The following is a post created by a member of the Tag Wrangling Committee to address some ongoing questions and discussions involving freeform tags on the Archive of Our Own.
Let’s talk about those Additional Tags.
More specifically, let’s talk about the long-form descriptive tags that are frequently being placed in the Additional Tags field. I want to get some facts on the table so our users – both consumers and creators – can have this important discussion properly. Any numbers cited are as of 0100UTC, 27 Oct 2012.
Full disclosure: Hi, I’m Sam J. I am a Wrangling staffer, a Wrangling volunteer, a Support staffer, and an Archive user. I have four horses in this race and, frankly, they’re running in at least two different directions, leaving me with a varying opinion of these tags depending on when you ask me.
- At last count, there were around 160 Tag Wrangling Volunteers. There are 10,232 Fandoms on the Archive. Of those, roughly 5,300 do not have a wrangler listed, so they are not tightly monitored. Many of these unwatched fandoms are occasionally wrangled by volunteer teams, or are metatags containing fandoms that are tightly wrangled.
- As per the precedent established in the AO3 Terms of Service, we consider the tags on a work to be part of the content of that work. As such, the Tag Wranglers do not—and cannot—change, add, or remove tags from a creator’s work. Any such changes to tags have to be initiated by Abuse, who only act in cases of tags that are against policy and are handled according to their protocols and the Terms of Service.
- In recent months, the Archive’s seen an overall increase in the number of Additional Tags on works. From last October to November, the number of Additional Tags on the Archive increased by 2,535, while the number of total works increased by 7,046. From this September to this October, that number has increased by 12,920 while the number of total works has increased by 22,936. Neither increase is linear – the works-per-month growth has been roughly stable since April, and the Additional Tag growth has been consistent, plus or minus 10%, since July.
- The rate of growth for canonical Additionals over the last year has remained fairly consistent, gaining a average of 220 a month. (Four months were aberrations: March increased by 388; May, 296; March, 288; and September, 147.)
- The Additional Tags were not responsible for the Death of the Filters. The sheer number of works on the Archive are what stressed the old code, and the sudden spike in readers/viewers starting in May pushed it past its capacity to fulfill requests. Because the filters pulled and displayed the canonical forms of tags, there were often far fewer Additional Tags listed than in the actual search results.
- Non-canonical tags with only a few uses put almost no strain on the servers. It’s the popular canonical tags and metatags that put the most strain on the servers.
- Additional Tags are not distributed evenly throughout the fandoms—the massive increases in Additional Tags are concentrated in a limited number of fandoms. Even fandoms of similar sizes can have wildly divergent Tags/Works ratios. Drawing from random fandoms :
Fandom Tag Works using Fandom Tag All Additional Tags* Additional Tags per 1000 Works Canonical Additional Tags Canonical Additional Tags per 1000 Works Buffy the Vampire Slayer 10847 692 63.80 184 16.96 Cats – Andrew Lloyd Webber 37 4 108.11 0 0 Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling 19422 2391 123.11 344 17.71 Hockey RPF 1381 179 129.62 82 59.38 Homestuck 9990 2475 247.75 97 9.71 Inception (2010) 3796 300 79.03 19 5.01 Marvel Avengers Movies Universe 16442 3164 192.42 166 10.10 Naruto 3167 281 88.73 19 6.00 Sanctuary (TV) 1359 117 86.16 53 39.03 Sherlock (TV) 18300 3981 217.54 60 3.28 Xena: Warrior Princess 293 16 54.61 4 13.65
*NB: These numbers do not include Additional Tags already wrangled into “No Fandom”, as the system does not have a way to generate those numbers. However, the number of “No Fandom” tags tends to be proportional to the fandom-specific Additional Tags.
- When users create new tags (be they Fandom, Character, Relationship, or Additional/Freeform), they automatically:
- will not show up on that fandom’s Show Tag page;
- will not show in the Filter sidebar of Works pages (exception: your personal bookmark tags will show in your personal bookmarks filter), though they can be filtered on, to an extent;
- will not show up in auto-complete fields.
A wrangler has to manually add Fandom links (or toss the tag into No Fandom) by typing in the Fandom name(s), and/or mark it as Canonical (allows the tag to appear in the auto-complete and be filterable by anyone) via a checkbox. The Wrangling interface does allow for mass-wrangling tags into a fandom and mass-marking them as canonical. The guidelines for Additional Tags are very selective as to what should or should not be marked as canonical.
- Users can search for works using unwrangled Additional Tags by either clicking on the tag where it appears or by using the Works Search. (The Works Search uses a string search for the text of the tag, in addition to searching via wrangled tags.)
- Logged-in users have the options of a few skins that affect how Additional Tags display in search lists. This skin shortens the Additional Tags to around 15 characters. This one puts all tag fields over a certain length into a scrollbox so they take up less room on the works pages, and this one hides the appearance of Additional Tags in search lists completely. If you do not yet have an AO3 account, the CSS listed in these skins can also be used in third-party site scripting tools, such as Stylish.
Additionally, a logged-in user has the option to go to their Preferences and activate “Hide additional tags”. This turns the entire content of the “Additional Tags” field to a “Show Additional Tags” link.
Currently, both of these options are primarily available to logged-in users and do not apply to email subscriptions or tag ATOM Feeds.
- Wranglers and Coders alike have been considering ways to additionally mark these tags in the front-end code, so that via a site skin, a third-party plugin, or another method, a user can have more fine-grained control over tag viewing when browsing. (Any coding solution will, almost by definition, require more data pulled from the servers, so there’s a lot of evaluation before we push any buttons.)
- The wrangling interface does need some improvements. (Depending on who you ask, a lot of improvements.) We are working on them, but our coders’ time is a limited resource. As well, we have wranglers on as many browser and OS combinations as our users in general, so it takes significant testing to make sure the interface doesn’t degrade for anyone, which is time-consuming.
There will be a second post tomorrow stating the Tag Wrangling Staff’s official point of view on the sustainability of the current Wrangling system. If there’s something you have a particular question about, leave a comment and we’ll try to get an answer for you!