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 Novic, who volunteers as a tag wrangler. This post was originally released in Chinese on the OTW's Weibo account and contained a little extra information. It is presented here in its original form as well as an English translation (thanks to our Weibo moderators!)
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
Everyday, large numbers of fanworks from every corner of the world, in different languages get uploaded to AO3 and they can be of any fandom, pairing and characters. AO3 is like a huge library that’s growing day by day and there must be a system to organize the works. We tag wranglers are just like librarians, using tags as the tools to categorize and manage the works published by the creators to make it easier for users to search and allow everyone to find the work they want to read easily. As a bilingual(English/Chinese) volunteer, I also translate Chinese tags into English to make it easier for other English volunteers to check.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
I assigned myself to a dozen fandoms of different sizes but there is no set work schedule. When I am busy with school, I will use my weekend time to do some wrangling work. When there is a wrangling party, I can also work while chatting with other volunteers. When it is not too busy, I will check in every evening to see if there are any new tags that need to be sorted. Last time I was off from school I was responsible for a hit Chinese fandom. In the beginning there were thousands of tags needing to be translated and wrangled. At that time I spent about an hour or more to work on that fandom. Overall, work as a tag wrangler is very flexible and I can adjust how much work I take on. There's not much pressure.
What made you decide to volunteer?
Before I became a volunteer, I was a reader and writer on AO3. I've always known the tagging system is very convenient but I never thought about how it all worked and didn't know about the existence of the tag wranglers. I gradually learned more systematically about the tags after OTW had a Weibo presence. I was very grateful for and admired the volunteers. I also believe, as a fan, working on things I enjoy can be a joyous experience, so I applied immediately when I saw the recruitment post.
What do you feel is the most often misunderstood part about your role as tag wrangler or tags on AO3 in general?
I think some users have some misconceptions of how tags work: they believe tags are rules and policies imposed by the site. In reality, tags are a tool for AO3 to be useful to the users, and the end goal is to make searching easier for us. With this goal in mind, there are suggestions on how to use the tags (like the tutorials posted by the Weibo mods for Chinese users). They are not compulsory, since tags are a part of the fanwork, technically there isn't the "right way" or the "wrong way" to tag, but there are ways to tag that "can better spread your work" and "make the searching experience better for fellow fans". I hope everyone can enjoy AO3 and other projects supported by OTW.
What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
There are lots! The most wonderful surprise is that I learnt the OTW volunteer base is such a huge network and I met a lot of interesting volunteers through our communication platform. We have chatrooms for all sorts of topics, tennis, craft, musicals, mathematics, accounting... You name it. From professional topics to hobbies, from art and literature related topics to things not appropriate for a young audience, we chat about everything! We are connected by our love for fanworks and the community and it's how we met. We talk about fandom news from around the world, share fanworks we like, the funny tags we saw, and sometimes even meet up in real life. I got to know a lot of lovely people after becoming a volunteer.
What fannish things do you like to do?
That would be reading fanfics. I read more works because of my volunteer work now. When I see an interesting tag when wrangling, I would click in there and read the whole story. (I often can't stop myself from reading a long story and totally forget I'm supposed to be working. XD) I sometimes write fanfics as well and enjoy brainstorming plots with friends.
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.
The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.