OTW Signal

OTW Signal, October 2020

Every month in OTW Signal we’ll take a look at stories that connect to the OTW’s mission and projects, including legal, technology, academic, fannish history, and preservation issues that are important for fandom, fan culture or transformative works.

In the News

Although many organizations have their own version of this day on different dates, the September 4th Open Source Day celebrated by the non-profit AnitaB.org caught our attention because of its focus:

Open Source Day is an opportunity for women of all skill levels and backgrounds to collaborate and make a big impact by creating code that benefits the global community. The goal of OSD is to promote Open Source contributions by women in tech.

You may have noticed that the first line of AO3’s Terms of Service states “Our software is open-source and available for others to use if they wish to implement the code elsewhere.” Or how at the bottom of each page at the AO3 you can find links to code commits and its General Public License under the “Development” header. The Archive of Our Own began development in 2008 as an open source project and early celebrations pointed out the role of women in creating it. The OTW’s commitment to Open Source is tied to its commitment to the openness of fandom, the sharing of fanworks, and fandom’s non-commercial nature.

The OTW’s relationship with open source is a little unusual. While AO3’s codebase has always been open source, our developers haven’t traditionally been from the broader open source community, but rather from the fandom community and our user base. For the longest time, it wasn’t even particularly feasible for people outside the OTW to contribute to the codebase: our documentation was kept on an internal wiki, inaccessible to non-volunteers; we only offered development environments to volunteers, which made it more challenging and time-consuming to start working on code; and becoming an official volunteer to access these resources required a level of commitment that not everyone wanted to make.

We’ve made some pretty big advancements in those areas over the past few years though. A quick check of the release notes tag on the AO3 news page will show lots of first-time contributors this year, almost all of whom are non-OTW volunteers. (However, whether they were already familiar with us because they’re fans and AO3 users or if they just found us through the open source community, we can’t say.) So we have reason to celebrate both our own history of female-led software development, as well as our participation in the wider open source movement.


A team of library researchers from San Diego State University are conducting research on fanfiction platform functionality and metadata preferences. They are doing two surveys as part of that research — one for fanfiction consumers, and one for fanfiction creators.

You must be at least 14 years old to take either survey. Participation is voluntary, and will not impact your relationship if any with San Diego State University. This study involves answering questions about your fanfiction platform preferences in the areas of discovery, application of metadata to fanfiction, and creator/consumer interactions from either the perspective of a creator or a consumer of fanfiction. Each survey undertaken will take approximately 8 minutes to complete, and is the expected extent of your participation in this research.

The opening page for each survey provides more information regarding the study as well as contact information for the researchers. Participation is voluntary and anonymous and the results will be published in an academic journal. You can also visit their Twitter account to reach them regarding the survey.

OTW Tips

Are you interested in contributing to the OTW’s fannish history wiki, Fanlore, but feeling unsure about how to use wiki markup to format your edits? Good news: Fanlore recently updated its Cheatsheet for editors! The Cheatsheet is a quick reference sheet that lists a number of common types of wiki formatting with examples of how to use them. The new and improved Cheatsheet is now more useful than ever, as it has added some formatting examples, removed others that are less common, and added more informative descriptions of what each listed type of formatting does.


We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or news story you think we should know about, send us a link. We are looking for content in all languages! Submitting a link doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in an OTW post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.