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    if you like this, you might also like Maciej Cegłowski’s talk, Fan is A Tool-Using Animal (2013)

    (I like both! I don’t have a specific comment to add, but I think the talk compliments this article well – neat to hear updated perspectives from the AO3 Tag Wranglers about eg., AI’s role (or not) in organizing information in the article)

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      I would like to know what kind of drama has ensued over human moderation of tagging at AO3 before jumping ton the conclusion that their particular system of tag curation is better than either top-down Dewey-decimal style classification or twitter-style freeform tagging. I personally rather like the ability to freely create tags, twitter- or tumblr-style, and like the rhetorical effect of writers introducing new information in the form of of a hashtag, which human moderation for the purpose of searchability would get in the way of.

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        You can still freely create tags. Like, I just saw a story that has a “don’t read this if you’re having a bad night okay” tag, which is clearly not meant to help you search or browse, it’s just an informational tag. And I can still click on that tag to see other stories (none yet) with the same tag, I just can’t use it combined with other tags in AO3’s filtering engine.

        There’s definitely been drama over the tag system, and there was a ton of debate involved in implementing it. You can read about it on Fanlore. But this is a very large and diverse community, so there’d be drama about any policy made. I don’t think “drama” is a point for or against any policy.

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          This criticism quoted on that Fanlore page resonates with me:

          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.

          After reading all the comments on that Fanlore page, I think there are not two, but three types of tags that people write:

          • tags that could be pre-defined officially by the tag-wrangler team, like “Harry Potter” or “slash”
          • unusual tags that are still useful for categorization, like “high school AU” or “angry sex”
          • one-off tags that are just author’s notes that the author doesn’t want to emphasize, like “don’t read this if you’re having a bad night okay” or “Sirry is a creamy cupcake”

          Inspired by the Proposed Suggestions for Improvement section of the Fanlore page, here is a tagging system that gives readers more information and still gives authors freedom of expression. The idea is to store tags of each of the above three types separately, instead of in the same list, as AO3 currently does. The tagging user interface for authors would probably consist of one combined tag field for the first two types, in which the autocomplete suggests official tags before unofficial tags, and one field for “mini-notes” or whatever you call them. The mini-notes would be displayed under the tags field, and could be hidden by users who only like seeing informational tags.

          Adding more categories of tags increases the difficulty of communicating to the users how to use the tag system. I think that giving the fields different names than “tags”, such as “mini-notes”, would help a lot, as would putting one-sentence descriptions next to the fields. More ideas for names:

          … 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.)