Alex Tischer 2015 Q&A: Other Questions, Group 2

Can you say something positive about three of your fellow candidates?

I can say lots of positive things about my fellow candidates. I’ve worked with Kati and Aline in Translation for over a year now, and with Lady Oscar just a little bit shorter in Support.

Kati is an amazingly prolific podficcer; how she juggles work on the Translation and Abuse committees with participating in podficcathons I don’t know, but she manages and manages brilliantly. She’s also Finnish, wonderfully laconic, and always happy to confirm any Scandinavia and the World stereotypes you throw at her. (Ask Kati about her puukko sometime.)

Aline will tell you she is culturally predisposed to procrastinate, but she always follows through on any job she says she’ll take on. She can keep a clear head in any situation and will not let frustration and anger cloud her judgment in any way. In addition to all that, she’s one of my favourite sources for badwrong!recs.

Lady Oscar is a fountain of knowledge about the Archive. There’s nothing too obscure she doesn’t know about. She answers such a massive amount of Support tickets while at the same time manning the testing team nearly on her own, it’s unbelievable. And she likes aardvarks!

I feel bad for leaving Matty out, because there are so many good things to be said about her, but this was only supposed to cover three, so there you have it.

A lot of the current problems seem to come back to a lack of scalability, especially with the massive growth of the Archive. A) What are your short-term plans to make this growth spurt work, B) What are your long term plans to avoid this problem in the future, when there’s another massive increase (of traffic, users, and/or fanworks etc.), a.k.a what structural changes would you strive for to make the OTW, and especially the Archive more sustainable.

I think to answer this question we have to draw a clear distinction between the Archive and the OTW first. I am not aware of any specific scalability problems concerning the OTW itself. The Archive is another matter, but dealing with those problems is not the Board’s job. That lies in the hands of AD&T, the committee that maintains and develops the Archive, as well as Support, Abuse and Tag Wrangling, each of which deal with the workload increase in its own way, like recruiting for more people, creating clearer guidelines, finding better tools, improving internal workflows and so on. From what I’ve seen in my role as liaison to AD&T, the problem of keeping up with a project of this scale from a coding perspective is something they are well aware of and working on. They have just recently received permission to hire a contractor to work on major improvements, which should help immensely with tackling a number of issues that have been waiting for someone with the time to handle for a while. Now that this proposal, which has been keeping the committee busy for a while, is dealt with, they will most likely focus on further steps to make the Archive more sustainable.

Whenever internationalisation is brought up in relation to fandom, I often hear the argument that it’s not needed yet, since there isn’t an “insert country/language/non-English fandom” presence in the OTW/on the Archive. Personally I feel like this is a chicken/egg situation. Is the OTW/AO3 so American/English language focussed because there isn’t enough of a non-English fandom interest, or is there no interest because there’s not enough non-American/English accommodation?

A) Where do you fall on this? What should come first?

B) If the next growth spurt is of a non-English, different fandom culture nature, how will you accommodate that?

I must be listening to different people, but I’ve never heard the argument that internationalisation isn’t needed, let alone that it isn’t needed because there’s no non-English fandom presence on the Archive. To begin with, there are fanworks in over 20 languages on the Archive, a good number of them in fandoms that do not have an English fandom presence. The FAQ have been translated in over 15 languages, and Support and Abuse answer tickets in roughly the same amount of languages, so international users are able to ask questions and get instructions a little more every day.

Having a more international org and making the Archive more useable for international users are things that we already strive for, and I’m certainly not proposing we stop any time soon. I can pretty much guarantee that the day the translatable interface is finally a possibility arrives, Translation will have it translated and double betaed in at least five languages within the first week.

With regards to the actual question, I don’t see how deciding what should come first will do any good. Fandom develops mostly without outside planning or control. The OTW is not Fandom’s guiding light, and it’s not meant to be the be-all end-all of fandom. We’re just a small part of it, and we’re doing our best; there are countless fans out there who’ve never heard of the OTW, and countless other archives that I hope will continue to thrive. Fandom being so plural is part of what makes it brilliant..

We don’t (and shouldn’t) try to direct fandom, we are here for when it wants to come our way. And while we do that, we will continue to work every day to make the org more international and the Archive more useable for international users.