Welcome to the first of our new format Archive news posts! Until now, the regular news posts on what's going on with the site have been appearing under the heading of 'Accessibility, Design and Technology Meeting News'. This is because when we first went into open Beta, AD&T were the only committee working directly on the Archive. However, as the site has grown and changed, so have our committees! So, we're changing to a new AO3 news format which will give more space to showcasing all the different kinds of AO3 work and happenings!
Who are our committees?
The Archive of Our Own is a project of the Organization for Transformative Works. There are a bunch of OTW committees who work on the Archive: Systems are responsible for our servers, the Communications Committee helps to support the committees with news and other communications, Abuse and Content Policy deal with policies and user conflicts, and lots of other committees help and advise on specific issues. However, there are three committees who you'll be hearing about a lot in these news posts, as they do much of the day-to-day work on the AO3:
Accessibility, Design and Technology
AD&T are responsible for the design and building of the AO3. They manage the coders, designers and testers who work together to develop the site, are responsible for the overall planning on the project, and liaise with the Systems committee to keep the servers happy.
Support are responsible for helping users with questions, problems and suggestions. They receive all the messages submitted through the Support form and make sure that users receive the help they need, working with other committees to get the answers to specific questions.
The Tag Wrangling Committee are responsible for the tags on the Archive. They figure out policies to guide the wrangling of tags and manage the big team of tag wranglers who organise things behind the scenes. (If you'd like more detail on how tags are dealt with, check out our guide to tags on the AO3.)
New code and bug fixes
We just deployed some new code to the Archive: Release 0.8.11 is a small(ish) release which includes lots and lots of front-end fixes, enhancements to our 'edit multiple works' feature, and some tweaks to the email queue. Our next deploy is scheduled for sometime around the end of March.
What's up in the world of tags?
One of the things about wrangling is that there are more than 250,000 tags on the Archive. Even with our team of more than 100 volunteers and staffers, sometimes a tag gets wrangled incorrectly, or something is wrangled quickly without due consideration, or due to the fact we're human beings we simply overlook something important.
One of the more recent examples of this would be the tag “Near Eastern Mythology”. A user brought this tag to the attention of the Tag Wrangling Committee, pointing out that the tag was flawed in several ways. Foremost, it was unclear as to which countries and cultures should be linked within this tag - the definition has shifted historically a number of times. More importantly, it was felt that the term “Near East” projected a specific Eurocentric-exclusive worldview. One of the Archive’s goals is inclusion of all who want to join, so this tag was problematic.
After an extended conversation with several users and the Internationalization & Outreach committee chair, we decided there was no single term for the category that would be both accurate and inclusive. As such, we re-wrangled the character and relationship tags out of “Near Eastern Mythology” and into specific mythologies, including Babylonian Mythology, Mesopotamian Mythology, Persian Mythology, Semitic Mythology, and Sumerian Mythology. We’ve unmarked “Near Eastern Mythology” so it won’t appear in the auto-complete or fandom list (though, as always, we haven’t changed the tags on the actual works). The old tag itself is now a synonym of Mythology, so you can still find the works tagged by it.
We always value user input on our tagging system - if you see a tag you feel is problematic in some way, please let us know by submitting a support ticket or send a tweet to @ao3_wranglers! Thank you to the user who drew our attention to this tag.
Supporting our users
Support has been hard at work throughout the hiatus. In January we saw almost 330 tickets sent in; so far in February we've seen 172. At the moment we only have 12 tickets open. *\o/*
One of our big projects for the Archive this year is developing our internal and external documentation. We're jazzed that Support are so on top of tickets, but we want to make it even easier for our users to find stuff out by improving our FAQ and tutorials. We also want to make it easier for our staff to do their work by developing our internal knowledge base. Support are working with AD&T and the Volunteers and Recruitment Committee to create a documentation workgroup which will specialise in this area. If this is something you're interested in helping out with, please let our Volunteer committee know by filling out our volunteer form.
Speaking of tutorials, Support staffer Sam has just completed a great one on Embedding Media. We have more coding plans to make this easier and better in the future, but this great resource takes you through all the tips and tricks you need to know with our current setup.
Cool stuff on the Archive!
We celebrated Valentine's Day on the Archive with our Seven Days of Love challenge encouraging more commenting, kudosing, reccing, and creating of works, and with a big Valentine's Day thank you to all the people who make the AO3 awesome.
We're planning to repeat the April Showers Challenge which we ran last year to celebrate under-represented fandoms on the AO3. This year we're hoping to make it more exciting and wide-ranging by getting our users involved with suggesting fandoms to celebrate - stay tuned for more news on this soon.
The coming weekend, we're excited to welcome the Smallville Slash Archive, which is making a new home here on the AO3 as the test case for our Open Doors project. *\0/*
AD&T Committee business of note
AD&T has gone back to a weekly meeting format, with the goal of getting together every Saturday for about an hour. So far we're doing well with the weekly part - keeping discussion to an hour is a lot more challenging!
Last year's chairs Elz & Amelia are continuing their work into this year, Naomi is our new Board liaison, and we're happy to welcome a few new and returning staffers: Maia, who was on staff in 2008 and chaired the committee in 2009, is back on board, Sarken is taking up the mantle as our new front-end lead, and Jenn Calaelen has joined us from testers! We spent our first couple of meetings making plans for the new term and brainstorming about ways we can improve our processes in different areas. Now we're off and running on various projects and looking forward to a great term!
Support Committee business of note
Support is still in the process of forming its committee for the coming term. We hope to have our first meeting soon; until then we are discussing several issues via email. Matty is returning as chair, and Jenny S-T will be serving as our new Board liaison.
Tag Wrangling Committee business of note
We had our first meetings of the term on the 20th and 25th of February. Returning chair Alison Watson is joined by Emilie Karr as co-chair, with Sanders our new Board liaison. Our committee has increased in size this year, and we've been working hard training up some new wranglers while we get started on our plans for the term.
If there are things you'd like to do or say, please share them in comments, via the AO3 support and feedback form, by volunteering, or in whatever medium you feel comfortable with. Everyone is welcome to this party!