AO3 News

Introducing the Category Change Workgroup!

Published: 2012-10-28 15:32:25 -0400

Hello, this is Sole G., the Category Change workgroup lead, and I'd like to introduce the workgroup, talk a little about our goals, and ask for some initial feedback from all of you as fellow fans and users of AO3.

The Category Change workgroup was created to address a long-standing debate, both internally and externally - that is, whether or not the current Fandom Categories in the Archive are the best possible browsing solution. Our goal is to take a look at the current categories and how they work and see what other options we can come up with that might be more effective at representing different fannish traditions, aiding fandom browsing, and reflecting the diversity of the Archive.

While we are taking previously held discussions into account, we are analyzing the issue from scratch and trying to find new perspectives. We are looking at the Fandom Categories framework and analyzing it from every possible perspective - even considering whether or not they are necessary at all or how the browsing experience can be changed to better reflect the needs of our users.

The most heatedly contested categories are 'Anime & Manga' and 'Cartoons & Comics & Graphic Novels'. To begin with, this division strikes some fans as artificial, since they are all either forms of animation or different traditions of comics under geographically- or culturally-determined names. Naming those two categories explicitly also implicitly leaves out other traditions, such as manhwa, manhua, bande dessinée and historieta. In addition, the inclusion of all different East Asian comic traditions under 'Anime & Manga' is inaccurate, as well as culturally insensitive.

Concerns about 'Music & Bands' and 'Celebrities and Real People' have also been raised, again citing the artificial division and the confusing categorization of albums and bands side-by-side. Other issues that have been brought up are, for example, multimedia fandoms, audio-based sources, folklore and mythology fic, etc.

We're looking for a solution that balances complex, sometimes competing, factors such as diverse fannish traditions, user behavior (current and potential), and ease of browsing.

Since this is a task that involves the purview of several different committees, a workgroup consisting of members of all involved committees has been formed. These committees are:

  • Accessibility, Design & Technology (AD&T), due to the certain possibility of changes in the AO3 code being required, and the potential impact on design, user experience and archive browsing.
  • Internationalization & Outreach (I&O), since one of the issues with the current Media Categories is related to the different boundaries between media categories international fandoms have.
  • Tag Wrangling (TW), because tag wranglers are in charge of categorizing fandoms, and any changes will have direct impact on tag wranglers' procedure and workload.
  • Support, since any change in the categories will involve responding to users' concerns.

This workgroup was developed by I&O and then backed by all of the involved committees. Each committee then chose their own representatives from among their interested staff members. While several of the Category Change staffers are also tag wranglers, a tag wrangler volunteer was recruited as well in order to directly represent the interests of that volunteer pool.

One of our top priorities is to maintain a healthy, fluid communication with the Archive of Our Own userbase, so we want to start gathering feedback as soon as possible. If you have any opinions, feedback, suggestions, knowledge or ideas, you can either leave a comment on this post or you can contact us through the Category Change contact form. We don't see the emails used when you post guest comments, and you can request that any feedback that you send through the contact form be archived anonymously in OTW workspaces so that your name and contact information are only visible to members of the workgroup and not to all staff and volunteers.

We are particularly interested in answers to these questions:

1. Do you currently use the Media Categories in order to browse the Archive? If yes, then how do you do it? For example, are you generally looking for a specific fandom or do you browse the different pages to see what fandoms are listed on the site or to find new ones? What are your usual routines? If you want to find a specific fandom on the archive for the first time, how do you do that? How do you find fandoms by more casual browsing? Don’t be afraid to be as specific and detailed as you want; details and step-by-step descriptions are really useful to us.

2. What issues have you run into with the current media categories? Are there fandoms that aren't listed where you might have expected them to be? Are there other problems you've noticed with fandoms being either grouped with or separated from one another in a way that's not ideal?

3. How would you like to see the categories and the media/fandom pages be improved? What's your vision of a better way to find, browse, and organize fandoms? We're open to all kinds of ideas, not just different names for the existing categories.

Please feel free to comment and brainstorm, and also to discuss and engage with each other. We're very interested in hearing what you think, and thanks in advance for your feedback!

Mirrored on the OTW blog. Find related news by viewing our tag cloud.

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Archive of Our Own Newsletter - October 2012

Published: 2012-10-24 21:56:45 -0400

Happy October, Archivers! Welcome to this month's newsletter.

Cool stuff on the Archive!

This month, we took a look at tag stats and growth over the past two years!

What’s up in the world of tags?

Often in wrangling, we change tag names in response to feedback either from archive users, or other tag wranglers (or both!). Our most recent change involves the canonical fandom tags for Jewish and Christian religious scripture. Prior to our changes, "Hebrew Bible" was a single fandom, with "Old Testament" as a synonym. You can view the current tag structure under Abrahamic Religions, which includes a tag for Tanakh separate from the Christian Bible (Old Testament). The old tag "Hebrew Bible" is now a synonym of Tanakh. Thank you to those users and wranglers who provided feedback in this discussion.

Support issues

We're seeing some really wonky behavior emerging with Tag Sets pulling characters into multiple fandoms or occasionally a tag vanishing from the list. We're having a hard time tracking this down, so if you see aberrant behavior in the Tag Set feature, please send Support a note so we can document it for the Coders!

AD&T Committee business of note

We continue to work on a header redesign and we have also started working on a brand new front page. Our updated roadmap is in the final stages of editing and should be available soon. The reinstatement of tag filtering comes closer and closer as we put the finishing touches on new code and sent it off to our testers. We still can't guarantee a firm date but they're coming - we promise! And finally, this month we celebrated Ada Lovelace Day by honoring our awesome chair Elz!

Support Committee business of note

As noted below with the Tag Wranglers, we are eagerly testing the return of the filters.

Tag Wrangling Committee business of note

We've been adding to our collection of public wrangling guidelines, and we're excitedly preparing (and testing!) for the upcoming return of tag filters.

Questions? Comments?

We welcome feedback from users! If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments of the latest news post, or send in a Support request (if you're reporting a bug, please send that to Support, as they're super efficient - comments on our news posts sometimes get overlooked).

This post by Camden

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Count ALL the tags!

Published: 2012-10-17 15:43:32 -0400

We've made it another year! As part of the OTW October Membership Drive, we thought we'd share some of the stats and growth over the last two years, and a breakdown of the tags on the Archive.

Warning right up front: this post is very graphics-heavy.

Overall tag growth and canonical growth

Overall, our growth has (inevitably) been nothing but up. There has been proportional growth between the number of works and number of unique tags over the last two years. In October 2010, there were 107,430 works on the Archive and 105,750 unique tags; in October 2012, there are 459,655 works and 395,099 unique tags. The number of canonical tags (the ones which come up in the autocomplete and filters), however, scaled up much more slowly: from 55,697 in October 2010 to 140,306 in October 2012. This reflects the fact that the AO3 tagging system is designed to give creators as much freedom as possible in how they tag their works, so while the arrival of a new fandom on the Archive might generate only a few new canonical tags so the fandom name and characters can come up in filters, there might be a whole host of non-canonical synonyms reflecting the different preferences of creators.

a multiple-line graph showing three lines for the number of works, unique tags, and canonical tags over the last two years by month

Ratings

For these next few categories, we don't have a historical comparison.

The greatest number of our works - just over 31% - are tagged "Teen and Up", with "General Audiences" close behind at just under 30%. "Explicit" works make up roughly 18% of the Archive, and "Mature", 16%. Roughly 5% of the works are "Not Rated".

a pie chart showing the percentages of works using each Ratings tag.

Warnings

Unlike Ratings, Warnings are non-exclusive: a work can have multiple warnings. The vast majority of works on the Archive - almost two in three - are tagged "No Archive Warnings Apply". Around a quarter of the works are tagged "Author chose not to use warnings." "Major Character Death" has roughly 18,000 works; "Graphic Depictions of Violence" has 17,000; "Underage" has around 10,000; and "Rape/Non-con" is tagged on just over 8,600 works.

a horizontal bar graph showing the number of works using each Warning tag.

Categories

Like Warnings, Categories are also non-exclusive. Roughly four in nine of the 460,000 on the Archive are tagged "M/M", making up the largest Category by far. "Gen" has roughly 125,000 works, and "F/M" has just under 100,000 works. The other three categories are much rarer with 23,000 works or fewer.

a horizontal bar graph showing the number of works using each Category tag.

Tags by type, 2011 - 2012

All User-generated Tags

The following two graphs show the month-by-month growth of total unique tags and canonical tags on the Archive, with the vertical bars broken up for each type of tag.

The unique tags have a linear growth from the 105,000 tags on 01 October 2010 until around December 2011, then they start showing a slight upward curve to their increase, to a current total of just under 400,000 unique tags on the Archive. Characters and Relationships are almost as large a percentage of the total tags as Freeforms (aka Additional Tags).

a stacked bar chart showing the increase in unique user-created tags, stacked by type, over the last 24 months.

The canonical tags, on the other hand, are maintaining a roughly linear increase, from 56,000 in October 2010 to today's 140,000. Proportionally, characters comprise the majority of canonicals, followed closely by Relationships. Freeform canonicals are roughly as common as Fandom canonicals. (Reasons for this can be seen in our Freeform Wrangling Guidelines.)

a stacked bar chart showing the increase in canonical user-created tags, stacked by type, over the last 24 months.

Fandoms

Fandoms have had a very consistent growth, with a notable bump in unique tags in May 2012, when many new users imported existing works from other sites. The number of canonical tags roughly follows this increase, but has been slowing down in recent months. 50% of the 14,000 Fandom tags were canonical in October 2011, decreasing slightly to 43% of the 23,000 unique tags in October 2012.

a vertical bar graph showing the increase in unique and canonical fandom tags over the last 12 months.

Characters

We can see a similar pattern with the Character tags - a linear increase in unique tags, and a slowing down of canonical tags. The increases aren't proportional, however: while almost 74% of the 72,000 character tags were canonical in October 2011, only 57% of the 114,000 tags are canonical in October 2012. This may reflect a greater diversity of fannish terminologies being contributed by newer users of the site.

a vertical bar graph showing the increase in unique and canonical character tags over the last 12 months.

Relationships

Relationship tags also show the same linear growth as the other two, with a slight decrease in the number of canonical tags. Due to the ever-climbing number of combinations, these increased more proportionally: in October 2011, canonicals were 47% of the 68,000 relationship tags; in 2012, they're only 44% of the 118,000 tags.

a vertical bar graph showing the increase in unique and canonical relationship tags over the last 12 months.

Additionals

In what should not be a surprise, the majority of growth in unique tags comes from the unique Additional tags (also called Freeform tags). The number of freeforms has increased along an increasing slope from 43,000 last October to 138,000 this October. However, as the vast majority of freeforms entered are not intended for searching and indexing, far fewer have been marked canonical: there were just under 9,000 canonical freeforms in October 2011, and there are only 11,500 canonical freeforms in October 2012, as most freeform wrangling consists of glancing at a list and picking out the ones that would be useful as canonical tags (for example, common terms such as 'Angst').

a vertical bar graph showing the increase in unique and canonical additional tags over the last 12 months.

Last Words

We always enjoy taking a look at stats, and tags are particularly interesting because they often give a snapshot of different fannish communities or traditions. We love the way different communities of users on the Archive take advantage of our unique tag system to tag in all kinds of different ways!

The growth in tags reflects the massive increase in the number of users on the site. If you're enjoying using the AO3 and you'd like to help with our running costs, please consider donating to our parent Organization for Transformative Works. Donations help fund the AO3 and all the OTW's other cool projects!

A note on tag filters

In any post about tags, we know people will want to ask about tag filters. We know that the Archive is much harder to browse without this feature, and we're sorry it's taking us a long time to restore it - the rewrite is a significant piece of work. The good news is that we're so close now we can almost taste it - the new filters are on our Test Archive and if testing goes well they should be rolled out to the main site in a few weeks time. Wish us luck!

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Happy Ada Lovelace Day from the AO3!

Published: 2012-10-16 17:05:33 -0400

Happy Ada Lovelace Day from everyone at the Archive of Our Own!

The majority of AO3 volunteers are women, so we're thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate women in technology! Our testers, coders and systems staff are all inspirational, and in the five years they have been working on the Archive they have all become role models for one another.

This Ada Lovelace Day we'd like to give a shoutout to one inspirational woman in particular: AD&T Co-chair Elz. Elz has been coding on the project since the very beginning, and we're in awe of her amazing patience, her great teaching and mentoring skills, and her ability to produce massive amounts of code: she is the number one contributor of code to the AO3 and has written over 130,000 lines of code!

Elz is particularly inspirational because she didn't originally come from a STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) background: she majored in literature at university and is a self-taught coder. The experience she gained working on the AO3 enabled her to move into coding professionally, and she now works in the tech industry: a great example of how sharing skills in the open source community can enable people from non-STEM backgrounds to move into technology.

Elz has done amazing work on the AO3 over the years, and she's been incredibly generous with her time and her skills over the years. We're happy to celebrate her on Ada Lovelace Day!

We'd also like to celebrate all our volunteers, especially those who joined us more recently: we've had fifteen coders make their first commits to the project in the last year. We're proud of the achievements of all our volunteers - of all gender identities - and we're grateful to them for their hard work.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

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OTW Fundraising and Membership Drive - Support the AO3!

Published: 2012-10-16 08:48:11 -0400

You may have seen the banner on the site this week asking for donations: our parent organization (The Organization for Transformative Works) holds membership drives twice a year, and the money raised is what pays for AO3's hardware, hosting, and maintenance costs. We don't have paid accounts or advertising, so donations from regular users are what keeps the site running and allows us to expand.

If you enjoy using AO3 and you're able to help support us, please donate today!

OTW: 5 Transformative Years

OTW Membership Drive
October 13-17, 2012

A few common questions:

What is the Organization for Transformative Works and how is it related to the Archive of Our Own?

The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. It's the parent organization that runs AO3 and several other fan-oriented projects.

What do you spend donation money on?

Neither OTW nor AO3 has paid employees or offices - all of the work of building and maintaining AO3 is done by volunteers like you. OTW funds and supports other wonderful projects as well (legal advocacy for fans! a fan wiki! an academic journal!) but because of the scale of the Archive, its hosting and hardware costs do make up a good chunk of the organization's expenses each year.

If you're interested in more detailed information, you can find an expense breakdown in our annual report.

Can I get an Archive invitation if I donate?

No, sorry! For privacy reasons, donations and organization memberships are entirely separate from AO3 user accounts and invitations. It's free for everyone to use the Archive, and invitations are granted by our automated queue in the order that requests come in. There may be some indirect benefits to donating: how much funding we have determines how much we're able to expand our systems, which affects the rate at which we can send out invitations. But it's not possible to directly purchase an account.

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Archive of Our Own Newsletter - September 2012

Published: 2012-09-30 15:33:06 -0400

Hello Archive creators, users, and lovers! The days have gone by quickly, haven't they? We've got a short--but sweet--newsletter for you this month.

Cool stuff on the archive!

Releases 0.9.0 and 0.9.1 were deployed -- check out what's new and what's been fixed! Tag hierarchies are now visible. We're also able to support podfic embeds again.

What’s up in the world of tags?

With the new public tag display pages, users on the Archive can now get a wranglers-eye view of tags. So if you're curious, you can check out all the Marvel comics fandoms or all the different adaptations of Hana Yori Dango on the Archive, see how many different characters Stiles Stilinski has been paired with, and hop between a variety of Alternate Universes!

Support issues

We're starting to see, due to the dedicated and diligent work of our Coding volunteers, a large number of bugs being squashed. Even so, we still have a number of bugs that we know about, along with common workarounds, at the Archive's Known Issues page. If you want to check to see if something has been reported, that's a good place to start. (There's even a link at the top of the Support form.)

We're excited about the upcoming changes and want to extend a hearty greeting to all our incoming holiday exchanges, especially the number of exchanges who are choosing to run entirely on the site for the first time! If you as a user or a mod have any questions, drop us a line!

As a general warning to users posting HTML, both Firefox and Chrome seem to have resumed their trick of converting straight (") double quotes into angled 'smart' quotes, which our HTML Sanitizer does not like. If you're having issues embedding multimedia or adjusting CSS, that would be the first place we recommend checking.

AD&T Committee business of note

We're also working hard on bringing back tag filtering and we hope to have it back soon!. Please take a look at this post for more information on tag filtering if you haven't already. We're also discontinuing support for IE6&7. See this post for details and how you can help us with this transition. Release 0.9.0 and 0.9.1 went well and we're very pleased with how they are working out. And finally, we continue to work on an updated AO3 roadmap and its development is going well!

Support Committee business of note

We've made notable steps over the last year to maintain a sustainable system for ticket responses, and, having figured out what works, are starting to collect documented guidelines for the fateful day in the distant future of complete staff turnover.

Tag Wrangling Committee business of note

We're really excited that everyone can now see some of the insides of the wrangulator, an alpha feature which you may have read about in A New Look at AO3 Tags. We're currently working hard on converting our wrangling guidelines for posting to the archive FAQs section, starting here.

Apologies

We've been getting reports from people who have been missing account activation emails -- please do not hesitate to let us know if this is the case with you. We're working on the issue and hope to have it resolved soon but in the meantime please contact Support if you are missing an activation email. The Archive also experienced about 40 minutes of downtime earlier this month when we installed new batteries in old machines and another 40 minutes during a deploy. We apologize if this inconvenienced you in any way.

Questions? Comments?

We welcome feedback from users! If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments of the latest news post, or send in a Support request (if you're reporting a bug, please send that to Support, as they're super efficient - comments on our news posts sometimes get overlooked).

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Release 0.9.1: An Unexpected Journey

Published: 2012-09-22 17:38:41 -0400

The Fellowship of Deploys

Release 0.9.1 will be split into two releases, as the final parts of the filter rewrite will need a little bit more testing time and we wanted to get out these fixes as soon as possible. We are now entering the very last phase of poking and prodding the new filter code (and completely revamped advanced search form) until we can be reasonably sure that nothing will break upon deploy to the Archive. We apologize for the delay in this!

Part 1: The Two Bugfixes

(It's actually around a dozen bugfixes and improvements, but once you commit to a theme, you commit.) Tireless coders Ana, Elz, Enigel, Sarken, and Scott contributed to this release. Testers Jenn Calaelen, Lady Oscar, mumble, Radka, and Sam J. helped confirm that all fixes were working as expected. This deploy includes the following fixes:

  • Design/Display
    • Our intrepid frontend lead Sarken completely revamped the bookmark blurbs and tidied up bookmark listings, making both more useful and easier to navigate, offering more information (such as word count, chapters and number of hits, date last updated, and collections the bookmark is in) at a glance, and basically improving all the things
    • There was a hidden header and help text link on the filter box, only accessible to screenreaders or through keyboard navigation; the fieldset legend and little blue question mark are now visible
  • Works/Tags
    • There was a critical bug that prevented updated works from being bumped to the top of the relevant tag pages (e.g. fandom, characters, relationships...) and would only update the tag pages with newly-posted works; this has been fixed and works that you update with a new chapter should now correctly appear
    • We found an issue where changing a tag name on the admin side would not update the autocomplete options for users, leading to problems when a user selected the old, but now unwrangled tag in some contexts; this has been fixed
    • In the same vein, a collection title change would not update the title in the autocomplete options when trying to add a work to a collection, creating the impression the collection didn't exist; this has also been fixed
    • When a work or series you subscribed to was deleted, your subscriptions page would throw up an error 500 and become inaccessible; we thought this fixed in a previous deploy but tracked down a lingering issue when we were still getting reports of this problem and should be in the clear now
    • For works with many comments, paging to the next set of comments would bump you down to the bottom of the page, forcing you to scroll up to read the comments; paging through comments will now keep you at the top of the comments section
    • In preparation for more backend changes, we renamed the database table for counting hits and widened its scope to keep track of more work stats as well; this shouldn't affect you right now
  • Notifications/Emails
    • We've been experiencing problems with activation emails relentlessly getting eaten by spam filters, resulting in a dozen Support tickets every day to take care of account verification; after some analysis we found that our subject line resembled common spam patterns; we have now renamed the emails to say "[AO3] Confirmation" and will track if this improves matters
    • Related to this, we've fixed a loophole making it possible to request a new password for an unverified account, ultimately resulting in an error 404 when trying to use the new password; users are now asked to contact Support if they didn't receive an activation email instead of being sent a new password

Please note: If you want to ensure that all Archive emails, including subscriptions and comment notifications, reach your inbox, please add do-not-reply@archiveofourown.org to your contacts and/or follow these unofficial instructions for whitelisting all emails from the Archive. Gmail especially seems to place emails from our address in spam folders at random.

Part 2: The Return of the Filters

As most of our users know, we've been working hard the last few months to rewrite the code for our tag filters (we touch upon some of the problems with the old filter code in our post AO3 performance and growth: some details). This deploy doesn't include the new filters, but it does include lots of the background work which is needed to support them. The rest of the code will be in our next deploy - the new filters don't look too different from the old ones, but they are much spiffier and more efficient behind the scenes.


A sneak peek of the new filters (frontend); not pictured: massive backend changes for scalability and maintainability

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Just Press Play! (Podfic Embedding on the AO3)

Published: 2012-09-21 04:57:31 -0400

While we're not yet able to host media types other than text, we're working on making the site more welcoming to multimedia works. As part of this, we encourage users to embed podfics and vids. As you may be aware, a few months ago, Google implemented server restrictions on their media player embedding solution that many of our users had used to post podfic, causing the works to not play any more. As a stopgap, we looked at several solutions, including continuing to expand our whitelist and locally hosting a copy of the Google code. We wanted, however, to have a more open-source solution that we will be able to fully support going forward, and preferably one without too much adjustment for the users.

After some debate and discussion, we have installed locally on the Archive a copy of Dewplayer, a Flash-based CC BY-ND 2.0 MP3 player. By hosting the player on the Archive, we have better confidence in the safety and security of the code, and because it is licensed under the Creative Commons, we're more confident we can provide this solution for the future.

One of the nice features of Dewplayer is that it by default comes with several different player skins. We recommend the Classic and Bubble skins, and the Volume variations of each. You will still need to have your files hosted on another server for now, though. Once you have the file hosted, just replace MP3_FILE_URL in the code for your favorite player below. (We should also note that several users have reported their browser pasting smart quotes again, so be sure to convert any of those back to normal double quotes!)

Classic

the Dewplayer Classic skin
<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" flashvars="mp3=MP3_FILE_URL" src="http://archiveofourown.org/system/dewplayer/dewplayer.swf" width="200" height="27" allowscriptaccess="never" allownetworking="internal"></embed>

Classic with Volume control

the Dewplayer Classic skin with volume control
<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" flashvars="mp3=MP3_FILE_URL" src="http://archiveofourown.org/system/dewplayer/dewplayer-vol.swf" width="250" height="27" allowscriptaccess="never" allownetworking="internal"></embed>

Bubble

the Dewplayer Bubble skin
<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" flashvars="mp3=MP3_FILE_URL" src="http://archiveofourown.org/system/dewplayer/dewplayer-bubble.swf" width="250" height="65" allowscriptaccess="never" allownetworking="internal"></embed>

Bubble with Volume controls

the Dewplayer Bubble skin with volume control
<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" flashvars="mp3=MP3_FILE_URL" src="http://archiveofourown.org/system/dewplayer/dewplayer-bubble-vol.swf" width="250" height="65" allowscriptaccess="never" allownetworking="internal"></embed>

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