The members of the AO3 development team — known as “Accessibility, Design & Technology” (AD&T) — don’t just build the Archive software and make sure the Archive servers stay happy even under stress. We use the AO3, too: as authors, fanartists, readers, commenters, reccers, challenge mods, and more. We’re thankful for your generous donations that pay for the servers we spend so much time working and playing on (although it’s usually a little more work than play). On that note, here are some features we’ve rolled out that we’re especially proud of or excited about.
The homepage redesign was one of the most visible changes the Archive underwent this past year, and it was also one of the longest in the making. While it only took about eight months from writing the first line of code to deploying the finished product, the design plans date all the way back to October 2010 — that’s longer than most of us have been on AD&T! The homepage was an enticing project to undertake not just because we were looking forward to the new functionality (Favorite Tags!), but because it allowed us to say thank you to the AD&T volunteers who came before us by making their ideas a reality.
2. Open Doors API
We all love the Open Doors project, which rescues fanworks from smaller archives that are scheduled to go offline or otherwise in danger of disappearing. Unfortunately, the Open Doors code was a little rusty — but then our Open Doors liaison Ariana rose to the challenge!
About 20 years ago, in the early days of Internet fandoms, Ariana used to create and maintain fanfic archives for her fandoms, including Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Space: 1999. When she found AO3, she decided that having all her fandoms under one metaphorical roof was a better idea and joined AD&T to help out. Ariana put her fannish interests together with her professional knowledge of APIs and polished up Open Doors’ importing code, and now we can all look forward to seeing even more at-risk archives preserved for future generations of fans.
3. Mobile filters
Computers are key for coding, but like a huge percentage of Archive visitors, the AD&T volunteers frequently access the site from their phones or tablets too. That means we were all on familiar terms with the frustration of scrolling to the bottom of the page to reach the filters on our phones. It was something we wanted to fix, and had indeed been working on, but other, more urgent problems kept cropping up and needing attention.
But then AD&T co-chair Sarken found herself sick in bed and wanting fic of a certain rating featuring her new OTP. After a few days of scrolling to the bottom of the work listings, Sarken went back to her computer with a mission: finish the mobile filters.
After that, it was just a few short weeks of discussion and testing before Release 0.9.57 put an end to the days of scrolling to reach the filters.
4. Work stats HTML changes
For some of us on AD&T, every hit on a work is a silent reassurance that someone is interested in what we’ve created — but for others, it’s a glaring reminder of every kudos or comment we didn’t receive. Because we had such different interpretations of the same statistic, we knew our users would, too, so we included a preference for controlling the display of hit counts on your own or all works. However, as we’ve adjusted our code to accommodate our growth and improve performance, caching bugs crept in and these preferences stopped working. We knew we needed a new approach to help with this old problem.
We put our heads together and realized our skin system gave us a pretty good solution not just for this issue, but for hiding other statistics (e.g. kudos counts) as well. With a few small tweaks to our HTML in our July release, we made it easy for users to create a Site Skin that will hide any statistic they don’t want to see.
5. Draft deletion date added to draft blurbs
As creators and consumers of fanworks ourselves, we were always heartbroken when Support shared reports of users who have lost their works due to the limited lifespan of drafts. Sadly, the big chunk of code that controls works, drafts, and tags is very old and intricate — it would need a lot of rewriting to keep drafts around forever without adding extra work for the tag wranglers.
However, we’ve found that little changes can make a huge difference in this area. We’re happy to say that we’ve received far fewer reports of accidentally lost drafts since Release 0.9.56, when AD&T and Systems volunteer james_ noticed we weren’t displaying the deletion date on draft blurbs and added it. (We’d be remiss if we didn’t take this opportunity to remind you to always keep a backup copy of your work elsewhere!)
And one thing we haven’t done yet…
AD&T volunteers and liaisons speak a number of different languages, so we’re excited every time we get a step closer to offering the whole Archive experience in languages other than English — and we’re thrilled to say we’ve recently taken one of the biggest steps yet! Last year, Scott made the FAQ section translatable, and this year, james_ has begun working on doing the same for our emails. We’re working closely with our amazing Translation committee to try out possible tools for their work and we can’t wait to flip the switch that will let our users select a language on offer and receive notifications from us in that language. However, there’s a lot left to do!
We are only a small team and frequently find ourselves with a server emergency or broken code at hand that needs immediate attention, meaning other big projects get delayed. This doesn’t mean we don’t care — just like you, we want to see the Archive grow and prosper and be a welcoming space for everyone who wants to use it. (More fanworks for us, too!) Please help us ensure that the Archive servers stay around for a long time, and donate today!