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10 Years of AO3

Rebecca Sentance is the chair for Fanlore, a staffer for Docs, and a layout editor for Transformative Works and Cultures. We’re hearing from her as the second part in our five-part series celebrating ten years since the launch of AO3. Whilst she hasn’t been at the OTW quite as long as our previous poster, Francesca Coppa, Rebecca has made a big name for herself as an OTW volunteer involved in many of our different committees. Here is what she has to say about her experiences working for us:

I first became involved with the OTW as a volunteer in 2015, but I’d wanted to volunteer for years before that. A combination of being a full-time student and always just missing the window for recruitment kept me from doing it until the summer after I’d finished my Masters degree. I’d finally decided to get serious about volunteering, and had set up an alert on the OTW Volunteering page to monitor it for any changes. The first committee that opened recruitment after I did that was the AO3 Documentation Committee (Docs for short). I applied, and the rest is history!

Being one of the people responsible for drafting and editing AO3’s help documentation (FAQs and tutorials) has given me an exciting front-row seat to some of our big coding changes over the years. My proudest moment so far as an OTW volunteer – apart from when AO3 won a Hugo Award! – is having been involved in testing the massive upgrade to AO3’s searching and filtering that was released last year, and getting my name in the release notes. I am also fond of the Unofficial Browser Tools FAQ, which I had to beta for my first task as a Docs committee member. It gave me the opportunity to download and play with a lot of fun userscripts and tools.

When I created my AO3 account in 2011, I was mainly attracted by the tags, and the way that users could create new fandoms and relationships just by tagging them. I was proud to publish one of the first fics in the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides fandom! Nowadays, I write a lot of fic for a small podcast fandom, and there’s still no greater joy than creating a tag that’s never been used before.


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10 Years of AO3

We're beginning our 10th anniversary celebration series about the AO3 by hearing from Francesca Coppa. Francesca is a founding member of the OTW and its longest-running board member (serving for five years). She is still with the OTW today.

Francesca was very enthusiastic about contributing to this series! Here’s what she had to say:

I have been in school nearly all my life and the OTW has been, hands down, the best school I ever went to: like they say, “everything I really needed to know I learned in the OTW!” I have such fond memories of those early days in the summer of 2007, after the call for an Archive of Our Own. The meetings lasted for hours! Naomi Novik and Michele Tepper were evaluating technological tools and drawing up user experience blueprints, and Rebecca Tushnet and Susan Gibel were working on our nonprofit paperwork and creating the legal and institutional structures governing our existence. (I think Susan is the unsung hero of the early OTW.)

Meanwhile, I was organizing our volunteers into committees. We'd asked those who were “Willing to Serve” to tell us about their skills and interests, and it was the most impressive and moving thing: we had lawyers, coders, public relations professionals, database analysts, professional fundraisers, sysadmins, journalists, management consultants, accountants, and technical writers; just so much expertise and so many kinds of expertise, and all of it offered to us out of love.

That is the thing that stays with me, and the thing I think most about now: that the OTW and the AO3 are about the collective, the network of fandom with its strong ties (“I would die for you”) and its looser ties (“Hey, we were in a fandom together once”), and then just the ties of shared identity (“you have once loved a thing as I have loved a thing!”) that make us recognize each other when we see a t-shirt, a sticker or an open tab. All of us are pulling together toward a common goal. We are what the web was meant to be: a network of people coming together to build something and keep it going.


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10 Years of AO3

When the Organization for Transformative Works was founded in 2007, the AO3 was just an idea. In July this year, we reached 5 million fanworks and 2 million registered users and on 14th November this year, we will be celebrating the AO3’s tenth anniversary. We have chosen to mark the occasion with a series of posts from long-time members and founding volunteers, sharing a glimpse into what the archive looks like from the inside.

So prepare yourselves for a series of posts over the next two weeks. We have five big contributors from the OTW’s long list of volunteers, and they won’t be holding back! We asked each of them to share some stories about what things were like in the early days of the AO3, their experiences as a volunteer with the OTW, and where they think the organization may be headed in the future.

In the upcoming days, you’ll hear from Francesca Coppa and Michele Tepper about the collaboration and the range of skills that were necessary to launch AO3 and the OTW’s other projects. You’ll also hear from one of our long-time staffers Rebecca Sentance about how she came to volunteer for the AO3, from james_ about what it was like to accept a Hugo award onstage, and from Matty about wrangling the AO3’s very first tags.

We hope that these posts will give you some insight into the history and day-to-day operation of the AO3, and that you are as excited as we are by what the site has become. We are proud of everything the AO3 represents as an open and inclusive place for fans to host their work, and we can’t wait to see how it develops and grows over the next ten years and beyond.


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2019-11-10 11:21:31 -0500

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 Olivia Riley, who volunteers as a graphics creator.

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

That old idiom that “a picture is worth a thousand words” tends to hold particularly true on the internet, where users face an info-overload on a daily basis. The OTW needs visuals in order to break through the babble: bright, easily digestible messages to catch audience’s eyes and draw them into the larger conversation. That’s where we graphics volunteers come in!

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

Part of the fun of being a graphics volunteer is that it’s always changing! The most frequent graphic we make is headers for the “This Week in Fandom” post, but aside from that, it depends on what events are going on in the OTW that need visual accompaniment. So, I’ll get a message from the folks in Communications, who wrangle requests for graphics from the other arms of the OTW, and they’ll give me the basics on what they need. I’ll draft an image up and share it, and then it’ll go off to be approved by the relevant committee. If it needs some tweaking, I’ll edit it, and then the new version will go off into the cyber-world!

What made you decide to volunteer?

I’d been studying AO3 & the OTW as the centerpiece of an undergraduate research project for a while, so when I saw a call go out for volunteers, I really wanted to do something to give back to this awesome organization that had so benefited both my personal and academic lives. I’d recently taken a class introducing me to graphic design and realized that the graphics volunteer gig was a perfect opportunity to use those skills!

Do you have any favorite graphics you've created?

The “This Week in Fandom” graphics are always fun! They give me a reason to experiment with new graphic design tips and tricks. This one is a particular favorite…

What fannish things do you like to do?

It pretty much runs the gamut! I love to vid (Gotham and Hannibal, lately), I write a good bit of fic, and I’ve tinkered around with making gifsets and drawing fanart. I’ve recently started listening to a lot of podfic and would like to try making some of my own!

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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2019-11-07 03:36:14 -0500

We're excited to announce we've recently added support for the <audio> and <video> HTML elements! With this change, you'll be able to use these tags to embed your self-hosted audio or video fanworks on AO3.

Unlike the Flash-based audio player we already offer, these new elements will work in all modern browsers, and they will continue to work even after Adobe ends support for Flash in 2020. (While we have no plans to remove Dewplayer at this time, we strongly recommend updating to the <audio> tag.)


There's still a lot of design, policy, and coding work to do before we can host audio and video files, so for now you'll need to upload your files to your own web space. Once you've done that, you can embed the file in your work with a small bit of HTML:

  • <audio src="AUDIO URL"></audio>
  • <video src="VIDEO URL"></video>

That's all it takes! Exactly how the resulting media player looks depends on the browser being used to access the work. We do, however, make sure that playback controls are available and adjust the width of videos using CSS to ensure big videos will fit on everyone's screens. We also make sure autoplay can't be enabled, and we add the preload attribute to gently suggest browsers save bandwidth by not loading the full file until you press play.

Complex examples

If you'd like to do something more complex, we support that as well. For example, you can include a poster for your video using the poster attribute (poster doesn't work for audio, but you can still include an image above your audio player):

<video src="VIDEO URL" poster="IMAGE URL"></video>

Because some older browsers don't support these elements, you can also include fallback text on either element to provide a download link:

<audio src="AUDIO URL">
  <p>Your browser doesn't support streaming with the HTML5 audio tag, but you can still <a href="URL">download this podfic</a>.</p>

Because different browsers support different file formats, you might want to use the <source> element to include multiple formats.

  <source src="WEBM VIDEO URL" type="video/webm">
  <source src="MP4 VIDEO URL" type="video/mp4">

If you'd like to include captions or subtitles to improve the accessibility of your media file, you can do that with the <track> element:

  <source src="VIDEO URL" type="video/mp4">
  <track src="SPANISH SUBTITLE URL" kind="subtitles" srclang="es" label="Spanish" default>
  <track src="ENGLISH SUBTITLE URL" kind="subtitles" srclang="en" label="English">

List of allowed tags and attributes

Here is a full list of the tags we've added support for and which attributes you can use on them.

<video> element

  • class attribute
  • dir attribute
  • height attribute
  • loop attribute
  • muted attribute
  • poster attribute
  • src attribute
  • title attribute
  • width attribute

<audio> element

  • class attribute
  • dir attribute
  • loop attribute
  • muted attribute
  • src attribute
  • title attribute

<track> element

  • default attribute
  • kind attribute
  • label attribute
  • src attribute
  • srclang attribute

<source> element

  • src attribute
  • type attribute

You can get more information on using these elements and their attributes in these articles from MDN:

Edit November 8 at 07:53 UTC: If your audio or video file isn't loading on the Archive, you probably need to enable Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) on your website. Your web host's documentation or support department should be able to help.


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2019-11-02 14:10:11 -0400

Spotlight on Open Doors banner

Recently we posted that that Yahoo Groups will be permanently closing, and deleting all previously posted material on December 14, 2019. This post is an update to our previous post, to signal boost current preservation efforts.

Before we launch into details, we have two requests.

Many Yahoo Group members and moderators have no clue that Yahoo Groups will be deleting their files, photo and message archives on December 14, 2019. We need everyone who is a member of a Yahoo Group to copy and paste the message below into their Yahoo Groups and to also ask that every other Yahoo Group member who is reading your message to copy and paste the same message to their Yahoo Groups. If we want to save our fandom history, we need to do what we have always done and use our networks of fan friends to help one another.

Yahoo Groups will be deleting our files, photos and message archives on December 14, 2019. Many moderators and Groups remain unaware. Please forward this message and this link: to all of your Yahoo Groups and ask your fellow Group members to do the same. And then request a copy of your Yahoo Groups data from Verizon at:

The second request is to ask each of you to request a copy of your Yahoo Groups directly from Verizon before Dec 1, 2019. The request is a simple, one click from within your Yahoo account. When the data arrives, hold on to it and check back here for next steps.

And that’s it: Alert your Yahoo Groups, ask your fellow Yahoo Group members to alert their Yahoo Groups and tell everyone about Verizon’s “GetYourData” one click backup option.

Now our update on the various preservation efforts.

Open Doors

Open Doors is working with the OTW's Board and Legal Committee to determine what we can store and/or import to the AO3. Meanwhile, we are accepting preservation requests from moderators and members of Yahoo Groups, and we are assisting them to backup their groups. Contact us if this is you!

Yahoo Groups Fandom Rescue Project

A fan group working to get information out and preserve what they can from fandom Yahoo groups. See this document for current ways you can help - including backing up groups, requesting data from Yahoo/Verizon, nominating groups for rescue and more.

Archive Team

The Archive Team is working on taking backups of public groups, with the intent to submit the data to the Internet Archive. You can submit a request for them to backup a group using their nomination form. The nomination form also has an email where moderators can give permission for their Groups to be archived. They’ve also developed a Chrome extension to simplify and coordinate signing up to at-risk groups and have moved many fandom groups to the top of their queue (note: the extension also helps them download non-fandom groups).

Helping these teams

If you’re a moderator who’d like to potentially import your group to the AO3, contact Open Doors and we’ll talk to you about options. For more updates on what’s happening, see announcements or check back on this page.

If you’d like to directly help rescue teams and you want to save only fandom groups, you can use this form to nominate fandom groups OR you can go directly to the public spreadsheet to find nominated groups that still need downloading. (General downloading instructions are here.) If you want to help save fandom groups and many other non-fandom groups, see Archive Team's chrome extension. Both are worthy efforts and both face a hard deadline of Dec 14.


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2019-10-21 14:14:04 -0400

In our latest series of deploys, we made several improvements to searching and filtering, cleaned up a whole bunch of broken links, and made some finicky, but necessary changes under the hood to upgrade Ruby to the latest version.

An extra special thank you to our first-time contributor dlhardin!


  • Coders: Ariana, dlhardin, Elz, Enigel, james_, lethnie, Matt Sears (Littlelines), MaxwellsDaemon, redsummernight, Sarken, Tal Hayon, ticking instant
  • Code reviewers: Ariana, Elz, Enigel, james_, redsummernight, Sarken, ticking instant
  • Testers: Alison Watson, Ariana, Briar, briar_pipe, Claire P. Baker, cosette, GoldenFalls, Izzy, james_, Katherine, Matty, Memé, mumble, Naomi, Rebecca Sentance, redsummernight, Relle, Sammie Louise, Sarken, Taylor Clossin


Searching & Filtering

  • [AO3-5492] - Searches using tags with numbers in them (e.g. "Episode S01E03") would completely ignore the numbers (and return all works with Episode tags, for example). It now respects your choices.
  • [AO3-5707] - When we renamed the class for Archive warnings (more details about that in the Infrastructure section), we realised this could break searches made with the old code (such as bookmarked searches, or searches in your browser history) by allowing them to include unwanted results. We ensured that those searches will keep working as intended.
  • [AO3-5649] - Sorting works by creator names would sometimes lead to confusing results for co-created works, since a work "by Alec, Ellie" could show up under E. It now follows the actual alphabet and sorts by the first creator listed.
  • [AO3-5652] - You can now search for works by the title of the series a work is part of. \o/
  • [AO3-5703] - Works and bookmarks are now searchable by their language codes, i.e. two- or three-letter abbreviations that are easier to look up than the IDs our database assigns to each language. You can read more about this in our hidden search operators cheatsheet.

Broken linkage

  • [AO3-5583] - When accessing the comment section on a work or news post via a direct link, the pagination links would jump you to the top of the page, away from the comments. We've now made sure the anchor stays firmly in place.
  • [AO3-5179] - We used to have an older page with information about orphaning, to be read before orphaning a work. We now point to the Orphaning FAQ instead, which is more neatly maintained.
  • [AO3-5688] - However, when deleting an account, the "What do you want to do with your works?" page did not link to any information on orphaning, leaving users to wonder what that option would do. Now it links to the Orphaning FAQ as well.
  • [AO3-5076] - The Terms of Service FAQ was using old URLs to link to specific Archive FAQ items, leading to errors. Those links have now been fixed.
  • [AO3-5077] - Also in the Terms of Service FAQ, some links to subsections of the Terms of Service were broken. We fixed those, too.

Misc. Fixes

  • [AO3-5673] - The fandom, user, and work counts on the Archive homepage used to be hard to parse, so we added commas as thousands separators. Much neater now!
  • [AO3-5730] - On the posting form, the labels for chapter number and title weren't properly associated with the respective form fields. Now clicking on those labels will select the field so you can enter the information.
  • [AO3-5733] - The assignments page used to show an extraneous email link when a user had multiple assignments in the same exchange. We have fixed that.
  • [AO3-5024] - Trying to log in as an admin with incorrect information would just quietly fail, leaving the admin puzzled why nothing was happening. It now displays a helpful error message.


  • [AO3-5613] - Previously, our code used a class named Warning for Archive warning tags. Newer versions of Ruby, however, wanted that class name for themselves, so we had to rename ours to ArchiveWarning before we could upgrade the version of Ruby we're using. (We used warning tags in more places than we ever imagined...)
  • [AO3-5756] - We updated the Devise gem to version 4.7.1.
  • [AO3-5655] - One of our test files ended up in the wrong folder where it was never run. We moved it to the right place.
  • [AO3-5750] - We updated a library used by the testing suite -- the gem formerly known as factory_girl is now factory_bot.
  • [AO3-5391] - We removed unused code related to tags.
  • [AO3-5784] - We've upgraded the version of Ruby that the Archive runs on to 2.6.5 (the latest stable version at the time of coding).


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2019-10-20 12:38:48 -0400

Spotlight on Open Doors banner

Yahoo! has announced that Yahoo Groups will be permanently closing, and deleting all previously posted material on December 14, 2019. Some of you may be wondering what you can do to preserve fannish content posted to Yahoo Groups before it is deleted, and what the Organization for Transformative Works can do to help.

What can Open Doors do?

The Open Doors project is dedicated to offering shelter to at-risk fannish content. At this time the Organization for Transformative Works has no way of serving as a replacement to active Yahoo Groups that would like to continue to function as groups or mailing lists. However, we are prepared to work with moderators to preserve fanworks from their groups on the Archive of Our Own and provide tools so Yahoo Groups mods and users can archive messages and other content.

We have two processes in place -- one to move fanworks from Yahoo Groups onto the Archive Of Our Own, and one to download and preserve messages and other content from Yahoo Groups in file systems so moderators and Yahoo Groups users have more than nine weeks to figure out how to preserve and possibly share that content.

Open Doors can only import fanworks archived in Yahoo Groups onto the Archive of Our Own with the consent of the moderator(s). If you are a moderator and would like to import fanworks from your Yahoo Group(s) to AO3, you are welcome to contact Open Doors via our contact form.

While fanworks posted to public Yahoo Groups can be imported using our usual process, we have internal restrictions on what fanworks we can import from private Yahoo Groups, to protect the privacy of fan creators and respect their copyright of their fanworks. Since Yahoo’s announcement is sudden news for everyone, including us, we are still working out the fine points of what we can and cannot import from restricted groups based on the Archive of Our Own Terms of Service. However, moderators are still welcome to contact Open Doors and discuss preservation options for their groups. If we cannot import a group's fanworks to AO3, we can direct moderators to other fandom preservation efforts that are taking place.

Because the content in many Yahoo Groups has historical, cultural and sociological value to each Group’s members, and also to fandom-focused scholars, Open Doors is also open to providing storage of Yahoo Groups backups that are assembled by moderators and non-moderators alike. Please note that at this time we cannot promise how or if the backups we store will be able to be migrated or accessed in the future by anyone other than the uploader(s), the moderator(s), the Open Doors team and affiliated volunteers.

What can you do - if you are a moderator of a Yahoo Group?

If you are a moderator, you can contact Open Doors via our contact form. You can also email your group notifying them of the closure and encouraging members to save their fanworks.

Right now, we believe the most important thing for any administrators to do, if they are interested in preserving fanworks from their Yahoo Group, is to download and back up those fanworks, as it is likely that the ability to do so will diminish or disappear as Yahoo Groups shuts down. Open Doors can then work with moderators to figure out whether we can import fanworks from their group. Information on how to download files and messages from groups can be found here.

What can you do - if you are a member of a Yahoo Group?

Anyone who posted their own fanworks to a Yahoo Group is welcome to post those fanworks to AO3 themselves. You can download your own fanworks and upload them to AO3 at any time. If you need an AO3 account, you can request an invitation at this link.

If you’re not a moderator, but are willing to download the files and messages from a group, please do so to help preserve them! You can find information about how to do this here. You can send these to Open Doors for storage, and we will store them for you. Please note that at this time we cannot promise how or if the backups we store will be able to be migrated or accessed in the future by anyone other than the uploader(s), the moderator(s), the Open Doors team, and affiliated volunteers.

Additionally, If you are not a moderator but would like to see a Yahoo Group preserved, you can contact us via our our contact form with a link to the Yahoo Group and, if you have it, contact information for the moderator. You can also contact the moderator to request that they get in touch with us.

If you would like to help preserve the history of a Yahoo Group, please consider documenting it on Fanlore. If you're new to wiki editing, no worries! Check out the new visitor portal, or ask the Fanlore Gardeners for tips. Fanlore has also recently made a helpful Tumblr post with tips for preserving the history of Yahoo Groups.

Thank you for your interest in helping Open Doors to preserve fannish content from Yahoo Groups!


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