Archive of Our Own Newsletter – November-December 2012

Hello and Happy Holidays from the AO3! This newsletter contains all sorts of fun facts and news from the past two months – read on for updates in the world of the Archive in November and December.

Cool stuff on the Archive

Filters are back and our Advanced Search form has been updated! Look at this post for details on how to use our new filters and Advanced Search form. Release 0.9.2 went live and included more than just tag filters; we were also able to deploy bookmark filtering, a new search form for works and bookmarks, and new index pages for works and bookmarks. Releases 0.9.3 and 0.9.3 Redux also went live and included a lot of bug squashing and fixes as well as the ability to anonymously comment on your own anonymous work.

We’re now issuing 750 user invites per day. Our queue is slowly but steadily decreasing. To those of you still on the waiting list, thank you for your continued patience!

Your Archive needs you!

The Content Policy Committee is working on changes to the AO3’s Terms of Service and would like your feedback on the proposed changes. The content change files are available at the above news post for your consideration. We welcome all feedback!

Bugs we’ve squashed

We’ve been keeping a close eye on performance after the release of the new search engine and filters, and we’re pleased with how it’s holding up: it’s a big improvement over the old system. We quickly located a bug causing tag wrangling changes not to propagate through to works and bookmarks properly, so tag wrangling was disabled while that was being fixed, and it’s up and running again now.

We also tackled a number of collection and challenge-related bugs – 36 of them in Release 0.9.3 alone! Special thanks to Scott in particular for doing a ton of work on those.

What’s up in the world of tags?

There’s been a few changes in the Marvel Avengers fandoms (some of the Archive’s most popular!) To prepare for the coming sequels, the Thor and Captain America movie fandom names have changed, to Thor (Movies) and Captain America (Movies).

Also, following the official material, the main metatag for The Avengers (2012) and the related movies is now Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Note that if you tag for any of the subfandoms (e.g. if you tag your work The Avengers (2012) or Iron Man (Movies) that the work will automatically appear under Marvel Cinematic Universe. You can also tag a work with MCU if you like, but it will filter the exact same way as a work tagged with only the subfandoms.

You may also notice a tag The Avengers – Ambiguous Fandom. This ambiguous tag is necessary due to the existence of two unrelated “Avengers” fandoms, the Marvel superhero team and the British superspy series, and includes all works from both these series. As with MCU, using this tag in conjunction with more specific tags won’t change where your work appears (and tagging with only this tag will make your Avengers movie-verse fic less likely for other users to find.) Generally, to make your works easier to find, tag with the most specific fandom (or fandoms) that apply.

For more information on the wild and wacky world of Marvel Avengers tags, please check out this informative post by one of our brave Avengers wranglers!

Adventures with Support

We’re still keeping up with support tickets, even in spite of the start of holiday absences. In fact, we’re about to hit our 10,000th ticket in our tracking program – that’s just about 3,300 tickets a year! Every ticket sent in with an email address gets an individual response, and even the ones without email are still documented as appropriate with other committees. We’re incredibly proud of our Support teams over the years and all they’ve done for the Archive!

AD&T Committee business of note

Thank you to all the coders, testers, and volunteers who helped us with Release 0.9.2 and 0.9.3! There’s been a ton of work going on behind the scenes, and we’re enormously grateful to everyone who’s been helping out, and to the tag wranglers for their patience while we’ve sorted out some bugs.

We’ve been cautiously optimistic about performance over the last month, and we’ve ordered three new servers that we’re hoping will help us to keep things running smoothly as we head into 2013. That’s enabled us to increase the number of invitations that we send out each day, which is helping to cut down the wait times significantly.

We’re working on one last release for 2012, which will be a small one, focused on bug fixes. There’s already code in the pipeline for the first release of 2013, and we’re looking forward to adding some long-awaited improvements and new features in the new year!

Tag Wrangling Committee business of note

Due to changes in the search engine with the main new filters deploy, tag wrangling was turned off for most of November. With the latest deploy, wrangling is working again and our wranglers have been busy getting all the new tags of the last month in order (our amazing volunteers managed to wrangle over 300 uncategorized fandoms down to less than 5 in a single weekend!)

Questions? Comments?

We welcome feedback from users! If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments of the latest news post, or send in a Support request (if you’re reporting a bug, please send that to Support, as they’re super efficient – comments on our news posts sometimes get overlooked).

Mirrored from an original post on AO3 News. Find related news by viewing our tag cloud.

Archive of Our Own Newsletter – October 2012

Happy October, Archivers! Welcome to this month’s newsletter.

Cool stuff on the Archive!

This month, we took a look at tag stats and growth over the past two years!

What’s up in the world of tags?

Often in wrangling, we change tag names in response to feedback either from archive users, or other tag wranglers (or both!). Our most recent change involves the canonical fandom tags for Jewish and Christian religious scripture. Prior to our changes, “Hebrew Bible” was a single fandom, with “Old Testament” as a synonym. You can view the current tag structure under Abrahamic Religions, which includes a tag for Tanakh separate from the Christian Bible (Old Testament). The old tag “Hebrew Bible” is now a synonym of Tanakh. Thank you to those users and wranglers who provided feedback in this discussion.

Support issues

We’re seeing some really wonky behavior emerging with Tag Sets pulling characters into multiple fandoms or occasionally a tag vanishing from the list. We’re having a hard time tracking this down, so if you see aberrant behavior in the Tag Set feature, please send Support a note so we can document it for the Coders!

AD&T Committee business of note

We continue to work on a header redesign and we have also started working on a brand new front page. Our updated roadmap is in the final stages of editing and should be available soon. The reinstatement of tag filtering comes closer and closer as we put the finishing touches on new code and sent it off to our testers. We still can’t guarantee a firm date but they’re coming – we promise! And finally, this month we celebrated Ada Lovelace Day by honoring our awesome chair Elz!

Support Committee business of note

As noted below with the Tag Wranglers, we are eagerly testing the return of the filters.

Tag Wrangling Committee business of note

We’ve been adding to our collection of public wrangling guidelines, and we’re excitedly preparing (and testing!) for the upcoming return of tag filters.

Questions? Comments?

We welcome feedback from users! If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments of the latest news post, or send in a Support request (if you’re reporting a bug, please send that to Support, as they’re super efficient – comments on our news posts sometimes get overlooked).

Spotlight on Tag Wrangling

The system of tagging that AO3 uses is categorized as a ‘curated folksonomy’, a term which here means ‘a free-for-all tagging system supervised to some degree by a band of merry curators’. Though there are a few other ‘curated folksonomies’ out there, the one used by AO3 is unique in many ways, making the tag-wrangling system an innovation in archival organization and cataloging. (Want to read more on curated folksonomies? Check out (Curated Folksonomies and Tag Folksonomy and Tag Synonyms).

At AO3 the Tag Wrangling Committee organizes the curation which is carried out by approximately 160 tag wranglers. The following is a conversation with part of the committee — Co-Chairs Emilie Karr & Alison Watson, and staffers Jenn Calaelen, Franzeska Dickson, and Sam Johnsson. For the sake of brevity and readability, the replies have been compiled as a group response, and wording has been altered to make answers more understandable to a general audience.

Q: What were some of the first things you learned in order to get up to speed as a Tag Wrangling staffer?

A common challenge is learning to utilize the various tools that are available to OTW staffers and volunteers. This includes a site known as Basecamp, and the chat system, Campfire. Newer staffers are still finding out how things work there and the various things it can do. Because volunteers coming into the OTW have varying skill levels, not all of them have much experience with social media or wiki browsing and editing. Tag Wranglers use an internal wiki system for documenting rules about tagging, as well as recording committee minutes and other material pertinent to their work. This means that learning the tag wrangling guidelines that already exist is a separate learning curve from using the sites and tools themselves, and different members of the committee tend to become more familiar with some parts of tagging guidelines than others.

Q: What have been the big challenges for the committee this term?

One aspect has to do with helping tag wranglers manage their experience as volunteers. The staff need to make sure people are able to keep up with the workload they’ve taken on. It’s easy for a wrangler to assign themselves too many fandoms, and then because of surges in AO3 activity or technical issues, vacations or other personal reasons, it may turn out they haven’t wrangled a fandom in a few months. If one of their fandoms is big or active, that becomes a problem because it’s difficult to catch up when they are able to wrangle again. And the staff also needs to be concerned with wrangler morale, trying to keep both wranglers and staff from getting too discouraged by internal and external criticism of their work.

Another aspect has to do with taking on work most tag wranglers either can’t do or feel intimidated about doing. This includes matters such as cross-fandom content, or things that don’t belong in any specific fandom. That’s not explicitly a committee-level thing, but wranglers are usually more comfortable sticking to things that have clear guidelines and that don’t have a risk of trespassing on someone else’s fandom. Sorting out these types of tags is always an ongoing process and the committee is looking forward to better wrangling tools that will improve mass wrangling (many fandoms at once).

The last issue relates to problems on the Archive that also affect readers and posters. If users are seeing 502 error messages, that means that wranglers have been seeing them for a week or more because the wrangling interface used by wranglers gets lower priority than the AO3’s user interface. So if the Archive’s suffering from technical issues, wrangling may come to a complete halt. But since users may be able to continue posting their work even when wranglers are at a standstill, then new tags that are being created are going unwrangled for longer periods of time. As mentioned before, this is a particular problem with high priority fandoms, those getting a lot of additional works and readers. The AO3 filters being down has meant that wrangled tags are even more important to finding things, while also meaning that a lot of wrangling work is less useful because users aren’t able to use tags to their full extent. An increase in 502s usually coincides with lots of new traffic, meaning more new users who don’t yet know how to find things on the Archive, and new works with new tags that need to be wrangled. Lastly everything in the list of feature requests that Tag Wrangling has made to the Accesibility, Development & Technology Committtee (which runs the archive) gets pushed farther down the priority list because dealing with a technical crisis is always of the first importance.

Q: Do all of you work on the same projects or do you work on different tasks?

We have a rotation for meeting minutes, other tasks we tend to self-assign. We’ve brainstormed lists of things that need to get taken care of. We check in (on Basecamp) before meetings to talk about what work we’ve been doing. Most projects tend to have one or two people focusing on them, but everyone else provides advice and support. In a given week there are various routine tasks such as working on the internal wrangling newsletter; hanging out in chat in case any wranglers come by with questions; training new wranglers when we have an influx; checking on the status of various fandoms to see what may be falling behind; putting things onto our wiki pages, after we’ve made decisions, or we’ve clarified the guidelines already there; discussing support requests; and preparing posts for the wrangler mailing list (usually discussions involving new/changed guidelines, in order to get feedback from wranglers).

Q: How would you describe the Tag Wrangling Committee’s role in creating and maintaining guidelines for tag wrangling?

We’re the maintainers and the advisory committee. Some changes come because of user requests we receive through the Support form on the AO3. User mandate tends to be the rule unless it’s a contested issue among groups of users. A lot of guideline questions are raised by wranglers and we listen to the full list’s feedback. But the staff is needed to coordinate the majority rule, and then it makes the decision in cases where there is no strong opinion emerging. The Tag Wrangling staff are then responsible for writing the wording to try and reflect the decision correctly and then announce all new guideline decisions to the wranglers, to make sure everyone’s informed. Not everyone sees or remembers the messages so we poke wranglers who aren’t following them. This is generally done by leaving comments on the tags themselves, which is something we can see behind the scenes but is currently invisible to the public.

Q: What has been involved in preparing these tag wrangling guidelines for public viewing?

Immense gratitude for Sam Johnsson who is coordinating this work. We have been using the guidelines going public as an excuse to give them a full overview. There’s been three kind of “translations” involved in this preparation. The first is purely technical, translating wiki code (which was used for its posting to the internal wiki) to HTML (for posting it on a public website). The second is some rewriting for greater clarity. A document that faces internally to people who use it regularly reads differently than a document intended for people who are sitting outside, learning about these issues for the first time, and who aren’t clear about the steps that wranglers would then take once reading them.

But the biggest problem has been catching jargon. This is not just because people tend to develop terminology that works as shorthand, but also because over time various different terms have come into use for the same thing on the AO3. For example the tags that users can filter on are commonly called canonicals by tag wranglers but are also labeled ‘common’, a possible holdover from the term coders put into text back when the AO3 was still in alpha stage and it simply never got changed. Similarly, “freeforms”, another common tag wrangler term, was changed to “additional tags” in the forms that users see because initially — in closed beta — on the new works page they were just called ‘tags’, and a lot of users were inclined to put anything in there, from fandom to character tags. The term “additional” never fully transitioned to behind-the-scenes use, possibly because that doesn’t work as well as a noun! But the term “additional tags” makes more sense to users than “freeforms” since the meaning isn’t as clear as “character” or “relationship” tags. The tag wranglers are still struggling with the best way to express the the filterable/canonical/common dilemma since “canonical” is easily confused with a series canon meaning.

You’ll be hearing more from the Tag Wrangling Committee on various tag-related issues in the coming months as our filters return and the guideline publishing is completed. In the meantime, if you have questions about tags or the committee, 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.