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 petricores, who works as a Support volunteer.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
I volunteer with the AO3 Support Committee, which is the team responsible for handling feedback and requests for technical assistance from AO3 users. In a nutshell, we answer a lot of questions and requests sent by users from all over the world.
Support work is highly collaborative work; we don’t have all the answers all the time, so we regularly rely on the expertise and information supplied by our coders, sysadmins, tag wranglers, and translators, to name a few.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
Out of an abundance of superstitious caution, I will refrain from characterizing a “typical” week – you just never know! Our queue of Support inquiries can go from perfectly ordinary with your run-of-the-mill “I can’t log in” tickets, to a hundred reports of the same error flooding in at once (like the DDoS attack from July). Waking up and checking our volunteering tools to find such incidents is like running towards the tree on Christmas morning to check your presents, but a bit less joyous.
Special occasions aside, I typically spend a few hours per week, usually on evenings or weekends, claiming Support requests and drafting replies to them. I also beta and provide feedback on email replies drafted by other Support volunteers, and help the Accessibility, Design & Technology Committee (AD&T) with testing fixes or improvements to the Archive’s features.
What made you decide to volunteer?
I applied for the role and had my interview in spring 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had shut everything down overnight. I was very lucky that the pandemic lockdown led to me having a lot of leisurely time on my hands, and as a result I was spending more time on reading/writing fics. When I saw the volunteer position posting, I figured why not apply and try it out? It’s funny, even though I created my AO3 account in 2013, I did not learn what the Statistics page is until I started training as a Support volunteer.
As luck would have it, I absolutely love what I do in Support. It has been a very rewarding experience. I could not have anticipated the increased amount of traffic and popularity that the Archive experienced from 2020 onwards, particularly among users from non-Anglophone countries. Even after 3 years I still think it’s so exciting and cool that I can help both English-speaking users and users who share my mother tongue to gain more out of their experience using the Archive as a bilingual person.
What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?
Due to the nature of the Archive and OTW’s operations, most of our activities must take place via text-based communications. I find the constraints of text-based communication to be the biggest challenge both when troubleshooting issues with AO3 users and when collaborating with other OTW volunteers.
I lean on my fellow Support volunteers heavily for beta reading and/or giving me suggestions on making my drafted reply easier to read and follow (especially if I need to give instructions to the user on what troubleshooting steps to try), especially since they are likely confused or frustrated already.
In a similar vein, learning people’s different communication styles within the OTW is also a key part of learning how to do this job well. As I said earlier, there is a lot of collaboration that goes into what Support does; as a volunteer, I’ve definitely had to train myself to get better at observing other volunteers’ communication style and adapting my own communication, and I do my best to communicate effectively to the specific audience via text.
What fannish things do you like to do?
I read, I write, I browse, I kudos, I squee, I comment, I re-read. I re-read stuff a lot.
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.