Kati Eggert 2020 Q&A: AO3 Features

[Note: In total, there will be 6 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. The candidates were limited to 300 words to answer each question, but they were allowed to rearrange and combine questions within a single post to more clearly express their thoughts. Candidate answers represent only the views of the individual candidate and are not endorsed by the OTW.

Due to a high volume of similar questions this year, many questions were merged and duplicate questions were left out. Other than this, questions appear in the form they were submitted. Questions represent only the views of the individual questioner and are not endorsed by the OTW.]

 

I’m blind and my screen reader works pretty well on the website. My question though was in what way do you plan to deal with accessibility if you are elected?

On the Archive of Our Own, the Accessibility, Design & Technology Committee (the “coders”) always take accessibility into account when they implement new features and ensure compatibility not only to current releases of commonly-used desktop/mobile browsers and e-readers, but also screen readers and other assistive technology. Users can customize their own site skins according to their specific accessibility needs or choose from a range of publicly available skins. Our essential features also work without JavaScript. You can read more about accessibility in the Archive’s FAQ. The Fanlore Committee is currently in the process of drafting accessibility guidelines for our fandom wiki and has just recruited a specialist for this task. Our OTW, Elections and Open Doors websites run on WordPress and are maintained by our Webs Committee. The Transformative Works and Cultures Journal uses the Open Journal Systems software. The Webs and Transformative Works and Cultures Committees ensure accessibility within the technical capabilities offered by those two platforms. I fully support all our Committees in their work on improving accessibility and to ensure consistent accessibility standards across the Organisation.

 

AO3’s legacy code is a critical Archive-wide problem preventing scalability of current functions (see: ban on new canonicals) and has been named a key factor slowing or preventing development of popularly-desired new functions (ex. blocking). Do you plan to address this? How? On what timeline/priority?

Our code is currently handling 50 million page views per day—tens of thousands of users in any given minute—with barely any performance problems or downtime. Most applications at my paid work do not run that smoothly! While we could and should look into expanding our use of contractors as well as continue to investigate our options with regard to deploying paid staff in critical positions, we will continue to rely on volunteers to maintain the Archive as well as program, test and implement new features as well as fix bugs. Our code might not be perfect, however, rewriting the code for the Archive (an idea that gets brought up often) would not automatically mean that we’ll get a new and shiny alternative that will include all features ever requested. It will also mean unprecedented cost, time and effort, new and unknown bugs and that volunteers from all committees doing Archive-related work will have to re-learn a currently familiar code.

We do not have a general “ban on new canonicals” on the Archive. Fandom-specific wrangling is going on every day, and in May alone Tag Wranglers have wrangled more than 375,000 tags! But there is a current block on canonizing freeform tags that are too generic to apply to a single fandom (“no fandom” tags). The reason for the halt of “no fandom” wrangling, however, is not our code, but the Tag Wrangling Committee working on improving wrangling guidelines and procedures.

 

https://www.transformativeworks.org/faq/ states “Our first goal is to create a…software package to allow fans to host their own robust, full-featured archives.” Do you believe it’s important to encourage diversification of fanfiction hosting on non-ao3 sites, or is the AO3 being the “juggernaut” archive an acceptable side-effect of its success?

I do not believe anyone expected a decade ago that AO3 would become one of the central hubs for fanfiction on the internet. It was, after all, founded as an anti-censorship archive for works that were not welcome anywhere else. We make our source code, as well as installation instructions, available on GitHub and I would prefer that fandom goes back to the more diverse landscape of specialized archives we had in the past. Different archives could better cater to the equally diverse needs of fans—for example, archives only for specific pairings or that do not allow certain controversial content like underage works.

 

What actions will candidates commit to in order to fight harassment on OTW platforms, including the AO3?

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Where would you rank adding contact moderation (ie blocking users) on your list of priorities, and why? If it’s low on your priority list, what anti-abuse actions are higher? If none are higher, why is that?

Out of our different platforms, harassment is mostly taking place on the Archive of Our Own, as it has the most user interactions. As a volunteer in the Policy & Abuse Committee for the last five years, I have experience in the new and innovative ways our users find to harass others on the Archive and how features that were implemented with the best of intentions can be abused. In the Organisation’s recent statement of Board, Chairs and Leads, to address the issue of racism on the OTW’s platforms, multiple features to combat harassment (for example turning off comments and a native block function) were announced along with a possible review of our current harassment policies. Prioritisation of those features, however, depends on the relevant committees according to the resources available. Board should focus on coordinating any cross-organisational solutions and support the committees in their work. Some of the proposed features, like the ability to turn off comments, will be easier to implement and might not need quite as much inter-committee coordination and cooperation. As previously addressed, every solution we consider has to be carefully investigated from all angles, otherwise features and solutions are meant to prevent harassment may end up creating new venues for harassment instead.

 

Do you see AO3 as being America-centric or international? If international, how do you propose to make AO3 welcoming and relevant to international users, rather than orienting it in response to American domestic politics?

I see the OTW as an international organization and the AO3 as an international archive. As already conveyed on my platform, further broadening the internationalisation of our projects and making them more accessible to fans worldwide is one of the goals I’m interested in pursuing as a Board member. At the Archive we already translate news posts, FAQs and tutorials, as well as tickets submitted to Support and Policy & Abuse, from and into dozens of languages. But that’s just a first step when it comes to welcoming non-English speaking fans. If we truly want to be an international archive, we also need to make the Archive’s interface itself available in other languages. Another crucial step is to always take a wide range of views from multiple backgrounds into account when discussing new features or any changes to the Archives Terms of Service or the related FAQs.

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