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2013-09-18 12:52:41 -0400

This post is connected to a discussion of proposed changes to media categories on the AO3

What are the reasons for the change?

The current "media categories" ( date back to the very beginnings of the Archive. We have grown immensely since then, and the way fandoms on the Archive are organized needs to reflect that. The current division is limiting and unbalanced, with some categories also facing cultural issues. We additionally wanted to make it easy to further adjust the categories as we continue to grow.

Who worked on this proposal?

The Internationalization & Outreach (I&O) committee made the initial proposal to the Board. Once it was approved, a workgroup was formed with staff members from Accessibility, Design & Technology, Tag Wrangling, I&O, and Support, as well as a Tag Wrangling volunteer. These are the committees most involved with the issues of Media Categories on the Archive.

Additionally, the proposal went through several rounds of feedback internally and externally. The gathered input was used to help us in our decisions and make adjustments to the proposal. Any input you have on the current status of the proposal will be considered as well.

Is this the best solution you could find?

No system is perfect, and it will never be possible to please everyone at the same time. The big factors that steered our decisions were:

  • Usability: Does this make it easy for people using the Archive to find specific fandoms, while also allowing for more free-form browsing?
  • Inclusiveness: The categorization shouldn't make some fandoms harder to find than others. The system should be welcoming to currently under-represented fandoms, but shouldn't unfairly punish popular fandoms.
  • Flexibility: It's easy to get side-tracked by philosophical considerations and wanting to find neat little boxes for everything. We instead tried to keep things simple to allow the system to grow more painlessly.
  • Feasibility: There is always a technical aspect to keep in mind. Is it reasonable from a performance and coding effort point of view? Is it sustainable going forward?

Why are some of the category names so long?

The goal was to use familiar names to make fandoms quickly and easily findable. Newly-created or more obscure terms might be able to encompass everything while taking up less space, but we felt it was more important for category names to be clear and recognizable. This has resulted in a certain amount of redundancy (and thus length) when it seemed needed to ensure names that were both obvious and inclusive.

Will the Media categories stay exactly the same going forward?

Probably not. Category names have been changed in the past and the new system will make it easier to do so in the future. Fandom is ever-changing and the Archive is growing, so Categories will have to be adjusted to reflect that. It's not our intention to change them lightly; stability and consistency is important. However, having the ability for change should make it easier to address problematic areas.

What are the guidelines? What's the process for adding a category/submedium, or for changing a name? Who decides in which category/submedium fandoms go?

This will all be Tag Wrangling's purview going forward. The Category Change workgroup will document our suggestions, but after that it's up to them to make the decisions.

Can a fandom be in several categories?

Absolutely! The hierarchy of Media categories and submedia is fixed, but a fandom can appear in as many places as necessary inside that hierarchy. A fandom doesn't have to be placed in a submedium, either, if none apply; it can be located directly inside a top-level Media Category.

What's the point of searching by country/language of source?

This information is not useful or applicable for all fandoms (some sports RPF, for example). However, we wanted to make it easier to find those fandoms where it is useful. This should help address the current invisibility of under-represented traditions like manhwa, manhua, bande dessinée or historieta.

It is important to note that rather than trying to create an exhaustive pre-filled list, countries and languages will be added as needed, based on what fits a fandom, or a group of fandoms, best.

What will the main navigation look like?

There will still be a Fandoms drop-down menu listing the top-level media Categories. Choosing one will take you to the Fandoms page pre-filtered for that Category.

When can I expect this to arrive on the Archive?

It will take some time. This round of feedback will have to be incorporated in our proposal. There is then the possibility of more rounds of changes and feedback, depending on the feedback received here.

Once the proposal is finished, the considerable process of designing, coding and testing the functionality begins! While we can't give you an exact date, we don't expect it to go live any earlier than 2014.