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 Claire Baker, who volunteers as a member of the OTW Board.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
The OTW’s current Board members tend to wear many hats, and I am no exception. I co-chair the AO3 Documentation Committee (call us Docs!), wrangle tags in a handful of fandoms, do layout editing for Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), and also serve on our Board of Directors.
Docs and Tag Wrangling are both AO3 committees: Docs writes FAQs, tutorials, and other user-facing help documentation, and Tag Wrangling sorts the tags users put on their works so that all the works about the same topic (fandom, character, pairing, etc) can be easily found. With TWC, I’m on the production team: my job is to take articles that have been written and copyedited, and add html formatting.
The Board of Directors oversees everything, though this oversight works best when we have direct communication with those who will be affected by our work. As such, we end up meeting either synchronously or asynchronously with chairs and committee members on a regular basis. We’re aiming to build strong connections between us and each part of the OTW. And if we’re not, I hope the committees can lead us to understand how we better can do our job!
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
Like many people say in these Five Things posts, there’s no such thing as a typical week within the OTW. However, I do have a schedule that I like to follow when I can.
I often try to start my OTW day with some tag wrangling. This may involve sorting through new tags, spreadsheeting older ones, or double-checking that canonical tags for my fandoms are all in order.
After that, I’ll do some work for Docs. As a chair, this usually means looking at AO3 FAQs or tutorials that have recently been drafted, or documents that have completed our editing cycle and are almost ready for upload. Ideally, I’d look at one or more of these a day, but generally it’s a little less than that. We chairs rotate between regular administrative tasks, so I may also send out our weekly check-in or a reminder to our sister committees that works are open for external betaing. Chairs attempt to meet weekly and talk asynchronously around that, so in a typical week I’ve been in contact with both of my co-chairs, and we’ve likely discussed or done work on a bigger administrative task as well.
If TWC has a new issue coming up, I’ll spend a couple of days applying html to articles in order to get them publication ready, but that’s not necessarily in a typical week; my job is only needed a couple of times per year.
And then there’s my Board work. The most regular part here is voting. As soon as a request comes in, we will look into the issue, discuss it as needed, and vote. Voting happens asynchronously, and we are usually able to respond within 48 hours. Meetings are very much of a Board reality, and so chances are that I’ve scheduled or am scheduling one during any given week. (And on the weeks when Board does not meet, I will likely have a meeting scheduled with one of my other committees.) Outside of that, I try to put in an hour on Board documentation somewhere in my day —- either looking over existing pages, or drafting missing documentation. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’ll keep on studying, asking questions, and working with others to build a deeper understanding for myself, and hopefully a better OTW for everyone.
Board members hold the only elected positions in the OTW. What made you decide to run?
The short answer is that I’m a nerd who loves the OTW and wants to see it become the best it can be. The long answer’s a little more complicated, if no less heartfelt.
I fell in love with the concept of the OTW the moment that I was introduced to it in 2012. I fell in love with the people when I started volunteering in 2014. I was happy to do various tasks and to lend an opinion when needed, and I built a reputation of being a good person with strong leadership skills somewhere along the line. Meanwhile, I was witnessing transition: Docs went from a workgroup to a committee, the OTW adopted a new internal communication platform, and the Board itself went through a changing of the guard. Through all of that, I learned how great (and complicated) the OTW could be, and how much I valued it as a place of work.
By 2017, I was the third-longest serving member in Docs, and had gained a breadth of experience through mentoring new staff, taking on new roles within the OTW, and generally being an active participant in our volunteer community. When Elections and the Board started running opportunities to learn more about candidacy, I found myself participating there too.
In all honesty, I originally expected to wait one more year to have that much more knowledge under my belt, and so I could run alongside a friend who didn’t quite qualify for candidacy. However, there was a need for more candidates for a fair, contested election, and I knew I had the time and skill set needed to serve the OTW well, so I put my name up for consideration.
Now, I wouldn’t take back that decision for anything. I work alongside people I think of as great role models, and learn more from them every time we talk. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about the OTW as a whole as well, and really do enjoy both the joys and challenges that come with helping the entire organization move forward smoothly. My hope now is that I can help foster the next generation of people to join our ranks, whether as new volunteers or new board members, and make the OTW an even better place for the fan community at large.
What are things you think fans probably do and don’t understand about the OTW Board?
When I was new to the OTW, there was a lot of wariness about Board, and a pretty strong Them vs. Us mentality. We’re working on breaking this down, but it takes a lot of time and effort to build, earn, and maintain trust.
The Board exists to make sure that we’re all on the same page, and that we’re doing what we need to still be around for years to come. If there’s something coming up that we need to be prepared for, like GDPR, we’ll make sure that the necessary conversations are happening. If AO3 needs more servers, we’re here to make sure that those needs are acknowledged and met. Otherwise, we’re happy to talk about our favourite characters and ships and take part in a wide variety of fannish activities, just like everyone else here.
What fannish things do you like to do?
I’m a cosplayer. I entered competitions in my first few years of cosplay, and won an award or two, but have since found that I prefer doing it a little more casually. I also run panels at conventions, and often end up coordinating panel and cosplay schedules alike for the group that I’ll be attending with. Really, there’s nothing better than spending a weekend with your friends, talking about your favourite fandoms while you’re all dressed as characters from them. It’s a lot of fun, and well worth the effort.
I also write fanfic and RP, and love sharing headcanons with my friends. Somehow this led to becoming a regular beta for a few of them, which I love. Being able to look at their works before anyone else is an absolute treat, and if I can help make their works stronger before they’re published, all the better.
Most of my writing these days is for gift exchanges. I have a habit of running three or four small gift exchanges simultaneously, and participating in several more. I’m also a serial pinch hitter, and will do my best to make sure everyone has something to look forward to when gifts are revealed.
My other love is for the academic side of fandom. I’m building up a small library of books related to the subject, and would love to get a Masters or PhD in fan studies one day. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my time as an independent scholar.
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.