AO3 News

Advocacy

Published: 2014-10-24 12:06:31 -0400

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Many fans discovered the OTW while exploring the Archive of Our Own or Fanlore, but not all our visitors realize that the Organization for Transformative Works is an advocacy group, or what that might mean.

To the OTW, it means that we don't just provide spaces to protect and preserve fanworks. It means that we also add our voices to public conversations about fandom and fanworks. We speak out in order to help improve public policies and perceptions about fanworks and remix culture that affect us as fans. Your support helps us to speak up in more ways and in more places about issues that affect us all.

The OTW feels it's especially important to advocate for female-driven fan spaces. Far too often, modern fandom is seen as a largely male domain, be it in the areas of sports fandom, traditional sci-fi fandom, or newer fandoms. We believe in the value of online fanwork-based communities in which female, queer, genderqueer, POC, and other marginalized fans congregate.

To us, advocating for these spaces doesn’t just start and stop with online outreach. That’s why we are focusing more on doing outreach in real-life spaces like conventions. This year, we've sent OTW representatives to Comic-Con and Worldcon, and we're working on developing even more resources for anyone who wants to represent OTW or its projects at conventions.

We also recognize that outreach is sometimes larger than just fandom: that's why we recently sponsored an event at Dragon Con with EFF to advocate for online privacy rights. We also have had presences at other fandom-friendly events like AdaCamp, an open source training camp aimed at women in tech and open source culture. And, as always, through our legal work we have advocated for empowered fan spaces and greater creative freedom under current copyright laws. These activities allow our volunteers the chance to gain confidence in their skills and abilities while improving the OTW’s ability to do its work.

We believe that our advocacy helps us create a more empowered fan space for ourselves and our community. By making a donation to the OTW, you can ensure that we can continue to use our voices to speak out for fanworks for years to come.

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Protection

Published: 2014-10-23 11:54:20 -0400

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One of the best things about the Organization for Transformative Works is that we refuse to treat members of fandom like commodities.

Increasingly, fandom is coming into the public view — not just because of its creative energy, but because of its perceived value to creators, producers, and marketers. Your support helps the OTW advocate for fandom as a free space separate from commercial interests.

Various creative industries are courting fans, but not always with an understanding of or concern for fans' own interests. Fans are more than free labor, and fanworks are more than a potential new revenue source.

The Organization for Transformative Works was formed as a response to experience with too many services that proved vulnerable to commercial exploitation and control, or even to disappearance, without concern for the fans who’d built communities using those services. The OTW has long maintained the stance that fandom should be an empowered space for its members, which means that there should be fandom spaces that are free of commercial exploitation, influence, and control. Diversity gives us strength, and that diversity includes preserving noncommercial fanworks. From our mission statement: "We are proactive and innovative in protecting and defending our work from commercial exploitation and legal challenge."

One way we do that is through the work of our Legal committee in advocating for fans and liberal interpretations of fair use where fanwork is concerned. We also work to protect transformative creators, whether it's through giving individual fans advice about how to deal with copyright and other legal issues; through participation in conversations on copyright law and the DMCA; through warning fans about potentially exploitative scenarios; or through offering fans information and answering questions.

By making a donation to the OTW today, you can help us continue to do our part to help keep fandom a vibrant environment for you to create and enjoy fanwork freely.

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Free Speech

Published: 2014-10-22 12:05:08 -0400

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The Organization for Transformative Works stands for transformative works in all their colors. Because we are supported by donations from fans like you, the OTW's many projects are able to remain entirely censorship-free. This means that the OTW supports fannish works and preserves the history of fan culture without worrying about external cultural pressures.

Fanworks hosted on the Archive of Our Own range from fluffy and cheerful to dark and gritty to steamy and sexy to thoughtful and eloquent (and some are all of the above!).

Fans don't need to fear that their works might be purged from AO3 in order to make the site more attractive to advertisers. As we said yesterday, because we depend on fans and not advertisers to fund our hosting costs, the Archive can remain fully independent and accept as many fannish works as the servers can hold.

This was a fundamental tenet of the OTW. When writing AO3's terms of service, we aimed for maximum inclusivity because we wanted to create a space that wasn’t limited by commercial considerations. In it we state, "You understand that using the Archive may expose you to material that is offensive, triggering, erroneous, sexually explicit, indecent, blasphemous, objectionable, grammatically incorrect, or badly spelled." The Archive has works representing all of these warnings (and more!) and will continue to for as long as our servers are functioning.

But AO3 is only one of our many projects whose content our organization doesn't censor, and whose users rely on that promise of freedom of speech.

Fanhackers houses discussions on fannish non-fiction topics, and Transformative Works and Cultures is an academic journal dedicated entirely to fan culture studies. Both Fanhackers and TWC accept submissions from non-academics, and welcome a vast range of experiences and outlooks on fandom and fan traditions.

Meanwhile, Fanlore, our ever-growing repository of fan history, maintains a plural point of view policy on all its articles. After all, there is no "right" way to look at the history of fan cultures. All sides of a story are valid, and fans are given a space to "tell their own stories from their own perspective," as stated in Fanlore's Plural Point of View policy page.

You are the creators, and we respect your right to make your works the way you choose to make them. We’ve been around for seven censorship-free years and were hoping to raise US$70,000 this week. Fandom has come through for us in only two days! With four more days to go in our drive, how far will you all push our donation meter? With your support, we can keep the OTW’s projects independent and censorship-free.

We would also like to let AO3 users who are still receiving our emails for the drive know that these will continue to be sent until Friday, October 24th. As our account holder list has become quite large, it takes several days once the email process begins for everyone to receive the email. We began this process late Sunday so some of the information is now out of date -- our apologies!

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Ad-Free

Published: 2014-10-21 11:59:23 -0400

Banner with seven circles and a 'No' sign in the third one, reading 'Seven Years, Seven Wonders, Organization for Transformative Works, October 19-26 2014 Membership Drive'

It's that time of year again. You see the banners, you read the posts — but why is the OTW asking for money? Well, one of the many reasons that the Organization for Transformative Works is awesome is that we don’t have any advertising, which is why we rely on your support.

When visiting any of our websites, you don't have to worry about having a fanwork or article squeezed into a corner of your screen by advertising or accidentally clicking on an advert. The OTW and its projects are free of any advertising.

The reasons the OTW does not accept any advertising tie into some of the founding principles of the Organization itself.

In a presentation for the Nine Worlds convention in August 2013, OTW staffer Lucy Pearson described some of these principles: "The reason the OTW was formed really had to do with the fundamental lack of security that fans have when they rely on commercial platforms to host their work... Any site that's for profit and dependent on advertisers is very rarely going to stick its neck out for users in the face of advertiser pressure."

Many of us have, over the years, seen beloved works disappear in purges. With the OTW, there is no pressure from anyone to remove content to be more attractive to advertisers. This allows the OTW to give our undivided loyalty to our users.

While not having advertising is brilliant, it means that we need your help to function and maintain our awesomeness. Your donation of US$10 or more allows the OTW to continue to provide you with the ad-free sites that you know and love. Help preserve our freedom and our works! Please donate today. The goal of this fundraiser is to raise $70,000 for the OTW. We are well on our way! Please help us meet our goal today.

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Made in Fandom

Published: 2014-10-20 14:22:43 -0400

Banner with seven circles and a price tag in the second one, reading 'Seven Years, Seven Wonders, Organization for Transformative Works, October 19-26 2014 Membership Drive'

Do you remember the first moment you searched the internet for that thing you loved and found out there was a fandom for it? The first time you picked up a fanzine, or saw an amazing piece of fanart for that ship you didn't even know you needed? So do we! The OTW was built entirely by fans — fans who wanted to hold onto that spark of fannish wonder, share it with others, and make sure it would never go out.

Here in the OTW, fandom is our fandom. There's nothing we celebrate more than fans themselves, and fandom in all its forms. We do what we do out of love — and there's nothing more rewarding than to see the Organization and its projects flourishing, growing exponentially every year.

With growth comes a lot of hard work. The OTW is run entirely by volunteers: over 500 fans worldwide donate their time to bring our projects to you, to preserve and document fanworks and fan culture, and to keep the organization up and running. From coders to wranglers, translators to lawyers, directors to academics — each of us dedicates countless hours every month to this passion. The AO3 alone has a huge codebase, which took an estimated effort of 22 person-years to build — this would amount to over US$1 million in salaries according to open source tracker Openhub! The infographic below can give you some idea of the work that goes into keeping the OTW and its projects together.

2014 By the Numbers: 283 bugs fixed and features implemented at AO3, 1,868 AO3 Abuse reports submitted, and 98% resolved, 4,370 tickets sent to AO3 Support with 97% resolved, 7,756 works preserved on AO3 by Open Doors, 20 surveys deployed by Strategic Planning to help plot our course for the next 3 years, 260 issues resolved by Systems while maintaining OTW's infrastructure, 16,173 fandoms managed by 171 tag wranglers, 202 new staff and volunteers added making 527 volunteers total, 108 issues reported and fixed on transformativeworks.org, 671,894 words translated by our translation volunteers into 19 languages

To keep on doing all this work and grow even more, we need your help! The OTW depends on your donations, so please consider supporting us with a donation of US$10 or more. Our goal for this drive is US$70,000 to celebrate the OTW's 7 years of existence. Please help us meet this goal today!

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The OTW Succeeds Because of You

Published: 2014-10-19 15:57:28 -0400

Banner with seven circles and a finger pointing at the viewer in the first one, reading 'Seven Years, Seven Wonders, Organization for Transformative Works, October 19-26 2014 Membership Drive'

The Organization for Transformative Works is completely, totally, 100% supported by fans like you. Without you there would be no Archive of Our Own, no Fanhackers, no Fanlore, no Legal Advocacy, and no Open Doors.

There’s no other way to say it: we need you.

Your participation supports our ongoing costs. Your generosity purchases new and upgraded hardware. At the end of the day, the OTW succeeds because of you.

Over the next few days, on all our news outlets including Dreamwidth, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Tumblr, and Twitter, you’ll read about seven reasons why the OTW is awesome. These may be things you already value us for, or things that are new to you.

But it is you who make us awesome. We're an organization made by fans, for fans — and we're asking you to do two things:

  • Donate – our goal this drive is to raise US$70,000. As you know, if you donate US$10 or more, you renew your yearly membership with the OTW. We also have awesome premiums (including the return of our much-beloved convention tote!) that we'll gladly send you as a thank-you gift for a larger donation.
  • Tell us why you support the OTW in 10 words or fewer. Reblog, retweet, comment, send us your answer by carrier pigeon, or through email at devmem [at] transformativeworks [dot] org. We really want to hear from you! You might even see your words on our social media — please let us know if you'd prefer to be anonymous.

With your help, we can celebrate our 7th year by raising US$70,000, so that the Organization for Transformative Works can continue the projects you've come to love! Please donate right now!

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Chat with Support (in multiple languages!)

Published: 2014-10-18 12:36:52 -0400

Banner by caitie with 'otw chat' at its center and emoticons and other symbols in word bubbles surrounding it.

AO3 Support staffers are the people who receive your tickets through the Support and Feedback form and try to respond as soon as possible to register your feature suggestion, pass your bug report on to our coders, or do their best to help you out with a problem. However, when it comes to explaining how to do things or why something doesn't seem to be working right, the formal back-and-forth emails of a Support request aren't always ideal.

So Support will be holding an Open Chat session in our public chat room. They'll be available on Sunday, October 26, 17:00 UTC to 21:00 UTC (what time is that in my timezone?). Volunteers will be available to answer inquiries in Chinese, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. If you can't make it to this chat, another chat is planned for Sunday, December 7.

If you're having a problem using the Archive, want help trying something new, or would like an explanation of one of our features, please drop in and talk to us in person!

Some guidelines from Support, just to keep things running smoothly

We don't have a fancy presentation or material prepared--there are plenty of FAQs, tutorials, and admin posts for that. The point of live chat is to talk with you, not at you. We're happy for you to drop in and say "hi", but it's even better if you drop in and say, "Hi, what's up with my work that won't show as complete even though it is?!"

As Support, our function is to help users with bugs and issues, and pass reports on to our Coders and Systems team, who actually keep the place running. This means that policy questions are way over our pay grade. (Just kidding--none of us get paid!) So, if you have questions or comments about AO3 or OTW policies, good or bad, Support Chat isn't the right place for them. If you do want to talk to someone about policy issues (meta on the Archive, philosophical issues with the tagging system, category change, etc.) we can direct you to the appropriate admin post or contact address so you can leave feedback directly for the people dealing with the area of your concern.

Additionally, if a question looks like it might violate a user's privacy to answer (if it needs an email address or other personal information, for example) we may not be willing to work with it in chat. In those cases, we'll redirect a user to the Support Form so we can communicate via email.

So, now that that's out of the way, what kind of things are we going to talk about?

Live chat is best for questions of a "How do I...?" or "Why does it...?" nature. For example, you might have been wondering:

  • I'd like to run a challenge, but I'm not sure how to do what I want.
  • For that matter, where did my work submitted to an anonymous challenge go?!
  • I want to post using formatting the Rich Text Editor won't give me. How do I do it using a work skin?
  • I want to add a lot of my older works to the AO3 -- what would be the easiest way to do that?

We'd be happy to help you with any of these questions, and anything else you're having trouble doing or would like to try doing with the Archive.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Work Skins

Published: 2014-10-16 13:54:12 -0400

What Are Work Skins?

Works skins allow you to customize the appearance of your works beyond the basic HTML tags the Archive supports. In order to do this, they use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), a style language that allows you to define a set of rules for how specific HTML elements in your work should be displayed.

This guide will take you through creating and applying a work skin on the Archive. For a more in-depth tutorial on how work skins and CSS work, we invite you to take a look at our tutorial on styling works, or check out some of the HTML and CSS resources listed at the end of this article.

Creating and Applying a Work Skin

1. Create the Work Skin

From your AO3 Dashboard, choose Skins from the sidebar, then select My Work Skins. Select Create Work Skin at the top left to open the Create New Skin webpage.

My Work Skins Page

2. Enter Work Skin Information

In the shaded area labeled About, ensure that Type is set to "Work Skin". Then, give your work skin a unique title (e.g., "SMS Text"). Optionally, you can also give your work skin a description (e.g., "For SMS text within fic").

About section of My Work Skins Page with example information

Once you have created your work skin, you may want to return to this form to upload a preview image or to apply to make your skin public for the use of other fans. For now, move down into the CSS text box to continue.

3. Write the CSS

CSS allows you to create a blueprint for how you'd like the HTML in your work to be displayed.

For example, using CSS, you can give instructions in one line of code that makes all your paragraphs look like monospaced computer code. As you might already know, you can do the same thing using an HTML code tag on all your paragraphs--but using CSS has a number of advantages over using HTML all by itself.

Firstly, by separating your work's appearance from its content, aesthetic changes are kept consistent. CSS ensures all items with the same labels are automatically displayed with the same settings. As work skins can be applied to multiple works, this feature is helpful in ensuring series are formatted consistently across all works.

CSS also helps you avoid redundancy by allowing you to define rules that will apply to all matching elements within your text, without needing to retype the same HTML over and over. In the previous example, if you wanted to change all your paragraphs to monospace font using HTML, it would involve adding extra HTML code for every paragraph of your work. Using CSS, on the other hand, you could make this change with a handful of CSS lines that would then apply to every single paragraph (p) tag. As such, using CSS in work skins is ideal for customized or complex styling, while still being easily changeable.

Finally, using CSS for styling instead of HTML avoids violating the principle of Semantic HTML--that is, the idea that HTML should be about describing the meaning of content, not its appearance. Semantic HTML is not only easier for humans to read and write, it's also more accessible: people using screen-readers or other assistive technologies to access AO3 will have a much easier time accessing your work if you use CSS instead of HTML for styling.

CSS Example

If this all sounds a little complicated, don't panic! This example will walk you through the basics of CSS styling in relation to work skins.

To begin, imagine you want to make the text messages characters send and receive look different from the rest of your work's text. For instance, you might want all SMS text to use a monospace Courier New font, while the rest of your work continues to use the Archive's default font. Using only HTML, this would be impossible, as the Archive does not allow use of the HTML font tag required to select a different font family. Using a work skin, on the other hand, you could easily create a simple CSS rule--a line of code that declares new settings for a particular HTML element--saying that every instance of a newly-envisioned HTML class textMsg should use a monospace Courier New font.

The entire CSS rule could look something like: #workskin .textMsg { font-family: "Courier New", Courier, monospace; }

CSS Example

Let's deconstruct this example.

To start, write #workskin to declare the rule as part of your work skin. This doesn't change, regardless of the kind of rule you're writing.

After this, you specify which section of your HTML the CSS rule will affect; in other words, a "selector". You can apply a rule to any combination of HTML elements and classes. Possible selectors include:

  • Element only: To use an HTML element as your selector, simply write the element name after the #workskin declaration. For example, selecting all paragraph elements (p) becomes #workskin p.
  • Class only: To select all instances of an HTML class, write the name of the desired class preceded by a period. As in our CSS Example, #workskin .textMsg will modify any element in the work with the class name textMsg.
  • Element and Class pair: To select only items with a particular element and class name, combine both methods by writing the element name and the class name separated only by a period: #workskin p.textMsg selects only paragraph elements with the textMsg class.

Following the HTML selector, you'll need to type a left curly bracket ({). This signals the start of your declaration, which defines what your rule is actually going to do.

In the declaration, you write a series of statements that assign a value or values (in this case, "Courier New", Courier, monospace) to a property (in this case, font-family). Your property describes the aspect you would like to change (the font family), while the value you assign it controls the kind of change that will be affected (in this case, changing it to monospace Courier New font style). The two are connected by a colon (:) and the whole statement is followed by a semicolon (;) to indicate that the font-family declaration is finished and complete. You can now type a right curly bracket (}) to close your rule.

In this example, the CSS rule only contains a single declaration; more commonly, rules will consist of several of these statements before closing off. To apply more settings to a single selector, simply end each declaration with a semicolon before defining the next property, and ensure you close the statement with a final semicolon and right curly bracket.

For some more examples of CSS rules and how they are written, you may want to take a look at our tutorial on styling works or any of the other resources listed at the bottom of this article.

4. Applying the Work Skin

Once you've written your CSS, use the Submit button to create your work skin. Congratulations! It will now show up under the My Work Skins header of the Skins section of your dashboard, where you can edit it to add additional rules, add a preview image, or make your skin public for others to make use of.

My Work Skins Page with example work skin

Now that your skin has been created, the next step is to link it to the work you'd like it to modify. In order to do this, you'll need to navigate away from the Skins page to the work in question. Select Edit on the desired work, or create a New Work, and scroll down to Select Work Skin under the Associations heading.

Associations section on Post New Work page

By default, this drop-down box should be populated with two public work skins: "Basic Formatting" and "Homestuck Skin". You should also see any personal work skins you just created listed here. Select the desired work skin and save your work.

5. Formatting the Work

Now that your work and your work skin are linked together, the CSS in your work skin will map onto the HTML elements of your text. For this to work properly, the selectors defined by your CSS rules need to be present in your work.

For example, a CSS rule for paragraph elements (#workskin p { }) will only apply to sections of text in your HTML which are wrapped in the p and /p tags. In this instance, they will work immediately, as p and /p tags are added automatically to your text by AO3's parser. However, this won't be the case for the rules in your work skin which make use of classes or other HTML elements.

HTML class tags can easily be added to both individual paragraphs and in-line text:

  • Paragraph: To apply the settings of the textMsg class used in our CSS example to an entire paragraph, simply add the class name textMsg to the p tag preceding the paragraph: p class="textMsg". No modification needs to be made to the closing /p tag.
  • Span: To apply the settings of the textMsg class to some text within a paragraph, surround the selected text with span class="textMsg" and /span tags.

Work Text with included HTML class examples

There are a couple things to remember when adding HTML class tags to your text. Firstly, make sure you're editing your work in HTML mode, not rich text mode, otherwise the changes will not take effect. Secondly, you'll need to use the exact same class name in your HTML as the one you defined in your work skin CSS. Keep in mind these are case-sensitive, so be sure to match the names exactly.

Once you've formatted your text so that it references the items modified in your work skin, hit save and inspect the fruits of your labour. Congratulations! You've just customized a work's appearance on the Archive using a work skin!

Work with applied work skin settings

Useful Links for More Information

Work Skin Resources

Tutorial: Styling Works
Example Work Using Work Skin
Public Work Skins
Homestuck-specific Tutorials

CSS & HTML Resources

AO3 CSS Help
AO3 HTML Help
CSS Tutorial

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