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Thoughts on AO3

The Archive Of Our Own beta has been running for just over a week now. (I'm assuming that anyone reading this who cares already knows what AO3 is. But just in case you haven't, here's the official site from OTW. The Fanlore page also has a good collection of links. The short version is that it was created as a response to Fanlib.)

Thanks to my OTW membership, I got in on the first day and have been playing with it since. I've uploaded 21 fics as of this writing, including all my FFEX stories and almost everything from 30_fantasies. Still deciding what all to upload. I don't think it's going to be every last story -- that's what my personal archive is for -- but I'd like it to be a broad cross selection.

FYI, the FFX-2 section is kind of sad right now (17 stories, of which almost half are by me!), so I really encourage all you X-2 people out there to request an invite and get posting!

Here's my quick first take.

The Good:

  • Just about the cleanest interface I've ever seen on a content-oriented website. Simple design, good colors, an easy-to-read font, almost no clutter at all. For a site that's primarily about reading, I find this to be an excellent choice.

  • The flexible tagging system. The balance between folksonomy and controlled vocabulary has been struck very well, I think. I do wonder how well the tag wrangling will scale, though, if it ever moves to open membership.

  • Related stories. There is a built-in interface for linking to stories that are connected, whether by the same person or different people. How much easier would this have made life when "The Confessional" was being written, with all its different parts and follow-ups? So, so much easier. It also supports the posting of fic by multiple authors!

  • The warnings system (with one caveat, discussed below). Anyone who's ever discussed this subject with me knows that I have reservations about the warnings culture in fandom. So I really like that AO3 has spelled out the expectations around warnings quite specifically -- "these are the five things for which you must warn" -- *and* provided easy "Choose not to Warn" options for anyone who prefers not to warn for any or all of those five things. It's not a perfect solution, but as a compromise (along with the free-form tags) I think it does quite well.

  • It's run by fans for fans, with all the good and bad this implies. But in the long run, I think that will make for a stronger community and a longer-lasting resource.


The Bad:

  • The strict definition of "underage" in the warnings. For legalese reasons, AO3 has chosen to define "underage" as "under the age of 18". For United States-based fandoms, this makes some sense (although the age of consent is lower than 18 in many US states), but for fantasy-based fandoms like ours, it seems much less logical. Final Fantasy characters are very often adults well before the age of 18 -- they serve in the military or in religious orders, they get married, rule nations, and undertake other very adult activities. It seems mildly ridiculous to me that, say, a story about Ashe and Rasler on their wedding night would have to be marked as "underage" because she was 17 when they married. I've been using "Choose Not to Warn" on any story where it might be an issue, but I feel that it's misleading. There's probably not much to be done about it, but I'm still registering my objection.

  • The lack of hit counters or other statistics. The hit tracking functions were just about the only thing that FF.net ever had going for it, and I've missed having access to that information since moving most of my fic posting to LiveJournal. So I'm disappointed that AO3 doesn't have that functionality. (Yet?)


So, safe to say that the good definitely outweighs the bad so far. It will definitely be replacing FF.net for me, although that's an easy choice since I'm not uploading anything there these days, except for "Aftermath". I think it's unlikely to replace LJ, at least for shortfic, and I will almost certainly keep up my personal archive. Which means that I'm still decided exactly how AO3 will fit into my fannish life. But I think there's an excellent chance that I will find a place for it. So far, so good.

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