A New Look at AO3 Tags
Published: 2012-09-03 14:38:28 -0400
One feature that's been asked for repeatedly since the AO3 launched is a way to see how tags are structured on the Archive. This is now possible! Although this new option doesn't show everything that goes on behind the scenes when tag wrangling, it does provide more information to users as to what tags are in use and how the tags are interlinked behind the scenes.
We should note right up front: this is a very alpha interface. In fact, all that's been done is that we've changed the accessibility of the pages, and truncated the display of longer tag lists to save the servers. We do have plans for improving them, but we thought it best to get the pages out there and see what information you want!
We should also note that, in preparation for this release and the guidelines release, we've discovered a number of wrangling terms that are used inconsistently or confusingly. The Tag Wrangling volunteers are currently discussing new terminology, which we hope will be clearer.
How to Access the Tag Display Page
There are two ways to access these pages: through navigation, and through direct links.
If you're browsing the site, you probably already know you can click on a tag to see the works that use that tag or its synonyms. You'll see early in the page "1-X of Y Works found in Tag Name". Select the Tag Name to access the Tag Display page for that tag.
If you know the name of the tag, you can also enter
http://archiveofourown.org/tags/TAGNAME directly into the address bar. (Note: for relationships, replace any / in the address with
*s* for the link to work, and for friendship tags replace any & in the address with
*a*.) Tag Search also links to the Tag Display pages.
The tags page
Near the beginning of the page (in the top right when using the default visual skin), will be two buttons that let you see all of the works marked with the tag you're viewing. Both creators and users of the works may have chosen that tag -- the creators when the works were uploaded, and the users when they decided to bookmark those works.
The tags page is divided into several sections. In most sections, if multiple tags are listed, they're automatically sorted into alphabetical order. Please note that these sections at present will only display the first 300 tags, in order to prevent unwieldy server loads. In the meantime you can use the Tag Search to find a particular tag. We plan to improve this display in later versions of this feature, so eventually you will be able to see all the tags under any tag.
A Sample Entry
A good example to see the Tag Display page in action is the Being Human (UK) fandom tag. Accessing the page, you'll find that:
- the tag is a Fandom tag, and it has been marked Common, so it will pop up in the auto-complete;
- the tag is for a TV Show;
- the tag has a synonym;
- the tag has a metatag, indicating that it's a distinct part of a larger group (in this case, there are other versions of the series);
- the tag contains a number of Character, Relationship, and Freeform tags.
What does any of that mean?
All the tags on the Archive can be in one of three states -- common (canonical), merged (synonym), or unfilterable. Common tags (also known as "canonical" tags) can be filtered on and appear in the auto-complete. Merged tags (also known as "synonyms") are connected to a single common tag and works/bookmarks tagged with it will appear in the common tag's filter. Unfilterable tags cannot be used in filters but can still be searched and will still bring up lists of works. Here is an example:
If you click on the merged tag Aido Hanabusa, you can see that this Character tag has been merged into a different tag due to spelling differences. If you then click on the Aidou Hanabusa tag, you will see that it is the common tag. It has various mergers and it is also connected to both broader and narrower tags.
Any tag can be merged if it has a common meaning with another tag or tags. This is true whether it is a Fandom, Character, Relationship or Additional tag. However, not all tags get merged. Some remain unfilterable both because they have no shared meaning with other tags, and yet they are so rarely used that they are not likely to be searched on by other users. Some may be only temporarily unfilterable, until a tag wrangler has had time to review them and mark them as common or merge them with another tag.
Here is an explanation of the other sorts of tags you'll see on the tag pages.
Each user-created tag has one or more Parent tags. These are broad terms which may contain many subgroups of tags that fit a certain theme.
- For example, Fandoms will have their Media type(s) listed as their Parent. All television show fandoms will have "TV Shows" as a parent tag.
- Characters, Relationships, and Additional (or Freeform) Tags will have one or more Fandoms listed as their Parent.
Tags with the Same Meaning
These tags are "synonyms" of another tag, which have all been merged into the common tag. There are various reasons why tags are merged, such as spelling variations, fanon names when canon only gives part of the name, or just that there are many different ways to describe the same thing. When tags are merged they all get pooled together for better filter results.
Metatags and Subtags
Metatags are common tags that can include one or more subtags that are subsets of the metatag. Metatags are created for a number of reasons — the most common reasons are:
- Fandoms that include different media productions or different media formats under the same name or within the same universe
- Ambiguous versions of more specific tags (such as all characters named "Mary")
So if you click on Star Trek: The Next Generation you will see it is a subtag of the larger Star Trek universe metatag.
You can also see its subtags, in this case the movies associated with the series, and you can see that those subtags can have subtags of their own.
Like Parent tags, above, each tag can have Child tags. Different types of tags can have different Child tags:
- Media tags
- These tags, like "Books & Literature" or "Movies" can have Fandom tags.
- Fandom tags
- These tags can have as Child tags: Character tags from that fandom, Relationship tags that involve one or more characters from that fandom, and Additional tags (called "Freeforms", here) that are specific to that fandom.
- Character tags
- These can have Relationship tags that involve specific characters, if set by the wranglers.
Besides all of these user-created tags, some tags on the Archive are standardized and cannot be wrangled, though they are still tags and their tag pages are visible. Users are probably familiar with Archive-created tag types such as "Warning", "Rating", and "Category" (the latter is for Gen, F/F, F/M, M/M, Multi, and Other). For example, clicking on the Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings tag will tell you "This tag belongs to the Archive Warning Category. It's a common tag. You can use it to filter works and to filter bookmarks."
Guidelines are coming
In addition to visible tag structures, the Tag Wrangling Committee is working on making the guidelines that tag wranglers work with available for public viewing. An initial FAQ post about this process is now available. It provides more detail about both terminology and some general concepts.
For those who have questions about tags and what they're seeing, you can always send a question to our Support team, who'll pass it on to the Wranglers. The Tag Wrangling Committee also has a Twitter account at ao3_wranglers for all sorts of tag-related discussion.