AO3 News

Introduction To Skins

Published: 2011-11-11 21:53:21 -0500

The new skins on the Archive have lots of spiffy features. We'll be building up documentation on them as we go along, but we wanted to start you off with a few key bits of information!

What public skins are there for me to use?

There's a masterlist of all the new public skins with some brief descriptions of what they do. Many of these skins are designed to affect very specific bits of the Archive - you can chain them together to get the effect you want.

What's chaining skins? How do I do it?

Basically, chaining skins means joining more than one skin together so that you can reuse rules from existing skins and then write your own CSS for the things you want. Some of the skins already on the Archive are built up from more than one skin; for example, if you take a look at Zebra Mono you can see a Parent Skins listing with "Snow". This means that the Zebra Mono skin is using all the code from the Snow skin, which turns all the backgrounds white.

To create a chained skin:

  1. Go to (accessible from your user dashboard).

  2. Scroll down and expand 'Advanced'.

  3. Select 'Add parent skin'

  4. Type in the name of the skin you'd like to use as a parent (for example, if you'd like to base your skin on For the trees type that in). An autocomplete will trigger to help you make sure you get the name of a real skin.

  5. Your parent skin will be loaded first, and anything you put in the CSS box will override the things in the parent skin.

  6. If you want to use more than one parent skin, you can do so, so you could combine, e.g. Don't Care a Button and Wide margins to get a skin which had plain text buttons and wide margins on work pages.

  7. Give your new skin a name and a description (and a preview image if you want to submit it as a public skin, or just for your reference).

  8. Hit 'Create'. You'll be taken to a page which lets you preview or use your skin.

  9. One known issue which will be fixed very shortly, but so it doesn't trip you up right now: if all you change in your skin is the parents, the display won't update, so try just sticking a comment in your css and editing it when you make other changes!

    How can I create spiffy new skins using the new system?

    The skins added with the new code are a good place to start - check out the masterlist of all the new public skins and follow the links to view the code for each skin. For basic skin customisation, simply copying the code of a skin you'd like to use and editing it is often effective.

    If you want to get more complicated, you might find the Archive front end documentation useful for digging into the details of the site CSS.

    If you're working on developing skins, the Firefox add-on Web Developer is a nifty tool which lets you live-edit CSS so you can try out different changes without repeatedly saving and editing a skin.

    Can I see skin creation in action?

    For the visual learners among you, you might like to check out lim's screencast showing the creation of a new skin.


Skins: A Love Story (by lim)

Published: 2011-11-11 19:42:03 -0500

This reference list of new skins was compiled by front-end coder lim. Lots of modular skins have been created to modify different aspects of the Archive. You can combine different skins to get exactly the look you want. More info coming soon on how to get the most out of the new skins!

Reference and Teaching List of Completed Skins

I've tried to comment quite extensively inside the skins.

  1. Blurblings

    Shows, hides, and rearranges the blurb. You can chain these together to perfect your metadata display.

    1. Hide warnings
    2. Hide stats
    3. Hide summaries
    4. Hide tags
    5. Hide fandom
    6. Hide datetime
    7. Hide freeform tags
    8. Hide relationships
    9. Hide characters
    10. Hide nearly everything (except the title, author, fandom)
    11. Hide everything except the header
    12. Show the landmarks (landmark headings on tags, summary, etc)>
    13. Blurb drop drops the blurb group entirely (makes a plain text blurb)
    14. Shipper emphasises the relationship tags
    15. Faint Warning de-emphasises the warnings
    16. Chain Example demonstrates chaining.
    17. Byline Breaks the tags out into blocks by type (updated version of a skin by Branch so doesn't use the blurblings nomenclature).
  2. Workings

    Similar to blurblings, but modding the work view

    1. Hide meta
    2. Hide author notes
    3. Hide author summary
    4. Big margin
    5. Max Width restricts the work width to 39em
    6. Fix Actions Right fixes the bookmark/save etc buttons to the right of the page as you scroll
    7. Fix Actions Left fixes those left
    8. Hide feedback
    9. Hide kudos
  3. Typeset In My Ways

    This series is tarted up code from our very first Accessibility, Design and Technology meetings in 2007. Very stark, very simple text styles.

    1. Typeset In My Ways Uses the Archive typography and layout, with plain text blurb and a limited width work view.
    2. Typeset In My Ways Erasure drops all archive parents except core and loads a simple typographical style.
    3. Typeset In My Ways Sans simple sans serif text.
    4. Typeset In My Ways Serif simple serif text.
    5. Typeset In My Ways Negativity light on dark
    6. Typeset In My Ways Terminal simple console/terminal style
    7. Typeset In My Ways Scully simple Word Perfect style
    8. Typeset In My Ways 2.0 uses Archive 2.0 style but plain text blurb and big margins.
    9. Typeset In My Ways Landmarks shows the landmarks and lays them out
    10. Typeset In My Ways Textura adds a (subtle) textured background
  4. The Screeny

    various screenreader optimisations

    1. Screeny Exposure! exposes all landmark headings to the readers that can't read them.
    2. Screeny Oppression! suppresses all landmark text.
    3. Screeny Drop It drops all archive parents except core
    4. Screeny She's Got Form drops all archive parents except core and interactions.
    5. Screeny Shut It Any component you don't care to read, add to the beginning of this code, or remove ones you do want. Remember to separate with a comma!
  5. Parental Guidance

    1. Colour Flip Combos a reference skin grouping the archive into a 5 level colour and contrast palette.
    2. Key Colour Reference this lists everything that is red.
    3. Exploded Worker this is an advanced parenting reference parent. *g* It explodes the archive 2.0 cascade into all its component parents, so you can live edit the CSS in tabs with a plugin like Firefox Web Developer. Only use this for reference, because it will slow down your page load.
    4. Trouble O'Head zeroes out the default background, borders, and shadows on the header navigation. This is useful to just parent in when you don't want to drop the whole AO3 header region style.
    5. Region Drop this is an advanced parenting parent for replacer layouts. It drops header, dash, footer, and main from AO3 default. In most cases you're better off overriding instead. Check out Trouble O'Head for fast header overrides and the Tile Puzzle series to move the dashboard around with overrides.
  6. Graphical

    I've uploaded a ton of tiling textures you can call to decorate your layouts. There are loads more graphical styles to come but this is what I could do with two days notice!

    1. Simply Twilling introducing textures - this is a simple override CSS3 skin that demonstrates how you can leverage region and group transparency to build dramatically different styles quickly.
    2. Threw Twill Out an introduction to parenting.
    3. Desk Job a template "desk top" layout you can adapt to your own design. [needs a bit of testing so have not preloaded sorry]
    4. Panda Madness this is like, pink and round and it has pandas on it
    5. The Hustings a stripped down version of a more complex theme made ready quickly for deploy
    Chained Melody

    Here I'm demonstrating breaking a css3 theme apart into components so each piece can be used in other skins. There are brill free fonts to download linked in. CSS3.

    1. Chained Buttons
    2. Chained Head hover the icon
    3. Chained Groups
    4. Chained Quotes
    5. Chained Icons
    6. Chained Key (colours, fonts, background)
    7. Chained Melody the whole lot chained together

    A fixed region layout, again with components you can use in other skins pretty easily, but this one drops components of the site style: it doesn't just override them, it replaces them. Free fonts to download linked . IE7 and up

    1. Fixie Fix explodes the site layout and takes out portions of it, then fixes the regions: header, dashboard, footer, and scrolls the main region. This is "parent only" meaning you have to chain it in to a style - it doesn't work on its own as a layout.
    2. Fixie Buttons makes scribbly buttons with Mido font
    3. Fixie Icons make scribbly backed icons
    4. Fixie Groups this makes some swooshy CSS3 rounded boxes
    5. Fixie this chains everything together to make a layout!
    6. Fixie Free Wheel (coming soon) this spoofs the basic look of Fixie, but as an override skin, and with normal scrolling regions.
  7. Palettes

    Colour changes, some based on the most popular colour changes in the old skins system

    1. Mono black and white where red all over
    2. Zebra Mono black and white where red all over, with zebra fur detail
    3. Reversi light on dark, with blue key
    4. Dusted off based on Dusty Rose by sistabro
    5. For the trees based on Sunny Forest by enigel
    6. The Blues based on Medium Blues by Arduinna
    7. Snow makes everything that is very light lavender pure white. Useful to chain in.
    8. Snow Blue
    9. Get the Backers makes all the group backgrounds white.
  8. Tile Puzzle

    1. Wide Horizon Horizontal dash in blocks
    2. Dash Line Horizontal dash, inline
    3. Eyes to the right Right side dash
    4. 100% width filters
    5. Stick It sticks the secondary (page specific) navigation to the left and fixes it there
    6. Mark My Words Shows all landmarks and gives some minimal visual style
    7. Slim Shaded makes a slimmer, texty header, with a shaded strip, snow body, and lowercase buttons
    8. One Point Faux spoofs the old style on top of the new style. Might look slightly different to the original old style, but broadly the same.
    9. 2 Point No takes off all the box shadows, text-shadows, and rounded corners
    10. Look and Read swaps the logo for a text title: "Archive Of Our Own
    11. Imago swaps your header icon for a text greeting: "Hi, username!"
    12. Incommodious takes off the commas we add into long lists of inline tags, if you find them odious!
  9. Wiggle It

    Some pure CSS3 mods. Modern browsers only.

    1. Head Buoy slides the header up out of sight and slides down on hover.
    2. Sliders slides the meta header off a work and slides out on hover.
    3. The Bubbler probably the most useful skin here. Bubbles everything. No animation.
  10. Mash Up

    So you can just stick on different buttons.

    1. Aqua Buttons You can just swap the buttons, or use them in a more complicated layout.
    2. Gel Buttons showing how you can change the colours for a different effect.
    3. Scribble Buttons pencil scribble buttons good for paper styles.
    4. Massive Buttons they're really big and bold.
    5. Don't Care A Button makes the buttons just plain text.
    6. Dusted Buttons chain in Dusted Rose


Release notes - release 0.8.9

Published: 2011-11-11 16:48:17 -0500

Welcome to Release 0.8.9. Elz, Enigel, erda, Jenny S-T, lim, Lucy P, Naomi, Phoenix, Pixel, Rebecca, Sidra and sarken contributed code to this release, which was tested by our awesome testing team: sarken, via_ostiense, Jenny S-T, Rebecca, Enigel, phoenix, Kylie, Irene, Jenn_Calaelen, Bridget, Zebra, Tai, linbot, mumble, XParrot, alasen, Naomi


Site Design Overhaul

The Archive's look has changed a lot, whoa! The amazing lim has completely overhauled our CSS and HTML.

A big reason for this change is to make it much easier to write skins for the Archive. This is important not just for people who want to use skins, but because it will enable us to make a variety of skins ourselves for different uses (even for users who aren't logged in!) and also allow us to keep developing and improving the Archive's interface in future without breaking skins all over the place.

If you want to update your existing skin or are interested in making new skins, you may want to start by browsing the new Archive default skin (it's broken down into lots of different modular parents, making it easier to see what each bit does). We'll shortly be posting a list of the new skins with some info on what they all do!


Another crucial reason for the change has been to improve the accessibility of the Archive. Among the changes we have put in:

  • Autocomplete now using ARIA managed focus, making it accessible to more screenreaders.
  • ARIA roles have been expanded throughout.
  • Lots of forms have been chunked up into fieldsets, making it easier to do a task at a time.
  • The dashboard has been reorganised and chunked into different sets of tasks.
  • Tables have been ruthlessly eradicated where inappropriate and remaining ones have been made accessible.
  • Lots of instructions have been rewritten using simpler, shorter sentences.
  • Labels have been made more consistent.
  • Extensive landmarks have been written throughout
  • All form elements should now be labeled and/or titled for screenreader access.
  • Buttons should be easier to mouse to for people with lower mobility.
  • A user icon is now in the header which you can always click to to get home, for more visual/spatial users.
  • All navigation jumpable to with headings and roles.
  • A bunch of other small tweaks have been made to make the Archive more customisable and more amenable to being viewed with unusual browser settings.

We continue to actively seek input from readers and users with any accessibility problems! If you are browsing with assistive devices and something doesn't work for you or is frustrating, please let us know. We know you probably hear this a lot, but we hope the work we've already done will demonstrate that accessibility is a genuine concern for us. We might not always get it 100% right, but we'll keep working to improve.

Skin Parents

You can now chain together multiple skins by making one skin the parent of another. This is particularly useful if you want to replace instead of override the archive site skin, because you can use parts of the default skin as parents of your own skin, and only replace the parts you need to change.

IE-Only Skins and Media Type Skins

You can now create skins that just have overrides for Internet Explorer, which will be loaded up using conditional comments. So if you're making a public skin that you would like IE users to be able to enjoy also, you don't have to put in hacks -- just put the IE fixes in their own skin, and put it into your list of parents.

You can also now make custom skins for different media types -- for instance, for "speech" to be loaded up only by screenreaders, or "print" to be loaded up only for printing, or "handheld" to be loaded up for small-screen mobile devices.

Tag Sets

Before this release, if you were running a challenge and wanted to restrict your participants to picking from a particular set of tags, you would put those tags into your challenge settings. No longer! You will now put the tags into a tag set instead.

Tag Set Features:

  • Reusable across multiple challenges.
  • Shared with other users.
  • Take nominations which you can then review.
  • Let users see your tag set in progress during nominations or not as you choose.
  • Can include tags that haven't been wrangled (this means you can use brand-new tags, or tags which suit your own challenge's preferred terminology).
  • Let you specify which fandom character and relationship tags belong to (which will make those options get loaded automatically in the signup form for your participants).

Known Issues

See our Known Issues page.

Release Details


  • Design overhaul
  • Tag sets
  • News posts can now be tagged and filtered by tags & language
  • Comments on multi-chaptered words now include information which chapter the comments was left on, to avoid confusion in "view full work" mode
  • Added security measures to the login process: after 50 failed login attempts, the account will be locked down for 5 minutes

Bug fixes

  • you can now delete a work without Javascript enabled, huzzah!
  • fixed a bug that would display works as incomplete even after the last chapter was added
  • there was a bug where deleting a work with a lot of chapters would take too long or time out, this has been fixed
  • fixed broken links in the sitemap
  • fixed several bugs and workflow isses with the new autocomplete functionality after feedback from tag wranglers
  • when posting a work, tabbing into the fandom field would enter the first autocomplete suggestion that would come up, this has been changed to leave the field blank when tabbing further
  • added author information to the body of feed items for tag subscriptions (so they wouldn't only show up in a byline like the author of a blog post)
  • fixed the character counter for the Notes fields on the "post new" form
  • bad class names in work skins (e.g. names containing special characters like $) would be stripped from the skin but left intact in the work body, this has been fixed
  • added a link to the FAQ item about importing from the "import new" page
  • after a failed import, the error message would stick around when going to another page, this has been fixed
  • more automated tests
  • Admin:
    • notice banners for admin announcements can now include links and basic formatting tags
    • made the links to translations of news posts visually clearer
    • fixed an issue with notifications for comments on news posts being sent out twice
    • made sure that comments marked as spam by an admin are not visible to users anymore
  • Bookmarks:
    • fixed the display of "most recent bookmarks" for a work on the bookmarks index
    • fixed a bug that would lead to unexpected behavior when trying to bookmark a work in IE 9
    • the help popup for the bookmark symbols didn't work on the main bookmark index, this has been fixed
  • Challenges:
    • the list of open challenges now exludes moderated and closed collections
    • brought some misleading timeframe information (such as, "SIGNUP PERIOD IS OVER") in line with actual start and end dates
    • you can now sign up to a challenge with multiple requests without Javascript
    • fixed a bug where drafts of an assignment would show up as the title of a posted work for the challenge mods
    • pinch-hitters now receive an email notification of their assignment
    • fixed a bug that would allow you to create subcollections in a subcollection (potentially breaking things) and made the error message clearer
    • added a link to the "Manage Items" page from challenge options to make it more obvious that you can reveal stories one by one
    • tweaked collection settings into a more logical order (compulsory items first)
    • deleting a signup from the My Signups would redirects to the Collection profile, it now redirects to the /signups page for gift exchanges or the prompt overview for memes
  • Prompt Memes:
    • added an option to give prompts a title; this can be turned on by the prompt meme owner by allowing/requiring a title in the request settings and affects the prompts overview and the list of assignments when posting a new work
    • you can now see the number of total prompts in a meme on the Collections index and
    • fixed a bug where posting to fill a prompt would persistently try and fill all prompts by that user (if you claimed more than one), leading to wonky results
  • Downloads:
    • ampersands in work titles and work content would lead to missing characters in .epub files, this has been fixed
    • fixed a problem with .epub files for works with very long chapters; made sure that they're split into small enough chunks to work with all e-readers
  • Lots and lots of display fixes:
    • made the site, especially the posting interface, more usable in IE 6 and up
    • fixed several alignment and spacing issues across browsers
    • fixed some bugs where HTML code would show up as text
    • generally prettied things up


We SHALL go to the ball - new code on the AO3 tonight

Published: 2011-11-11 13:37:08 -0500

The day is finally here - after much hard work from our coders and testers, we are ready to roll out our exciting new code on the Archive of Our Own! We will be deploying shortly, and the AO3 will go down for a while while we do so. When we come back, there will be some big changes which you need to know about:

New site scheme

Front-end coder lim, working with back-end coder Naomi, has reworked our site HTML and CSS to make it more accessible, more functional, and all-round nicer. So, you'll see some visual changes across the site (and if you're using assistive technology or special browser settings you should find it behaves better - if not, please tell us). Don't be alarmed if things don't look how you're used to!

New skins

The new CSS has allowed us to massively overhaul our skins functionality to make it way more flexible - check out our post about the new skins for a bit more background. This will allow for a lot more cool site mods in the future! The unfortunate side-effect is that old skins will break. To make the transition smoother, we'll be doing the following:

  • Disabling all old skins and setting all accounts to use the Archive default, so that noone gets stuck on a broken skin.
  • Loading up a whole bunch of new skins, including new versions based on the most popular public skins in use at the moment. So, many of you will be able to switch immediately to a new skin which replicates the one you were using before. We'll post a list of the new skins right after the deploy.
  • Holding an open house for skins support in the next week or so (time tba).

We'll be posting more docs and help over the coming hours and days! There may be the odd bit of unexpected behaviour along the way (with skins especially, the diversity of user-created skins means we can't prepare for every possible scenario) but we think the new functionality will give you much much more awesome! Cinderella is getting her ballgown on and the good news is that for the shiny new skins, midnight will never come!

We'll tweet to AO3_status when we start the deploy, so you'll have a heads-up before the site goes down. Download your long works now to tide you over while our fairy deploymother is working her magic!


As part of our series giving an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at the Archive of Our Own, Support staffer Sam has written up a day in the life of an AO3 Support staffer! Sam started out volunteering with the AO3 as a tag wrangler, and joined the Support team at the beginning of the July Ticket Blitz. He has degrees in journalism, English literature, and cognitive and discourse linguistics. He's taught skills-based computer classes for near a decade, so Support was a natural fit. Sam tends to jump on tickets involving CSS code and the skins; downloads, especially ePUBs; and all things Tag, as he's currently the liaison (read: troublemaker) between Support and Tag Wrangling.

By and large, Support is all about answering all the tickets that come in. To do this involves a whole lot of trying to break the Archive in new and creative ways, keeping a light eye on what the Coders are up to under the hood, and generally trying to divine what the users need and want.

There are a whole bunch of resources we use to do so (some of these resources are only accessible to staffers - we've linked the public ones):

  • 16bugs - This is our main ticket tracker where we keep information on each ticket that comes in, and any communication with the user or other committees. This will soon (hopefully) be replaced with the Support Board.

  • Campfire - The chat interface all AO3 committees use. Support has its own room where we'll request betas and comment on tickets, life, and fic; and we're often lurking in the Coders room, checking for surprise!bugs and fixes.
  • Both the "Beta" Archive (the real one) and the Test Archive (where we test new code) - Sometimes we have to track down to see what a reported bug is doing and possibly see if it's already been fixed on the next release.
  • The wiki "Knowledge Base" - One of our Support reps has been collating the answers to commonly answered questions into a massive internal reference source. This is awesome, because it helps ensure that knowledge gets passed on and we don't have to duplicate work.
  • Google code otwarchive issues - The list of things-to-do for the Coders, to see if a bug is known or a feature planned (and occasionally provide all the information).
  • Squee! - This internal squee page is where we keep all records that we're doing something right (700+ and counting). It helps us track what's working and also provides a nice place for people to go when they need a boost!

I pop open my email to see if anyone sent beta requests to the list or if any tickets have come in. (Most responses to users are beta-read by a second support member, for accuracy, clarity, and something resembling UK/US/CA/AU English.) I'll also log into Campfire and check the Support room, since several staff will leave their beta requests in there.

Both 16bugs and the Support form send an email to each Support staff when a ticket comes in. I tend to not read the emails themselves, but use them as a sign to go check 16bugs and see what new tickets are there.

Certain tickets we immediately assign to another committee (Legal, Abuse, Tag Wranglers) and wait for a response from that committee before contacting the user. Some committees will contact the user directly, some don't.

Since every ticket is different, I'm going to give examples of two recent tickets. (All confidential details are removed, but hi, users, if you recognize your questions!)

A ticket comes in from a user asking about a problem logging in with hir OpenID. I open the ticket in 16Bugs, and in the ticket set my name for "Assigned to" and "Status" to "Solving".

I've heard some talk about the discontinuance of OpenID, so I poke my head into the Coders chatroom in Campfire and ask if anyone has more specific information. I luck out and one of our Coders knows of two open code tickets regarding OpenID, which saves me the time. I open the tickets in GCode and skim them, seeing the current development status for OpenID (we're planning to phase it out).

To make sure the code is still working as intended, I use my own account as a guinea pig, setting up my own OpenID login, logging out and testing it. It all works, so I assume that the problem comes from improper configuration. I step back through the process involved and make detailed notes to set up OpenID. I add those to our Knowledge Base on the wiki so next time we have a question like this, the info is easy to find.

I then compose a reply to the user as a comment to the ticket in 16bugs. I also copy in the links to the GCode tickets into 16bugs for reference. After coming up with the response, I poke my head into Support chat in Campfire. Fortunately, one of the other Support staffers is on, so I ask hir to beta my response. Sie reads it over, we discuss and revise a few lines, and sie comments in the thread that it looks good. I copy the response from 16bugs.

In my email, already set to forward through the official email, I search and find the ticket email that came in and reply to it, using the copied text from 16bugs.

After sending the email, in 16bugs I set the status to "Solved". If the user responds, I can find the ticket in 16Bugs and reopen it as needed. When the user responds that sie doesn't actually have an account, I send back a betaed response on how to get an invite, either through the queue or through a friend.

Another ticket has come in regarding a tag that's misfiled - in this case, a fictional football team that has somehow been wrangled into the "Football RPF" fandom. Since this relates to wrangling policy, I'll mark the ticket to watch it and assign it to the "Tag Wranglers" and wait for a response from one of the Wrangling committee members before I send a response to the user. In this case, it's an easy fix by the wranglers, and I'm able to quickly notify the user that the tag has been re-wrangled.

There. My two tickets for the day - with the new influx of staff we've had, and a fairly slow inflow of tickets lately, sometimes I don't even get the option to do that many! (However, different times of year or new lots of code can produce a sudden uptick, so we take the rest while we can!)

Sometimes tickets aren't nearly as straightforward. Sometimes it takes time to track down the bug - while I'm doing so, I'll set the status to "Testing". If the response requests additional information from the user, I'll leave it as "Solving" until I can get a response from the user. If I find other bugs in 16Bugs or code issues in GCode, I'll leave links in the comment leading to them, as well as leave links to the active ticket elsewhere. If the ticket contains a feature request, I'll make a note on our wiki's Feature Requests page and if it continues praise, I make a note on the Squee page.

Let it be said: us Support minions are human. There are tickets that have us staring at our monitors in awe, wondering "how did they do that?" There are tickets where we realize we've answered the same thing frequently, and therefore need better documentation and/or to prioritize a bug fix. There are times that we look at a ticket and mentally draw straws about who gets to tell the Coders that the recently-fixed feature isn't so fixed.

All that said? It's all worth it. It's worth it, helping the users better interact with the Archive. It's worth it, seeing the feature requests and ideas. It's worth it, feeling like I'm contributing to the development of the Archive. It's worth it.

I've now knocked out a couple tickets, updated a page on the wiki, updated a bug on GCode, and tripped over a work I want to read. Never let it be said I can't take a sign! Off to read!


Yay, Skins Are Coming! Beware, Skins Are Coming!

Published: 2011-11-06 16:59:42 -0500

The good news!

Shed your skin! We're about to have a massive deploy of new code that will bring us - among other things - radically new skins! The underlying code for the Archive has been streamlined and modified to make it more accessible and maintainable, and much easier to override. This is going to allow for fantastically beautiful and awesome customizable looks for the archive; fanartists, prepare to go wild! As a bonus, we've also added some skins options for logged-out users (you'll find these in the footer)!

The bad news :(

Since we had to radically retool the underlying code to make this all work well, existing skins are not going to work right out of the box. (We did mention that this was an archive in beta, right?) We're really sorry for the inconvenience, but we had to sacrifice consistency in the short term to make the skins feature more awesome and ensure our code remains maintainable in the long term.

To make sure that no one comes to the archive and finds a broken skin, we'll be temporarily turning off the existing skins when we deploy the new code - don't be alarmed if you come to the Archive to find it looks different! You'll be able to preview your old skins to see how they'll look with the new code, so you can fix the private ones before turning them back on if necessary. We've also already upgraded a bunch of the existing public skins and added some new ones-- for instance a new light-on-dark skin, and a new plain text skin. We'll be posting a list of these skins as soon as the code deploys.

What's so great about the new skins?

LOTS OF STUFF! \0/ One major improvement is that you'll no longer have to use the dreaded !important for most of your overrides to the default skin. In fact, if you want to you can strip away our default skin altogether and write your styles without using any of our CSS at all. But that's only the beginning! There are a whole bunch of new features:

  • Modular system so you can make your skin a 'child' of another skin. This means that when you find that skin which has a perfect layout but a color you hate, you can apply that skin for your layout, then add another one on top which just changes the color. (And that's just the beginning of what you can do with the modular skins - we'll have more in a future post explaining the cool possibilities.)

  • Make different skins for different devices (this is courtesy of the modular skins) - you'll be able to make a custom skin for when you're browsing on your computer, and another one for when you're browsing on your phone, and have them kick in automatically when you're logged in to your account (providing your phone respects mobile stylesheets). Customization wherever you are!

  • An array of images you can use to customize your skins! You can already use images hosted offsite in your own skins (but not in public ones because we need to be sure the images won't change or break). Now you'll be able to pull from a bunch of stock images on the Archive to make your skins even prettier.

Essentially, the new system is aimed at giving you control of ALL THE THINGS! We'll be posting a list of pre-loaded skins as well as loads of shiny new skins over the coming days. We'll also post tutorials and examples so you can get to grips with the new shiny!


All may not be lost! If your skins are broken or you think they're likely to be, you can do some things to prepare. We'll be holding a Skins Open House in a week or two where we'll go over how to make new skins and fix old ones - watch this space for news on that.

Accessible skins

One last note - one reason it was important to us to make this change is that it makes it MUCH easier to customize skins to meet specific accessibility needs. If you are using one of the public skins geared towards particular accessibility needs (e.g. low contrast, plain text, etc), then we have either fixed this to work right out of the box under the new system or (where that wasn't feasible) added a new skin to do the same job. We're adding new accessible skins for logged-out users too - you'll be able to access a Low Vision skin and a Light on dark Small Text skin in the footer even when you are logged out. If you need a customized skin for accessibility reasons and our existing skins don't meet that need, please get in touch with support and let us know what you need - we'll do our best to help! (Also, if you run up against an accessibility issue anywhere on the Archive, please let us know - we're committed to keeping the site as accessible as possible, but inevitably there's stuff we miss!)

Stay tuned for more info about skins!


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.


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