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Published:
2018-12-29 11:25:53 -0500
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Angel who volunteers as a co-chair for the Communications Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I have been one of two chair-track staffers (CTS) for the Communications Committee. The CTS position is for people who are in training to lead committees. While we're learning we take on other roles in the committee, so in Communications than means helping our chair get information circulated, both within the OTW and to our followers. It could also mean posting news items for our projects, sending out the OTW newsletter, or managing its social media accounts.

What made you decide to volunteer as a chair-track staffer?

I wanted to be involved in the organisation in some fashion and felt my background as a business journalist, and now a full-time fiction writer, gave me a good mix of skills that might be of use. I have flexible time since I work for myself, so I'm able to sort of float around at odd times which can come in handy. I applied for the Chair Track Staffer because I felt it was a good place to use some of those skills -- and to learn more about the organisation and how it operates.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

There are usually two to three meetings with Janita, our chair, and Jess our other chair-track staffer -- Janita calls Jess and I her 'mini-mes'. We respond to any questions from the public or within the organisation, prepare posts for social media, work on campaign notifications and posts with our Elections Committee, and help other committees who need our help. We keep a close eye on social media and on posts to see if we can offer any support, and if we can't answer questions that are sent to us we find out who it would be best to send them to.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Being involved. That sounds kind of odd, I know, but seriously how many organisations do you know where memes, fan fiction, fan art, and pop culture in general are a part of every meeting, because they're a normal part of the organisational structure? Where else do you get to fly your fan flag (say that fast five times) high and proud as part of your job?

What fannish things do you like to do?

I'm a hard core Supernatural fan -- #teamDeanbutSamcurious -- and have a growing collection of commissioned fan art and adore SPN fan fiction. I'm in the last few months of preparing my Masters thesis on the impact of fan fiction on the Supernatural source text and creators -- so a lot of my research time is spent either watching SPN or reading SPN fics. Dirty job... Last year I met John Barrowman and his husband Scott Gill which was the highlight of my year (John smelled awesome, Scott was lovely). Mostly I just embarrass my adult children by squeeing at inappropriate moments.


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-12-28 05:41:41 -0500
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We've updated the code that powers our login system to use the Rails Devise gem and fixed several unrelated bugs. Special thanks to Riley Avron for his first code contribution!

Credits

  • Coders: Ariana, Elz, james_, Lee, redsummernight, Riley Avron, Sarken, Tal, ticking instant, Wendy Randquist (Littlelines)
  • Code reviewers: james_, redsummernight, Sarken, Scott, ticking instant
  • Testers: Ariana, Enigel, GoldenFalls, Lady Oscar, MagnusIsMyRock, mumble, redsummernight, Sammie Louise, Sarken, ticking instant

Details

Authentication

  • [AO3-2839] - We are now using the Devise gem for all our authentication needs. \o/ You shouldn't notice any differences when creating an account, logging in, or navigating the site as a guest; however, we did change a few small things:
    • You can now log in using either your username or your email address.
    • If you forget your password, we will now email you a link you can use to create a new password, instead of sending you a temporary password.
    • If you change your password, you'll get logged out everywhere, e.g. both your laptop and your phone, and will need to sign in again. This can be helpful if you forgot to sign out of your account on a public computer, since you can make sure you're signed out everywhere by changing your password on whatever device you're on.
  • [AO3-5589] - Due to changes in the way passwords are sanitized, you will need to reset your password if it previously contained the < or > character. (You can continue to use < and > in your password; it just needs to be updated for our new system.)
  • [AO3-5590] - After the initial Devise update, we noticed queries to look up users by email or username became noticeably slower. We changed them to use the appropriate database indices and they are faster now.

Works & Comments

  • [AO3-5541] - We automatically delete drafts that are older than a month; however, there was an issue that led to empty ghost drafts haunting the error logs and creating problems for the tag wranglers. We rewrote the deletion process to make sure old drafts are properly disposed of.
  • [AO3-5529] - Works on the "Works in Collections" page were no longer ordered in chronological order, making one's latest unrevealed or anonymous works harder to find. We've nudged them back into the correct order now.
  • [AO3-5560] - We've ensured that comments on a hidden work can't be accessed or edited anymore, even when the link to the specific comment or comment page is known.
  • [AO3-5561] - While we were at it, we made sure the same is true for works in unrevealed collections.
  • [AO3-2378] - After fixing non-Latin word counts for new works in an earlier deploy, we've now applied the fix to all existing works as well, so word counts on Chinese and Japanese works, for example, should be much more accurate now.
  • [AO3-5571] - To prevent duplicates during an Open Doors mass import, there's a check for existing external bookmarks. However, it crashed when the archivist also had AO3 works bookmarked, so we fixed that.
  • [AO3-5559] - It was previously possible to include the class attribute when using HTML in a bookmarker's note or comment. This was unnecessary, since user-created work skins aren't applied to those areas, but could also be used for mischievous purposes to change the appearance of one's comment using our site CSS. We've now made sure that the class attribute can only be used in the body and notes of a work.
  • [AO3-5238] - We don't allow certain characters in CSS classes used for work skins, but the summary field must have missed the memo. It now checks for permissable class names when HTML is entered.

Misc. Fixes

  • [AO3-5313] - The title of the Session Expired page used to be "Auth Error Error". We changed it to have only one "Error".
  • [AO3-5438] - The email sent when one of your prompts in a Prompt Meme was claimed had a rogue "%>" after the work title; we hunted it down and removed it.

Tests & Infrastructure

  • [AO3-5530] - Before our big database upgrade to allow for 4-byte Unicode characters on the Archive 😍🤩🤭, we added an automated test to account for the possible new content.
  • [AO3-5566] - We added tests for previewing a work while adding it to a collection.
  • [AO3-5570] - We are now running Elasticsearch 6.5.2, up from 6.2.4. \o/
  • [AO3-5563] - We updated the Rack gem to 2.0.6 to keep things secure.
  • [AO3-5562] - We've started using a service that will automatically submit pull requests for gem security updates.
  • [AO3-5554] - We fixed the name and syntax of the Ruby version file in our project.
  • [AO3-5586], [AO3-5588] - We updated our deploy script to reflect the changes to our server set up.

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Published:
2018-12-27 04:03:03 -0500
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In order to improve security and maintainability, we've overhauled the code for the Archive's login system. As we previously announced, this overhaul caused all users to be logged out. If you know your username and password, you should be able to log in as usual. However, here are a few things to check if you're having trouble.

Have you activated your account by following the link provided in your registration confirmation email?

If you've recently signed up to the Archive and are having trouble logging in, make sure you've activated your account! Within 24 hours of signing up, you should have received a registration confirmation email from do-not-reply@archiveofourown.org, asking you to activate your AO3 account using the included link. The activation email usually arrives right after creating your account, but some email providers can considerably delay the delivery.

Once you've activated your account, you should receive an activation confirmation email from the same email address: do-not-reply@archiveofourown.org. Sometimes, these emails can get lost in spam filters or automated inbox sorting, so make sure you check these as well! If you can't find either your activation request or an activation confirmation email, and it's been over 24 hours since you registered, you can contact Support asking for your account to be activated by an administrator.

If you're trying to log in with your username, is it correct?

To check if a username exists and belongs to you, go to your browser address bar and enter https://archiveofourown.org/users/USERNAME, replacing "USERNAME" with your username. If the account exists, this will take you to its Dashboard. You can then make sure the icon, profile information, or public works or bookmarks for that account are yours.

Please note that usernames can only contain lower- and uppercase letters from A-Z, numbers, and underscores (_).

If you're trying to log in with your email address, is it correct?

If you have more than one email address, it may help to go to the New Password page, fill in your email address, and press "Reset Password." If the email you enter isn't associated with an account, you'll be given an error message and no email will be sent. Doing this for all your email addresses can help you determine which one you used for your AO3 account.

You will be able to log in with your regular password even after a reset email is sent (just ignore the email).

Is your password correct?

If you've determined the username or email you're trying to log in with is correct, the problem could be your password. Fill out the form on the New Password page and a link allowing you to change your password will be sent to you.

If you do not receive the email within 24 hours, make sure to check your spam folder or automated inbox sorting. The email will have the subject "[AO3] Reset your password."

Edit (28 December, 10:43 UTC): Due to changes in the way passwords are sanitized, you will need to reset your password if it previously contained the < or > character. (You can continue to use < and > in your password; it just needs to be updated for our new system.)

Is your browser or a password manager automatically entering your username/password?

If you're using your browser's autocomplete or a password manager to log in to the Archive, there's a chance the saved username/password combination could be incorrect. To check, delete the pre-filled login information and re-type your username and password manually. Remember to update the autocomplete/password manager entry with the working combination later, to prevent this problem from reoccurring.

Have you tried deleting your browser's cookies?

Sometimes, login issues can be caused by misconfigured or corrupted cookies. Cookies issues may lead to an error message saying that the password or username you entered doesn't match our records, even when they are correct, or a condition where you get a successful login message but are not actually logged in. To make sure your cookie settings aren't keeping you from accessing the Archive, check that your browser is set to accept cookies from AO3 and clear your cookies before attempting to access the Archive again. Instructions for managing cookies differ by browser and browser version, but here are some links to get you started:

Have you tried disabling browser extensions/add-ons?

Sometimes, browser extensions or add-ons can interfere with the login process. To ensure your browser settings are not preventing you logging in, disable any additional software associated with your browser by following the links below.

Have you tried logging in using a different browser or device?

If you can successfully log in to AO3 using alternative means, the problem you're encountering is most likely a problem with your browser or device, rather than your account. If this is the case, we encourage you to try the steps above in your preferred browser, and if it still doesn't work, let us know of such issues by contacting Support, so that we can investigate further. Please remember to include details about the browser(s) and device(s) you've tried, as well as the problem itself.

Have you tried everything above, and still find yourself unable to log in?

If you've tried all these steps and are still having trouble logging in, please use this contact form to contact Support directly. Do not share any account information in the comments on this post as all comments are public and can be seen by anyone who accesses this page. Comments containing account information will be removed without reply.

As always, please remember to include as much detail as possible about the specifics of your problem, such as error messages received and your browser/device configuration, so that we can troubleshoot most effectively. Also include which of the above steps you have tried, so we can rule those issues out!

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Underground Image

Underground Text

Underground, a Labyrinth fanfiction archive, is being imported to the Archive of Our Own (AO3).

In this post:

Background explanation

The Underground is an archive dedicated to the 1986 film Labyrinth, with almost 200 works. The archivist, banshee, has now decided to close the archive and import its works to the AO3.

Open Doors will be working with banshee to import Underground into a separate, searchable collection on the Archive of Our Own. Eventually the links going to the old archive sites will re-direct to their new collections on AO3 so the works can continue to be found with their old URLs.

We will begin importing works from Underground to the AO3 after December.

What does this mean for creators who have work(s) on Underground?

We will send an import notification to the email address we have for each creator. We'll do our best to check for an existing copy of any works before importing. If we find a copy already on the AO3, we will invite it to the collection instead of importing it. All works archived on behalf of a creator will include their name in the byline or the summary of the work.

All imported works will be set to be viewable only by logged-in AO3 users. Once you claim your works, you can make them publicly-viewable if you choose. After 30 days, all unclaimed imported works will be made visible to all visitors. We will then permanently close down the site.

Please contact Open Doors with your Underground pseud(s) and email address(es), if:

  1. You'd like us to import your works, but you need the notification sent to a different email address than you used on the original archive
  2. You already have an AO3 account and have imported your works already yourself.
  3. You’d like to import your works yourself (including if you don’t have an AO3 account yet).
  4. You would NOT like your works moved to the AO3.
  5. You are happy for us to preserve your works on the AO3, but would like us to remove your name.
  6. You have any other questions we can help you with.

Please include the name of the archive in the subject heading of your email. If you no longer have access to the email account associated with your Underground account, please contact Open Doors and we'll help you out. (If you've posted the works elsewhere, or have an easy way to verify that they're yours, that's great; if not, we will work with Underground mod to confirm your claims.)

Please see the Open Doors Website for instructions on

If you still have questions...

If you have further questions, visit the Open Doors FAQ, contact the Open Doors committee.

We'd also love it if fans could help us preserve the story of Underground on Fanlore If you're new to wiki editing, no worries! Check out the new visitor portal, or ask the Fanlore Gardeners for tips.

We're excited to be able to help preserve Underground!

- The Open Doors team and banshee

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If you're one of the many users moving to AO3 from other fandom spaces where English isn't widely used, we'd like to welcome you—we're so excited to have you! AO3 has some features that may not work the way you're used to, so we'd like to take a moment to go through some of the basics.

Creating an account and introducing yourself

Everyone is welcome on AO3! You don't need to contact Support to provide your fandom history when you want to create an account. If you don't have an account and would like one, check out How do I create an account? Once you're logged in, you have full access to all content on the site.

If you'd like to introduce yourself, you can add that information to your personal biography on your profile page once you're logged in. Check out the How do I edit my profile? question in our FAQ for help! Be aware that any information you add to your profile is available for anyone to access, whether they're logged in or not.

Adding your works

If you'd like to move your works from other forums or blog sites to AO3, you can copy and paste your work manually, or you can use our Import tool. Unfortunately, importing from many sites will bring across a lot of unnecessary code.

We ran a test import from Lofter—a popular site among Chinese-speaking fans—and we've detailed the instructions below, including how to remove the excess code. These instructions may work with other blog sites as well.

  1. When you're logged in, select "Import Work" from the "Post" menu at the top of the page.
  2. Enter the URL(s) of the work(s) you want to import in the first input field.
  3. You shouldn't need to change the custom encoding.
  4. Under "Import as" you can choose to import the URL(s) you entered as separate works, or as chapters in a single work. The default is to import them as separate works.
  5. Under "Preferences", don't select "Post without previewing" as you will need to make edits to the draft. You can choose to "Lock all imports to registered users only" if you would prefer only AO3 users have access to the work.
  6. Select the Rating, Warnings, and Fandom(s) that apply. Note these selections will apply to all the URLs you import. You can edit these later, if necessary.
  7. Fill in any of the other tag options—you can select the blue question mark icon for an explanation (in English) of each of these fields. You can also reference the FAQs (linked below) for a translated explanation.
  8. Enter any Author's Notes you want to include.
  9. Select "Import".
  10. Edit the draft work.
  11. Delete all lines of text and code before the first word and after the last word in the body of your work.
  12. Make any other formatting adjustments as you like. You can select the button "Rich Text" to get a better idea of how the work will appear on the screen.
  13. To save your changes you can:
    • Select "Preview" to check you're happy with the work and then "Post" to publish it, or
    • Choose "Post without Preview" to publish it immediately.
    • To keep it as a draft, you can select "Save Without Posting". Note that a draft is automatically deleted 30 days after it was created.

Our Tutorial: Posting a Work on AO3 and Tutorial: Importing Text Based Works, as well as the Posting and Editing Works FAQ can also help you with any questions you might have about the posting or importing processes.

Tagging your works

On AO3, fanworks are grouped by fandom (that is, the title of the source canon the fanwork is drawn from), not by character or pairing. You can find some examples of these on our Fandom listing page. Fandom is a required tag for each work, while relationships and characters are optional. Unfortunately, entering your ship tag in the Fandom field makes your work very difficult for other users to find, as the site can't link such works with other works about the same ship.

To make best use of our tagging system, and to allow other users to find your work, here are some tips:

  • Put the name of the canonical source material in the Fandom field. That might be a TV show, book or book series, manga or anime, computer game, etc.
    • If you are writing about a real person, we call that Real Person Fiction (or RPF) and use different fandom tags to represent these works. For example, you can tag with the name of the sports team, band name, or if you're writing about an actor you will likely find a RPF variation on the fandom such as Wicked (RPF).
    • If your work is in two fandoms, or a crossover, enter the two fandom names as separate tags.
  • While Relationship and Character tags are not required, users often search for them, so it's a good idea to complete these fields. You can tag in your own language and we will connect your works with others about the same relationship or character.
    • Relationship canonical (or 'official') tags are sorted alphabetically by the characters' family names, according to the Latin alphabet. The Relationships field does not indicate who tops or bottoms, or who doms or subs.
      To indicate who is top/bottom or dom/sub, you can use the Additional Tags field! In this field, use separate tags for each character and use their full names. For example "Top Todoroki Shouto" and "Bottom Midoriya Izuku".

Hiding your works from search engines

When you post or import a work, you can choose to lock the work so that only those who are logged in to an AO3 account can find it. Check out How do I control who can access my works? for how to do this for new or existing works.

If you're importing works, you can check the box under Preferences next to "Lock all imports to registered users only," just below where you paste in the URL(s) to the work(s) you're importing.

Checkbox to lock your works to logged-in users only

Things you can't post

Currently, our Terms of Service are only available in English, which makes it difficult for users who don't speak English to know what is and isn't permitted on the site. So to help you out, here's a non-exhaustive list of content that we don't allow on AO3:

  • "Test" posts, unless they are placed in the "Testing" fandom.
  • Introduction or blog style posts. Please post your introduction in your Profile, as outlined above.
  • Commercial promotion. You may not solicit money from anyone, either in your works, your profile, or comments on yours or other people's works. It doesn't matter if you're asking for donations, selling commissions or doujinshi, or promoting a published work of which you're a fan. This site is strictly non-commercial.
  • Works that directly attack other fans because of the ships they like. You are welcome to post works about whatever ship you like, and to avoid works about ships you don't. However posting works that are attacks on people who ship something you don't like may be ruled as harassment.

Posting these kinds of works may incur penalties on your account.

Where can I get more information?

Our Archive FAQ, and important announcements are a good place to find a wide range of information.

If you're uncertain about what content is allowed, contact Policy & Abuse. If you have questions about the site that aren't answered in our other documents, contact Support. Both teams will be glad to answer any questions you have.

All of these resources are available in a number of languages!

To access the FAQ or News posts in other languages, go to the main menu (below the name of the site) and select "About" and then "FAQ" or "News."

Navigating to the FAQ page

To change the language, select the menu, scroll to the language you'd prefer, and then select the "Go" button.

Changing the language

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🎁

Thanks to a long-planned database upgrade, the AO3 now lets you use all the latest emoji, as well as extended character sets for several languages (such as some of the rarer characters used for Chinese and Japanese) in your works, comments, or profile. 🎉🍾🎈🎊🎇. In fact, all text fields now support the UTF8MB4 character set, except for a few we've limited to Latin characters and some punctuation marks, like pseuds or collection names.

🔧

UTF8MB4 encoding only became available a few years after the Archive's inception, so we already had a pretty sizeable database using the older encoding when the upgrade became inevitable. After our recent server work, which included an upgrade to MySQL 5.7, people trying to post a work or comment with an unsupported character (e.g. one of the newer emoji) would be served an unhelpfully blank error page, exacerbating the problem.

However, migrating our entire 617GB database would have been a massive undertaking, likely necessitating several days of downtime. Fortunately, we were able to come up with a game plan that allowed us to keep downtime to a minimum by making changes to a new, empty copy of a database table while the "old" table with all the data was still in use. Once the new table was ready, we copied the data over and put the new table to use, then moved on to the next table.

😱

Thanks to the diligent efforts of our volunteer sysadmin james_, we completed the work in a little over a week and with no data lost. However, we ran into an unexpected problem with one of the constraints we put on our database to prevent the creation of multiple tags with identical names.

Due to a change in the way data is compared, some characters such as ss and ß are now treated as identical. That means that when we copied a tag like "Weiss Kreuz" to the new system, and then a few seconds later tried to copy "Weiß Kreuz," the second tag would be considered a duplicate and get quietly dropped. This made works originally posted to the dropped tag hard to find for a few days, since the tag didn't appear on the work anymore.

Once we discovered the issue and tracked down the cause, we were able to use a database backup to reconstruct the changes we'd made up to the point of the final swap, so we could compare the two tables and restore the lost tags.

👍

Together with our tag wranglers, we have put all the affected tags back into the system, so they will now appear on their works again. We are sorry if your works or bookmarks were affected by this issue!

Even though our upgrade is now complete and our database allows all of these new characters, keep in mind that some devices and browsers, as well as apps and e-readers relying on the MOBI format, might not display them properly. However, we hope you'll enjoy all your new emoji options and leave some extra-colorful love for creators in your comments! ❤🧡💛💚💙💜

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Published:
2018-12-12 12:01:00 -0500
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Banner by caitie of a newspaper with the name and logos of the OTW and its projects on the pages.

I. EMOJI FOR ALL!

This month, Accessibility, Design & Technology and Systems collaborated on a week-long process to update AO3's database encoding. This was a big project with a big result: the AO3 now allows for an extended character set in all languages and, including ALL THE EMOJI! We're delighted to have implemented the update and are looking forward to seeing new emoji-filled fanworks.

II. AT THE AO3

Accessibility, Design and Technology had a busy month. In addition to updating the character set, they issued a new set of release notes, which collect a couple of months of updates including improvements for Support and Policy & Abuse. The next big project will be a major update to the code that powers the AO3 login system, sometime in the next few weeks. This will entail all users being logged out of their accounts. Don't forget to read our news post about this so that you can be sure you have all of your login information.

Open Doors continues to add new content to the Archive. In November, they announced that Twice Bitten, a Blood Ties fanfiction archive, was moving to the AO3. They also collaborated with the Tag Wrangling committee on tag mapping for three new archive imports.

In October, Tag Wranglers handled more than 189,000 tags. (November numbers will be in the next newsletter.) Policy & Abuse received approximately 1000 tickets this month. Support received approximately 1300 regular tickets, as well as managing a server issue on the 25th which prompted an extra thousand or so tickets.

III. ELSEWHERE AT THE OTW

It's been a relatively quiet month for the rest of the OTW. Several committees have been doing behind-the-scenes work, so keep an eye out for new announcements soon!

IV. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEEPS

As of 26 November the OTW has 711 volunteers. \o/ Recent personnel movements are listed below.

New Committee Chairs: Angelique Jurd (Communications)
New Committee Staff: Linda Levitt (TWC) and 4 other TWC staff, C. Ryan Smith, Ilona van der Vegt, Nerine Luna Cyran, wingblade (all Policy & Abuse) and 1 other Policy and Abuse staff, Aris Gemenetzis, Caelan McAdam, Effie Sapuridis (all Fanlore) and 2 other Fanlore staff, Pam Haas (Communications) and 1 other Communications staff
New Open Doors Volunteers: Scrivener and 4 other volunteers
New Translator Volunteers: Alissa, AnnaJ9, Athena, Cinna_moon, Cynassa, Ekevka, Fiki Islami, Hulja Varjula, hwaranni, Louise Stonehill, Marisa Poulsen, Maryia Ambrazhey, nimadge, Putri, stellahibernis, wellperhaps, Zenaida Lynds and 15 other volunteers
New TWC Volunteers: Jennifer Duggan

Departing Tag Wrangler Volunteers: idiosincrasy, Marta Cardoso, momma2bugandbean, thefrogg and 21 other Tag Wrangling volunteers
Departing Translation Volunteers: AdaVila, Amalia Blondet, bixenboye, Lisa Altevogt, Maria Romanova, Teodora Kaurinović and 8 other volunteers

For more information about the purview of our committees, please access the committee listing on our website.


The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-12-08 11:44:41 -0500
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Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

Recently, Tumblr announced that it would be changing its terms of service to exclude adult content. OTW Legal has gotten some questions about that change, and we’re here to help answer them!

Will Tumblr’s change in TOS change anything about the Archive Of Our Own?

No--neither the AO3 nor the OTW (the nonprofit that operates the AO3) has any relationship at all with Tumblr. Tumblr made this decision on its own, not because of any particular change in the law that would have any impact on the AO3. The AO3 was founded on principles of “maximum inclusiveness” and those principles remain true.

Can we stop Tumblr from doing this? What about free speech?

When users sign up, they agree that Tumblr can make changes to its terms of service, and because Tumblr is a private company, it doesn’t have any obligation to protect free speech. So Tumblr is legally allowed to make this change, and there is nothing that OTW Legal can do about it. As for what users can do to stop Tumblr from changing its terms of service, the unfortunate answer is probably not much. The OTW’s This Week In Fandom post from December 4 discusses some user plans that may send a message to Tumblr. That said, Tumblr surely knows it will lose many users, and it has undoubtedly made a cost-benefit calculation that the lost users won’t be too harmful to its bottom line.

What can fans do to protect their own fanworks and the works of others before Tumblr starts taking things down?

As appealing as the idea seems, the OTW is not in a position to create a social media platform of its own, and there are no plans for the OTW to offer a social media site or forum. We talk some more about why that’s true, and what fans can do to preserve their work, in a Tumblr post on December 4.

One of the ways to preserve your fanworks is to host text-based fanworks on AO3. If there’s a work you posted to Tumblr that you’d like to share on AO3, you can check out the FAQ on how to post it as a new work. (Tumblr posts don’t always work well with the importing feature, unfortunately.) AO3 can’t host images, video, or audio (yet), but if you host the files somewhere else, you can still share them on AO3.

Do you know someone who would like to share their works on AO3 but doesn't have an account? No problem! We've given 8 invite codes to all users who have had an account for 6 months or more and have:

  • posted at least 1 work, or
  • left at least 5 comments, or
  • given at least 10 kudos

Since we’re generating a lot of invitations (over 7 million!), it might take a few days for them to arrive in your account, so don’t worry if you haven’t gotten them just yet! You can follow these instructions to access and share your invite codes with anyone who wants an account.

What will Tumblr’s change in TOS mean for fans and fanworks overall?

For now, Tumblr appears to be targeting visual material (as opposed to text), although we do not know what Tumblr has planned. We expect that whatever happens, Tumblr’s filters will be inaccurate; Tumblr users have already reported incidents of content being falsely identified as 'adult'. This sort of algorithmic flagging is a problem that OTW Legal has been fighting in other contexts: in legal advocacy submissions to governments around the world, we have consistently expressed concerns about how algorithms are bad at identifying and flagging content, whether for alleged copyright violations or other matters. For that reason, we have been strong advocates against legally mandating automated filters, and have encouraged fans to reach out to their elected representatives (especially in the EU, where such proposals are pending) about legal filtering proposals that may adversely impact the availability of fanworks. Tumblr is just one example of what can happen.

It’s hard to predict what this will mean for fans and fanworks in a larger sense, but we are confident that this is just a bump in a long road. Although the OTW has long planned to be able to host non-text works on the AO3, we are still a long way away from being able to do that (and we wish that we could do it right now!). Certainly, a lot of fans will move to services other than Tumblr. But fandom is resilient! Fans and fanworks have been through similar dramatic events with popular sites in the past, including LiveJournal, fanfiction.net, and DeviantArt. In fact, it was a similar policy change at LiveJournal 10 years ago that led to the founding of the OTW and AO3! After seeing that commercial platforms such as LiveJournal (and Tumblr) will always serve their own interests over the interests of fans, the OTW dedicated the AO3 to the principle that fans need a fan-operated, non-profit archive of our own. We can’t predict or recommend what the next best platforms are to replace Tumblr, but we can promise that with your support, we’ll continue to provide a home for fanworks at the AO3, and continue working toward a platform that can host multiple media types. OTW Legal will continue to fight to keep fanworks legal and available.

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