Organization for Transformative Works/Tag Wrangling

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OTW Committee
Committee Name: Tag Wrangling Committee
Organization: Organization for Transformative Works
Date(s): 2010 - Present
Focus: Organizing the folksonomy system of the AO3.
Committee Roles:
External Links: Archive Of Our Own,, AO3_Wranglers, ao3org
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Organization for Transformative Works Committees

AO3 Documentation, Accessibility, Design & Technology, Board Assistants Team, Communications, Development & Membership, Elections, Fanlore, Finance, Legal, Open Doors, Policy & Abuse, Strategic Planning, Support, Systems, TWC, Tag Wrangling, Translation, Volunteers & Recruiting, Webs

Tag Wrangling is one of the committees involved in the Organization for Transformative Works.

The OTW website describes its role:

Sorts and organizes tags on the Archive of Our Own according to the Archive’s Tag Wrangling guidelines, linking related tags together for better filtering and searching, while allowing users to tag their works however they prefer.[1]

For more information about the AO3 tagging system, refer to AO3 Tagging System.

The Tag Wranglers' Work

stolen shamelessly from OTW 2012 Committee Descriptions:

Tag Wrangling volunteers sort and organize tags in their claimed fandoms according to the Archive’s Tag Wrangling guidelines, researching source canon and other sources to unravel tag conflicts when required. They discuss and help solve sticky organization puzzles with other wranglers in chat or on the email discussion list. Volunteer time varies depending on how many fandoms are signed up for and how busy they are, although it is expected that wranglers will check for new activity at least once a week for quiet fandoms. (Check out the list of fandoms in need of a wrangler—this list changes frequently).

Tag wrangling volunteers do not require any previous knowledge of wrangling or the archive, and recruitment happens multiple times a year. Requirements do include a commitment to diversity in the archive, a willingness to learn and review established guidelines, and monitoring the tag wrangling mailing list for announcements and discussions.

The Committee's Work

stolen shamelessly from OTW 2012 Committee Descriptions:

The Tag Wrangling Committee and their team of volunteer “Tag Wranglers” maintain and administer the tags on the Archive of Our Own, curating the folksonomy system that links related tags together for better filtering and searching, while allowing users to tag their works however they prefer.

The Tag Wrangling Committee induct, advise and assist tag wrangler volunteers in handling new and existing issues, compose and maintain the written guidelines and tutorials to coordinate tag wrangler activity, communicate with other OTW committees on matters related to tagging, and serve as liaisons for moderators of challenges and ficathons hosted at the Archive with respect to tagging.

Since knowledge of wrangling guidelines and the archive tools is needed to address volunteer questions, the Tag Wrangling Committee draws its staff members from existing tag wrangling volunteers, or those with past wrangling experience who have also served in other staff positions for the OTW.

History of the Committee

The Tag Wrangling committee was initially a sub-committee of AD&T. It launched in February 2009 with a team of 8 wranglers and Julieann as the Wrangling Lead.

On 18 July 2010, the official Tag Wrangling committee was formed, chaired by Renay.

As of the 2012 term, the Tag Wrangling team consisted of a staff of 12 (2 chairs and 10 staff members) and 140 wranglers.

As of 2022, the Tag Wrangling committee consisted of 4 chairs, about 30 supervisors, and about 400 wranglers.

Tag Wrangling Vocabulary

AO3 tag page displaying a canonical tag and its syns, metatags, and parent tag. Parent tags could include the fandom the tag is associated with—in this case, No Fandom (a work-around for tropes and other non-fandom-specific tags).

The Wranglers have a number of terms they've built up over the years.

Canonical Tags and Decanonizing

Canonical tags are the tags that appear in the search filters and the auto-complete. On the tag landing pages visible to all users, these tags are indicated with the phrase "It's a common tag". Wranglers mark tags as canonical based on weighing what's most common in a fandom and what best fits Wrangler guidelines. Non-canon tags can still be viewed, but you can only see works that match exactly and you can't filter the tagged works.

Whenever a user creates a new tag, that tag is non-canonical by default. Wranglers have the power to make tags canon; this process is called canonizing. The opposite is decanonizing. Decanonized tags may just be left non-canon or may be synned to a different canonical tag.

Synonym Tags and Synning

A synonym tag is a tag that wranglers have decided means the same thing as a canonical tag; AO3's search engine will consider them synonymous.

Synning is the act of linking (wrangling) two separate tags together. The opposite is unsynning.

Synned tags cannot be viewed separately from their canon counterparts — attempting to do so redirects you to the canonical tag they've been synned to. Autocomplete will not suggest them. This is useful if you accidentally typed "Hsrry Potter" when you meant "Harry Potter" but can be disastrous if tags are miswrangled.

Metatags and Subtags

Metatags are the special 'umbrella' canonical tags that group similar tags together. Subtags are the tags under a metatag.

Subtagging and metatags are useful to establish a link between two things without erasing the distinction between two tags. One might want to browse all the Stargate canons or all the Sherlock Holmes (and related) canons, so the metatags are useful, but having them subtagged instead of synned means that the respective canon subtags will show up in autocompletes and can be used to filter works.

Wranglers can assign a metatag to a tag that is itself a subtag, resulting in deep metatag trees of many layers. For example, see Game of Thrones Alternate Season 7 and Castiel Makes Pie For Dean Winchester.

Media Tags

Fandom tags that have been canonized must then be categorized by media type. These media tags are visible to archive users on individual fandom tag pages, in the Fandoms dropdown menu, as well as on various fandom browse pages including the main Fandoms page.

  • Example: Anime & Manga, Movies, Video Games

The Wrangulator

You can find more information on the machine that rules our lives at its own wiki page.


  1. ^ Committees, accessed 12 June 2022