Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today’s post is with Lex deLeon, who volunteers as a Support staffer and tag wrangler, and was recently elected to the OTW’s Board of Directors.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
As a member of the Support and Tag Wrangling teams, I feel I provide two different aspects of user to volunteer interaction with the Archive. As a tag wrangler, I take loose ideas that people use to describe their stories in the Character, Relationship or Additional Tags fields on their works and make them synonymous with common tags that many people use for searching. There are far too many examples for this, but it is basically like taking fandom ideas and making them make sense to someone who isn’t in fandom. The thought process can be the same at times! There can be a lot of research associated with this, especially when someone likes to use fanon specific nicknames. It is a largely invisible, but invaluable task.
As a member of the Support team, I reply to tickets that are sent in by users of the site. This may be as simple as “I can’t log in”, which is a common complaint to any site with login capability. Those of you out there who have suffered this, you are not alone! Or it could be more complex questions, such as “how do I post a new work”. It is always important to me to respond with the utmost of professionalism and respect, as I was once one of those users who didn’t know a slash (/) from an ampersand (&). Hint: the first means a romantic or sexual relationship, the second means friendship or platonic.
Overall, I feel my work in the OTW is something that allows me to contribute in a generally positive way to the larger fandom communities that are out there.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
Generally, any work as a volunteer starts the same way — caffeine. I will openly admit to being a thorough and unashamed addict, whether it be coffee or energy drinks. Then I will typically peruse new tags that have come in and send them to the appropriate locations as needed. On Support days, I will begin by selecting a ticket which I am comfortable tackling given my level of energy or time — if a ticket is one which I know will require an hour of research or time, I will not begin working on it when I have ten minutes free. Much of my work as a volunteer is essentially time and resource (read: my own energy levels) management.
My father taught me a crucial lesson as a child: the only normal day was yesterday. Being willing and able to accept this kind of variability has been a huge help to my work as a volunteer.
What made you decide to volunteer?
I had wanted to volunteer for a while but had never happened upon the application at the right time. One day, I came to the Archive to peruse new femslash and saw it — a shining beacon of a new News post, heralding “Volunteers needed!” I applied and the rest, as they say, was history. The mission of the OTW at large aligns with what I believe we as a fannish culture at large should be striving for — not just a space for us to post out stories and pictures and videos, but a place that actively strives to protect our rights to do so.
What’s the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
Of all of the things I have learned and experienced during my time volunteering, the most rewarding thing has been discovering that I am not alone. I am not the only one who sees this rare ship, I am not the only one who sees the need for this fight, and I am not the only one who thinks that Certain Female Characters Were Robbed! While this is something I have also received from my other friends who do not volunteer, it is not always easy to yell into the void of my own fannish tumblr. I wish to discuss these things, to work out my thoughts and find a cohesive narrative from the frequently broken and half baked ideas that we are presented with from canon. The friendships I have made, and the relationships I have forged are ones which I hope are ones which stay with me for a long time.
Other than that, I’d have to say learning about new fandoms. I have SO MANY NEW SHIPS.
What fannish things do you like to do?
I have been writing since roughly 1992, though almost all of my early work is gone. I have never stopped writing, though I have taken hiatuses over the years for personal reasons. I have spent countless hours perusing fan manipulations, fan mixes, fan vids — but my heart remains with fanfic. Whether reading or writing, that is where my main focus has always been.
I’ve drifted between fandoms over the years — oh, the fond memories I have of the long dead Popular mailing list! — though I do have to admit all of my fandoms have one thing in common. It is a failing, perhaps, or a strength. All of my fandoms have invariably been femslash. It has become a running joke amongst my friends, though additionally an advertisement, that I will invariably know of or be in the fandom for a lot of fandoms that have femslash.
Of everything I do in fandom, remembering what has come before and continuing to work toward allowing others the space and freedom to explore their own fannish tendencies is the thing I am most proud of. It is akin to the classic quote frequently misattributed to Voltaire but which is from Evelyn Beatrice Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you’d like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.