Text by Benny
The Tag Wrangling committee is where we are shining the spotlight next! The Wranglers are vital to Archive of Our Own – they make sure that all the diverse tags associated with a fandom are grouped and align as the individual writers intended. This means that when different people use different tags to indicate the same thing (for example, referring to the character from Harry Potter variously as ‘Snape’, ‘Severus Snape’, ‘His Greasy-Haired Half-Blooded-ness’, ‘Sexy Sev’, etc.), the Tag Wranglers make sure all those tags are connected invisibly to lead to the same results. That allows fannish diversity without sacrificing usability for readers!
Like we said, the Tag Wranglers are crucial to the function of the AO3. Without them, finding the works you want would be far more challenging, and labeling the works you post would be far less flexible. It’s not an easy job, though – Tag Wranglers must be very familiar with the fandom they are wrangling for, and sensitive to the needs of both current and future users from a variety of traditions.
For example, what happens when there’s a fandom – let’s use Teletubbies as an example – that none of the available wranglers are familiar with? Generally that means the wranglers must do research (one of the rare examples where you can justify marathoning episodes of Teletubbies, we suppose, though the wrangler would also consult sources like Fanlore and Wikipedia), but how much of the canon and fannish history should they research before they are certain they are familiar enough to wrangle its tags?
Another common situation is when Wranglers encounter tags that are ambiguous in their intent. For example, if someone has an intentionally OOC Dumbledore who they tag as ‘Headmaster Albus MacDaddy-D’ and who stars in a number of their stories and only their stories, should his tag link to all the Dumbledore tags, or does he deserve his own unique status? These are the sort of dilemmas tag wranglers encounter every day.
We talked about how tags work before in Wuzzles Explained, if you’re interested in reading more. Tag Wranglers account for about half of our non-Staff volunteer force, so we are going to spotlight several other aspects of their work in the next few weeks.