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2013-03-13 15:28:47 -0400

The Board’s decision on meta has sparked a great deal of conversation, externally and internally, and we appreciate the detailed comments many people have left. Over the course of internal discussions among the affected committees, we've determined that "fandom nonfiction" is a more useful term than “meta” to explain the kinds of works covered by the Board vote. We invite your feedback on these proposals. We will be collecting feedback for two weeks, and then will incorporate that feedback into a policy for Board approval.

Ultimately, we will handle many different kinds of fannish creativity through a work type system. However, while we hope to make progress on this later in the year, we do not have a definite timeframe for work types. In the interim, creators may choose to wait until work types are implemented or to use the additional tags to categorize their works in order to facilitate the transition to work types.

Important note: there are many key issues relating to the implementation of work type categories. We are only beginning to brainstorm on the technical aspects. If you give us feedback about what you want from the specifics of work type now, before we have a proposal on the table, we may miss it when we get into the technical aspects. So while we welcome your feedback, we ask that you focus it in this post on the general issues of policy: what we will host and what abilities administrators ought to have with respect to mislabeled works. Just by way of example: "Abuse should be able to recategorize a textual work from fiction to nonfiction" is feedback within the scope of the current proposal. "Visual art should be divided into digital, hand-drawn, and other" is not within the scope of the current proposal, though we will seek more input on these types of issues as we continue to develop the work type plan.

That said, here is a very general outline of what we are thinking:

(1) When creators post a work, some type of general "work type" selection will ultimately be mandatory, as choosing a rating and a warning or warnings are now mandatory. This will probably refer to functional file characteristics like text, video, and audio, but may also incorporate a fiction/nonfiction divide. Once the work types are available, as with ratings and warnings, our basic policy will be to defer to the creator's categorizations.

(2) Other aspects of work type will likely be optional/user-defined, possibly with autofill/some predetermined options that will not be exclusive. Again, our basic policy will be to defer to the creator’s categorizations.

(3) We may auto-detect some work features such as the presence of an image or image tag, the way we currently auto-detect word count.

(4) Where the AO3 already provides specific features for a particular kind of content—specifically, fanwork searches, bookmarks, and challenges—we will ask people to use those features for that content.

Your feedback on these general principles, as well as the more specific issues addressed below, is welcome.

How will existing works fit into this scheme or be moved into this scheme?: This is a technical issue that is not yet resolved. On the policy side, no one will be penalized for having posted a work that, because of the implementation of work type, is technically "mislabeled" as a result of the transition. However, we may try some automated solutions for detecting work type and/or ask creators to change a work type when they posted before work type was introduced. Part of the transition may thus be to automatically set work type based on the presence or absence of certain tags or other work features, then notify the creators and allow them to change the work type if the automated process made a mistake. Once work type is implemented, the current proposal is that administrators will have the ability to correct an obvious miscategorization of work type (that is, a case that is not borderline even after deference to the creator) if the creator fails to respond to an inquiry after a reasonable time.

We want to have definitions that can be reasonably explained and enforced by our dedicated volunteers. Our policy is to default to respect creators’ own characterizations of their works, and that will remain the case. Abuse will, however, be able to request the removal of or remove particular works when they are clearly beyond the scope of fandom nonfiction, just as Abuse can currently make other Terms of Service-related determinations in appropriate circumstances.

Draft FAQ additions:

Q: Is nonfiction allowed on the Archive?

A: Fandom nonfiction is allowed. Where we provide a specific function (search, bookmarking, challenges) we will ask you to use the specific methods we provide for those activities. In addition, as an archive whose goal is preservation, we want permanent, nonephemeral content. To the extent that your content is designed to be ephemeral, such as liveblogging episode reactions, it should go on a journaling service and not the Archive.

Q: What falls within the definition of fandom nonfiction?

A: Fandom nonfiction can be discussions of fannish tropes, commentary on fandoms, documentaries, podcasts about fandom, explanations of the creative process behind a fanwork or works, guides for fan-created gaming campaigns, or many other things.

However, the nature of the Archive and the limitations of our resources mean that, while we will endeavor to host as much fannish content as possible, we need to put some limits on allowable works. In particular, the Archive is not a journaling service and it is not designed to host ephemeral content.

We will, in general, defer to the creator’s characterization of a work as fandom nonfiction as long as it has a reasonably perceptible fannish connection, either to a specific source or to fandom in general, and takes the form of an independent, nonephemeral commentary. For example, an analysis of or commentary on multiple fanworks is nonfiction meta (and must comply with our other policies, including our harassment policy). An essay on a particular character's narrative arc in canon or of the interaction between film and comics versions of a source is also meta.

We understand that, as with many things, there are hard cases at the edges of categories, but we nonetheless need some limits in order to keep the Archive manageable for our hard-working volunteers as well as for other users.

Q: What about a fanwork search?

A: Please use our search functions for this rather than creating a separate work.

Q: What about a recommendation for a single fanwork?

A: Please use our bookmark/recommendation function for this; many creators also welcome discussion in the comments to the work, which is another appropriate place for such commentary. As always, while criticism of a fanwork is not itself harassment, content must comply with our other policies, including our harassment policy.

Q: What counts as a recommendation versus a more general discussion or analysis?

A: Please use your judgment on the best way to categorize a commentary. Our general policy is to defer to creators.

Q: How does the harassment policy apply to reviews?

A: The Terms of Service state “When judging whether a specific incident constitutes harassment, the abuse team will consider factors such as whether the behavior was repeated, whether it was repeated after the offender was asked to stop, whether the behavior was targeted at a specific person, whether that target could have easily avoided encountering the behavior, whether the behavior would be considered unacceptable according to normal community standards, etc.” This policy applies to reviews. Again, criticism of a fanwork, even harsh criticism, is not itself harassment. Calling a creator evil or wishing harm to them are potential examples of harassment.

Q: What about a fanwork prompt?

A: Please use our challenge function for this.

Q: What about a letter to someone I've been anonymously matched with for a challenge?

A: Since this content is designed to be ephemeral/nonpermanent, please put it on your profile, which can be edited to include your preferences.

Q: What isn't fandom nonfiction?

A: The examples are potentially limitless, but here are some examples that we believe, based on our experience so far, do not qualify as fandom nonfiction and should not be posted as a work:

  • episode transcripts and other non-transformative fandom material;
  • primarily autobiographical or non-fandom-related essays (e.g., essays on bike lanes, even if they contain a single reference to a fannish source);
  • general complaints about behavior towards a particular creator (e.g., a post stating that a work was deleted due to lack of feedback);
  • suggestions that other fans contact the creator through email or other social networks;
  • a single word or pairing name repeated hundreds of times;
  • offers and giveaways.

As with all works, we presume good faith on the part of our users, and ask that you do the same for the fans who make up our Support and Abuse teams.

Q: How will “ephemeral” be defined?

A: Please use your best judgment; our general policy is to defer to creators in cases of doubt. However, episode reactions of the type ‘OMG SAM’S HAIR OMG OMG. DEEEEEEEEEEEAN’ are likely to be appropriate for journaling services and not for the Archive. Ephemeral content is generally meant to be read at a particular time: for example, a message about a particular challenge or a reaction meant to be read while or just after a particular episode airs.

Proposed Terms of Service changes

The current ToS says: "Repeated identical posts in multiple places, e.g., a large number of identical comments promoting a website, will also be considered spam regardless of commercial content."

Proposed: "Repeated identical or nearly identical posts in multiple places, e.g., a large number of identical comments promoting a website, will also be considered spam regardless of commercial content."

Rationale: clarifying that small differences between posts will not be enough to take a series of posts out of the "spam" category. A creator who posts 25 different fanworks in quick succession as part of moving their output onto the Archive is not spamming, nor is a creator who posts 10 different drabbles (100-word stories), but 10 rapid-fire works with minimal content of any kind might be spam.

Current ToS:
K. Ratings and Warnings

K. Ratings, Warnings, and Fanwork Types

[new 5.] Fanwork types

It is our policy to defer to creators' categorizations, but we reserve the right to recategorize a fanwork type.

A manual recategorization decision made by the abuse team is appealable through the ordinary abuse appeals process.

A manual recategorization of a fanwork will not result in suspension of a user's account, unless it is a repeated pattern for a single user, in which case it may be treated as grounds for a suspension. Moreover, if a creator unilaterally reverses a manual recategorization, without agreement from the abuse team, that will be treated as grounds for a suspension.

Related FAQ additions:

Q: What do you mean by recategorizing a fanwork type?

A: For technical reasons relating to how our database is planned to evolve, we need for archive administrators to have the ability to change a work type where it is clearly appropriate (e.g., a review essay or fanvid mistakenly or inadvertently categorized as textual fiction). Because work type will be a new addition (and we may create new categories over time), we understand that users won't necessarily go back and change the work type on previously uploaded works. Inaction on already-existing works will not be grounds for any penalty for users, even if we do later ask that the work type be changed to reflect what it is. People will also make mistakes when work type is in place. Once work type is in place, our general policy when a recategorization is clearly appropriate will be to ask the user to recategorize the work, and change the work type if we receive no response. In addition, our general policy is to defer to the creator's choices in borderline cases.

Q: What do you mean by a manual recategorization?

A manual recategorization is an individualized determination that a specific work has been miscategorized, made as the result of a specific complaint. In terms of the transition to work types, we may automate work type detection for existing works, notify users, and ask them to change the work type if the automated process made a mistake. This automatic process would operate outside the abuse process, not as a manual recategorization.

Q: Will you recategorize or remove other tags, such as relationship tags?

A: Because our Abuse and Support resources are limited, and because different people interpret tags in many different ways, we don’t think that we can fairly enforce rules about relationship or other tags. We encourage users to engage with each other on these issues.