On the AO3

Jul. 26th, 2012 04:45 pm
jona: (bunnies incognito)
[personal profile] jona
(Randomly, this gives me the chance to say, if I've subscribed to you on DW recently and you have no idea why, it might be because I saw you posting OTW commentary and I have been trying to follow the various conversations going on.)

1) Dear AO3: plz do not allow meta/episode commentary/discussion posts? You're a fanfic archive, plz focus on your core competences? (Plz don't be a European car manufacturer that needs to be bailed out by government because you started producing pepper mills.) I vaguely wonder if this is coming from fandoms that are primarily on Tumblr and people realising that Tumblr doesn't work well for discussion, but just reading that the AO3 is considering this makes me go meep. DNW.

2) Honest question, even if occasionally I'm leaning on the snarky side on this: I've read quite a bit of commentary over how the OTW has failed to do outreach, or how anime and manga and other non-Western fandoms aren't 'welcome' on the AO3. And I don't get it. It's a fanfic archive, it's sitting there. It wants your fic, but you gotta want to have your fic there. As long as it's open to use -- their current invite code situation notwithstanding -- why would specific fandoms be (feel) unwelcome?

Some fandoms post more to the AO3 than others; my fandom posts significantly less to the AO3 than others, and I just, uh, got an account and posted my stuff. I wasn't courted or made to feel 'welcome'; neither did I feel 'unwelcome' just because most writers in my fandom don't/didn't post there. What am I missing?

Date: 2012-07-26 03:09 pm (UTC)
solo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] solo
I cannot answer your questions, being significantly less up on all this stuff than you are, but SO MUCH YES TO ALL OF THIS. I never got the thing with the feeling welcome, either. I don't need a red carpet rolled out and rose petals thrown over me, I just need some decent functionality.

As for 1), are they really discussing this. WTF ever for? Can that stuff not happen here?

Date: 2012-07-26 04:56 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
For 2, a lot of this is building history. As the archive has been put together, fandoms that are not western tv/movies have consistently not been planned for. For example, tag length. Pairing names, especially, in Asian fandom sources, tend to be longer than for Western fandom sources. Initially, that field wasn't set to be long enough to accommodate a lot of relationship names in anime/manga fandoms. Despite billing itself from the start as "pan-fandom, for everyone", no one on the initial planning groups ever thought that fandoms outside their own might have different shaped needs, or thought to ask, and that's been a consistent pattern over time that's never been fixed despite repeated problems because of it. Non-western-media fandoms are badly under-represented in pretty much every part of the org except tag wrangling, and this never seems to have registered as a problem for planning the archive architecture or activities. When there was a poll to name the newly purchased servers, for example, there was a lot of "yay us!" for including non-western-media character names in the poll at all, but no one on the inside ever looked at the current representation of fic/users on the archive and thought "wait, if this is purely a majority vote, none of the non-western fandoms will have any names in the final lot at all". The thoughtlessness of that one pissed off a lot of the a/m and gaming fandom users, because the poll was so high-profile a thing within the otw news circle, and was billed as a step forward for inclusivity and welcome. That pretty well backfired. The archive was publicized early on in the founders' fandoms, but nowhere else, and every time anyone (like, say, me) pointed out that an archive that says it wants to be pan-fandom and useful for everyone really needed to go court some more beta testers from other fandom areas, I was told "oh, it will happen organically!". Provision for any non-English alphabet characters at all is pretty much non-existent and fandom titles with so much as an accented vowel have been hand-categorized into some really weird places. Even in the first comment-fic festival that celebrated the OTW's opening, none of the (organizer provided) prompts were for non-western fandoms. Some were included after I pointed this out, but that basic pattern has not changed, despite repeated rounds of "excuse me please, where are my prompts/names/alphabetized fandoms/mention in the news posts/canonical tags that make sense to my kind of fan/etc?". After a while, you get really tired of having to point out the same type of problem over and over.

It's a pile of things like this, over time, which has demonstrated that the people doing planning for the archive don't give a rip about anyone's convenience but their own, don't listen to testers or members who tell them there are problems, and yet they constantly bang the "pan-fandom, we are for everyone, we will meet all your fic needs" drum. I know I, for one, would be in a far more forgiving mood if anyone had publicly admitted, at any point in the last handful of years, that the Archive has fallen short of its claims of operability and happy-happy community welcome for any fandoms except the founders'. The archive is working decently for most fandoms, now, but that is the result of /years/ of people banging on the wall of obliviousness, and the people who had to do the banging are pissed off.

Date: 2012-07-26 05:52 pm (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (meta)
From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
I wonder whether some of this is a root difference in how people respond to certain social cues? As well as in how individuals use certain parts of an archive infrastructure?

Because as you know, I've been as baffled as jona and solo about this, and I consider myself primarily an anime/manga fan. There are obviously things about the ways in which OTW promotes itself that hit a lot of people's nerves wrong, but there's some deep cognitive level on which I just don't feel disrespected or unwelcome because my fandoms aren't central to the founders' thinking. I can shorten tags if I need to, because I don't have any emotional attachment to having my tags look any particular way. I don't care what the servers are named. I don't need for anyone there to have an emotional investment in my fandoms: it's not as if I have any emotional investment in theirs.

I do care about the damned thing actually working, and so (as you certainly know) I'm with you on the operability issues and the treatment of volunteers, and I cannot conceive why the organization seems so attached to those stupid freeform happy-fun-make-me-gag non-tag tags. I can get all eye-roll-y and annoyed about that, and know that my annoyance would be more like anger if I were on the front lines trying to make the organization deal with it. But the general issue of feeling disrespected flies right over my head, and I think it comes down to pure neurological wiring. It doesn't bother me in the same ways that people mispronouncing my name does't bother me.

But then, I didn't (and don't) get the parallel complaint that periodically came up over metafandom inclusion of anime and manga meta. People would complain, forcefully, that we didn't care about anime and manga meta, overlooked it, refused to include it. And I would ask, where is this manga and anime meta that we don't list? Because I would love to list it, I just never see much that isn't specific single-fandom meta of a kind we don't list in Western fandoms either. I don't recall ever getting a response that pointed me to any example of a meta post I'd have linked to if I'd known about it, or pointers to any people who produced such meta; the closest thing to a substantive answer I ever got was from a few folks who said that anime/manga fandom didn't produce meta that looked like Western-style meta, and I should learn to understand its particular ways of doing meta. (Which could have been a fair point, but then no one would tell me what those distinctive ways of doing meta were, or where I could find examples, or anything. Which made followup kind of difficult, given that the whole issue was presumably that left to myself I didn't recognize it if and when I did see it.)

And yet, it was clear that these folks weren't harassing me for no good reason. There was something going on, something that I was doing or failing to do that coded as not giving a fuck at best, and outright disdain at worst. It must have been so obvious to the complainers that it was incomprehensible to them that anyone could fail to get it, or could refuse to address it for any reason but that failure to care even a little. But it genuinely was and is invisible to me: to this day I have no goddamned idea at all what it was that I was missing, or what they wanted me to be doing. And as you can see, it still bothers me when I think about it.

And I can't help but wonder whether this business with the OTW is another instance of the same problem. Or maybe it's just me, doing an even worse job of being a primate than usual. Not like that's never happened.

Date: 2012-07-26 06:11 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
*grinning* No, no I think you've actually got most of it.

One part is this: know that my annoyance would be more like anger if I were on the front lines trying to make the organization deal with it. Because that's /exactly/ where a lot of my personal anger comes from. I had to bang my personal head against this particular wall to get this or that oversight fixed, and they still kept happening. Drives me nuts. If it were just a few instances I could say "well, hey, it's a work in progress", but when you tell someone "no, this isn't working, this $PATTERN needs to be fixed this way" and nothing is done... road rage happens.

The second big part, I think, is... let me call it false advertising. The founders pretty universally promised inclusion, promised investment. And these are the people building and administering this thing. End-users don't have to be invested in each other's fandoms, no. But the admins, the people in charge of making the thing work? They have to be as invested in making it work for Fandom X as for Fandom B, whether that's their personal cup of tea or not. They made a promise and then broke it. Repeatedly. If they'd pitched in the all-things-to-all-fans towel and said "no, actually, we're /not/ going to try to make this work with equal convenience for everyone", then I'd have found that acceptable. But they kept making broader claims and failing them, and wondering why some people were so pissed off.

I think you had a different problem, which was that no one could /tell/ you "this is what to look for". I can tell you for sure that the Archive design and building teams have been told (on this as on many other topics!). I suspect that a good few of those suggestion threads and/or emails have gotten lost in the utter chaos of the Lack of Organization for Transformative Works, which is clearly part and parcel of the "this keeps happening" problem. But wow does knowing that not help with the frustrated fury.

Date: 2012-07-26 06:48 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
*nodnod* I do think general users who have /heard/ about all this backlog but didn't participate in it may have an unbalanced picture. And that's not good either.

if you don't mind the follow-up question, is this because it finally changed or are non-Western pairing tags simply WAY HUGER-ASS than I'm thinking ATM

No problem at all. Yeah, this was one of the very early issues, because the problem manifested pretty much as soon as someone picked up an anime fandom to wrangle! So it go fixed early on, too, which, as a bonus, meant that threesome and moresome relationship tags don't have a problem either. I'd say about two thirds of these issues /have/ been fixed, thank goodness. It's just... things just like that /kept happening/. I admit, I'm particularly wroth about the lack of early beta testers in anime-manga/gaming/comics fandoms, because that was the issue I was ignored on most often and it was the one that always seemed to me would help the most with expanding the mind-set of the early design teams to make a really flexible archive that /could/ work for everyone. God, I want this thing to work, and it /could/ work so much better if only... well, if only. *sighs*

Date: 2012-07-26 07:39 pm (UTC)
jain: Chae Yeon leaning forward and smiling. Text: "Jain" (chae yeon)
From: [personal profile] jain
As long as it's open to use -- their current invite code situation notwithstanding -- why would specific fandoms be (feel) unwelcome?

As I understand it, there are three major--often overlapping--reasons that fans in non-Western fandoms (henceforth FINWF, because I don't want to type out that phrase every time) feel unwelcome on the AO3: the archive's organizational structure, the OTW board and/or staff response to criticism or suggestions, and the demographics of the existing membership.

Archive Organizational Structure
1) The title Anime & Manga for that media category upsets some FINWF, since not only (Japanese) anime and manga fandoms are sorted into that category, but also (Chinese) manhua and (Korean) manhwa fandoms. Given the complicated and often fraught historical relationships among these countries (e.g. Japanese imperialist expansion in the 20th century), this miscategorization can be especially uncomfortable for FINWF of Chinese and/or Korean descent and others who have reason to be sensitive to this issue.

2) The fandom canonical tags for non-English fandoms (i.e. the fandom names one sees when browsing within a media category such as Anime & Manga) seem to be chosen haphazardly. Sometimes they include the fandom name in the original language, but sometimes they don't (see: Demon Diary, called Mawang Il-gi in Korean); sometimes they include the fandom name translated into English, but sometimes they don't (see: Yami no Matsuei, called Descendants of Darkness in English). This lack of a consistent and comprehensive organizing principle makes it harder for FINWF to navigate the archive.

3) Fandom canonical tags for fandoms whose names are written in non-roman scripts are displayed in transliteration rather than the original language's script.

4) There's no way to filter results by country of origin. This makes browsing the archive more difficult for some FINWF when they're looking for, e.g., Asian boybands or girl groups in the Celebrities & Real People category or Asian dramas in the TV Shows category. These can be very large sub-categories, making them annoying to search for by fandom name either in the search box or with a CTRL + 'F' search (especially since many dramas, etc. aren't represented in the archive at all, so searching title by title would yield many null results); conversely, these sub-categories form only a small percentage of the total fandoms in most media categories, which tend to be dominated by Western fandoms, making them difficult to browse for on each media category page.

Response to Criticism
When FINWF have pointed out some of the above problems and requested fixes, they've been told that the fixes would be too difficult and/or were too low-priority for the AO3 community and would never be implemented. I know that the request for filtering by country of origin got that response, and I believe that the request for greater support of non-roman scripts in canonical tags did, too. Or FINWF have gotten agreement that there's a problem, but nothing gets done about it for two years and counting, as with the animanga/manhua/manhwa issue.

Existing Membership Demographics
I know that you mentioned not feeling more unwelcome just because most writers in your fandom don't/didn't post to the archive, but I think that for many people, an absence or near absence of their particular fannish communities signals not only that the AO3 doesn't offer anything beneficial to them (which I'd disagree with) but that their needs and wishes will be given less attention by the archive developers and the OTW in general (which, sadly, I do think has often been the case).

Date: 2012-07-27 07:35 am (UTC)
solo: Default Jin (Jin)
From: [personal profile] solo
All of this, so much.

I also think that 3) might simply be unrealistic - searching would become a lot more difficult if you allowed lots of different scripts. Even Windows Media Player can't search my Japanese playlist in Japanese script! (Well, that, or I'm too dumb, but if I'm too dumb to do that then I think I would not be the only one.)

Date: 2012-07-26 10:53 pm (UTC)
bellemelody: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bellemelody
Omg! I have no idea what are you taking about? What is OTW? Does it mean I can't post at AO3?!
I'm sorry for being absolutely indifferent about feeling welcomed or not at AO3 or maybe I just feel very comfortable there and again missed everything :8

Date: 2012-07-27 07:33 am (UTC)
bellemelody: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bellemelody
I'm trying to think about all possibilities XD XD

Date: 2012-07-27 07:26 am (UTC)
solo: (Kame I don't think so!)
From: [personal profile] solo
We are all oppressed. Only we didn't notice. Shame on us. :)

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jona: (Default)
the paranoid android

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