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 Brian Austin, who volunteers as a coder for our Accessibility, Design & Technology committee.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
I’m a coding volunteer with the AD&T (Accessibility, Design & Technology) committee. We’re responsible for writing the software that runs AO3, including adding new features and squashing pesky bugs. We also test changes to the Archive’s code before they go live to users to make sure what we’ve written does what we expect it to, and doesn’t have unexpected side-effects.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
Most often, I will either be writing code or testing changes before they go out to the production version of the Archive.
When I write code, either to add new features or fix old bugs, I start by looking through the AO3 Jira backlog for issues that are high priority, involve familiar parts of the code, or just sound interesting. Once I’ve found something to work on, I’ll tinker around on my laptop until things are ready for another volunteer or community contributor to review and incorporate their feedback.
For testing, I start in the same place: Jira. I use a filter to find issues that need to be tested before they go out to the Archive and go through the steps issue writers have created to test the changes. Exactly what this looks like depends on the changes; one recent example involved creating a work with loads of pipes (|) to make sure the word count doesn’t include them.
I sometimes review code as well, both to help when the more senior folks are super busy and to learn more about how Rails (the web framework the AO3 uses) works.
What made you decide to volunteer?
I started out as a community contributor after a suggestion from a friend (the same one who got me into fanworks). At the time, I was looking to contribute to an open source project and do something a little bit different than the code I wrote at work.
After about a year of writing code as a community contributor – and submitting a design proposal for a feature I really wanted – Accessibility, Design & Technology co-chair sarken messaged me to ask if I would like to join in a more official capacity. I had been wanting to get more involved, so it was an easy decision!
What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?
In some ways, writing code for the AO3 is a bit different than in a corporate setting. For example, “spinning up a new service to do X” is not as easy when you can’t push a button in AWS and “magically” get more computing resources or another database. That has an impact on how some features get designed, but so far it’s been a fun way to push myself to think differently.
What fannish things do you like to do?
Read lots and lots of fanfic! I’ve bonded with several friends by sharing different fics, and I may have a slight problem with subscribing to many WIPs. I read works across several fandoms, but most consistently works that take Obi-Wan Kenobi and give him a big metaphorical hug because, wow, Legends is rough to that poor soul. Check, Please! also has a special place in my heart for getting me into fandom in the first place.
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.