Accessibility, Design and Technology Meeting – 22 October 2011

The Accessibility, Design and Technology committee oversees technology-related projects within the OTW. Currently we are responsible for designing and building the Archive of Our Own. Our regular meeting updates keep you informed about developments on the AO3!

This is a busy time for AD&T, because we’re coming closer to our big deploy! We’ve been working on some major changes and they are almost ready to go onto the main Archive – this means lots of testing and bugfixing and general activity!

OTW October Drive!

Everyone has been working so hard that this already feels like a long time in the past, but we can’t post without mentioning the great success of the OTW October Membership Drive! It was the most successful drive ever, raising a whopping US$21,456! This money will help to support the Archive as it grows, along with the rest of the OTW’s projects. We’re totally awed at the generosity of fandom (you can read more about the details of the drive at DevMem’s October Drive Wrap-up.) We’d also like to give a big shout-out to Megan and the rest of the DevMem team, who worked really hard to make this drive the success it was. Kudos to everyone involved!

Meeting highlights!

Site redesign

We will soon be rolling out a redesign for the site. Visually, it won’t be changing dramatically, but the front-end code underneath is changing a lot. It’s now more flexible, easier to understand, and – crucially – more accessible. This has been a big job, but we think it will make the Archive much more usable and maintainable going forward.

Skins changes!

The overhaul of the site CSS and HTML has allowed us to make some major changes to our skins features. When we launched skins, users were super happy – but we know that they were not quite as flexible as you might like. With the new site CSS, you will no longer have to use the dreaded !important all the time. Even cooler, the new design allows you to have multilayer skins, so that you can combine several skins to get the site exactly how you want it. Most importantly, this means that if we change the site design again in future, you can make the old design a ‘parent’ for the skin you’re using so that it doesn’t break (similar to the way you can use S1 and S2 styles on Livejournal.)

The only downside of the new skins system is that your existing skins may break – we’re doing our best to make sure this doesn’t happen, but as there are a lot of user-designed skins we can’t be 100% certain. We’re currently testing the new system and figuring out exactly what the implications are for existing skins – we’ll keep you posted on what to expect and how best you can prepare for the change.

Our Feature Requests process

We spent some time discussing our process for dealing with feature requests from users. Our lovely Support team receive lots of requests for new features or enhancements from users, and until recently these were logged on our internal wiki to await review by AD&T, who decide whether we can make a change and how it fits into our overall plans for the Archive. However, things were not getting off that page and onto the AD&T agenda as fast as we’d like, so we’ve been looking for a new process for a while now. Support have come up with a new proposed process which will involve putting new requests directly onto the AD&T agenda, so we don’t overlook anything and deal with it more swiftly. Anything AD&T approve will be put into the pool for coders to work on; we’ll also be keeping a clearer list of things which we decide we won’t implement, with the reasons why. We’re hoping this will help us be much more efficient and more responsive to users (it will certainly make Support’s life a whole lot easier!). We’re also thinking about ways of making the whole feature request process more visible to users, so you can see a bit more of the decision-making that goes into building the Archive.

Next deploy

The next deploy is scheduled for as soon as we can get it all working and tested. It includes some big changes, including the new site design, new skins features, tag sets for challenges, and much more – this is awesome but it means we want to be EXTRA sure we have picked up any problems (although no doubt some will sneak through the net).

News from our sub-committees


Coders are working away like busy busy bees, fixing things and writing new code. Rebecca ran some awesome training on automated testing tool RSpec, which will help us write some nice speedy tests so we don’t fall asleep while we’re waiting for tests to run – thanks, Rebecca! We are working on building up more and more coder training sessions, to share our skills and help people develop.


Testers are also busy, getting the new code tested and making sure it is all up-to-scratch. They work quietly in the background, but they are all absolutely awesome and without their hard work the Archive couldn’t exist – thanks, testers! Longtime tester hill has also been working on automated testing using Watir – this replicates testing in different browsers, cutting down on the amount of manual testing needed and thus saving the testing team to work on the things that really need the human touch. Thanks, hill! We always welcome volunteers, and our awesome testers are particularly in need of backup – if you’re interested in joining the team, get in touch via Volunteers and Recruiting.

News from our sister committees


The Support team have maintained their great work keeping up with tickets – right now there is not one single unassigned ticket! We’re pleased to welcome Anna and arithilim to the team – it’s great to see them already getting stuck in with tickets! We’d also like to give a big shout-out to Yshyn, who has been doing awesome work developing Support’s documentation and building up a knowledge base, and to Sam, who has ventured into the thorny wilds of the old Feature Requests page to carve out overlooked ideas!

If you’re interested in what Support do, check out the recent Spotlight on Support – and remember, Support are always happy to answer your questions on all aspects of the Archive – just get in touch via the Support & Feedback form.

Tag wrangling

The Tag Wrangling Committee ran a very successful Open House in which we talked a bit about how wrangling works and walked through some wrangling. If you missed it, a transcript should be up on the OTW website soon! We are planning more sessions like this in future \0/ – keep an eye out for future news posts.

Wranglers also provided information for a number of support requests. In response to one of them, we have added the metatag Anthropomorphism above Anthropomorfic, with them both being canonicals (canonicals can be used to filter search results). This lets users who consider their works part of the “-fic” tradition to use this tag, while encouraging works of different types of media. We’ve left the subtags of Anthropomorfic as they are for the moment, with the exception of Fandom (Anthropomorfic)– since some of the works under this tag were not related to anthromorphism, but rather inspired by fandom itself, Fandom – Fandom was canonized as well under Other Media, and Fandom (Anthropomorfic) was subtagged under it as well as Anthropomorphism. We’ll be keeping an eye on fandom usage and adapt if necessary. If you’ve got further input to this, or other wrangling issues, please let us know by filing a Support request or tweeting us @ao3_wranglers.

Finally, we’re pleased to welcome lots of new wranglers, including welfycat, Niko, Sossity, melodiousb, Pax, foxinthestars and Rodo! If you’re interested in wrangling, check out the list of fandoms without wranglers – the Marvel Universe is particularly in need of love right now, and could use several co-wranglers who can work together on the various different parts! Please note that wrangler signup will close for the year on 1st November, so visit the volunteers page now to join the team!

If there are things you’d like to do or say, please share them in comments, via the AO3 support and feedback form, by volunteering, or in whatever medium you feel comfortable with. Everyone is welcome to this party!

This meeting round-up by Lucy.

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

Archive of Our Own

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