Archive Update

  • Scheduled Archive downtime

    By .Lucy Pearson on Wednesday, 7 November 2012 - 8:06pm
    Message type:

    The Archive of Our Own will have approximately two hours of planned downtime on 8 November 2012, starting c. 05.30 UTC (see what time that is in your timezone).

    During this time we will be installing new discs in our servers, giving us more space to accommodate the demands of serving lots of data to lots of users!

    If all goes well with the hardware installation, we will also be deploying new code during this downtime. The new release will include the long-awaited return of the tag filters! We're very excited (and a bit nervous).

    Please follow AO3_Status for updates on the downtime and maintenance - we'll tweet before we take the site down and again when the work has been completed. If our Twitter says we're up but you're still seeing the maintenance page, you may need to clear your browser cache and refresh.

  • Archive of Our Own Newsletter - October 2012

    By Camden on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 2:25am
    Message type:

    Happy October, Archivers! Welcome to this month's newsletter.

    Cool stuff on the Archive!

    This month, we took a look at tag stats and growth over the past two years!

    What’s up in the world of tags?

    Often in wrangling, we change tag names in response to feedback either from archive users, or other tag wranglers (or both!). Our most recent change involves the canonical fandom tags for Jewish and Christian religious scripture. Prior to our changes, "Hebrew Bible" was a single fandom, with "Old Testament" as a synonym. You can view the current tag structure under Abrahamic Religions, which includes a tag for Tanakh separate from the Christian Bible (Old Testament). The old tag "Hebrew Bible" is now a synonym of Tanakh. Thank you to those users and wranglers who provided feedback in this discussion.

    Support issues

    We're seeing some really wonky behavior emerging with Tag Sets pulling characters into multiple fandoms or occasionally a tag vanishing from the list. We're having a hard time tracking this down, so if you see aberrant behavior in the Tag Set feature, please send Support a note so we can document it for the Coders!

    AD&T Committee business of note

    We continue to work on a header redesign and we have also started working on a brand new front page. Our updated roadmap is in the final stages of editing and should be available soon. The reinstatement of tag filtering comes closer and closer as we put the finishing touches on new code and sent it off to our testers. We still can't guarantee a firm date but they're coming - we promise! And finally, this month we celebrated Ada Lovelace Day by honoring our awesome chair Elz!

    Support Committee business of note

    As noted below with the Tag Wranglers, we are eagerly testing the return of the filters.

    Tag Wrangling Committee business of note

    We've been adding to our collection of public wrangling guidelines, and we're excitedly preparing (and testing!) for the upcoming return of tag filters.

    Questions? Comments?

    We welcome feedback from users! If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments of the latest news post, or send in a Support request (if you're reporting a bug, please send that to Support, as they're super efficient - comments on our news posts sometimes get overlooked).

  • Archive Of Our Own Newsletter - September 2012

    By Camden on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 7:57pm
    Message type:

    Hello Archive creators, users, and lovers! The days have gone by quickly, haven't they? We've got a short--but sweet--newsletter for you this month.

    Cool stuff on the archive!

    Releases 0.9.0 and 0.9.1 were deployed -- check out what's new and what's been fixed! Tag hierarchies are now visible. We're also able to support podfic embeds again.

    What’s up in the world of tags?

    With the new public tag display pages, users on the Archive can now get a wranglers-eye view of tags. So if you're curious, you can check out all the Marvel comics fandoms or all the different adaptations of Hana Yori Dango on the Archive, see how many different characters Stiles Stilinski has been paired with, and hop between a variety of Alternate Universes!

    Support issues

    We're starting to see, due to the dedicated and diligent work of our Coding volunteers, a large number of bugs being squashed. Even so, we still have a number of bugs that we know about, along with common workarounds, at the Archive's Known Issues page. If you want to check to see if something has been reported, that's a good place to start. (There's even a link at the top of the Support form.)

    We're excited about the upcoming changes and want to extend a hearty greeting to all our incoming holiday exchanges, especially the number of exchanges who are choosing to run entirely on the site for the first time! If you as a user or a mod have any questions, drop us a line!

    As a general warning to users posting HTML, both Firefox and Chrome seem to have resumed their trick of converting straight (") double quotes into angled 'smart' quotes, which our HTML Sanitizer does not like. If you're having issues embedding multimedia or adjusting CSS, that would be the first place we recommend checking.

    AD&T Committee business of note

    We're also working hard on bringing back tag filtering and we hope to have it back soon!. Please take a look at this post for more information on tag filtering if you haven't already. We're also discontinuing support for IE6&7. See this post for details and how you can help us with this transition. Release 0.9.0 and 0.9.1 went well and we're very pleased with how they are working out. And finally, we continue to work on an updated AO3 roadmap and its development is going well!

    Support Committee business of note

    We've made notable steps over the last year to maintain a sustainable system for ticket responses, and, having figured out what works, are starting to collect documented guidelines for the fateful day in the distant future of complete staff turnover.

    Tag Wrangling Committee business of note

    We're really excited that everyone can now see some of the insides of the wrangulator, an alpha feature which you may have read about in A New Look at AO3 Tags. We're currently working hard on converting our wrangling guidelines for posting to the archive FAQs section, starting here.


    We've been getting reports from people who have been missing account activation emails -- please do not hesitate to let us know if this is the case with you. We're working on the issue and hope to have it resolved soon but in the meantime please contact Support if you are missing an activation email. The Archive also experienced about 40 minutes of downtime earlier this month when we installed new batteries in old machines and another 40 minutes during a deploy. We apologize if this inconvenienced you in any way.

    Questions? Comments?

    We welcome feedback from users! If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments of the latest news post, or send in a Support request (if you're reporting a bug, please send that to Support, as they're super efficient - comments on our news posts sometimes get overlooked).

  • A New Look at AO3 Tags

    By Claudia Rebaza on Monday, 3 September 2012 - 6:35pm
    Message type:

    One feature that's been asked for repeatedly since the AO3 launched is a way to see how tags are structured on the Archive. This is now possible! Although this new option doesn't show everything that goes on behind the scenes when tag wrangling, it does provide more information to users as to what tags are in use and how the tags are interlinked behind the scenes.

    We should note right up front: this is a very alpha interface. In fact, all that's been done is that we've changed the accessibility of the pages, and truncated the display of longer tag lists to save the servers. We do have plans for improving them, but we thought it best to get the pages out there and see what information you want!

    We should also note that, in preparation for this release and the guidelines release, we've discovered a number of wrangling terms that are used inconsistently or confusingly. The Tag Wrangling volunteers are currently discussing new terminology, which we hope will be clearer.

    How to Access the Tag Display Page

    There are two ways to access these pages: through navigation, and through direct links.

    If you're browsing the site, you probably already know you can click on a tag to see the works that use that tag or its synonyms. You'll see early in the page "1-X of Y Works found in Tag Name". Select the Tag Name to access the Tag Display page for that tag.

    If you know the name of the tag, you can also enter directly into the address bar. (Note: for relationships, replace any / in the address with *s* for the link to work, and for friendship tags replace any & in the address with *a*.) Tag Search also links to the Tag Display pages.

    The tags page

    Near the beginning of the page (in the top right when using the default visual skin), will be two buttons that let you see all of the works marked with the tag you're viewing. Both creators and users of the works may have chosen that tag -- the creators when the works were uploaded, and the users when they decided to bookmark those works.

    The tags page is divided into several sections. In most sections, if multiple tags are listed, they're automatically sorted into alphabetical order. Please note that these sections at present will only display the first 300 tags, in order to prevent unwieldy server loads. In the meantime you can use the Tag Search to find a particular tag. We plan to improve this display in later versions of this feature, so eventually you will be able to see all the tags under any tag.

    A Sample Entry

    A good example to see the Tag Display page in action is the Being Human (UK) fandom tag. Accessing the page, you'll find that:

    • the tag is a Fandom tag, and it has been marked Common, so it will pop up in the auto-complete;
    • the tag is for a TV Show;
    • the tag has a synonym;
    • the tag has a metatag, indicating that it's a distinct part of a larger group (in this case, there are other versions of the series);
    • the tag contains a number of Character, Relationship, and Freeform tags.

    What does any of that mean?

    All the tags on the Archive can be in one of three states -- common (canonical), merged (synonym), or unfilterable. Common tags (also known as "canonical" tags) can be filtered on and appear in the auto-complete. Merged tags (also known as "synonyms") are connected to a single common tag and works/bookmarks tagged with it will appear in the common tag's filter. Unfilterable tags cannot be used in filters but can still be searched and will still bring up lists of works. Here is an example:

    If you click on the merged tag Aido Hanabusa, you can see that this Character tag has been merged into a different tag due to spelling differences. If you then click on the Aidou Hanabusa tag, you will see that it is the common tag. It has various mergers and it is also connected to both broader and narrower tags.

    Any tag can be merged if it has a common meaning with another tag or tags. This is true whether it is a Fandom, Character, Relationship or Additional tag. However, not all tags get merged. Some remain unfilterable both because they have no shared meaning with other tags, and yet they are so rarely used that they are not likely to be searched on by other users. Some may be only temporarily unfilterable, until a tag wrangler has had time to review them and mark them as common or merge them with another tag.

    Here is an explanation of the other sorts of tags you'll see on the tag pages.

    Parent tags

    Each user-created tag has one or more Parent tags. These are broad terms which may contain many subgroups of tags that fit a certain theme.

    • For example, Fandoms will have their Media type(s) listed as their Parent. All television show fandoms will have "TV Shows" as a parent tag.
    • Characters, Relationships, and Additional (or Freeform) Tags will have one or more Fandoms listed as their Parent.

    Tags with the Same Meaning

    These tags are "synonyms" of another tag, which have all been merged into the common tag. There are various reasons why tags are merged, such as spelling variations, fanon names when canon only gives part of the name, or just that there are many different ways to describe the same thing. When tags are merged they all get pooled together for better filter results.

    Metatags and Subtags

    Metatags are common tags that can include one or more subtags that are subsets of the metatag. Metatags are created for a number of reasons — the most common reasons are:

    • Fandoms that include different media productions or different media formats under the same name or within the same universe
    • Ambiguous versions of more specific tags (such as all characters named "Mary")

    So if you click on Star Trek: The Next Generation you will see it is a subtag of the larger Star Trek universe metatag.

    You can also see its subtags, in this case the movies associated with the series, and you can see that those subtags can have subtags of their own.

    Child tags

    Like Parent tags, above, each tag can have Child tags. Different types of tags can have different Child tags:

    Media tags
    These tags, like "Books & Literature" or "Movies" can have Fandom tags.
    Fandom tags
    These tags can have as Child tags: Character tags from that fandom, Relationship tags that involve one or more characters from that fandom, and Additional tags (called "Freeforms", here) that are specific to that fandom.
    Character tags
    These can have Relationship tags that involve specific characters, if set by the wranglers.

    Other tags

    Besides all of these user-created tags, some tags on the Archive are standardized and cannot be wrangled, though they are still tags and their tag pages are visible. Users are probably familiar with Archive-created tag types such as "Warning", "Rating", and "Category" (the latter is for Gen, F/F, F/M, M/M, Multi, and Other). For example, clicking on the Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings tag will tell you "This tag belongs to the Archive Warning Category. It's a common tag. You can use it to filter works and to filter bookmarks."

    Guidelines are coming

    In addition to visible tag structures, the Tag Wrangling Committee is working on making the guidelines that tag wranglers work with available for public viewing. An initial FAQ post about this process is now available. It provides more detail about both terminology and some general concepts.


    For those who have questions about tags and what they're seeing, you can always send a question to our Support team, who'll pass it on to the Wranglers. The Tag Wrangling Committee also has a Twitter account at ao3_wranglers for all sorts of tag-related discussion.

  • AO3 Connection Issues

    By .Lucy Pearson on Thursday, 23 August 2012 - 7:08pm
    Message type:

    We've been receiving a small number of reports of people unable to access the Archive of Our Own - if you've been affected by this issue, this post will give you a bit more information about what's going on. We'd also like to appeal for your help as we work to fix it!

    What's wrong

    We recently upgraded our firewall to improve the security of our servers. Unfortunately, it seems that we haven't got the configuration absolutely right and it's causing connection problems for some users. This problem is only affecting a small number of users, and it's not completely consistent. However, if you've received an Error 404, a warning saying 'Secure Connection Failed', or you've been redirected to a url with 8080 in it, then this is what's causing it.

    While we worked on the issue, we temporarily disabled https on the site, as that was causing some additional problems. This means that if you have a browser extension such as HTTPS Everywhere enabled, or you use a browser which enforces https by default, then the site will not load - apologies for this. If the site has been consistently timing out for you, it's worth checking if this applies in your case - if the url defaults to then you have been affected by this issue.

    How you can workaround

    If you're being affected by the https issue, you can work around by adding an exception to HTTPS Everywhere, or using a different browser.

    If you're getting errors at random, then clearing your browser cache and refreshing should help. You may also find it helps to use another browser.

    How you can help us

    We're working to get to the bottom of this problem, and we know we've already reduced the number of errors which are occurring. However, it would be enormously helpful for our Systems team to have a little more information. If you encounter an error, please submit a Support request giving the following information:

    Your IP address You can find this out by going to
    The url of the page where you got the error:
    The exact error you got: You may find it easiest to copy and paste the error. If you didn't get an error but the page just never loads, tell us that.
    What time (UTC) you got the error: Please check the current time in UTC when you get the error - this will make it easier for us to keep track, since we're dealing with users in lots of different timezones.
    Is the error intermittent or constant?
    What browser are you using? It would be extra helpful if you can tell us your user agent string, which you can find out by going to".

    If you know how to view the source of a page in the browser, it would also be very helpful if you could could copy and paste the source code of the page that throws up the problem.

    If you're comfortable working on the command line, then it would also be helpful if you could provide us with some additional information (if you're already wondering what we're talking about, don't worry, you can ignore this bit). Open up a command line window and type nslookup Copy whatever pops up in your console and paste it into your Support message.

    If you can't access the Archive at all (and thus can't submit a Support request there) you can send us this information via our backup Support form.

    A note on https

    We know that many people prefer to use https connection to provide additional security on the web, and we will be reenabling this option as soon as we can. Because the AO3 doesn't handle data such as credit card information or similar, browsing without https doesn't expose our users to any significant security risks. However, it is always a good policy to use a unique password (i.e. don't use the same username and password combo for the AO3 and your email account) in order to ensure that if for any reason someone else obtains your AO3 credentials, they can't use them to access other data). Apologies for the inconvenience to users while this option is disabled.

    ETA for a fix

    We're hoping to resolve these lingering problems asap; however, our Systems team have limited time, so we may not be able to track down the root of the problem as fast as we'd like. We'll keep you updated, and in the meantime apologise for the inconvenience.

    Mirrored from an original post on the Archive of Our Own.

  • Update: Site problems and our firewall upgrade

    By .Lucy Pearson on Friday, 17 August 2012 - 1:28pm
    Message type:

    Our Systems team have been doing some behind-the-scenes maintenance over the past week or so to improve the Archive of Our Own's firewalls. This has mostly been invisible to users, but last night it briefly gave everyone a fright when a typo introduced during maintenance caused some people to be redirected to some weird pages when trying to access the AO3. We also had a few additional problems today which caused a bit of site downtime. We've fixed the problems and the site should now be back to normal, but we wanted to give you all an explanation of what we've been working on and what caused the issues.

    Please note: We will be doing some more maintenance relating to these issues at c. 22:00 UTC today (see when this is in your timezone). The site should remain up, but will run slowly for a while.

    Upgrading our firewall

    The AO3's servers have some built-in firewalls which stop outside IP services accessing bits of the servers they shouldn't, in the same way that the firewall on your home computer protects you from malicious programmes modifying your computer. Until recently, we were using these firewalls, which meant that each server was behind its own firewall, and data passed between servers was unencrypted. However, now that we have a lot more machines (with different levels of firewall), this setup is not as secure as it could be. It also makes it difficult for us to do some of the Systems work we need to, since the firewalls get in the way. We've therefore been upgrading our firewall setup: it's better to put all the machines behind the same firewall so that data passing between different servers is always protected by the firewall.

    We've been slowly moving all our servers behind the new firewall. We're almost done with this work, which will put all the main servers for the Archive (that is the ones all on the same site together) behind the firewall. In addition, our remote servers (which can't go behind the firewall) will be connected to the firewall so that they can be sure they're talking to the right machine, and all the data sent to them is properly encrypted. (The remote servers are used for data backups - they are at a different location so that if one site is hit by a meteor, we'll still have our data.) This means that everything is more secure and that we can do further Systems maintenance without our own firewalls getting in the way.

    What went wrong - redirects

    Last night, some users started getting redirected to a different site when trying to access the AO3. The redirect site was serving up various types of spammy content, so we know this was very alarming for everyone who experienced it. The problem was caused by an error introduced during our maintenance. It was fixed very quickly, but we're very sorry to everyone who was affected.

    In order to understand what caused the bug, it's necessary to understand a little bit about DNS. Every address on the internet is actually a string of numbers (an IP address), but you usually access it via a much friendlier address like DNS is a bit like a phonebook for the internet: when you go to, your Domain Name Service goes to look and see what number is listed for that address, then sends you to the right place. In the case of the AO3, we actually have several servers, so there are several 'phone numbers' listed and you can get sent to any one of those.

    As part of our maintenance, we had to make changes to our DNS configuration. Unfortunately, during one of those changes, we accidentally introduced a typo into one of our names (actually into the delegation of the domain, for those of you who are systems savvy). This meant that some people were being sent to the wrong place when they tried to access our address - it's as if the phone book had a misprint and you suddenly found yourself calling the laundry instead of a taxi service. Initially this was just sending people to a non-existent place, but a spammer noticed the error and registered that IP address so they would get the redirected traffic. (In the phone book analogy, the laundry noticed the misprint and quickly registered to use that phone number so they could take advantage of it.) It didn't affect everyone since some people were still being sent to the other, valid IP addresses.

    We fixed the typo as soon as the problem was reported. However, Domain Name Services don't update immediately, so some users were still getting sent to the wrong address for a few hours after we introduced the fix. To continue the phone book analogy, it's as if the misprinted phone book was still in circulation at the same time as the new, updated one.

    If you were affected by this issue, then it should be completely resolved now. Provided you didn't click any links on the site you were redirected to, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. However, it's a a good idea to run your antivirus programme just to be absolutely sure.

    Downtime today

    It turned out one bit of the firewall configuration was a little overenthusiastic and was blocking some users from getting to the site at all. We rolled back part of the changes, which caused a little bit of downtime. Because this involved changing our DNS configuration again the change took a while to take effect and the downtime was different for different users (effectively we changed our phone number, and the phonebook had to update).

    The site should be back up for everyone now. We'll be completing the last bits of work on the firewall upgrade today at roughly 22:00 UTC. At present we don't expect any downtime, but the site will be running more slowly than usual.

    Thank you

    We'd like to say a massive thank you to James_, who has done almost all of the work upgrading the firewall. He's done a sterling job and the site is much more secure because of his work. This glitch reminds us just how high pressure Systems' work is - for most of us, a tiny typo does not have such noticeable effects! We really appreciate all the work James_ has put in, and the speed at which he identified and fixed the problem when it went wrong.

    We'd also like to thank our other staff who swung into action to keep people informed on Twitter, our news sites, and via Support, and who provided moral support while the issues were being dealt with.

    Finally, thanks to all our users: you guys were super understanding while we were dealing with these problems and gave us lots of useful info which helped us track down the source of the bug.

    Reminder: site status information

    The first place to be updated when we have problems with the site is our Twitter AO3_Status. We try to answer questions addressed to us there as well as putting out general tweets, but it can be hard for us to keep up with direct conversations in busy periods, so apologies if you sent us a message and we didn't respond directly. If you see a problem, it's a good idea to check our timeline first to see if we already tweeted about it. For problems other than site status issues, the best place to go for help is AO3 Support.

    Mirrored from an original post on the Archive of Our Own. Feel free to comment there or here!

  • Tag filtering and an apology

    By .Lucy Pearson on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 - 10:17am
    Message type:

    We'd like to apologise for the delay in returning tag filtering on the Archive of Our Own. We had hoped to have tag filtering updated, run through our testers, and back out to you by the end of July. However, it's taking us much longer than we expected to finish that code and get it all tested. We hope to have all the work finished and the tag filters returned by the end of September. However, we can't promise we won't run into more unexpected snags, so right now this is a very rough timetable and we may have to revise it. We'll keep people updated as the work progresses.

    We've been able to tackle a lot of other performance-related issues since the problems started in May/June. However, sadly this isn't enough to allow us to restore the old filter code, which just isn't able to cope with the number of users the site has now. It's been necessary to completely remove the old filter code and rewrite it from the ground up, which is a major piece of coding.

    We already knew that this code was nearing breaking point and were actively working on new tag filters before the performance problems hit, which is why we were optimistic about introducing the new tag filters quickly. However, coding is always an uncertain business, and it's taken longer than we expected to finish the new code. In writing a big piece of functionality like this, it's not too unusual to run up against challenges while coding that you didn't anticipate up front. In addition, we only have a limited number of coders who are able to take on something this complex: the coder who is taking the lead on this project has been working on it all available hours, but sadly we've yet to figure out how to clone her.

    In the meantime, if you've not already seen the Disabling filters: information and search tips post, check it out for alternate ways of finding works on the Archive.

    Once again, many apologies for the inconvenience. We thank you for your patience while we work hard to bring back tag filtering!

    Mirrored from an original post on the Archive of Our Own.

  • Archive of Our Own Newsletter - July 2012

    By .Lucy Pearson on Tuesday, 31 July 2012 - 3:54pm
    Message type:

    *coughs* *taps microphone* Is this thing on?

    Ahem, after something of a pause, this is (hopefully) the return of our regular AO3 newsletter! Your friendly AO3 news poster (that's me, Lucy!) started off the year with good intentions and a shiny new format. However, between writing various other special edition posts, co-chairing the Communications committee, and dealing with real life, somehow the newsletter kept slipping down the to-do list. The good news is that new Communications staffer Camden has volunteered to take the baton, so hopefully these newsletters will be making a more frequent appearance in the future. So, without further ado, a few updates on the major happenings in recent times.

    Major doings: performance, performance, performance

    For the last few months, all the AO3 teams have been working really hard dealing with the various performance issues on the Archive. These started to appear in around May and got really acute in June, before we got them under control with a lot of hard work and some emergency measures (which involved 5 code deploys in the space of a few weeks). There's been some heroic work from Coders, Testers and Systems to get the situation under control quickly: we're really grateful to everyone who pitched in and helped out. We're continuing to work on performance, most recently with a RAM upgrade and upgrades to our server software, and we'll keep users posted as new developments arise.


    Our performance crunch was largely down to a gigantic increase in traffic: we had over 1.4 MILLION visitors in the month of June alone! Our invitations queue also continues to grow apace: we recently increased the number of invitations being issued each day to 300, but this is still not keeping up with demand. We're doing our best to keep expanding, but we can only increase accounts so fast while preserving site stability, so we're afraid the queue will probably remain long for a while. :(

    Tag filters are coming back - we promise!

    As an emergency performance measure, we disabled our tag filters. We know they're much missed, but their absence has enabled the site to run without 502 errors. We'd hoped to have the replacement filters finished by the end of July, but unfortunately they're taking a bit longer than we'd hoped (turns out we have to let coders leave the house now and again). Everyone is working super hard to get them coded, tested, and up on the site as soon as possible - we apologise for the inconvenience in the meantime.

    Tags and media categories

    Speaking of tags, the new Category Change workgroup recently got off the ground with their discussion of how we organise the media categories on our Fandoms page. This is an issue which we've been chewing over in-house for a really, really long time - we know lots of users find the current categories confusing and/or problematic, and we'd like to come up with a better way of handling them. However, this is a really big can of worms: for example, we know that "Anime & Manga" is problematic as a catch-all category including manhua, manhwa, etc., but we also know that lots of fans are used to looking for anime and manga and would be confused if we scrapped that terminology altogether. So, we're looking to find ways of handling the different categories which are understandable but also less problematic.

    The Category Change workgroup includes members from lots of relevant committees: Internationalization and Outreach, Tag Wranglers, Support, and Accessibility, Design and Technology. They will be discussing the various issues and a range of possible solutions.

    As part of this process they'll be seeking input from various groups inside and outside the organisation and using that feedback to help identify some possible solutions. They'll also be looking into the technical aspects – for example, improvements in searching and browsing on the Archive in general will open up more possibilities for how we handle categories specifically - so we don't wind up with a great theoretical solution that’s impossible to implement. Tag wranglers have already given some great ideas and thoughts on this issue - they've been discussing it on and off for at least two years - and the workgroup is really looking forward to moving ahead with it. Stay posted for more news on this!

    Tag wrangling - a new view!

    We've had lots of feedback from users who've said that they'd love to be able to get more information about how tags are wrangled and how they all relate to one another. This has also been one of the most frequent feature requests from tag wranglers, who put lots of work into making the tags link up in a meaningful way and would like their work to be more useful to users. Our awesome coder sarken took up the challenge and did some work to make the tags pages which are currently only visible to tag wranglers visible to any user. This will be an 'alpha' feature when it goes live - we expect we'll get lots of feedback about how it could be better - but we hope this news will be welcome to lots of people who have been wondering what's going on behind the scenes!

    For those who are really curious about tag wrangling, the Tag Wrangling Committee are also currently preparing a public version of the tag wrangling guidelines. We hope to have these posted shortly after the tags pages are made public.

    What else is up in the world of tags?

    The Archive welcomes all types of fanworks! We have plans to make it much more useful for different types of fanworks by adding some more browsing and posting features. However, right now, people use the "Additional Tags" field to make it clear what type of creative endeavour their particular work consists of. Tag Wranglers have wrangled the more common tags like podfic, fanart, fanvids and AMV, and even things like knitting and crochet patterns, and we're always excited to see people tagging for a diverse range of fanworks.

    But you might not be aware that the tags we've wrangled go further than just describing the media type and content. Once the filters are reenabled, you'll be able to use the additional tags we've made canonical to further filter those media types by format or length - click on one of the fanwork types linked above, and browse the list, or use the advanced search.

    For Fanart, there are tags that describe medium, such as Crayons, or Digital Art. For podfic and video, there are tags which describe the audio and video formats that it is available in, such as Video Format: AVI or Audio Format: MP3. For podfic specifically, there are tags which indicate the length of the recorded work, such as Podfic Length: 0-10 Minutes, through to Podfic Length: 15-20 hours.

    Wranglers will add more to the canonical tag lists as we find them, but if there's a media related tag that you'd find useful to be filterable, let us know through a support request or by tweeting us at @ao3_wranglers!

    Streaming podfic

    We hit a snag recently with our podfic provision when Google disabled their Audio Player, which we were using to enable people to stream podfic. The good news is that we've snagged a copy of the audio player code to host on our own servers, so this will return in our next code deploy. When the deploy has taken place, you'll once more be able to embed podfic, using the following embed code:

    <embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" flashvars="audioUrl=MP3_FILE_URL" src="" width="400" height="270" quality="best" > </embed>

    (Essentially, if you were previously using the Google player, you'll just be replacing the Google url with Apologies for the inconvenience in the meantime!

    Support superstars

    The recent increase in users on the site has resulted in a corresponding increase in Support tickets. The fantastic Support team have been amazing at keeping up with all the tickets and giving users the help they need. Their turnaround is really quick and we know that people appreciate their hard work - thanks Support!

    Support staffer Yshyn wrote a great post on Support ticket stats which gives an insight into what kinds of questions people ask and how many tickets we receive. One of the things which has been particularly nice for Support recently is the number of tickets which have included some positive feedback for the site, even when it's been experiencing problems. They always pass this onto the other teams and it makes everyone's day brighter - thank you lovely users!

    Roadmap, feature requests, and plans

    We try to keep users informed on what's going on with the site, although it can be lots of hard work! You can see the details of all our code updates to date in our release notes. Awesome AD&T staffer mumble is currently working really hard to update our very, very outdated Roadmap: this is important as a way of helping us focus our work, and a useful way of giving users an idea of what we have planned. We've also recently started using a new tool, Trello, to manage feature requests from users. Like our codebase on Github and our issues list on Google Code, this is open to the public, so you can now see what's already been requested and vote for the things you'd like! You can also see proposals that were rejected, and why. Support staffer Sam wrote up a handy introduction to our internal tools, and there's also a new AO3 Internal Tools FAQ.

    We have limited resources, so we can't always introduce requested features as fast as we'd like (right now, we're focusing on site stability and trying to avoid too many new things). However, we hope that these tools will help people see what's in the works, and we're excited to have found a tool (Trello) which makes it easier for people to let us know which features they're most interested in.

    Questions, comments?

    We welcome feedback from users! If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments of the latest news post, or send in a Support request (if you're reporting a bug, please send that to Support, as they're super efficient - comments on our news posts sometimes get overlooked).

  • Spotlight on Support: AO3 ticket stats

    By .Lucy Pearson on Wednesday, 25 July 2012 - 9:15am
    Message type:

    This is going to be a very boring post. It's going to be full of numbers, and graphs, those things that I may or may not have spent many years at school colouring in with lovely coloured pencil without understanding them much (because I was apparently too much of an innocent mind to turn them into rude, crude approximations of things not related to mathematics except in the most abstract sense), and yet, these will be very easy to understand numbers. I am not a statistician, nor are the levels of data I have access to very deep. What I am is a member of the Support Committee with a curiosity about the numbers and types of tickets that pass through our hands, and who decided to add up the numbers one day and turn them into graphs. That was last year, and somehow the lure of the bar chart means that I have continued to collate information through to where we are right now, having just finished the second quarter of 2012.

    In this post, I'm going to summarise the types of tickets received, what categories they fall under, and the general trends we witness.

    But first, some explanation of the process.

    Collecting The Numbers

    I'm sure that the method I have used is going to come under some degree of criticism for being inefficient; however, our Support software, provided by 16bugs (see Sam's spotlight post for more information) was not designed for data export. This means that the only way to extract numbers of tickets is to do it manually. And by manually, I mean I go through the email duplicates of each ticket one by one, assigning them a category, then add up the numbers for each month and enter them into an Excel spreadsheet.

    What this method is, for all its faults, is quick, which means that I can rapidly pull up a given time period to see what sort of tickets were received between those dates. These graphs were originally created as an informal overview of ticket stats (which is a position they remain in – production of these stats is not an official Support Committee duty). They are simply counts of the original tickets, what they are about, and when they were received. They are not a count of how quickly they were responded to, who responded to what, or what follow ups were conducted with the users.


    I'm going to leave direct explanations of the categories until the sections for the respective quarters, as these change on a quarter-by-quarter basis. This is due to the simple fact that new features are added, which generates new issues, and old issues are resolved. For example, squid caching was not implemented until June of this year, so prior to that, it was not shown in the graphs because issues relating to it did not occur. Here I'll instead explain the process by which tickets are categorised.

    If you've ever submitted a comment or query to Support you will notice that on our form is a drop down menu.

     Bug Report, Feedback/Suggestions, General/Other, Help Using the Archive, Languages/Translation, Tags

    These categories are not the ones I have used to sort tickets. Since the categories in the menu are so few and so broad, I felt it necessary to granulate them further, and count tickets as they related to specific archive functions and features.

    If a new category is created in my sorting, it's because an issue got a large number of tickets and wasn't a transient bug. For example, if a ticket is related to subscription emails, it is categorised under "Subscriptions", not "Email" because it is related to a specific Archive function (in this case subscriptions) that has an existing category. If it were related to invitation emails, it would go under "Accounts/Invitations/Login". However, if it's related to kudos batching, it goes under general "Emails", because there is no category for kudos.

    The Stats

    2011, In Brief

    I won't linger on 2011 too much (see Q1 2012 for an explanation of categories), since this information was a little more awkwardly hacked together than for 2012 – by which time I had sorted out my process for quickly organising tickets.

    bar chart with different colors for every month in 2011, representing absolute ticket numbers for each in 15 different categories
    (full size)

    Prior to August, tickets were collated by the Support Chair, using slightly different categories than I did. I attempted to meld the two sets of information as best I could to produce the above year overview.

    What is easily and clearly visible is the spike in tickets in November, resulting from a change to the front-end presentation of the AO3. The biggest spike is split between Interface/CSS tickets and Feedback. While many of the tickets sorted under Feedback were directly related to the changes to the AO3's interface, they did not contain bug reports or requests for information, and therefore fell under the heading of Feedback.

    Q1 2012

    Categories for Q1 2012:

    • Error 502 - the 'server busy' messages
    • 1000 Works - queries related to why we have a 1000 work limit on the fandom landing pages
    • Activation/Invitation/Login - problems activating accounts, getting invitations, or logging in
    • Admin/Abuse - issues that need to be examined by Admin or Abuse teams
    • Bug Report - Reports of transient bugs that aren't separately categorised
    • Collection/Challenges/Prompts - any problems/queries about these
    • Downloads - errors, bugs, queries related to downloading
    • Feature Request - any 'can I have/I would like/will you implement' queries
    • Feedback - any complaints, or any positive feedback (alone with no other feature-related issue)
    • Help/Information - any questions about AO3/OTW in general, or how to use specific features
    • Interface/CSS/Display - problems/queries relating to how the archive appears on screen, i.e. interface
    • Imports - issues with importing from LiveJournal/
    • Open Doors - questions related to fics imported through OD
    • Search/Browse/Filter - Problem or queries about sorting through archive contents
    • Tag Wrangling - any tag related questions

    bar chart with different colors for Jan, Feb, and Mar 2012, representing absolute ticket numbers for each in 14 different categories
    (full size)

    Possibly due to the fact that the holidays are still going on at the beginning of January (and thus, people have more time to spend on fandom sites) we saw more tickets in general than during the following two months.

    Q2 2012

    Categories added for Q2 2012:

    • Embedding – queries/problems with embedding media (images/audio/video) into Works pages
    • Bookmarks – queries/problems involving bookmarking
    • Caching – bug reports that are actually caching issues (e.g., reporting 0 works in a fandom as a bug – this is a caching issue, or appearing as logged in as another user). The kind of caching which causes these particular bugs was only implemented in June.
    • Email – email issues unrelated to other categories (e.g., kudos email batching)
    • Subscriptions – issues/queries to do with the subscribe feature

    bar chart with different colors for Jan, Feb, and Mar 2012, representing absolute ticket numbers for each in 14 different categories
    (full size)

    To break down the invitations emails, in June we received 140 tickets related to Invitations.

    • How Do I Use This Invite: 22
    • Did Not Receive Invitation Email: 31
    • Fell Off Invite List (unaware of security changes): 41
    • (of those, who admitted to re-adding themselves: 6)
    • General Invite Queue Unhappiness: 10
    • Can I have An Invite?: 9
    • I Requested Invites, Where Are They?: 12
    • Paid Accounts: 3
    • My friend on needs an invite: 12
    • Need Invites for a Challenge: 5
    • Please Remove Me From Queue: 1

    The remaining 37 tickets in that category were related to account activation or login issues.

    bar chart with different colors for each week of June 2012, representing ticket numbers for each in 20 categories
    (full size)

    This graph shows how the tickets were distributed during the weeks that span the month of June. In week 23 (commencing 4th June) we received the greatest number of queries regarding invites, as this was the point at which the invitations queue started growing at the rate of nearly 1000 new additions per day (a rate since slowed to around 300-odd per day). This coincided with the point at which the AO3 servers started creaking under the strain of lots more visitors and a filtering system that was originally designed with a smaller user base in mind.

    When squid caching was implemented to help ease the strain (around week 24) we saw an increased number of tickets related to this change. In week 25, when filtering was disabled, we began to see an increased number of tickets related to that. (Originally, the message was ill-worded, appearing to be an error message, rather than an admin message – this has since been altered, and tickets regarding the filtering being 'down' have disappeared.)

    And This All Means...

    I always have fun posting these stats to the support committee. Everyone already knows more-or-less how things have gone, but sometimes looking at the numbers surprises us. When I originally created them, one frequent question was "what's the most common ticket you get" to which we would generally reply "queries regarding the 1000 work limit". I was curious as to whether this was actually the case. As it turned out, Feature Requests came in more often. Questions about the 1000 Works came lower down the list.

    If you are wondering how many tickets we answer altogether, I can tell you that at the time of writing there are no unanswered tickets in our support software (except for one bugged ticket, which we are attempting to resolve with 16 Bugs). Every single ticket we receive is read and personally answered by a member of our staff, usually within a day or two. So, the answer is: we answer all of them.

    graph showing the number of tickets for each month from Jan 2011 (170) to May 2012 (590)
    (full size)

    This post by Support staffer Yshyn. If you find a bug, have a question about the site, or want to request a feature, you can submit a Support request.

    Mirrored from an original post on the Archive of Our Own.

  • Planned Archive downtime: Server software upgrade

    By .Lucy Pearson on Monday, 23 July 2012 - 11:09am
    Message type:

    The Archive of our Own will be down for planned maintenance for approximately 90 minutes from 07.00 UTC on Thursday 26 July (see what time this is in your timezone). We'll be upgrading our server software during this time (more details below for the curious!).

    We'll keep users updated on our Twitter AO3_Status as the work progresses. Thanks for your patience while we complete this work!

    Server software upgrades

    This downtime will allow us to upgrade Nginx and MySQL on our servers. It's important for us to keep this software up-to-date in order to avoid bugs and get better performance.

    Nginx is web server software which everyone's browser communicates with - when you come to the Archive and make a request for a work, Nginx does the job of communicating with the application and getting the data you wanted. It handles some information itself and passes requests on which are too complex for it.

    MySQL is the database which handles all the persistent data in the Archive - that's things like works. We're updating this to a much more recent version of the software, which will bring us some performance gains. We're also moving from the Oracle branch to Percona, which will bring us some additional benefits: it should give better performance than Oracle, and will also give us some additional instrumentation to monitor the database and identify problem areas. In addition, we hope to draw on the support of the company who produce it (also called Percona).

    Users shouldn't see any changes after this update. However, we wanted to keep this work separate from our recent RAM upgrade so that if any problems do arise, we will find it easier to identify the cause.

    Mirrored from an original post on the Archive of Our Own.


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