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 Ariana, who volunteers a staffer in our Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee and as the Senior Technical Staffer in our Open Doors Committee.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
As a volunteer coder for both Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee (AD&T) and Open Doors, I mainly help with the OTW’s aim of preserving fan history. In my twenty-odd years of online fandom, I’ve seen many works and sites disappears and it’s very satisfying to be able to do my bit to ensure that this happens less frequently in future.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
Because I have both children and a full-time job, I have to fit my OTW duties in around my “real” life. As a general rule, I will spend several hours at the weekend and at least one or two hours in the evening working on OTW projects, as well as attending the weekly meeting for AD&T and, when I can, the Open Doors one which is a bit late in my timezone.
Fortunately, as I’m a software developer in real life too, I can also sometimes sneak in code reviews, research, or a bit of coding at work without anyone thinking it odd — as long as I remember not to actually open the Archive or any of the sites Open Doors is importing! Conveniently, we use a lot of the same tools at work too, including the messaging app used by the OTW, which means I’m able to keep in touch with other volunteers to ask or answer questions and keep track of any major projects we’re working on.
Have you recently worked on any particularly interesting or challenging projects?
My main focus over the last couple of years has been to create a sustainable pipeline to import archives rescued by Open Doors into the Archive. This has involved adding a mass import API to the Archive and a generic website that Open Doors can use to feed external data into it. There are also a set of scripts that adapt the contents of the rescued archives to the format needed by the generic website. The main challenge now is how to process the variety of old archives with those scripts; since every site is different, importing each one is still a lot of work and we’ve recently recruited more technical volunteers to help with this. The aim is to make importing archives as painless as possible so we can provide a home to all the sites whose owners ask us to add them to the Archive.
What’s the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
Perhaps the most useful thing about volunteering for the OTW has been learning software engineering; when I started out as an AD&T coder six years ago, I only knew a bit of theory and some HTML, and now I’m a Principal Software Engineer for a big multinational company!
In a way that’s been fun for me, too, because I love computing, but I think to be honest that the most fun aspect of volunteering has been meeting the people I volunteer with. Over the last few years, I’ve made a lot of friends, some of whom I even meet in real life on a regular basis! It’s great to be able to share anything with a group of people who, though they are scattered across the globe, tend to share my fannish, geeky and open-minded views on things.
What fannish things do you like to do?
When I can squeeze a bit of free time, I love to write stories. Most are quite short, but every few years, I’ll embark on something long and rambly: my current WIP is over 100,000 words and has been going for nearly two years now! I’ve always enjoyed making up stories in my head and imagining how the characters from some book or TV show might behave in a given situation. Thanks to the feedback of various betas over the years, I’ve improved a lot as a writer — rather as I’ve improved as a coder!
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.