AO3 News

ADT Open House!

Published: 2011-10-28 11:43:46 -0400

Are you interested in volunteering as a coder or tester for the Archive of Our Own? Do you have questions about our development process, or would you like to learn more about how archive features go from idea to reality? The Accessibility, Design and Technology Committee will be holding an open house to talk about our work and answer any questions you may have!

All are welcome! The chat will be held on Sunday, October 30th at 20:00 UTC (what time is it in my timezone?) in OTW's public chatroom on Campfire. The chatroom can be accessed at

Accessibility, Design, & Technology is the guiding body that coordinates software design, development and testing on behalf of the Organization for Transformative Works. Currently we are responsible for designing and building the Archive of Our Own.


The Accessibility, Design and Technology committee oversees technology-related projects within the OTW. Currently we are responsible for designing and building the Archive of Our Own. Our regular meeting updates keep you informed about developments on the AO3!

This is a busy time for AD&T, because we're coming closer to our big deploy! We've been working on some major changes and they are almost ready to go onto the main Archive - this means lots of testing and bugfixing and general activity!

OTW October Drive!

Everyone has been working so hard that this already feels like a long time in the past, but we can't post without mentioning the great success of the OTW October Membership Drive! It was the most successful drive ever, raising a whopping US$21,456! This money will help to support the Archive as it grows, along with the rest of the OTW's projects. We're totally awed at the generosity of fandom (you can read more about the details of the drive at DevMem's October Drive Wrap-up.) We'd also like to give a big shout-out to Megan and the rest of the DevMem team, who worked really hard to make this drive the success it was. Kudos to everyone involved!

Meeting highlights!

Site redesign

We will soon be rolling out a redesign for the site. Visually, it won't be changing dramatically, but the front-end code underneath is changing a lot. It's now more flexible, easier to understand, and - crucially - more accessible. This has been a big job, but we think it will make the Archive much more usable and maintainable going forward.

Skins changes!

The overhaul of the site CSS and HTML has allowed us to make some major changes to our skins features. When we launched skins, users were super happy - but we know that they were not quite as flexible as you might like. With the new site CSS, you will no longer have to use the dreaded !important all the time. Even cooler, the new design allows you to have multilayer skins, so that you can combine several skins to get the site exactly how you want it. Most importantly, this means that if we change the site design again in future, you can make the old design a 'parent' for the skin you're using so that it doesn't break (similar to the way you can use S1 and S2 styles on Livejournal.)

The only downside of the new skins system is that your existing skins may break - we're doing our best to make sure this doesn't happen, but as there are a lot of user-designed skins we can't be 100% certain. We're currently testing the new system and figuring out exactly what the implications are for existing skins - we'll keep you posted on what to expect and how best you can prepare for the change.

Our Feature Requests process

We spent some time discussing our process for dealing with feature requests from users. Our lovely Support team receive lots of requests for new features or enhancements from users, and until recently these were logged on our internal wiki to await review by AD&T, who decide whether we can make a change and how it fits into our overall plans for the Archive. However, things were not getting off that page and onto the AD&T agenda as fast as we'd like, so we've been looking for a new process for a while now. Support have come up with a new proposed process which will involve putting new requests directly onto the AD&T agenda, so we don't overlook anything and deal with it more swiftly. Anything AD&T approve will be put into the pool for coders to work on; we'll also be keeping a clearer list of things which we decide we won't implement, with the reasons why. We're hoping this will help us be much more efficient and more responsive to users (it will certainly make Support's life a whole lot easier!). We're also thinking about ways of making the whole feature request process more visible to users, so you can see a bit more of the decision-making that goes into building the Archive.

Next deploy

The next deploy is scheduled for as soon as we can get it all working and tested. It includes some big changes, including the new site design, new skins features, tag sets for challenges, and much more - this is awesome but it means we want to be EXTRA sure we have picked up any problems (although no doubt some will sneak through the net).

News from our sub-committees


Coders are working away like busy busy bees, fixing things and writing new code. Rebecca ran some awesome training on automated testing tool RSpec, which will help us write some nice speedy tests so we don't fall asleep while we're waiting for tests to run - thanks, Rebecca! We are working on building up more and more coder training sessions, to share our skills and help people develop.


Testers are also busy, getting the new code tested and making sure it is all up-to-scratch. They work quietly in the background, but they are all absolutely awesome and without their hard work the Archive couldn't exist - thanks, testers! Longtime tester hill has also been working on automated testing using Watir - this replicates testing in different browsers, cutting down on the amount of manual testing needed and thus saving the testing team to work on the things that really need the human touch. Thanks, hill! We always welcome volunteers, and our awesome testers are particularly in need of backup - if you're interested in joining the team, get in touch via Volunteers and Recruiting.

News from our sister committees


The Support team have maintained their great work keeping up with tickets - right now there is not one single unassigned ticket! We're pleased to welcome Anna and arithilim to the team - it's great to see them already getting stuck in with tickets! We'd also like to give a big shout-out to Yshyn, who has been doing awesome work developing Support's documentation and building up a knowledge base, and to Sam, who has ventured into the thorny wilds of the old Feature Requests page to carve out overlooked ideas!

If you're interested in what Support do, check out the recent Spotlight on Support - and remember, Support are always happy to answer your questions on all aspects of the Archive - just get in touch via the Support & Feedback form.

Tag wrangling

The Tag Wrangling Committee ran a very successful Open House in which we talked a bit about how wrangling works and walked through some wrangling. If you missed it, a transcript should be up on the OTW website soon! We are planning more sessions like this in future \0/ - keep an eye out for future news posts.

Wranglers also provided information for a number of support requests. In response to one of them, we have added the metatag Anthropomorphism above Anthropomorfic, with them both being canonicals (canonicals can be used to filter search results). This lets users who consider their works part of the “-fic” tradition to use this tag, while encouraging works of different types of media. We've left the subtags of Anthropomorfic as they are for the moment, with the exception of Fandom (Anthropomorfic)- since some of the works under this tag were not related to anthromorphism, but rather inspired by fandom itself, Fandom – Fandom was canonized as well under Other Media, and Fandom (Anthropomorfic) was subtagged under it as well as Anthropomorphism. We’ll be keeping an eye on fandom usage and adapt if necessary. If you’ve got further input to this, or other wrangling issues, please let us know by filing a Support request or tweeting us @ao3_wranglers.

Finally, we're pleased to welcome lots of new wranglers, including welfycat, Niko, Sossity, melodiousb, Pax, foxinthestars and Rodo! If you're interested in wrangling, check out the list of fandoms without wranglers - the Marvel Universe is particularly in need of love right now, and could use several co-wranglers who can work together on the various different parts! Please note that wrangler signup will close for the year on 1st November, so visit the volunteers page now to join the team!

If there are things you'd like to do or say, please share them in comments, via the AO3 support and feedback form, by volunteering, or in whatever medium you feel comfortable with. Everyone is welcome to this party!

This meeting round-up by Lucy.


Spotlight on Support

Published: 2011-10-23 16:27:16 -0400

When you fill in the AO3 support form and press 'Send feedback', your message wends its way to our trusty Support team, who answer questions from users of the Archive of Our Own. They provide help and support on all aspects of using the Archive, and provide a bridge between Archive users and our coders so that bugs get fixed and new features get coded! They are an awesome and dedicated team who love making sure that users have a good experience on the AO3.

What questions do Support answer?

All kinds of things relating to the AO3! If users discover that something is broken, or they want help figuring out how something works, or they'd like to ask for a new feature, all those questions come to Support. Sometimes users will send in broader questions about the OTW as a whole, or about fannish issues in general, and Support will also answer those or pass them on to someone who can (if you have questions that are not AO3-specific, you can also ask those via the OTW Communications webform).

What do Support do when they get a ticket?

The first thing a Support member does when a ticket arrives is to take a look and figure out what kind of question it is. Some kinds of questions are common - for example, we are often asked why they can only view 1000 works in a fandom (answer: to save our servers, but we're working on a better solution that will make it unnecessary) - and in these cases Support can quickly send out a reply. If it's not such a common question, the Support member might do a bit of testing to see if they can reproduce a bug, or consult with other teams: for example, they work with Coders and Accessibility, Design and Technology for technical bugs and feature requests, Tag Wrangling for tag questions, Content for issues about what kind of things can be posted on the Archive, and Legal for questions relating to the legality of fanworks.

This sounds like a lot! Do Support members have some kind of special skills?

They have the skill of beng awesome! But other than that, there are not too many specific qualifications for being a Support staffer. Most importantly, Support need to enjoy problem-solving and be able to communicate clearly and effectively. At present, we only do Support in English (this is something we hope to expand as the Archive grows), but you don't need to be a native English speaker, as long as you are fluent in English - one of our most longstanding and dedicated staffers, Anne-Li, is a native Swedish speaker. Support staffers also need to know the Archive pretty well, although they tend to pick up some of the nitty-gritty as they gain experience. Several Support staffers also serve on other committees, so they can contribute additional knowledge to the team, and thanks to the efforts of staffer Yshyn, Support are also building up an awesome knowledge base on our internal wiki.

What does the future hold for Support?

This is an exciting time for Support - they've just taken on some new staff members and are now working and planning for the transition to a Support Board integrated into the Archive. This will be a public-facing board where users as well as staffers can offer advice (along the lines of LJ or DW) - we think this will be great for transparency and for helping more people get involved in a more informal manner. However, it will be quite a radical change, so Support are now beginning work on some of the policies and strategies which will be needed to make that a success.

This all sounds awesome - can I join?!

Yes! If you're interested please fill out our Volunteers Form.


OTW October membership drive - celebrating the AO3!

Published: 2011-10-16 13:28:18 -0400

Today is the last day of the OTW's membership drive! Donate now to ensure you have voting rights in the forthcoming Board election!

Donations to the OTW help to support the Archive of Our Own - and given the rapid expansion of the site, we certainly need support! We bought our first set of servers in September 2009, expecting these two servers to last us for three years. By the middle of 2010, however, it was evident that the site was expanding much faster than we had ever dared to hope - on 20 August 2010 we hit 100,000 works on the Archive - and we started planning for more servers. We bought four new servers and a switch in January 2011, massively improving our site capacity. However, fandom seemed to take this as a challenge, and at the time of writing the AO3 has:

  • 23,528 users

  • 232,357 works

  • 7,449 fandoms

We add approximately 300 new users every week, and the fact that our invitations queue now stands at over 1800 shows that there's a lot more demand beyond that! We're already thinking about what we need to do for futher site expansion - more servers are definitely going to be needed, as well as some structural/database changes which need some careful thought.

We have added a bunch of great new features this year, including subscriptions, prompt memes, tag sets (coming in our next deploy), and a whole host of enhancements across the site. We're still working on more subscriptons, improved bookmarking features, fanart hosting and support for vids (in collaboration with the OTW's Vidding committee).

All of this amazing stuff is only possible because of YOUR support! Donate to the OTW now and help ensure the AO3 continues to thrive!

OTW logo: red circle with an arrow. Text reads: Organization for Transformative Works Membership Drive October 9-16, 2011

<a href=""><img src="" alt="OTW logo: red circle with an arrow. Text reads: Organization for Transformative Works Membership Drive October 9-16, 2011" /></a>


Join us on Saturday for a Tag Wrangling Open House!

Published: 2011-10-11 04:35:12 -0400

Have you ever wondered about what it is tag wranglers do? Are you thinking about volunteering as a wrangler? Do you have a question about tags on the Archive of Our Own? Is your fandom in need of some temporary assistance? The Tag Wrangling Committee is hosting an open house! This is a drop-in session where you can ask us what's on your mind, or just have a chat about tags. We'll also have some AO3 invites to give away.

All are welcome! The chat will be held on Saturday, 15 October at 22:00 UTC (what time is that where I live?) in OTW's public chatroom on Campfire. The chatroom can be accessed at:

The Tag Wrangling Committee maintains and administers the curated folksonomy system within the Archive of Our Own, assuring accessibility, diversity of fannish expression, descriptive practices, and a high level of user ease.


Announcing the October 2011 OTW Membership Drive!

Published: 2011-10-10 16:59:29 -0400

The AO3's parent org, the Organization for Transformative Works, is running its biannual membership drive!

Once again we've reached that point in the year where we ask for your help! We appreciate the ways in which you help us day after day, year after year, since the Organization for Transformative Works would be nothing without its volunteers, staff, and members. Our projects exist because you've dreamed them, asked for them, and built them. And now we're hoping you can help us build the OTW's membership.

Membership ensure voting privileges in the November Board election, so now is a great time to renew your membership or become a member for the first time. We think OTW Membership is pretty nifty but if you have questions, we have answers -- and feel free to contact us about anything not answered in the FAQ.

Between now and October 16th we ask you renew your membership and tell a friend or two about the OTW. Use the image and link below and spread the word!

OTW logo: red circle with an arrow. Text reads: Organization for Transformative Works Membership Drive October 9-16, 2011
<a href=""><img src="" alt="OTW logo: red circle with an arrow. Text reads: Organization for Transformative Works Membership Drive October 9-16, 2011" /></a>


Happy Ada Lovelace Day from everyone at the Organization for Transformative Works!

Celebrating women in technology is a subject close to our hearts: when the OTW came into existence in 2007, one of our major motivations was the desire to give fans control of the tools and infrastructure which support fannish creativity. The predominately female fannish communities from which the OTW emerged have a long history of mastering new skills and sharing expertise for fannish pursuits — the vidders of the 1970s were pioneering mashup techniques decades before they became trendy! — and we want to extend that skill-sharing to the creation of a fan-owned home that welcomes all fans.

The vast majority of OTW volunteers identify as female, and the amazing things our teams have achieved demonstrate that they all deserve to be considered tech heroines! Below, we highlight the work of our tech-focused teams and the individual voices of some of our staff and volunteers.

Archive of Our Own

The AO3 is the major tech project for the OTW, and is supported by several committees and volunteer groups: Accessibility, Design, & Technology; Systems; Support; Tag Wranglers; Coders; and Testers. We're one of the largest female-majority open source projects in existence, and we're proud that in less than four years we've developed from nothing more than a cool idea to become a thriving site with more than 23,000 users.

Last Ada Lovelace Day we polled AO3 volunteers to find out a bit more about them, and we thought we'd repeat the experiment this year. The charts below give a summary of their answers:

Bar chart showing the gender identifications of AO3 volunteers: Female - 83%, Male - 12%,  Other -25%.

Bar chart showing the capacities in which people have contributed to the project: A coder - 29%, A designer - 15%, A tester - 44%, A tag wrangler - 49%, A support team member - 20%, A docs member - 7%, A systems member - 15%, Other - 37%

We're still very definitely a female-dominated project; however, we're interested to note that since last year the number of volunteers who identify as male has increased by 10%. We think this reflects the fact that we are focused on making a welcoming and supportive environment for people to gain new skills. As Skud pointed out in hir 2009 Oscon keynote, making a project welcoming for newbies is particularly beneficial to women — who are often excluded from traditional tech contexts — but that doesn't mean it becomes less welcoming to people who aren't women!

Not all the contributors to the project are coders or sysadmins; the AO3 also relies on the work of testers, tag wranglers, support staff, designers, and docs writers. We value their contributions just as much: a tech project is about more than lines of code, and without them the AO3 wouldn't exist.

A key part of our goal is giving fans (whatever their gender identity) the skills to build the tools they want to use. We were super-proud to see some of the fruits of this mission during the recent Delicious debacle, when fannish talk quickly turned to "We should build our own bookmarking service — if the AO3 could do it, so can we!" Our volunteers have achieved so much — they're all tech heroines (and heroes)!

The AO3 team would like to give special thanks to one particular tech heroine — Sidra, Systems co-chair and primary guardian of the servers for the AO3. The Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee have posted a separate post celebrating Sidra's awesome work.


Another major technical undertaking for the OTW is Fanlore, our fannish history wiki. Since Fanlore is built on existing MediaWiki software rather than a custom-built application like the AO3, the tech aspects of this project are not as immediately obvious, but they are just as important. Our Wiki staff have learnt to maintain and use the MediaWiki software, creating custom templates, investigating new software modules, and getting to grips with wiki maintenance. They are awesomely assisted by our Systems team, who installed the software on our servers and keep everything running smoothly (we love you, Systems ♥).

Fanlore is celebrating Ada Lovelace Day with a new challenge on Women Characters, Science Edition! Why not create a Fanlore article about your favorite female character who is a scientist, engineer, or mathematician? Tell us about your fannish experiences with these characters — the women themselves, the relationships they’re in (het, lesbian, canonical, fannish, etc.), the fanworks they star in — whatever you can think of! You can stub out a new page, or add a sprinkle of information on an existing page.


If you've read this far, you've probably realized that Systems is involved in every OTW project. They tend the AO3 servers; install software for Fanlore, Transformative Works and Cultures, Open Doors, and the main OTW website, plus the software that helps us process donations and manage volunteers; and set up the mailing lists that help all the committees and volunteer groups do their daily work. The heroines and heroes of the Systems committee work largely behind the scenes to keep our technical infrastructure running smoothly, and the entire OTW benefits enormously from their dedication and expertise.


The Webmasters are another committee whose work is spread among a wide variety of projects. They maintain the OTW's main website, the Open Doors site, and the Elections site, manage our donation processing software, serve as layout coders for Transformative Works and Cultures, design styles for the OTW's social media accounts, and manage media hosting for various internal projects. To date, the Webmasters have all been women, and have been largely self- or peer-taught in the technical skills they use.

Some thoughts from our volunteers

In a post that celebrates women doing it for themselves, it seems appropriate to close with some thoughts from our volunteers, as they reflect both on their own work and on that of other women they admire. We'll be adding links to individuals' blog posts at the end of this post throughout the day.

It's exciting to work in teams that are overwhelmingly female. I really like the testing parties, as it's a little confusing and intimidating to try to work from written descriptions. I joined to support an organization I trust and approve of, and to get some practical tech experience. I just started volunteering a few weeks ago, so not much to say yet!

Sometimes I have conversations about servers, code, etc and I realise that former!me wouldn't have understand ANY of it. I've only learnt enough to contribute a tiny amount of code, but I am able to be a fully functioning member of AD&T because I have absorbed enough to be able to take part in these conversations as a useful laywoman.

I like finding interesting bugs and feel good whenever I find one before it hits Beta.

I like that the archive tries to accommodate a variety of people and systems instead of saying: get browser x with y settings or we don't care about your problems.

I love wrangling big fandoms with lots of problems and characters-shared-between-fandoms, it's a big undertaking but it's nice to see everything all neat once you're done!

Since I come from a background of relatively no coding, it has been really exciting to submit my bug fixes and see my changes on the archive! The whole experience has been really rewarding!

Since beginning my work with the Archive, I have improved my computing skills dramatically. I have learned a great deal about linux and switched to a more complex, text-based distro. I have gained an exceptional amount of skill and confidence with unix commands and bash. I now have an understanding of how the Archive is put together via Ruby on Rails, and that understanding deepens and develops with every issue I work on. This has been an amazing experience and I am excited to keep learning and growing as a coder!

I've never been part of a mainly women-identified group before, and it's really been rewarding for me in so many different ways. I'm so proud to be part of the OTW!

It combines two of my dearest hobbies: Coding and fandom. Both Open Source people and fandom people build great, communicative communities with lots of collaboration, and if you put those two together you get fun squared. :D It's really great to share more than the passion for coding with my fellow coders, so when I'm in a phase where I code less in favour of writing or squeeing over a new shiny fandom, it's never really off-topic, thus making it easier to keep in touch with coding stuff.

[Something I'm proud of accomplishing.] Dragging a committee up from its bootstraps at the project's launch, in such a way that it perfectly well survived (and prospered after) my own burnout-related crash and burn.

I really love it. I quit grad school in a blaze of disillusionment and have been unemployed and completely at sea in my life since, and it's been really heartening to have something I can contribute to in small ways, especially something that's part of fandom, which has been such a wonderful aspect of my life for so many years.

It is one of the more nurturing and family-building projects/organizations I've seen.

It's a delight to work on a project where people not only don't jump to assumptions about you, but where people are supportive even if you make the smallest contributions.

ruby metaprogramming! redis! There is just nothing quite so fantastically satisfying as working with a smart and dedicated and passionate team on a project that we all actually use ourselves and value deeply as a result.

I've really enjoyed being AD&T training lead, running sessions for new people to learn how to code from scratch, and mentoring them as they advance. It's so rewarding to see people gaining new skills, and particularly when you know they've previously been excluded from opportunities because of their gender or disability, e.g. by lack of part-time courses that can fit around childcare or flare-ups.

I'm *so excited* to be part of the team that's creating the Archive that I love so much. I think fandom is amazing to have worked so hard together to create the Archive.

Mirrored from an original post on the OTW blog, where we'll be collecting links to Ada Lovelace Day blog posts from OTW members throughout the day.


Happy Ada Lovelace Day - our tech heroine, Sidra!

Published: 2011-10-07 10:24:37 -0400

Happy Ada Lovelace Day ! This year, Accessibility, Design and Technology staffers and everyone who works on the Archive of Our Own have more reason than usual to give thanks to one particular tech heroine - Sidra, keeper of the AO3 servers. Sidra is the co-chair of the Systems Committee (along with Arrow, another tech heroine ♥) and a long-serving staffer on AD&T. She's been with us since the beginning and an impressive 17% of code commits to the Archive are hers; we don't have stats on exactly how many lines of code she's committed, but it's safe to say that the answer is a lot! Even more importantly, Sidra is the member of Systems dedicated to looking after the AO3 servers - when we're deciding what servers to buy, deploying new code, or dealing with site performance Sidra is right there at the heart of the action! Sometimes this involves being woken up at ungodly hours - if the Archive goes down, it's Sidra who we call in the middle of the night! We are in awe of her ability to climb out of bed and work her magic on the servers!

This past weekend was a compelling reminder of just how awesome Sidra is, as she battled mysterious loads on the servers, tweaked settings, and managed to restore the AO3 after some alarming and unexpected overloads. We know how incredibly hard she worked (and continues to work) to ensure that we can keep serving up delicious fanworks to our users - thank you, Sidra!

Our Systems team is a fantastic group of people, both men and women, but we're particularly proud to say that the Archive has a female sys-admin, since there are relatively few women working in this area. In fact, Sidra also deserves credit for helping to pave the way for women in tech: she entered the tech industry in the 1980s and is now a senior sys-admin in her professional life. Sidra is definitely proof that women can not only work in technology, they can kick ass at it! (Arthur C. Clarke tells us that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but we're not at all convinced that Sidra's ability to vanquish recalcitrant technology isn't actually magic.)

Thanks Sidra - a fannish tech heroine! The Archive definitely wouldn't be the same without you! ♥ ♥ ♥


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