|See also:||tagset, nominations, optional details, ODAO|
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Matching is the process by which participants in a challenge or gift exchange are assigned recipients to create fanworks for. Participants are matched on categories like fandoms, ships, characters, freeforms, medium (e.g. fic or fanart), and/or rating, which they include in their requests (i.e. what they want written/drawn for them) and offers (i.e. what they want to write/draw for others).
These days matching is often done by the Archive of Our Own challenge system. Before AO3 it was common for mods to handmatch participants without the use of a program, which takes longer. Some challenges still do this if they're not run using AO3. AO3 mods can chose to hand match just a few participants as necessary. Optional details usually aren't used in matching, although a mod who's hand matching might take them into consideration.
In AO3 exchanges where requests are visible during signups, some participants game their sign ups in order to match with or avoid matching with particular sign ups.
Handmatching is a time-consuming process where matching is done "by hand", as in without the help of a computer.
NA I used to mod an exchange on LJ with a friend and we had a very large spreadsheet and matched based on both pairings and likes/dislikes. We generally sorted people based on their pairing requests and offers, then matched them up among those based on likes/dislikes. It was a small exchange, so it was doable, although it could be a pain in the ass since it was a fandom that had a lot of little subfandoms, so there was a lot of pairing variation, and sometimes a person could only be matched on one rarepair and their likes/dislikes weren't that compatible with their writer's. Also, I have no idea how people did handmatching for huge exchanges back in the day, because it still took a whole afternoon despite our exchange being small. Although that did include sending out all the individual emails with matches.
"AND" versus "OR" matching
The two fundamental kinds of matching are "AND" matching and "OR" matching. In "OR" matching, participants are matched on (usually) one tag per category. In "AND" matching, participants are matched on all tags in one or every category.
"OR" matching is often preferred because it makes matching much easier, since requests and offers only have to overlap a little to be matched. For example, if a single-fandom exchange matched on characters only, the matching eligibility for a selection of requests and offers would look like this:
| "OR" |
|Character Tag A and Character Tag B||Character Tag A and Character Tag B||YES||YES|
|Character Tag A and Character Tag B||Character Tag B and Character Tag C||NO||YES|
|Character Tag A and Character Tag B||Character Tag A, Character Tag B, and Character Tag C||YES||YES|
|Character Tag A, Character Tag B, and Character Tag C||Character Tag C||NO||YES|
|Character Tag A and Character Tag B||Character Tag D and Character Tag E||NO||NO|
One downside of "OR" matching on characters is that it makes it hard for requesters to make sure they'll get groups they want, such as ships. One participant explained:
Other Kinds of Matching
A lot of discussion of what kind of matching an exchange uses focuses less on how the matching works and more on what categories participants can match on, and the exchange is often talked about by referring to what the most important matching aspect is considered to be. Multifandom Tropefest is considered a tag matching exchange, but participants also match on fandoms, medium, and either character or relationship. It's also an example of AO3's matching system being used slightly differently than intended: Both characters and relationships are put in the "relationships" field so that the "characters" field could be used for matching on mediums.
A challenge that uses character matching allows participants to offer and request specific characters in one or more fandoms. The challenges may be "AND" or "OR" matching: Yuletide is a character matching exchange that uses "AND" matching, while Trick or Treat uses "OR".
A challenge that uses relationship matching allows participants to offer and request specific ships, and sometimes other character groupings. Ship matching exchanges are very likely to be "OR". Chocolate Box is a multifandom "OR" matching exchange that allows pairings, threesomes, moresomes, gen groupings, crossover ships, and even grouping tags like "Everyone & Everyone". The origfic exchange Canon Ball is an origfic exchange where the relationships participants can match on are also prompts, such as "Omega King/Alpha Knight Husband & Their Children".
A challenge that uses tag matching allows participants to offer and request specific freeform tags. Tag matching exchanges are very likely to be "OR" and often also allow character or relationship matching. Worldbuilding Exchange is a multifandom "OR" matching exchange that allows participants to nominate and match on worldbuilding-focused tags for their fandoms as well as characters, for example "WB: Creatures in the Forbidden Forest (Harry Potter (Books 1-7))". Smut Swap is a multifandom "OR" matching exchange where participants match on kinks and ships.
- Technical explanation for the curious by astolat, an explanation of how the original Yuletide code worked from 2004.
- Nonnie, in Re: Bangs, Fests, Exchanges, etc. - bratting/venting/TYWAU (Post 1085) on FFA. 2019-05-16.
- Nonnie on FFA's Bangs, Fests, and Exchanges thread. 2014-09-09.