10 years of AO3

Ten Years of AO3: Michele Tepper

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 (buffistas.org) 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!

10 years of AO3

Ten Years of AO3: Matty

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!

10 years of AO3

Ten Years of AO3: james_

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. Read More