AO3 News

Discontinuing support for IE6 and IE7

Published: 2012-09-20 05:32:53 -0400

After some discussion, we've decided to stop supporting Internet Explorer 6 and 7 going forward. As of the last deploy, we will not be coding or testing for these two browser versions. While we expect that most aspects of the site will still function, it may appear wonky and functionality will degrade over time.

We know that not everyone has control over which browsers they use, and we do our best to support a wide range of browsers so the site is accessible for as many people as possible. However, with less than 3% of our visitors (and falling) still using these two versions of IE, we do not have the resources to continue active support for the site in these older versions: IE6 and IE7 are so different from modern browsers that they effectively require us to code and test specifically for them.

We know that some assistive technology relies on specific browser configurations. If you encounter any accessibility problems after this update (or at all) we ask that you please contact Support with details: we will gladly do our best to help solve your issues.

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Release Notes for Release 0.9.0

Published: 2012-09-03 16:04:50 -0400

Welcome to Release 0.9.0! Andreja, Ariana, Chris, Elz, Enigel, Lal, Nathan, sarken, Sam J. and Scott contributed code to this release, which was tested by our awesome testing team: bingeling, Enigel, highlander ii, Jenn, Kylie, Lady Oscar, sarken, Scott, Xparrot and Zebra.

We have a lot of fixes and improvements in the pipeline, including improved search and filtering for works and bookmarks, but because of the backend work and testing involved with that, we're splitting the release up a bit to minimize complications. This is part one: filtering should be out in our next release, and we'll be starting on some of the systems-level work to pave the way for those shortly!

Highlights!

Public tag relationship pages

We've had lots of requests from users who would like to see more information about how tags on the Archive are wrangled and how they relate to one another. In order to work towards this, we've now made tag information pages visible to all users (until now, these were only visible to tag wranglers). If you go to a tag page you can now see whether that tag has been wrangled and how it relates to other tags. For example, if you go to X-Men: First Class, you can see that this is a fandom tag, that it belongs to the metatags X-Men (Movies) and X-Men (All Media types), and that it has a whole bunch of child tags including a character tag for Charles Xavier, and the 'freeform' tag Beach Divorce.

This post by our Tag Wrangling Committee explains a bit more about tag pages and how our tags are connected to one another behind the scenes. This is an alpha version of this feature: we wanted to start by exposing the basic pages and see how people use them before we develop them further. If you have feedback about how they could be more useful, please do let us know via Support.

Rich Text Editor upgrade

We've had some persistent problems with our rich text editor, which was behaving particularly poorly towards users of Internet Explorer. We've now upgraded to a newer version of the RTE which is better behaved - if you've previously experienced an issue where entering text via the RTE resulted in an error complaining there was no content, this update should fix it for you! We're really glad to have finally squashed this bug.

Tags on bookmarks can now be sorted into categories

A new wrangling feature - previously, tags created by users tagging their bookmarks (using the "Your Tags" input field) would all become Additional Tags (Freeforms). Now, any new tag that is created through a bookmark will initially be listed as an Unsorted Tag, without a category. Wranglers will then be able to sort these tags into the appropriate categories (as well as re-sort existing bookmark-only tags); or, if users put the same tags on works or when bookmarking external works, they will automatically be sorted into whatever category the works tags are created in.

Bookmark tags will still be accessible as before; you should not see any changes in how your old or new bookmark tags work. But with this, bookmark tags will now be able to be merged with matching character, relationship, and fandom tags, which will help users browsing and searching bookmarks to find more relevant works.

Known Issues

See our Known Issues page for current issues.

Release Details

Features

  • Ability to recategorize bookmark tags
  • Alpha version of visible-to-everyone tag pages
  • Updated the Rich Text Editor, made it usable in IE9 and Opera 10+ and fixed several bugs in the process
  • Revised the Support form to make it more useful

Bug fixes

  • Works & Stats
    • Gift notification emails weren't sent when editing a existing work; this has been fixed
    • When previewing a chapter before posting, one was presented with the baffling choice of "Post Chapter", "Revert To Saved" and "Delete Chapter"; the buttons have now been adjusted to be more useful
    • The work information in subscription notifications and in the "Share" text on works didn't include series information; it does now
    • Editing an unposted draft allowed you to orphan it, sending the work into orphan_account's draft limbo; this isn't possible anymore
    • Improved parser handling of a, abbr, acronym, and address HTML tags
    • When trying to import a work from fanfiction.net, a URL check would display information about ff.net imports being blocked, which wrongly affected adultfanfiction.net links as well; this has been fixed
    • On the Stats page, the sort buttons weren't working in mobile Safari (iPod, iPhone), making it impossible to view works in any order but the default (hits); this has been fixed
    • Multi-fandom works were counted as one work for each fandom they were in, inflating total stats (such as the word count) and messing up graphs on the Stats page; they now only show up once in Flat View and in the charts and don't inflate the total numbers anymore
    • The number of "Comments" on the Stats page actually only reflects top-level comments on a work; the label was changed to "Comment Threads" to avoid confusion
  • Collections & Challenges
    • When uploading a new user icon, the current icon would be displayed for reference; the same functionality has been added for collection icons
    • There was no way to delete an icon, once uploaded; this has been fixed
    • In collection blurbs for moderated collections, an empty button would show up where the Sign Up link for an unmoderated collection would be; the underlying logic has been fixed to display Sign Up/Join buttons for moderated/unmoderated collections/challenges with open/closed sign-ups accordingly
    • There was an issue with the "moderated" setting for a collection or challenge interacting with the "anonymous"/"unrevealed" settings and breaking anonymity; this has been fixed
    • An explanation of the "closed" option was added to the collection settings page
    • Collections only had a Delete button on the profile page; a "Delete Collection" button has now been added to the collection settings, and the "Delete" button for challenge settings was renamed to make it clearer that it only affects the challenge setup
    • When trying to submit a challenge signup that didn't adhere to signup restrictions (e.g. too many fandoms offered), the resulting error message wasn't sufficiently clear and has now been improved
    • The Kudos button on static challenge pages wasn't working; it does now
  • Admin
    • Added pagination to the page admins see when managing requests for extra invites from users
    • Added a restriction to the number of invitations that can be requested by users at one time
    • When users submitted an Abuse report, no copy of the message was sent to them even if they requested one; this has been fixed
  • Design & Display
    • On user and collection pages, the default Archive icon would shine through for icons with transparent backgrounds; we have changed this to make it possible to use transparent icons
    • HTML scopes, captions and summaries were added to the tables in the admin area, along with some rationalisation of the tables and some CSS tweaks.
    • The History page wasn't adhering to our design principles for listing work blurbs; the underlying structure has now been rewritten, fixing a pagination display bug in Chrome in the process
    • The "Notes" and "Your Tags" fields in the bookmarking form were missing visible labels; they are now properly labeled and not naked boxes anymore
    • The "View All Bookmarks" and "View Recs Only" buttons on the bookmarks index behaved differently from similar buttons elsewhere on the site; they are now both always visible, with the currently selected view clearly marked
    • The link text on static collection pages (such as this book fandom index for Yuletide 2010) was a rather sassy red color; we made the red slightly darker to reduce eye strain
    • When looking at challenge pages without being signed in, an empty navigation section would show up where the sign-up links would be if logged in; this has been fixed to hide the section completely in this case
    • In Opera, disabling images would make some link text hard to read; a background color has now been defined to solve this problem
    • Text in a monospace font (kbd, tt, code, var, pre) was very small and hard to read; we increased the font size a notch
    • Text on iPod and iPhone screens in horizontal view was very big; we changed the font size setting to be consistent in both orientations
    • In work blurbs, the title heading had two separate class definitions, breaking page validation; this has been fixed
    • In the Share box on works, the "ctrl A / cmd A" instructions to highlight the share text for copying weren't enclosed in <kbd> tags to signify keyboard input; they are now
    • When tabbing through a work blurb, arriving at the small icons for rating, category, warning etc. wouldn't make them visibly selected; they now have a visible outline
    • There was an issue in IE7 with lists of checkboxes, such as rating options in tag sets, overflowing their container instead of creating the proper scrollbar; this has been fixed
    • Added a .caution class to the "Adding a synonym to a canonical tag will make it non-canonical" warning on tag wrangling pages to make the note stand out more
    • Long collection names didn't wrap properly in the collections filter box, creating a horizontal scrollbar; this has been fixed
  • Accessibility
    • The pseuds drop-down in the user sidebar was skipped when tabbing through the links, making it inaccessible for keyboard navigation; this has been fixed
    • The "Expand full list" button in a user's fandom list was skipped in keyboard navigation; it's now included in the tabbing order
  • Help & Documentation
    • On the fandom index pages, such as for Video Games, we advised to "search this page by pressing ctrl F"; we have now included instructions for Mac users
    • For security reasons, we changed the way looking up your email address in the invite queue worked; the respective page text has now been changed to reflect this
    • The help text for the "Any" field in our Work Search was amended to be clearer
    • A few small text edits were made to the instructions on tag edit pages
    • The People Search didn't have proper help text; it now does
    • It is currently possible to add more than one related link (such as remix source or fanart inspiration) to one's work, although not very easily; we have added help text to explain the workaround
    • There was an option on the Preference page called "Format your own titles"; it has been renamed to "Browser page title format" to describe more accurately what it does
  • Error Extravaganza
    • Trying to list a co-author who wasn't actually a fellow AO3 user would throw an error 500; this has been fixed to give a meaningful error message
    • Trying to add a work to a closed collection would throw an error 500 under certain circumstances; this has now been fixed to give a meaningful error message while making it possible to edit an already existing work in a closed collection
    • Trying to edit a bookmark for a work that had been deleted would throw an error 500; this has been fixed
    • Logging out while the first welcome banner was showing would cause an error 500; this has been fixed
    • Dismissing the first login banner, then turning it back on in Preferences would result in an 404 error; this has been fixed
    • There were problems with a few tags causing 500 errors; to fix this we added a constraint to the database to prevent duplicate tag counters from being created
  • Miscellaneous
    • The bottom Select All/Select None buttons in the Inbox weren't working; this has been fixed for all such buttons across the site
    • The "External Works" count on a tag wrangling page now link to the bookmarks for that tag
    • Changed the icon alt text character limit from 50 to 250

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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.

Parent tags

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.

Child tags

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.

Other tags

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.

Questions

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.

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AO3 Newsletter August 2012

Published: 2012-08-31 14:52:38 -0400

Hello readers, creators, and archivers! It's the end of August which means it's time for an AO3 Newsletter.

Cool stuff on the Archive

This month, we were able to up the number of invitations issued each day to 350. With our invite queue holding steady at 31k, this may seem like a drop in the ocean, but we are excited to welcome that many more users to Archive each day. We're also excited to announce that AD&T, Tag Wrangling and Support have a great big deploy coming soon to an Archive near you. Release 0.9.0 contains new features and a whole lot of bug fixes; stay tuned for details in the coming week.

What’s up in the world of tags?

One of the most used Additional Tags on the Archive is Alternate Universe. There are currently 45k works tagged to indicate some form of Alternate Universe!

Popular universe tropes on the AO3 include Modern Settings, High School and Gender Changes. There are tags for AUs based on where characters work, such as Coffee Shop, Circus and Library; AUs much more out of this world, like Dragons and Shapeshifters; and AUs that put the characters out of time, from Ancient Greece & Rome to the 1960s.

We're always interested to see what other universes are out there!

Support Superstars

Support have had our hands full this month with a whopping 542 tickets opened in August. We've closed 511 of those tickets and have 31 left to go!

AD&T Committee business of note

As we mentioned in last month's newsletter, our fearless captain mumble leads the way as we update the AO3 roadmap. As a guide for site development, a roadmap helps to keep us on task while we work on new features and plan deploys. We can't promise that we'll be able to keep to it exactly--a quick glance at our old roadmap should show you where we got off track--but it does provide us a framework to work with and milestones to work towards. For example, milestones such as release 0.9.0! We've been hard at work on this deploy which will roll out new features, bug fixes, and upgrades that will help Support, Tag Wrangling, and the Archive to run more smoothly. And finally, with Sarken as our guide, we continue work on a brand new header for the site (another milestone!) and have plans to consult you on various aspects and features of the header sometime soon.

Support Committee business of note

Users have kept Support busy this month. We've answered some 'Help - how do I...' questions, logged some bugs, and recorded some feature requests. Our new Support Form is almost ready for prime time. It's currently in the testing stage, and if all goes well, it should go live in the next deploy.

Tag Wrangling Committee business of note

In the upcoming deploy, we're looking forward to making public some of the behind-the-scenes tag pages that wranglers see! In these public tag pages, you will be able to see what sort of tag structures are used when our wranglers get wrangling. In connection with this new Archive feature, we're also working towards moving our guidelines to the Archive's FAQ pages, discussing revisions of some of the Archive's tagging terminology, and making some of our internal guidelines clearer and more consistent.

Apologies

While moving servers behind an upgraded, more secure firewall, we introduced a typo that caused some users to be redirected to a site that was decidedly not AO3. We've been receiving reports from users who are still unable to access the Archive; if this has been the case for you, please read this post and let us know if you continue to have trouble. Tag filtering remains unavailable as we continue rewriting the necessary code to give you a better tag-filtering experience. We also ran into some problems with audio embeds when we inadvertently deployed code that allowed Google audio embeds, which is an embed we cannot support.

We apologize for the inconveniences these mistakes have caused and appreciate your continued patience with us.

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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AO3 connection problems

Published: 2012-08-23 15:06:52 -0400

We've been receiving a small number of reports of people unable to access the Archive of Our Own - if you've been affected by this issue, this post will give you a bit more information about what's going on. We'd also like to appeal for your help as we work to fix it!

What's wrong

We recently upgraded our firewall to improve the security of our servers. Unfortunately, it seems that we haven't got the configuration absolutely right and it's causing connection problems for some users. This problem is only affecting a small number of users, and it's not completely consistent. However, if you've received an Error 404, a warning saying 'Secure Connection Failed', or you've been redirected to a url with 8080 in it, then this is what's causing it.

While we worked on the issue, we temporarily disabled https on the site, as that was causing some additional problems. This means that if you have a browser extension such as HTTPS Everywhere enabled, or you use a browser which enforces https by default, then the site will not load - apologies for this. If the site has been consistently timing out for you, it's worth checking if this applies in your case - if the url defaults to https://archiveofourown.org then you have been affected by this issue.

How you can workaround

If you're being affected by the https issue, you can work around by adding an exception to HTTPS Everywhere, or using a different browser.

If you're getting errors at random, then clearing your browser cache and refreshing should help. You may also find it helps to use another browser.

How you can help us

We're working to get to the bottom of this problem, and we know we've already reduced the number of errors which are occurring. However, it would be enormously helpful for our Systems team to have a little more information. If you encounter an error, please submit a Support request giving the following information:

Your IP address You can find this out by going to http://www.whatsmyip.org/.
The url of the page where you got the error:
The exact error you got: You may find it easiest to copy and paste the error. If you didn't get an error but the page just never loads, tell us that.
What time (UTC) you got the error: Please check the current time in UTC when you get the error - this will make it easier for us to keep track, since we're dealing with users in lots of different timezones.
Is the error intermittent or constant?
What browser are you using? It would be extra helpful if you can tell us your user agent string, which you can find out by going to http://whatsmyuseragent.com/".

If you know how to view the source of a page in the browser, it would also be very helpful if you could could copy and paste the source code of the page that throws up the problem.

If you're comfortable working on the command line, then it would also be helpful if you could provide us with some additional information (if you're already wondering what we're talking about, don't worry, you can ignore this bit). Open up a command line window and type nslookup ao3.org. Copy whatever pops up in your console and paste it into your Support message.

If you can't access the Archive at all (and thus can't submit a Support request there) you can send us this information via our backup Support form.

A note on https

We know that many people prefer to use https connection to provide additional security on the web, and we will be reenabling this option as soon as we can. Because the AO3 doesn't handle data such as credit card information or similar, browsing without https doesn't expose our users to any significant security risks. However, it is always a good policy to use a unique password (i.e. don't use the same username and password combo for the AO3 and your email account) in order to ensure that if for any reason someone else obtains your AO3 credentials, they can't use them to access other data). Apologies for the inconvenience to users while this option is disabled.

ETA for a fix

We're hoping to resolve these lingering problems asap; however, our Systems team have limited time, so we may not be able to track down the root of the problem as fast as we'd like. We'll keep you updated, and in the meantime apologise for the inconvenience.

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Update on audio embeds

Published: 2012-08-21 16:22:51 -0400

As many AO3 users have noticed, the types of fanwork available through the Archive have been expanding! Unfortunately our current inability to directly host any non-text content has created workaround efforts and these sometimes run into problems.

This has been the case with podfic, and we're particularly sorry that these problems have affected a recent podfic challenge hosted through the Archive. To quickly sum up, this is what has happened:

  • We were allowing people to use Google's audio player as an embed but then Google stopped supporting it so that it no longer worked.
  • We were planning to do our own hosting of Google's player (and announced this in our last newsletter) but decided that we wanted a different open-source solution that we will be able to fully support; we are working on this.
  • We did a quick deploy to enable people in the pod_together challenge to use another audio embed option specifically for that challenge, because they'd been waiting on our fix in order to host their event.
  • We inadvertently enabled our own Google player hosting at the same time. However, this was accidental and has now been disabled - this means it will have broken again for anyone who changed their code to use it. We're very sorry about this.
  • We do plan to offer an alternative solution for podficcers in the near future: this will be a player hosted on the Archive's own servers so that we can ensure it will remain available in future.

Paraka, the pod_together mod who is hosting the player, has generously offered to make it available to people outside the challenge: see this post for streaming code. We should note that this is a small site and is unlikely to be able to support lots and lots of users (also, we can't guarantee it will continue to function long-term) so we recommend that you only take up this option if you have a podfic that you want to post right now (and don't, for example, change your whole back catalogue right now).

We apologize for the confusion this series of events has caused and also about the lack of timely communication in regards to this matter. If you have further questions about audio work on the Archive, please comment here and we will do our best to address them. For specific assistance you may also want to contact Support.

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Update: Site problems and our firewall upgrade

Published: 2012-08-17 09:21:15 -0400

Our Systems team have been doing some behind-the-scenes maintenance over the past week or so to improve the Archive of Our Own's firewalls. This has mostly been invisible to users, but last night it briefly gave everyone a fright when a typo introduced during maintenance caused some people to be redirected to some weird pages when trying to access the AO3. We also had a few additional problems today which caused a bit of site downtime. We've fixed the problems and the site should now be back to normal, but we wanted to give you all an explanation of what we've been working on and what caused the issues.

Please note: We will be doing some more maintenance relating to these issues at c. 22:00 UTC today (see when this is in your timezone). The site should remain up, but will run slowly for a while.

Upgrading our firewall

The AO3's servers have some built-in firewalls which stop outside IP services accessing bits of the servers they shouldn't, in the same way that the firewall on your home computer protects you from malicious programmes modifying your computer. Until recently, we were using these firewalls, which meant that each server was behind its own firewall, and data passed between servers was unencrypted. However, now that we have a lot more machines (with different levels of firewall), this setup is not as secure as it could be. It also makes it difficult for us to do some of the Systems work we need to, since the firewalls get in the way. We've therefore been upgrading our firewall setup: it's better to put all the machines behind the same firewall so that data passing between different servers is always protected by the firewall.

We've been slowly moving all our servers behind the new firewall. We're almost done with this work, which will put all the main servers for the Archive (that is the ones all on the same site together) behind the firewall. In addition, our remote servers (which can't go behind the firewall) will be connected to the firewall so that they can be sure they're talking to the right machine, and all the data sent to them is properly encrypted. (The remote servers are used for data backups - they are at a different location so that if one site is hit by a meteor, we'll still have our data.) This means that everything is more secure and that we can do further Systems maintenance without our own firewalls getting in the way.

What went wrong - redirects

Last night, some users started getting redirected to a different site when trying to access the AO3. The redirect site was serving up various types of spammy content, so we know this was very alarming for everyone who experienced it. The problem was caused by an error introduced during our maintenance. It was fixed very quickly, but we're very sorry to everyone who was affected.

In order to understand what caused the bug, it's necessary to understand a little bit about DNS. Every address on the internet is actually a string of numbers (an IP address), but you usually access it via a much friendlier address like http://archiveofourown.org. DNS is a bit like a phonebook for the internet: when you go to http://archiveofourown.org, your Domain Name Service goes to look and see what number is listed for that address, then sends you to the right place. In the case of the AO3, we actually have several servers, so there are several 'phone numbers' listed and you can get sent to any one of those.

As part of our maintenance, we had to make changes to our DNS configuration. Unfortunately, during one of those changes, we accidentally introduced a typo into one of our names (actually into the delegation of the domain, for those of you who are systems savvy). This meant that some people were being sent to the wrong place when they tried to access our address - it's as if the phone book had a misprint and you suddenly found yourself calling the laundry instead of a taxi service. Initially this was just sending people to a non-existent place, but a spammer noticed the error and registered that IP address so they would get the redirected traffic. (In the phone book analogy, the laundry noticed the misprint and quickly registered to use that phone number so they could take advantage of it.) It didn't affect everyone since some people were still being sent to the other, valid IP addresses.

We fixed the typo as soon as the problem was reported. However, Domain Name Services don't update immediately, so some users were still getting sent to the wrong address for a few hours after we introduced the fix. To continue the phone book analogy, it's as if the misprinted phone book was still in circulation at the same time as the new, updated one.

If you were affected by this issue, then it should be completely resolved now. Provided you didn't click any links on the site you were redirected to, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. However, it's a a good idea to run your antivirus programme just to be absolutely sure.

Downtime today

It turned out one bit of the firewall configuration was a little overenthusiastic and was blocking some users from getting to the site at all. We rolled back part of the changes, which caused a little bit of downtime. Because this involved changing our DNS configuration again the change took a while to take effect and the downtime was different for different users (effectively we changed our phone number, and the phonebook had to update).

The site should be back up for everyone now. We'll be completing the last bits of work on the firewall upgrade today at roughly 22:00 UTC. At present we don't expect any downtime, but the site will be running more slowly than usual.

Thank you

We'd like to say a massive thank you to James_, who has done almost all of the work upgrading the firewall. He's done a sterling job and the site is much more secure because of his work. This glitch reminds us just how high pressure Systems' work is - for most of us, a tiny typo does not have such noticeable effects! We really appreciate all the work James_ has put in, and the speed at which he identified and fixed the problem when it went wrong.

We'd also like to thank our other staff who swung into action to keep people informed on Twitter, our news sites, and via Support, and who provided moral support while the issues were being dealt with.

Finally, thanks to all our users: you guys were super understanding while we were dealing with these problems and gave us lots of useful info which helped us track down the source of the bug.

Reminder: site status information

The first place to be updated when we have problems with the site is our Twitter AO3_Status. We try to answer questions addressed to us there as well as putting out general tweets, but it can be hard for us to keep up with direct conversations in busy periods, so apologies if you sent us a message and we didn't respond directly. If you see a problem, it's a good idea to check our timeline first to see if we already tweeted about it. For problems other than site status issues, the best place to go for help is AO3 Support.

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Tag filtering and an apology

Published: 2012-08-15 06:16:28 -0400

We'd like to apologise for the delay in returning tag filtering. We had hoped to have tag filtering updated, run through our testers, and back out to you by the end of July. However, it's taking us much longer than we expected to finish that code and get it all tested. We hope to have all the work finished and the tag filters returned by the end of September. However, we can't promise we won't run into more unexpected snags, so right now this is a very rough timetable and we may have to revise it. We'll keep people updated as the work progresses.

We've been able to tackle a lot of other performance-related issues since the problems started in May/June. However, sadly this isn't enough to allow us to restore the old filter code, which just isn't able to cope with the number of users the site has now. It's been necessary to completely remove the old filter code and rewrite it from the ground up, which is a major piece of coding.

We already knew that this code was nearing breaking point and were actively working on new tag filters before the performance problems hit, which is why we were optimistic about introducing the new tag filters quickly. However, coding is always an uncertain business, and it's taken longer than we expected to finish the new code. In writing a big piece of functionality like this, it's not too unusual to run up against challenges while coding that you didn't anticipate up front. In addition, we only have a limited number of coders who are able to take on something this complex: the coder who is taking the lead on this project has been working on it all available hours, but sadly we've yet to figure out how to clone her.

In the meantime, if you've not already seen the Disabling filters: information and search tips post, check it out for alternate ways of finding works on the Archive.

Once again, many apologies for the inconvenience. We thank you for your patience while we work hard to bring back tag filtering!

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