Tag Wrangling Open House, 15 October 2011

Disclaimer

This page has been left up as a historical look into the evolution of the Archive of Our Own (AO3). This open chat occurred in 2011, and many things since then have changed for the wrangling team!

For updated information about the work wranglers do, please see the Wrangling Guidelines – Work Description. Our current Wrangling Guidelines are also publicly available.

If you’re interested in joining the Tag Wrangling committe, we list our roles on the Volunteering for the OTW page, whenever we open for recruitment. If you have any questions or concerns about how a tag has been wrangled, please contact the Support committee.

Disclaimer Added 19 May 2024


Transcript Note

This Open House transcript has been edited for clarity and to remove the names of attendees and wranglers. It covers the following topics:

  1. Exploring the wrangling interface.
  2. Discussing the purpose of wrangling such as diversity of terms and playing nice with filters.
  3. Discussing requirements for wranglers such as time commitments, fandom knowledge, and researching items.
  4. Finding wranglerless fandoms, signing up for them, and requesting them.
  5. Guidelines to names and relationships.
  6. Freeforms and canonicals.
  7. Asking for help, working with others.
  8. Identity tags and metatags.
  9. How to volunteer.

Chat Transcript

Wrangling Chair A

Welcome all, to the first(?) tag wrangling open house! We thought we’d hold this to give people, in and outside the org, a look into the mysterious ways of the wranglers. I recognise many of the names in the room as existing wranglers – we currently have about 100 active wranglers on our roster. But we always welcome more! I am the co-chair of the tag wrangling committee – R is my co-chair.

Wrangling Chair A

Basically, wrangling involves linking tags with the same meaning (or concept) together, so that people can find things more easily! We choose a tag to make the “canonical” tag, and link synonyms to it. We follow documented guidelines, which change (or improve!) from time to time and we try to be consistent across the archive so that people can find things no matter what fandom they’re reading in.

Wrangler 1

But we also try not to impose our system on the users, or make people feel that’s what we’re doing.

Wrangling Chair A

As a volunteer, you’re given access to our tools, which are the archive wrangling interface, the OTW wiki (where we document stuff), our mailing list, and a dedicated room here in campfire. Other wranglers and committee staff are available to help with thorny problems, and sometimes people co-wrangle, but generally you are responsible for the wrangling of your fandom. We expect that people keep their fandoms up to date, but how much time you spend wrangling depends on how many fandoms you have, and how busy they are – so the time you volunteer doesn’t have to be a lot, unless you want to.

Wrangler 2

I have more than a dozen fandoms, but most aren’t that active, so I only have to check up on them for maybe 15 minutes a day.

Attendee 1

As a wrangler, how do you pick up/discard fandoms?

Wrangler Staff 1

The fandoms with no wranglers are all here: Unassigned Fandoms.

Wrangler Staff 2

I only keep a few at a time. Most of what I do are projects to catch things that fall through the cracks. I’ll take all of the unclaimed anime and manga fandoms and search them for misplaced and unwrangled tags, for example.

Attendee 5

I imagine you need to be familiar with the fandoms you’re responsible for?

Wrangler Staff 2

Some fandoms, especially very large, very complicated fandoms with a lot of special naming conventions do require more knowledge.

Wrangler Staff 1

Behind the scenes, fandom tags show what users are wrangling them.

Wrangler Staff 2

Many small fandoms don’t need much work. If you can find the lead characters’ names on Wikipedia, you can usually wrangle those without knowing anything more.

Wrangler 1

If you’re interested in a large fandom, a lot of them have megafandom teams, so with those it’s good to look up who else is wrangling it and offer.

Attendee 3

What time-frame is considered up to date? Daily, weekly?

Wrangler Staff 2

Attendee 3 – It depends on the fandom. We start getting support complaints after a week or two if it’s a fandom like Hawaii Five-0 or one of the popular RPF bands or something.

Wrangler 1

Basically if the fandom’s really active, you need more work to keep up with it, and vice versa. Some of the Yuletide-eligible fandoms you only need to look at once a year.

Wrangler Staff 2

If users are looking at a fandom with <10 stories, how the tags are wrangled just doesn’t make a huge difference to browsing, so we may never hear about it.

Attendee 1

Is there any way to monitor activity within a fandom? Like author subscriptions, but for fandoms?

Wrangler Staff 1

There’s no way to monitor activity, but the system does monitor new tags

Wrangler 3

There’s the latest works in your fandoms, for wranglers

Wrangler 4

There’s the current works list. So it doesn’t work if there’s too many things on it (I can’t get it to work with the new sort by date added option)

Wrangling Chair A

Wrangler Home - lists the fandoms assigned to the wrangler, and indicates the number of tags yet to be wrangled in each of the fandoms

Wrangling Chair A

This is my wrangling home, listing the fandoms I have assigned to myself. Underneath “my wrangling page” – that button is the one which will list all the new works in my fandoms.

Attendee 8

Okay, so what does “unfilterable” mean?

Wrangling Chair A

The numbers next to the fandoms (unfilterable) are the tags which I haven’t wrangled

Wrangler Staff 1

Unfilterable means a tag assigned to a fandom, but not made into a synonym or canonical tag so not associated with any other tags yet.

Wrangling Chair A

(some of them I may be unable to wrangle)

Attendee 1

Why would you be unable to wrangle a tag?

Wrangler 1

Sometimes you get tags like “john smith. joe bloggs”. instead of “john smith, joe bloggs” which make themselves into two separate tags. And you can’t wrangle the one with the period because you can’t add a character tag to two different characters.

Wrangler Staff 1

Or a tag in the wrong category, like a character name in a relationship

Wrangler 2

or you’ll get a relationship tag that says “character x. mentions of character a/character b and character b/character c”

Wrangling Chair A

wrangle relationships - wrangle page for relationships within a fandom page - this page is showing the tags which are waiting to be wrangled and are currently unfilterable

Wrangling Chair A

That’s what I see when I click on the 2 in the relationships column. That first one, is one I can’t wrangle, because someone didn’t use a comma to separate their tags. So it’s not exactly the same as the canonical I made for Reid Oliver/Luke Snyder.

Wrangler Staff 2

Basically, the *point* of wrangling is to make things play nicely with filters. If someone has Gregory House and someone else has Greg House, we want a user to be able to sort those together. Some tags don’t need to be organized that way. An “additional” or “freeform” tag that’s like… “ZOMG MOAST AMAZINGEST FIC EVAR” probably doesn’t need to be filterable. :D

Attendee 5

What is the “wrangle relationships to characters”?

Wrangler 1

That’s basically so you can see what relationship tags are attached to characters you might want to search by, as a user. What ‘ships have been posted…

Attendee 9

So, if something is unfilterable, does it just stay open as a pending thing on the list? (And what is “remove works”… sounds scary :)

Wrangler 4

That’s Remove and Works. They are different, one ditches the tag from this fandom and one shows all works for that tag

Wrangler Staff 2

Some fandoms have a lot of tags that always show as pending. It can be kind of annoying, but there isn’t a good way around it without making it easy to lose tags.

Wrangler Staff 1

There’s no way for a wrangler to actually remove works from a tag! so no worries about that. You can only wrangle tags, you can’t change anything a user’s done with them

Wrangling Chair A

So the next thing is to actually wrangle the tags! Here’s one that i can actually work on.

Wrangling Chair A

wrangle relationships page - showing unfilterable tag Harry Stark/Eames

Wrangling Chair A

Harry Stark/Eames. This is a relationship. I don’t know who Harry Starks is, but Eames belongs to me (Inception).

Wrangling Chair A

Tag Edit page for Harry Stark/Eames, showing that this tag is in two fandoms, Inception and Long Firm, and there is only one wrangler associated with the fandom

Wrangling Chair A

So I click on edit, so I can actually view the behind the scenes stuff for the tag. Apparently Harry Starks belongs to the Long Firm, whatever that is.

Attendee 8

Will you check on that, or just assume the suggestion is right?

Wrangling Chair A

If there was a wrangler for Long Firm (which there isn’t, because otherwise their name would show up next to mine and R’s). I could ask them – I can leave a comment on the tag. But yes, since I don’t know, I’m going to google

Wrangling Chair A

The Long Firm entry on the Internet Movie Database – seems to be correct

Attendee 10

How is an official name for a relationship decided?

Wrangler Staff 2

Alphabetical by family name

Attendee 10

Are first names included with that, or is it only family name?

Wrangler 1

If the characters don’t have a surname, they’re usually sorted by whatever their character tag is (whether it’s disambiguated or not, and we’ll get to that).

Wrangler Staff 1

If it’s two characters with the same family name, they’re alphabetized by given name (Dean Winchester/Sam Winchester)

Wrangler 4

Family name first, first names second. So anything with the two Winchester brothers would first sort them for the W and then have them in the Dean first, Sam second order.

Wrangler 2

Attendee 10, if someone were to put in Bill Adama & Lee Adama (a non-romantic relationship pairing), I would make a canonical of Lee Adama & William Adama and then syn the user-generated tag to that

Attendee 1

How do you deal with relationships involving characters with unusual names? (The Grey-Eyed Man, The Transcendent Pig, Dogshit, etc. etc.)

Wrangler 1

Usually by the most common name for them, or sometimes we go “common name x | common name y”

Wrangler 4

This sorting is only internally, the filter will sort every tag alphabetically by starting letter (and second or thirds, if necessary)

Wrangling Chair A

If i wasn’t sure about the formatting of the canonical, I’d go to the wiki and check what I should be putting in.

Wrangler 1

If they have more than one usual name or identity. Unless the identity is a giant spoiler like some (River Song, anyone?).

Wrangling Chair A

This one I’m going to make Eames (Inception)/Harry Starks

Wrangling Chair A

Top half of Tag Edit Page of the relationship tag Eames (Inception)/Harry Starks, showing that this tag is canonical

Bottom half of Tag Edit Page of relationship tag Eames (Inception)/Harry Starks, showing the Harry Stark/Eames tag is a synonym of this tag

Wrangling Chair A

Now Eames (Inception)/Harry Starks is listed as the canonical tag. I’ve added the characters to the tag as well and at the bottom you can see the original tag is listed as a synonym. Now if I went to the inception fandom page (Fandom page for Inception), if you expand the relationships filter at the side. The one I’ve just made should be showing.

Wrangler 4

If that tag got used on an unrevealed work in a challenge, it’s not going to show up in the filters either.

Wrangler Staff 1

It was a backdated fic – but the canonicals are showing up here.

Wrangling Chair A

I am mostly done, I think! Does anyone have any questions about that?

Wrangling Chair A

View Tag Page for Eames (Inception), showing all the other tags this tag is linked to, including many relationship tags

Wrangling Chair A

That’s what the tags look at behind the scenes! you can see everything attached to Eames.

Attendee 11

I was wondering how the wrangling of general non-fandom-specific tags is done? I mean, I get that when you’re assigned a fandom, there are the characters tags, relationship tags, and specific fandom terms, but what about the additional tags the authors use to describe their fanfics? (I think those are the freeforms tags, maybe?)

Wrangler Staff 1

Attendee 11: we call those “No Fandom” tags. Along with tags like “Drama” “Humor” “Alternate Universe – Werewolves”

Wrangler Staff 2

I do a lot of the ‘joe’, ‘bob’, ‘hanako’ type tags. Those go in No Fandom. Ambiguous names like those become metatags for the specific character tags.
Attendee 11 – Any of us can work on No Fandom. We have lots of guidelines for how to handle those kinds of tags. But users also often tag with additional/freeform tags that are *not* generic. Things like specific episode titles or single-fandom concepts stay in the specific fandoms.

Wrangler 1

Also, if a fandom doesn’t have a wrangler assigned, you can work on that too if you know it.

Wrangler Staff 1

“No Fandom Freeforms” are the behind-the-scenes name for Additional Tags that don’t belong to a specific fandom. everything here: Archive of Our Own tag cloud and a lot more. They don’t have a specific wrangler, but me and Wrangler 11 are their captains. Anybody is allowed to wrangle them, but we have a lot of rules, to try to make sure that things don’t get either too confusing or obnoxious or even insulting for users.

Wrangler Staff 2

Some tags like ‘Fluff’ or ‘Angst’ usually don’t cause trouble, but we need to be careful with some of them. Also, many words have multiple definitions.

Wrangler 1

Yeah, so don’t hook polygamy and group sex up to each other :P

Wrangler Staff 1

For a while “subspace” was accidentally wrangled to “space travel”

Wrangler 1

Didn’t someone hook intersex and transgender to each other a long while ago, and cause a gigantic (and justified!) kerfuffle?

Wrangler Staff 2

Oh, probably like five times.

Wrangling Chair A

If anyone does find anything that could potentially offend, please let us know! Wranglers can email us. Non-wranglers can submit a Support request, or tweet us at @ao3_wranglers. And we’re happy to answer any questions as well through those channels.

Wrangler Staff 1

Or if you’re just confused and don’t understand why one tag is wrangled to another

Wrangling Chair A

Some of us find freeforms a bit scary, so we leave them to the experts!

Attendee 11

Yeah, I can definitely see how it can get tricky! Which is probably why the rules are good. Well, I definitely spend a lot of time finding fics through the freeform tags, so I’m a little familiar with it already and if you need all the help you can get, I might be interested!

Wrangler Staff 1

Attendee 11 – if you spend a lot of time looking at freeforms anyway, that would definitely help! ^^ And there’s always work to be done there – we get on order of ~25 new freeforms a day ^^

Attendee 12

Could someone please define “canonical” for me in this context?

Wrangler Staff 1

“canonical” is the name for tags that appear in the filters, it’s the “official” archive tags

Wrangling Chair A

Partial Screenshot of Tag View Page for Alternate Universe, showing all the tags which are synonyms to this tag and will show up when filtering for Alternate Universe

Wrangling Chair A

Here’s the alternate universe freeform. Alternate Universe is the canonical. The ones marked “tags with the same meaning” are the ones that are wrangled to it.

Attendee 6

So a canonical is the tag that actually shows up, even though half a dozen others are wrangled to it?

Wrangler Staff 2

We use ‘canonical’ (despite it being a bit confusing too) because we wanted to avoid talking about these tags as more “correct” than other versions. When you look at a specific work, you’ll see the words the creator entered. When you look at a sidebar filter, you’ll see the versions we thought worked best as the filter version

Attendee 7

How do you decide what tags become “official”?

Wrangler Staff 1

We usually try to make canonicals tags that will be the most inclusive and most understandable to all users

Wrangler Staff 2

For example, a lot of users tag with ‘RaPS’, but we use ‘Hip Hop RPF’ to be clearer to newbies and casual fans and people from other parts of fandom who wouldn’t know the more specialized jargon.

Attendee 8

So if you click AU, it will show you things tagged with all those other things, but if you click, say, Disney AU, will i just show other things tagged Disney AU, or will it show all the AUs?

Wrangler 4

Attendee 8, clicking on Disney AU brings up all stories tagged with any of the tags you see on that page, since Disney AU is a syn. It would be different if it were a subtag

Attendee 8

So how would you find all the things tagged Disney AU?

Wrangler Staff 1

We have some 12K no fandom freeform tags and counting that are not wrangled. you can search “Disney AU”

Wrangler 7

Attendee 8 – Disney AU is presently used on only one work in the Archive, which you can see when you’re a wrangler. One of the perks. *g*

Wrangling Chair A

We tend to only make canonicals of tags that are used by multiple users

Attendee 11

Yes, I’m kind of obsessive about organizing things, so I think I could help. Of course at first I’ll probably be a little annoying coming to you (and your co-captain :D) to make sure I’m doing things right.

Wrangler 5

Don’t worry about pestering them with questions. Wrangling Chair A _likes_ interesting questions!

Wrangling Chair A

Attendee 11: That’s why we’re here! The committee holds regular office hours in the chatroom, as well as being available by email

Wrangler Staff 1

but at the same time there’s some things that are best left unorganized

Wrangler Staff 2

Our main problem as wranglers, and one of the main problems for the committee as supervisors, is dealing with the fact that we *can’t* wrangle everything or make everything neat and perfect. We’re all pretty OCD. :D

Wrangler Staff 1

that is one thing about no-fandom freeforms – you have to learn to let them go

Wrangler Staff 2

Attendee 8 – Tags that are “synonyms” sort 100% together. Other tags have a metatag/subtag relationship. If you click on the metatag, you see everything underneath it. If you click on a sub-tag, you’ll only see things with that tag, its synonyms, and any subtags it might have. The relationship goes in a particular direction for meta/subtags.

Attendee 4

Do freeforms not have subtags?

Wrangling Chair A

They do! Here are some of the ones from Alternate Universe (or rather, they can! they don’t have to). Alternate universe is about 5 pages long of subtags.

Wrangling Chair A

Partial screenshot of Tag View Page for Alternate Universe, showing its subtags

Wrangler Staff 2

There are cases where metatags are super useful, but sometimes it’s hard to decide which tag should be the metatag and which the subtag, and that’s usually a sign that wranglers are over-organizing. (I know, I know, what is this “over” organizing I speak of?)

Wrangler 8

identity tags, for example, are often better off not metatagged

Attendee 10

What are identity tags?

Wrangler Staff 2

Attendee 10 – like ‘gay’, ‘intersex’, ‘of color’

Wrangler 8

Attendee 10, I meant like nationalities, or ‘gay’, or ‘POC’, etc
tags that refer to a person’s or character’s identity

Wrangler Staff 2

Part of the whole idea of tags, *especially* the additional/freeform ones is to let users choose their own terminology and just see how things work out. Frequently, too much wrangling starts to impose structure where none is needed.

Wrangler Staff 1

One thing to remember about metatags is that they appear in a user’s filters along with the canonical tag. So an author might see tags appearing in their works pages’ filters that they didn’t put on their works, which can understandably perturb them.

Attendee 3

*One thing to remember about metatags is that they appear in a user’s filters along with the canonical tag* Ooooh, so if the user can choose to filter by meta or sub tag. I wondered about that.

Wrangler 1

Yeah, some people decide to add the whole caboodle to their fics if they’re, like for Doctor Who, multi-era. And some just use one.

Wrangler Staff 1

Ideally we’d like to make that optional, so a user can choose to have metatags appear or not

Attendee 3

I think it’s helpful to be able to see them, now that I understand why random tags were popping up.

Attendee 10

Right, I remember being confused when I first joined A03 and I had tags in the thing that I didn’t put there. But it made sense after a while

Attendee 2

Is there a tag FAQ explaining meta/sub tags on the site?

Wrangler Staff 1

The Tag FAQ does explain metatags, and we have a tutorial as well

Wrangler 8

Archive FAQ – Tags, Attendee 2?

Wrangler 6

(Attendee 2, also: Tutorial: Tags on the AO3 \o/)

Attendee 5

Can you tell us about the internal wiki?

Wrangler Staff 2

It’s where we store guidelines. It also has a lot of stuff from other committees and volunteer groups. It’s a standard style wiki; if you’ve edited Wikipedia or Fanlore, it will be familiar

Wrangling Chair A

Wrangler F has written some great guidelines to getting started with the wiki

Wrangler Staff 2

Attendee 5 – A while ago, we didn’t have a committee, just an undifferentiated volunteer pool, and we all added guidelines to the wiki as we came up with them on the mailing list. (And by “all”, I mean I added like half of them and the other half stayed out of date.) Now, it’s usually the committee that edits things

Attendee 3

I found the intro to tag wrangling pages very thorough and helpful. (although I’m so new that I haven’t done anything beyond read)

Wrangling Chair A

One thing about OTW – you get taught to use the tools! (or shown how to teach yourself, in some cases). After learning how to use the OTW wiki, I implemented one at work and my boss thinks i’m awesome :)

Wrangling Chair R

Tag Wrangling can be used for resumes. *g* We will teach you life skills! If we’re not, we’re doing something wrong.

Wrangler Staff 2

Yes, well. I suppose it depends on the interview. But, in general, you don’t need a lot of wiki skills to wrangle since you probably won’t need to edit the internal wiki yourself (and if you do want wiki skills, we can teach you). Mostly, you just have to read the pages there and then poke the committee about anything that looks confusing or out of date (of which there’s bound to be some since this is a wiki).

Wrangler Staff 1

It’s usually preferred for a wrangler to wrangle in fandoms they’re either active in, or spend time reading in (or plan to spend time reading in!)

Wrangler 1

Wranglers who wrangle fandoms they don’t know are more likely to make mistakes

Wrangling Chair A

But you can dip your toes into other fandoms without being a permanent wrangler

Wrangler Staff 1

Even if you’re seen the fandom source, if you don’t know how fandoms refer to things you can get confused

Wrangling Chair A

If you find the fandom is getting a bit tricky, then you can ask for help or release it and a new wrangler can potentially take over

Attendee 11

Do we specify which fandoms (and/or no fandom freeforms) we wish to wrangle for when we send the message to volunteer?

Wrangling Chair A

Attendee 11: you can if you like. But it’s not necessary unless you can only do fandoms that have wranglers already in which case Wrangling Chair R & I will contact the existing wranglers and ask if they’d like a cowrangler to help them out

Wrangler Staff 2

Once you’re set up as a wrangler, you’ll be able to assign fandoms to yourself. It’s up to you to decide which ones and to not claim ones that already have wranglers (you’ll be able to see the difference in the wrangling interface). You can assign and unassign yourself whenever you like; we don’t need to approve anything.

Attendee 3

Oh wait, I had one last question: How do you know if you’ve received comments on your tags?

Wrangling Chair A

You get an email from the archive

Wrangler 5

PS: you can also skim Tag Wrangling Discussion once you have the interface, and it lists all the recent comment threads on all tags.

Wrangler 1

also, as I don’t think it has been mentioned yet, we have a mailing list for discussions! it is best to keep an eye on it in case anything new is mentioned.

Attendee 8

So, to sign up we send a message to Volunteers and Recruiting?

Wrangling Chair A

Contact Volunteers and Recruiting. We close off recruitment for the year at the end of the month

Wrangling Chair R

The VolComrades welcome all who wish to volunteer! If you have additional skills, do feel free to share them in your form. :)

Wrangler 8

Remember you can always volunteer for other committees, too! (can’t help plugging for Translation /0\)