Natalia Gruber 2018 Q&A: Group 3

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

9. What is something nice that you can say about your colleagues that you’re running with/against?

Running with, definitely! Michelle and I first met and started talking after we found out we shared some fannish interests, and have been friends ever since. It is a pleasure to talk to them both to discuss fannish things and projects we might be involved with. They are organised and proactive, always willing to help, and I’m confident they would be a great addition to the Board of Directors.

I first ran into Ryan in one of our Membership Drives. As a member of our Development & Membership committee, he was quite busy at the time, and it was easy to see he was a committed and hardworking person. Since we started running together, I got to know him better and see how sweet and friendly he is. I would be delighted to work with him in the future.

Asking me to say nice things about Lex is almost unfair. Ever since he joined the OTW, he’s been one of my closest friends. We talk about all sorts of silly and serious things, and he’s been incredibly supportive of me whenever I needed him. Lex is kind and passionate, and always ready to listen to anyone in need. I know he’ll do his very best if elected, because he already does in all of his current projects.

Overall, I’m very happy with this year’s candidates, and I’m comfortable to say that whoever is elected will do a good job – my experience with all of my fellow candidates has been positive and I wish us all luck!

10. A frequent complaint in today’s fandom is that AO3 should be more restrictive with regards to its content, or offer users more ways to avoid content they don’t want to see. What do you think the OTW board’s role should be regarding this?

One of the jobs of the Board of Directors is to ensure that we as an organization are working in accordance to the OTW’s mission of protecting and preserving transformative fanworks. One of our earliest goals was to ensure that fanworks that might be in danger in other places of the internet could be safely archived. Restricting what kinds of content can be uploaded on the Archive of Our Own would go directly against our mission.

It is perfectly fair and understandable that people might prefer not to access certain types of content, but that doesn’t mean such content is in itself bad or shouldn’t exist and be available to those who wish to access it. We as an organization do not pass value judgements on content, but let each user choose for themselves what works they do and do not wish to access.

I do believe that it is important for people to be able to avoid content that is upsetting for them, and the committees involved in maintaining the Archive already do as much as possible to help users do so. There are extensive filtering options that can prevent people from seeing works containing themes they are triggered by, or published by users they are not comfortable reading.

I realize this isn’t a perfect solution. As a Policy & Abuse staffer, I would love to have an official blocking option to direct users to, but we don’t currently have the resources to make that possible. In the meantime, there are multiple userscripts that can be used to block and curate content on the Archive, as explained in the Unofficial Browser Tools FAQ.

11. If elected, would you consider making suicide an official Archive warning, since this can be massively triggering for many, many people?

No. It’s very understandable that suicide might be triggering for a large number of people. Unfortunately, I don’t believe adding Archive warnings is feasible or helpful.

AO3 already hosts a few millions works. Any plans to change the mandatory warnings need to take into consideration how that affects all existing works. We don’t have enough volunteers to review and respond to reports on existing works for a new warning.

Adding a new enforceable warning at this stage would create an unfair situation for people who are no longer able to update their works. Because we want to interfere as little as possible with how people tag their works, the only warning Policy & Abuse will add to a fanwork if needed is “Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings” (CCNTW). Creators can chose at the time of posting whether to warn for specific content, or add CCNTW. Those who have posted works before and are no longer on the Archive would be denied that choice even if they did warn accurately at the time of posting.

And most important, I don’t believe this warning would actually improve things for people who are triggered by references to suicide. Policy & Abuse can only act on clear cut cases, so mentions, references, suicide ideation or implied suicide would still not require warnings. One consequence of us being unable to update works previously posted on the Archive is that someone could easily access an unwarned work believing there would not be suicide in it, only to find that the work hadn’t been updated yet. I would be afraid people would run into triggering works more often if they expected a warning.

Users don’t need to depend exclusively on official warnings to ensure their own safety. Creators are given space to warn for everything they believe necessary. It’s very very healthy to talk and discuss how things should be warned in fannish spaces, but AO3 can’t really change all of fandom. Fannish culture is always evolving and transforming, and it is not our part or goal to change how people engage in fandom.

12. Considering the on-going problems with the Archive, how will you ensure that the OTW’s resources are directed to a comprehensive and sustainable solution for the Archive?

I’m a huge fan of the work done by the committees responsible for keeping the Archive up and running. It’s hard to see from the outside just how much effort is necessary for such small teams to maintain a site this big – we have access numbers similar to several large news websites, and even though we don’t have anywhere near as much funds as they do, or aa many people, we still manage to keep the site up most of the time.

Our occasional issues with the Archive are simply the result of running a large website with very lean resources. In the past few years, the OTW has been doing a great job of publishing a budget, which is drafted with input from many committees and takes into consideration the needs of each project and how much income we are likely to receive that year, and details exactly how our money is spent.

As I stated last week, I believe hiring paid staff would be very helpful in managing and preventing technical issues, and so would upgrading our infrastructure, but as a Board member, I would need to ensure our expenses respect the budget and are used responsibly.