AO3 News

Volunteer Recruiting Update

Published: 2013-03-30 11:55:18 -0400

In April of last year, the Volunteers & Recruiting committee closed active recruiting of volunteers for the OTW and all of its projects. We did not make this decision lightly; we know the organization is entirely reliant on volunteers' generosity with their time. As we are now at a point where we hope to reopen recruiting in the near future, we wanted to take some time to explain the reasons for closing and the work that has been undertaken to improve our volunteer program in the interim in more detail.


Going into 2012, the organization had a system for recruiting that had worked very well in the past. Prospective volunteers completed a form that indicated their willingness to serve and areas of the organization that piqued their interest. The Volunteers & Recruiting committee would then work with committee chairs in an attempt to match those interests up with open places in the organization. As the organization grew in size and scope, so did the number of interested volunteers; the existing recruiting method became time consuming for Volunteers & Recruiting staff and chairs, and resulted in several instances of individuals volunteering for roles that were not accepting new volunteers at the time. These issues became increasingly apparent during the membership drive last April, when we saw a major influx of volunteer interest and had had to turn away skilled and interested potential volunteers due to a lack of available positions.

Volunteers & Recruiting closed external recruiting at that point, with a plan to revise the committee's internal procedures and then investigate and develop a new system of recruiting. Our goal in completing these tasks is to ensure the committee's procedures are up-to-date for each role while putting in place a recruiting system that provides more support to new volunteers while also ensuring chairs and leads can easily recruit for positions they need.

Induction Revision

The first large task for the committee was confirming with each committee chair and workgroup lead that the information on file regarding tool access for each staff, volunteer, liaison, and leadership role was up-to-date, so that new volunteers would immediately be able to access the tools they need to do their work. Based on this information, we created new comprehensive templates for all positions to guide committee staff through both the induction and removal process. As the organization currently has 25 committees and workgroups, this was no small task on the part of the committee and, in some cases, involved some additional research by chairs and leads regarding outside tools and procedures to be included in this process.

Technical Recruiting

To lessen the impact on technical projects and teams - specifically Systems and Accessibility, Design & Technology - a special Technical Recruiting form was opened in May to allow for limited recruiting of coders, testers, and sysadmins. This form and process were active until early September, when all recruiting was closed for a one-month period to transition to the new induction and removal templates and for Volunteers & Recruiting to ensure everything was up-to-date.

Chair Recruiting

Aside from the one-month full recruiting freeze in September, chairs and leads have retained the ability to recruit internally for staff and volunteers interested in joining additional teams and to privately recruit individuals for specific projects and roles to lessen the strain of the active external recruiting freeze. While these options have not been extensively used, they have helped some teams continue to function more effectively while the external recruiting process has been revised.

Volunteer Policies

During 2012, the committee continued to work on developing a Code of Conduct for organization personnel, a process originally started in 2011. The committee researched policies in place in other organizations, researched best practices in volunteer management, and worked with a volunteer consultant in developing a comprehensive Code. During this time, the Constructive Corrective Action Procedure, which outlines how to address violations of the Code or other issues with volunteer performance, was also drafted.

Both of these documents were sent out to all staff and volunteers for a two-week review period. During this time, personnel were able to ask questions about anything that seemed unclear in the documents or make suggestions regarding what was included in them. The committee made revisions based on this feedback and developed Frequently Asked Questions for both the CoC and the CCAP to address some of the questions asked during this time. The documents were sent out for another one-week review period before being sent to the Board of Directors for final approval. Board unanimously approved both documents on 2 November 2012.

The Code of Conduct will be made public on the OTW website as part of the new recruiting structure. This will give all prospective staff and volunteers a chance to review it before applying for an open role.

Position Descriptions and Training Plans

While researching best practices for volunteer programs, the committee developed the new volunteer and recruiting structure further by developing templates that can be used to create position descriptions and training plans for each role within the organization. Position descriptions not only help volunteers to understand their role, but they also outline responsibilities and desired qualifications, providing an up-front understanding of what is involved in the commitment. Training plans for each role also ensures that new volunteers are engaged and supported right away in learning about their new volunteer position as well as the internal processes of the OTW.

To provide support for all committees and workgroups in building the training plans, Volunteers & Recruiting developed interactive tutorials for organization-wide tools. These tutorials were tested by Volunteers & Recruiting staff as well as other staff and volunteers throughout the organization and will continue to be updated and expanded as needed. While these basic tutorials will provide a strong foundation in using the tools for new personnel, there are also plans to build more advanced tutorials for some of the tools in the future.

Interviewing and Selection Procedures

Under the old recruiting system, formal communication with prospective staff or volunteers between the time they expressed interest and their induction was often inconsistent as there was no clear organization-wide standard. In order to ensure that individuals stepping into roles have a better understanding of what is involved in their commitment and to aid chairs and leads in determining if individuals are best suited for a particular role, interviewing and selection guidelines have been developed by Volunteers & Recruiting. While the format and nature of the interview process may vary from committee to committee or role to role, all staff-level positions will include an interview step to allow for a dialogue and for both parties to determine if the role seems like the right fit.

(To clarify, the OTW differentiates between volunteers who serve on committees - "Staff" - and volunteers who serve on workgroups or in volunteer pools - "Volunteers". Staff roles typically involve a larger minimum time requirement and direct participation in committee work and decision-making.)

A New Application Process

With clear position descriptions, detailed training plans, and interview and selection procedures in place, the organization is ready to launch the new recruiting process. Unlike the original process of a single volunteer form with potential volunteers indicating their areas of interest, the new system will be targeted to specific positions. Essentially, the plan is as follows:

  1. Chair or lead notes a need to fulfill a specific role within their committee, workgroup, or volunteer pool
  2. Chair or lead notifies Volunteers & Recruiting and ensures that position description and training plan are up-to-date
  3. Volunteers & Recruiting posts the open position (including description of role and desired skills and abilities) on the volunteer landing page (with a two-week deadline in most cases)
  4. Individuals submit applications during the application period
  5. Volunteers & Recruiting closes the position and forwards submitted applications to the chair or lead
  6. Chair or lead contacts individuals who meet qualifications to discuss the position
  7. Chair or lead submits names of individual(s) selected for approval
  8. Volunteers & Recruiting contacts individuals not selected and refers to other open positions, if applicable
  9. Following approval, Volunteers & Recruiting contacts selected individual(s) and processes induction
  10. New staff/volunteer follows training plan and works with chair or lead to get started in new role

We anticipate some positions will be open on a more ongoing basis (volunteer pools like Tag Wranglers and Coder volunteers), while committee staff and workgroup volunteer roles will be open only when the groups are actively in need of additional personnel. This will allow prospective volunteers to be more effectively matched with open positions that fit their interests and skills while also streamlining the processes internally for Volunteers & Recruiting and for committee chairs and workgroup leads.

The number of positions open at a time will likely vary depending on the organization's needs at any given time. Through work with the Webmasters and Communications Committees, plans have been developed to market these opportunities as they come open. A sidebar on the OTW website homepage will show a random sampling of open positions at any given time. All position openings will also be broadcast through the organization's Twitter account and occasional roundups on the OTW blog.

So, What Now?

The work on the infrastructure of the new recruiting system is nearly complete. A number of committees and workgroups have prepared their position description, training plan, and selection documentation. And the Volunteers & Recruiting Committee is excited to begin actively recruiting new volunteers into the organization as soon as we can. We are completing our final preparations and plan to open up the first positions under this new model following the April Membership Drive, which runs April 3-9. A follow-up post will be made to the OTW blog when the first applications go up on the volunteering page.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach us through the Volunteers & Recruiting contact form.
Mirrored from an original post on the OTW blog. Find related news by viewing our tag cloud.


Archive Roadmap 2013

Published: 2013-03-27 11:03:20 -0400


The OTW Board is pleased to announce the newly updated Archive of Our Own Roadmap.

The Roadmap is a broad outline of planned improvements and changes to the AO3. It is maintained by the Accessibility, Design, & Technology committee with input from many OTW committees including Abuse, Internationalization & Outreach, Open Doors, Support, Systems, Tag Wranglers, and Translation. While such an involved cross-committee process takes time, we are happy that it includes input from so many committees because we believe that collaboration results in a high-quality document and (hopefully!) a shared understanding of how and why we do the things we do.

Updating the Roadmap is a huge task which involves:

  1. Talking to everyone to learn what is needed and wanted (which can be different for everyone but thankfully there is some common ground)
  2. Talking about priorities (because our wish list is way larger than our ability to grant wishes)
  3. Working out what we need to do to get from A to C (sometimes that means people get B first on the way to C even though B was low priority)

AD&T walked the Roadmap through multiple drafts (the first rough outline was created in August 2012) and worked with multiple versions of the Board (there were five new Board members in this period) to reach a final version. The Board would like to thank everyone who worked on this task for the energy (and patience!) given to make this possible. We really appreciate all the time the staff and volunteers put into this.


A Look Back

When we started working on the Archive in 2008, we drew up a roadmap of core functionality which included all the basic posting and searching features, the tagging system, collections, comments, and a translatable interface. The original roadmap was drafted with a view to completing this groundwork within a short timeframe, and producing a releasable package which other fans could download and use. However, once we started working on the goals defined by the roadmap, the landscape changed a little. Implementing these basic, interlocking features turned out to be more complex than we originally anticipated, and as a result, the whole timeframe stretched, leaving openings where new features crept in and new urgent needs arose.

We revised our Roadmap in 2010 to give users an outline of planned features and milestones which took into account the realities of developing the live site, and the demands of our userbase. While we've been following roughly that plan, you'll see from looking at it that we didn't stick to it exactly: we have to be flexible and modify the pace of work and the order of tasks based on user demand, the needs of the site, and the skills and interests of available coders. In general, the pace of development has been slower than we anticipated, although in some cases we have been able to bring forward features which were in high demand, while keeping up with increasing performance challenges as the userbase expanded.

Some of the features we planned to add after version 0.8 have already been implemented, including a "kudos" option which lets you quickly show that you liked someone's work without leaving a full comment, improvements to editing multiple works, a download function for individual works in different formats, and better HTML styling thanks to work skins. A public Feature Requests Board was established in the form of a third-party tool (see the related Internal Tools FAQ for more information).

In contrast, several features we planned for before the 0.9 release were pushed back. For example, we've made some excellent progress on multi-language support for the Archive interface, but realized that the latest version of Ruby on Rails (the framework the AO3 is built on) offers some key features which can be used for that functionality, so we'll be upgrading the site to the new version of Rails before the new translations code is implemented. This is a big task which affects code across the site, so it needs to be carefully scheduled.

We review our Roadmap every few years to consider our needs and priorities going forward. This post aims to provide an updated timeline of our major milestones: while we'll continue to be flexible and may implement things in a different order, this roadmap gives an overview of what we've got planned. If there are features not listed here which you'd like to see, please let us know in the comments to this post! You can also vote for suggested features on our Feature Requests Board - this helps us know what people would like us to prioritize (although sometimes other constraints mean we can't implement popular requests as fast as we'd like, or can't commit to adding them to the Archive at all).

The Road so Far...

If you're interested in how the Archive has developed over the years, you can see all the work we completed up until June 2010 on the previous version of our Roadmap: everything up to Version 0.7 had been completed at the time it was published. We've listed the highlights of the work we've done since then below; for more detailed information on exactly what we did when, you can browse our extensive Release Notes, going back to the very first code deploy.

Interlude: Rails 3

In November 2010, we updated our version of Rails to Rails 3. Rails is a web framework for application development; the code of the Archive uses Rails and its various code libraries as well as other open source frameworks and tools. (For more information, see our Technology Stack page.)

This update involved changes to almost every part of the Archive code and was a major undertaking! Updating to use this version gave us access to a whole host of better features, and ensured that the codebase as a whole stayed up-to-date - important for stability and maintainability.

Version 0.8

Version 0.8 included a huge number of changes and stretched over multiple code releases, because it covered so many complex and interrelated things. It was completed in July 2012 and included:

  • Lots of performance-enhancing features, including widescale improvements in caching across the site. We introduced Squid for whole-page caching, more granular caching for frequently updated elements such as comment numbers on works, the caching of indexes for searches and sorting, and much more. These performance improvements helped us accommodate a massive expansion in the number of users in 2012.
  • A major update to our site Javascript: we moved to using a more modern and flexible Javascript library, jQuery.
  • A major overhaul of all our CSS and frontend code, for greater maintainability and accessibility.
  • The introduction of site skins to enable users to customize the appearance of the site.
  • The introduction of work skins to allow users to use CSS to style their works.
  • The introduction of embeds for multimedia works (fannish video and audio works like vids, AMVs, or podfic).
  • The launch of email subscriptions for authors and works, and feeds for tags across the site, to make it easier for users to get updates about works they were interested in.
  • The introduction of a user stats page, including many often requested features such as the ability to compare the numbers of kudos and comments on different works.
  • A range of tools for our Open Doors team, enabling the import and maintenance of at-risk archives. The first archive to be imported using these tools was the Smallville Slash Archive.
  • Lots of improvements to our challenge functionality, including the introduction of prompt memes!

The Road Ahead

The following is a rough outline of our plans for the next few years. We haven't included a timeframe for these milestones - not even a very rough one - because experience has shown us that a whole number of factors can influence development speed and priorities. Plans for the 1.0 release and beyond are kept very high-level right now; we will post an updated, more detailed plan as we get closer to the finish line.

Version 0.9

The first major part of Version 0.9 was the launch of our new tag filters, along with a number of other significant changes to the underlying code of our search and browse features. The site had outgrown the old filters, which were causing performance issues, and the new code has proven more robust and more usable. It also enabled us to implement filtering for bookmarks, which was a long-needed first step on the way to making personal bookmarks a truly useful Archive feature.

Throughout this development cycle, we're also also focusing heavily on performance improvements and long-term scalability (that is, how easily the site can grow to accomodate new users). As part of this, we are making several hopefully invisible changes under the hood:

  • Upgrading to the latest version of Ruby on Rails.
  • Increasing the amount of caching we do throughout the site and ironing out any remaining issues related to caching.
  • Adding new hardware, and optimizing our server setup.

We already added some new servers in January 2013, and you can read more about plans for expansion in our post, Going forward - our server setup and plans, part of our 2013 Spotlight on Systems.

One major code change we'll make during this release will be the complete refactoring of our work model (the large chunk of code that deals with creating, posting, and managing works). For obvious reasons, this is one of the oldest parts of the code on the site, and it needs some major revisions to make it robust, maintainable and flexible going forward. This is a very knotty piece of work (internally we refer to the work model as Mordor) and will likely take a while to get right.

The refactoring of the work model is an essential part of one of our major priorities: moving towards true support for visual art as well as fannish audio and video on the Archive. Hosting different media types (e.g. enabling image or audio file uploads to our servers) is still some way in the future, but version 0.9 will include a number of enhancements aimed at making the site more suitable for diverse types of fanworks, including better search and posting tools for non text-based media. We already allow embeds of art, fan videos, and audio works, and the first major enhancement in this release cycle will be the option to specify a media type for your fanwork when posting (instead of relying on Additional Tags alone), and to filter by media type when browsing. At the same time, we will add options for posting and searching for non-fiction fanworks (fannish meta and other non-fiction types). Our aim will be to make it as easy as possible for users to find the kinds of fannish content they are interested in, and for creators to tag and categorize their works usefully.

We will also be focusing on our collections suite, including challenges and prompt memes, to fix remaining bugs, address usability problems, and improve documentation as well as performance.

  • Stability, performance, and scalability improvements
  • Improvements to searching and browsing, including better filtering for media type, category, and language
  • A new header and footer layout, for easier site navigation
  • Improvements to tag wrangling management features, and enhancements to the tagging system to allow for improved handling of international sources and fandoms
  • Refinements to the collection and challenge code, including major bug fixes for gift exchanges, prompt memes and tag sets
  • Review and rewrite of existing code to prepare for art, video, and audio posting, and non-fiction fanworks
  • Improvements to the handling of work relationships (remixes, translations, gifts...) across the site
  • Improved and expanded tools for Open Doors to allow for easier imports of at-risk archives


Within the 0.9 release cycle, we want to take some scheduled time to review and assess our code base, documentation, resources and plans. During this time, active development will be kept to an absolute minimum and we'll avoid launching any new features. We will continue to monitor the site for any emergencies and keep sending out invites to people on the waiting list, but will focus most of our attention on laying the groundwork for good stability going forward. This is something which we always try to factor into our plans, but during very busy periods it's easy to build up technical debt and harder to make sure everything is shipshape and well-documented. This interlude will help ensure both our code and our procedures are well organized and sustainable.

Version 0.10

In these code updates, we will build upon and enhance the multimedia support and interface translation features. Providing the Archive structure and navigation in any language, not just English, was one of our main goals when we started dreaming up plans: we will now make sure that all site elements are translatable and complete the necessary translation tools for volunteers. This is different from support for individual fanworks in languages other than English, which we hope will be vastly improved by the changes and bug fixes planned in version 0.9.

Additionally, more subscription options will be added, enabling users to keep track of exactly the kind of fanwork they want to read, look at, or listen to. Subscription management will be improved.

We will also make our admin system more robust and allow for clearly defined roles in site and user management, with improved admin features for each area (such as better tools for our Abuse staff).

In this release cycle, we will also add private messaging, one of the most-requested features.

  • Translation features for an Archive in many different languages
  • Private messaging features
  • More subscription options
  • Anonymous posting
  • Improved drafts management
  • Better chapter management, including the ability to indicate prologues and epilogues
  • Improvements to the History feature
  • Groundwork for a more modular admin system to spread out tasks (managing users, approving new public skins, posting news etc.) across distinct admin roles
  • Profile enhancements, such as the option to list your presence on other services (Dreamwidth, DeviantArt, etc) and offer beta services

Version 0.11

In our last planned release cycle before announcing 1.0, we will focus on ironing out any remaining bugs, review existing features, refactor and optimize our codebase for scalability and expandability, and make sure that, above all else, the Archive is accessible to all users. We will also review our wide range of automated tests to ensure that all our features have complementary test suites and that our testing framework adheres to current best practices before going forward.

Version 1.0 and beyond

Our goal for Release 1.0 is to have a stable package with all core features working well, and a full testing suite. This will provide a good foundation for the move to hosting fanwork files on our own servers, which will be a core goal for our post 1.0 development. It will also enable us to bundle an install package for easy installation by users without substantial systems experience. This will include the further enhancement of admin roles to allow a master admin and more site customisation settings. We also want to provide API hooks for developers to build upon our codebase for posting/bookmarking/reading/etc. tools and enhancements. A more structured outline of goals will be posted before we reach this biggest of milestones.

  • A robust feature set for posting, managing, and browsing different kinds of fanworks: text (such as fic or essays), images (such as fanart, graphics, or crafts), audio (such as podfic, audio fic, fannish songs, or filk), and video (such as AMVs and vids)
  • A translatable interface that makes it possible to customize the Archive for a variety of languages
  • A default interface that is functional, accessible, and attractive (in that order of importance) in a wide variety of browsers, platforms and assistive tech, and easily customizable for special needs and preferences
  • Public API
  • Release package

How You Can Help

The Organization for Transformative Works is always looking for volunteers to donate their time and skills (or alternatively, hard-earned cash) to the development of the Archive of Our Own. You can read more about how to contribute or get in touch with the Volunteers & Recruiting committee to offer your help. Depending on open positions, we will welcome skilled programmers, database specialists, sysadmins, designers, QA personnel and technical writers, as well as interested people who are new to coding and software testing. Training and support will be provided, so anyone can help shape the future of the Archive!


Fandom nonfiction: seeking feedback

Published: 2013-03-13 15:28:47 -0400

The Board’s decision on meta has sparked a great deal of conversation, externally and internally, and we appreciate the detailed comments many people have left. Over the course of internal discussions among the affected committees, we've determined that "fandom nonfiction" is a more useful term than “meta” to explain the kinds of works covered by the Board vote. We invite your feedback on these proposals. We will be collecting feedback for two weeks, and then will incorporate that feedback into a policy for Board approval.

Ultimately, we will handle many different kinds of fannish creativity through a work type system. However, while we hope to make progress on this later in the year, we do not have a definite timeframe for work types. In the interim, creators may choose to wait until work types are implemented or to use the additional tags to categorize their works in order to facilitate the transition to work types.

Important note: there are many key issues relating to the implementation of work type categories. We are only beginning to brainstorm on the technical aspects. If you give us feedback about what you want from the specifics of work type now, before we have a proposal on the table, we may miss it when we get into the technical aspects. So while we welcome your feedback, we ask that you focus it in this post on the general issues of policy: what we will host and what abilities administrators ought to have with respect to mislabeled works. Just by way of example: "Abuse should be able to recategorize a textual work from fiction to nonfiction" is feedback within the scope of the current proposal. "Visual art should be divided into digital, hand-drawn, and other" is not within the scope of the current proposal, though we will seek more input on these types of issues as we continue to develop the work type plan.

That said, here is a very general outline of what we are thinking:

(1) When creators post a work, some type of general "work type" selection will ultimately be mandatory, as choosing a rating and a warning or warnings are now mandatory. This will probably refer to functional file characteristics like text, video, and audio, but may also incorporate a fiction/nonfiction divide. Once the work types are available, as with ratings and warnings, our basic policy will be to defer to the creator's categorizations.

(2) Other aspects of work type will likely be optional/user-defined, possibly with autofill/some predetermined options that will not be exclusive. Again, our basic policy will be to defer to the creator’s categorizations.

(3) We may auto-detect some work features such as the presence of an image or image tag, the way we currently auto-detect word count.

(4) Where the AO3 already provides specific features for a particular kind of content—specifically, fanwork searches, bookmarks, and challenges—we will ask people to use those features for that content.

Your feedback on these general principles, as well as the more specific issues addressed below, is welcome.

How will existing works fit into this scheme or be moved into this scheme?: This is a technical issue that is not yet resolved. On the policy side, no one will be penalized for having posted a work that, because of the implementation of work type, is technically "mislabeled" as a result of the transition. However, we may try some automated solutions for detecting work type and/or ask creators to change a work type when they posted before work type was introduced. Part of the transition may thus be to automatically set work type based on the presence or absence of certain tags or other work features, then notify the creators and allow them to change the work type if the automated process made a mistake. Once work type is implemented, the current proposal is that administrators will have the ability to correct an obvious miscategorization of work type (that is, a case that is not borderline even after deference to the creator) if the creator fails to respond to an inquiry after a reasonable time.

We want to have definitions that can be reasonably explained and enforced by our dedicated volunteers. Our policy is to default to respect creators’ own characterizations of their works, and that will remain the case. Abuse will, however, be able to request the removal of or remove particular works when they are clearly beyond the scope of fandom nonfiction, just as Abuse can currently make other Terms of Service-related determinations in appropriate circumstances.

Draft FAQ additions:

Q: Is nonfiction allowed on the Archive?

A: Fandom nonfiction is allowed. Where we provide a specific function (search, bookmarking, challenges) we will ask you to use the specific methods we provide for those activities. In addition, as an archive whose goal is preservation, we want permanent, nonephemeral content. To the extent that your content is designed to be ephemeral, such as liveblogging episode reactions, it should go on a journaling service and not the Archive.

Q: What falls within the definition of fandom nonfiction?

A: Fandom nonfiction can be discussions of fannish tropes, commentary on fandoms, documentaries, podcasts about fandom, explanations of the creative process behind a fanwork or works, guides for fan-created gaming campaigns, or many other things.

However, the nature of the Archive and the limitations of our resources mean that, while we will endeavor to host as much fannish content as possible, we need to put some limits on allowable works. In particular, the Archive is not a journaling service and it is not designed to host ephemeral content.

We will, in general, defer to the creator’s characterization of a work as fandom nonfiction as long as it has a reasonably perceptible fannish connection, either to a specific source or to fandom in general, and takes the form of an independent, nonephemeral commentary. For example, an analysis of or commentary on multiple fanworks is nonfiction meta (and must comply with our other policies, including our harassment policy). An essay on a particular character's narrative arc in canon or of the interaction between film and comics versions of a source is also meta.

We understand that, as with many things, there are hard cases at the edges of categories, but we nonetheless need some limits in order to keep the Archive manageable for our hard-working volunteers as well as for other users.

Q: What about a fanwork search?

A: Please use our search functions for this rather than creating a separate work.

Q: What about a recommendation for a single fanwork?

A: Please use our bookmark/recommendation function for this; many creators also welcome discussion in the comments to the work, which is another appropriate place for such commentary. As always, while criticism of a fanwork is not itself harassment, content must comply with our other policies, including our harassment policy.

Q: What counts as a recommendation versus a more general discussion or analysis?

A: Please use your judgment on the best way to categorize a commentary. Our general policy is to defer to creators.

Q: How does the harassment policy apply to reviews?

A: The Terms of Service state “When judging whether a specific incident constitutes harassment, the abuse team will consider factors such as whether the behavior was repeated, whether it was repeated after the offender was asked to stop, whether the behavior was targeted at a specific person, whether that target could have easily avoided encountering the behavior, whether the behavior would be considered unacceptable according to normal community standards, etc.” This policy applies to reviews. Again, criticism of a fanwork, even harsh criticism, is not itself harassment. Calling a creator evil or wishing harm to them are potential examples of harassment.

Q: What about a fanwork prompt?

A: Please use our challenge function for this.

Q: What about a letter to someone I've been anonymously matched with for a challenge?

A: Since this content is designed to be ephemeral/nonpermanent, please put it on your profile, which can be edited to include your preferences.

Q: What isn't fandom nonfiction?

A: The examples are potentially limitless, but here are some examples that we believe, based on our experience so far, do not qualify as fandom nonfiction and should not be posted as a work:

  • episode transcripts and other non-transformative fandom material;
  • primarily autobiographical or non-fandom-related essays (e.g., essays on bike lanes, even if they contain a single reference to a fannish source);
  • general complaints about behavior towards a particular creator (e.g., a post stating that a work was deleted due to lack of feedback);
  • suggestions that other fans contact the creator through email or other social networks;
  • a single word or pairing name repeated hundreds of times;
  • offers and giveaways.

As with all works, we presume good faith on the part of our users, and ask that you do the same for the fans who make up our Support and Abuse teams.

Q: How will “ephemeral” be defined?

A: Please use your best judgment; our general policy is to defer to creators in cases of doubt. However, episode reactions of the type ‘OMG SAM’S HAIR OMG OMG. DEEEEEEEEEEEAN’ are likely to be appropriate for journaling services and not for the Archive. Ephemeral content is generally meant to be read at a particular time: for example, a message about a particular challenge or a reaction meant to be read while or just after a particular episode airs.

Proposed Terms of Service changes

The current ToS says: "Repeated identical posts in multiple places, e.g., a large number of identical comments promoting a website, will also be considered spam regardless of commercial content."

Proposed: "Repeated identical or nearly identical posts in multiple places, e.g., a large number of identical comments promoting a website, will also be considered spam regardless of commercial content."

Rationale: clarifying that small differences between posts will not be enough to take a series of posts out of the "spam" category. A creator who posts 25 different fanworks in quick succession as part of moving their output onto the Archive is not spamming, nor is a creator who posts 10 different drabbles (100-word stories), but 10 rapid-fire works with minimal content of any kind might be spam.

Current ToS:
K. Ratings and Warnings

K. Ratings, Warnings, and Fanwork Types

[new 5.] Fanwork types

It is our policy to defer to creators' categorizations, but we reserve the right to recategorize a fanwork type.

A manual recategorization decision made by the abuse team is appealable through the ordinary abuse appeals process.

A manual recategorization of a fanwork will not result in suspension of a user's account, unless it is a repeated pattern for a single user, in which case it may be treated as grounds for a suspension. Moreover, if a creator unilaterally reverses a manual recategorization, without agreement from the abuse team, that will be treated as grounds for a suspension.

Related FAQ additions:

Q: What do you mean by recategorizing a fanwork type?

A: For technical reasons relating to how our database is planned to evolve, we need for archive administrators to have the ability to change a work type where it is clearly appropriate (e.g., a review essay or fanvid mistakenly or inadvertently categorized as textual fiction). Because work type will be a new addition (and we may create new categories over time), we understand that users won't necessarily go back and change the work type on previously uploaded works. Inaction on already-existing works will not be grounds for any penalty for users, even if we do later ask that the work type be changed to reflect what it is. People will also make mistakes when work type is in place. Once work type is in place, our general policy when a recategorization is clearly appropriate will be to ask the user to recategorize the work, and change the work type if we receive no response. In addition, our general policy is to defer to the creator's choices in borderline cases.

Q: What do you mean by a manual recategorization?

A manual recategorization is an individualized determination that a specific work has been miscategorized, made as the result of a specific complaint. In terms of the transition to work types, we may automate work type detection for existing works, notify users, and ask them to change the work type if the automated process made a mistake. This automatic process would operate outside the abuse process, not as a manual recategorization.

Q: Will you recategorize or remove other tags, such as relationship tags?

A: Because our Abuse and Support resources are limited, and because different people interpret tags in many different ways, we don’t think that we can fairly enforce rules about relationship or other tags. We encourage users to engage with each other on these issues.


OTW Board response to concerns about the meta decision

Published: 2013-02-25 13:17:12 -0500

There has been a very active and thoughtful response to our recent announcement in favor of allowing meta on the AO3. We'd like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to everyone for raising their concerns, showing their support, and otherwise engaging with us as we work to define our policies, refine our processes, and improve our communication. In addition, we'd like to respond to a number of the issues raised and clarify how this decision was reached and what the process will be from this point forward.

For the purposes of this and the previous post, the term "meta" refers to nonfictional fanworks in all media. While text-based nonfiction fanworks have been a frequent focus, this decision and the surrounding commentary is meant to encompass fanworks in all media; this is one reason why multimedia hosting, posting, and filtering will be referenced frequently in conjunction with the decision to support meta.

There is still a long way to go before meta can be fully supported on the AO3, and we will address a number of the concerns about implementation and timing below. Determining how meta should be supported — for example, the details of how multimedia hosting on the AO3 will ultimately look — is a matter for our committees and users to decide through committee collaboration and user input. However, determining whether supporting meta on the Archive is consonant with the OTW’s mission falls squarely within the Board’s purview and duty.

History of the discussion

When the initial question of meta was posed to Board, it was framed as a request for clarification on whether meta fell under transformative works as we defined them for the AO3, and how to proceed with reports of meta as a violation of our Terms of Service (ToS). The Board voted last August to send the meta issue back to the committees for more discussion, in the hope that the committees could work out among themselves issues that the Board had found insoluble. The decision called for balancing the competing concerns of several committees, and the Board had been unable to reach a satisfactory agreement. However, the execution of that plan dragged on for months as we dealt with Board member hiatuses, resignations, and appointments on top of other day-to-day business, and the vote was never put into action.

When the Board reconvened in 2013, we initially had intended to continue with the plan set out by the 2012 Board, but we quickly realized that — partly as a result of the Board’s dramatically changed composition and partly because of a new focus on clarifying the Board's purview — we no longer felt it to be the best course of action. We looked at the conversations that had been happening within and outside the organization for the previous six months and came to the conclusion that it was in the best interests of both our users and our personnel that a basic decision be made as soon as possible, rather than occupy staff and volunteer time in further stretching out a question that we felt it was our responsibility as Board to settle: the question of the scope of the OTW and AO3's missions with respect to meta.

We had many users who had been waiting all that time to find out if their meta could stay on the Archive, and several committees who needed a determination in order to perform their duties. We took a fresh vote, which was unanimously in favor of interpreting the OTW and AO3's missions as inclusive of owing meta the same protections and support as other fanworks. Once that vote had been taken, sending the issue back to committees for a discussion that would not have changed the Board’s stance would have been disingenuous. We felt it was preferable to state a firm decision and engage the committees in determining how best to carry it out.

We are aware that the Board's decision seemed very abrupt to people both inside and outside the OTW, and we acknowledge that more transparency would have been preferable. The Board’s overall workload and the emotional burnout many of us have experienced as a result of the length and intensity of the meta discussion were obstacles that prevented us from communicating effectively. We regret our shortcomings in this area and will strive to do better in the future; we are working to reduce workload and burnout and clarify policies and purview in an effort to prevent this from recurring.

We are committed to fully engaging committees and users in determining how the decision will be implemented, and a revised Archive TOS and FAQ are currently being drafted under the leadership of the Content Policy Workgroup. As with other TOS and FAQ revisions, they will be posted for public comment before they are formally adopted.

Replies to some questions and concerns

We recognize that this decision will not be popular with all users, members, or even OTW personnel. Conversely, the choice to allow meta — and turning over the ability to define and craft specific policy to our committees — is a decision many support. The concerns raised by those leaving comments are ones the Board spent a great deal of time discussing, and we are happy to share our reasoning and to continue answering questions to the best of our ability. Here are some responses to common concerns and questions:

  • Meta does not require new code to be hosted in its bare form — unlike image or video hosting no new code is required for a basic level of service. For example, a nonfiction essay can be uploaded just like a fictional story, or a meta comic can be linked just like a fictional one is now, or a vid focused on commenting on the canon can be embedded like vids that build fictional narratives currently are. While there are ways the AO3 could be better organized to deliver meta, a basic level of hosting is already available.
  • The AO3 is intended to eventually have filtering based on work type/medium, allowing meta to be found and filtered. The intention is to expand the AO3 functionality to better host non-textual fanworks (e.g. vids, podfics, art, etc.), and the most-requested behaviors with respect to meta (filtering, tagging, etc.) all intersect with what will be in place for multimedia hosting and posting.
  • Refusing to host meta and waiting until we have sufficient code for works types would unduly punish users who have already posted meta works in good faith. In addition to posting meta based on good-faith interpretation of the TOS, users have been posting many types of works the AO3 is not strictly prepared to deal with on a technical and usability level, which includes meta of all media and most non-textual fanworks. Allowing and encouraging users to post all types of fanworks has been a cornerstone of the AO3's philosophy as an archive, and it would be disingenuous and unfair to punish one type of fanwork or creator but not others on this basis.
  • While text-based meta faces much less legal challenge than some other fanwork types, it still faces other challenges such as loss of hosting due to failing archives or discontinued blogging platforms. Non-text-based meta, such as meta art and vids, shares many of the same legal challenges as other non-text-based fanworks.
  • Fans should be able to archive all their fanworks together. Besides this general principle, there are specific instances of at-risk archives that include meta fanworks. Grandfathering in previously posted meta or disallowing meta except for that taken in through Open Doors leads to an inconsistent policy likely to cause confusion, conflict, and difficulty in enforcement.

We hope this answers some of your comments and concerns. We welcome further input and look forward to working with our personnel and our users in continuing to welcome a broad range of fannish endeavors under the OTW umbrella.


February Support Live Chat

Published: 2013-02-18 16:03:18 -0500

Hi! Support here, again! In fact, Support is always here--when you submit a ticket through the Support and Feedback form we'll respond as soon as possible to register your feature suggestion, pass your bug report on to our coders, or do our best to help you out with a problem. However, when it comes to explaining how to do things or why something doesn't seem to be working right, the formal back-and-forth emails of a Support request aren't always ideal.

After receiving positive reviews of our last chat in November, we're going to regularly have Open Chat sessions with the Support Staff in our public chat room (the link will be made available on the day of the chat). The first of these will be this coming Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 16:00:00 UTC lasting through this Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 04:00:00 UTC. Members of Support will be available to interact with you one-on-one in live chat. See what time that is where you live. We are going to try to have future sessions at different times to make sure we eventually cover all time zones. If you can't make it to this one, keep an eye out for the next!

EDIT: We're closed, for this month. A hearty thanks to everyone who came! We will be doing this again!

If you're having a problem using the Archive, want help trying something new, or would like an explanation of one of our features, please drop in and talk to us in person!

Some guidelines, just to keep things running smoothly

We don't have a fancy presentation or material prepared--there are plenty of FAQs, tutorials, and admin posts for that. The point of live chat is to talk with you, not at you. We're happy for you to drop in and say "hi", but it's even better if you drop in and say, "Hi, what's up with my work that won't show as complete even though it is?!"

As Support, our function is to help users with bugs and issues, and pass reports on to our Coders and Systems team, who actually keep the place running. This means that policy questions are way over our pay grade. (Just kidding--none of us get paid!) So, if you have questions or comments about AO3 or OTW policies, good or bad, Support Chat isn't the right place for them. If you do want to talk to someone about policy issues (meta on the Archive, philosophical issues with the tagging system, category change, etc.) we can direct you to the appropriate admin post or contact address so you can leave feedback directly for the people dealing with the area of your concern.

Additionally, if a question looks like it might violate a user's privacy to answer (if it needs an email address or other personal information, for example) we may not be willing to work with it in chat. In those cases, we'll redirect a user to the Support Form so we can communicate via email.

So, now that that's out of the way, what kind of things are we going to talk about?

Live chat is best for questions of a "How do I...?" or "Why does it...?" nature.

For example, you might have been wondering:

  • How do I use the new search and browse system to find a certain type of work?
  • I'd like to run a challenge, but I'm not sure how to do what I want.
  • For that matter, where did my work submitted to an anonymous challenge go?!
  • I want to post using formatting the Rich Text Editor won't give me. How do I do it using a work skin?

We'd be happy to help you with any of these questions, and anything else you're having trouble doing or would like to try doing with the Archive.


Archive of Our Own Newsletter - January/February 2013

Published: 2013-02-17 14:39:34 -0500

Welcome to the January-February Newsletter! We hope you had a good holiday season and are having a happy new year! Despite the term break in December, January was busy busy busy with upgrades and releases for all. February is also turning out to be a big month with releases, spotlights, tag wrangling fixes, and header posts galore! Here's what we've been up to:

All the Archive news that's fit to print!

2012 was full of Archive milestones. In November we passed the 500,000 work mark in 10,000 fandoms. In December, the Archive passed 100,000 users. Check out this post for further milestones that we passed in 2012.

Tag Wrangling shared their process for wrangling Additional Tags and why Additional Tags are not as un-wranglable as one might think.

Mini-Release 0.9.4 went live with a small number of bug fixes. We were also very happy to bring back invitation requests in December. Release 0.9.5 and its redux went off without a hitch.

Fandom Tags are now alphabetized regardless of articles. Wranglers now have the ability to assign a sort name different from a display name, making it easier for us to wrangle and browse fandoms!

We recently posted a Spotlight on Systems Committee. If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to support the technical systems of the Archive, read all about it here.

AD&T are hard at work on a redesign of the site header. Check out our little preview and tell us what you think.

And finally, the Board approved meta hosting on the Archive. Please see this post for details on how this decision affects you, the Archive, and the Archive staffers.

Adventures with Support

Things are keeping busy in the Support world. We've got a new co-chair, and the training is letting us solidify all of our training. We're looking forward to a solid year with proactive communication with both our fellow committees and our users!

Open Doors Update

Open Doors is still working toward an automated import for the 852 Prospect Archive and recently held two open house chats (read more here). In the meantime, we've opened up manual importing by inviting all 852 Prospect authors to the Archive. Check out Open Doors' post for further instructions on manually importing works from that particular Archive.

AD&T Committee business of note

We're excited about the upcoming year and are looking forward to everything we'll be sharing with you. On a more serious note, we recently reviewed our emergency plan in the event that our site is compromised and requires an emergency shutdown.

Support Committee business of note

Support will be hosting a Live Chat February 23rd-24th, from 4pm to 4am UTC (What time is that for you?) As Support, our function is to help users with bugs and issues, and pass reports on to our Coders and Systems team, who actually keep the place running. So, if you have questions or comments about AO3 or OTW policies, good or bad, Support Chat isn't the right place for them. If you do want to talk to someone about policy issues (meta on the Archive, philosophical issues with the tagging system, category change, etc.) we can direct you to the appropriate admin post or contact address so you can leave feedback directly for the people dealing with the area of your concern.

Tag Wrangling Committee business of note

We've clarified some major weirdness in our guidelines regarding AU tags and inconsistencies regarding the canonicals for Original Characters in Relationship tags.


We've had some scheduled downtime during the past couple of weeks. Each time was for two upgrades and some site maintenance to build a better Archive. Apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced by this! We also received reports from some users that Avast was sending out malware warnings when users tried to access the Archive. The cause of this malware warning was external and no cause for alarm.

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).


OTW Board Approves Meta Hosting on the AO3

Published: 2013-02-15 14:05:33 -0500

After a long period of discussion, the OTW Board has voted to allow the posting of meta on the Archive of Our Own. We considered a range of issues while making this decision, including how this move would fit into the overall mission of the OTW, the technical and financial resources required, and demand from users of the Archive and members of the OTW. We determined that there is already a demand for meta on the Archive, and that this use of our resources is consonant with our purview and mission.

We're aware that this decision has taken some time, and we sincerely apologize for the delay. We had hoped to reach a decision sooner, but the complexity of the discussion meant we needed to think carefully about the issues. As the term of some OTW Board members ended while the discussion was ongoing, we also needed time for the new Board members to get up-to-speed with all the issues involved.

What will happen next?

Agreeing to include meta on the Archive is just the first step in this journey. The Board will now work with all related committees to define exactly how meta will be handled. Our committees, including AD&T (which will be doing the work on the technical side), Abuse, Support, and others, will be working with our Content Policy workgroup to design a workable policy.

One of the main tasks ahead of us is to agree on some definitions and policies. We need to agree on definitions that are usable and enforceable. While any category is inevitably fuzzy, we want to preserve the Archive as a site for fanworks (so for example, we don't want it to become a general blogging site). Once we've agreed on these definitions, our committees will have a whole range of tasks ahead of them, including:

  • Drafting revisions to our Terms of Service and FAQ. Revisions to the Archive TOS will be subject to a public review period (as detailed under Section IB of the TOS) before becoming final.
  • Determining technical plans for making meta more accessible. We are already planning changes to posting and browsing on the Archive to allow for multimedia hosting. We do not expect meta to require any additional coding to implement beyond what will be required for these changes, and allowing meta won't change the existing prioritization of these features, but we will need to factor it into our design.
  • Determining tagging policies to allow for multimedia and meta browsing.

What will be allowed?

Our Content Policy workgroup will be posting guidelines on what will fall under the 'meta' category and the policies which will apply to it in the next two weeks.

What does this mean for me?

Going forward, we hope that this will mean you can find and enjoy fannish meta more easily (and screen it out if you're not interested).

If you currently have meta posted on the Archive, or you plan to post some in the near future, you should be aware that our policies are still being finalized. As action on existing meta posts was suspended while Board deliberated on this issue, in the coming months some users may be contacted in connection to how their posts fit the new policies. We recommend that users wait until these policies are made public before putting a lot of effort into new meta posts. However, we hope that, long term, meta writers will feel their contributions to the archive are welcome and can join other fanworks in finding an audience at the AO3.


If you have thoughts and feedback you'd like us to consider, we ask that you comment here on the AO3 version of this post, to make it easier for the various committees involved to answer you and collate your replies.


Category Change Says: "We're working!"

Published: 2013-02-13 16:54:39 -0500

This is a short update from the Category Change workgroup. You can read about what our work entails and how we were formed in our introductory post. As we want to keep users in the loop, we wanted to provide some information on what we’ve been doing since then, and what we’re planning to do in the near future.

We began by compiling user feedback we received either in comments made to our last post or directly through the Category Change Contact Form. We then grouped together similar ideas.

After analyzing the feedback through discussion on our mailing list and in several chat meetings, we have identified the issues users have with the current Media categories, as well as their expectations when browsing and filtering. This information has informed our discussions and has been vital to understanding what we want from the new categorization system.

We had a brief end-of-term hiatus from December 17th to January 4th.

Since the beginning of the 2013 term, we have been discussing the first draft of the new categorization system. Once this task is done, we will consult with the OTW committees who would be affected by the changes and solicit feedback from them.

After we have reassessed our initial proposal in light of this feedback, we will make the revised proposal public and ask for users' feedback. We know that this could impact user experience in a big way, so we want to make sure that we have heard the users' concerns and ideas before moving forward with a final proposal.

You’re welcome to comment on this post (at any of its locations) with ideas, feedback or opinions, or you can send them to us through the Category Change Contact Form.


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