, and what to do about them if they are; our major goals are to adhere to the TOS, to make our reasoning and processes as clear and transparent as possible, and to keep every individual case completely confidential. We work closely with other AO3 related committees such as Support and Content.

We are seeking people who can keep in close contact, be patient in rephrasing explanations, translate from fan-speak to English, make and document decisions, cooperate within and outside of their team, and ask for help when it’s needed. Staffers need to be able to handle complex and sometimes-disturbing content, and must be able to commit a sufficient amount of time to the team on a regular basis.

Applications are due 4th of November 2013.

Wiki Committee Staff
The Wiki Committee supervises Fanlore: we provide direction, write policies and help documents, promote the wiki, organise and support Gardeners, communicate with users, and keep the site running. We handle requests for support and complaints from users and do our best to help the Fanlore community grow.

If you like Fanlore and are interested in helping the site improve, you could consider joining the Wiki committee.

Applications are due 4th of November 2013.

Wiki Committee Design Specialist
The current design and skin for the fannish wiki Fanlore is partly a byproduct of other processes and considerations and we’d like to improve it. Our main concerns are usability and accessibility, but ideally it should be pretty, too. If you have experience with front-end web development and Web design and are interested in Fanlore, we’d be happy to have your help with this project.

Applications are due 4th of November 2013.

Translation volunteers
Translators and translation betas help make the OTW and its projects accessible to a wider international audience. We work on translating all sorts of content throughout the OTW and its projects: site pages, news posts, Archive FAQs, AO3 Support tickets, and any inquiry that reaches a committee or volunteer group in languages they can’t translate themselves. Most of our work consists of translations from English to another language, though we also need to do the reverse on some occasions.

If you are proficient in one language (or more!) other than English, if you enjoy working collaboratively, if you like having flexible deadlines that you set yourself, if you’re passionate about the OTW and its projects, and want to help it reach more fans all around the world, working with Translation might be for you!

Applications are due 4th of November 2013.

Spotlight on Abuse

Today, we’re doing a Spotlight on the Abuse Committee! Abuse is the committee that is responsible for responding to complaints about content uploaded to Archive of Our Own. We interviewed staffers Sherry and Joanne to spotlight their experiences working in Abuse. Sherry, who is the current Chair, has been on the Abuse committee for three years while Joanne volunteered during the last term. Some of their answers have been combined and edited for readability while others have been left in their original format to reflect Sherry and Joanne’s unique experiences in the committee.

What are the most common complaints you get?
Sherry and Joanne: The most common problems are plagiarism cases and inappropriately warned stories. [We also] receive complaints about incorrect tagging, inappropriate content (advertisements, thank you notes, requests for fanworks, meta, etc.) Harassment via comments, dog-piling and attempted intimidation are also issues we face and continue to investigate.

What kind of complaints do you receive now that you didn’t in the past?
Sherry: More recently we’ve seen an upswing in complaints regarding inappropriate content – not spam, but meta. Those who are in favor of meta inclusion are deeply committed to it; those who dislike meta are equally vociferous. This issue is being debated by quite a number of people involved with the OTW and the discussion is likely to go on for some time. We try to follow the Terms of Service in making our decisions, but as the ToS evolves over time, there will be new rules and possibly new outcomes to these cases. For now, we’re chiefly concerned with responding to complaints about meta that has no fannish content — that, at least, seems a clear issue.

Joanne: The newest type of complaints that have been coming up are ones about fan playlists. So authors are posting a link to a torrent site to download a playlist they’ve made for their fandom. It is an issue which we’ve been asked to look at more closely over the upcoming months: authors can link to a legal playlist on the web but they can’t link to an illegal download.

How have the problems changed from the time you started with Abuse to now?
Sherry: I’ve been with the Abuse team for three years (three years! How did that happen?) under two Chairs before becoming Chair myself. Anyway, when we began, there were virtually NO Abuse cases…imagine that! We had boilerplate responses ready to go, expecting all sorts of complaints about underage participants, advertising spam and protests from published authors about fans appropriating their characters (we called that the “Anne Rice” issue). But really — virtually none of the above happened (I think we got one “cease and desist” and turned it over to Legal).

Are there any specific patterns you’ve noticed as fandom evolves and takes on new kinds of fanworks and new forms of presenting fanworks?
Sherry: The first recurring trend was plagiarism – and we still see that today, sometimes unintentional, sometimes blatant. Even more common than that were cases of mislabeled warnings (calling a work gen when it’s slash, saying no Archive warnings apply when there is major character death, and the like). Both of these issues are recurring ones, complaints we see all the time. It seems plagiarists are getting more arrogant — or lazy — every day. Over the last month we’ve received a half dozen complaints where someone took a story in one fandom, stripped the names and inserted characters for a different fandom, and then posted it intact — sometimes under the same title. We find it amazing that they don’t expect to be caught: “Oh, no one will ever notice!” Really? On the internet?

Final thoughts: is there anything you’d like to tell Archive users?
Sherry: One of the most important phrases in the Terms of Service, the one we seem to quote a lot these days, is this: “You understand that using the Archive may expose you to material that is offensive, erroneous, sexually explicit, indecent, blasphemous, objectionable, or badly spelled.” The point is this — a number of complaints are really just one person disliking what another person has written; it’s not Abuse’s job to remove the works, notes, comments or tags they don’t like! As long as authors abide by the Terms of Service, we will support them.

Joanne: If you’re in doubt then email anyway, the worst that happens is that we tell you we can’t do anything.

Spotlight on Abuse

The Abuse Committee is a new OTW committee dedicated to fielding the complaints that come in about content uploaded to the Archive of Our Own. We determine if complaints are about legitimate violations of the Terms of Service, and what to do about them if they are; our major goals are to adhere completely to the TOS, to make our reasoning and processes as clear and transparent as possible, and to keep every individual case that we work with completely confidential.

One of the inherent problems of having a committee called “Abuse” is that it’s easy to make suppositions about what such a committee will do and how its work will impact others. We welcome the chance to work with you and demonstrate our commitment to transparency, confidentiality, and equitable treatment. With that in mind, perhaps it would be good to demystify our efforts and bring a little attention to what it is we are doing back here (not in the shadows!) as we get ready to come out of closed beta.

Some Information About Accessibility.

One of our chief objectives is to make sure everyone using the Archive can approach us and feel comfortable doing so (and we remind you that it is always possible to report abuse on the Archive anonymously). For that reason we work closely with the Translation Committee. While we as team members carry out our roles in English, there’s a Translation team working hard to ensure that “fandom on the Archive” does not just mean “English-speaking fandom.” As the multi-lingual Archive grows, so will the need to handle complaints in other languages. We’re delighted that the scope, and the list of languages, in which we can operate is growing. As of this date, working in conjunction with Translation, we currently can handle complaints received in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and Italian. (It is our hope to work toward an even more multilingual committee — Volunteers is always looking for more translators and committee members, so let them know if you are interested.)

Our Privacy and Conflict of Interest Policies.

Of fundamental concern to the Abuse Committee is your privacy, both when making a complaint and/or if you are the subject of one. If and when a complaint in another language is received and we are unable to translate it ourselves, we will seek the assistance of other OTW staff members. But be assured that any OTW staffer involved in an Abuse case must agree in advance to be bound by the Abuse Committee’s complete confidentiality policy. Moreover, in keeping with OTW’s organization-wide conflict of interest policy, Abuse committee members will only be involved in cases where we can be fair and unbiased. If we are already personally involved in a case or could be reasonably assumed not to be impartial, we will recuse ourselves and let other committee members handle the complaint.

Our Commitment to Transparency.

One of the ways we’re planning to reach out to the community we serve is by releasing periodic reports on what the Archive looks like from our perspective. There will be at least one report a year. No individual case details will be included; rather, we’ll summarize overall trends (which clauses in the Terms of Service get invoked in complaints most often, for example, or how often allegations are upheld). We’ll also try to be as transparent as possible about our processes.

Who Are We, Anyway?

Some information on our committee makeup: We’ve tried to assemble a team of level-headed people not prone to drama and wankery, with solid backgrounds of decision-making and dealing with multifaceted issues and difficult situations. Each of us has participated in fandom for some time, and we come from a variety of fannish backgrounds. Some have terrific technical skills and some have participated as writers, artists, con-comm or con-attendees, avid readers and/or moderators of fannish communities. We represent a wide array of fandoms – literary, live-action media, anime, RPF – and so on. Our backgrounds may be dissimilar but our goals are the same: to deal with complaints fairly and promptly, and to keep all interested parties informed as we go along.

Abuse chair Elizabeth Yalkut: “I think of my work on Abuse as akin to a doctor’s – I’m trying to put myself out of a job, in a way, because I would love nothing more than to have weekly email threads and meetings that run like this: “What’s going on in the Archive?” “Really good fic over thataway, three new challenge signups, and we took in a new Open Doors collection.” “Okay! Dismissed!” I doubt that’ll happen much, for the same reason that doctors have ongoing careers: new people come in, accidents occur, new ideas of treatment emerge and viruses keep on mutating. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Every time we can fix someone’s cold, help someone resolve confusion about what the TOS requires, and yes I am stretching the metaphor _way_ too far, we’re doing good work. There’s a certain “gutta cavit lapidem” (dripping water hollows out a stone) feel to our work, and I am okay with that — I’m a professional optimist; I work in not-for-profit. I think we’re doing valuable work, and I think we are doing our best to do it as well as it can be done. I believe that the Abuse committee can work _with_ Archive users and respect users and be respected in turn.”

Committee member Sherry Nehmer: “One of the (only) benefits of being older than many of my fandom friends is that I’ve had many years to learn the value of being a straight-shooter. (In my non-fannish career my desk is known as the “No Bullshit Zone.”) But I’ve also learned over the years that one doesn’t have to be mean while being direct, a sense of humor is vital, and wankery is a useless waste of time. My objective is to use these skills to find out the basic truths of each complaint and recommend action accordingly. Something all of us on the Abuse Committee share is a commitment to fairness. Let’s face it; everyone has experienced fandom in all its good, bad and ugly moments. We’d like the good to outweigh the other options, because at heart people get into fandom for the love of it.(In a completely unrelated aside, I’m currently vying for the title of “Oldest Anime Fan Ever,” and hope to continue as a case of arrested development in all areas of fandom.)”

Committee member Franzi Dickson: “Having once run a list that exploded over a shota controversy (that’s “chan” to some of you not in animeland) and having had to handle the fallout, I am pleased to be able to help with this unpleasant but necessary aspect of the archive. That particular list explosion, like so many, was primarily due to people from totally different fannish backgrounds stumbling across one another’s community norms and recoiling in horror… And then coming back claws out and teeth bared! I’m on the Abuse team because I’d like to see less bloodthirsty forms of conflict resolution here.”

Committee member Marie Sobieski: “As a new recruit to the Abuse team, I admit I’m still learning the ropes. But with the launch rapidly approaching, it’s time to stand next to the whole OTW team as we pull on our waders and get ready for the coming tide. In joining the Abuse team, my goal is to serve fandom by utilizing the skills I’ve acquired as an archivist on large multi-pairing archives. I believe a great deal of internet drama and wankery is rooted in basic misunderstanding and miscommunication. By organizing early and working as a team, I believe Abuse can head off a great deal of these problems and prevent them from escalating. While it can’t always be rainbows and sunshine and kittens and love, we can at least do our best to tackle issues quickly, uniformly, and most important, courteously.”

We Are Part Of The Whole Archive Team.

We do want to emphasize that we are not the only team working to serve Archive users. The Coders are doing a fantastic job stomping out bugs so the experience is as smooth and intuitive as possible, and our Support team is there to answers questions about using the Archive and all of its gorgeous features. Abuse is more narrowly focused on the Terms of Service than general feedback, but be assured there are people in place to help you whether you want to report a TOS violation, a technical problem, or just have a general question or suggestion about the Archive. For right now, Support and ADT have the same contact form, but that will change by Open Beta.

Check out the links below to find out more about Archive policies and how to submit a complaint to Abuse. While we hope complaints will be rare, when they do occur we will do our best to act fairly and transparently.

LINKS

The Archive Terms of Service are the final authority on our policies. The FAQ for the TOS answers some — surprise! — common questions about those policies. You can report Abuse from every page in the Archive (please click on the link _on the relevant page_; that way, the auto-fill URL will be accurate), and the committee as a whole can be reached at our contact form.