Five Things Anh Phạm 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 Anh, who recently became a member of our Board of Directors.

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

Disclaimer: since being elected to the OTW Board in the summer of 2023, what I do now in September 2023 is quite different from what I did as an OTW volunteer previously. I imagine it will be an ever-evolving process, even after October.

I am a Fanlore Social Media & Outreach volunteer. Fanlore is an OTW project – a wiki with a mission of fannish history preservation that anyone can easily contribute to, run by fans and for fans. Our Social Media & Outreach team works with our in-house Graphic Designers to promote Fanlore on social media, particularly Tumblr and X/Twitter. I am also an Open Doors Import Assistant, whose tasks revolve around helping Open Doors volunteers with archive imports, such as searching AO3 for duplicate fanworks or manually posting fanworks from an archive backup to AO3.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m also one of the newly elected OTW Board members; training for the Board is still ongoing so I’m learning the ropes. From what I’ve seen so far, Board members take turns handling email duty – making sure that incoming emails are properly categorised and labelled depending on content and urgency – and sometimes we need to vote on certain requests. We also have meetings with committee chairs. The Board typically holds public meetings on Discord four times per year, with one specifically being after the election for Board turnover. At the moment of writing this, we are in the process of setting a date for our October meeting. I’m looking forward to attending, this time as one of the sitting Board members *wink*!

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

For Open Doors, depending on the period, we may receive both urgent and non-urgent tasks. On Sundays, my schedule is usually free enough for me to join one of our work parties – Open Doors folks agree to be online at the same time and chat while doing our tasks. During these parties, folks may ask for help with one thing or another; sometimes it’s just all chatting. At other times, I may help with searching for duplicate fanworks on AO3 when I’m available, typically on Monday evenings.

For Fanlore, we have several different rosters and deadlines for dividing tasks amongst volunteers. I often collect all the tasks I need to finish in a week and tackle them all in one or two evenings. In contrast to Open Doors tasks – which I can do sporadically in my free time – I find myself tackling Fanlore tasks more productively if I have a clear objective and deadline.

My typical week as a volunteer since September looks kinda like this, in no particular order:

  • Follow policy discussions on the internal chat tool
  • “Chat” with my friends about the OTW 🐧
  • If my schedule permits, attend the Fanlore meeting – complete some Fanlore tasks; attend one of the Open Doors work parties – complete some Open Doors tasks
  • Continue Board training
  • Socialise with my OTW friends, and help with tag translation on VoldeChat

What made you decide to volunteer?

I actually mentioned this in one of my candidate posts for the OTW 2023 election. I had wanted to volunteer for the Organisation since 2020, but the positions that interested me often caught me when I was in the middle of something. For example, I skipped at least 4 Tag Wrangling calls for volunteers because I was in the process of: being laid off, moving to the other side of the country, applying for new job(s), or more recently, running for Board!

Then, in 2022, Fanlore’s call for volunteers went out, and I really wanted to add OTW volunteering to my resumé. Welp, it all started because I wanted to show off some internet hobbies and volunteering (for a nonprofit founded in 2007 that has always been remote-work-based) on my job application. I also had a vague idea about trying to join the OTW Board of Directors in the future, preferably after one to two years of volunteering, so that I could give back to the Organisation. A letter of reference written with the official OTW letterhead™ signed by committee chairs had sounded cool af for my down-to-earth job application package, because fandom is such a big part of my life. Adding the OTW Board of Directors would have made it certified BAMF.

But life seldom works the way we imagine. Never would I have predicted that my plans would come to fruition so soon, with my original timeline out of the window since May. If my life was a ‘time travel ruin-it’ fic, I’d go back in time and smack my-2022-naive-self for even thinking that running for the OTW Board of Directors election was ‘cool’. Spoiler alert: it’s not, it’s not cool at all.

What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?

Nightmare. And I don’t mean it metaphorically, or rhetorically, or poetically or theoretically or any other fancy way. I had a nightmare about/during the OTW election, no joke. People would tell you that this is just volunteering work: you can commit what you can, how you can, and you can leave whenever if it’s too much, et cetera. But my lack of sleep is real, my exhaustion is real, my stressful weeks of watching something I’ve grown to love go up in flames – as long-standing problems within the Organisation reached a boiling point over the summer – is absolutely real. I’ve seen fellow volunteers, some of them my friends, share the same suffering. It baffles me that as a registered nonprofit for more than a decade, the OTW still lacks several necessary systems to protect our volunteers.

Again, I’m still learning the ropes around Board work, but I can sense the path to rebuild trust within the Organisation – between volunteers and people in leadership positions, as well as trust from outside user bases and members toward the OTW – is going to take time, effort, and be long and challenging. I also want to echo my previous discussion about Board work and how much a singular Board member can accomplish regarding structural changes within the OTW.

Fortunately, I’m not working alone; there are fellow volunteers and newly elected Board members who are trying to achieve change. I hope that, by being on the Board, I can help inspire and facilitate positive changes, plus maintain discussions and movements surrounding worthy causes, such as the racism issues within the OTW and improvements regarding transparency in both internal and external communication.

What fannish things do you like to do?

My friends often joke about me being a person who enjoys suffering creatively, several times over. I started drawing fanart in primary school, and I posted my first fanfic on a Manga-Anime forum when I was a teenager. I also dipped my toes in fan translation when I was in high school and started learning how to make fanvids/fansubs when I was a freshman in university.

Sadly, procrastination is my best-frenemy, so the only thing I can brag about nowadays is my privated-since-2015ish WordPress blog with nearly 1 million views, where I posted all my fan translations of C-novels and fanfic. I still translate fanworks on occasion, but I’m a byelingual – when you speak (more than) two languages but slowly lose vocabulary in all of them – so I either orphan-ed or anon-ed my translated fanworks on AO3.

I love crossover and crack/rarepairs, so I mostly create fanworks for these out-of-nowhere ships that nobody ships but me and two other people on [insert the social media platforms I use but stay between me and Cthulhu].

I love Fanlore though, especially the part about building and expanding Fanlore articles about my favourite characters and ships, or on very rare occasions – favourite fandoms. One thing I have to confess: I’ve ‘spite-edited’ certain article(s) on Fanlore 120+ times because it’s about something I love and I want to prop it to the sky and back. Now, I just realised that apparently my flickering self-restraint and my spiteful energy are the two major forces behind my motivation, and sometimes obsession, with certain things, welp.

Also, in case I haven’t made myself clear, I obviously love love LOVE reading fanfic. Please shower me with your crackiest crossover/rarepair fic recs, thank you. I and my Cthulhu bookmark keeper will be apocalyptically grateful.

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 the comments. Or if you’d like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

Five Things
  1. Muccamukk commented:

    I want to thank Anh for all their work so far, and that I’m looking forward to the board meeting. I’m really hopeful that Anh and the rest of the team will be able to make some positive changes.

    Sorry about the nightmares. I’ve had them too.

    • Anh Pham commented:

      Thank you Muccamukk, and sorry about the nightmares too. Cross fingers that I and my fellow Board Directors can make some positive changes and impacts.

  2. Oshgosh commented:

    That was a lovely read. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I hope you have more peaceful time of it.

    • Anh Pham commented:

      Thank you Oshgosh, it is very kind of you to say so haha *group hugs*