ira_gladkova ([personal profile] ira_gladkova) wrote2011-04-28 02:33 pm

The OTW Server Poll and Fannish Diversity

I haven't been talking about my OTW work much — and I feel like I should. It would increase transparency, particularly of the OTW Board, which I know can seem really opaque. There are two reasons I don't talk about my OTW work: one is that I don't want OTW concerns to permeate my entire fannish life; that's why I created a separate real-name journal, to keep the two separate. But I still haven't used it, because of the second readon: I am just plain damn tired. Besides depression and life in general, I'm also just too exhausted from doing org work to talk about my org work.

I'm still too tired, really, so I apologize if the following reflects that — but I felt this issue to be too important for me to not talk about it, however tired I may be.


Fannish Diversity and the OTW

When I ran for Board, I ran on a platform of diversity — diversity in the kinds of media the OTW (and particularly the AO3) support, like fanart; diversity in terms of geographic, cultural, and media origin in the fans and fandoms the OTW is aware of and serves. So on those grounds, I feel I have to explain myself, explain what part I played in the outcome — explain how I lived up to, or failed to live up to, the ideas I ran for election on.

I know fannish diversity and the OTW is a huge issue, a problematic issue. I can't help but be aware of the issue, as I'm part of several of the groups that have not been so much a focus of the OTW — I'm a gamer, an anime and manga fan, an artist, a multimedia producer and consumer. Of course I'm aware — the OTW has hurt me so many times in this regard. It's a big part of the reason why I ran for Board: I wanted change and I wanted to be part of that change, part of helping it come faster, better. I ran because I believed the OTW could get there, could be the org I wanted it to be.

I've heard a sentiment floating around along the lines of, "the OTW should just own up and admit they have a bias and live with it and stop their collective hand-wringing over the issue" or "if the OTW would just stop saying 'fans' or 'fandom' in its docs and meta and just stick to 'certain fans' and 'certain fandoms', then everything would be peachy and we could all just move on". I know there are a lot of obstacles — and also just plain realities that are neither bad nor good, they just are. Fandom in all its forms is simply too huge, too diverse, too wide-ranging, too multifarious, for one organization to really cover all the angles, serve all the needs. But I do think this organization could do a damn sight better; I think that a lot of the obstacles currently in our path are neither inherent nor necessary; that the number of obstacles are finite and their height not insurmountable. I think the OTW can and should do better.

The issue is big — so big that I will focus on only one aspect for now, one reflection: the server names poll.

The winners were announced in a post that also addresses the diversity issue:
DB: Ada Lovelace
Rails: Sherlock Holmes & John Watson
Storage: TARDIS
O1: Spock
O2: James T. Kirk
Switch: Nyota Uhura
To be clear from the start: I am disappointed. I find these results to be actively hurtful to the very types of fans that the OTW has been neglecting. Fans like me.

But also to be clear, I am not disappointed in the fans who made this vote, made this choice. I am not disappointed in our current userbase. The people who voted for these names voted with their hearts, with their fannish souls, and I have nothing but respect for that. There is nothing wrong with these results as fannish choices.

No. I'm disappointed in the OTW for the way this poll was set up, how these results were obtained, and disappointed in myself as part of that.

Disclaimers: Transparency, Who I Am and Who I Speak For

Right up front: this is not an official OTW communication, and I am speaking only for myself. This is explicitly unofficial; everything in this journal is and will be. This has not been vetted by the Board or by the Communications committee, though I did give Board notice that I would be posting this. I understand why the official post on this subject was so limited, but I also feel that more would have been better: more transparency, more discussion. I have made my opinions known inside the OTW and am doing my best to work through all the proper internal channels — but I am a fan, a staffer, a volunteer, a member, a user, and I want to speak about my experiences here.

I'm also a Board member, and I want to explain to those who voted for me what I, as a Board member, did. I do not speak for the Board. I also hold a few other positions that are relevant to the below proceedings, but neither do I speak for any of the involved committees. I speak only for myself.

As such, this account will not be complete. Some of the background here involves org-internal organizational/structural issues, communications between staffers and committees, and other such things that I am not comfortable disclosing until the Board has a wider conversation about transparency, so I am omitting things of that nature from this account and focusing on the outward-facing results and my own actions.

I struggled a lot with the transparency angle of this. I want more transparency; so do many people in the org; so do many fans outside the org. But in the end it's not my call to make alone. Yet there was a lot involved in the server poll issue, and I feel like all the views voiced, whether I agreed with them or not, should be represented, not only to the credit of those who actually voiced those views, but also because I feel everyone, inside the org and out, deserves to know what arguments are being made for or against their views. I want to explain my arguments, without erasing those of others. But I also do not want to put anyone else involved on the spot; I do not want anyone to feel undefended in their views. I do not want to put anyone in the difficult position of feeling like they should come here to explain and defend their positions, but not being able to do so (because they don't have the energy, because it would involve bringing in too much inside-org politics, for whatever reason). I do not want anyone in the org to feel that their every move is scrutinized, that they work under glass — that is not a comfortable or productive environment in which to work. I do want to know what people think, and I want to give people enough information for a productive discussion.

I did my best within those bounds and aims to present my actions and the ideas considered during this process. If nothing else, I want to make clear that just as the diversity issue is complicated, so is transparency. I think the OTW could and should be doing better on both, and I want to be part of that improvement — but as part of a team.

I must also make clear that the OTW — its policies, discussions, decisions, the org as a whole -- is a work in progress. A lot of the issues discussed below are not settled or final; much is still ongoing. But I firmly believe that transparency means being open during as well as after. I feel like a lot of OTW communication comes after the fact, and while I’m glad we do communicate, I think we also need more contact with our audience as we talk, decide, build — and trust our audience to understand that nothing there is final. I’ve made a point of pursuing this policy inside the org. And while this post is explicitly unofficial, I offer it in the same spirit — please remember that these books are not closed, these stories unfinished.

As I don't speak for anyone else in the OTW, I also do not speak for anime and manga fans, for gamers, for any number of such categories. I am just me. I would not be surprised if many fans with similar backgrounds share my feelings, but I don't speak for them. I speak as a member of some of these groups, but that's all.

Finally, I feel sometimes like I shouldn't be making a big deal out of this: they're just some server names. It's a small thing. If I let it go, it can disappear, we can move on, we can do better next time. But no. I think that, in the end, that's wrong. Silence is not a diverse policy. And if it's a small thing, it's one in a string of such things, large and small; part of a pattern. Diversity is hard; diversity means acknowledging where you went wrong and celebrating where you went right; diversity means talking. Diversity means listening. And— I don't want to erase the fans and winners that we do have. So I'm going to talk about this.

Timeline and Issues Considered

At the very beginning of the 2011 term, the OTW purchased five machines for the AO3 project, bringing the AO3 total of machines up to seven; all seven were featured in a post ( OTW | AO3 ). One committee proposed a server naming festival as a fun distraction during the archive downtimes necessary to install the servers. Later in the month, the org took delivery of the machines and included the server naming festival idea in the announcement post ( OTW | AO3 ). In early February, there was another post opening the festival and explaining how it would work ( OTW | AO3 ): a nominations stage, followed by shortlisting, and then voting.

The language of that post was clearly encouraging towards diverse representation:
We want names which suit the machines and which reflect the fannish community they belong to: powerful, international, and brilliant! We'd like it if their names reflected the percentage of awesome women in fandom (although we think they have a whole variety of gender identities, just like fans).

I participated in the nominations stage by submitting a large list of names primarily from anime/manga and gaming fandoms, and primarily women. Everyone's nominations were collated and distributed to several committees who did a first round of shortlisting (a voluntary activity; not all staff on those committees participated). My contribution at this stage slanted heavily towards the same areas as my nominations: anime/manga and gaming origins wherever I could; heavy focus on women; and minority representation in gender, sexuality, and disability wherever I knew it to exist (1).

These lists were again collated and given to the shortlisting panel; I was on that shortlisting panel. The intensive process of final shortlisting explicitly focused on diversity, and I think overall everyone involved in the shortlisting process did a good job in terms of putting together a diverse list of names.

The preliminary shortlists were again collated and given to a shortlisting panel to refine into the final shortlist; I was on that shortlisting panel. This was an intensive process, taking into account not only popularity (how many noms or top choices a name had) but also explicitly focused on diversity. And I think, overall, everyone involved in the shortlisting process did a great job in terms of putting together a diverse list of names (2).
Ada Lovelace [Real People]
Alanna of Trebond [Tortall - Tamora Pierce]
Hermione Granger [Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling]
Izumi Curtis [Fullmetal Alchemist]
Moya [Farscape]
Pippi Långstrump | Pippi Longstocking [Pippi Långstrump | Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren]
Kara Thrace (Starbuck) [Battlestar Galactica]
Tsunade [Naruto]
Agrias Oaks [Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions]
Leeloo [The Fifth Element]

Rails 1 & 2:
Aerith Gainsborough & Tifa Lockhart [Final Fantasy VII]
Luise & Lotte [Das doppelte Lottchen | The Double Lottie - Erich Kästner]
Ico & Yorda [ICO]
Éowyn & Éomer [Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien]
Luke Skywalker & Leia Organa [Star Wars]
Tenou Haruka | Amara Tenou (Sailor Uranus) & Kaiou Michiru | Michelle Kaiou (Sailor Neptune) [Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon | Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon]
Hoban Washburne & Zoë Alleyne Washburne [Firefly]
Jean-Paul Beaubier (Northstar) & Jeanne-Marie Beaubier (Aurora) [X-Men]
Riza Hawkeye & Olivier Armstrong [Fullmetal Alchemist]
Sherlock Holmes & John Watson [Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle]

Original 1:
Samus Aran [Metroid]
Tenar [Earthsea - Ursula K. LeGuin]
Terra Branford [Final Fantasy VI]
Teyla Emmagan [Stargate Atlantis]
Tenjou Utena [Shoujo Kakumei Utena | Revolutionary Girl Utena]
Valentina Tereshkova [Real People]
Alexia Tarabotti [Parasol Protectorate - Gail Carriger]
Zelda [The Legend of Zelda]
Jade Curtiss [Tales of the Abyss]
James T. Kirk [Star Trek]

Original 2:
Chun-Li [Street Fighter]
Aeryn Sun [Farscape]
Bonham [Eroica Yori Ai o Komete | From Eroica with Love]
Dick Grayson (Robin) [DCU]
EVA-01 [Neon Genesis Evangelion]
Katsushiro Okamoto [Sumarai 7]
Nathan Jackson [Magnificent Seven]
Irene Adler [Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle]
Buffy Summers [Buffy the Vampire Slayer]
Spock [Star Trek]

Dana Scully [X-Files]
Edward Elric [Fullmetal Alchemist]
GLadOS [Portal]
Serenity [Firefly]
Hypatia [Real People]
Ianto Jones [Torchwood]
Lirael [Old Kingdom - Garth Nix]
Nico Robin [One Piece]
TARDIS [Doctor Who]
Trinity [The Matrix]

Cordelia Naismith [Vorkosigan Saga - Lois McMaster Bujold]
Jack Harkness [Torchwood]
Hedwig [Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling]
Inara Serra [Firefly]
Lilla My | Little My [Mumintroll | Moomins Series - Tove Jansson]
Lucca Ashtear [Chrono Trigger]
Nyota Uhura [Star Trek]
Barbara Gordon (Oracle) [DCU]
Relena Peacecraft [Gundam Wing]
Mine Fujiko [Lupin III]

During the voting period, I campaigned hard, focusing any names that would stamp the final list of winners with some hint of the fans and fannish origins that had been least visible in the org. I made banners, posted in communities, exhorted friends, did everything I could think of. To be honest, I didn't care which specific names won, as long as there was a little diversity. It was an intensely discouraging week. The names that did indeed end up winning got ahead early and stayed there. I was pretty distressed by this, because I felt that that list, if it ended up winning, would be discouraging to, well. To a number of people like me. To the sorts of fans whose interests I was trying to represent in the OTW.

A fan ([personal profile] owlmoose, identified with permission) asked me if we had considered a one-winner-per-fandom restriction. I felt this suggestion might bring at least a little diversity to the end results — not much, but better than none. Due to a number of factors — the seriousness of diversity as an issue, the org-wide nature of the project, but also a number of org-internal misunderstandings and miscommunications I won't go into — I felt this idea and issue should be heard in Board.

It took three meetings overall to settle the issue. I was not the one who actually raised the issue in Board the first time; that was another Board member with similar concerns. Overall, Board initially favoured the one-fandom approach and had decided to go with it, but upon hearing more information and opinions on the matter from inside the org, decided to reconsider the issue.

During that time of reconsideration, I wrote a very long email to my fellow Board members which, among other, org-internal matters, discussed the question of diversity and the actual server names. (How long? About 6,500 words long, which I hope says something about the complexity of the issues involved.) I want to show some of the things I wrote in the diversity section; it continues to express my feelings, I want to show exactly what I did and said.
[Omitted section: my campaigning efforts; my thoughts on the relatively poor showing of anime/manga and gaming fandoms even in the top three or four places in each race, let alone the actual winners; my feeling that the list as is would come off as insulting to fans from underrepresented backgrounds.]

Overall, I think the fact that there was such a complete western media sweep despite such effort to make it otherwise is evidence of a continuing problem of representation in the org. If we had anything approaching even representation, then a concerted effort should have gotten at least one name in. Even more telling are the runners-up lists, if the top 3-4 are taken into account in each category. Not even that is diverse in terms of proportions. This points to a *huge issue* that we need to keep at the forefront of our thinking. A lot of anime/manga and gaming fans *do not trust the org*. What can we do to increase that trust? What can we do to not harm it further?

[The following section included some quotes I had collected from fellow anime/manga and/or gaming fans who were worried about the server poll results. I don't feel comfortable including that section with all its context and attributions here, but I feel the words still need to be heard, so I include quotes from two of the fans below. All ellipses in this section are original to my email.]
Fan A:
it does represent their userbase! because they ostracize fringe fandoms [...] they don't really want to be accommodating.

Fan A:
i guess, i'm just frustrated, you know? because no matter what they say about it, i DON'T feel like there are any steps being made towards inclusiveness to smaller fandoms... not that those steps don't exist but that there is no transparency towards the user end where we can see it

Fan B:
For an Org who continues to claim they want to bring in all fandoms, and represent all fandoms, I would definitely be a little taken aback to see not a single name I recognize and relate to represented in the server names. As somebody in the bitty fandoms they "swear" they "want", it would be a pretty nice gesture -- and its omission would hurt.

[Omitted section: the fan who made the one-fandom suggestion]

So that's where I was coming from on the question of making the winners list a little more diverse.

On the other hand is the fact that we did not present this as anything but a straight democratic vote, and all the people who expect a straight democratic result. [Board member name redacted] also had a good point in saying that word getting out (as it would) about us rigging the results would not be good PR either. First is the breaking of trust. Second, though, it's not good PR that we would *have* to mess with the results to get a diverse list.

I know there will be other machines to name in the future, other events that give us a chance to celebrate fannish diversity. But the people we lose NOW, over THIS, will never get a chance to see those. People who've never heard of us before may discover us in the interim, see these results, see they are not represented, and decide the org is not for them. People who are already involved in the org might not give us another chance. There will be other chances, but that doesn't erase the risks and possible losses of this one.

Overall, I feel we have put ourselves in an impossible position with this.

Either we're diverse or we're not. Either we look like we ignored fans or we rigged the poll. Either we address this institutionally, or continue to be perceived to do nothing.

What I wish HAD happened was if someone -- if I had -- considered the possibility of this vote outcome from the start and brought it up then, so that we could have been up front from the start and organized the shortlist and the voting info around one winner per fandom. I guess I was too hopeful and optimistic back then -- I was hoping so hard that our membership would have grown and diversified to the point where it wouldn't matter. I *knew* how alienating this past Yuletide was. I *knew* about the historical, continuing problem. I knew all this, and I am sick and kicking myself that I dared to hope things had gotten better, that I didn't think of this from the start.

Because let me be perfectly clear: one of the things we will be accused of here, one of the things we did wrong, was a lack of awareness. Had we really been aware of the extent of the problem, had we really been keeping it in the forefront of our thinking, we would not have ended up here. We would have planned ahead. One of the *perfectly legitimate* criticisms that this poll will raise, one way or another, is that we don't even know our own membership, the org is so out of touch with non-western, non-media based fandoms that we couldn't see this coming.

Given the results that we did obtain, I want to voice again, very strongly, that I would be absolutely uncomfortable presenting the list of names as-is in an org-wide space. I would be uncomfortable presenting it in *any* space connected to the org, because it would serve to reinforce the wide perception that the org is for and about western media fans.

I'm not sure what the best solution would be. For now, I wanted to outline what, in my opinion, went wrong here, both in terms of inside-org communication and in terms of diversity management. The first step is to understand the problem, and as I noted in my paragraph on lack of awareness, we manifestly have not.

In the end, my last thought in looking for a direction towards a solution is... those volunteers and staffers and people from fandoms who get plenty of rep in the org -- we have a chance at explaining to them our reasoning, what happened. Those people who give up on us because of persistent lack of representation for them?

We won't even get the chance to try.

One huge point of objection to the one-fandom limitation was the need to respect and honour the votes that were cast. We did not want the voters to feel that they had not been heard, or that their votes were somehow wrong — that there was something wrong with our current userbase.

We also did not want to change the rules after the fact. We were shown the place where the rules were specifically stated ( OTW | AO3 ):
Voting stage: 12 February from 9.00 UTC

During our second period of downtime, we'll post the list of shortlisted names on the OTW blog at and ask people to vote for their favourites. The seven names with the most votes will be our winners!

Because of that — or even if we had thought to frame the rules differently from the outset — we could be accused, legitimately, of rigging the vote. And like I said, neither is it good that we would have to do so to obtain a diverse result.

Whatever the end results, we discussed several ways of framing or presenting them. Someone else brought up collecting and posting a list of runners-up alongside the results, and using those as a pool of names for future machines (big enough batches of machines to warrant a poll are rare). These names could also help add diversity to the list and serve as a promise for a more diverse future. Everyone was unanimously in support of this idea when it was proposed.

Another idea raised was to frame the results as a vote for history. While to many fans the results do have a pleasantly classic, nostalgic feel to them, I objected to this: whose history? The history that is there is legitimate and valuable, but it's not complete.

We put together options for how to handle the server names themselves, presentation, and org-internal impact. I feel comfortable sharing a little about three of the options discussed (3):
Results As-Is
Ada Lovelace
Sherlock Holmes & John Watson
James T. Kirk
Nyota Uhura

One Winner Per Fandom*
Limit winners to one per fandom. Highest vote across all categories per fandom wins. Where a same-fandom name is discarded, 2nd place runner-up wins. Post list with discussion.

[*This would not affect Rails winners, which came in same-fandom pairs by design.]

One Winner Per Medium**
Limit winners to one per medium. Highest-voted winner per medium per machine wins. Once a name wins in one medium/machine, all other names in that medium across all machines are discarded. Go down the list until all machines/media are filled. Post results with discussion.

[**This option was rather complicated and merits further explanation(4).]

I also added a floating proposition, attachable to any of the choices, that we include the aforementioned runners-up idea (which, again, was not my own) here as well.

Each proposed idea included the resultant list of names with a raw number of votes next to each name to help us decide. I don't feel comfortable sharing any of the unpublished lists or raw numbers.

However, I feel I can at least say this: none of the winning names got an actual overall/absolute majority; all were pluralities, none reaching a third of the overall vote. The runners-up named in the news post included Dick Grayson, Zelda, Sailors Uranus and Neptune, and Izumi Curtis. If we look at votes across all machines (or percentage-vote-per-machine, but again ranked across all machines), some runners-up ranked above or only very slightly below some of the winners — just not within their particular machines. So in all, the vote was, in some cases, close, either within a machine or across all machines.

One Winner Per Fandom was not my idea, though it was definitely a course I wanted taken seriously. One Winner Per Medium was my idea. I'm still ambivalent about that; I definitely wanted it on the table for consideration and comparison, but it's complicated and murky. Still, I wanted it present as an option.

After all that, we voted on the list of options, and the majority favoured the results as-is, with some runners-up displayed. Overall, in addition to org-internal reasons having to do with structure and purview more than anything else, the Board felt that we should respect the votes and choices of those who participated in the poll — and as I tried to make clear at the beginning of this post, I definitely respect that. But for all the reasons I have already stated, it was not a decision I could really agree with, in the end: like I said, I believed that we could still talk to, still win back, those fans of favoured fandoms who would be (rightly) put off by any messing with the votes — but those neglected fans and fandoms, those already doubtful and alienated— I didn't want to lose any more, give any more reason to doubt and dislike.

I voiced an objection, and asked that it be officially noted as such. I said that I disagreed, but as I knew the majority decision, I would do my best to make that option the best it could be, and since then I had offered my thoughts, edits, and contributions as I could — though personal issues kept me from participating as much as I would have liked.

As one such contribution, I proposed that the news post publicizing the results also include a well-developed list of runners-up, determined/put together by the same panel that did the shortlist and displayed prominently in bulleted format just like the winners, to make sure the runners up (which would be a more diverse list) would be prominent and would have a kind of "weight" to them. We would need to be clear that this was just a pool of names for future machines, which no guarantees about which names would be chosen or when — but it would be something, at least. I knew that this would cost us another couple days, but I thought the added benefit would be worth it. However, several Board members voiced/agreed with a concern that such a list could limit us in the future as the org grew and changed. I recognize and agree with this concern, but I also felt, and expressed, that there must be a way to frame such a list that puts it forward as a genuine effort at diversity to counterbalance the non-diverse current server names, but still make clear that we would be willing, and want to, respond to changes in the org's userbase. By the time I could return to OTW activities, the Board was very anxious to post the results, so this option was not used.

Analysis; Diversity Revisited

I want to state up front that I believe I did not handle the internal political part of this well, and this is something I am still working to address. I won't go into the details here, and the focus is on the diversity-related process and output anyway, but I do think my less-than-stellar handling must have contributed to how the public outcome turned out.

That said, I remain ambivalent about the rest of my performance and the overall outcome. I'm glad that so many people are enjoying the results. I'm sad for any fans who feel unrepresented, erased. I hurt, myself, because I myself feel unwelcome as a fan: there are so many little ways the OTW has shown me that we as an org collectively care less about fans like me. But at the same time I know that people inside the org do think diversity is important and that these slights are unintentional, and I know that they, that we, that I, have the potential to change that.

So at the same time, I have some optimism. I remind everyone, including myself, that this is not the final word on the overall issue of diversity, that all of this is a work in progress. I'm looking forward to a wider discussion of diversity within the OTW. I understand that part of the problem is that while everyone can agree in theory that diversity is important, we have few concrete ideas for how to fix it, and when concrete ideas do come up — like the server names — we find reasons not to go through with them. There must be ways to address that. We do already have efforts that are mindfully evenhanded, like April Showers, which is scrupulously even in the distribution of fandoms. There must be more we can do, more we would and will do.

So what happened here?

It's true that these results were, really, pretty predictable. And it's also true that the OTW's current userbase is not representative of fandom as a whole. But this is not indicative of a problem with our userbase, with the people who voted. Rather, it shows that the OTW — which includes me — was not mindful enough, not active enough.

The thing I kick myself the most for is not realizing early enough. In my email quoted above, I talked about this: how one of the direst criticisms that could be levelled here, a very legitimate criticism, is that we did not know our own base and audience well enough. And that's true. By the time the votes started coming in, we were already too late, we had already put ourselves in an impossible place, where we either change the rules and go against voter choice or we continue a toxic trend of paying less heed to diversity and alienating the fandoms we can least afford to lose. What we should have done from the beginning was lay out guidelines that would help insure a diverse outcome while respecting the vote — for example, saying up front that only one winner per fandom would be accepted, or one winner per medium. Both of those ideas, that came into the game too late, could have been reasonable precautions at the outset, and would have affected voting behaviour as voters would have considered who, from a fandom or medium, they would want most to win.

Or, if we had only realized this after the post with the above-quoted rules was made but before the shortlist/poll was published, we could have made the shortlist less suspect to this very outcome. Putting those three huge Star Trek names in separate categories where they wouldn't have to compete with each other — that all but guaranteed the present outcome. And perhaps having all the Rails pairs come from the same fandom was a mistake — that killed one opportunity for diversity right there. We could have constructed the list more carefully, more strategically.

During voting, after voting, we could have worked on the results, which is what took so long and where all the debate ended up being centered. There were opportunities at every point for change, for action. I was too optimistic to take advantage of them then. I should have — so what if I had come off as overcautious or pessimistic? We could have at least avoided this.

After the fact, I see that at least some fans would not have minded some post-facto meddling: this thread at the LJ mirror of the names announcement post indicates that this person, at least, assumed we would affect the outcome. [personal profile] owlmoose, the originator of the one-fandom idea, told me that she had also assumed something of that nature would already be in effect behind the scenes.

In the end, I think we should have done better with this poll. Maybe it's a small thing, but small things still count. I want us to be the change we want to see. So we say here, at the OTW, that diversity is important to us? Then we need to embody that desire. If our current userbase is not representative, why is that an obstacle to guiding our public materials towards being more representative? Do we think so little of our current userbase that we believe they will resent representative diversity when we explain what happened, why we did what we did? Why continue to acclimate people outside the org to a limited subset of fandoms?

For that matter, why acclimatize anyone, inside or outside the org, to a limited subset? Even if these results are never posted about in public again, some small set of people inside the org would still use them. Why get people inside the OTW used to seeing such a limited set of names?

I want to emphasize that I am not alone, that fans like me are not alone, in the org or in Board, and I invite those people to come and talk about their experiences too, both inside the org and publicly.

I also know that transparency is a big issue, and could have illuminated our thinking during this process if we had let fans talk to us about what they think we should do in such a situation. Transparency has been on my personal docket ever since my term began: I knew Board had to be more transparent in particular, and the org in general. But I kept putting it off in favour of things that were more on fire, more urgent, demanding a deadline. Well. April is almost over. It's not the beginning of term anymore. And as the thread I linked to above demonstrates, it seems, and I agree, that transparency is on fire now. And I will be doing my best to push it up the agenda and keep it in the forefront of our thinking.

I don't know. I am definitely grateful for all the work everyone has done on this, for putting this together and putting it up; to Board for taking the time to listen and deliberate. I'm grateful to everyone who voted, to everyone who left their mark, to everyone who celebrates the results we published. It's your history, your present, your fandoms; it's important.

But to everyone who is unhappy with these results because they see nothing of themselves there, I want to say: I'm unhappy too. I'm sorry I did not do a better job. I want to hear what I can do better — please, please tell me. I want to tell you that I'm not the only one listening — of course I'm not. I want to apologize for being so tired that I never said anything before. And if you're frustrated with the OTW, if you want to believe it can be better but are not sure it can happen, if you're ambivalent over your welcome here, I want to tell you that you're not alone — but I also know that I'm not alone in hoping that it can be better, too.

These are my actions as well as I could explain them. I welcome commentary and discussion here, but I do ask that you please keep OTW-related stuff in this journal and not my fannish one. I also want to warn everyone that I continue to be exhausted and may not respond quickly, but I will do my best to respond to everyone. Thank you for listening.


[ETA 2011-04-30] I'd like to address a trend I've seen in several comments below that I find really troubling: I am far from the only person inside the org or even inside Board who is interested in and actively working on the issues above. I tried to make this clear in my post, but it seems I did not emphasize it enough — I'm sorry. I value working with my numerous colleagues, some of whom share my views, and some don't — and it's the variety of voices that makes us strong. While I definitely acknowledge that the OTW's visible output has largely focused on one set of voices, I do want to emphasize that I'm not alone. Our work is exhausting, and posts may be rare, but we are far from alone, and within the org, we are far from silent.

(1) I can share my lists if anyone's curious; I still have my spreadsheets. (hop back up)

(2) The shortlist was publicly viewable as the body of the poll, now closed. (hop back up)

(3) Results As-Is did win and is now public. I have the originator's permission to share the One Winner Per Fandom idea. One Winner Per Medium is my own idea, so I feel okay sharing it. (hop back up)

(4) The media categories are pretty rough and are based loosely on the April Showers ones. There’s room for debate here — Star Trek has books and movies as well as a TV show, Sherlock has a bunch of stuff, Zelda has manga as well as games, etc etc. For the most part though I tried to go with the medium they’re primarily associated with, which thankfully in most of these cases is mostly clear. he second obstacle comes in two tight races and the corresponding last two media categories to be set, the specifics of which I'm not comfortable discussing here.

The elimination is pretty straightforward at first: Uhura eliminates all other TV characters (Spock, Kirk, TARDIS) and sets Switch. Ada is next and so go all the other Real People (no others came very close to winning), and DB is set. And so on down into murkier depths. (hop back up)
tel: Copper maple branch sculpture (Default)

[personal profile] tel 2011-04-28 10:57 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't have much to say about the main topic of this post, but as someone who's actively and fruitlessly tried to volunteer several times to help with AO3's translation functionality, I agree the whole diversity thing needs work.

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[personal profile] seventhe 2011-04-29 01:29 am (UTC)(link)
So, I always want to start these comments with "Well, I don't know a lot about the OTW or AO3", thinking that it's an excuse, a kind of disclaimer -- but I really think that it's part of the issue, isn't it?

I don't know much about the workings of AO3. I don't know a lot about the OTW, about the Board, about any of this -- and why not?

Because the OTW, the Board, even AO3 to a great extent: they are all fairly invisible in the corners of fandom I haunt.

They're not reaching out to me; they're not visible to me. I use AO3, not only for my own posting but for a fandom exchange that I mod - arguably the fanwork exchange for the Final Fantasy fandom, at least in the circles I know - and even with that use, the administrative side is nearly invisible.

I say nearly because I hear faint strains sometimes about wanting to attract more fans like me - video game fans, anime fans, non-AO3-represented fans - but honestly? If I didn't have friends involved in OTW work, I might not even hear that. In my fandoms? Their voice is really pretty silent.

I do want to come back and say more, because there's a lot here that you've hit on that I find interesting. Thank you, so much, for putting this somewhere, in a place where someone like me - someone who has, really, so far, been ignored by the OTW - can read it.
extempore: (cloud)

[personal profile] extempore 2011-04-30 09:02 am (UTC)(link)
I found this post via [personal profile] lian and I have to agree with this:

So, I always want to start these comments with "Well, I don't know a lot about the OTW or AO3", thinking that it's an excuse, a kind of disclaimer -- but I really think that it's part of the issue, isn't it? I don't know much about the workings of AO3. I don't know a lot about the OTW, about the Board, about any of this -- and why not? Because the OTW, the Board, even AO3 to a great extent: they are all fairly invisible in the corners of fandom I haunt.

I never gave it much thought why I didn't use AO3 - but it's true: it simply never crosses my way in the fandoms that I frequent (games, anime, manga).

Recently I have started to use it a bit, but especially compared to other game and anime related fiction or news archives, to me, AO3 feels heavy, unflexible and impersonal. Perhaps that's a part of my fandom background as both, games as well as anime, rely on visual appeal and - especially in gaming - have a technical/analytical side to them as well. Of course it's personal preference, but all of fandom is, really.

Anyway, thank you for writing this. It helped me realize what was bugging me when it comes to AO3.

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[personal profile] cypher 2011-04-29 01:52 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for laying all this out -- I'm really grateful for some insight into the process, something more than the quite frankly inadequate "we will totally think about diversity next time" addendum to the official announcement. (It feels like it's always "next time.")

I...really felt sort of gutpunched by the announcement, possibly because in the early rounds, when soliciting names, there had been emphasis on reflecting more diversity, so to discover that 3/7 of the list turned out to be from the SAME FANDOM, and there wasn't a single name on the list that had any relevance to my fannish history at all...yeah. I should have seen it coming, I guess, but I didn't really process the fact that they were going for a straight majority vote at the end that would wind up kicking that goal out the door. I think I was expecting some kind of weighting to the vote or consideration to the voting brackets in service to that goal.

Like you, I don't blame the userbase for this -- of course the people voting are going to vote for the fandoms they care about, the things that bring them happiness, just like I did. But also like you, I feel like this is just...yet another place where the org could have been welcoming to fans like me and it just wasn't on the radar prominently enough or soon enough.

I love the tools the AO3 makes available, and I love the potential of the space, at the same time that it's exhausting to have to keep saying "what about us? please include us too."

Thank you for trying to push those issues on the board, and for being willing to talk about them in a space where people not privy to the byzantine internal communications can have some idea what's going on. I'm glad I voted for you. ♥
lassarina: (Paine)

[personal profile] lassarina 2011-04-29 04:42 am (UTC)(link)
^^ This. All of this.

I post to AO3, but I don't read there unless it's for an exchange I'm already participating in (NG+, Yuletide, FFEX.) I know AO3 does stuff, because at least three people on my dwircle are heavily involved in it. And yet, I feel more welcomed at than I do on AO3; granted, FFN has the weight of history and inertia on its side, but I remember when Ficwad started, and I remember that I would post FF fics there and at least one person who didn't usually follow me would comment or rate. I think I've had exactly one instance of that on AO3--and things I've posted there have been in comparatively monstrous video game fandoms (FF7 and FF12.)

Could I do more to create fannish interaction in non-Western fandoms on AO3? I totally could. Do I want to? I don't know, because I weigh the time and effort against the return and it's not remotely worth it right now. Will it be worth it in a year? Do I want to put that kind of effort in now with no promise of payoff later?

....and that, in a nutshell, is why I think of DW as my posting/reading home. I think AO3 could do lots of really really neat things--like [personal profile] cypher said, I love the tools the AO3 makes available, and I love the potential of the space, at the same time that it's exhausting to have to keep saying "what about us? please include us too."

In short, Ira, I really appreciate what you're doing and that you took the time to write all of this up. But I think this whole post serves as a reminder of why I am so ambivalent about the AO3--sometimes I think I only go back there because my friends work on it so hard.

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[personal profile] facetofcathy 2011-04-29 02:31 am (UTC)(link)
First, I want to thank you for making this post. I found it illuminating in some ways and bitterly unsurprising in others.

I was going to post the day the list came out, and I chose not to. I didn't see Kylara's remarks on the LJ version of the post, and I wish I had, because she didn't deserve to be the one voice speaking publicly.

I'm in and of Western media fandom. I love some of those names on that list. I nominated two of them. I could write you a 1,000 words on how they're meaningful symbols to me. And that list makes me so disheartened, I can't bear to look at it. That post that introduced is another matter and is not yours to answer for.

I think that now is not the time for fans who don't see themselves reflected on that list to come forward and educate the AO3 or the OTW on how to be welcoming or inclusive, as they have been asked yet again to do. I think now is the time for the OTW and the AO3 to reach out to those fans and show that they've actually read the posts people have made on this issue over and over and over again. A whole host of them appeared just a few months ago and aren't hard to find.

I think it's time for all media fans in the AO3 to show that we recognize that we are not the whole of fandom and that it is our responsibility to remember that first and always. We need to recognize the and act on the reasons why certain kinds of fandoms are the ones that don't see a seat at the OTW table. It's time to stop saying sorry after the fact.
mercredigirl: Katara from <i>Avatar: The Last Airbender</i>, captioned: What about me is <b>ethnically ambiguous</i>?! (Oh teh ethnic!)

[personal profile] mercredigirl 2011-04-29 12:17 pm (UTC)(link)
I love some of those names on that list. I nominated two of them. I could write you a 1,000 words on how they're meaningful symbols to me. And that list makes me so disheartened, I can't bear to look at it.

Yes, this.

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[personal profile] ilyena_sylph 2011-04-29 10:15 pm (UTC)(link)
This is a really fascinating post, and one I am... glad isn't the right word, but -- appreciative of, maybe? something.

I am glad that your voice is out here.
lian: Yuri  Lowell looking slightly despondent (yuri_despondent)

[personal profile] lian 2011-04-30 12:25 am (UTC)(link)
You already know how I feel about the issue, so I shall only add that I think this is a very powerful post, and I thank deeply you for writing it (especially considering what energy this must have cost you.)
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[personal profile] cofax7 2011-04-30 03:40 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for writing this.
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[personal profile] subtext 2011-04-30 06:27 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for composing and posting this; you've obviously put a great deal of thought and effort into it, and it is a conversation and awareness that I agree needs to happen in order for the spaces under discussion to actually seem inclusive of more fandoms and media.
starlady: the OTW logo with text "fandom is my fandom" (fandom^2)

[personal profile] starlady 2011-04-30 08:09 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for writing this, on so many levels.

[personal profile] aruna7 2011-04-30 01:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you so much for writing this.
gamera: (what's a tsundere?)

[personal profile] gamera 2011-04-30 03:38 pm (UTC)(link)
First of all, I want to emphasize that the most vitriolic parts of this (particularly at the end) are not directed at you. I do sincerely appreciate that you have made this post, and I am happy that my end of fandom has your voice speaking for us in the organization.

Thank you for this post. It is a much more heartening response than the board member comments on the LiveJournal announcement of the server names (which did nothing but hammer home the point, again that the current target audience of the archive is more important than we are). But while it's heartening to know what you're doing and saying behind the scenes-- and this is a big but-- knowing that there is one voice championing us on a board that outside of your voice has demonstrated almost nothing but erasure (sometimes knowing erasure, with the fact that these problems were raised beforehand) may not be enough for me.

I tried being positive and working rather than complaining and/or ignoring the org and the archive-- posted regularly at the AO3, volunteered for the OTW (which, disclaimer: I no longer do). So when I ask myself if I could do more, my answer is that I have done more, and it didn't work. Trying to carve a place for myself in a space that doesn't want me (especially after the Yuletide nomination fiasco, when people-- some of them closely tied to/often associated with the archive and the org, even if they were speaking personally and not for the organization-- were essentially saying everything from "if you don't like it, get your own space instead of using ours" to "anime fans are paranoid and need to get over it" to "SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP") just isn't something I have the time or energy for anymore, especially when the majority of voices (or lack thereof) are either saying they don't value my fannish experience and history or remaining silent when others say that.

I even tried being optimistic about the server poll (in particular, I was rather hoping that Scully, Ianto, Serenity, and TARDIS would split the western sci-fi TV fan vote and give Edward Elric-- the main character of one of the most massive anime fandoms currently active, and one of the few anime fandoms with any penetration whatsoever on the archive-- a chance at naming the storage server). So when the results were posted, it really was more validation that giving this a chance isn't doing anything but setting myself up for disappointment. That list could be even worse, yes (Ada Lovelace is a name with relevance to my professional life, given that I am a female-bodied person in a computer-related field, though not to my fannish experience). But when "well, I guess it could be even more irrelevant" is the strongest praise I can give it, it's hard to stay positive.

Unfortunately, I am in total agreement with the comment a bit above mine saying that it's time for the OTW to do the outreach, rather than the fans who aren't a part of it. The org honestly does think we have a place at the table? Then they (they as a whole, not you specifically) should actually set a place and send an invitation to dinner rather than relying on us to assume we're invited when so many of the other guests are treating us like a gatecrasher it would be impolite to openly turn away.

I want the org and the archive to have a place for me, but I'm still not convinced that they do or ever will. "Next time we need new machines" and "someday in the future" are awfully far away, and "we want diversity, we really do!" is distressingly vague. Again, this is not aimed at you-- from my current position of the outside looking in, you are the only one in a position of authority who has actually said or done anything-- but at the board and the org as a whole, and yes, even at those people who voted with all their hearts for the winning names. I don't think all of those people are as blameless as all the official communication carefully makes them out to be, because some of them are the same people who said things like "get your own space" and "paranoid much?" when we raised our concerns during the last Yuletide. They're doing their part to erase us, deride us, and drive us away, too.

And it's maybe the most telling thing of all that the org (at least so far as their official line states) values their blamelessness and squee for the names they picked over any representation of us. That's not the message an organization that wants us to participate sends. To pick the dinner analogy back up again, that's nothing more than being too polite to tell us to go home.
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[personal profile] schattenstern 2011-04-30 05:34 pm (UTC)(link)
As someone who's active (to some degree) almost exclusively in gaming and anime/manga fandoms, I can agree with so much in this comment. (So, thank you for making it, [personal profile] gamera!) I want to be enthusiastic about the org and the AO3 but it's hard to feel welcome (and enthusiastic about participating) right now. I'm cautiously optimistic and appreciate that you're speaking out about this so eloquently, Ira, (Really, thank you! <3) but even as someone who grew up with Star Trek and loves it to this day (even if I'm not fannish about it) I look at the list of server names and find it incredibly disheartening. Not so much because of the names/the results of this particular poll but because it is, as you said, part of a bigger problem, a bigger feel of "You can play here if you really want but this place is for other fannish spaces than yours first and foremost."

To be honest, the main reason why I haven't given up on the org for the time being are posts like yours here and the fact that I have a few friends from my corners of fandom who are actively working for a more fannishly diverse OTW space.

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[personal profile] branchandroot 2011-04-30 05:51 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this; I appreciate your efforts on behalf of a corner of fandom that we share, and that has been roundly neglected by the OTW and all its works. I know you have a hard row to hoe.

I've stopped trying to hoe it, myself. I tried. I tried repeatedly and early on, to point out that the OTW needed to do outreach. And I was told again, and again, that people figured that knowledge of OTW's works would just "naturally" "percolate" through to anime/manga fandom, gaming fandom, book fandom (which is not Harry Potter), Kpop fandom and manhwa fandom which no one in the OTW admin even seems to realize exists...

Oh, yeah, it'll just magically happen, even if we don't do anything, and if it doesn't well that's natural selection for you, and we really don't care enough to make the effort. Because we're busy with other (more important) things like infrastructure. Right. As if the infrastructure wasn't part of the problem? As if infrastructure things like the character limit that tags started out with, which was far too short for most Asian character names, aren't exactly the problem?

I'm bitter about this. I'm angry about this. I'm pissed off that you can look once at the Fandoms page of the archive and see exactly who's going to win a "democratic" vote, and no one seems to have noticed this or thought it a problem. I've been on AO3 from the start of beta and I'm still using AO3, but every time I come face to face with yet another example of this BS it makes me angry and bitter all over again. I'm angry an bitter that, even when there is someone like you who knows all this and is working to make it better on the Board, it isn't getting better.

It isn't going to get better until the admins who're already comfy with their archive that's designed with Western media fandom in mind and addresses all the needs of that corner of fandom already admits there is a problem and it needs attention, and it isn't just going to turn up better some day by magical osmosis.

*takes a deep breath* None of that was to your address. You're working on it, and I really appreciate that a lot. But when someone above said that it should not be put on currently excluded and frozen-out fans to approach OTW and educate the organization on what they need to do, I think that was dead on the money. Not least because it's been done. It's been said. What needs to change now is for more people in the admin layer to actually listen. And act.
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[personal profile] ldybastet 2011-04-30 08:54 pm (UTC)(link)
would just "naturally" "percolate" through to anime/manga fandom, gaming fandom, book fandom (which is not Harry Potter), Kpop fandom and manhwa fandom

I keep wondering how it can do that when the fandom overlap in this direction (opposed to the overlap with fandoms like Supernatural, Dr Who, Harry Potter, Merlin, etc) is almost nonexistent?

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[personal profile] lo_rez 2011-04-30 06:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Adding my thanks for this post and for the commentary that follows it. Well said.
elf: OTW logo & text (OTW text)

[personal profile] elf 2011-04-30 06:35 pm (UTC)(link)
I started to post a reply, and it grew and kept growing, so I made a post instead. Is mostly squee; I love the OTW's dedication to diversity.

I don't love the *results* of that dedication, which have been erratic and sometimes invisible, and I want to put those thoughts in another post. (My fandoms: filk and tabletop RPGs. Those may have to be two separate posts, because the OTW fails to support them in very different ways.)

I don't think OTW's had the wrong approach with "if you want your interests addressed, come tell us what they are"--but I think they've reached about the end of the usefulness of that approach. That was reasonable during set-up, while they were finding their place and building an infrastructure; also doing outreach in a few dozen directions (few hundred, maybe? eep.) would be too much.

However. There's an infrastructure now, and it's potentially still flexible enough to allow for all those other parts of fandom that got set aside, if the current arrangement isn't allowed to ossify. And now, the OTW should be ready to do outreach, not just "come find us." I'm looking forward with much hope that the OTW can start expanding its scope.
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[personal profile] ldybastet 2011-04-30 08:39 pm (UTC)(link)
I use AO3. A little. Not because it's visible in my current fandoms, because hell no, it isn't, but because I got to know about it when the talk about starting it began and I was in a completely different and hugely popular Western fandom.

Frankly, I haven't bothered with the OTW side of things, simply because it both felt and looked too heavy and... pompous? when I tried to find and read any posts or bulletins or announcements. And the announcements felt very announcement-y, if that makes sense. Transparency? Transparency means (to me) that I get to see inside the machine, that there's a pane of glass at least on one side where I can look in and see "oh, so this is how it works? this is how they they do it?" Transparency (to me) also means that fans have time to voice concerns before things are set in stone and irreversible because of "oh noes" reasons. Transparency (for me) isn't saying "oh hai, we did this and let us give you a crumb of reason for it and now we can't change it" like LJ does it. Transparency (for me) is "this is what we want to do, and why, and now we're wondering what you think about it, to see if we can do this in the best possible way for everyone involved" like DW does it! Long story short: I didn't even see the poll because I'd already given up.

Seeing the shortlists here though... I can't do anything else but facepalm. No one actually realised that NOT setting the three most popular Star Trek names against each other meant that they'd each win their category? Really? The org actually thought that names known by a handful of people on the archive could stand up against the many Kirk or Spock fans, or fans of Dr Who? Colour me a little unimpressed. It's so clear! I mean... it's not even a fair chance! If you want a fun "celeb death match", you set up names that are at least somewhat on equal levels, somewhat equal power, somewhat equal skills, etc. Who would be surprised to see a heavy weight champion beat a light weight guy, even if he happens to be a champ among his own? *shakes head* This actually disappoints me. Diversity doesn't just happen because you (generic you) say that you want it. Diversity doesn't seek you out.

I'll keep using AO3 for posting my fanworks, because I like the archive as such. I like the posting interface. I like that it was remarkably easy to get a new fandom put up in the list, and that someone bothered to check on it and put in a year for the movie in question. I was positively surprised and pleased by that when it happened. But after reading this post, I think I won't bother putting my works from earlier popular Western fandoms like Harry Potter there. I'm sure there's enough of those already and posting more won't help anyone. But I will post what I write for the JRock and anime/manga fandoms I write in. Diversity, right? But damn, it shouldn't be that hard to get volunteers or appoint people to find big comms or boards or whatever for a number of underrepresented fandoms and let people know the archive exist! *sigh*

Anyway, thank you for this post and for trying to show a little of what goes on behind the scenes, and thank you for being the only person trying to include the "outsider" fandoms.
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)

[personal profile] cesy 2011-05-10 09:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Transparency means (to me) that I get to see inside the machine, that there's a pane of glass at least on one side where I can look in and see "oh, so this is how it works? this is how they they do it?" Transparency (to me) also means that fans have time to voice concerns before things are set in stone and irreversible because of "oh noes" reasons. Transparency (for me) isn't saying "oh hai, we did this and let us give you a crumb of reason for it and now we can't change it" like LJ does it. Transparency (for me) is "this is what we want to do, and why, and now we're wondering what you think about it, to see if we can do this in the best possible way for everyone involved" like DW does it!

Yes, this, so much. I would love to see more transparency in the AO3-related parts of the OTW.
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[personal profile] annotated_em 2011-05-01 12:52 am (UTC)(link)
Just wanted to add my voice here. I'm another anime/manga fan who's frustrated with the general feeling of being unwanted/excluded by the OTW and AO3. I use AO3; I post all my fic there; I volunteered as a tag wrangler for a while. I really want to believe in the mission of OTW, but I don't feel like I'm actually part of that mission.

An anecdote, to back that up:

I actually was going to submit nominations for the server names. But then I was reading through the nominations already submitted and saw someone who'd submitted a list of names, names like John and Jack and Daniel and Sam, no last names, with the appended comment that these names were generic enough that they'd show up in every fandom to some degree.

And I just kind of gave up then. Because none of those names appear in my fandoms.

It's hard to feel like my fandoms are valued, you know? When stuff like this keeps happening. And even harder to care about cheerleading and promoting AO3 when I know that 139 of the 300-some fics in my current primary fandom are mine. And that the numbers of fics in the Asian media fandoms are dwarfed by the western media fandoms. It's just hard to bother, because even when y'all are saying you value diversity, your actions are showing that you don't. Not really.
littlebutfierce: (lovecom angry otani)

[personal profile] littlebutfierce 2011-05-01 01:24 am (UTC)(link)
All the other anime & manga fans commenting pretty much get a big "yes, me too" from me.

I am astonished, really honestly gobsmacked, that anyone would've imagined that this vote would've turned out any way other than how it did. Especially after the Yuletide debacle, which highlighted all this kind of stuff. I can't even remember if I voted for the server names; I was torn between not bothering, & trying to figure out which of the anime/manga names were the strongest contenders. I suspect in the end I didn't bother. I certainly didn't bother straining my brain to nominate any names, because I knew how that would end up.

I like AO3 as an archiving tool, but it's been pretty clear to me what kinds of fandoms it's catering to; they're not mine.

[personal profile] argle_fraster 2011-05-03 02:19 am (UTC)(link)
I was someone who participated in Yuletide, which was, obviously, entirely AO3-based this year. I've had next to no experience with AO3 other than Yuletide, but I have to admit that I was seriously confused by some of the fandoms that were included- and were considered small enough to be- and some of them that weren't. This really isn't the big issue, but it brought to my attention that AO3 has basically nothing from any of my fandoms on it at all- in fact, other than Yuletide, I hadn't even really hard anything about it. It probably bears mentioning that I am in Jpop fandoms, and these fandoms have not traditionally been something that the archives have focused on. (Seriously, for Yuletide, I ended up writing something in a fandom so freaking HUGE I was laughing the whole time I wrote it, because obviously the only numbers anyone considered were on AO3 and nobody checked to look at LJ or other places to where this fic would have been.)

Which is actually really sad, because given what I know about my fandoms, you could really get an audience here if you sold it the right way. My fandom is basically 100% on Livejournal- and given LJ's current problems, strikethrough, and more recently, the fact that a LOT of people in my fandom have uncovered some issues with LJ's staff through (of all places) a fandom hate meme, you've got a large number of people who are probably unhappy enough to try a move, only no one has offered any other options. Because fandom stays on LJ, we stay on LJ.

This isn't really anyone's fault. It's hard to migrate a fandom. It's just that AO3 has never even been something brought up, really? I wonder why it is that it's so Western-based, and again, I don't think this is anyone's fault at all, but it's something to note. I'm not really sure how you could cater to non-Western fans, and this might be something you already have, but is it possible to make tags using non-Latin characters? Because I know that people would possibly want to create tags using Japanese/Korean/Chinese characters, and I didn't know if this was an option. If it is, ignore this! If not, maybe it is something to think about, if you did want to try reaching out to non-Western fandoms?

Anyway, my main problem with AO3 really doesn't have anything to do with the site- mostly it had to do with the incredibly bizarre choices in fandoms to include in Yuletide, and it's sort of unfortunate that AO3 is what I associated this problem with, simply because of where it was hosted. Traditionally Yuletide was where I went to try and get some fic from fandoms that see very, very few fics posted per year: smaller Final Fantasy games (I-VI) and Chrono Trigger/Cross. Instead of including these tiny fandoms, Yuletide included some HUGE fandoms that simply aren't on AO3 and therefore looked miniscule, but in absolutely NO way are. Since I've done Yuletide for 4 years, this made me sad to see these go in and out of being included on Yuletide's sign-ups. Again, this has nothing to do with AO3, I don't think, but since it's my only real experience with AO3, I thought it bore mentioning.

I'm sorry I can't be helpful with offering ideas of what you could do to draw in the non-Western crowds. :( My fandom is, again, 100% based on Livejournal. In fact, it's pretty well consolidated there. The communities are really what keep us there, because you can post to communities that are relevant to your particular sub-genre or group in the wider, over-arching fandom of Johnny's Entertainment and it keeps things split up, mostly by group or pairing. Since this is pretty important to most people, I'm assuming this is why LJ has worked so well for us. Again, this is probably not helpful, but there's my 2 cents.

Thanks for making this post- I got directed here by a friend. I think you are really doing something by trying to get change rolling within an organization (you and the people you are working with). :))) <3
helkalantto: (Default)

[personal profile] helkalantto 2011-05-03 04:34 pm (UTC)(link)
this might be something you already have, but is it possible to make tags using non-Latin characters?

This is not an official answer, but I think that's possible. At least there are fics in Russian which have Cyrillic tags.

(no subject)

[personal profile] stealthily - 2011-05-03 20:33 (UTC) - Expand
celli: a woman and a man holding hands, captioned "i treasure" (Default)

[personal profile] celli 2011-05-03 03:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm really excited to see this post and this discussion. Thank you.

(p.s. you're still awesome!)
ext_3328: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (Default)

[identity profile] 2011-05-03 03:23 pm (UTC)(link)
I got here because of a friend who pointed out this post; before she did, I had never even heard of the OTW or AO3 or whatever those acronyms are. I had pretty much resigned myself to using and DrunkDuck/Smackjeeves to publish any fanwork because every other place I tried to publish had structure, security, server load, copyright or persistence issues.

I have written quite a lot of fanfiction and also drawn a quite long fan comic and am on the constant search for new, stable, legal, advertising-free places to host my works. So, discovering that this archive existed with the additional description of having a good, solid, mostly bug-free support structure had me interested.

Why do I bother to mention all that? Because, quite literally, this post is my first introduction to that service. And frankly, I'm feeling like it would probably be a waste of my time to invest the effort it would take to transfer the body of work I have created up until now onto what really seems to be hostile servers.

I am a fan of Star Trek and other western media too, by the way, but by and large I create stories and artwork for game and anime/manga genres. This is just not a heartening or welcoming introduction, and neither are those server names, which are always a good way to get a quick overview of a community makeup. I really don't want to have to spend time in a place where I have to feel like an unwelcome intruder on the Star Trek / US & British Sci-Fi TV Series fandoms. And that's basically what seeing this discussion being had at all does for me.

Technical competence goes a long way for forgiving social awkwardness. But not all the way.

As an aside, I wonder a bit at the OTW website. Given that the mission is to provide sanctuary for small segments of fandom, especially for the international community, I have to say the main site doesn't really give me that impression either.

"he Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms."

Now this right here means, quite simply to me, support structure for translating existing, well-established, dare I say even "famous" fanworks that have been around on the internet for a while.

Based on that admittedly biased interpretation, it seems kind of unwelcoming to have the whole shebang in English and then a few other languages listed on the side, only two of which appears to be non-Latin-based. A huge internet side of fandom is completely untapped by the West simply because not that many people can translate the big three: Chinese, Japanese, Korean. And this doesn't even touch on places like Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, etc, etc. It should be noted that traditionally, asian fandoms are not predominantely female-based, either; I don't think that kind of gender stereotyping happens in Asia quite as much as in the West. And I am not talking about just game / anime / manga / J-stuff fandoms, either - there are huge fandoms for things like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Mad Max and other traditionally western media in Asia, too. In terms of smaller groups, missing things like Arabic pop out to me, too.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, it's a site attempting to bring Western female-based fandom works to the rest of the world, not making "fandom" more accessible or legitimate.

Good luck with your struggles, in any regard.

novel_machinist: (Default)

[personal profile] novel_machinist 2011-05-03 03:56 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm not sure what I can add to this discussion to help, but from where I am standing there are a few things to consider.

1) When you leave things up to a majority vote, the more popular things will get more votes.

The result of this is on the outside this is "fair" and "balanced" because the most people are getting what they want. That being said, however, I don't think that this is as much about making the majority happy as it is about efforts to be inclusive. Inclusive is harder than "fair".

2) How do we include things that people may not know about?

The response, obviously, is to ask. Of course, then we get back into the "most popular things get the most votes." But what if the outreach was more specific? I have an idea, however it will take a lot of work (and I am willing to help if I can). It would require either a journal or a message board specific for fandom outreach and featuring fandoms. We would have to ask "Tell us about your fandom" and get links to where those fandoms are largest. Go to those places and ask about what tags/information needs to happen. We can have "featured fandoms" of the month that way, slowly add. I'm not sure if this will help with the problems or not, but there is something in reaching out in that way that may get the most positive response?

cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)

[personal profile] cesy 2011-05-10 09:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Could some of that featuring fandoms idea use the [community profile] fanlore wiki or community? It would be great to get under-represented fandoms added to Fanlore at the same time as reaching out to them for AO3.

(no subject)

[personal profile] novel_machinist - 2011-05-10 23:59 (UTC) - Expand
kylara: Sasuke holding a red parasol (Sasuke red parasol)

[personal profile] kylara 2011-05-14 10:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Here via metafandom. Thank you for writing this, it's nice to have a better idea what happened. Thanks also for acknowledging my thread on the LJ server names announcement post; it's also nice to know someone who cared was paying attention, which is not how it felt at the time.

I wish I'd seen this post when it was made, because in April I still had some energy for this topic; I was still tapping out the start of letters to the OTW and then deleting them in frustration without sending, and planning LJ posts that never got written, because I honestly thought that no one cared and the OTW as a whole was disinterested. The latter is a belief I still hold; regardless of dissenting individuals such as yourself, the decision to prioritize a throwaway line about tallying votes instead of the OTW's supposed values of inclusion and diversity reflects the whole. There's been nothing to suggest to me that the same mistakes (decisions with poor priorities that dismiss the OTW's own "values" of diversity) won't be made again in new ways.

So thank you for this post, but I'm not refilled with lost confidence for the OTW. I am happy to see from the comments that I'm not as alone as I previously felt; all my anime/manga/game friends have long since dismissed or abandoned the OTW, for reasons I hope by now are obvious.
herongale: (anemone- leer)

[personal profile] herongale 2011-05-15 08:46 am (UTC)(link)
My first response when skimming over this very lengthy post was, "jeez, who cares? It's just some server names."

But I knew I was being needlessly dismissive and the very fact that you wrote so much made me go back and read everything you said closely, with greater attention to detail. So of course on the second time around I find that you addressed that question of "who cares?" quite well: small issues can so easily be emblematic of bigger ones. If there was no bigger issue than this one incident would obviously not matter, but since there is a bigger issue, then it serves as an illuminating case study.

So let me just say that I think that the easiest fix for this from the outset would have been to scratch the whole One Winner Per Fandom/One Winner Per Medium idea and instead go with something like a One Medium Per Server concept instead. Please allow me to explain.

It seems to me that you're exactly right, that the only way to ensure diversity is to build it in from the very beginning, and so in a poll like this, it's the job of the moderators to frame the poll in such a way that diversity is a predetermined outcome: that diversity will happen regardless of how people vote, by presenting things in such a way where diversity is the default. (See: Framing).

Therefore, if you consider a framework of diversity from the very beginning, then I think the key is to pit like against like. If Dr. Who and SG1 and Star Trek and all the TV/Movie fandoms are put in direct competition with each other, then it doesn't matter if five or so Star Trek characters garner the most number of votes... they still only end up being able to name the one server. If you reserve another server for, say, only anime/manga fandoms, then it's anime character against anime character, and there would be no way for a Star Trek character to best them since they wouldn't even be a part of that particular poll.

Obviously this approach brings up a different problem: which six medium should be included? How do you makes is so diversity doesn't end up completely sidelining what is truly a majority of the current userbase? But I think that this is a far more manageable problem since you could first ask people to vote on a selection of various medium to be included, and then you take the top five types and assign them each a category, while reserving the sixth server for "Potpourri" or "Rare Fandom Types": all the other medium types that didn't make the initial cut.

So you'd have a staged voting process, going first for the most elemental aspect of fandom (the categories themselves), and then pitting like-against-like within each category. Does Spock or Jack Harkness win out against Uhura? Idk, but at least this way, Izumi Curtis doesn't have to compete against either of them. Pit her against Tsunade and Utena and Eva-01 and Mine Fujiko instead.

Obviously, this is only one idea. One example of an alternate way of setting up the polls which is quite different from the ways the board seemed to consider. It wouldn't have to be done this way (I'm not so arrogant as to think that my idea is the best way), but hopefully this illustrates the concept of framing. If diversity is a priority, it needs to exist in the essential framing of any question/poll/outreach program/whatever other thing the OTW or AO3 is working on. Don't depend on polling and majority vote to create diversity: I think we all need to accept that the current state of the OTW and AO3 is that it favors certain fandom types over others. I don't think this needs to be looked at as a problem so much as it is the baseline reality. This is how things are, for now. But if you want these spaces to be seen as welcoming to other currently under-represented fandom types, then the mandates for diversity need to be built in from the ground up, and from the top down. I agree with those who say that it is the responsibility of the OTW to reach out... if the people in charge actually want a diverse archive and a diverse organization, they need to institute the policies and the framework that make diversity possible.

I myself am an anime fan. I currently operate in a fandom that is small even by anime fandom standards: Ookiku Furikabutte is hardly a household name, after all. I have been happily archiving my stories at the AO3 and I've never been too worried about exposure or anything, since I take the responsibility for advertising my stories upon myself, and I advertise them to the appropriate fandom-specific communities. I don't really ask for much from the OTW or the AO3 other than a place to keep my stories. But the reality is that even if I wanted to have more in-depth involvement with other activities here, I wouldn't even know where to begin. I don't see any other "ins" for me, other than my ability to post stories. If there are even other activities going on I wouldn't have any way to know about them, since there isn't any big central organizing area where I can find out the different events and polls going on... I had never even heard of this poll before reading this post, which I came to only because it was linked in Metafandom. I might have enjoyed voting in it, but it never came up.

So outreach is critical. And it needs to be something more than just dedicated board members like you busting your ass trying to get the word out to as many different groups as possible. That sort of approach is time consuming and tedious and probably pretty emotionally draining: you did all that work and that probably makes the un-diverse outcome seem all the more bitter. My feeling about outreach is that it needs to exist in the creation of an active and central community forum/space where people can voluntarily show up, talk about things, and participate. Pan-fandom spaces like fandomsecrets or fanficrants do tend to show a diversity of media types, but it's not because they work so hard trying to get people to join in: instead, they created inviting participatory spaces where people can contribute and discuss fannish topics in a targeted fashion, and that attracted its own audience over time since the content it provided was worth seeing.

My overarching suggestion to you and the board would be to consider the concept of social networking/community more. Do you have a Twitter or Facebook page which people can follow to find out basic news? If so, that should be prominently linked on the main page of the AO3? Is there a community forum, either at the A03, OTW, or in another space (such as LJ or Dreamwidth) where any fan can come in and talk issues? Ditto my suggestion about main page linkage. I think you need to have these kind of spaces and you need to feature them prominently on the main portal pages of your websites so people can find out about them, and thus individual fans can tailor their involvement/investment based on how much they want to contribute, while at the same time making it pan-fandom so everyone will at least feel like they have a stake in what is being discussed.

Thanks for the very interesting post. It really made me think!