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Last year, Tag Wrangling adopted a stronger set of guidelines about tags with unclear meanings on the Archive of Our Own. In order to provide more accurate filtering/subscriptions for users and to decrease the server strain caused by unnecessary metatags, we now canonize tags in the most clear and unambiguous way possible. As we update tags to meet this guideline, we sometimes discover old canonicals that were created when the tag length limit was still 42 characters. We are adjusting or removing those now.

To make relationship tags unambiguous, we encourage anyone who previously tagged with one of the following ambiguous tags to consider putting the specific relationship intended instead:

  • OT3 - Relationship
  • OT4 - Relationship
  • OT5 - Relationship
  • OT6 - Relationship
  • OT7 - Relationship
  • Threesome - Relationship
  • Canon Relationship(s)
  • Ambiguous or Implied Relationship(s)
  • One-sided - Relationship
  • Marriage - Relationship
  • Established Relationship(s)
  • Friendship - Relationship
  • Team - Relationship
  • Various Relationships
  • Family Relationships

All of these tags are no longer canonical in the Relationships field, but they are still available in the Additional Tags/Freeforms field. In the Relationships field, you can use the '&' symbol between the characters' names to tag for Gen relationships, such as family, friendship, or teammates. The '&' symbol indicates that a relationship is platonic; the '/' symbol indicates that a relationship is sexual and/or romantic.

We understand that this removal primarily affects older works from when the 42 character limit was in place and before platonic relationships could be indicated with the '&' symbol. If you're part of an older fandom that used any of these tags, please spread the word that tagging options have increased and encourage your fellow fans to be more specific about which relationship they mean. We will also be reaching out to specific fandoms regarding some of these tags.

Thanks for your help and understanding as we strengthen AO3's tagging system!

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partial screenshot of the AO3 homepage showing 25000 fandoms with the AO3 logo above the text

Tag Wranglers are pleased to announce that we have reached the milestone of 25,000 fandoms on AO3! This comes shortly after we celebrated reaching 3 million fanworks in April and 1 million users back in October.

AO3 users have always been incredibly creative. Over the years, we've reached several fandom milestones:

  • 5,000 fandoms around New Year's Day, 2010
  • 10,000 fandoms in September, 2012
  • 15,000 fandoms in April, 2014
  • 20,000 fandoms in December, 2015

Are there any rare fandoms you love that you discovered on AO3?

Sharing 25,000 Fandoms with 1 Million People

With so many new fandoms, fanworks, and users joining us daily, now is a good time to explain what this growth can mean for users and Tag Wranglers.

Tags on AO3 are shared. If you use the same exact tag that someone else has used, your works will be included in the same filters. Tag Wranglers cannot separate works using the exact same tag. We can only wrangle tags, not works.

If you discover that your work is showing up under a different filter (tag) than you intended, you can edit the tag on your work to be clearer. For example, Penny Parker is a character on the TV show MacGyver. “Penny Parker” is also a common fan name for female Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man. If you tag your work “Penny Parker”, it will end up in the filters for the MacGyver character, even if you were thinking of female Peter. To avoid this, you could alter your tag to “Penny Parker (girl!Peter)” or something similar. That would allow Tag Wranglers to merge it into Peter Parker’s tag filter instead.

(Obviously, Tag Wranglers can’t merge the plain “Penny Parker” tag directly with Peter’s. If we did that, all of the MacGyver’s “Penny Parker” works would show up in Peter Parker’s filters, and she would not have a filter of her own. This would cause problems for fans of both characters!)

If a tag is new to you, you might find it useful to check its filter before using it. You might find that the tag has a different meaning in a different fandom.

How To Make Tags Work For You

In the month of April this year, Tag Wranglers collectively wrangled approximately 497,000 tags. In May we wrangled well over half a million! Tag Wranglers work very hard to connect your tags; you can make our job easier by being clear about what you mean.

Here are some ideas you can try in order to make your own works or bookmarks appear in the filters you want. (Please don't comment on works to ask other users to do this - this is for your own works/bookmarks only!)

  • Autocomplete is your friend: If a fandom tag exists in the autocomplete for your fandom already, try including that tag. The tags that Tag Wranglers see are based on filterable fandoms listed on the work, so using a fandom tag from the autocomplete speeds up the time it takes to wrangle your tag and have it show up correctly.
  • Making a new fandom: If there is no fandom tag yet for your work, try including the medium, creator, or year the canon was first published in the tag. This speeds up the process of creating a new fandom tag, as we will have more information to use when researching what canon you mean! For books, it's especially important to include the author's name; for movies, the year. For other fandoms, usually the media type is enough, unless the title is very generic. For example, if you're posting for the TV show "Merlí", try adding "TV" after the title, like this: Merlí (TV).
  • Be kind to RPF fans: Try to avoid mixing up Actor RPF and fictional TV or movie fandoms in your tags. If you're posting Actor RPF, please use the RPF fandom tags. If an RPF fandom tag doesn't exist yet for that TV show or movie, make one by adding "RPF" to the end of the TV show or movie's existing tag name. Example: The Hunger Games (Movies) RPF. Please also try to avoid using the Actor RPF fandom tags if you're only working with fictional characters. This will help RPF fans easily find the works they want and will reduce the effort Tag Wranglers must use to find the right place for your tags.
  • Where does original work go? If you're posting a fannish-styled original work set in your own universe with your own characters, please try using the "Original Work" tag. (Furry fans, you can use that or the "Furry - Fandom" tag.) Please take care not to directly link to paypal, patreon, or commercial sites, as AO3 is a non-commercial site. (For further information, please consult the Terms of Service.)
  • Make characters unique: Try to use full names for characters. If a character has just one name, put the name of the fandom in parentheses after it. Example: Undyne (Undertale). This especially helps avoid any potential ambiguity issues and ensures that it will be easier to find your work. You may not think the chances of having a character named Undyne in another fandom is high, but this happens frequently.
  • Separate your / and & ships / is for romantic and/or sexual relationships. & is for platonic relationships only - ones that are neither sexual nor romantic. (Pre- and Post-Relationship are still /.) & was created for those Gen fans who don't want anything non-platonic in the ships they're searching for. You can help both Gen fans and shippers by carefully choosing the tag that matches your work!
  • Add cameos in the Additional Tags: If a fandom, character, or relationship is only a passing reference, you can choose to put the tag in the "Additional Tags" (Freeforms) category instead. This will keep your work from being sorted into the fandom, character, or relationship's filter, while still telling users what's in the work. Example: Hints of Jin Dong/Wang Kai in the "Additional Tags" field keeps Jin Dong/Wang Kai fans from being disappointed that a work only mentions their relationship briefly.

These suggestions are meant to help get your tags wrangled quicker and more accurately so that users have a great experience on AO3. You won’t need to edit any tags on past works or bookmarks unless they aren’t showing up in the filters you prefer.

However, these tagging suggestions don’t mean that you can’t continue to tag creatively for various topics! Tag Wranglers love clever tags, and sometimes we can even canonize the concepts. Magneto’s Terrible Fashion Sense is just one of many enjoyable tags that make us giggle.

If you have any questions or suggestions about wrangling, please consult the Tags FAQ. If that doesn't answer your question, the FAQ explains how to contact Tag Wranglers directly, or you can send short questions to us at our twitter account, ao3_wranglers.

Please don't leave comments on this post with questions or requests about specific tags. They won't be answered, since Tag Wranglers can't easily track requests from here. Please use the options listed above to contact us. Thanks!

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Published:
2015-12-13 00:02:15 -0500
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Hello, AO3 users! The AO3 Tag Wranglers recently updated the Wrangling Guidelines (rules that wranglers follow to format tags consistently). This update will affect how wranglers handle Relationship tags that include piped Character tags.

What is a piped Character tag?

A piped Character tag is a tag that includes multiple names, separated by a “|” (a pipe).

Example: Felena | Felicia

When are piped Character tags used?

Wranglers use piped Character tags for characters with multiple names in canon, such as:

Min Yoongi | Suga (real name and stage name)
Catherine "Kate" Middleton | Duchess of Cambridge (real name and title)
Shroud | Sonozaki Fumine (secret identity)
Danny Noriega | Adore Delano (singer and drag name)
Kon-El | Conner Kent (known by both names)
Snow White | Mary Margaret Blanchard (dual identity)

Relationship tags for these characters are all wrangled the same way. The "&" or "/" goes in the middle of the Relationship tag, separating each individual Character tag. For example:

Danny Noriega | Adore Delano & Snow White | Mary Margaret Blanchard
Catherine "Kate" Middleton | Duchess of Cambridge/Min Yoongi | Suga

This guideline is not changing.

What about translations?

Many Character tags are piped because a character's name was changed in translation. This often happens with anime and video games. Many historical, folklore, and fairy tale characters are also well-known by an anglicized version of their original name. For example:

Satoshi | Ash Ketchum
Kasumi | Misty
Jounouchi Katsuya | Joey Wheeler
Mazaki Anzu | Tea Gardner
Rotkäppchen | Little Red Riding Hood
Schneewittchen | Snow White
Jeanne d'Arc | Joan of Arc
Owain Glyndŵr | Owen Glendower

The old guideline said to split these Character tags and put the “|” in the middle of the Relationship tag, like this:

Kasumi & Satoshi | Ash Ketchum & Misty

This divided “Kasumi | Misty” and “Satoshi | Ash Ketchum” into two mini-relationships:

(“Kasumi & Satoshi”) | (“Ash Ketchum & Misty”)

We are changing this guideline. Tags created according to this guideline were confusing for many Archive users and even wranglers. Some were extremely difficult to wrangle consistently, such as crossover relationships and relationships with piped and non-piped characters.

What is changing? Which tags will be affected?

Character tags will not be changing. Relationship tags that include piped Characters because of translation will now use the same format as all other Relationship tags.

Wranglers will place the “&” or the “/” between each complete Character tag. The new Canonical Relationship tags will look like this:

Kasumi | Misty & Satoshi | Ash Ketchum
Jounouchi Katsuya | Joey Wheeler/Mazaki Anzu | Tea Gardner

How will this affect users?

The tags on your works or bookmarks will stay the same; wranglers can’t (and won’t!) change those. Canonical tags are the tags that appear in the autocomplete, filters, and feeds. Those are the only places tags will change.

If you’ve already used tags affected by this guideline, you do not need to change them! The old tags will be connected to the new tags, so your works will appear in the new filters. Please use whichever tags you prefer.

Although it may take time for everyone to adjust to this change, we expect that having a single standard guideline will be easier for both users and wranglers in the long run. Thanks for your patience while we update the tags!

Where can I learn more?

For more about wrangling, you can read the Wrangling Guidelines. If you have a question about a tag, please use the Technical Support and Feedback link at the bottom of each AO3 page and choose "Tags" as the topic of your feedback.

-- AO3 Tag Wrangling Staff

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Published:
2015-01-12 12:32:24 -0500
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Banner by Erin of a close-up of Rosie the Riveter's arm with an OTW logo on it and the words 'OTW Recruitment'

It's a new year and our committees are hard at work on their plans for 2015. Many of those plans involve needing to bring in new volunteers to assist with our projects. Today, we're excited to announce the opening of applications for:

  • Communications Graphics Volunteers - closing 19 January UTC
  • Development & Membership Staff - closing 19 January UTC
  • Tag Wrangling Volunteers - closing 19 January UTC (or after 50 applications are received)

We have included more information on each role below. Open roles and applications will always be available at the volunteering page. If you don't see a role that fits with your skills and interests now, keep an eye on the listings. We plan to put up new applications every few weeks, and we will also publicize new roles as they become available.

All applications generate a confirmation page and an auto-reply to your e-mail address. We encourage you to read the confirmation page and to whitelist volunteers -(at)- transformativeworks -(dot)- org in your e-mail client. If you do not receive the auto-reply within 24 hours, please check your spam filters and then contact us.

If you have questions regarding volunteering for the OTW, check out our Volunteering FAQ.

Communications Graphics Volunteers

Communications has primary responsibility for internal and external communication for the OTW. We manage the OTW blog and social media outlets and assist other teams in managing project-specific communication. We’re currently looking for someone to create graphics for use throughout our posting sites. If you have experience with graphic design or fanart, click through to learn more about the role and apply to join as a Communications Volunteer.
Applications are due 12AM UTC on 19 January 2015.

Development & Membership Staff

The Development & Membership committee (DevMem) coordinates the OTW's fundraising and membership-building activities. Our work includes planning membership drives, designing a convention outreach process, answering questions from donors, and exploring new fundraising opportunities. If you have skills and interests in fundraising, writing or designing promotional content, or customer service, consider applying to join our staff. Applications are due 12AM UTC on 19 January 2015.

Tag Wrangling Volunteers

The Tag Wranglers are responsible for helping to keep the millions of tags on AO3 in some kind of order! Wranglers follow internal guidelines to choose the tags that appear in the filters and auto-complete, which link related works together. (This makes it easier to browse and search on the archive, whether that’s Steve/Tony with tentacles or g-rated Rose/Kanaya fluff.)

If you’re an experienced AO3 user who likes organizing, working in teams, or excuses to fact-check your favorite fandoms, you might enjoy tag wrangling! To join us, click through to the job description and application form.

Please note: due to (amazing!) interest in wrangling, we’re currently looking for wranglers for specific fandoms only. See the application for which fandoms are in need. Applications are due 12AM UTC on 19 January 2015 (or before 50 applications are received).

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Published:
2013-07-23 13:11:26 -0400
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Updated: Thanks to a quick response from many readers, we are temporarily closing tag wrangling recruitment again. If you've missed your chance, keep an eye on our website, as we'll be reopening intake once we've processed the newest tag wranglers.

We would like to thank everyone who responded to our previous call for Communications Graphics Volunteers, for which chairs are currently reviewing applications.

Today, we're excited to announce the opening of applications for:

  • Tag Wrangling (reopening) - Applications accepted on an ongoing basis (role may be temporarily closed based on level of interest)

We have included more information on each role below. Open roles and applications will always be available at the volunteering page. If you don't see a role that fits with your skills and interests now, keep an eye on the listings. We plan to put up new applications every few weeks, and we will also publicize new roles as they become available.

All applications generate a confirmation page and an auto-reply to your e-mail address. We encourage you to read the confirmation page and to whitelist volunteers at transformativeworks.org in your e-mail client. If you do not receive the auto-reply within 24 hours, please check your spam filters and then contact us.

If you have questions regarding volunteering for the OTW, check out our Volunteering FAQ.
Tag Wrangling

The Tag Wranglers are responsible for keeping the hundreds of thousands of tags on AO3 in some kind of order! We choose which form of a fandom title appears on the Media pages, as well as all the character, relationship, and additional tags which appear in the filters and the auto-complete, and we link tags together to make all the works and bookmarks on the archive easier to browse and search (so that users can find exactly what they're looking for, whether that's Steve/Tony with tentacles or g-rated Rose/Kanaya fluff).

If you like organizing, bringing order to chaos, excuses to fact-check your favorite fandom canons, or you just get a kick out of seeing all the wacky and wonderful terms fans come up with, you might enjoy tag wrangling! To join our team, click through to the job description and application form.

Please note: due to (amazing!) interest in wrangling volunteering, we're currently looking for wranglers for specific fandoms only. We’re currently seeking wranglers for the following fandoms and fandom types. (If you have no knowledge of or interest in wrangling any of the below, please don’t apply at this time, as there won’t be any wrangling work available for you to do. In the future we’ll open recruitment for other fandoms, as needed!)

  • Any fandoms listed on the first 3 pages of the Fandoms in need of a wrangler page
  • Any fandoms with a canon originally in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Russian. (Volunteers interested in these should preferably have some fluency in the language, due to lack of English-language references for many.)
  • Homestuck
  • Star Wars (especially the Extended Canon)
  • Finnish Music RPF
  • DCU (comics and animated canons)

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Mirrored from an original post on the OTW blog. Find related news by viewing our tag cloud.

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Published:
2013-06-17 17:11:57 -0400
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Good news for everyone in non-English-language, non-Latin-alphabet fandoms - our fandom tags will now include titles in the actual language, not just transliterations!

Tag Wrangling policy has always been to make our fandom tags in the form "Original Language Title | Translated English Title". However, due to limitations in the Archive code for writing systems such as Chinese, Cyrillic, Hangul, and Japanese, we've used transliterated titles, rendering those languages into the Latin alphabet. This has caused problems because there are multiple transliteration systems in use. Since users have to guess which one we're using, and because in many cases the transliterated titles are never used by anyone in the fandom, the tags aren't reflective of real fannish practices.

The Archive now has improved features for wrangling fandom tags, however, so we've changed our guidelines for wrangling them. Starting immediately, we'll be wrangling fandom tags in all languages as "Original Language Title | Translated English Title", using the original language's writing system. (For fandoms which do commonly use the transliterated titles, such as many anime and manga fandoms, the canonicals will be in the form "Original Language Title | Transliterated Title [| Translated English Title (if it exists)]"

This is an interim solution; we hope to someday get full support for tags in all languages. This guideline is a test case to see how well such tags work for users. For now we're mostly going to stick to handling new fandoms this way, and only changing existing tags on a limited basis until we have a better idea of their usability, and as we have the resources to do so. (With several thousand non-English fandoms on the Archive, it'll take the wranglers time to review all of them!) We also won't be changing most character and relationship tags until we have better support for making those in non-Latin-alphabet languages.

So what does this mean for you?

1) You'll be able to search for fandom titles in either the original language or the English translated title, and find the tags in the autocomplete under either title.

2) For fandoms which only use the original or translated titles, you'll be able to browse alphabetically in the fandoms-by-media listings by the English translated title. (We don't yet have proper support for listing tags in non-Latin-alphabet order). So the fandom ボクと魔王 | Okage: Shadow King will appear in Video Games under "O", not "B".

We hope this change will make the Archive more inclusive and welcoming to fans of all fandoms, in all languages. Please let us know what you think of this change, and thank you for your patience as we work to improve the Archive's tags!

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Published:
2012-12-15 15:36:14 -0500
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The following is a post created by the Tag Wrangling Committee to address some ongoing questions and discussions involving tag wrangling on the Archive of Our Own.

The question has been raised in various places of how sustainable the Archive of Our Own’s tag wrangling system is, and whether it will continue to be viable as AO3 continues to grow and the number of fandoms and tags increases. The AO3 wrangling committee would like to address some of the concerns we’ve heard, from AO3 users as well as wranglers (including the staff).

In all honesty, it’s a fair question, and one without a clear or simple answer. The AO3 tag wrangling system is a special beastie, and because of its uniqueness, it is difficult to judge questions of long-term sustainability, since there is no real precedent to look to. But we have high hopes for it, which so far have been met or exceeded by our amazing team of wrangling volunteers.

To better understand our position, it may help to understand what makes the wrangling system special, and why it was implemented this way in the first place.

Why do AO3 tags work like they do?

The AO3 tag wrangling system was specifically designed as a compromise between the two standard tagging/organization models for online archives: a regulated taxonomy, versus a 'folksonomy'.

A regulated taxonomy – such as what's currently used on fanfiction.net – allows creators to tag their work with a limited number of pre-determined options (such as genre or characters). This system is very good for keeping things ordered and preventing misspellings and otherwise inconsistent labeling. However, it also requires constant maintenance to add new tags as new fandoms arise, and greatly restricts what users can label or sort by. The latter condition can be especially problematic if data is not kept up-to-date. (For instance, on ff.net many fandoms have no character lists, and other fandoms don't include all characters, especially those recently introduced.)

A "folksonomy" - the tagging system used on most social bookmarking sites and Tumblr - allows users to tag their content with any tag of their choosing, and users can see all works using any given tag. This system has the advantage of flexibility and currentness - its tags are always up-to-date with user preferences - but can make browsing difficult. (For example: on Tumblr, if you want to see most posts about kid!Loki, you also have to look up "kid loki" and "bb!Loki" and will still miss the posts tagged "bbloki.)

When designing the tag system on AO3, both of these systems were considered. But both have significant drawbacks in meeting the demands of both creators and browsers of a growing multi-fandom archive.

Options & drawbacks

User tagging could be limited to only approved tags. This then puts the burden on the users to specifically request new tags to be added; it also requires wranglers to work quickly to make tags available as needed. For active fandoms like Homestuck that see on order of five new relationships a day, these requests could quickly become overwhelming. To keep up with such demand, we would need a ridiculous number of volunteers, and/or a way to prioritize requests, limiting new tag creation to the most popular fandoms/most requested tags. Assuming users could post works without tags, many people wouldn't bother tagging their works at all if the tag they wanted wasn't available and they didn't have time to submit it. Works would also be left without tags if a user did submit the request, but failed to go back to add it to their old works when the tag was finally entered in the system.

To get around this last issue, we could regulate the tags – a user could enter any tag they like, but it must be approved before appearing on AO3. In that case, wranglers become the inadvertent gatekeepers of fandom, deciding what tags are or are not shown to users. Is "Feels" worthy of being displayed? What about "Wingfic"? Maybe we don't want to allow "Incest" or "BDSM" - we're not that kind of archive (obviously we totally are, but you get the idea!) And there would still be a period of time when the tags wouldn't be visible or useful, so an enormous team of volunteers would still be required to overview the tags in a timely fashion.

Another option is to let users enter whatever they like and display all those tags, but moderate them by telling people how we want them to tag, and removing all the tags that don't fit, or requiring users to change them. Again, the burden on the moderators would be considerable, having to monitor the over half-million works on the AO3. It would also be difficult to justify regulating tags when the spelling, grammar, and format of posted works are not likewise moderated (and to do so would require modifying AO3's Terms of Service).

Otherwise we could take the opposite tack and not organize tags at all: allow users to enter any tags they like, display and filter by all these tags, and let people who want to read John Watson/Sherlock Holmes search for "John/Sherlock" and "sh/jw" and "Johnlock" and any other permutations they can think of. But this method becomes frustrating for browsing users who don't know or don't remember all the permutations. It's also a burden on creators who want their work to be found by as many people as possible, but have the same issue of not knowing or remembering the many variant names for the same concept. (It's worth noting that this is not an unviable system - Tumblr, Pinboard, Pixiv, and many other sites use similar systems; and AO3 could switch over to it with relatively little tweaking, if necessary.)

Or we could let users enter whatever tags they like, and display all those tags however the creator or bookmarker wants to display them. Then, behind the scenes, volunteers can organize and link tags together so the most commonly used and useful-for-browsing concepts are more readily available to the largest number of people – both creators and audience – with the smallest amount of required effort. This is how the AO3 tag wrangling system works.

But is this system sustainable?

It's impossible to be sure, but after observing wrangling on the beta archive over the last four years, the tag wrangling committee believes that yes, the AO3 tag wrangling system is sustainable in the long-term. To begin with, our volunteer pool is currently as large as it’s ever been (at close to 160 wranglers), and keeping more than level. When recruiting is open, we average more people volunteering than retiring, and get a surge with most donation drives as well. The AO3's expansion this year does mean there are more tags than ever, but it also means there are more fans willing to offer their time to keep those tags in order. And the fandoms with the most activity are also those with the most fans, so it's more likely for us to be able to find wranglers for them.

Additionally, archive growth doesn't correspond directly to an increase in tag wrangling work. The vast majority of new works posted on AO3 fall into two categories: very small fandoms – under 20 works – that require occasional wrangling rather than ongoing maintenance; or very large fandoms, which often are the best-wrangled, because we have lots of wrangling volunteers familiar with them! Looking at fanfiction.net, half the available fandoms there are under the 20-work threshold; and on the Archive, while there are currently close to 5000 fandoms without an assigned wrangler, fewer than 300 of these have more than 20 works.

Even large fandoms may not produce many new tags. A popular fandom with a small core cast of characters may get 100 new works posted a day, but only one new relationship tag, because all the other works used existing tags. Fandoms from 'closed' canons (canceled shows, etc.) tend not to get many new tags because they aren’t introducing new characters. And many fandoms share tags – see the X-men metatag, which has 13 different sub-fandoms, but a number of the characters and relationships among these overlap and only need to be wrangled once for all the fandoms.

What if wrangling isn't viable in the long-term?

It is undeniable that as AO3 grows, wrangling becomes an increasingly greater task. We don’t believe it’s insurmountable, however. Nor do we believe that there is any real danger of the tag system collapsing entirely.

AO3 tag wrangling is designed to assist and facilitate users in labeling and finding works, but for the most part it is not crucial for these purposes. Many aspects of AO3 tags are still functional without any wrangling at all. An unwrangled AO3 tag acts like a Tumblr or Pinboard tag, showing all works and bookmarks using that tag. AO3 search brings up results both for wrangled tags and the text of unwrangled tags, and unwrangled tags can likewise be used in the new filters.

In other words, if all wranglers quit and all wrangling on AO3 stopped this instant, existing tags would continue to work as they do now, preserving the work wranglers had done up until this point; and all new tags on AO3 would still be as useful as tags on Tumblr or LiveJournal or any other service with flat tags. The filters of older but growing fandoms would be sparse, new fandoms would lack filters and only appear in the "Uncategorized" section, and a user would have to look for "Fullmetal Alchemist", "Full Metal Alchemist", and "Hagaren" separately to find all works; but the basic functionality of calling up all works with a tag would remain.

Obviously an end to all wrangling is the worst-case scenario and not one we expect to pass. The greater concern is that the wrangling committee and volunteers will keep working, but the bulk of the work will become too great for us to keep up with. The current wrangling system is definitely not perfect, and one of the wrangling committee’s primary goals is to look for ways to improve it and make it more sustainable.

So what does the future of AO3 tags look like?

The wrangling committee is working to improve the tag and wrangling experience both on the front-end (for users) and the back-end (for wranglers). On both sides, the two aspects of tags we're most concerned with at the moment are internationality and additional tags.

Currently, AO3 wrangling primarily deals with English-language/Roman alphabet tags. To be a more useful archive for fans around the world, we are developing better methods of sorting and linking tags across languages. We want to display tags of all languages in the appropriate filters and the auto-complete, while preserving the links between tags with the same meanings. We also need to develop better guidelines for non-English-language tags.

Our second focus is on the issue of Additional Tags (or "Freeforms", as wranglers know them). Presently we are seeing several hundred new additional tags on works and bookmarks added to AO3 daily.

It's important to note that these tags do not interfere with the wrangling of non-freeform tags. AO3 is designed to handle tags of different categories such that wranglers can view fandom, character, and relationship tags separately from freeforms; and the former get priority. Wranglers can also sort tags by number of uses, to easily see which freeforms are popular enough to warrant making them canonical. The majority of new freeforms are not made canonical and never will be; they are single-use, notes-style tags that only require being checked off a list by a single wrangler. This process is not as streamlined as it could be, and one of our top priorities for the back-end is features to simplify it.

On the front-end, we're looking into ways for users to limit the display of freeforms, such as by making the view of single-use freeforms optional. At this point we have no plans to limit what tags users are allowed to put on their works, beyond what is mandated by the AO3 Terms of Service; but we want to give users better ways to view the particular tags they're interested in. (If you are looking for ways to limit them now, you may find the skins linked in this post helpful.)

Users & wranglers unite!

As well as improving the efficiency of the wrangling interface to make it easier for wranglers to do our job, we believe that a major way to keep wrangling sustainable is to employ the help of all users to keep tags in line. To that end, we’re seeking to open up aspects of the wrangler interface to regular users. We've already made wrangling connections visible to all users on AO3, and publicly posted our wrangling guidelines to explain what tags we make canonical. We also would like to find better ways for users to contact us – any message sent to Support concerning tags or wrangling is already forwarded to us, and we respond to messages on our Wrangler Twitter as well, but we hope to have more direct lines of communication. This might include allowing users to leave notes on individual tags, or other methods to call attention to specific problems.

Now that bookmarks are filterable, it's possible for users to filter for tags other than those the creators put on their works, allowing users to label and categorize works even if the creators don't opt to. We’re also considering giving all users limited wrangling capabilities, such as sorting tags into fandoms, making synonyms to existing canonical tags, or suggesting new canonical tags following the guidelines for wranglers to approve. Such features would require moderation from wranglers, but would take some of the burden off us (as well as potentially encouraging more users to volunteer for wrangling.)

So when will this happen?

Most of these improvements require new features to be coded. This requires the attention of the AD&T committee’s diligent coding and testing volunteers, and must be prioritized against the hundreds of other features and bug-fixes also in demand. It is also contingent on having available coders and testers - the wrangling code is some of the more complex on AO3, so relatively few coders have the skills and experience to make significant changes to it. So it may be some time before changes appear on the beta archive; but new tag features are under development now.

In the meantime, the wrangling committee relies on all its awesome wrangling volunteers to keep up with the tag load! Thus far they have been more than up to the task, and we are confident that with improvements, the wrangling system will remain functional for both wranglers and users as the AO3 continues to expand in the years to come.

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Published:
2012-12-14 13:57:17 -0500
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The following is a post created by a member of the Tag Wrangling Committee to address some ongoing questions and discussions involving freeform tags on the Archive of Our Own.

So.

Let's talk about those Additional Tags.

More specifically, let's talk about the long-form descriptive tags that are frequently being placed in the Additional Tags field. I want to get some facts on the table so our users - both consumers and creators - can have this important discussion properly. Any numbers cited are as of 0100UTC, 27 Oct 2012.

Full disclosure: Hi, I'm Sam J. I am a Wrangling staffer, a Wrangling volunteer, a Support staffer, and an Archive user. I have four horses in this race and, frankly, they're running in at least two different directions, leaving me with a varying opinion of these tags depending on when you ask me.

  • At last count, there were around 160 Tag Wrangling Volunteers. There are 10,232 Fandoms on the Archive. Of those, roughly 5,300 do not have a wrangler listed, so they are not tightly monitored. Many of these unwatched fandoms are occasionally wrangled by volunteer teams, or are metatags containing fandoms that are tightly wrangled.
  • As per the precedent established in the AO3 Terms of Service, we consider the tags on a work to be part of the content of that work. As such, the Tag Wranglers do not—and cannot—change, add, or remove tags from a creator's work. Any such changes to tags have to be initiated by Abuse, who only act in cases of tags that are against policy and are handled according to their protocols and the Terms of Service.
  • In recent months, the Archive's seen an overall increase in the number of Additional Tags on works. From last October to November, the number of Additional Tags on the Archive increased by 2,535, while the number of total works increased by 7,046. From this September to this October, that number has increased by 12,920 while the number of total works has increased by 22,936. Neither increase is linear - the works-per-month growth has been roughly stable since April, and the Additional Tag growth has been consistent, plus or minus 10%, since July.
  • The rate of growth for canonical Additionals over the last year has remained fairly consistent, gaining a average of 220 a month. (Four months were aberrations: March increased by 388; May, 296; March, 288; and September, 147.)
  • The Additional Tags were not responsible for the Death of the Filters. The sheer number of works on the Archive are what stressed the old code, and the sudden spike in readers/viewers starting in May pushed it past its capacity to fulfill requests. Because the filters pulled and displayed the canonical forms of tags, there were often far fewer Additional Tags listed than in the actual search results.
  • Non-canonical tags with only a few uses put almost no strain on the servers. It's the popular canonical tags and metatags that put the most strain on the servers.
  • Additional Tags are not distributed evenly throughout the fandoms—the massive increases in Additional Tags are concentrated in a limited number of fandoms. Even fandoms of similar sizes can have wildly divergent Tags/Works ratios. Drawing from random fandoms:
    Fandom Tag Works using Fandom Tag All Additional Tags* Additional Tags per 1000 Works Canonical Additional Tags Canonical Additional Tags per 1000 Works
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer 10847 692 63.80 184 16.96
    Cats - Andrew Lloyd Webber 37 4 108.11 0 0
    Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling 19422 2391 123.11 344 17.71
    Hockey RPF 1381 179 129.62 82 59.38
    Homestuck 9990 2475 247.75 97 9.71
    Inception (2010) 3796 300 79.03 19 5.01
    Marvel Avengers Movies Universe 16442 3164 192.42 166 10.10
    Naruto 3167 281 88.73 19 6.00
    Sanctuary (TV) 1359 117 86.16 53 39.03
    Sherlock (TV) 18300 3981 217.54 60 3.28
    Xena: Warrior Princess 293 16 54.61 4 13.65
    *NB: These numbers do not include Additional Tags already wrangled into "No Fandom", as the system does not have a way to generate those numbers. However, the number of "No Fandom" tags tends to be proportional to the fandom-specific Additional Tags.
  • When users create new tags (be they Fandom, Character, Relationship, or Additional/Freeform), they automatically:
    • will not show up on that fandom's Show Tag page;
    • will not show in the Filter sidebar of Works pages (exception: your personal bookmark tags will show in your personal bookmarks filter), though they can be filtered on, to an extent;
    • will not show up in auto-complete fields.
    A wrangler has to manually add Fandom links (or toss the tag into No Fandom) by typing in the Fandom name(s), and/or mark it as Canonical (allows the tag to appear in the auto-complete and be filterable by anyone) via a checkbox. The Wrangling interface does allow for mass-wrangling tags into a fandom and mass-marking them as canonical. The guidelines for Additional Tags are very selective as to what should or should not be marked as canonical.
  • Users can search for works using unwrangled Additional Tags by either clicking on the tag where it appears or by using the Works Search. (The Works Search uses a string search for the text of the tag, in addition to searching via wrangled tags.)
  • Logged-in users have the options of a few skins that affect how Additional Tags display in search lists. This skin shortens the Additional Tags to around 15 characters. This one puts all tag fields over a certain length into a scrollbox so they take up less room on the works pages, and this one hides the appearance of Additional Tags in search lists completely. If you do not yet have an AO3 account, the CSS listed in these skins can also be used in third-party site scripting tools, such as Stylish. Additionally, a logged-in user has the option to go to their Preferences and activate "Hide additional tags". This turns the entire content of the "Additional Tags" field to a "Show Additional Tags" link. Currently, both of these options are primarily available to logged-in users and do not apply to email subscriptions or tag ATOM Feeds.
  • Wranglers and Coders alike have been considering ways to additionally mark these tags in the front-end code, so that via a site skin, a third-party plugin, or another method, a user can have more fine-grained control over tag viewing when browsing. (Any coding solution will, almost by definition, require more data pulled from the servers, so there's a lot of evaluation before we push any buttons.)
  • The wrangling interface does need some improvements. (Depending on who you ask, a lot of improvements.) We are working on them, but our coders' time is a limited resource. As well, we have wranglers on as many browser and OS combinations as our users in general, so it takes significant testing to make sure the interface doesn't degrade for anyone, which is time-consuming.

There will be a second post tomorrow stating the Tag Wrangling Staff's official point of view on the sustainability of the current Wrangling system. If there's something you have a particular question about, leave a comment and we'll try to get an answer for you!

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