A New Look at AO3 Tags

One feature that’s been asked for repeatedly since the AO3 launched is a way to see how tags are structured on the Archive. This is now possible! Although this new option doesn’t show everything that goes on behind the scenes when tag wrangling, it does provide more information to users as to what tags are in use and how the tags are interlinked behind the scenes.

We should note right up front: this is a very alpha interface. In fact, all that’s been done is that we’ve changed the accessibility of the pages, and truncated the display of longer tag lists to save the servers. We do have plans for improving them, but we thought it best to get the pages out there and see what information you want!

We should also note that, in preparation for this release and the guidelines release, we’ve discovered a number of wrangling terms that are used inconsistently or confusingly. The Tag Wrangling volunteers are currently discussing new terminology, which we hope will be clearer.

How to Access the Tag Display Page

There are two ways to access these pages: through navigation, and through direct links.

If you’re browsing the site, you probably already know you can click on a tag to see the works that use that tag or its synonyms. You’ll see early in the page “1-X of Y Works found in Tag Name”. Select the Tag Name to access the Tag Display page for that tag.

If you know the name of the tag, you can also enter http://archiveofourown.org/tags/TAGNAME directly into the address bar. (Note: for relationships, replace any / in the address with *s* for the link to work, and for friendship tags replace any & in the address with *a*.) Tag Search also links to the Tag Display pages.

The tags page

Near the beginning of the page (in the top right when using the default visual skin), will be two buttons that let you see all of the works marked with the tag you’re viewing. Both creators and users of the works may have chosen that tag — the creators when the works were uploaded, and the users when they decided to bookmark those works.

The tags page is divided into several sections. In most sections, if multiple tags are listed, they’re automatically sorted into alphabetical order. Please note that these sections at present will only display the first 300 tags, in order to prevent unwieldy server loads. In the meantime you can use the Tag Search to find a particular tag. We plan to improve this display in later versions of this feature, so eventually you will be able to see all the tags under any tag.

A Sample Entry

A good example to see the Tag Display page in action is the Being Human (UK) fandom tag. Accessing the page, you’ll find that:

  • the tag is a Fandom tag, and it has been marked Common, so it will pop up in the auto-complete;
  • the tag is for a TV Show;
  • the tag has a synonym;
  • the tag has a metatag, indicating that it’s a distinct part of a larger group (in this case, there are other versions of the series);
  • the tag contains a number of Character, Relationship, and Freeform tags.

What does any of that mean?

All the tags on the Archive can be in one of three states — common (canonical), merged (synonym), or unfilterable. Common tags (also known as “canonical” tags) can be filtered on and appear in the auto-complete. Merged tags (also known as “synonyms”) are connected to a single common tag and works/bookmarks tagged with it will appear in the common tag’s filter. Unfilterable tags cannot be used in filters but can still be searched and will still bring up lists of works. Here is an example:

If you click on the merged tag Aido Hanabusa, you can see that this Character tag has been merged into a different tag due to spelling differences. If you then click on the Aidou Hanabusa tag, you will see that it is the common tag. It has various mergers and it is also connected to both broader and narrower tags.

Any tag can be merged if it has a common meaning with another tag or tags. This is true whether it is a Fandom, Character, Relationship or Additional tag. However, not all tags get merged. Some remain unfilterable both because they have no shared meaning with other tags, and yet they are so rarely used that they are not likely to be searched on by other users. Some may be only temporarily unfilterable, until a tag wrangler has had time to review them and mark them as common or merge them with another tag.

Here is an explanation of the other sorts of tags you’ll see on the tag pages.

Parent tags

Each user-created tag has one or more Parent tags. These are broad terms which may contain many subgroups of tags that fit a certain theme.

  • For example, Fandoms will have their Media type(s) listed as their Parent. All television show fandoms will have “TV Shows” as a parent tag.
  • Characters, Relationships, and Additional (or Freeform) Tags will have one or more Fandoms listed as their Parent.

Tags with the Same Meaning

These tags are “synonyms” of another tag, which have all been merged into the common tag. There are various reasons why tags are merged, such as spelling variations, fanon names when canon only gives part of the name, or just that there are many different ways to describe the same thing. When tags are merged they all get pooled together for better filter results.

Metatags and Subtags

Metatags are common tags that can include one or more subtags that are subsets of the metatag. Metatags are created for a number of reasons — the most common reasons are:

  • Fandoms that include different media productions or different media formats under the same name or within the same universe
  • Ambiguous versions of more specific tags (such as all characters named “Mary”)

So if you click on Star Trek: The Next Generation you will see it is a subtag of the larger Star Trek universe metatag.

You can also see its subtags, in this case the movies associated with the series, and you can see that those subtags can have subtags of their own.

Child tags

Like Parent tags, above, each tag can have Child tags. Different types of tags can have different Child tags:

Media tags
These tags, like “Books & Literature” or “Movies” can have Fandom tags.
Fandom tags
These tags can have as Child tags: Character tags from that fandom, Relationship tags that involve one or more characters from that fandom, and Additional tags (called “Freeforms”, here) that are specific to that fandom.
Character tags
These can have Relationship tags that involve specific characters, if set by the wranglers.

Other tags

Besides all of these user-created tags, some tags on the Archive are standardized and cannot be wrangled, though they are still tags and their tag pages are visible. Users are probably familiar with Archive-created tag types such as “Warning”, “Rating”, and “Category” (the latter is for Gen, F/F, F/M, M/M, Multi, and Other). For example, clicking on the Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings tag will tell you “This tag belongs to the Archive Warning Category. It’s a common tag. You can use it to filter works and to filter bookmarks.”

Guidelines are coming

In addition to visible tag structures, the Tag Wrangling Committee is working on making the guidelines that tag wranglers work with available for public viewing. An initial FAQ post about this process is now available. It provides more detail about both terminology and some general concepts.

Questions

For those who have questions about tags and what they’re seeing, you can always send a question to our Support team, who’ll pass it on to the Wranglers. The Tag Wrangling Committee also has a Twitter account at ao3_wranglers for all sorts of tag-related discussion.

Tag Wrangling: It’s Your Right To Tag However You Like (You Can Even Be Your Own Spotlight)

At the recent April Showers Import Party, the topic of tagging came up. Unsurprisingly — there were fanworks finding homes on the Archive of Our Own, after all. And one of the most amazing things about the AO3 is definitely its tagging system.

What makes this particular tagging system so amazing? It’s specifically designed so that users can use any tag, in exactly the form they want it on their works, while keeping those works as organized as they would be in a strictly classification-based archive. Perhaps even better organized, since AO3 tagging not only allows users to search for works using tags based on traditional classifications like fandom, character and relationship, but also tens of thousands of canonical “additional tags” that go far beyond the limits of genre. And the more you tag, the better it works overall (more on why that’s so later).

So, you may be asking, what’s a canonical additional tag? And how does a tag come to be one?

First, a bit of tagging history is in order. The indexing of information using keywords isn’t a new practice, of course. When del.icio.us launched in 2003, the new part of their model wasn’t the link collections or the keywords themselves — those had been around on the Internet pretty much since the start. Their innovation was to give users the power to attach keywords to those link collections. Nearly ten years on, the AO3 has made a great start at putting that sort of descriptive tagging power in the hands of fan creators when it comes to archiving their fanworks.

A great deal of that power comes from additional tags (originally called freeform tags). They’re tags that don’t fall into the standard fandom/character/relationship groupings, and include kinks, tropes, genres, story elements, word counts, recording lengths, video formats, fan art media, POVs, episode tags, additional warnings, and whatever else users can think of! And all those additional tags gain their useful descriptive power when they’re made canonical, appearing in the search filters and the auto-complete box as the most useful, general forms of particular tags, with many other synonymous tags linked to them. Tag wranglers — fans who have volunteered to curate the tags belonging to particular fandoms — do the linking, so for a tag to have been made canonical means that a wrangler has either recognized it as complying with tag wrangling guidelines or created it in compliance with those guidelines specifically so they can attach another tag to it.

What that means is that when an additional tag appears in the archive, a tag wrangler assesses whether people searching for works would like to be able to search for works tagged with it. Often the answer is yes, but sometimes it’s no — and that’s fine! That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tag your works using whatever tags you like; those tags will still bring up works, after all, even if they aren’t canonical! A tag wrangler making your tag canonical just means that they judged it a useful addition to the filters — and one that other people might want to have the option of tagging works with, as well.

So if you can tag with whatever you want, how do you effectively use additional tags to shine a spotlight on your work?

This is where we return to the question of how more tagging makes the system work better. You see, additional tags make it possible to bring up works tagged everything from Accidental Marriage to Zombies — and everything else in between. So, using tags which highlight tropes or kinks (among other things), means that people interested in these topics can more easily find your works containing them. And this isn’t just limited to fanfic — there are additional tags which describe aspects of other types of fanworks that people might be looking for, as well — whether it’s a crochet pattern, a short podfic, or an example of digital fan art.

What it comes down to is this: your were-creature accidental marriage fic/podfic/painting/quilt with zombies and a female BAMF character of color lead might be exactly the work Fan X was looking for. And they might never know it exists, if you don’t tell the world exactly what awesome stuff it contains. There’re a lot of awesome fanworks featuring a lot of awesome stuff on the AO3 just waiting for people to spotlight those awesome qualities, so go forth and tell people that your fic is epistolary or your comic features a mythical being or creature or that your podfic is a cast recording.

While many of us love the diversity that additional tags bring, if you don’t like seeing additional tags on works, you can always choose to ignore them, or even hide them completely using a custom skin and the Blurblings Hide freeform tags skin.

*****

If you’d like to know more about tagging on the AO3, or about what tag wranglers do, the Tag Wrangling Committee is having an open house on Sunday, April 22, from 19:00 to 21:00 UTC (see when this is in your timezone) in OTW’s public chatroom on Campfire. The chatroom can be accessed at: https://fanarchive.campfirenow.com/c6440 Feel free to drop by at any time during the session to ask questions or just to hang out.

The AO3 and its tagging system are funded by fans, for fans. To help keep it growing, please donate today.

Enter the Wrangulator: Tag Wrangling Open House 22nd April

Tag clud representing a variety of tags used on the Archive of Our Own, together with a stylised version of the Archive logo designed to look like a confused face, scratching its head.

Have you ever wondered about what it is tag wranglers do? Are you thinking about volunteering as a wrangler? Do you have a question about tags on the Archive of Our Own? Is your fandom in need of some temporary assistance? The Tag Wrangling Committee is hosting their second open house! This is a drop-in session where you can ask us what’s on your mind, or just have a chat about tags.

All are welcome! The chat will be held on Sunday, 22nd of April, 2012, from 19:00 to 21:00 UTC
(see when this is in your timezone) in OTW’s public chatroom on Campfire. The chatroom can be accessed at: https://fanarchive.campfirenow.com/c6440. (Please note: This url has changed since this post was originally posted! Apologies for any confusion.) Feel free to drop by at any time during the session to ask questions or just to hang out.

Additional Tag Wrangling Open Houses are planned for July and October. If you can’t make this one, never fear – we’ll be holding future sessions at different times to make it easier for people in different timezones to attend.

The Tag Wrangling Committee and their team of volunteer “Tag Wranglers” maintain and administer the tags on the Archive of Our Own, curating the folksonomy system that links related tags together for better filtering and searching, while allowing users to tag their works however they prefer.

Mirrored from an original post on the Archive of Our Own.