AO3 Tagging Policy Debate

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Event: AO3 Tagging Policy Debate
Date(s): 2011-2013
Fandom: Multi
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Circa 2011-2012, the Archive of Our Own's tagging system and its effects on archive readers, writers, and wranglers were the subject of extensive discussion and criticism. At that time, the archive was growing quickly, and its systems were being put to the test at the same time that Tumblr, with its own very different tagging culture, was becoming a major platform for fanfic fans.

One hub for discussion on the topic was panfandom anonmeme Fail Fandomanon (FFA). Anons there regularly voice both their appreciation and disapproval of aspects of AO3's tagging system.

The AO3's tagging system is unique and complex; it allows users to create and apply any tags they like to their fanworks, and on the back end, an army of volunteer tag wranglers link together tags with the same meaning so that users can browse the site more easily. Rules and guidelines for wrangling are developed by the OTW's Tag Wrangling Committee in discussion with the wranglers and often with feedback from the community.

Criticism and discussion of AO3's tagging system

Tagging Appreciation

Kink and tagging on AO3

"does anybody use AO3 to search for kinks via tags, or does it not work that way? If I have specific kinks in my fic (that I list in the summary but don't tag - mainly because I've never had that tagging option before), would it be worthwhile to add those?"


"Omg please tag your fic with those kinks. Please please please. They may not be my kinks, but there's somebody, somewhere, who is not very AO3 savvy but knows that they can search for their kink by tag, who will wear a huge smile when your fic pops up for them."


"I use tagging as a contents sections of a fic header. It tells me what's in the fic so I can read or pass by as I want. Also, as someone who will read a certain kink outside of my fandoms? Yeah, I search by tag."

fail-fandomanon, 4 Feb 2012 [1]

Discussions About Tumblr-Style Freeform Tags

"It would be great if people stopped using tags as author's notes. Hawaii 5-0 and Homestuck seem to be prone to crappy tags like, "LOL im so druuunk" and "smishes boys" which are totally useless and make me feel rage."


"I can't fucking stand that. It's useless, it looks shitty, and if you tried to tell people not to do it apparently it would be "curbing their freedom of expression"? Whatever."

fail-fandomanon, 10 Nov 2011 [2]

"I hate it when people make long, "clever" tags on AO3. Those tags are actually designed to help you find fics and idenitfy the content. It's not your Tumblr."


"But that's the problem with the freeform tags; they are simultaneously presented as personal expression for the authors that cannot be touched or questioned even if it's unwranglable or obviously a typo, and a rational structure to find fic with. It's an incoherently thought out system.

If AO3 were at all sane and sensible, they'd have a canonical set of tags for indexing and then a freeform area."

fail-fandomanon, 11 Dec 2011 [3]

"I like author's note-like tags, and they make me more likely to read a fic. Which I guess is why people keep using them. Sorry, anons who hate it."

fail-fandomanon, 14 Nov 2011 [4]

"I really, really actually like rambling stream-of-conscious tags like this. Only not on AO3. Save that for tumblr, guys."

fail-fandomanon, 15 Apr 2012 [5]

"... I don't think freeform tags are actually a bad thing. I like being able to find fics with, say, "Kittens" or "Infidelity" or "Lipsticked Nipples" or "Mentions Of Suicide", and no one set to draft a standard set of kink tags or content tags can think of everything. It's when people use them to create essentially useless tags -- tags that can't be searched for or organized by unless a lot of writers adopt your stupid inside joke for an actual tag -- that pisses me the fuck off. Like on Tumblr -- there are tags for content and for warnings/enticements and then there's silly 'sherlock being a broody goof lol' tags -- but unlike on Tumblr, volunteers have to make sure 'sherlock being a broody goof' and 'sherls being a silly broodster' and 'broody sherlock' and all variations upon make up one coherent tag. Even if there's only one fic tagged Lipsticked Nipples, that unique tag still indicates content and if there's more or I search for it, that actually works. Dazzling displays of individualistic wit, even if they talk about what's in the fic, are pretty useless unless they make up a decent category of fics."

fail-fandomanon, 20 Apr 2012 [6]

See also:

  • Subthread on large blocks of unwrangleable tags from The worst block of tags I've ever seen thread at FFA. 11 Dec 2011. (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  • "Can we talk about the awful and annoying way people tag their fics at AO3 again?" from Terrible Taggers thread at FFA, 15 Apr 2012. (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  • (lots more)

Technical Analysis of the AO3 Tagging System

"... What problem is the AO3 trying to solve with these tag things?

Here's a reasonable answer, told in the form of a user story.

I, the reader of fanfiction, want to find all stories in which the Seventh Doctor is the major character in a Doctor Who coffee shop AU. ... Okay, those don't exist. I'm crushed. Let's try something that does: I want to find all stories with Merlin in a coffee shop AU!

  • Pinboard: I type "merlin coffeeshop AU" into the search box, click "search all" and I get a list of stories! ( Hooray!
  • AO3: I type the same text into the box and... I got a rock. (✓&query%5Btext%5D=merlin+coffeeshop+au)

Here's how you do that search on AO3:

  • Click on Fandoms. (
  • Click on TV Shows. (
  • Click on M. (
  • Click on Merlin. (
  • Stop a moment to wonder why I only got 1000 results when the list of fandoms clearly said there were 3635 stories in the archive.
  • Click on the "Additional tags" link in the gray box on the side to expand a list of tags. Holy crap! That's long!
  • Use my browser's search-in-page function to search for "coffee".
  • Not found. WTF?
  • Scroll down to the Cs. Observe that "coffee" or "coffeeshop" are not there.
  • Oh, wait, it must be in the list of "Alternate Universe" tags! But no, the text search would have found it.
  • There must be zero stories in the archive that are coffeeshop AUs.

Well. No. The pinboard search turned up this story ( and this other one (, which are both on AO3, so what the ever-loving fuck? Oh. They're not tagged as "coffeeshop AU" or any variation on it.

Either way, the AO3 gave me a rock.

You can reasonably argue that the problem here is with the silly writers who posted stories without tagging them appropriately. I would argue that it doesn't matter. The archive has failed at its core task. Searching didn't work, filtering was miserable, and both gave me no results. There are two Merlin coffeeshop AU stories! There is a reader who longs to find them! There are writers who long to have their stories read! This is the problem we are trying to solve. We want to categorize stories with little bits of metadata, then use the categories to find them again afterward. Preferably we want to do this as simply and as straightforwardly as Pinboard let us do it.

Okay. With that in mind, what do we do?

We describe the desired behavior of the system we want to build, and then we describe a few possible solutions, some radical, some cautious, and discuss their performance and storage implications and throw rocks at them until we arrive at one that makes the right set of tradeoffs for our goals. Then we build a tiny working version of the simplest possible feature of that system alongside the existing mess. Then we iterate.

Well, that's what I would do if this were my project. I suspect that for the AO3, the first step is actually "convince the people in charge that there's a problem here." Then convince them to set aside their political assumptions about how tagging should work and make them concentrate on how archive users want to go about finding fic. Who's insisting on this design? Why? Can they be removed from the project or convinced otherwise so it can move forward? Which is no more than what you guys were saying in earlier threads on this topic.

Until we do that the AO3 will keep giving us rocks."

failfandomanon, 12 Nov 2011 [7]

More Discussions and Concerns

"... Either tags are an indexing system, in which case you define a canonical set, or they are for the free expression of the person using the system. It's not the user causing the problem for wranglers, it is the terrible design. It is simply the nature of a free text system that it is not a scalable way to index; it is not the nature of a large and diverse group of people to spontaneously adhere to the exact same ethos of using a free text system. ..."


"... they could at the *very* least clarify to authors that they are supposed to be for actually categorizing stories so people can find what they're looking for. But I bet they won't, because the tags just have to be freeeeeeeee! I don't know, I just wish the whole tagging/search mechanism had been better thought out in general."


"I agree it is a problem on the archive-end, but I also think it's a problem on the users end. It's almost like abuse of privilege/ opportunity? Like AO3 gives you the ability to add very specific tags! so other can search through those very specific tags too! Like "Alcoholism"! and "Coffeeshop AU"! and "Zombies"! So now I will use that system to write out the tags as "lol this guy is totally wasted and he HAS PROBLEMS!!" and "bob is a barista who makes mean coffee!" and "brains brains BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINS! I love zombies so fucking much! :D"

Yes to the design problem, but also yes to user abuse. "I do what I want Thor" should remain the rhetoric of trolls, really. (Plus I think, when the feature was made, no one would have even thought using tags in this fashion would become "a thing". Bookmarking sites like delicious had never had this problem. Even now actual bookmarking tags are remarkably sane, if there are any. It only became a trend with Tumblr culture where it made sense and then people started importing it to places where it doesn't)"


"Tags should be informative and concise before they are witty, let alone actually jokes in and of themselves. On tumblr I use my tag space for commentary a lot of the time, because it feels less obtrusive than filling up the actual text portion of the post with "UNF MY FEELS OMG HNNNG" and sometimes it is an awesome opportunity for a subtle joke. AO3 is not Tumblr. If there's basic/serious tags and then one slightly jokey tag, fine, whatever, I'm sure it's a pain to wrangle but if well-deployed that's not twee, it's actually funny. If you're bullshitting a million jackass tags for your stupid Avengers fic, fuck you. This is not the place to fucking show off."


"... they're impossible to search for. Divorce, OT3, Children, Slavery, Waff, Deathfic, Kittens are all things I could decide to search for and figure out. There's usually only one common spelling (okay, some more with plurals and whatnot, but still), I can connect them to a number of pan-fandom themes and decide I want to read about them.

But even if I'd love the fic the author decides to describe as "Endless blathering about really nothing at all (except a bit of angst and love oh my)" how the HELL am I supposed to figure out the exact spelling and word order that this one author decided to use? The flipside is of course that if I read the tag, I won't really know if the author means it's a Dialogue Heavy fic, or Bittersweet or really just talking about Angst and Love (perhaps Love Troubles?) because it's so subjective. And when you have several tags, especially with the standard AO3 layout, it gets hard to skim them and see the relevant stuff."


"... very mixed feelings about the Tumblr-style tags. On Tumblr or LJ, I don't really care. On AO3, as a reader I usually find them anywhere from slightly to massively annoying, depending on just how heavily a writer uses them and how funny I find or that make me giggle aren't so bad, several dozen with little to no human value make me grit my teeth. As a wrangler, OTOH? HATE HATE HATE HATE. Once we can properly mark them as unwrangleable so they're not just SITTING THERE in our dashboards that hate will probably dial down a few notches, but for now? GRRRRRRRRRR."

fail-fandomanon, 20 Apr 2012 [8]

"The silly freeform tags are more of an annoyance only if there's no expectation of them being wrangled, but more to the point it's an annoyance if someone taglist is longer than their actual summary and full of shit like 'loooooool so drunk!' and the only way to block it off, means that actual useful secondary tags will also be blocked. Also it's not actually what that space is meant for. A03 =/= tumblr. Though I guess, it's useful in ensuring I know when not to click on a fic.

But the 'problem' is also with meaningful freeform tags, because it means that the search functionality CANNOT occur without major background wrangling. It was well and good when the archive was smaller, but it's becoming more of a problem as it grows and if the archive keeps growing at the rate it does, it will soon be completely untenable without more and more volunteers with more and more workload on their head.

Sure, the users give no fucks what goes on at the backend and what the wranglers are having to do, but AO3 itself, given that it bills itself as an organization for the fans, should give a fuck about it's own volunteers, even if they don't care about whether their functionality is working 100% or not (which it doesn't with their current tagging/backend system), right?"


"In my opinion, the problem with meaningful tags needing wrangling is that it's a trade-off. There's actually no way (and it would be much more work intensive if it would be even possible) to figure out an equivalently extensive tagging scheme that actually works for all fandoms. Wrangling is a (maybe regrettable, though I personally don't feel so) part of it. My guess is that as the archive grows, if the system doesn't change, it will not lack for wranglers -- if anything, because people like having control over something in fandom.

But my question actually pointed more to: how do they keep you from finding things through other means? No other archives, that I know of, have an equivalent 'add any tag at all' thing, so nobody can be missing a similar, wholly functional feature (like it would be a magically wrangled, or an extensive pre-prepared tag set with ALL tags necessary). What is then the problem with that existing (which I get isn't useful for you, but clearly is useful to other people) on parallel to other ways of classifying fic?"


"I think that's part of the problem with the AO3 system. I've seen some kinks tagged with half a dozen or more different words, some get linked up, some don't, probably because a wrangler doesn't realise they're the same thing. Sometimes it's simple with things like au_slavery, slavefic, slaveworld etc easily being recognisable as being similar, other times it seems more complicated.

There's been times when I've clicked on a kink and it's not brought up fics that I know it should, because they connection between tags hasn't been made. so I guess in some ways it does affect people's searches, at least until all the wrangling is caught up, and as the archive keeps growing, that's likely to be an ongoing problem.

Many people have brought up the whole single fandom/crossover thing before. But I'm someone who loves crossovers and hits the tag frequently. Unfortunately because it isn't an archive tag not everyone uses it, so not all the crossovers get pulled up. Because some people don't use the freeform tags at all, and think having the fandoms listed is enough."

fail-fandomanon, 9 Feb 2012 [9]

"Are you not one of those people who looks up fic by kink, then? I know that's one of the things I use AO3 tags for most frequently, and one of the things that gives it a leg up for me personally over

(I also feel like tags can be useful as a description of the fic, to supplement the fic summary -- "[character] gives the best backrubs," "this is basically an excuse for smut," "evil![character]," etc -- but I do think it would be nice to mark tags in such a way that you could distinguish the ones you wanted to be searchable (so I guess "canonical" tags?) versus the ones you just want to use as description.)"


"I do quite like the freeform tags, but I wish with all my heart they would save those for "extra" details and make stuff like fandom and characters into standardized categories. There's no reason not to, really, and it would be so much less messy. It would also make it much easier to fix common problems, ie the current inability to filter out crossovers."


"Freeform tags are awesome on one level, I love being able to search by a particular kink or say high school aus. But I think that AO3's desire to let users have complete control over how their work is tagged/labelled has left the site a real mess, and made the search function almost useless.

Ideally I'd like mandatory site categories for type of work (fic, art, vid, podfic); single or multiple fandom filtering or crossovers tags being mandatory. Plus the ability to filter by length, drabble, ficlet, novel length etc. The tag wranglers do a great job trying to tie things together, but some things do need to be standard if the site wants to work long term.

And the two biggest things I want fixed, the 1000 fic limit & the way you can't untick the fandom box when you're trying to filter your search."

fail-fandomanon, 31 Mar 2012 [10]

See also:

  • How do you tag? (on AO3 vs. on LJ or DW) thread, 7 Apr 2012 (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  • Problems with the filtering system and tags AO3 and filtering tags thread, 21 April 2012 (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  • AO3 Tagging thread, 16 Feb 2012. (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)

Proposed Suggestions for Improvement

"Perhaps what we need is a non-freeform tagging field everyone can see and a freeform tagging field you can set your preferences to never see if you hate them. Then everyone would be happy! Except the people who had to code it."


"I think this is actually the best solution, especially since the cat is out of the bag and all those nonstandard tags are on thousands of fics. Instead of trying to stuff that genie back in the bottle, I'd rename freeform tags as 'fic labels' or something, and then create a new set of not-freeform, wrangler-created-and-curated navigational tags. (Or the same thing, but leave the current thing called 'tags,' and call the new navigational thing 'search keywords' or something.) If the former are long and weird and can't be synned and have typos someone decides to call Harry Potter "Sir Harry of Pottersauce," no problem, they're not navigational so they can be wildly creative and inconsistent without hurting anything. And the latter wouldn't require endless de-ambiguating and synning and manual work because it would be a limited set."

fail-fandomanon, 14 Nov 2011 [11]

  • (lots more between Nov 2011 and now, anyone else want to add some?)

Tag Wrangler Anons Speak Up

On Desiring More Documentation

"I'm another tag wrangler nonnie ... I do wish there was an explanation with tagging so that people would be dissuaded to use them for so many ridiculous things. For every freeform tag someone makes that's useful for searching, there's maybe a hundred that are useless. It makes it harder for wranglers to go through all the unwrangled freeform tags when there are so many of them, and a little pop-up box next to the Additional Tags form that says something to the effect of "Tags are used for searching the archive. Users can click on tags to find other stories with similar content." will at least clue users in on a more limited purpose."

FFA, 9 Feb 2012 [12]

  • (lots more. anyone else want to add examples?)

On The Process and Experience of Wrangling Tags

" If you take on a big, active fandom, you may need to put in a lot of time to keep up with the wrangling--I had a fandom that I had to spend several hours a week on just to keep up, just that one fandom. But if you pick up small, low-traffic fandoms, you could easily get away with checking in once a week for fifteen minutes. Quitting is easy, and can be done whenever. You can also quit and re-join later when you have more time, but there's no guarantee that the fandoms you were wrangling will still be available if you do."


"I wrangle one of the biggest ones and it's just a few hours a week, but you are encouraged to find co-wranglers that will help you out. Besides, many small-to-tiny fandoms need wranglers as well and for those you need even less time. ... You will get help getting started and some training as well"

FFA, 16 Feb 2012 [13]

On How Synning and Metatagging Works

"I tag like this because I want people to find my fic, when I cann't know if they'd be searching for 'Asexuality', 'Asexual Character', or 'Asexual Relationship'. I assumed a search for each one of these would turn up different results, not that they'd all be umbrella'd into one 'Asexuality' blob."


"that's [the] point of the meta tags. The tag wranglers link all those asexuality tags together so it doesn't really matter what you tag it or what the reader searches for, your fic will turn up.

Personally, I find it kind of pointless because despite what they say, it means we can't really tag what we like. Even if you deliberately picked one tag over another because insert your objections here, they'll get linked together in such a way that they're essentially the same. All you're controlling is how the tag is named on *your* fic, not what it's equated to on the archive overall. I wish they made that clearer in their TAGS ARE MAGIC spiel."


"Tag wrangler nonny's a little more complicated than that, but since users can't see the tagging structure, it's hard to tell from outside?

Tags can get linked in two =ways. First is synning, the "tag X is the same as tag Y" stuff where clicking on Y gets you X and vice-versa. That's for stuff that's clearly equivalent -- like characters with names in Japanese name order vs. Western name order, you should be able to find things whether they were tagged "Tsukino Usagi" or "Usagi Tsukino"; or translated/renamed titles and characters, Yankee-kun to Megane-chan or Flunk Punk Rumble! should be equivalent; or for pairings, "Spike/Buffy" or "Buffy Summers/Spike" or "Spuffy" should all get you the same results. (Which I imagine probably irritates the NAME ORDER/WHO TOPS IS SRS BUSINESS contingent who think that Naruto/Sasuke is not the same thing as Sasuke/Naruto, damnit...but let's not Go There for now.)

The synning is pretty straightforward. But then there are metatags, and that's a little more complicated -- related tags can get linked together as sub-tags under a metatag, and in those cases clicking on one subtag will not automatically take you to a different tag, or to the metatag itself; but selecting the metatag will give you a list of ALL THE WORKS tagged with ALL THE SUBTAGS. But this is where things get really annoying and unclear, because if you're just a reader looking at a list of fandoms on the media page, or a list of tags in the tag cloud, you have no idea which ones are metatags; and if you click on something that has an associated metatag, you have no way of directly knowing it's there and easily clicking back up to find the related concepts.

AUTHOR - WORKS tags are often metatags, for instance: "TOLKIEN, J.R.R. - Works" is a metatag, and the individual tags for LOTR, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion and other histories are the subtags under it. If you select the TOLKIEN - WORKS metatag, you get EVERYTHING tagged for any of the individual subtags. But if you click one of the subtags, like the title-specific tag for The Hobbit, you get only Hobbit fic, not fic for any of the other subtags -- and you don't even see any indication that the other subtags or the metatag even exist. If you're reading a fic tagged for The Hobbit and find yourself wanting to see what other Tolkien fic exists for his other have to search from scratch, or backtrack to the fandoms page and look for it manually; there's no obvious linkage anywhere for a reader, even though the tags are related to each other in the system.

And the whole synning/metatag issue gets a lot more complicated when you're dealing with freeform tags like "asexuality" or "character of color" or "kinks". People get into debates over whether things should be synned to each other or put under a metatag, sometimes they do end up linked and sometimes they don't, and it's not really transparent to the user/reader at all. "Chromatic Character" for instance, you might think would be synonymous to "POC Character" -- but it's not. "Chromatic Character" has the syns "chromatic characters" and "Chromatic character(s)", but no subtags or associated metatags. "Character of Color", OTOH, is a metatag; it has the syns:

  • coc ficathon
  • CoC
  • Character of Colour
  • Protagonist of Color
  • Invisible People of Color
  • Charactor of Color
  • Characters of color
  • Multiracial Character of Color
  • PoC
  • Original Character of Color
  • PoC character
  • chromatic protagonist
  • Character(s) of Color
  • Characters of Colour
  • canon and OC characters of colour

Those are the ones that are treated as direct equivalents, so "CoC" gets you the same results as "PoC" and so forth. But since this is a metatag, it also has these nested layers of subtags:

  1. Female Character of Color
  • LGBTQ Female Character of Color

o Lesbian Character of Color

  • Bisexual Female Character of Color
  1. POV Character of Color
  2. Canon Character of Color
  3. LGBTQ Character of Color
  • Canon Queer Character of Color
  • LGBTQ Female Character of Color

o Lesbian Character of Color

So selecting "Character of Color" will get you EVERYTHING that's tagged with any of its syns or various layers of subtags. BUT filtering on one of the individual child tags, like "Lesbian Character of Color", will not get you any of the upper-level tags above it, or any of the "sibling" tags that are also in the hierarchy under the same metatag.

In the case of the tags on this particular fic, are all the asexuality tags linked together in a blob? Yes and no.

"Asexuality" is a canonical metatag. It has these syns:

  • Asexual
  • asexualty [SIC]
  • asexual!fic
  • asexual romance
  • asexulaity [SIC]
  • asexual!love
  • asexual-ish

And these subtags:

  • Grey-A
  • Demisexuality
  • Asexual Character
  • Asexual Relationship

"Asexual Character" is a canonical, and has these syns:

  • Arguably asexual character
  • POV Asexual Character
  • asexual character in sexual situations
  • asexual character in sexual relationship

It's also a subtag of the "Asexuality" and "LGBTQ Character" metatags.

"Asexual Relationship" is a canonical, and has these syns:

  • asexual partnership
  • asexuals in relationships

It's also a subtag of the "Asexuality" metatag.

"Aromantic" is a canonical, and has these syns:

  • Aromantic Pairing
  • Aromantic Character

But it's not associated with any metatags.

So, the "Asexuality" tag is a giant blob that gets you results for all of the associated synonyms and subtags. The author didn't use any syn tags, so there is no tag on that fic that will get you the very same results as clicking on "Asexuality". They *did* use subtags of the "Asexuality" tag -- Asexual Character, Asexual Relationship -- which will get you a smaller, more focused subset of results than the blobby metatag; and the "Aromantic" tag they also used is not linked to any of the "Asexuality" tags at all, so that will of course also get very different filtering results.

The situation is similar with their Chromatic/Of Color tags; "Character of Color" is the blobby metatag whose filter results will include stuff from all of the subtags they used, but "Female COC", "Canon COC", "POV COC" "LGBQT COC" are all subtags that will get you more specifically focused filter results, and "Chromatic Character" isn't linked to "Character of Color" so that will also get you a different set of results.

("But Wrangler-nonny," you may ask, "why aren't "Chromatic Character" and "Character of Color" linked, when "chromatic protagonist" is subbed to "COC"? Aren't they all the same thing?" Damned if I know, Gentlefailers! I did not wrangle any of those. Maybe there was a big debate about people who strongly prefer "Chromatic" not wanting to be lumped in with "-- of Color" or vice versa; maybe it was just overlooked. If any of you have strong feelings it should be done differently, please consider putting in a support request!)

Confused yet? But yeah, total agreement, the user-facing tag documentation SUCKS, and a lot of wranglers have been pushing for better ones for ages now. ;_;

FFA, 12 Dec 2011 [14]

OTW's Stance

The Organization for Transformative Works (Fanlore and the AO3's parent organization) continues to be enthusiastic about the system:

Tag Wrangling: It’s Your Right To Tag However You Like (You Can Even Be Your Own Spotlight) - April 2012 OTW blog post

"... one of the most amazing things about the AO3 is definitely its tagging system. What makes this particular tagging system so amazing? It's specifically designed so that users can use any tag, in exactly the form they want it on their works, while keeping those works as organized as they would be in a strictly classification-based archive. ... the more you tag, the better it works overall (more on why that's so later)."

OTW, 21 Apr 2012 [15]

In response, FFA continues to raise concerns:

"Oh, FFS. Yes, tagging anything you want and having it be searchable is a wonderful ideal. BUT IT DOESN'T WORK. If your users are complaining about some of the results of it, your tag wranglers are complaining about some of the results of it, your authors are confused by it, and random bystanders whose job it is to organize data are going oh god what were you thinking at you, perhaps it is at that point a wise decision to actually think about why people are finding it a problem rather than reiterating for the billionth time how good it actually is."


"While many of us love the diversity that additional tags bring, if you don't like seeing additional tags on works, you can always choose to ignore them, or even hide them completely using a custom skin and the Blurblings Hide freeform tags skin.

This is not addressing the problem because I want useful free-form tags not NO free-form tags. I don't want to have to look through all the free-form tags that are useless jokey tags (ex. "Sirry is a creamy cupcake") just to find the tag for "high school AU"."


"Seriously, that is so completely misrepresenting the problem that I just don't even know what to say. Has anyone actually complained about not wanting any tags? I highly doubt it. Most people, I think, want tags, they just want functional and useful tags."

FFA, 21 Apr 2012 [16]

In December 2012, the tag wrangling committee posted about how additional tags function on the archive (So, About those Additional Tags... ) and on the sustainability of tag wrangling (The past, present, and hopeful future for tags and tag wrangling on the AO3).

See Also

  • AO3 Tag Limits, instituted in August 2021 in response to user anger over fics using hundreds of tags.


  1. ^ "Kink and tagging on AO3". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 21 Apr 2012.
  2. ^ "AO3 Tags - FAQ". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 2012-04-21. thread, 10 Nov 2011
  3. ^ "The worst block of tags I've ever seen". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 2012-04-21. thread at FFA, 11 Dec 2011
  4. ^ "comment". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 21 Apr 2012.
  5. ^ From "Terrible Taggers". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 2021-04-21. thread at FFA, 15 Apr 2012
  6. ^ From "Free-form tags: the great satan?". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 2012-04-20. thread at FFA, 20 Apr 2012.
  7. ^ "tags.rb ruined my Friday night; or, I got a rock". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 21 Apr 2012.
  8. ^ "Twee tags, take two". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 21 Apr 2012.
  9. ^ "A03 and that 1000 fic limit". Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 21 Apr 2012.
  10. ^ "AO3 Posting..." Archived from the original on 2022-02-18. Retrieved 21 Apr 2012. thread, 31 Mar 2012. (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  11. ^ Excerpts from AO3 Tags - FAQ thread at FFA, 14 Nov 2011. (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  12. ^ "A03 and that 1000 fic limit". Retrieved 21 Apr 2012.
  13. ^ From "Tag wranglers, what's the process of becoming a tag wrangler like?" subthread in AO3 Tagging thread, 16 Feb 2012. (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  14. ^ From subthread "about synning and metatagging". Retrieved 21 Apr 2012. at FFA, 12 Dec 2011. (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  15. ^ Tag Wrangling: It’s Your Right To Tag However You Like (You Can Even Be Your Own Spotlight), OTW blog post, Archive of Our Own spotlight, crossposted at LJ and at DW, 21 Apr 2012 (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)
  16. ^ Excerpt from The charm offensive begins thread at FFA, 21 Apr 2012. (Accessed 21 Apr 2012)