Zoë Tucker 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?

Our commitment to accessibility for all users is reflected in the name we chose for our AO3 coding committee: Accessibility, Design, & Technology (AD&T), and in our stated value of “making fannish activities as accessible as possible to all those who wish to participate.” I have seen this commitment in action during my time in the Support committee whenever I’ve witnessed requests for website changes related to accessibility and ease of use fast-tracked and implemented as soon as possible. The Board of Directors is responsible for bolstering AD&T and all our committees to make sure they have the tools and resources that they need to do the best work possible, and I especially look forward to ensuring that our coders can continue addressing the needs of our users. I’m glad that our website has worked well so far for you so far, and hope to maintain and improve upon our current level of accessibility in the years to come.

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

I fully support the actions listed in the OTW Board, Chairs, & Leads Statement, and those I brought up in my second set of Q&A responses, namely user-curated bookmark collections and a blocking function. Though I’m not as familiar with harassment on our other projects, I know there is work to be done on all of our platforms to more efficiently address harassment and I will support our committees in their work to better serve our users.

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 AD&T and Systems volunteers spend a lot of time and effort personally coding and supervising contractors doing work to update our platforms to new versions of software as they come out. The Archive has had minimal downtime over the past few years of continuous growth and, with prompt work from AD&T and Systems, managed to take on the massive increased influx of page visits due to coronavirus social distancing. Our current code is fulfilling our critical functions.

We originally stopped creating new No Fandom canonical tags due partially to concerns about strain on the Archive’s structure, but that concern was primarily based on not having clear guidelines laid out on how to avoid unnecessarily complicated tag structures that would use more resources than necessary. However, we’ve made some improvements to the code in recent years, and when we finish our long-running process to establish new guidelines for collaborative decision-making in No Fandom, the stability of the Archive will not be a concern. As for a blocking function, the issue is not that our current code is inadequate to its current tasks. Rather, we initially believed the ease with which the function could be circumvented by creating new accounts would make the effort required to implement the function be in vain. However, we have come to recognize its use in ensuring users can block certain authors such that they never have to see their works, in addition to being used to prevent individualized harassment. I discuss a user blocking function further in my next response.

The Archive is always open to contributions, whether in the coding, feature requests, or reported bugs and similar concerns. I encourage anyone interested in helping to strengthen specific parts of the Archive’s structure to check out our contributing guidelines for more information.

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?

A user block function is in the middle on my priority list for anti-harassment measures after stronger comment moderation tools for creators and improvements to user bookmark collections. Given the time and effort developing a function to block individual users or IPs would require and the relative ease with which we could implement comment moderation and bookmark improvements, I believe we could more effectively aid our users with the latter two options. Many of our users have multiple accounts and can easily post works anonymously and could get around blocking, but turning off comments entirely or only viewing works in moderated bookmark collections (as I discussed in my third set of Q&A responses) will allow users to avoid the works of other individuals even if they make new accounts.

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 would love for there to be a healthy community of different archives serving the fannish community. I value both the existence of multiple copies of a single work, and the ability of archives to serve a smaller subset of fandom. Our goal of preserving as many fanworks as possible would be strengthened by the creation of new independent archives, and we consider other archives to be allies, not competition. In the OTW FAQ under the question “Is the OTW trying to replace all other archives” our answer is: “We’d like to be fandom’s deposit library, a place where people can back up existing work or projects and have stable links, not the only place where anyone ever posts their work.” The OTW and the AO3 were founded because there was a vacuum in fandom for a place where all works would be preserved, but it was never intended to replace all other fanfiction hosting. AO3 is open source and its base code can be exported to produce a new archive independent of the OTW to fulfill the desires of a different set of fans.

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?

While the OTW and the AO3 were founded by a group that included a lot of US-American and western European fans, it has always been our goal to be an international organization serving fans worldwide. We have a vibrant international community of volunteers centered around but not isolated to our Translation committee, and an even more diverse international community of users. In every committee I’ve volunteered for, I have always had the pleasure of working with volunteers from all over the world. The Support committee responds to hundreds of non-English requests every month, and we strive to always provide them with the same level of assistance we provide to our English-speaking users.

We value having as many of our posts as possible translated into multiple languages, because we want our international users to be welcomed as part of our community. We aim to have the entire Archive interface available in multiple languages as soon as that’s technically feasible. Much of the recent work in the OTW has been to welcome and accommodate our influx of Chinese and Russian users over the past two years, including recruiting more Chinese- and Russian-speaking volunteers so that we can better serve our ever-growing international community of users. I welcome input on how to further expand our projects to better serve our international community via our contact form, and hope that I can continue working, in whatever capacity I can, to make the AO3 and OTW a more welcoming place for all.