rodo's post few weeks ago prompted me to finally begin typing out some of the issues around OTW and AO3 I’ve been thinking on. The topic of how to fix OTW in terms of maintaining the volunteers it has and attracting more has been brought to forefront during last election, and a lot of thoughtful ideas have been going around focusing on different aspects of the org before and since. Apparently, even the board has finally begun their own conversation, even if it is behind closed doors for now.
Out of the discussions that are visible at least, some I agree with, others I don’t. One thing that is constant throughout all of these however, is AD&T (Accessibility, Design and Technology) committee which is currently the main decision point for almost everything related to AO3. Solutions are formed around its existing makeup, maintaining its fixed presence even though it sits at the heart of a cluster of structural issues. I think it is time to voice it however, that AD&T itself needs to be reformed and reorganized.
So rewind, who am I and what are my qualifications? My name is Eylul and I am a staffer at the Organization for Transformative Works. I joined OTW toward the end of 2009, shortly after the open beta, as a design and testing volunteer. I was part of the support subcommittee (before it became its own committee) and was involved in writing of its original training manual, I was the lead of the QA (Quality Assurance) subcommittee (which is also informally known as testing subcommittee) for 2010, and then I&O (Internationalization and Outreach) liaison of AD&T in 2011 before taking a break from the committee and nearly decided to quit the OTW altogether. I am currently an I&O staffer, and involved in the Survey and Category Change workgroups. Outside the organization I am a Fine Arts masters student starting her thesis. However I actually completed my undergraduate degree with double majors in Computer Science and Media Arts and Sciences, and done grad course work both in Computer Science and Arts. While I have made a career change away from tech field in general, I have work experience in customer support, and research experience in HCI (Human Computer Interaction).
What is the context? AD&T is short for Accessibility Design and Technology. From the name, it can be inferred that at the inception of the organization, it was meant to support many projects of the org that might have various technical needs. Except somewhere along the way AD&T became the AO3 committee in practice, solely limited to development of one project and none other. AD&T is also currently responsible for non technical aspects and issues of AO3. Decisions on strategic questions such as which features should be prioritized takes place within AD&T, even though such decisions would ideally take in more points of view. AD&T also coordinates decision-making on AO3 matters when other committees are involved. Not only all this is a huge burden on a single committee but it causes considerable conflict of interest between supporting volunteers of different roles, supporting users of the project and supporting OTW’s goals.
As it stands AD&T committee, which is almost exclusively formed of coders, wears several hats ranging from being the design process itself, to overseeing the AO3 project management, to supporting coders and testers, and to coordinating inter-committee issues related to the archive.
What do I propose? I think that the management of the AO3 as a software project, and management of technical resources of OTW needs to be completely overhauled, and propose following two changes:
- Dividing the current AD&T into 4 committees:
All of these will serve the whole OTW as needed instead of just AO3, similar to the way Systems and Translation committees currently work, although it is likely that some volunteers at least will have specific projects they prefer to focus on.
- Front-End Coding
- Back-End Coding
- To form an AO3 committee that will make the decisions on archive priorities and production that is based on advice and input from all parties, and coordinating the work from various committees.
Below, under the cut I will explain my reasoning for this proposal under several sections:
On first two sections, I will explain how separating committees based on skill resources from those focused on projects can benefit OTW and AO3. Then on the following three sections I will focus on four skill based committees, and how volunteers,the AO3 and the OTW will benefit from this new structure. Then I conclude with why this restructuring becomes more and more necessary as the AO3 matures.
( Accessibility, Design and Technology to All (Projects of OTW) )
( Archive Committee Rather Than AD&T: Dedicated Project Management )
( Design as its Own Committee )
( QA (Quality Assurance) as its Own Committee )
( Back-End Coding and Front-End Coding: Reforming Our Coding Process )
( AO3 as a Product versus Experiment )