New Feature! Archive news post #1 – The basics

Hello from AD&T!

Since the OTW began, we’ve been working away busily on creating the Archive of Our Own, buoyed up by tons of support from fandom. Now that we’ve been working on it a while, we know that people have questions. So from now on we’ll be running a twice-monthly news post specifically about the Archive, answering some frequently asked questions. We’ll answer a handful of questions each post, to keep it manageable for us and you.

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).

Your questions and answers for this session:

What is the Archive of Our Own?

(Most people reading will know this already, but just as a refresher before we start.)
The Archive of Our Own offers a noncommercial and nonprofit central hosting place for fanfiction and (long-term) other transformative fanworks: i.e. it is free to use and does not make any money. It is multifannish, and built on open-source archiving software designed and built by and for fans. It will be hosted on servers owned by the OTW, and therefore not vulnerable to a commercial hosting company deciding they don’t like our stuff.

Sounds great! Why can’t I create an account?

We’re currently in closed beta and account creation is strictly limited. This is because we’re still busy working on the core software for the Archive and acquiring the hardware which will host it. While we’re in closed beta, everything about the Archive will change rapidly and things may break. We need to keep user numbers extremely low so our servers don’t crash and we’re not overwhelmed by feedback on the many bugs that still exist.

You can enjoy a lot of the features of the Archive without an account – please come and enjoy some of the stories already posted. We currently have over 4500 stories in 480 fandoms, so there’s plenty to choose from! You can leave comments on fics without an account, and if you supply a valid email address you’ll be notified when there’s a reply.

We are adding new users very gradually, drawing from our pool of people who leave feedback about the experience of using the Archive. So, if you’re really keen to get an account, leaving feedback about the Archive site there (not here!) is a good way to start.

I’m really keen to see the Archive come out of closed beta – why is it taking so long?

There are a few reasons why we’ve been in closed beta for what might feel a relatively long time:

  • We don’t own the servers yet! Buying and setting up colocated servers which can handle the kind of traffic we anticipate takes time and money. Our current server setup can only take a very small number of users. However, we’re happy to report that our latest membership drive raised the money we needed to do this, and we’re now almost through all the work required to turn the dream into a reality – more news on this very soon! \0/
  • We have a small team working on the project. The OTW is entirely volunteer-run, which means that everyone involved has other major commitments which prevent them from working constantly on building the archive (although some of our coders pretty much are working constantly, because they are amazingly dedicated!) This is a big difference between us and commercial sites, who can pay full-time staff.
  • The Archive is custom-built. We wanted it to meet the needs of fandom as it is now and as it might develop, so rather than just copying the features of existing archives (for example, the Automated Archive software built by our own Naomi Novik) we started with a list of dream features and tried to design from scratch. We think this will make a better archive in the long run.
  • We want the archive to serve all fans. We’re working hard to make it as accessible as possible to all users, and to provide an infrastructure which can support multiple languages. This is a massive undertaking, so it takes time to get it right.

How can I help things move faster?

  • You can volunteer to join our teams! We always need more people to help work on the archive, not just as coders (although we would love to have more coders) but also to work on testing, documentation, translation, and so on. You can read more about volunteering to work on the archive at How you can help. If you’re interested in helping, but you’re not sure what you would do, then let us know your strengths and we’ll figure out which team would be the best fit for you. If you want to code but have no experience, then don’t be put off – we welcome beginner coders and are keen to offer training and support.
  • You can become a member or donate. The more secure our finances are, the easier it is for us to support our servers.
  • You can test the archive informally (i.e. without joining our official team of testers) by reading fic and trying out the other features, then leaving your feedback. This means we will pick up bugs quicker and will build the archive how you want it! (This also increases the chance of you getting a beta account, as we draw our beta users from the pool of those who have left feedback.)

When will you start open beta and how will I be able to get an account?

We can’t make any firm promises for this yet, because we still have a few important things to complete (although now we know we can buy our servers, it’s definitely on the horizon \0/). We’re tentatively looking at moving to open beta at the end of the summer (northern hemisphere!) Accounts will still be invitation-only at that point, so our servers don’t get swamped, and we’re working on a plan for making sure that invitations are available to as wide a range of the fannish community as possible. So, watch this space! (And if you have thoughts on how you’d like to see invitations work, then feel free to share them with us.)

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

4 thoughts to “New Feature! Archive news post #1 – The basics”

  1. Huh. I’ve been trying to renew my membership via donation all morning and the process keeps stalling out at what I think is the select-payment-method, forward-to-Paypal stage. Is this just me or is there something actually up with the site? o.O

    1. I pinged our Webmasters and they say they know of this bug, which apparently does affect some small percentage of users. I’m going to ping our DevMem team and have someone get in touch with you ASAP; in the meantime, I apologize for the inconvenience!!

  2. I’m so excited to read more about the archive, so I like the idea of extra posts. I think everyone is doing such a great job building it, it’s so exciting to see it taking shape. I’d like to know where on the roadmap the coders are, and when extra features like communities, automated rec lists and rating will be incorporated. I know it will be a while, but it would be cool to know how close we are.

    I’m very excited to hear that we have enough money to purchase colocated servers \0/!! That’s fantastic news.

    RD

    1. I’m not on the staff, just a junior volunteer, but from what I know, the basics of “Collections & Challenges” (which is how communities will mostly work) will be there in time for Yuletide, but the full thing won’t be until next year. The first version of bookmarking and reccing is currently being tested, and will be live by the end of the year – the full version won’t be until next year.

      It’s all open source, so you can view the issues the coders are currently working on at http://code.google.com/p/otwarchive/

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