Organization for Transformative Works/Accessibility, Design & Technology

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OTW Committee
Committee Name: Accessibility, Design and Technology committee
Organization: Organization for Transformative Works
Date(s): 2007 - Present
Focus: Software design and development; OTW-Archive
Committee Roles:
External Links: Archive of Our Own,
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Organization for Transformative Works Committees

AO3 Documentation, Accessibility, Design & Technology, Board Assistants Team, Communications, Development & Membership, Elections, Fanlore, Finance, Legal, Open Doors, Policy & Abuse, Strategic Planning, Support, Systems, TWC, Tag Wrangling, Translation, Volunteers & Recruiting, Webs

The Accessibility, Design and Technology Committee (AD&T) is one of the committees responsible for the Archive of Our Own (AO3) project, run by the Organization for Transformative Works. AD&T is responsible for overseeing the Archive's development, which takes place on its Github repository, and for maintaining the project's list of issues for development on Jira.

As an open source project, AO3 receives code submitted by external contributors as well as OTW volunteers. AD&T's responsibilities include reviewing these contributions, as well as overseeing its testing and deployment.

This is AD&T committee's description on the OTW website:

Coordinates software design and development on behalf of the Organization for Transformative Works. The main project currently occupying the committee is the creation of an open-source software package, OTW-Archive, to build and support the Archive of Our Own.[1]

AD&T in the early years of AO3

Infographic showing connections between AD&T and OTW committees & users & processes for building AO3 in the site's early years.

In AO3's early years, AD&T was divided into three subcommittees (Design, Coders, and Testers) and had a strong focus on training volunteers in-house on Ruby on Rails so that they could design and develop software features, and write and test the code for new features and bug fixes.

In that period, volunteer roles were divided into the following groups:

  • Training
    • Organised mentoring of new Coders (not necessarily doing it themselves)
  • Organised training sessions
    • Updated training documentation
    • 2011 Training Lead was Jenny Scott-Thompson
    • Previous training leads were Cal and Zooey
  • Design:
    • Designed new AO3 features in conjuction with AD&T Committee - create wiki pages with specifications and mock-ups
    • Created issues with information for the Coders to create the new features
    • 2010 and 2011 design lead was Amelia
  • Coders
    • Wrote the code to implement new features
    • Wrote code to fix bugs and undesireable behaviour based on reports from AO3 users and volunteers - for example user reports submitted to Support, or problems Testers or Tag Wranglers noticed while working on the Archive
    • Front-End coders wrote XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript - the languages that control how the pages display. Often the same code displays differently in different internet browsers, depending on how the browers interpret and display the code - a situation testers are very familiar with!
    • Back-End coders wrote Ruby on Rails - the language that does the behind the scenes work and communicates with the database
    • Both sets of coders write automated tests (Cucumber, rspec) to make sure their new code works properly
    • The new code was submitted to and merged into the main OTW-Archive code repository at GitHub. It is then deployed to the Test Archive for testing.
  • Testers
    • Tested the new code does what it should! They read the description or documentation written by the Coder or Designer on its JIRA issue, and attempt to either recreate the bug, or use the new feature or enhancement on the version of the Archive the code is on. Usually the new code is deployed to (put on) the Test version of the Archive before being deployed to the main Archive (Beta).
    • For Front-End bugs, the code was usually tested in as many internet browsers and operating systems as possible to pick up any differences in display or behaviour. For this reason testers often have several browsers installed on their computer (for example Firefox 7, Opera 11.50, Google Chrome 15.0.874.120 m, and Internet Explorer 7). One tester may have Windows 7 (Microsoft) operating system, another Ubuntu (Linux) and a third OS X (Apple Mac).
    • Once the Tester/s confirmed the new code works as desired, the testing lead update the JIRA issue with a Verified label and the new code is then deployed to the main Archive in the next code push.
    • If any new bugs are discovered during testing, they are logged on JIRA for a Coder to fix and the cycle begins anew.
    • Testers also may attempt to reproduce/replicate and log bugs reported to Support by Archive users.
    • 2009 Test Lead was Jennifew
    • 2010 Test Lead was Eylul
    • 2011 Test Lead was Kylie
    • From 2012 onwards, the Test Lead was LadyOscar

This is the committee description on the OTW website from that period:

Coordinates software design and development on behalf of the Organization for Transformative Works. The main project currently occupying the Committee is the creation of an open-source software package, OTW-Archive[2], to build and support the Archive of Our Own. AD&T designs, codes and tests the AO3 software, advises the rest of the OTW on accessibility and technology issues, and supports Systems in ensuring the the AO3 site stays running smoothly. AD&T protects and preserves access to fanworks on the AO3. AD&T collaborates with many other committees, and works with Support for managing known issues, fixing bugs and considering feature requests from users; with Tag Wrangling for anything tag-related; with Internationalization & Outreach and Translation for preparing to translate the Archive, and for translating FAQs and news posts; and with Communications for news posts, admin messages, banner messages, and the AO3 Twitter accounts (AO3_Status, ao3org).

AD&T prefers all committee members to have experience as volunteers and recruits new members from the volunteer pools. AD&T is currently seeking volunteers for accessibility, coding, design, documentation, testing, and usability work. The Archive of Our Own is coded in Ruby, and we welcome volunteers of every level of experience. No technical experience is required for testing.

To learn more about coding and testing, check out Behind the scenes at the AO3: A day in the life of a coder, the transcript from our Intro to Testing Chat, and the transcript of our Intro to Coding Chat. To learn more about the AD&T committee, check out AD&T Meeting Notes, Oct. 22.[3]

Changes over time

Recent years have seen major changes to how AD&T operates compared to the above, such as:

  • The committee's structure has been simplified. There are currently the following three groups:
    • AD&T senior volunteers: senior developers responsible for reviewing code and making decisions about features and deploys
    • Coders: junior developers who contribute more infrequently
    • Quality Assurance & Testing: a subcommittee dedicated specifically to testing
  • The team has grown much smaller over time, and is now comprised of senior developers with less availability for training junior devs from scratch. When AD&T recruits, they look for volunteers with prior coding experience[4].
  • The committee works regularly with external contractors on a variety of projects.
  • Likewise, release notes frequently credit external contributors who aren't OTW volunteers.
  • Though the Quality Assurance & Testing subcommittee still exists and has testers, AD&T now makes extensive use of testing calls involving volunteers who work with AO3 throughout the organization.

History of Chairs


The oldest admin post (AO3 News) of Archive of Our Own is "Release Notes for R1585", an update from the AD&T team in October 2009.[5] The team regularly publish release notes to inform users of recent changes in the software behind AO3. The committee also published "Accessibility, Design and Technology Meeting" posts (aka AD&T Minutes) since October 2009 until December 2011.[6][7]



  1. ^ Committees, accessed on August 18, 2022.
  2. ^ OTW-Archive is "an open-source software package, OTW-Archive, which will allow fans to host their own robust, full-featured archives, which can support even an archive on a very large scale of hundreds of thousands of stories and has the social networking features to make it easier for fans to connect to one another through their work." From the Archive of Our Own page on
  3. ^ OTW list of 2012 Committees
  4. ^ AD&T Coding Volunteer Position Description, accessed on August 18, 2022.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ 2011 Candidate Profile: Jenny Scott-Thompson, in which Jenny Scott-Thompson says "I’ve been doing the AD&T minutes (which are visible to all volunteers) for most of the year, enabling Lucy to post the Archive of Our Own meeting roundups publicly."