AO3 News

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2018-09-18 12:15:20 -0400

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

We've written before in this space about Articles 11 and 13 -- fan-unfriendly legal proposals in the EU. On September 12, the European Parliament voted in favor of those proposals. Is it bad? Yes. Is it the end of the story? No. Is it going to change the AO3? Probably not. What can you do about it? Read on.

Articles 11 and 13 impose new requirements on sites that host user content, like the AO3, Tumblr, YouTube, and the like. In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects these sites from some kinds of copyright liability, so that the sites aren't responsible for infringing content posted by their users unless the sites know it's there and that it's infringing. That's why most sites have "notice and takedown" policies: if they're warned about infringing content, they have to take it down -- and they're allowed to take fair use into consideration when they decide whether or not to take a work down. Articles 11 and 13 put the burden of preventing infringement on sites, rather than users, and make some very incorrect assumptions about the ability of algorithms to identify what uses infringe and what uses are non-infringing fair uses.

Why are these Articles bad for fans? They make sites liable for infringing material that their users post. They also create new copyright-like rights for press publications, and they make sites liable for "snippets" of press publications that their users post. These rules expect that instead of waiting to be warned about infringing material, sites would have to put in filters that prevent the uploading of infringing material. There is no exception for user-generated content, and as we've seen in other settings, the sort of algorithms that upload filters would have to use are notoriously over-inclusive. That means that the filters would often not be able to tell the difference between transformative fanworks (which generally don't infringe, often because of fair use and related principles) and piracy (which does infringe).

The language that was passed on September 12 contains nonprofit exceptions, as well as exceptions for small businesses. Based on these exceptions, the AO3 would not have to engage in filtering -- so nothing is likely to change around here! -- but other sites that fans use, like Tumblr, YouTube, and Wattpad, will be affected. And despite the exceptions, nonprofit sites (like the AO3) and small businesses that use commercial cloud-based services like AWS (Amazon) or Google’s Cloud for storage could still face massive increases in the cost to stay online, get server space, etc. It's impossible to predict the impact on sites like Goodreads and Pinterest. YouTube has posted a statement on the problems posed by the law, and it looks like they're going to keep fighting against the worst possibilities for its implementation.

So this is bad news. But it's also not the end of the story!

The Articles are not law yet. There are still opportunities to fight them. They go up for a final vote in January, and there are opportunities for change between now and then. If the Articles do pass in January, the process of "national implementation" would then begin: each country in the EU would begin to make its own laws based on the Articles. Every country's laws might implement the Articles quite differently -- some good, some bad. There will be battles over specific wording in every country.

So if you’re a citizen or resident of an EU country, reach out to your MEPs. This chart shows how each party voted. The SaveYourInternet site has an interactive tool that shows how MEPs in each country voted, and how to contact yours. This page explains how to see how your particular MEPs voted. If they voted against Article 13, contact them to thank them for doing the right thing! If they voted for it, tell them why they made the wrong choice and should change their mind when the January vote happens. Explain to them how this law will impact you personally; tell your story. Get involved with a national organization that is fighting against this law, and one that’s ready to push back against it in the courts – especially where it can curtail free speech, which is a fundamental right held by all EU residents.

As our friends at FYeahCopyright put it: "Pushing against this Directive doesn’t mean you support piracy or counterfeiting of creative works like films, books or photographs. It means, though, that you want creativity, science, communications and education to thrive online, just as they have for almost thirty years."


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2018-09-10 12:02:41 -0400

Banner by caitie of a newspaper with the name and logos of the OTW and its projects on the pages

I. 2018 Elections Success!

Congratulations to our newest Board members - Lex de Leon and Natalia Gruber were elected to the Board of Directors and will formally begin their term on October 1, 2018.

Key to the success of the 2018 Elections was the hard work of the Elections committee, in collaboration with the Communications, Development & Membership, Translation, Volunteers & Recruiting, and Webs committees. The 2018 Election saw an increase in voter participation with 14.6% of the potential voters casting a ballot, an increase from 12.7% of voters in 2017. Elections would like to thank all four excellent candidates, everyone who participated in the candidate chats and Q&As, and everyone who voted in the election!


After July’s major upgrade to AO3’s search engine, Accessibility, Design and Technology spent August deploying two releases, 0.9.219 and 0.9.220, which contained a variety of fixes and enhancements across the board. Also in August, users alerted the OTW to an issue where AO3 MOBI files were suddenly unable to be sent to Kindle devices and apps. AD&T was able to contact Amazon and eventually get them to resolve the issue. Thanks to users for flagging the issue and helping make sure Amazon was aware!

In August, Policy and Abuse received approximately 1000 tickets this month and Support received approximately 900 tickets, down from last month’s 1600. Both committees have recently added new recruits to assist with ticket volume.


As of the 26th of August the OTW has 679 volunteers. \o/

Recent personnel movements are listed below.

New Directors: Natalia Gruber, Lex deLeon
New Committee Staff: donshin, ewink, ExpatGirl, Judy Wen, Makari Crow, Marmosette, Molly S, Rakel, Rania, Scylle, Sijing Xie, Syb, WomanonFyre (all AO3 Documentation staff) and 2 other AO3 Documentation Staff, MalMuses and 1 other Finance staff
New Translator Volunteers: bixenboye, lunabreaker, Rin and 20 other translators

Departing Committee Staff: Gesundheit (Tag Wrangling), Katie L (Support), 1 Strategic Planning Staff
Departing Fanlore Volunteers: danifellis
Departing Tag Wrangler Volunteers: Gesundheit, GhostJ and 5 other Wranglers
Departing Translation Volunteers: alive, Diya Basu, Francine Dulay, and 3 other translators

For more information about the purview of our committees, please access the committee listing on our website.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.


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2018-09-09 12:04:53 -0400

Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Megan Diane, who volunteers as a staffer in our Volunteers & Recruiting Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I am a volunteer for the OTW Volunteers & Recruiting Committee. The OTW is completely volunteer run, and those volunteers need training, access to tools, and support. I like to think of Volunteers & Recruiting as one of the backbone committees of the OTW; we help provide infrastructure for current volunteers, onboard new volunteers, and thank any volunteers who leave us.

I also volunteer for the AO3 Policy & Abuse team, which helps answer complaints received about content on the Archive. It’s definitely a unique experience being involved in both inward and outer facing committees for the OTW.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Every week is different. When we recruit, I’m busy organizing applications, creating contacts, answering any queries, as well as managing the database and websites we use. Recruitment can be a really hectic time, and there have been times where I get upwards of 40 emails in a few hours! There are also a lot of small tasks that have to be done for any volunteer whether they be incoming, outgoing, or current. If we aren’t recruiting, I’m usually helping with larger projects like our yearly Still Willing To Serve surveys, implementation of new OTW-wide tools, or discussing volunteer or staff needs with other OTW committees.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I fell in love with the Archive first, and after doing a bit more research fell in love with the OTW itself. It’s a great organization for fandom that not only supports the Archive but rescues fic through Open Doors, lobbies governments through Legal, and supports academic work through Transformative Works and Cultures. I wanted to help make the organization as successful as possible, as well as maybe try to make a small mark on Fandom.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Definitely the community here. Not only do we get to be part of larger fandom, but the OTW has its own unique culture; everyone here is so passionate about our larger vision. I’ve picked up several new fandoms since I’ve volunteered, as well as made some really good online friends!

What fannish things do you like to do?

I enjoy reading and writing fanfiction, and have been teaching myself editing via Photoshop. I’ve been involved in a lot of different fandom oriented discords and discussion groups as well. I’ve been able to attend a few local conventions and liveshows from podcasts I follow...eventually I’d like to make it bigger conventions! I’ve recently started enjoying cosplay -- though mainly closet cosplays!

Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.


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2018-09-08 10:42:22 -0400

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

Back in July, fans and allies helped convince the European Parliament to schedule a vote rather than automatically approving some fan-unfriendly proposals. Now it is time to act! The European Parliament will be voting on these proposals in a few days. The short version of "what can I do" is: Contact your MEP now. For the longer version, and a discussion of why these proposals matter to fans, read on!

What Are Articles 11 and 13, and Why are They Bad for Fans?

Fandom loves and thrives on the Internet, and the Internet loves and thrives on fandom! So much of what makes fan communities and fan creativity work so well are the same things that make the Internet what it is: people sharing their transformative creations and linking to things that drive their interests. We post vids, gifs, fics, filks, and so many other wonderful, creative things! We link to news stories about our favorite shows, writers, performers, and trends! We use these things to find ourselves and communicate with people all around the world.

The proposals under consideration--Articles 11 and 13 of the Proposal for a Directive on Copyrights in the Digital Single Market--could make all of these things harder to do. Both proposals would govern how the EU approaches copyright on the internet. Article 11, often called the "link tax" or "ancillary copyright," would effectively make it infringing for websites to use quotes or snippets to link to copyrighted press publications. Article 13, often called the "censorship machine," has to do with when websites are liable for material posted by their users, and whether and when websites have an obligation to filter user-posted content to prevent users from posting infringing material.

These provisions would not make fanworks illegal, but they could make fanworks harder to post and find. The precise language of these proposals is still being debated, so it's hard to predict exactly what sites would be included, and what they would make those sites do. But if they pass, they will definitely require some sites to prevent some kinds of linking and to engage in mandatory content filtering. Some versions of the proposals are worse than others. For example, in some proposals, nonprofit entities like the OTW/AO3 would be exempt from filtering obligations. In others, the rules would take into account the nature of the works hosted, but not take into account a site’s nonprofit status. Regardless, commercial sites like YouTube and Tumblr will likely see new obligations if these Articles pass. To find out even more about these proposals, we recommend reading this Reddit AMA that a few top European intellectual property professors did in June, and the Copyright 4 Creativity Coalition’s CopyBuzz post about the most recent "compromise" proposal.

What does that mean for fans? Non-commercial transformative fanworks would still be legal to create, post and view, but they could easily get caught in mandatory algorithmic filters and never even make it to the Internet. Limitations on how sites can contain links to press publications can make it harder for fans to find fannish information and content. Rules that impose liability on websites for their users' materials could easily shut some platforms down and prevent new ones from arising. So while these provisions are about Internet platforms, they could make it harder to find and post (non-infringing) fanworks online.

What can fans do?

Between now and the September 12 vote, your voice matters!

For Europeans, that means that the best thing you can do right now is to Contact your MEP and let them know that this matters to you! Let them know that you don’t want websites to be liable for material posted by their users. Let them know that you don’t want algorithms and machines to be filtering internet content for infringement--machines that won’t understand fair use, fair dealing, and transformative free expression. Let them know that Articles 11 and 13 would be bad for European creators, who depend on being able to find and post transformative works.

For people outside Europe, there is (alas!) much less to do--petitions and calls (etc.) to MEPs from outside the EU aren't helpful at this stage--but please signal-boost this issue on your social networks so that Europeans know to get involved.

OTW Legal will keep fighting for fan-friendly laws on the internet and around the world. But right now, your voice is the one that matters!


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2018-09-05 13:02:44 -0400

OTW 11th anniversary banner

Today marks 11 years since the OTW was founded, and that means it's time to celebrate!

The Organization for Transformative Works was founded on the belief that fandom matters. Transformative fanworks, the people who create them, and the communities they foster are important, and we've made it our mission to promote and preserve fan cultures and fannish histories in their many forms.

In celebration of this milestone, we're holding a giveaway! In case you missed it, we recently had a guest post with Ngozi Ukazu, creator of the Check, Please! web comic. As well as answering our questions, we were also offered a copy of her new book Check Please! Year 2, and you can win it!

If that sounds awesome to you, then make sure you enter our trivia contest. Find the answers to the five questions below and send them to the Communications committee using our contact form with the subject "OTW Trivia" by 23:59 UTC on September 11, 2018. (What time is that where I live?)

A winner will be randomly selected from entries that get all five questions right. Anyone can enter, no matter where you live, but only one entry per person is allowed. When you enter, please let us know what name or pseudonym you'd like to be identified by, should you win. The book will be sent from the publisher. Please don't post your answers in a comment.

Trivia Contest Questions:

  1. What was the first Fanlore featured article of 2018?
  2. Which tag is used on more AO3 works: Angst with a happy ending, or Action/Adventure?
  3. Issue 27 of the OTW's academic journal Transformative Works and Cultures includes an article by Daisy Pignetti on the loss of an internet boyfriend. Who is the boyfriend in question?
  4. Which holiday did the OTW celebrate with a blog post on July 27, 2018?
  5. What are the names of the two candidates who were elected to the OTW's Board of Directors in August 2018?

But that's not all! Thanks to graphic designer Rachel G., we've got some fun icons for you to help celebrate all year long. Just right click (on desktop) or tap and hold (on mobile) the images to save them, and then you can use them as icons on AO3, social media, or wherever you'd like.

icon with a white background and a red OTW logo and text that reads We go to 11 icon with a white background and a red OTW logo and text that reads I'm an 11

Finally, a HUGE thank you to everyone who has helped us get to where we are now. That includes personnel, members, supporters, users, and everyone else who's been involved in our journey. It's been an incredible 11 years, and we wouldn't be here without you.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.


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OTW Elections

Now that the 2018 election is over, we're happy to share with you our voter turnout statistics!

For the 2018 Election, we had 5649 total eligible voters. Of those, 827 voters cast a ballot, which represents 14.6% of the potential voters. This is an increase from 12.7% of voters in 2017.

For those who might be interested in the number of votes each candidate received, please note that our election process is designed to elect an equal cohort of Board members in order to allow them to work well together, so we do not release that information. As a general rule, we also won’t disclose which of our unsuccessful candidates received the fewest votes, since we don’t want to discourage them from running again in the future when circumstances and member interest might be different.

Once again, a big thank you to everyone who participated at every stage of the election! We hope to see you at the virtual polls again next year.


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2018-08-29 12:19:35 -0400

OTW Recruitment

Are you good at administrative tasks or working with people? Or can you code in Python (or learn to do so)? Or do you have technical writing skills? Or would you like to wrangle AO3 tags? The Organization for Transformative Works is recruiting for new personnel in a number of roles!

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

  • Elections Staff - Chair Track Staffer - closing 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC
  • Elections Staff - Communication Specialist - closing 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC
  • Elections Staff - Team Coordinator - closing 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC
  • Elections Staff - Voting Process Architect - closing 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC
  • Tag Wrangling Volunteers - closing after 80 applications or 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC
  • Volunteers & Recruiting Staff - closing 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC

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 our email address 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.

Elections Staff - Chair Track Staffer

Do you have a background in supervisory or managerial work? Are you interested or experienced in running elections? Then come join the Elections team!

The Elections Committee is responsible for running OTW Board elections; we ensure the fairness, timeliness, and confidentiality of the process. We are currently looking for Chair Track Staffers to train towards the position of Chair. This position does not guarantee placement as a Chair, but it does train the successful applicant in all areas of the Elections process, allowing individuals to move into other open positions that match their skillsets.

Applications are due 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC

Elections Staff - Communication Specialist

Do you have strong non-fiction or technical writing skills? Are you interested in writing and editing public newsposts? Then come join the Elections team!

The Elections Committee is responsible for running OTW Board elections; we ensure the fairness, timeliness, and confidentiality of the process. We are currently looking for Communications Specialists to act as the lead writers and editors of the committee. They are responsible for the quality of public news posts and large announcements, as well as editing internal documentation.

Applications are due 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC

Elections Staff - Team Coordinator

Elections staff assist the Elections Chairs in tasks related to OTW Board elections. Team Coordinators are the organizers and administrators of the committee. They are responsible for maintaining the committee's records and developing new administrative procedures as needed. They also keep track of the committee's internal documentation to ensure it is up to date, in coordination with other committee staff. All elections staff assist in committee-wide activities and basic level tasks in addition to the work in relation to their specializations.

Elections Committee staff are not allowed to run for election for the year they serve in, nor to be a current member of the Board of Directors.

Applications are due 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC

Elections Staff - Voting Process Architect

Are you a coder/software engineer? Do you know Python, or can you learn it quickly? Do you want to help the OTW by making sure its elections are secure and accurate? Then come join the Elections team!

The Elections Committee is responsible for running OTW Board elections; we ensure the fairness, timeliness, and confidentiality of the process. We are currently looking for Voting Process Architects (coders) to monitor the election itself and run the results. Applicants must know or be able to learn Python and basic data security practices.

Applications are due 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC

Tag Wrangling

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!

Please note: You must be 18+ in order to apply for this role. Additionally, we’re currently looking for wranglers for specific fandoms only, which will change each recruitment round. Please see the application for which fandoms are in need.

This role will close after 80 applications or on 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC, whichever comes first.

Volunteers & Recruiting Staff

Do you enjoy administration, writing documentation and training materials, or working with people? Volunteers & Recruiting has openings for new personnel to join our small team!

Volunteers & Recruiting staff guide and manage services, policies, recruitment and volunteer management for the entire organization; compose and maintain organization policy and training documentation; and communicate with other committees and workgroups in the Organization for Transformation Works on matters related to organization tools and staffing needs. Volunteers & Recruiting staff also serve as a neutral party for personnel-related issues.

Applications are due 5 September 2018 at 23:59 UTC

Apply at the volunteering page!


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2018-08-28 14:15:58 -0400

We've improved the handling of mass imports for Open Doors, made life a little easier for the Support and Policy & Abuse teams, added some more performance tweaks for happy servers, and fixed a handful of assorted bugs!


  • Coders: Ariana, cosette, cyrilcee, digitalAlchemist, DreamSea, Elz, Hazel Seanor, MaaikeVR, Meepu, redsummernight, Russell Flaum, Sarken, Tal, ticking instant, tuff
  • Code reviewers: Ariana, james_, redsummernight, Sarken
  • Testers: Ariana, Lady Oscar, redsummernight, Runt, Sammie Louise, Sarken



  • [AO3-4896] - We previously removed the "Delete Work" button from works, as it was just a tad too easy to hit it by accident and then dismiss the pop-up warning, causing a lot of sadness. We have now also removed the "Delete Chapter" buttons for the same reason. You can still delete individual chapters from the Edit Chapter form.
  • [AO3-5140] - There was an error in our search-by-date code that meant it wasn't dismissing blank spaces after an "ago" (which would have been smart!), but was extra lenient about anyone typing in "5 days agosssss", which probably didn't happen a lot. It now does the smart thing.
  • [AO3-5369] - Paging through a work chapter by chapter will now take you past the big box of work information at the top, right to the chapter heading and summary. \o/
  • [AO3-5447] - Going to the works page for a username that does not exist would inexplicably show the general "Recent Works" listing instead; going to a non-existent pseud's works page would throw an Error 500. Both cases now produce neat 404 pages, as they should.
  • [AO3-5503] - Since we may be sending out many subscription notices for the same work at the same time, and those emails contain the same pseud/user/tag/series data, we've added caching blocks to our email-building code so it doesn't have to repeat all the database queries for each email.
  • [AO3-5445] - The "Refuse Gift" link would give an Error 500 if you weren't logged in as the recipient of the gift (an unlikely scenario to begin with). The refusal attempt now leads to the proper error message, asking you to log in.
  • [AO3-5019] - In downloads, the title of a parent work overlapped the words "This work was inspired by" in the inspired work. Oops. It looks much tidier now.
  • [AO3-5420] - In a certain browser that shall not be named, if the stats section of a work blurb spanned multiple lines and had links (for comments, collections, kudos, and bookmarks), the underline styling of said links would touch the line below it, like awkward little hats. We've added a bit more space between the lines to avoid this.
  • [AO3-5453] - Work deletion sometimes failed because of an email encoding error. That should now be fixed.
  • [AO3-4625] - We produced a new version of the mass import API used for official Open Doors imports in order to provide importers with better error messages.

Support and Policy & Abuse

  • [AO3-5323] - Sometimes we experience a problem so widespread or noticeable (e.g. glacial site slowness) that our Support team receives literally hundreds of messages in the span of minutes, creating quite a bit of work for them. However, we're usually already aware of the problem and composing a quick tweet over at @AO3_Status at that point. To give Support some reprieve during those times, we've made it possible to temporarily disable the Support form until the issue has been taken care of.
  • [AO3-5190] - Submitting an Abuse report or Support request and running into an error (e.g. due to missing information) would reset the selected language to English. Language selection is now preserved like all other form input.
  • [AO3-5495] - Sometimes, a database admin has to look up comments by IP address for the Policy & Abuse committee. Comments are now indexed on IP address, making this task a bit faster.


  • [AO3-4559] - The language lists to select news posts, works, or other items in a particular language had some wonky alphabetization issues. "Suomi" (fi) was sorted between "español" (es) and "Français" (fr), potentially leading to confusion. It should now be more intuitive to browse the list (with "Suomi" cozied up with the other S-languages).
  • [AO3-5185] - Blank tokens were being erroneously stored in our autocomplete system, which sometimes led to incorrect suggestions. That should no longer happen going forward.
  • [AO3-5510] - We've added a configuration option to how we update the tagging counts in the wrangling interface, to see how we can make the database servers happier about these updates.
  • [AO3-5335] - Our static error pages (such as our charming Error 502 notice) had some incorrect menu items in the navigation bar. They're all tidied up now!
  • [AO3-5448] - Trying to access a non-existent (e.g. misspelled) FAQ item would throw an Error 500 and now produces a neat 404 page.
  • [AO3-5509] - Sometimes our automated tests failed because Elasticsearch didn't start up quickly enough. We made it so the tests wouldn't run until Elasticsearch was fully started.
  • [AO3-5496] - We've updated our transaction gems. It seemed neater that way.


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