Metatags: a user perspective

Published: 2010-03-16 15:41:03 -0400

What are metatags?

Metatags are a new form of tag that add to the ability of the Archive of Our Own to manage hierarchies and ambiguities in our tagging systems. They will let us deal with real person fiction, shared universes, and other complex tag relationships much more effectively. For example, the Spock metatag (illustrated below) contains Mirror!Spock, Spock Prime, Reboot!Spock, and Girl!Spock as subtags.

The Spock metatag

Metatags act as a "basket" for other tags, whilst remaining a usable tag themselves. They collate tags, in order to group similarities and to make browsing easier. Tags which have been grouped together become subtags. In a real world example, "fruit" could be a metatag, and "apples" and "oranges" could be subtags.

 

How will metatags help me browse?

Metatags will help you because they allow you to both see everything that's related and to narrow your focus.

For example, if you browse the fandom metatag for "Star Trek" you will retrieve all works which have been tagged with related fandoms - "Star Trek: The Original Series", "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Star Trek (2009)", and so on. You will also retrieve works which have just been tagged with the fandom tag "Star Trek", which could conceivably be any of the aforementioned fandoms.

You will still be able to browse the works tagged with a specific tag, for example "Star Trek: The Original Series" instead, but in bringing these tags together you have more chances finding what you are interested in, since users may tag differently.

Because metatags can be used to filter very generally, it will now be easier to narrow your focus by filtering on their subtags. See the example in the following table, where you can choose to only browse stories tagged with Girl!Spock rather than the generic Spock.

Filtering by metatags and their subtags

What other changes will I see?

Because metatags are new, we're still working out some of the finer details on how to use them. We'll be running some more posts on tag wrangling and how it works in the near future.

Our intrepid team of tag wranglers need to recategorise the existing tags on the Archive in order to take advantage of the new functionality. You may notice some inconsistencies or changes while this process is going on - please bear with us! If you notice something which seems like a mistake, then you can let us know via the Archive support and feedback form, but if it's non-urgent, then please wait a few days in case the tag wranglers just haven't reached it yet!