Tutorial: Browsing and Reading on the AO3 (aka beating the 1000 works cap!)

Published: 2011-09-15 15:23:22 -0400

The number one topic for support requests on the Archive of Our Own is the 1000 work limit on search and browse results. This was an early stopgap measure to prevent the servers from going 'splodey, and initially it didn't matter much, because there weren't 1,000 works of anything. But nowadays, if you want to read, say, Stargate Atlantis fic, with over 10,000 works, clicking on "Stargate Atlantis" brings up less than 10% of the available fic. This is understandably annoying to our users!

Eventually there will be fixes to the 1,000 works cap; the problem is being worked on (as evidenced by the 502s, server-'splodeyness is still a concern). Until then, however, there are still plenty of ways around it! If you're a completist trying to see all the fics, here's a few tricks to help you out:

Sort by: at the top of every works list page for a tag (such as works in a fandom, e.g. Stargate Atlantis, or works for a character, relationship, or additional tag) there are various ways to sort. The default is by published date, descending (newest to oldest); you can also sort by author, title, or my favorites, hits and word count. (After the next code update, you'll also be able to sort by the date added to the site - this will make it easier to find works added to the site recently, but backdated to the date they were originally written.) This sort covers all the works under the tag, not just the 1,000 listed. If there are less than 2,000 works in a fandom, you can easily access all of them by reversing the sort order - e.g. click on "Date" and it will sort by oldest to newest, bringing up all the early stories you missed in the first run of 1,000. So I can browse the most recently published Homestuck, and then the earliest published Homestuck, and thus catch all of the 1,600+ HS works on AO3.

I like to sort by word count myself, since I like reading longer stories; sorting by word count in SGA, for example, gives me all the SGA stories on the Archive over 9,000 words. On the other hand, if I'm in the mood for something short, you can click on Word Count again, and it will sort in ascending order (smallest to largest), giving me 1,000 fics all under 300 words.

Obviously that leaves out a bunch of fics in the middle. But there are other ways to browse:

Tags and filters: AO3's tagging system isn't perfect but it's still awfully nifty and convenient now. You can access tags two ways - either by clicking on the tags themselves on any work, or by checking the filters on the right to combine tags (note that the "or" feature is a bit broken; "and" works fine though, if I only want to read mature-rated McShep.) Tag results can be sorted, same as described above (so you can see all the long McShep stories first). Tag results are still limited to 1,000, and there's far more McShep than that - but if you narrow the results further (say, filtering by AU) then you can see all 873 McShep AUs currently on AO3.

One thing to note when using the filters: the work counts you see next to a tag in the right sidebar only are counting the works in that first 1,000. So the numbers will be off - they might only show 300 works, but when you filter by them you'll get many more. So even if a tag only shows a few works, it still might be worth filtering by it. (Also, ways to filter by language and by complete vs WiP are coming soon.)

But wait, there's more:

Search & Advanced Search: Currently there's no way to negatively filter tags in browse (i.e. subtract a tag from results, rather than add it.) This feature is coming, but until then there are still ways to run a negative search, by using search - simply enter a search term with a hyphen before it. E.g. searching "Rodney McKay" -"John Sheppard" will find you fics with Rodney but without John.

In the search bar, a space will equal AND, finding works with everything entered. You can also do OR searches, using |, to find works with either one thing or another, and you can combine these. So searching "Alternate Universe" Homestuck | "White Collar" will bring up works tagged with "Alternate Universe" in either the Homestuck or White Collar fandoms.

The advanced search feature is even more powerful - as well as searching tags, titles, and authors, you can also search for specific word counts, hits, kudos, and date - including ranges, which is useful tool for finding fics in a fandom. For example, you can search for all Stargate Atlantis fics published 5-6 years ago.

The date tool is a bit clumsy for finding all the fics, however; the word count search is probably better for that. To bring up all the fics, start with a range, e.g. 0-200. Then, once you've looked over those results, increment it, 201-500. As long as the results it brings up are less than 1,001, you are seeing all works within those parameters on the Archive. In that way you can fairly quickly go through all the fic in any fandom, or for a specific tag or tags.

A couple of notes about Advanced Search - like the rest of AO3 it's in beta and has its kinks. In particular it has trouble with tags with dashes - if you search for X-Men, for instance, you noticed you'll get lots with X and no X-Men. To get around this, put the tag in quotes: "X-Men". Also keep in mind that presently, unlike filters, searching for tags only brings up works tagged with that specific tag. So searching for "Charles/Erik" only brings up a handful of fics, while clicking on the tag "Charles/Erik" brings up the wrangled tag Erik Lehnsherr/Charles Xavier.

Hopefully this will help improve your AO3 experience! If you have any other tricks and tips, or questions about how to do any of this, please leave a comment below!

This is a modified version of an original post by Tag Wrangling Committee member X-parrot - thanks for allowing us to repost, X-parrot!