Hello, this is Sole G., the Category Change workgroup lead, and I’d like to introduce the workgroup, talk a little about our goals, and ask for some initial feedback from all of you as fellow fans and users of AO3.
The Category Change workgroup was created to address a long-standing debate, both internally and externally – that is, whether or not the current Fandom Categories in the Archive are the best possible browsing solution. Our goal is to take a look at the current categories and how they work and see what other options we can come up with that might be more effective at representing different fannish traditions, aiding fandom browsing, and reflecting the diversity of the Archive.
While we are taking previously held discussions into account, we are analyzing the issue from scratch and trying to find new perspectives. We are looking at the Fandom Categories framework and analyzing it from every possible perspective – even considering whether or not they are necessary at all or how the browsing experience can be changed to better reflect the needs of our users.
The most heatedly contested categories are ‘Anime & Manga’ and ‘Cartoons & Comics & Graphic Novels’. To begin with, this division strikes some fans as artificial, since they are all either forms of animation or different traditions of comics under geographically- or culturally-determined names. Naming those two categories explicitly also implicitly leaves out other traditions, such as manhwa, manhua, bande dessinée and historieta. In addition, the inclusion of all different East Asian comic traditions under ‘Anime & Manga’ is inaccurate, as well as culturally insensitive.
Concerns about ‘Music & Bands’ and ‘Celebrities and Real People’ have also been raised, again citing the artificial division and the confusing categorization of albums and bands side-by-side. Other issues that have been brought up are, for example, multimedia fandoms, audio-based sources, folklore and mythology fic, etc.
We’re looking for a solution that balances complex, sometimes competing, factors such as diverse fannish traditions, user behavior (current and potential), and ease of browsing.
Since this is a task that involves the purview of several different committees, a workgroup consisting of members of all involved committees has been formed. These committees are:
- Accessibility, Design & Technology (AD&T), due to the certain possibility of changes in the AO3 code being required, and the potential impact on design, user experience and archive browsing.
- Internationalization & Outreach (I&O), since one of the issues with the current Media Categories is related to the different boundaries between media categories international fandoms have.
- Tag Wrangling (TW), because tag wranglers are in charge of categorizing fandoms, and any changes will have direct impact on tag wranglers’ procedure and workload.
- Support, since any change in the categories will involve responding to users’ concerns.
This workgroup was developed by I&O and then backed by all of the involved committees. Each committee then chose their own representatives from among their interested staff members. While several of the Category Change staffers are also tag wranglers, a tag wrangler volunteer was recruited as well in order to directly represent the interests of that volunteer pool.
One of our top priorities is to maintain a healthy, fluid communication with the Archive of Our Own userbase, so we want to start gathering feedback as soon as possible. If you have any opinions, feedback, suggestions, knowledge or ideas, you can either leave a comment on this post or you can contact us through the Category Change contact form. We don’t see the emails used when you post guest comments, and you can request that any feedback that you send through the contact form be archived anonymously in OTW workspaces so that your name and contact information are only visible to members of the workgroup and not to all staff and volunteers.
We are particularly interested in answers to these questions:
1. Do you currently use the Media Categories in order to browse the Archive? If yes, then how do you do it? For example, are you generally looking for a specific fandom or do you browse the different pages to see what fandoms are listed on the site or to find new ones? What are your usual routines? If you want to find a specific fandom on the archive for the first time, how do you do that? How do you find fandoms by more casual browsing? Don’t be afraid to be as specific and detailed as you want; details and step-by-step descriptions are really useful to us.
2. What issues have you run into with the current media categories? Are there fandoms that aren’t listed where you might have expected them to be? Are there other problems you’ve noticed with fandoms being either grouped with or separated from one another in a way that’s not ideal?
3. How would you like to see the categories and the media/fandom pages be improved? What’s your vision of a better way to find, browse, and organize fandoms? We’re open to all kinds of ideas, not just different names for the existing categories.
Please feel free to comment and brainstorm, and also to discuss and engage with each other. We’re very interested in hearing what you think, and thanks in advance for your feedback!