Yuletide Treasure, an annual fic exchange challenge hosted by Astolat and Elynross, is running on on the Archive of Our Own again this year. This is a big fannish event which has a big impact on the Archive: this post aims to give a bit more information about the relationship between Yuletide and the AO3 and to give Archive users an idea of what to expect while the challenge is running — roughly from now until the first week of January.
Yuletide is not an OTW project; rather, it’s a private project created and moderated by two fans who make decisions about how it will be run. The timeline and parameters of the Yuletide challenge are set by the Yuletide moderators, and the Archive team expends significant time and effort to accommodate those needs for two compelling reasons: first, because it is part of the OTW’s mission to support at-risk fannish endeavors such as Yuletide; and second, because Yuletide provides a valuable test case for the Archive, providing us with the opportunity to develop and refine our code in realistic conditions while the site is still in beta. Because of the size of the Yuletide challenge, it provides us with a level of use which would be exceedingly difficult to replicate under testing conditions. In addition, because one of the Yuletide mods is also a staffer with the OTW, we have the ability to work closely with them and get the feedback we need.
Yuletide is a very large challenge with thousands of participants, and it involves periods of heavy server traffic — particularly around the time of sign-ups, the story-uploading deadline, and the day stories are revealed to readers. Although our volunteers have been working hard to improve system performance, we know that this heavy traffic will cause the Archive to be slow, and we fully expect that some things will break. Please understand that this is the nature of beta testing. We know it’s no fun to encounter a slow or buggy website when you’re trying to view or post works, but by testing the Archive under the intense conditions of Yuletide now, we can learn where the problems are and how best to correct them while the code is still in beta. This is particularly important for us this year, as we’re on the brink of investing lots of money in new, shiny servers, and understanding where the points of stress are in the existing servers will help us evaluate our needs going forward.
The Archive staff wish to express our gratitude to everyone who is assisting with this massive effort, including the coders, testers, tag wranglers, Support and Systems staff, Astolat and Elynross, and the many Yuletide participants who have pitched in to help with testing and tag checking. We would also like to ask all Archive beta users, including those who are not participating in Yuletide, for their patience and understanding during the next several weeks. We cannot promise that everything will run smoothly, but we can promise that this experience will help us make the Archive stronger, more resilient, and generally shinier in the future. If you’d like to participate more directly in making the Archive better, we welcome feedback and volunteers!