Archive News #3 – How is the Archive developing? + More about tags!

Welcome to our third Archive news post! These regular posts are a venue for us to answer some frequently asked questions about the Archive of Our Own. Questions about the Archive Roadmap, Tags, and Warnings…right under the cut!

Please leave your questions about the Archive in comments and we’ll answer them in upcoming posts. (This is a space for more general questions – if you have specific comments about the design or usability of the Archive please send feedback on the Archive site itself, so it goes into our bugfix and design process).

How far through the Archive Roadmap are the coding team?

You can view the AOOO Roadmap on our website. We’ve completed the basic work up to version 0.6, although we want to make some major revisions to Searching and Browsing, and we are also enhancing our Bookmarks.

When will you add the big features which are still outstanding?

Search and Browse
This is already in place, but we’re doing some intensive work to make it faster, stronger and better. We expect to finish our redesign by August 2009.

Bookmarks are already in place, but we want to refine and add some features. We expect to finish our redesign by August 2009.

Collections and challenges:
We’re in the process of designing this feature, with the help of all the lovely people who contributed their thoughts on scenarios. We hope to have it fully designed and coded by October 2009 but are aware this is a big piece of work. In the best case scenario, we hope to run a pilot this year, but either way, we should be able to start accommodating larger archives around New Year’s this year.

This is scheduled for development during July-October 2009, when we will be welcoming an intern from Darmstadt University, Germany, who will be leading the design and coding for this area.

Will the Archive host fanworks other than fic?

Yes! The OTW supports all forms of fan creativity, and the Archive will ultimately host fanart. We’re in the very early stages of planning how we’ll host fanvids, which will probably be their own project rather than part of the AOOO. Thankfully, we can take advantage of existing and developing open source solutions for hosting online video: we won’t have to build a vid archive from scratch.

What does it mean for a tag to be ‘common’?

If you’ve ever clicked on a tag, you may have noticed that the page that comes up tells you ‘This is (or is not) a common tag’ – see the tag John Sheppard/Radek Zelenka for an example. ‘Common’ tags are used as options in our search filters (the ones your see on the right hand side of the page marked ‘filter your results’. This allows us to avoid having multiple different versions of a tag all showing up in the filters at the same time – so you don’t have John/Radek as well as John Sheppard/Radek Zelenka. The filters still find the alternate versions, because they’re all connected to the ‘common’ (aka ‘canonical’) tags behind the scenes. (See our previous news post on tags for a bit more information about this.)

I have used my tags multiple times, but they’re not marked ‘common’ – why not?

It may be that your tag has been connected to another tag – for example the tag John/Rodney has been merged into the Rodney McKay/John Sheppard tag.

If your tag is a freeform tag, for example kink_bingo, santa, and roadtrip, you might find that it has not been marked common or connected to any others. This is because our tag wranglers haven’t wrangled it yet, as we’re still working on the best way to use freeform tags in our filters. Once we figure out the best way to handle these, then we’ll incorporate them into our search and browse so that you can easily find fics tagged in a particular way. However, this has a big potential impact on performance since there are a lot of these tags. We’re currently rebuilding our search and browse interface in order to improve performance while enhancing choice and control on the part of the reader. In the meantime, our tag wranglers have been holding off on marking most freeform tags common and focusing on dealing with fandom and characters.

How can I search for fics with tags that haven’t been marked common?

Our search box searches all fields, so you can search for anything you like in there. In response to popular demand, our latest code update adds some new tag functionality – clicking on any tag will now bring up works which use that tag. We hope to bring some more power to tag searching in the revamp of our search interface, but in the meantime we think it should be reasonably easy to find what you are looking for.

I’m not sure how to tag my crossover / rpf / other fic.

We mentioned in the last post that we’re still figuring out the coding logistics for crossovers and real person fiction. However, this work relates entirely to things which will happen behind the scenes, so please don’t let it delay you in posting fic to the Archive! Just tag your fics in the way that feels right to you, and let our tag wranglers deal with any headaches that may arise. The one thing we do ask is that you be generous with your tagging information – for example, giving characters’ full names makes life a bit easier for us.

How are you planning on organising the fandom tags for Books and Literature? They seem a bit inconsistent.

It’s true that the canonical tags for Books and Literature do not follow one consistent pattern – books fandoms vary a lot in the way they are referred to (book title, author name, series), so it’s almost impossible to use a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Our official standard is to use ‘Book / Series name – Author name’, for example Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis. However, this standard is still evolving, and there are some complexities relating to fandoms such as Georgette Heyer which don’t fit neatly into this form. We’re working on some code that will make it easier for us to manage tricky fandom names like this, and we’ll likely make some changes to introduce more consistency in the future, but for now we’re focusing on having tags which will be meaningful and familiar to our users rather than on a single unified form. If you’re wondering how to tag your own fic, then please do use a format that seems sensible to you rather than worrying too much about the ‘right’ way from our POV.

When you wrangle tags, how do you deal connections between tags which aren’t exact equivalents?

As we mentioned in our previous post, our tag wrangling process connects up tags which are synonyms, such as SPN and Supernatural. Some of you have pointed out that some tags may technically be synonyms, but the individual terms carry levels of nuance. For example, Alternate Universe and Alternate Reality are used interchangeably by some people, but others make a distinction. We currently don’t have any way to add nuance to our tags relationships – we’re working on ways to categorise tags as ‘related but not identical’, but we haven’t come up with the right code yet. In the meantime, we take these on a case-by-case basis – as a general rule we won’t mark tags as synonyms if there is the potential for confusion.

I want to add more warnings to my work than your standard warning tags allow.

When our Content Policy team decided on our warnings policy, they wanted to ensure that authors could give (and readers could get) as much information as they wanted about stories. This is one of the main purposes of our freeform tags – you can add as much information to your story as you see fit, and readers can add their own additional descriptions and tags if they choose to bookmark the fic. One of the key themes which has emerged in the recent debates on warnings is that many people just want more information about stories generally. Our freeform tags not only let you add other warnings to your own story, but also to label your stories with themes, kinks, or other story elements readers might want to know about and to tag other stories on the archive with the information you find most relevant.

Our standard warning tags, which include “choose not to warn”, “choose not to warn for some content”, and “none of these warnings apply”, were designed to help the reader decide about whether or not to seek out additional information about a story through the tag system, rather than as a comprehensive list of all serious warnings. We want to keep the number of core warnings low because those warnings are enforceable: if a story contains major character death, and is labeled “none of these warnings apply,” a reader can report that story to Abuse, who can contact the author and, if necessary, change the story’s label to “Choose not to warn for some content.” The same applies for graphic violence, underage, and rape/noncon. The bigger the list of core warnings, the more difficult they are to enforce (not even taking into account the even greater difficulty of defining categories such as “dubcon”), especially given that our policy is to defer to authors’ judgment in close cases.

But if you’re someone who prefers not to have too much information about a story before you read, fear not! You may already have noticed that logged-in users have an option to hide all warnings by default (you set this on your preferences page, and when it’s enabled you can still reveal warnings on a case-by-case basis). We’re planning to add the same option for tags, so that if you prefer surprise!alien spiders–or even surprise!incest–you can have it – watch out for this new feature in a future site update.

As the latest discussion on warnings reminded everyone, it’s hard to find a solution that works for everyone – but we think the model we have developed is a good balance.

We hope this post answers a few of your questions! Please leave other questions and comments here. We won’t always answer comments on this post directly – we’ll put your feedback into our pool of things to answer in future posts.

Archive of Our Own
  1. Maia Bobrowicz commented:


  2. Zooey Glass commented:


  3. Stella Omega commented:

    When can we get accounts, oh when?

    *hopping up and down like a kid what needs a potty*

    • Zooey Glass commented:


      We’re getting closer to moving into Open Beta, when we will offer substantially more accounts on an invitation basis. The big projects outlined in this post are some of the key functionality which we want to have in place before then. There’s more information on the things which affect our timescale and the ways of getting an account in Archive News Post #1.

      Keep an eye on these posts for further information as it comes!

      – Zooey, AD&T committee member and coder

  4. RDphantom commented:

    Thanks for the post, it was good to read more about the archive! I too am really looking forward to getting an account and bookmarking my fave fics. I’m excited that the coding is moving along.

    I’d love to hear more the video archive. Would the video archive is made separate from the fic archive due to the difficulty of combining both? I was wondering how it would be incorporated with the fic. What types of existing software/solutions would you use? Why not build the video archive code from scratch, like the fic archive? I know you said it’s early in the planning process, but I’m so excited to hear more!


    • Zooey Glass commented:

      We’re glad you’re as excited as us!

      It really is very early days with the vidding archive, so we haven’t made any definitive decisions. Vids require quite a substantially different framework from fic and archive, and there are also different legal issues, which is why it’s scheduled as a future project rather than rolled into the main Archive. It is likely that we will have some connection between the Archive of Our Own and any vid archive we build – whether just a shared look or a completely connected interface – but what goes on in the backend of the code may have to be quite different.

      As this is still in the early scoping out phases, we’re not set on any particular technological solution yet – we’re exploring the options. However, we’re excited about some of the things emerging at present, such as bittorent/streaming technology. This kind of stuff is quite complex and specialist, which is why we’re not looking to build it completely from scratch – when there are great solutions available to coopt, we want to use them! (In a way this is what we have done with the existing Archive, since we use Ruby on Rails, which is basically a big library of awesome code which we can draw from.)

      Thanks for your questions! We’ll keep updating as we have more to tell on all these issues.

      • RDphantom commented:

        It would be awesome if both archives could share a connected interface, even if the back-end code is very different. That way we could have communities that have both fic and vids, plus art too. I don’t know how feasable that is, but it would be so cool if it could be done.

        Thanks so much for the prompt and detailed response, I appreciate it!