Archive of Our Own: Collections and Challenges. It’s Design Time! Please Help!

Greetings and Salutations! Calling all challenge mods, archivists, and people with vivid fannish imaginations! If you’ve run a fannish challenge or exchange, moderated a challenge community, edited a zine, or put together a themed rec list, we want to talk to you. If you’ve participated in a fannish challenge and/or have ever thought in detail about how to run a challenge, please also help us out! We’re in the process of developing the design for two essential pieces of functionality on the Archive of Our Own Roadmap, Version 0.7: Collections and Challenges.

As part of that design work we need to know how it’s going to be used and understand what different people want from it.

To make this easier we’re writing up a series of different scenarios describing how a person might use Collections or Challenges and we ask you to contribute. We want short stories describing ideal scenarios and we want them from the perspective of different people – moderators, writers, readers. Go wild!

Examples under the cut. Please leave a comment below; members of ADT (Accessibility, Design, & Technology; the Archive team) will be watching and collecting scenarios. (Please don’t worry if your idea contradicts someone else’s way of doing things! The AO3 needs to be able to work in multiple ways! And feel free to build on or respond to each other’s ideas.)


Samvara is a keen fan of the Supernatural fandom and is particularly stuck on stories where Sam Winchester grows wings, she has an account on the AO3 and creates a Collection called SamOnHigh. She writes the blurb for the Collection giving guidelines on joining the Collection explaining she loves, loves loves Sam with wings but is willing to accept stories where any other Winchester has wings so long as Sam does too. Samvara messages every author on the AO3 with a winged Sam story that she can find, inviting them to join the Collection and promotes it shamelessly on the interwebs. One day someone tries to add a story where Sam grows tentacles but Samvara removes it from the Collection and messages the author explaining that even if he can fly, it’s still not really WINGS now is it. They never speak again 🙁 Eventually Samvara gets a debilitating disease and decides to put her energies into something else and makes one of her co-moderators of the community do all the work as she vanishes off to learn rock polishing in the desert.


Before Samvara gets all diseased she also decides to run a wingfic writing challenge and publishes a manifesto encouraging all writers to consider this magnificent idea, submit story ideas (prompts) and sign up to write. The prompts are visible to everyone and some have to be removed because they didn’t understand it was a SPN wingfic writing challenge and keep trying to insert Legolas – this spurs some heated emails and several other wingfic challenges get launched. Eventually Samvara reaches her goal of 50 prompts and 50 sign-ups and randomly allocates the prompts to writers. The due date for the stories is in 3 months and she writes the odd encouraging message reminding people of the deadline. She also has to change some of the prompts and match them up with new writers who didn’t like their initial prompt or were unable to continue writing.

People start posting their stories about a month in and Samvara gloats over them lovingly until the due date is reached (which she had to extend by 10 days) and then she makes the new additions to the Collection visible but keeps the authors anonymous for another 14 days.

Archive of Our Own
  1. jerico_cacaw commented:


    ghostwriter is a Wally West (Flash, DC comics) fan that doesn’t get tired of reading the same Wally West stories again and again. Except when she does. Eventually, she finds a collection of Wally West dark!fics, but sadly it has been all but abandoned by its creator. After overcoming her shyness, ghostwriter contacts said collection’s owner to pimp a list of stories she believes should be included, and ends being granted moderation privileges, which makes her incredibly happy and scared as well. She’s never moderated anything, not even her own expenses, and there are not rules or guidelines of any sort. She decides to make things up as problems/opportunities arise, and it works. Except when it doesn’t. It takes a heated discussion (which lands the collection’s subscribers in FandomWank, because of the astounding amount of macros linked to in less than 24 hours) about Wally West either being the third Flash, the only Flash ever existed, or Kid Flash, for her to decide that the fics have to be identified by source material, be it Live TV show, comics, JL:TAS, TT:TAS (or a combination of those), among others. Massive un-subscribing to the collection follows by those disagreeing with the new rule, but it is barely noticeable given the massive influx of new writers/readers thanks to the release of the Justice League movie. Things go smoothly for a few days, until some of the old subscribers start complain about the movie!fics being 99% of the new fics, which wouldn’t be such a horrible thing if not for the terrible, terrible character-butchering the movie writers/actor are guilty of. After lots of name-calling and hissy fights, two new collections for movie!fic only and pre-movie!fic only are created, and the rats … err, subscribers abandon the original ship collection. ghostwriter, by then only moderator/owner of the collection, decides to abandon it, as the amount of fic being posted is too much for her to read and add.

    … until another fan of Wally West dark!fics appears, and the story repeats itself (this time with the release of the new Flash Live Action movie) ;P.

  2. Julieann commented:

    Julieann loves to see what kinds of things writers can come up with. She recruits many writers who give her prompts about what kinds of stories they would like to read. Then she mixes up the prompts and gives them back out to these same writers. The writers then write like crazy and post said stories anonymously (their author name do not show).

    The idea is to then guess who the writers are and also guess from whom the prompt came from. These guesses are posted in the comment sections of the stories. At the end of a pre-designated time-frame, the authors are revealed (this includes having the name appear in the archive).

  3. Hope commented:


    Prudence wants to publish a zine. She wants to use the AOOO as a hub for all zine happenings, both behind the scenes and for public consumption stuff:

    – Announcing a call for submissions
    – Accepting submissions (these would have to be for Prudence’s eyes only)
    – Sharing information as to where/how readers can get hold of this zine.

    Prudence also wants to archive the stories on the AOOO, but of course hers is the kind of zine that doesn’t allow publishing of its stories online until 18 months after the hard copy publication. Therefore, Prudence wants her authors to be able to submit their stories to her zine in their final form (or submit them herself and give them author credit) at the same time she’s publishing the hard copy, but set a timer on them – they are private until X date (ostensibly, 18 months after publication), at which point they’ll be publicly available online through her zine’s hub.

    And the other thing I keep thinking of is:


    When a participant posts a story for a challenge/exchange/zine/whatever, where is this story actually posted? If the author wants to archive their story in their own AOOO account as well, is it duplicated in the challenge’s account/area? Or does the challenge simply refer back to the story where it is within the user’s account, making what strings together the stories submitted probably a unique tag…?

    Obv I have no idea what you have in mind already, but this intrigues me nonetheless. One of the reasons I’m all for the AOOO is that it’s giving me an alternative to reposting/duplication (yay!), so I’d want to avoid that within the archive too!

  4. AmyML commented:

    Rich had a small website dedicated to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, to which a few people contributed a couple wips. Unfortunately, the fandom was too small to hold Rich’s interest for very long, and he wanted to shut down the website, but the authors of the fics were nowhere to be found, and he was left as the only caretaker of the few forgotten little stories. He never asked permission to archive the stories elsewhere, but otherwise they’ll be lost, so he does it anyway, listing “anonymous” as the archive maintainer and the collection as “closed”.

    Over time, more and more people find the collection on AOOO, and send emails to anonymous, asking if he knows of any other collection of JS&MN fic, because the fandom is tiny and scattered and it’s hard to find anything at all. Rich thinks about it, then changes the archive to “open” and adds links to every other JS&MN fic he can find, and changes privileges so that anyone else can as well. Some authors of the linked stories find out and add their stories to the collection on AO3. Some object and those links are removed and added to a blacklist so they won’t be added again. Rich’s interest is rekindled! He changes the maintainer to his own username and all is well.

    The collection grows slowly, until a major movie studio announces they are making a movie of the book. Activity begins to pick up rapidly. Months later, the movie is released and the fandom explodes. There is drama and wank and all sorts of good things, and Rich is overwhelmed. He splits the collection along the movie release date, and requires any new submissions to check either movie or book ‘verse radio buttons. Book ‘verse stories go to the old collection, and movie ‘verse stories go to the new one. He removes himself entirely from the drastically changed fandom, leaving Deb (book ‘verse) and CJ (movie ‘verse) to deal with all the crazies.


    Mika is suffering some hellish writer’s block. To get back into the swing of things, she wants to participate in a challenge. She has a list of fandoms that she will write in, and a list of pairings/ratings she will write for each one. She’d really like a way to search all challenges currently accepting writers for her selected fandoms/pairings/ratings. Ideally, she would get a results page kind of like this:

    Fandom – Challenge Name
    Format / Requirements
    Ratings / Pairings

    Dr Who – Bigger on the Inside
    Over 5000 words
    No rating reqs / The Doctor/Companion

    SGA – Summer in the City
    5 Things, Summer related
    G – PG-13 / No pairing reqs

    Fast and Furious – No Challenge Name
    No format reqs
    No rating reqs / Dom/Brian, Dom/Letty

    …an impossible dream? =)

    • ziparumpazoo commented:

      I’d like to second the challenge master-listing. Saves me a little bit of typing for the same suggestion. 🙂

  5. scribblesinink commented:

    Two scenarios:

    Scribbler and her partner-in-crime write stories in a shared post-series ‘verse for a certain fandom, for which they hammered out details, plots and story lines together, even if they are writing separately. They gather their stories in a collection. Except they wouldn’t want anyone else who happens to write post-series (or other) fic for the same fandom to be able to add their stories to the collection too. Never mind! Just figured out we can already do that using co-authors on series. Which is, well, awesome!

    Scribbler also runs (when she’s in the mood) a Fan Fiction Tumble Game, a variation of the Round Robin. With the FanFicTumble, there’s not one story making the rounds, but as many as there are participants. Every participant starts out with the same teaser, and every writer writes a part for each story, resulting in widely varying, co-written stories that started with the same scene. Preferably, each participant adds their part(s)/chapter anonymously, before Scribbler reassigns the stories to a new participant. Once stories are finished, authors will be revealed and stories made public. Ideally, participants would only see their currently assigned story and not have access to stories that others are working on, so as to keep the suspense going.

  6. RDphantom commented:

    I hope it’s not too late to add a story, but I’ve been thinking about this lately and no one else posted a story quite like what I want.

    Jenny loves Phantom of the Opera fanfic. She starts a collection for Phantom fic and calls it Phantasia. She allows anyone to post anything that is Phantom related. Every day Jenny logs on to read the new fic. She has a variety of ways to sort the stories in the collection. She can sort by date, author, content rating, star rating, tag or pairing, number of comments or recs, or any combination of those methods. Jenny can also exclude from her search results any story that she has already read, commented on or rated. This allows Jenny to find all the fic in her massive collection that she hasn’t already read, even if it was posted five years ago. (These features may already be planned for the future of the archive, but this is how I want to use collections so I hope it’s ok to post anyway.)

    Jenny and her members can use the Bookmark function to link to fics on other websites, so the collection can be as complete as possible. Jenny also allows her members to post recs to her community so she can keep up with the good fic her friends are currently reading. (I’m actually not sure about these two features. I think they would be awesome, but some authors may not want to be linked in the AO3 if they have not chosen to archive their fics there. Discussion may be needed on the topic.)