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OTW 2011

In mid-November 2011, the Organization for Transformative Works did an ill-fated deploy of a new skin. The FFA post //"True Confessions, Part II"// contained a good dozen threads (here are three) about how ugly and illegible the skin was, despite it having been allegedly rolled out “to improve usability for users with disabilities.” As it turns out, it was also triggering migraines. The OTW claimed the skin had been tested, but “then it was pulled out of testing and deployed well before that testing was finished, so that yuletide nominations could start.”

Shortly thereafter, OTW coder Lim revealed in a now-locked post that she'd been coding 14 hours a day while trying to care for a disabled family member. She apparently did not have as many skills as she claimed or the OTW thought, but “because of lim's personality and non-neurotypicality she worked best alone or one-one-one with Naomi [Novik] so most of us had limited contact with her… her commitment to her view of accessibility and design as well her sensitivity to design criticism (plus the attitude of 'don't upset lim, she knows what she's doing' from NN) got in the way of making the best possible changes for AO3.” This sentiment was a common one: “I feel sorry for her, annoyed that she's trying to guilt everyone into forgiving her mistakes, and furious at whoever is handling this shit at AO3.”

Meanwhile, Skud on Dreamwidth wrote, “This is not an OTW elections post, but it is a how-the-archive-project-is-run post, and a what-the-hell-went-wrong-with-that-release-the-other-day post.” Skud's post, which laid out all the problems with AO3's coding and organization in gritty technical detail, got linked several times on FFA.

Die-hard OTW stan/members got defensive and nasty over all the criticism. Nonnies rolled their eyes at two of them claiming AO3 is a “gift” and therefore cannot be complained about. A new, huge wank thread started when Sidra, co-chair of OTW's System committee, senior archive coder, and co-owner of archive code on GitHub, snarled, “I do not apologize for this deploy. … None of the people who worked on this release have anything to apologize for. The board does not need to apologize for not having stepped in to prevent it from happening or promise it will never happen again.”

The comments Sidra let through fawned over her, but FFA did not. From a software-company employee: “'We worked really hard and nobody's perfect so STFU' is just such an… immature result. 'At least this release didn't bring the archive to a screaming halt and lose a lot of data!' is not a particularly confidence-inspiring defense. And the ending, an attempted revival of the 'rah rah we're awesome' attitude, is appropriate for a private regrouping meeting but not for a public statement from a lead developer, let alone a co-chair.”

An OTW member came into the thread to declare, “Fandom is getting exactly what it is paying for, and in return, it's treating the people doing the work like incompetent, stupid people getting paid too much to fuck around and do nothing.” Nonnies were very sympathetic while explaining why OTW got the reaction that it did. They were less sympathetic when it was declared far downthread that because the AO3 is free, “customer service” doesn't apply and therefore Sidra was within her rights to be an asshole about the situation — and the phrase "whiny little shits like you" was used. Well, this whiny little shit just decided not to renew her OTW membership. Thanks for making my mind up for me.”

Finally, this nonny linked to these two posts by Vom Marlowe, who is in management, and sums them up thusly: “It really, really doesn't matter how good individual coders are when it looks like either no one there has management skills or no one can exercise them because, for some reason, the Board says they can't. (Or, option 3, NN the Shining Goddess supposedly has all these skills and her defenders are ignoring the fact that she doesn't have this set).”

Unrelatedly but around the same time, there was an FFA thread titled tags.rb ruined my Friday night; or, I got a rock. The OP analyzes OTW's tags.rb file, which they pronounce an “unholy mess.” If they were running the OTW, they say, they'd “describe the desired behavior of the system we want to build, and then we describe a few possible solutions, some radical, some cautious, and discuss their performance and storage implications and throw rocks at them until we arrive at one that makes the right set of tradeoffs for our goals. Then we build a tiny working version of the simplest possible feature of that system alongside the existing mess. Then we iterate.” However, “I suspect that for the AO3, the first step is actually 'convince the people in charge that there's a problem here.' Then convince them to set aside their political assumptions about how tagging should work and make them concentrate on how archive users want to go about finding fic.”

otw-2011.txt · Last modified: 2021/08/29 17:35 (external edit)