AO3: A Beacon of Diversity and Inclusion in Open Source

David Smith


Hey there, folks! Let’s dive into a little something that’s been buzzing in my brain lately: Archive Of Our Own (AO3). Now, before you give me that blank stare, let me tell you, this platform is an absolute game-changer in the world of open knowledge and tech. But hold up, why haven’t you heard much about it? Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

The Mystery of AO3: A Closer Look

Picture this: It’s April, and I’m prepping my keynote for the FLOSS UK Conference. As I mull over the issues of structural discrimination and lack of diversity in open communities, a thought hits me like a bolt of lightning. There’s this wildly successful OSS initiative—AO3—that’s largely run by a kickass female community. Yet, it’s like the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about. Curious, isn’t it?

AO3, managed by the Organisation for Transformative Works, is a beacon of inclusivity, boasting a diverse volunteer base for nearly a decade now. It’s open, it’s free, and it’s monumental. So, why the hush-hush treatment? Well, here’s the kicker: AO3 is primarily a hub for fanfiction—a genre often brushed aside in scholarly circles. But let’s not get bogged down in debates about the legitimacy of fan works. Instead, let’s focus on why this extraordinary project isn’t getting the recognition it deserves.

Behind the Scenes: The Success Story of AO3

Now, here’s where things get juicy. AO3 isn’t just another run-of-the-mill platform. Oh no, it’s a powerhouse of creativity, built on the Ruby on Rails framework by a legion of volunteers, most of whom are women. And guess what? It’s not fueled by hefty sponsorships or flashy ads. Nope, it thrives on subscriptions and good old-fashioned donations. Talk about grassroots support!

But wait, there’s more. With over a million users and millions of works hosted, AO3 is a force to be reckoned with. And managing all that content? Enter the tag wranglers, the unsung heroes behind AO3’s seamless tagging system. It’s like organized chaos, and it works like a charm.

Breaking the Silence: Shining a Spotlight on AO3

Okay, confession time: It irks me to no end that AO3 flies under the radar of many open advocates. Seriously, it’s time to give credit where credit is due. So, imagine my elation when I stumbled upon Claire Knowles, dropping some knowledge about Casey Fiesler’s upcoming keynote at the Open Repositories Conference.

Fast forward to Casey’s talk, and let me tell you, it was nothing short of mind-blowing. She peeled back the layers of AO3, revealing its brilliance as a community-driven endeavor. Designed by women, for a community that was already thriving, AO3 stands as a testament to the power of inclusivity in open source.

Unlocking the Potential: Lessons from AO3

Now, here’s the million-dollar question: Can AO3 serve as a blueprint for making open source more welcoming to women? It’s a tough nut to crack, but one thing’s for sure: passion and community can move mountains.

Casey’s keynote left me pondering the possibilities. It’s not just about the software; it’s about the people behind it. AO3 isn’t just an archive; it’s a testament to what happens when diverse voices come together in a shared space.

Wrapping Up: Celebrating AO3’s Triumphs

In a world where diversity and inclusion are more important than ever, AO3 stands as a shining example of what’s possible. It’s time to stop tiptoeing around the subject and start celebrating AO3 for the trailblazer it truly is.

So, here’s to you, AO3. May your legacy continue to inspire and ignite the flames of creativity for years to come. Cheers to community, inclusivity, and the power of transformative works. Let’s keep the conversation going and ensure that AO3’s story is heard far and wide.

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